Wednesday, July 31, 2013

July Wrap Up




(YA) = Young Adult / (A) = Adult / (MG) = Middle Grade / (C) = Children
** Books read in previous months

Books Read and Reviewed in July:
(YA) Chantress by Amy Butler Greenfield - Review (2/5)
(MG) Monsters on the March (Scary School #2) - Review (5/5) **
(MG) The Northern Frights (Scary School #3) by Derek the Ghost - Review (4/5)
(A) Snow Day by Dan Maurer - Review (4/5)
(A) League of Somebodies by Samuel Sattin - Review (3/5)
(A) Love Him or Leave Him by Sara Daniel - Review (4/5)
(YA) Land of the Awoken by Ben Fielder - Review (3/5)
(MG) The Secret of the Skeleton Key (CBC #1) by Penny Warner - Review (5/5)
(A) The Family That Stays Together by Deborah Plummer Bussey - Review (3/5)
(YA) A Trick of the Light by Lois Metzger - Review (4/5)
(YA) A Brand New Ending by S.A. Rolls - Review (3/5)
(YA) Quarantine: The Loners by Lex Thomas - Review (4/5) **
(A) The Longings of Wayward Girls by Karen Brown - Review (3/5)
(YA) Shudder (Stitch #2) by Samantha Durante - Review (4/5)
(A) Big Girl Panties by Stephanie Evanovich - Review (3/5)
(YA) Escape From Eden by Elisa Nader - Review (4/5) **

Total Reviewed: 16
Towards month totals: 13 


Books Read but not Reviewed:
(A) Bayou Moon (Edge #2) by Ilona Andrews - 4/5
(YA) Icons by Margaret Stohl - 4/5
(A) Wilde Nights in Paradise by Tonya Burrows - 4/5
(MG) The Haunted Lighthouse (CBC #2) by Penny Warner - 4/5
(YA) Another Little Piece by Kate Karyus Quinn - 5/5
(YA) Blood Red Road by Moira Young - 5/5
(YA) More Than This by Patrick Ness - 4/5
(YA) The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau - 1/5
(YA) Ashes on the Waves by Mary Lindsay - 4/5


Total Books read in July: 23
Goal Progress: 112 out of 175 (64%)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Book Review: The Family That Stays Together


Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: The Family That Stays Together
   *Series: Sister Nun Mystery #2
Author: Deborah Plummer Bussey
Publisher: Half Dozen Publications
Pages: Paperback; 278
Release Date: July 5, 2013
Source: JKS Communications
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Genre: Cozy Mystery

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy slow moving, cozy mysteries.

Add it on: Goodreads / Shelfari / Amazon
When a television celebrity becomes suspect in the murder of her ex-fiancé, sister sleuths Kathy and Tina rally to support their family friend. Soon they end up in trouble. Will family ties be strong enough to protect a suspected murderer?

I honestly didn't notice that The Family That Stays Together was a sequel before I started it. I probably should have paid attention to that, as it took me a minute to figure out what was going on. However this book really does read find as a standalone once you get settled in. I hadn't met Kathy and Tina yet, but I didn't have a problem falling in step with them.

I've never met a character like Kathy before. A former nun, and current psychologist, Kathy is in a class all her own. She's smart, and uses her all her acquired skills to solve the mystery. I liked the way she interacted with her sister Tina. These two are like two sides of the same coin. One quiet, the other loud. One calculating, the other impulsive. The family dynamic really comes through, although I would have liked Tina to be toned down a bit. The amount of colorful language she uses is a little over the top sometimes. Luckily she has Kathy to even things out.

The mystery in The Family That Stays Together was a little slow moving. I felt like some of the sentences were rather overwritten. However, the amount of unexpected twists definitely made up for that. I was slowly drawn into the plot and, eventually, couldn't wait to see what these two uncovered next. It also bears mentioning that religion is incorporated into this book. I suppose I should have expected it with Kathy coming from a nunnery and all. It was balanced well with everything else, but mentions of the Catholic faith are definitely there.

I did ultimately enjoy The Family That Stays Together. I'm thinking I might pick up the first one so I can see where Kathy and Tina's story actually started. If you're a fan of cozy mysteries, of books with a lot of heart, this is one you should give a shot.



FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Book Review: Escape From Eden


Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: Escape From Eden
Author: Elisa Nader
Publisher: Merit Press
Pages: Hardcover; 272
Release Date: August 18, 2013
Source: Publisher
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Content Screening: Mild Violence

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who are looking for a haunting read dealing with a cult mindset.

Add it on: Goodreads / Shelfari / Amazon / B&N
Since the age of ten, Mia has lived under the iron fist of the fundamentalist preacher who lured her mother away to join his fanatical family of followers. In Edenton, a supposed “Garden of Eden” deep in the South American jungle, everyone follows the Reverend’s strict but arbitrary rules—even the mandate of whom they can marry. Now sixteen, Mia dreams of slipping away from the armed guards who keep the faithful in, and the curious out. When the rebellious and sexy Gabriel, a new boy, arrives with his family, Mia sees a chance to escape.

