Friday, January 29, 2016

Review: Behold the Bones by Natalie C. Parker


Candace “Candy” Pickens has been obsessed with the swamp lore of her tiny Louisiana town for . . . forever. Name any ghostly swamp figure and Candy will recite the entire tale in a way that will curl your toes and send chills up your spine.

That doesn’t mean Candy’s a believer, however. Even though she and her friends entered the swamp at the start of summer and left it changed, Candy’s the only one who can’t see or feel the magical swamp Shine. She’s also the only one who can’t see the ghosts that have been showing up and spooking everyone in town ever since. So Candy concentrates on other things—real things. Like fighting with her mother and plotting her escape from her crazy town.

But ghosts aren’t the only newcomers in Sticks, Louisiana. The King family arrives like a hurricane: in a blur and unwanted—at least by Candy. Mr. King is intent on filming the rumored ghostly activity for his hit TV show, Local Haunts. And while Candy can’t ignore how attracted she is to eighteen-year-old Gage King and how much his sister, Nova, wants to be friends, she’s still suspicious of the King family.

As Candy tries to figure out why the Kings are really in town and why the swamp that had previously cast her aside now seems to be invading every crack in her logical, cynical mind, she stumbles across the one piece of swamp lore she didn’t know. It’s a tale that’s more truth than myth, and may have all the answers . . . and its roots are in Candy’s own family tree.

Publication Date: February 23, 2016
Natalie C. Parker can definitely write great, atmospheric YA novels. I loved her first outing in the series, Beware the Wild, so I was stoked to get my hands on the sequel Behold the Bones. Although the gothic feel was still there and the writing was amazing, I didn’t have as much love for book two as the first in the series.

My main complaint with Behold the Bones? I just didn’t care for the main character Candy as much. Candy was well developed, but I just found her too abrasive for me. I didn’t mind that she was tough, I liked that about her, but she could be rude and obnoxious to the people who loved her. I liked her friends much more than Candy and would have rather read a book from Abigail’s POV.

The beginning was exciting and I was interested in the “curse” affecting Candy and her family. But there was a major slowdown after the beginning and I found my interest waning. Luckily, the plot picked up again about two-thirds of the way through and I was able to finish the rest of the book quickly.

The swamp setting is by far the star of the book and the chapters that highlighted the haunted Louisiana swamp were the most riveting. Although the hauntings start affecting other areas of the town, the creep factor went away up anytime the swamp came into play.

Although Behold the Bones wasn’t my favorite book, I still would read more from the author and look forward to checking out her future novels.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

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

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Review: The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine


Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.

In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart.

But Lorelai is nothing like Kol expected—beautiful, fierce, and unstoppable—and despite dark magic, Lorelai is drawn in by the passionate and troubled king. Fighting to stay one step ahead of the dragon huntsman—who she likes far more than she should—Lorelai does everything in her power to ruin the wicked queen. But Irina isn’t going down without a fight, and her final move may cost the princess the one thing she still has left to lose.

Publication Date: February 16, 2016

Retellings are very easy to muck up completely and I was glad to see that The Shadow Queen didn’t fall into that trap. I liked the direction that Redwine went when retelling “Snow White” and I really found myself rooting for Lorelai.

The characters were all very likable, although I was pretty devastated by a death that I felt happened way too early. Lorelai was a good protagonist and I felt for her as she struggled between using her magic and risking that her magic would lead a trail straight to her and her family. Queen Irina was scary evil, but I appreciated the author giving her a back-story to make her less of a one-dimensional villain. Prince Kol won me over too. I wasn’t too sure about how I felt the whole half-dragon thing, but I was able to get into the romance early on between him and Lorelai.

The pace was mixed with the middle dragging a little more than I liked. It just seemed to take a really long time for Lorelai to make a move against Irina and I grew tired with the angst. There are a lot of high fantasy elements in this one, which normally isn’t my thing, so that could be a bit of why I grew bored as well.

The conclusion wrapped everything up nicely and I was pleased to find that it wasn’t a cliffhanger. I’d definitely check out the next book in the series to see how the author expands upon the world.   

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

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

Friday, January 15, 2016

Guest Review: The Memory Jar by Elissa Janine Hoole


Since the accident, Taylor's memory has been fuzzy. But at least she's awake. Who knows what her boyfriend, Scott, will remember when he comes out of the coma. Will he remember that Taylor was driving the snowmobile when it crashed? Will he remember the engagement ring? Her pregnancy?

Will he remember that she tried to break up with him?

