Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Book Review: Behind the Stars by Leigh Talbert Moore

This wonderful book releases today so get your copy now!

Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: Behind the Stars
Author: Leigh Talbert Moore
Publisher: Self
Pages: ebook, 287
Release Date: December 31, 2014
Source: Author
Content Screening: Mild Violence

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart
Recommended to: Readers that enjoy sci-fi and normal girls who become heroes.
Add it on: Goodreads Amazon | BookLikes

Prentiss Puckett is certain of three things:
-Graduation is two weeks away.
-Summer only gets hotter in south Mississippi.
-She's getting a job with air-conditioning.
She did not expect to be kidnapped walking to work.
And she never expected to become a hero.

If you haven't picked up the first installment of this serial release, I highly recommend you pick up the full series which released today! I've been a fan of Leigh Talbert Moore for a while now, and when I heard her next series would be adventurous and sci-fi based I knew I had to get my hands on it. I was not disappointed.

Prentiss was a character that grew on me. I loved her constant questioning and her unfailing determination to save her friends. I thought I knew where the story was headed but there were several unexpected twists that I enjoyed a lot. I don't want to give away any spoilers, but needless to say, Prentiss definitely found her voice.

I really enjoyed the world building, having only briefly driven through Mississippi as a child I don't have much familiarity with the area. Moore does a wonderful job not only creating the scenery but also the feel of a summer in south Mississippi. I could feel the sweat on my brow as she describes the kids working on the farm in the humid and hot summer air.

This book was not what I expected at all and I think that's what I enjoyed most about it. I haven't read anything like it. The plot was always moving forward, even throughout the flashbacks, I could tell there was something coming. I enjoyed the bits of backstory that the flashbacks provided and it gave a real sense of Prentiss and what her life was like prior to being kidnapped. I do want to mention that while there is some action and sci-fi elements, most of the story revolves around relationships and how they can change and develop even in the most dire circumstances.

If you're looking for an interesting story with some well built characters and a bit of action, this is the book for you. Leight Talbert Moore has done it again!

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.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Interview + Giveaway: THE LIFE INTENDED by Kristin Harmel

Ready for another amazing author spotlight? I know I say it each and every time, but I absolutely adore getting to meet the author behind the book! Author interviews are one of my favorite things to host, and this time we have Kristin Harmel here to answer some questions and she brought along a giveaway!

Before we get to interview, let's take a look at her new book, shall we? The Life Intended releases today! Which means it's the perfect time to put it on your wishlist.

Amazon | Goodreads | BookLikes
From the author of the international bestseller The Sweetness of Forgetting, named one of the Best Books of Summer 2012 by Marie Claire magazine, comes a captivating novel about the struggle to overcome the past when our memories refuse to be forgotten.

In this richly told story where Sliding Doors meets P.S. I Love You, Kristin Harmel weaves a heart-wrenching tale that asks: what does it take to move forward in life without forgetting the past?

After her husband’s sudden death over ten years ago, Kate Waithman never expected to be lucky enough to find another love of her life. But now she’s planning her second walk down the aisle to a perfectly nice man. So why isn’t she more excited?

At first, Kate blames her lack of sleep on stress. But when she starts seeing Patrick, her late husband, in her dreams, she begins to wonder if she’s really ready to move on. Is Patrick trying to tell her something? Attempting to navigate between dreams and reality, Kate must uncover her husband’s hidden message. Her quest leads her to a sign language class and into the New York City foster system, where she finds rewards greater than she could have imagined.

Now, without further ado, I give you an interview with Kristin Harmel! Enjoy, and don't forget to add The Life Intended to your reading list. Trust me, it's well worth your time.

1) Give us your best tweet (140 characters) reason why we will LOVE The Life Intended!

Ooh, you must know that staying under 140 characters is a form of torture for me. ;-) Great question. How’s this? It's about love, redemption, the meaning of motherhood, choosing happiness, letting go of the past, and choosing a better future. Enjoy!

2) This book sounds like it's going to pull at our heartstrings. Was it tough for you to write?

Thanks! Yes, it was a bit tough. It’s interesting; the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve realized that I tend to explore very personal issues in my own life through my writing. In THE LIFE INTENDED, I think the personal issues I explored had to do with motherhood (I just got married in March and am thinking about starting a family) and with how to choose happiness and chart a better future. In the novel, the main character, Kate, dreams vividly of an alternate life in which her husband (who died 12 years ago) is still alive and in which they have a daughter together. She has just learned that she’s unable to have a baby, so these dreams are particularly heartrending. Going through that journey with Kate, and deciding on the choices she would make (both right and wrong) often made me tear up!