But the scandalous secrets the two discover beyond the compound’s façade are more shocking than anything they ever imagined. While Gabriel has his own terrible secrets, he and Mia bond together, more than friends and freedom fighters. But is there time to think of each other as they race to stop the Reverend’s paranoid plan to free his flock from the corrupt world? Can two teenagers crush a criminal mastermind? And who will die in the fight to save the ones they love from a madman who’s only concerned about his own secrets?

It's true that I'm generally drawn to books that deal with cults. There's something haunting to me about the "hive mind" mentality. Something sinister about the fact that a single person can possess the minds of so many others. It might be a macabre fascination, but I won't turn down a book like this. That's why I was so intrigued by Escape From Eden. What would I discover in the world of Edenton?

Mia is our main character and she's a brilliant one at that. Feisty, smart, and the one person in her compound who remembers life on the outside. Following this story from Mia's point of view made it all the more intriguing. Imagine growing up in a world that you hate, but can't escape. From the moment I arrived in Edenton with  Mia, I knew there was something dark under the peaceful facade. As the cracks began to widen, and I discovered what was there, I couldn't look away.

The synopsis focuses on the romance between Mia and Gabriel, but that isn't what drives the book. I'll admit that their relationship did add another layer. Gabriel is the perfect companion for Mia, especially as they struggle to flee from the madness. What really pushes the book forward though is the slow decline of the "Eden" that these characters are trying to escape from. If you're looking for a book with a sweet romance, or a boy-meets-girl story, you might want to look elsewhere. This one is much deeper than that.

Truth be told, the ending was the only thing that wasn't spot on for me. The rest of Escape From Eden flies by, and I happily devoured it. Much love goes out to Elisa Nader for crafting such an intelligent, and fierce book! I don't see any mention of a sequel, but I'd welcome one. Keep Elisa Nader on your watch-list. Her writing is well worth your attention.



FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Quarantine Series Giveaway!



Yesterday, if you'll recall, I reviewed Quarantine: The Loners by Lex Thomas. You can check my ramblings out here, if you're interested! I know that at the end of the first book, I was eager for the second and I was lucky enough to have both to devour.

Which brings me to my point:
You too can have both of Lex Thomas' books to devour!

EgmontUSA has been so kind as to offer up a paperback copy of Quarantine: The Loners and a hardback copy of Quarantine: The Saints to one lucky winner!

Open to U.S. mailing address only.
Giveaway ends August 4, 2013.

Good luck and, as always, happy reading!

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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Book Review: Quarantine: The Loners


Media Type: Print Book
Title: Quarantine: The Loners
   *Series: Quarantine #1
Author: Lex Thomas
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Pages: Hardcover; 416
Release Date: July 10, 2012
Source: Publisher
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Content Screening: Violence; Adult Language

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who love reads like Lord of the Flies and Gone.

Add it on: Goodreads / Shelfari / Amazon / B&N
It was just another ordinary day at McKinley High—until a massive explosion devastated the school. When loner David Thorpe tried to help his English teacher to safety, the teacher convulsed and died right in front of him. And that was just the beginning.

A year later, McKinley has descended into chaos. All the students are infected with a virus that makes them deadly to adults. The school is under military quarantine. The teachers are gone. Violent gangs have formed based on high school social cliques. Without a gang, you’re as good as dead. And David has no gang. It’s just him and his little brother, Will, against the whole school.

In this frighteningly dark and captivating novel, Lex Thomas locks readers inside a school where kids don’t fight to be popular, they fight to stay alive.

I'm guessing that Quarantine: The Loners is one of those books that most readers are going to love or lament, depending on who they are. This is a book that requires you to completely suspend disbelief and, quite honestly, fill in a lot of the blanks with your own imagination. I didn't mind so much, and I ended up enjoying this book immensely. It grabbed me, and I was happy to let it.

I wouldn't say this book is "original" like the cover mentions, although Lex Thomas does blend things that have been done before into something terrifying and beautiful. David and his brother exist in a world where survival is paramount. I've seen this concept in other books before, but it fit well with the high school setting. After all, what place is more cutthroat on a daily basis than high school? Take those same cliques, those same rivalries, and add in an event of apocalyptic proportions. That's what Quarantine: The Loners creates for the reader.

Most of the characters are cut and dry clique members, but the "loners" themselves are really who shine. I couldn't look away as these underdogs fought, against all odds, to survive. In fact, I think that's what really made the book for me. I liked David and Will, but I loved the supporting characters. There was so much to uncover beneath their surfaces and, like I mentioned above, I was more than willing to fill in any blanks. This book moves quickly and I was so immersed that I didn't realize I was nearing the end until there were no more pages left to read.

All in all I was pleasantly surprised with how much this debut brings to the table. I admit I would have liked to see more character development, and more explanation about the virus. The ending definitely left me wanting. Still, there's more in the series so I'm hoping things will resolve themselves. This book is a wild ride, and I know that I couldn't put it down. Next book, here I come.



FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Queen's Lover Giveaway!






It's almost Friday my darling friends! 
(And possibly it IS already Friday depending on where you reside.) 