Taylor doesn't know. And she doesn't know if she wants him to remember. Plenty of things happened that night and before—secrets wrapped in secrets—that she'd prefer be forgotten.

Facing choices she'd rather ignore, Taylor searches for something more solid than whispers and something bigger than blame to face the future and forgive herself.

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 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:

Joanna's Review:

"The Memory Jar"
By Elissa Janine Hoole

"The Memory Jar" is a ratings stumper, as in I had no idea how to rate it. Parts of it were so juvenile that I was loathe to scratch up the required one star, and other parts were so brilliant I'd easily award it all five. I felt kind of like the author could be a gifted Physics student, earning A+ grades on all her finals, while flatly failing every History course she sets foot in, so her end result is a student with a C average. In fact, such a student would have no resemblance to a student who is actually a typical C student, but we have no other way of categorizing people other than sometimes blending their highs and lows into a single recognizable term.

So this book gets three stars.

Why the one star parts? Oh, it's unoriginal, it's predictable, it's got all the tropes of a YA/NA book trotted out in formulaic order… The one interesting organizational aspect of alternating sections titled "Then" and "Now" was done so ham-handedly that sometimes the "Then" was someone else's "Then," not the main character's "Then," which was a heck of a sloppy way to tell a story that ended up needing to be told with a third-person omniscient narrator, rather than these first-person perspectives that do not work together. No lie, I did this same format in fifth grade when I wrote a story about a family of dragons, and either I was talented and ahead of my time (I wasn't) or this author needs a lot more disciplined study of narration before she sees the light of publication (she does). If a story needs to contain multiple perspectives, then set it up that way – don't derail your own narrator to throw in other people's perspectives just in a couple of places because you have no idea how else to work it in. All I could see, as I read, was the glaring evidence of, "She had no idea how to work this in."

Why the five star parts? Well, the characters are real live people, and I didn't like any of them. Taylor, our protag, got on my nerves more than once a chapter, as did Scott her boyfriend, as did Joey her boyfriend's brother, as did Emily, her boyfriend's sister, as did Taylor's mom, who's clearly trying with mixed success to rein in an abusive parenting trait, as did Taylor's bestie whose name I mostly forget but it might be Dani, who was the only one I MIGHT have liked but was also the one character that started to fade to one-dimensional. These characters are REAL. They are so multi-faceted and deep that disliking them is the highest praise I can give in the sense that even my own beloved husband, children, and closest friends piss me off sometimes. Because they are real, flawed people who try hard and make terrible decisions and battle with themselves and sometimes the people around them… and it's what you will recognize because it's everything else you have going on in your own life, too. It's real life. I found real life in these pages, and that is RARE. Suddenly, the author's clumsy hands turned into skilled loomer's hands as she weaved and weaved and weaved and weaved, layering these complex people throughout "Then" and "Now" sections, revealing new layers and facets of each person's identity and history… and it blew me away.

But it was also a dopey story, pandering to the YA/NA audience the way the genre does, throwing in a random hot police officer lest the fleeting attention span of barely literate new readers dare to stray back to a reality show on TV for a minute. If I communicate nothing else to the authors I review, it's this: TRUST YOUR READERS. Quit dumbing it down, quit trying to write on the level you think they're on. Whatever age you're writing for, JUST WRITE. And dear Ms. Hoole, I do hope you continue to write, because you have a lot of room to grow and with a little more finesse you'll be blowing me away even more with a next book.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Book Blitz: Debt by Rachel Dunning

99c Pre-Order Sale
Over 400 Pages
Standalone Novel
New-Adult Romance / Sports Romance

By Rachel Dunning

Expected Release Date:
March 2016

What’s it about?

The Debt Collector

I pay my debts, and I expect others to.
I was raised in the slums of London, I knew nothing of privilege. My father was murdered when I was seventeen. Morty figured my father's passing meant I would automatically take on dad's debts. I refused.
And I paid for that refusal.
So did my sister.
So now I fight. All I know how to do is fight. The best cash is in the states, so that's where I am now. A big fish called Vito came along offering me a "favor" when I arrived.
Another debt.
I paid for that one too.
I knew Kyla Hensley would be trouble when I met her. But I wanted her. I could see through the falsehood of her wannabe-slutty clothes and her sexy legs. So I chased her.
Besides, trouble is my middle name.