3) Where is your favorite place for writing inspiration?

I lived in Paris for the summer when I was 23, and it’s where I began to write my first novel. It’s not always practical to hop across the pond, but whenever I make it back to Paris, I feel very inspired and very reinvigorated to write. I also love visiting Los Angeles for writing inspiration. I have a ton of friends there, so I don’t typically get much writing done on my visits to the west coast (simply because I’m enjoying my social time so much!), but it’s essentially a city full of creative people (actors, musicians, writers, producers, directors, etc.), so I always feel a wonderful sense of belonging there, and I come home feeling very inspired.

4) If you had two years of free time, and unlimited resources at your disposal, what task would you love to take on?

Wow, this is an excellent question – and a tough one! Maybe this is a boring answer, but I’d love to learn how to write screenplays, and I’d love to actually complete one. I think many people think this should be easy for writers, but the fact is, screenwriting and novel-writing are two very different skill sets. Of course the plotting skills from my novel-writing background would transfer, but a novel takes place largely through internal thought and explanation, whereas a screenplay must be action- and dialogue-based. Plus, the rhythm of both genres is totally different. Over the years, I’ve internalized the rhythm of novel-writing, but stories for the screen are structured so differently. I’d really have to go back to the beginning and learn proper story pacing from scratch, I think. I’ve read screenwriting books over the years and have taken small stabs at screenwriting, but I’d love to allow myself to really take the time to dive in and master a new skill set. Maybe one day I’ll have the time!

Okay, but a more exciting answer? I’d also love to take a trip around the world with my husband, seeing places we’ve never seen before. I’ve traveled to Europe many times, and I’ve adored those travels, but there’s so much of the world I’ve never seen. This might sound strange, but I feel that every time I travel abroad, I grow a bit as a person and as a writer. I think that exposure to different cultures and different ways of life can do that to a person. I can only imagine how much I would grow if I had the time, opportunity and resources to travel to other parts of the world.

5) Is there a book that you love, that you'd like to recommend?

Oh man, where do I begin? I’ve recently started reading Lucinda Riley; her books are just beautiful. I would particularly recommend The Lavender Garden. And I’m in the midst of reading my friend Allison van Diepen’s new novel On The Edge, which just came out in late November. She writes young adult books that are really appealing to reluctant readers, which I think it just a beautiful, wonderful thing to do. Getting kids interested in reading is so important. Her books are easy reads, and although they’re geared toward teens, they’re really engaging for adults too. So I’d recommend On the Edge or anything by her. Speaking of books for teens, some of my other favorite authors are Wendy Toliver, Jay Asher, Emily Wing Smith, Aprilynne Pike and Linda Gerber. All are friends of mine, and all are just phenomenal writers. So if you’re doing some holiday shopping for teen readers, definitely check them out. I really like Liana Moriarty, Jojo Moyes, Sarah Jio, Emily Giffin and Amy Hatvany lately too. Honestly, I could go on for ages and ages about books and authors I love! Two more specific recommendations: If you haven’t read The Great Gatsby since high school, it’s worth picking up again. And if you like Paris, as I do, Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast is a must-read. It’s a collection of essays about his time in Paris during the 1920s. In fact, now that I’m thinking about it, I’m desperately longing for a return to the City of Light!

Visit Kristin!
Kristin Harmel is an internationally bestselling novelist whose books have been translated into numerous languages and are sold all over the world. After spending many years as a freelance writer (with a steady reporting gig for People magazine for more than a decade) Kristin now freelances only occasionally, focusing on book tours, book club visits and, of course, writing her next books! THE SWEETNESS OF FORGETTING was a bestseller in many countries and in fact won the reader’s choice prize for Romantic Novel of the Year in Germany in 2013. Her new novel, THE LIFE INTENDED, will be out January 6, 2015 from Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.

Kristin graduated summa cum laude from the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications. She has lived in Paris, Los Angeles, New York, Boston and Miami and now resides in Orlando, Fla., with her husband, Jason.

Much love to Kristin for stopping by today!

You can also heck out my co-blogger Tina's review of The Life Intended that she put up yesterday!

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Monday, December 29, 2014

Book Review: The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel

Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: The Life Intended
Author: Kristin Harmel
Publisher: Gallery Books
Pages: ebook, 368
Release Date: December 30, 2014
Source: Netgalley
Genre: Women's Fiction

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Fans of heartfelt stories that believe in dreams

Add it on: Goodreads / Amazon BookLikes

After her husband's sudden death over ten years ago, Kate Waithman never expected to be lucky enough to find another love of her life. But now she's planning her second walk down the aisle to a perfectly nice man. So why isn't she more excited?