So I thought it was the perfect time to give you all a reward. You worked hard this week, you likely put up with all manner of annoyances. Perhaps it's time to enter to win a new read?

I've already read, and reviewed The Queen's Lover by Francine Du Plessix Gray. You can find my review here if you are so inclined. Here's the synopsis:

Francine du Plessix Gray’s beautifully realized historical novel reveals the untold love story between Swedish aristocrat Count Axel von Fersen and Marie Antoinette. The romance begins at a masquerade ball in Paris in 1774, when the dashing nobleman first meets the mesmerizing nineteen-year-old dauphine, wife of the reclusive prince who will soon become Louis XVI. This electric encounter launches a love affair that will span the course of the French Revolution.

As their relationship deepens, Fersen becomes a devoted companion to the entire royal family. Roaming the halls of Versailles and visiting the private haven of Le Petit Trianon, he discovers the deepest secrets of the court, even learning the startling erotic details of Marie Antoinette’s marriage to Louis XVI. But his new intimacy with Marie Antoinette and her family is disrupted when the events of the American Revolution tear Fersen away. Moved by the cause, he joins French troops in the fight for American independence.

He returns to find France on the brink of disintegration. After the Revolution of 1789 the royal family is moved from Versailles to the Tuileries. Fersen devises an escape for the family and their young children (Marie-Thérèse and the dauphin—whom many suspect is in fact Fersen’s son). The failed attempt leads to a more grueling imprisonment, and the family spends its excruciating final days captive before the king and queen face the guillotine.

Grieving his lost love in his native Sweden, Fersen begins to sense the effects of the French Revolution in his homeland. Royalists are now targets, and the sensuous aristocratic world of his youth is fast vanishing. Fersen is incapable of realizing that centuries of tradition have disappeared, and he pays dearly for his naïveté, losing his life at the hands of a savage mob that views him as a pivotal member of the ruling class.

Scion of Sweden’s most esteemed nobility, Fersen came to be seen as an enemy of the country he loved. His fate is symbolic of the violent speed with which the events of the eighteenth century transformed European culture. Expertly researched and deeply imagined, The Queen’s Lover is a fresh vision of the French Revolution and the French royal family as told through the love story that was at its center.

Ah, Paris in 1774. What I truly loved about this book was the time period it is set in. It's a great place to get lost. In honor of The Queen's Lover coming out in paperback, Penguin is offering up 3 copies to lucky winners!

Good luck to you, and happy reading!

Open to U.S. and Canada mailing addresses.
Ends 7/31/2013.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Book Review: Big Girl Panties


Media Type: Print Book (ARC)
Title: Big Girl Panties
Author: Stephanie Evanovich
Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: Hardcover; 336
Release Date: July 9, 2013
Source: Publisher
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Genre: Women's Fiction / Romance

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy vibrant female leads and a slow build up of romance

Add it on: Goodreads / Shelfari / Amazon / B&N
They say that big girls don't cry. But when the chips are down and the dip is gone, what can you do? Pull up your BIG GIRL PANTIES and change your life.

Holly Brennan didn't expect to be a widow at thirty-two. She also didn't expect to be so big. Through her husband Bruce's diagnosis and death, food was the one thing she could always count on. Now, those extra pounds make flying coach more than a little mortifying-especially since she's sitting next to Adonis himself, aka Logan Montgomery, a personal trainer to the country's most famous pro athletes.

Though Holly doesn't make the grade on his first-impression meter, Logan finds himself intrigued by her sharp wit and keen insight-a welcome change from the beautiful bubble-headed dolls he usually dates-and impulsively offers to get her back in shape. Ready to make at least one positive change in her life, Holly agrees.

To Logan's (and her own) surprise, Holly turns out to be a natural in the gym. Throwing herself into exercise, the red head with the blazing wit and welcoming smile slims down into a bonafide looker with killer curves-and a new kind of hunger. Soon, the easy intimacy and playful banter of their training sessions lead Logan and Holly into the bedroom where they share their most intense and steamy workouts yet.

But can a man whose whole life depends on looks commit himself to a woman who doesn't fit his image? Now that Holly's turning other men's heads, does she even need Logan anymore? Are they a couple built to last . . . or is this sizzling affair going to burn out fast?

Okay, before this review even begins, please let me warn you that I am completely on the fence about this book. Big Girl Panties was a read that I powered through, and both loved and seethed at in equal measures. I'm certain that alone makes it worth your time. Still, if I ramble, you've been warned.

Holly Brennan is a fabulous female lead! I absolutely have to start with that because I haven't met a woman like her in a long time. She's vibrant, witty and, even when the way others see her gets to her, strong as all get out. There was nothing I didn't love about this woman. As I dove deeper into her past, and saw her grow into a new person, I couldn't help but laugh and cry. Holy Brennan is amazing, that's the long and short of it.

Which is why I could not, no matter how hard I tried, like Logan Montgomery. Described as an "Adonis", Logan is a personal trainer to the stars. He's a psuedo-celebrity and acts like one. Filling his social calendar, attending benefits, and dating busty and blonde waifs. When his interest in Holly started to peak, I wanted to scream at her that she could do better. Despite Ms. Evanovich's attempts to make him seem caring, all I saw was a shallow man.