Kyla Hensley

I was brought up in privilege, but I lacked everything else. My father is a business tycoon who buys and sells and doesn't care who gets rolled over in the process.
I never knew my mother, and all I have of her is a photo with a note scrawled on the back in French saying "I'm sorry." The only Female Figure I had growing up is my dad's wife who is a bleach blond with seven boob jobs. We never bonded.
I drink. I party. I meet guys.
But I wasn't always like that.
I've had a string of lovers in the last few years, the worst and most recent of which was Vince Somerset. My best friend Vera was dating a guy called Rory Cansoom who is the opposite of Vince in so many ways, and yet so the same.
She and I hit the road for spring break, getting away from the two college psychos and just trying to have some fun.
But there's a funny thing about trouble, the more you run from it, the more it finds you.
Which is when I met the Debt Collector.
It was only supposed to be sex. He made that clear. I made that clear.
That's all it was supposed to be.
I never expected to fall in love. I never expected to fall so deeply, madly, uncomfortably in love with a man who is wrong, so wrong for me.
And unbelievably right.

Content Warning

Not intended for readers under the age of seventeen.

New-Adult Romance
Sports Romance


About Rachel
Rachel Dunning hit the scene in August 2013 and is the author of the highly praised Naive Mistakes Series, Truthful Lies Trilogy, Johnny Series and the paranormal romance series, Mind Games.
A prolific writer, she sticks to stories where Alpha Males aren’t pricks and where women have guts.
She’s lived on two different continents, speaks three different languages, and met the love of her life on the internet. In other words, romance is in her blood.

Get Rachel’s Newsletter

Sign up for Rachel’s Newsletter and never miss a release or a special.
You can sign up here:

Friday, January 8, 2016

Review: The Last Good Day of the Year by Jessica Warman


Ten years ago, seven-year-old Samantha and her next door neighbor Remy watched helplessly as Sam's little sister was kidnapped. Later, Remy and Sam identified the man and he was sent to prison.

Now, Sam's shattered family is returning to her childhood home in an effort to heal. As long-buried memories begin to surface, she and Remy wonder what they really saw. The more they re-examine the events of that fateful night, the more questions they have about what happened to Turtle . . . and they become more certain that Turtle's killer is still out there, hidden amongst the members of their tight-knit community.

Master storyteller Jessica Warman keeps readers guessing in an arresting page-turner that questions whether the potential for evil lurks within us all.

Publication Date: May 12, 2015
I read another book by the author and remembered really enjoying it, so I was extremely excited to get my hands on a copy of The Last Good Day of the Year. The premise sounded chilling and I expected to get really drawn into the story of a young girl’s abduction. I did end up liking The Last Good Day of the Year, but more so as a character study of how a family deals with tragedy than an actual suspense novel.

The beginning of the book was so fantastically good! I was so scared over the scene in the basement and the way Turtle was taken. Actually most of the flashback sections were much more intriguing than the parts that took place ten years later. The scenes with older Sam just didn’t resonate as much with me and I didn’t feel much toward her as a character. I guess I wanted more emotion from her about her sister’s abduction and the part she and her childhood friend Remy played in naming the purported murderer.

The pacing was a little uneven in my opinion. The beginning and end were very suspenseful, but the middle was mostly about how Sam’s family was falling apart because of the abduction. The book did a good job of showing how people can react dramatically different when faced with unspeakable tragedy. I only wish there was more clues given about the central mystery. The conclusion seemed to come out of nowhere and was wrapped up way too quickly.

I did find the book unputdownable at times, so I was definitely drawn into the story. The novel wasn’t what I expected, but still a good read nonetheless.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

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

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Review: Powerless by Tera Lynn Childs and Tracy Deebs


Kenna is tired of being "normal". The only thing special about her is that she isn't special at all. Which is frustrating in a world of absolutes. Villains, like the one who killed her father, are bad. Heroes, like her mother and best friend, are good. And Kenna, unlike everyone else around her, is completely ordinary— which she hates.

She’s secretly working on an experiment that will land her a place among the Heroes, but when a Villain saves her life during a break-in at her lab, Kenna discovers there’s a whole lot of gray area when it comes to good and evil and who she can trust.. After all…not all strength comes from superpowers.

Publication Date: June 2, 2015

Powerless had a super strong start! I ended up loving the concept of the world being separated into heroes, villains, and “normals.” At first, the idea sounded silly, but the author made it work. The book was extremely well written and action-packed.

Kenna as a normal was very likable. She felt useless around superheroes, but made up for her lack of powers with spunk. Although she hated being without powers, she tried to use her other qualities to help others. The secondary characters were interesting too, especially once the reader is introduced to the villains.