At first, Kate blames her lack of sleep on stress. But when she starts seeing Patrick, her late husband, in her dreams, she begins to wonder if she's really ready to move on. Is Patrick trying to tell her something? Attempting to navigate between dreams and reality, Kate must uncover her husband's hidden message. Her quest leads her to a sign language class and into the New York City foster system, where she finds rewards greater than she could have imagined
Have you ever had a dream so vivid you wake up believing that dream world exists? Or feeling the same emotions you felt in the dream? The Life Intended is a dream I didn't want to wake from. I was invested in Kate and her story and just wanted to know more.

After losing her husband, Kate has a hard time moving on despite the encouragement from her sister, best friend and mother. When she finds herself engaged almost twelve years after her husband's death, it becomes clear that she is not quite ready to move on. Cue the dreams.

This book is about following your dreams, and your instincts. I really enjoyed Kate as a character, she is flawed, hopeful, and just a little bit crazy. Without giving too much away, I really enjoyed Kate and how she grows into her own. Even at 40 she realizes that life can be unexpected and sometimes you end up where you never knew you were supposed to be.

It was very clear that the author had done her research regarding the foster system and has a basic understanding of therapy (music or otherwise) and that really helped bring the story to life for me. While I can usually forgive situations that aren't quite "realistic" (like people becoming foster parents overnight), it is really nice to read a story where I don't have to stop and fill in the blanks. Harmel does a wonderful job with balancing pertinent information with good story telling so it doesn't feel like I'm going to have to take a test when I'm done.

I would recommend this book to anyone who has ever suffered a loss and come out the other side. It is heart wrenching, heart warming and all around heart filled.

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.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Book Review: Far Far Away by Tom McNeal

Media Type: Ebook 
Title: Far Far Away
Author: Tom McNeal
Publisher: Knopf BFYR
Pages: Hardcover; 384
Release Date: June 11, 2013
Source: NetGalley
Content Screening: Mild Violence

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers of the Grimm version of fairy tales; those who enjoy darker stories.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes
It says quite a lot about Jeremy Johnson Johnson that the strangest thing about him isn't even the fact his mother and father both had the same last name. Jeremy once admitted he's able to hear voices, and the townspeople of Never Better have treated him like an outsider since. After his mother left, his father became a recluse, and it's been up to Jeremy to support the family. But it hasn't been up to Jeremy alone. The truth is, Jeremy can hear voices. Or, specifically, one voice: the voice of the ghost of Jacob Grimm, one half of the infamous writing duo, The Brothers Grimm.

Jacob watches over Jeremy, protecting him from an unknown dark evil whispered about in the space between this world and the next. But when the provocative local girl Ginger Boultinghouse takes an interest in Jeremy (and his unique abilities), a grim chain of events is put into motion. And as anyone familiar with the Grimm Brothers know, not all fairy tales have happy endings...

I first read Far Far Away last year as an ARC, but at the time I wasn't able to figure out how I felt about it. When I stumbled across an audio book of it last week, I decided to give it another shot. See, I love fairy tales. Specifically the older ones that weren't afraid of a little darkness. There's something beautiful about those tales and their ability to show the true nature of things. That's what Tom McNeal has captured in Far Far Away. He's taken the Brothers Grimm and channeled their energy into a new story. It's dark, twisted, and yet gorgeous in its own way. Best of all? I was much better able to appreciate it this time around.

First off, let me say that I absolutely recommend the audio version of this. W. Morgan Sheppard is a stellar narrator, and I could listen to him read to me for hours. Well, in fact, I did listen to him read to me for hours. I could have listened for hours more though. He is the perfect addition to this story. His voice enchants you into feeling like you're a part of Jeremy Johnson Johnson's life. It's as if you're walking the streets of the town of Never Better. As if you're right there with the ever incorporeal Jacob. I adored listening to this!

As for the story, well, let me tell you that it's definitely not what you're expecting. Like all good fairy tales we start with a character who isn't quite what he seems. When I first met Jeremy I honestly believed I knew where his life would take him. I thought that, as most fairy tales do, things would wind their way to getting better for him. I believed that his best self was hiding inside that shy outer shell, and that he would be rewarded for being such a good person. Oh yes, Jeremy is as good as they come. Which is why I also loved Ginger, the female MC of this story. Her fire, and her mischievousness, really brought the book to life.

So yes, I truly believed that I knew exactly what would transpire. The truth is though, as I should have expected, things took a very drastic turn. We all know that fairy tales need a villain of some sort. Someone who we can loathe and who makes our hero bloom. Tom McNeal threw me a curve with the villain in this story. No spoilers, oh no you won't get them from me. Suffice it say that you won't see it coming. When it does? And things get darker, and darker still? You'll likely find yourself wondering where it all stemmed from, but feeling to consumed with what happens next to really worry about it.