See, Logan is all about his image. He knows it, we know it, and yet somehow Holly takes forever to see it. Even when she's in shape, and feeling better about herself, he uses words like "pudgy" and "soft" to describe her. I'm sorry, and maybe it's just me, but being a single digit size doesn't make a woman beautiful. Holly works her butt off in this book, and everyone can see her beauty but him. No spoilers, I promise. Let me just say that I never liked Logan. Not even after the book had ended.

Still, the story between them is fun, fresh and a quick read! I mentioned above that I powered through this book, and I truly did. Holly's story is so inspirational. She overcomes a lot, and has the perfect attitude about changing her life. I couldn't get enough of her witty personality, and honestly I rooted for her the entire way through. Holly is what made this book for me, and I'm not afraid to admit it.

So, if you are a fan of witty heroines and life changing stories, this is one for you! Pick up a copy of Big Girl Panties and meet Holly Brennan. You won't be sorry.



FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Nomad Book Blitz + Giveaway!


Well my bibliophile friends, it's that time again! Time to share with you another book that you should absolutely have on your radar. J.L. Bryan, author of Jenny Pox, has a new book coming out and it looks like a winner to me!

A new dystopian novel from the author of Jenny Pox - coming July 26.

They took everything: her family, her home, her childhood.

By the age of nineteen, Raven has spent most of her life in the sprawling slums of America, fighting as a rebel against the dictatorship. When the rebellion steals an experimental time-travel device, she travels back five decades to the year 2013. Her plan: assassinate the future dictator when he is still young and vulnerable, long before he comes to power. She must move fast to reshape history, because agents from her own time are on her trail, ready to execute her on sight.

In case you're not already totally sold, please check out the delicious excerpt below. Also make sure to scroll down to the bottom of the post, where you can enter to win a copy of Nomad of your very own!


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An excerpt from the first chapter of Nomad by J.L. Bryan


     Her hands were red with blood, but the cold rain washed it away. Whose blood? She couldn't remember.

     She became aware of pain throughout her body. Freezing water and tiny hailstones lashed her face as she stumbled through a storm. Dying thunder echoed in her ears, and crackles of lightning faded in the night around her.

     A pair of lights rushed toward her through the darkness, but her brain couldn’t interpret what her eyes saw. A long screech ripped through her ears, followed by shrill bleats.

     Car horns, she realized as the lights loomed closer. Through her thick, fuzzy brain, it dawned on her that she was staggering along a multi-lane road, seconds away from getting splattered across the oncoming grill of an eighteen-wheeled truck.

      She discerned a dark space off to her left and moved into it, stepping from hard pavement into squishy wet earth. The truck that had nearly killed her squealed past as the driver braked, dousing her with a wave of cold mud. Horns blew at the stopped truck blocking up the left lane.

     She rubbed her eyes and tried to grasp her surroundings—a grass median dividing an interstate highway, up to her ankles in frigid mud.

     She couldn’t remember where she was, or how she’d come to be there. After a moment’s reflection, she realized she wasn’t entirely sure who she was, either.

     Raven, she remembered. She clung to that word like a lifeline. My name is Raven. It is now, anyway. She’d once had a different name, but that original, scribbled-on-the-birth-certificate name no longer mattered.

     She wore black boots and a long black jacket. A backpack weighed down her shoulders, but she didn’t know what it contained. She trudged on weak, trembling legs toward an overpass bridge ahead. Once she was out of the downpour, she could gather her brains and figure things out. She didn’t seem to be bleeding, so the blood on her hands must not have been her own.

     “Hey! Hey there, girl! You all right?” shouted the truck driver who had almost flattened her. More cars honked and swerved to avoid crashing into the back of his trailer, which was decorated with puffy pink sheep.

     Raven squinted up at him. The man was in his forties, severely overweight, with a handlebar mustache and scratchy, graying beard stubble. His blue and white cap read: MoonPie: The Original Marshmallow Sandwich!

     “I’m fine!” she shouted through the downpour. “Keep going!”

     “You got a car?” he asked.

     “No,” she told him. “I don’t think so.”

    “Where you headed?”

     “I don’t know.”

     “The troopers gonna lock you up if they see you! You drunk or what?”

     “I don’t think so.” She raised a hand to her mouth to check her breath. Not drunk.

     The trucker eyed her up and down, a soaking wet girl stumbling along the interstate alone at night, and then he swung open the passenger door.

     “Best climb on up in here with me,” he said. “Gonna freeze your pants off out there.”

     Raven looked at the gruff, obese man and the warm, sheltered transport he was offering, and then at the overpass bridge in the distance. Her legs were rubbery. She might not make it to the overpass before she collapsed.

     “Lady, I got to get moving,” he said. “You want a ride to the exit or what?”

     “Yeah,” Raven said. She had no reason to trust him, but he seemed soft-bodied and slow. If he tried to get rough, she would break his wrists. Even in her current state, she knew she could take him if he pushed her to it.