The book wasn’t long, but there was so much that happened between the pages. The novel never dragged and seemed to move to one action scene to the next. The suspense was spot on as danger constantly closed in on Kenna and her friends.

What I didn’t like about the book was the petty squabbles between members of the group. The constant bickering was VERY annoying. It made me dislike some of the characters at times and they lost my sympathy for their cause.

The romance in the book was good, but lack of time between the characters alone together kept it from being great. After the ending, I imagine there has to be a sequel, so I see more of a development in that area in subsequent books. The ending was really good and made me excited to read more.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Favorites of 2015: That One Night by Josie Wright

Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be sharing a sampling of my favorite books of 2015! The following is my original review of That One Night by Josie Wright. The novel has been newly edited as of December and is also priced at only $2.99 on Amazon.

Amazon US:
Amazon UK:


All it takes is just one moment to change the course of your life. For me, it was one perfect night.
I have always had a thing for my brother’s best friend, Ben. When I found him on my parents’ couch, drowning his sorrows in a whiskey bottle, my attempts to comfort him quickly turned into a night of raw and intense passion.
My foolish heart hoped he might feel the same way I do.
But Ben wasn’t there to stay and I woke up the next morning alone with a broken heart.
I attempted to forget the guy with a smile to die for and a touch that sets me on fire.
I thought I was over him.
I thought he was gone forever.
Until, eighteen months later Ben returns and learns my secret. Now, he is hell-bent on winning me back.
He plays dirty.
And he won’t stop until he gets what he wants—me.
But he has secrets of his own.
Secrets that could destroy everything we might have and everything we are.

Publication Date: July 2015

Wow, what an incredible debut! I loved That One Night hard. The characters were just so great—very far from the cookie cutter types that have a tendency to pop up in romances. The author is super talented and I can’t wait to read more of her future work.

The adjective that comes to mind when describing Frankie is ballsy. She speaks her mind and is fiercely protective of the people she cares about. She had no many great comebacks that I wished I could channel her from time to time in my own life. Frankie has been through a lot in her young life and has a very world wise quality about her.

Since the book is told in Frankie’s point of view, Ben is a bit of an enigma. I liked him a lot from the get go and I was dying to know why he ran after he spent the night with Frankie. When his secrets are eventually revealed, I was floored. I’m normally fairly good at guessing twists, but not in this case.

Although there is a ton of drama, especially in the final third of the book, That One Night is certainly a character-driven book. The author’s writing made me care about the characters and root for Ben and Frankie to get past their issues and make it work. The romance felt very real to me and I think the fact that Frankie was a young mother was very central to the plot. She made very smart decisions because of her protectiveness of her son.

Fans of contemporary romances will adore That One Night. The writing is beautiful, the sex scenes steamy and the angst off the charts.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Monday, January 4, 2016

Happy New Year! The Ex Trials $0.99 Sale

The Ex Trials is on sale for $0.99 through Wednesday! Grab your copy on Amazon now!


One dream vacation in paradise.
One co-ed bachelor and bachelorette party.
One week marooned with my ex.

Six months ago, Casey Silvers ended her scorching romance with sexy rocker Cole Caldwell. None of her friends know the true reason behind her sudden change of heart. Despite her claim of their chemistry fizzling out, her feelings for Cole had never gone away.

After receiving the invitation to her best friend's co-ed bachelor and bachelorette getaway, Casey knows she must once again face Cole. For one week, she'll be forced to party alongside the man who has come to despise her. The tropical cruise is meant to be a trip to paradise, but Casey is certain it will turn out to be a vacation from hell.

But as the ship leaves port, past secrets are revealed--secrets that could change the fate of Casey's romance with Cole. With forces keeping them together, Cole and Casey soon discover that the passion between them has yet to extinguish.