     Raven stumbled around to the passenger side and struggled to climb with her weakened limbs until he took her arms and pulled her up.

     “Thanks,” she whispered, still shivering. She was almost too weak to pull the door closed.

     “Just glad you ain’t tore in half.” He settled back into the driver’s seat, and it groaned under his weight. “You musta been one, two, three, four inches from me. Or less. Just popped up outta nowhere when that lightning hit.” He drove cautiously through the storm. “Didn’t seem like no normal lightning, you ask me. What was you doing out there? That big flash hit the road, then you come stumbling out....Did the lightning get you?”

     “I don’t know,” she said. The interior of the cab smelled like cigarette smoke and old hamburgers. A collage of small objects was glued to the dashboard—action figures, an old watch face, postcards, salt and pepper shakers. Hail clattered on the cab’s roof.

     “You don’t know?” he asked.

     “Sorry.” Raven shrugged off her backpack and set it on the floor between her wet boots. She wanted to see what was inside it, but not while he was watching.

     “It’s Jebbie, by the way.” He offered his calloused hand, and she hesitated a moment before taking it. “Jebbie Walters. From Yazoo City, Mississippi. You got a name, darling?”

     “Angela. That’s my name,” Raven said. She knew not to trust a stranger with data about herself. He might be the enemy, and she felt informants and spies were everywhere, looking to report those who resisted.

     “Huh. Where you from, Angela?”

     She tried to remember, but finally shrugged.

     “You ain’t gotta tell me,” he said. “You going north? Cause that’s where I’m going, way up north of here. You might want to hop out quick if that ain’t your plan.”

     “I’m not sure.”

     “You ain’t sure about much of nothing, are you?”

     “Not right now,” Raven said.

     “I guess I ought to drop you up at the exit.”

     “You can.” Raven shrugged. “I think I’m lost.”

     He looked her over again. “Tell you what. About three, four, five miles from here’s a good spot, the Big Porcupine Travel Plaza. Got showers, motel rooms, an all-night-you-can-eat place. We could stop there, get you a place to sleep. Maybe in the morning you’ll start to remembering things. I figure you just need to sleep it off. You’re on drugs or something, ain’t you?”

     “Maybe,” Raven said.

     He laughed. “It’s okay by me. I don’t do drugs, myself. Just pills and booze. Well, you think about what you want to do.”

     He turned up the radio, where a woman sang a slow, gentle song that Raven gradually recognized. Someone—her mother?—had once played it on the piano. It was an old song called “The Rose.”

     “Uh, sorry.” Jebbie blushed pink and spun the radio knob. “I, uh, usually find a good honky-tonk or country gold station. Don’t know how my radio ended up on that soft-rock junk, or whatever that was. Yeah, here we go.” He found a song with a steel guitar and a man singing about his wife leaving him for his boss.

     Raven looked at herself in the rain-streaked side mirror. She was about twenty years old, maybe nineteen. That felt right. Her black hair was pulled into a short ponytail with a rubber band. She wore all black: boots, fatigues, blouse, backpack, jacket. The knee-length jacket was made of a stretchy artificial material with a texture like a crocodile’s back. She felt a web of metallic fibers between the layers of leathery fabric. That’s armor, she realized, and she wondered why she might need armor. Her only jewelry was on her left wrist, a thin silver bracelet with a large moonstone.

     She tried to reach back in time with her mind. She’d been stumbling along the highway. The moment before that: what? It was a solid blank slate, as though a giant magnet had wiped her brain clean. Perhaps the trucker was right, and she’d been struck by lightning.

     Raven, she reminded herself. I know my name.


********************

J.L. Bryan studied English literature at the University of Georgia and at Oxford, with a focus on English Renaissance and Romantic literature. He also studied screenwriting at UCLA. He lives in the metro Atlanta sprawl with his wife Christina, where he spends most of his day serving the toddler and animal community inside his house. He is the author of the Paranormals series and the Songs of Magic series. (His book Jenny Pox is currently free on Kindle, Nook, Apple, Sony, Kobo, and Smashwords!) 
Visit J.L. Bryan



Up for grabs is one ebook copy of Nomad by J.L. Bryan. 
Open everywhere! Giveaway ends 7/29/13.

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Book Review: Shudder (Stitch Trilogy #2)

Media Type: Ebook
Title: Shudder
   *Series: Stitch Trilogy #2
Author: Samantha Durante
Publisher: Self-published
Pages: Paperback; 348
Release Date: June 15, 2013
Source: Author
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Content Screening: Adult Language; Mild Violence

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who fell in love with the first in the series, Stitch.

Add it on: Goodreads / Shelfari / Amazon / B&N
It's only been three days, and already everything is different.

Paragon is behind her, but somehow Alessa's life may actually have gotten worse. In a wrenching twist of fate, she traded the safety and companionship of her sister for that of her true love, losing a vital partner she'd counted on for the ordeal ahead. Her comfortable university life is but a distant memory, as she faces the prospect of surviving a bleak winter on the meager remains of a ravaged world. And if she'd thought she'd tasted fear upon seeing a ghost, she was wrong; now she's discovering new depths of terror while being hunted by a deadly virus and a terrifying pack of superhuman creatures thirsting for blood.

And then there are the visions.

The memory-altering "stitch" unlocked something in Alessa's mind, and now she can't shake the constant flood of alien feelings ransacking her emotions. Haunting memories of an old flame are driving a deep and painful rift into her once-secure relationship. And a series of staggering revelations about the treacherous Engineers - and the bone-chilling deceit shrouding her world's sorry history - will soon leave Alessa reeling...

I reviewed the first book in this trilogy, Stitch, last year and was fairly impressed with it. Samantha Durante brings something fresh, and new to the table in her series. I knew I'd be back for more. That being said, I'll share that Shudder blew its predecessor out of the water! This book had everything I loved from the before, and everything I was missing as well. Kudos Ms. Durante, you hooked me from page one.

Shudder picks up right where we last saw Alessa, as her and Isaac flee Paragon. There is a nice portion of backstory laid into the first few chapters, so you won't be lost. Despite having escaped, Alessa and Isaac soon find that there are worse things than Paragon. Drastic weather conditions, strange creatures, and the fear of disease cause them to constantly be on edge. Not to mention the fact that odd things are happening inside Alessa's head. Things she can't quit explain. Where the first book started a little slowly, this one takes off like lightning and maintains a great pace the entire way through.

New characters are introduced this time around. Nikhil and Pheonix really added some spark to story, and I enjoyed getting to see events from their points of view. Although I'm not usually a fan of multiple points of view in a book, Samantha Durante handled it expertly. There were only two times I had to go back and see whose point of view I was reading from. What made it worth it was that I was able to get to know each character so much more in depth. I bonded with Alessa this time, and it made for a much more enjoyable read.

The only qualm I had, and it is a small one, is that some of the necessary information was squished into awkward dialogue. There is one scene in particular, where Alessa and Isaac discuss the disease, that felt a little stilted to me. I completely understood that the information was necessary to make the story flow. I just wished it would have been more evenly distributed throughout the book. It wasn't anything that made me stop reading, just something I noticed.

So again I state, kudos to Samantha Durante! Shudder was a brilliant followup to Stitch and I truly can't wait to see what comes next! With the improvement I saw between the first two books, I can only assume that the next installment is going to blow my mind. I'll be here, and I'll be ready.


Other books in the series:
Stitch (Stitch Trilogy #1)



FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sunday Post / Stacking the Shelves (5)





Sunday Post and Stacking the Shelves are hosted by Kimba's Caffeinated Book Reviewer and Tynga's Reviews respectively. Click the buttons above to join in the fun!

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 I have to share that I discovered the beauty of The Perks of Being a Wallflower movie and I'm in love! I may be late to the party, but I so don't care. Both the movie and the book are amazing. Anyway, let's head into the recap!



Are you a fan of Paranormal Romance? Susannah Scott aims to deliver! Enter to win some swag!

It's not often that you see a book dealing with anorexia and boys. This is a gem.

Where does Samantha Durante's inspiration come from? Check it out!

A tough read with a twisted ending, this is an intriguing read.

Love sweet romance? This is exactly what you are looking for!



Monday 7/22 - Book Review: Shudder 
Tuesday 7/23 - Book Review: The Code Busters Club, Case #2: The Haunted Lighthouse
                                 Nomad Book Blitz
Wednesday 7/24 - Book Review: Big Girl Panties
Thursday 7/25 - Book Review: Quarantine: The Loners
Friday 7/26 - Book Review: Quarantine: The Saints (Quarantine #2)
                             Quarantine Books Giveaway
Saturday 7/27 - Author Interview: Robert Beck



Physical Copies:

Infinityglass (Hourglass #3) by Myra McEntire

Thank you to Galley Books and EgmontUSA!

From the library:

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau
Ashes on the Waves by Mary Lindsey


Digital Copies:

Dreamscape (Netherworld #1) by Christie Rich
Rose by Holly Webb


Thanks for visiting and sharing in my recap!
I'd love to come visit you, so please make sure to leave your post in the comments below and thanks for stopping by!

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Book Review: Love Him or Leave Him


Media Type: Ebook
Title: Love Him or Leave Him
   *Series: Small Town, Big Dreams #2
Author: Sara Daniel
Publisher: Entangled: Bliss
Pages: Ebook; 224
Release Date: July 8, 2013
Source: Publisher
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Genre: Romance

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Lovers of sweet romance novels with great characters!

Add it on: Goodreads / Shelfari / Amazon / B&N
Sometimes dreams are where you least expect them

Connor O’Malley and Becca Sanders were once high school sweethearts, ripped apart by rumors in the small town of Kortville, Illinois. Connor left to join the military, and Becca stayed, waiting for her younger brother to graduate so she could live her dreams of traveling the world. But now that Connor's back as the town sheriff, Becca finds herself struggling to resist the too-handsome man who once broke her heart.