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


“I’m sorry,” I managed. “I know you probably don’t believe me, but I am so sorry that things turned out the way they did—”
His cheeks reddened and I could instantly tell he hated the pity in my tone. Although I was sincere, Cole would think I was patronizing him. “It’s over and like I said, that’s fine. It would’ve never worked anyway. But I do want us to be friends. I don’t want it to be weird when ever we’re in the same room together.”
“I want that too,” I said hoarsely.
He nodded although his tone remained dry and unfriendly. “You should have fun on the vacation. And if you want to hook up with someone, don’t feel awkward about it… I’m not planning to be a saint on the trip either.”
I could see the knife he had just used to cut out my heart—the serrated edges dripping with fresh blood. Hope had damned me to my own personal hell. Because as tough as I had played it for my friends’ benefits, the god’s honest truth was I had wished for him to see me and feel something again. Like he would look into my eyes and see directly into my heart.
His dangling of our renewed friendship was only a ruse. This was his true purpose. He wanted me to know I’d have to bear witness to him fucking whomever he wanted on vacation. I’d hurt him and he was outlining his plans for revenge against me. For the next seven days, I’d have my heart stomped on each time I saw him with another girl.
“Thanks, but I’ll pass,” I said lifting up my chin. I was certainly at fault for our breakup, but I had to draw the line somewhere. I made mistakes, but I punished myself enough for the both of us.
He frowned. “You pass on what?”
“Your offer of being friends. I considered what you could add to my life as a friend and I’m politely declining,” I said and began to turn away. There had been safety in the fog; why was I allowing his words to penetrate?
His fingers wrapped lightly around my wrist and I stilled. Although I was trying to leave with my dignity intact, I had to admit his hand felt good against my skin. Besides playing guitar, Cole was a union steelworker. The combination left his hands rough and callused. There was something so intoxicating about how masculine his hands felt when he grasped at my bare skin.
“Casey, you were the one who said months ago that neither of us were ready for a commitment. I’m not being an asshole here. I could’ve told everyone about why we broke up, but I didn’t. I let them assume you just wanted to walk away and I didn’t stop you.”
I patted his shoulder heartily. “Thanks for being so grown up about it, Cole. I didn’t know you had it in you.”
He folded his arms across his chest and looked me up and down. I didn’t like the smug look on his face as he caught my eye. His face and posture reminded me of the arrogance that had withered away once we became serious about one another. “Okay, Casey. Game on.”
His eyes were unreadable. “I figured if we were friends, we could show each other some respect. Not rub any hookups in the other person’s face. But since you so rudely swatted away my outreached hand—”
I rolled my eyes. “Were you this annoying when we dated? Because I’m surprised we lasted as long as we did.”
He leaned down and whispered in a low rumble, “You still want me. I know you. I know you. I remember how you get defensive when you want to hide what you’re feeling. I get that your pride will keep you from telling me the truth about what really happened between us. And I know that by the time this boat docks back in port, you’ll be in my bed, asking for a another chance.”
I flushed and said in an affronted voice, “In your dreams, creep.”
“Like I said, Casey, game on.” He planted a quick, affectionless peck on the side of my head before sidestepping around me. He walked away confidently back toward our group. Meanwhile, my legs were unable to function. I was very close to collapsing into a feeble puddle on the deck. How was I going to last a week with Cole? Would I win the worst friend of the year award if I abandoned ship right that second?

Friday, January 1, 2016

Review: Damage Done by Amanda Panitch


22 minutes separate Julia Vann’s before and after.

Before: Julia had a twin brother, a boyfriend, and a best friend.

After: She has a new identity, a new hometown, and memories of those twenty-two minutes that refuse to come into focus. At least, that’s what she tells the police.

Now that she’s Lucy Black, she's able to begin again. She's even getting used to the empty bedroom where her brother should be. And her fresh start has attracted the attention of one of the hottest guys in school, a boy who will do anything to protect her. But when someone much more dangerous also takes notice, Lucy's forced to confront the dark secrets she thought were safely left behind.

One thing is clear: The damage done can never be erased. It’s only just beginning. . . .

Publication Date: July 21, 2015

Damage Done was bananas! When I was done, I felt like someone put my brain in a blender for the last several hours. Honestly, I wish the description had been more compelling because I’m kicking myself for not reading the book sooner.

Julia and her family has moved away and tried to start over after a horrible school shooting in her former hometown. With her new identity as Lucy Black, she hopes to blend in at her new school and hope no one outs her as the sister of the boy held responsible for the massacre. Her unique situation definitely made me drawn to her character.

Damage Done weaves both the past and the present together in an interesting and captivating way. The author did an exceptional job of giving me just enough info to hold my interest without giving anything about the plot twist away. And the twist is a jaw dropper. I had a feeling the revelation would surprise me, but the truth left me reeling.

My only major complaint is the romance was so blah in the book that I wish that it were written out altogether. It took up way too much time and I started skimming through passages with Michael and Julia because they were just so corny. When Julia describes Michael as a dumb and sweet golden retriever, it didn’t exactly make my heart go all aflutter.

The conclusion left me with mixed feelings and it’s impossible to say why without spoiling the plot. All I will say is fans of YA thrillers should pick up this book ASAP! For a debut novel, Damage Done was amazingly well done.   

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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