Connor loves Kortville—its quaintness keeps at bay the painful memories of Afghanistan he’s sure make him unworthy of any woman, particularly the beautiful brunette he’s always secretly dreamed of a future with. But when a scandal rocks the town, suddenly Connor and Becca must trust in each other if they want to weather this storm…and come out on the other side of it together.

Romance novels are quickly becoming my new escape from reality. There's just something about a feel good, happy ending, story that makes you all mushy inside! So when I saw the synopsis for Sara Daniels' Love Him or Leave Him, I knew I'd be reading it. With my glass of wine, and my chocolate cake, I sank into the couch and into Connor and Becca's lives.

I'm going to admit straight out that Becca wasn't my favorite person at first. I thought she was rather closed off and, if I'm being honest, slightly bitter. However the more I read, the more she opened up. I soon realized that she had every right to feel that way! Imagine being a young girl with big dreams. Now imagine those dreams are put on hold while you have to care for your younger brother. The fact that Becca was strong enough to take on so much responsibility really made her an amazing woman in my eyes.

Which is why when Connor sauntered into the scene I was a little skeptical at first. Was he good enough for her? Well, let's just say that a few pages later I was totally ready to steal him away. Connor O'Malley is everything you'd want in a man. Despite the skeletons in his closet, he's the sweetest and most giving character I've ever met! Absolutely swoon-worthy, and 100% adorable, he's too hard not to love. I could even forgive him the rather obnoxious reason why he and Becca split in the first place, and that's saying a lot.

Oh, and then the story! I could gush for ages, but suffice it to say that the small town setting is perfection. I know the word "sweet" is probably used a ton for reviews like this, but it's the simple truth. I mean, come on, it even has a cocoa competition in it! Sweet doesn't even quite cover how delectable this book really is. So it should be obvious that you need a copy of Love Him or Leave Him as soon as humanly possible. Wine and cake are optional, but highly recommended.



FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Book Review: A Brand New Ending


Media Type: Ebook
Title: A Brand New Ending
Author: S.A. Rolls
Publisher: Self-published
Pages: Paperback; 532
Release Date: April 9, 2013
Source: Author / Promotional Tour
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Content Screening: Mild Violence; Sexual Situations

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy contemporary fiction with a bit of a twist.

Add it on: Goodreads / Shelfari / Amazon / B&N
"Phoenix Harper never imagined her life would come to this: A life not worth living anymore.

After a failed suicide attempt, Phoenix is sent to be observed at a local psychiatric hospital. There she meets Braeden Harris, a hospital aide with his own haunting past.

Not long after their first encounter, they feel an unexplainable pull towards one another. Will fate bring them together, or will outside forces tear them apart?"

I have such mixed feelings about this book. I'll admit that the first few pages definitely drew me in. We meet Phoenix at the end of her rope. Her home life is so dark, so unshakably awful, that she feels the only way to escape is to end it altogether. I felt for her from page one, and I didn't even really know her yet. However once the book moves forward, S.A. Rolls switches to alternating point-of-view between Braedan and Harper. I wouldn't have minded this, but both of them are in first person. This means no easy way to distinguish between the two of them as they share their stories. It made staying in the story a little tough.

I also can't deny that I really liked the connection between Braedan and Pheonix. From the first time they touch, a spark grows between them that is bittersweet. Especially since they aren't supposed to be together. Star crossed lovers, anyone? My problem, especially towards the middle of the book, was that they start to move really fast. There are sexual situations in this book that honestly felt like they didn't really belong. With the way that Phoenix was set up as a character, I had a hard time believing she'd move so quickly with someone.

Then there was the ending, which threw me for a total loop. I know, without a doubt, that it is going to be the main thing that makes or breaks A Brand New Ending for most people out there. I, for one, actually thought it was a pretty intriguing twist! The connection between these two felt perfect at that moment, and I did get a bit misty. What can I say? I'm a sucker for soul-mates.

Before I end this review, let me throw in that I don't know whether I was reading an ARC or a finished copy but there were quite a few grammatical errors. Just a heads up to people who notice those like I do. I did find this a really original read and I finished it quickly! The characters are really what bring this to life, and that twist! You'll be intrigued.




FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Guest Post: Samantha Durante, author of Shudder


Please welcome Samantha Durante, author of the Stitch Trilogy, to the blog today! She's on a tour promoting her newest book, Shudder

Amazon / B&N / Smashwords 
It’s only been three days, and already everything is different.

Paragon is behind her, but somehow Alessa’s life may actually have gotten worse. In a wrenching twist of fate, she traded the safety and companionship of her sister for that of her true love, losing a vital partner she’d counted on for the ordeal ahead. Her comfortable university life is but a distant memory, as she faces the prospect of surviving a bleak winter on the meager remains of a ravaged world. And if she’d thought she’d tasted fear upon seeing a ghost, she was wrong; now she’s discovering new depths of terror while being hunted by a deadly virus and a terrifying pack of superhuman creatures thirsting for blood.

And then there are the visions.

The memory-altering “stitch” unlocked something in Alessa’s mind, and now she can’t shake the constant flood of alien feelings ransacking her emotions. Haunting memories of an old flame are driving a deep and painful rift into her once-secure relationship. And a series of staggering revelations about the treacherous Engineers – and the bone-chilling deceit shrouding her world’s sorry history – will soon leave Alessa reeling…

The second installment in the electrifying Stitch Trilogy, Shudder follows Samantha Durante’s shocking and innovative debut with a heart-pounding, paranormal-dusted dystopian adventure sure to keep the pages turning.

If you haven't already read the first book, Stitch, you can find my review here. It's also just $0.99 at Amazon! In the meantime, enjoy a guest post by Samantha and don't forget to add these to your reading list.


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Guest Post: Inspiration for ‘The Dumpster Scene’ by Samantha Durante, author of the Stitch Trilogy


Even though the Stitch Trilogy is not exactly about zombies, as you may already know, I count the Resident Evil videogame series (which I’ve been playing since the tender age of 11) as one of the major influences on my writing. And in Shudder (Stitch Trilogy, Book 2), there’s one aspect where I must give credit where credit is due: thank you, Resident Evil, for inspiring the idea for the creatures, and in particular, ‘The Dumpster Scene.’

Resident Evil has a long history of pitting its main characters against seemingly impossible odds – mutant creatures with superhuman strength and deadly agility, hordes of zombified undead, deep dark corporate conspiracies led by individuals with no constraints on their resources or power. The game – especially in the early iterations when health supplies and ammo were limited, and old-school gameplay/graphics limitations left the player with only a modicum of control – is terrifying because your character is *nearly* helpless. In contrast to most shoot-‘em-up games (and even the more recent releases in the RE series) – where if you’re just good enough at aiming your weapon you can generally blast your way out of anything – in the classic Resident Evil games, your best bet a lot of times is to run.

In fact, there were certain enemies (e.g., Nemesis from RE3) that you simply couldn’t kill until a designated point very late in the story. This massive, intelligent creature stalked you throughout the game, and while you could choose to stand your ground and try to fight it off, chances were if you tried, you were going to end up either a) dead or b) blowing through 90% of your ammo and health before the monster was “injured” enough to back off.

And with his knack for appearing out of nowhere when you least expected it, Nemesis brought a truly bone-chilling aspect to the game – you were never safe. You could never relax. You had no choice but to be constantly on edge the entire time you played, or suffer the consequences. And when your shattered nervous system finally needed a respite, you had to shut down the system and take a break. And boy was I glad that I had that option.

In Shudder, I sought to bring the same terrorizing sense of horror and unrest to Isaac and Alessa as they traversed the world outside Paragon while being stalked by a pack of bloodthirsty creatures that they frankly knew very little about and had no way of fighting off. Unfortunately for them, though, they didn’t have the ability that I as a Resident Evil player had to “turn it off.” The only chance they had against these monsters was to RUN – so run they did. And hide.

In one scene, Alessa and Isaac find themselves cowering in terror inside a dumpster while the creatures search for them outside. Holding their breath and praying for their lives, they wait in agonizing silence while the wails and howls from the monsters outside foretell a violent death at any moment.

This scene in particular was directly inspired by a series of puzzles in the latest edition of the RE games, Resident Evil 6. In RE6, two characters find themselves needing to traverse some narrow spaces while being stalked by a new Nemesis-like creature called the Ustanak. And sometimes to bypass direct combat with Ustanak, these characters find themselves with an opportunity to hide in a dumpster.

This section of RE6 was one of the few where I found myself back in my 11-year-old self, cringing in sheer terror as I waited powerlessly to see if I would survive the monster’s hunt. As my character peered through the crack in the top of dumpster, glimpsing the hulking mass and huge muscled arms of the vicious enemy just inches away, my stomach clenched and my heart pounded against my chest, and I held my breath and clung to my Xbox controller the same way the characters clung to each other. It was horrifying.

And in that moment, I knew I needed Alessa and Isaac to experience the same overpowering horror in Shudder, a microcosm of the greater the terrors they face in their mission to save the people of Paragon. Because like those in Resident Evil, the characters in the Stitch Trilogy are faced with overwhelming odds. They struggle with feeling powerless against an all-powerful society, and with taking down an enemy that is at once elusive and everywhere. And these creatures – while scary enough on their own – are also a symbol of these greater struggles facing Alessa and her friends.

Because just like we see in Resident Evil, Alessa will soon find out that sometimes the external monsters we face are less dangerous than the monsters inside of all us – that sometimes people can be the worst monsters of all.

But first, she must survive the terrors lurking outside the dumpster. And that’s enough of a challenge in itself. :-)
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Samantha Durante lives in Westchester County, New York with her husband, Sudeep, and her cat, Gio. Formerly an engineer at Microsoft, Samantha left the world of software in 2010 to pursue her entrepreneurial dreams and a lifelong love of writing. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Jerome Fisher Program in Management & Technology, Samantha is currently working full time for her company Medley Media Associates as a freelance business writer and communications consultant. The Stitch Trilogy is her debut series. Learn more about Samantha at www.samanthadurante.com.

 

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