When I read this the first time, I settled on a three star rating because my thoughts were too conflicted to really do more. This time, I'm happy to report that I had a much more enjoyable time in Never Better. I wouldn't doubt that it has something to do with our lovely narrator, but the fact remains that this is now a four star read for me. If you love fairy tales, give this a shot! You might be pleasantly surprised.

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, December 24, 2014

Happy Holidays!

Our blog will be quiet until Friday, as we're spending these few days with our friends and family :). We'll be back with more goodies and end of the year wrap up posts soon!

In the meantime, enjoy your week!

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Book Review: This Shattered World (Starbound #2) by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: This Shattered World
   *Series: Starbound #2
Author: Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Pages: Hardcover; 400
Release Date: December 23, 2014
Source: NetGalley
Content Screening: Mild Violence

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who loved the first book, and are eager for more tragic love stories!

Add it on: Goodreads / Amazon / BookLikes
Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met.

Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet's rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the insurgents.

Rebellion is in Flynn's blood. His sister died in the original uprising against the powerful corporate conglomerate that rules Avon with an iron fist. These corporations make their fortune by terraforming uninhabitable planets across the universe and recruiting colonists to make the planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion. 

Desperate for any advantage against the military occupying his home, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape base together, caught between two sides in a senseless war.

The stunning second novel in the Starbound trilogy is an unforgettable story of love and forgiveness in a world torn apart by war.

Please pardon me while I sweep my shattered emotions up off the floor. These two authors made me fall in love with Lilac and Tarver in These Broken Stars. Their story was a perfect mixture of tragic and beautiful, with the kind of romance that makes me all mushy inside. I was a bit upset when I found out that This Shattered World wouldn't focus on the same characters. Still, I had high hopes that Jubilee and Flynn would soon fill that void with their own gorgeous story. They did, my friends. They definitely did.

Spooner and Kaufman have the tragic love story down to a science. Within the first five or so chapters, I was completely under their spell. Jubilee's hard demeanor, the way she lived her life with detachment, was heartbreaking. As I read, and learned where all of that stemmed from, it was all I could do not to want to hug her tight. She'd probably hate me for that. Then there was Flynn. A member of the rebellion, but with a pure heart and good intentions, he was undeniably likable. When these two met, and their personalities clashed, I just knew there would be sparks. I couldn't wait.

The fact is that these two characters are the exact opposite of one another, yet perfectly matched. Once again I watched as a tragic and beautiful love story unfolded in front of me. I smiled as they stole moments together, was aghast as war threatened to tear them apart, and teared up when things looked bleak. Let me tell you, I was attached to these two wholeheartedly. I'm genuinely sad that their story is over. It was a Romeo and Juliette of sorts. Two souls, two different sides, tragically meant for one another. 

What I loved about this story more than anything though was that it wasn't all romance. Lilac and Tarver's story was very romance heavy. It was just the two of them on a planet, and so their romance was in the limelight during the course of the story. While Jubilee and Flynn definitely have a romance, there is so much more at stake. Lives lie in the balance. Secrets hide just out of reach. It's easy to get lost. Read this! It's worth it.

Other books in series:
These Broken Stars (Starbound #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.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Book Review: Written on Her Heart by Paige Rion

Media Type: Ebook 
Title: Written on Her Heart
Series: Callaway Cove Book 1
Author: Paige Rion
Publisher: Self
Pages: ebook, 263
Release Date: April 14, 2014
Source: Netgalley
Genre: Contemporary Romance

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Fans of romance

Add it on: Goodreads / Amazon BookLikes
Andi Callaway has dreamed of becoming a published author her entire life.

Ford Delaney has always wanted nothing more than to escape his past.

An opportunity of a lifetime. This is what Andi finds when she returns home to Callaway Cove on summer break. A chance to work for her literary idol Ford Delaney is up for grabs, and she’s willing to risk everything—her boyfriend, her best friends, and her education—to get it.

She’s positive this will be the key to reaching her dreams. But the moment she begins working for the reclusive author, Andi realizes there’s more to him than just a name. As attraction builds between Andi and Ford, she begins to discover consequences must come hand-in-hand with something great—which could loosen control over her tightly wound life. And once romantic sparks fly, Andi’s other relationships start to crumble, Ford’s fame comes back to haunt him, and the heat they generate will either forge a powerful, enduring love or threaten everything she holds dear.

Sigh ah romance. This was exactly what I needed this week, a well crafted famous-person-meets- small-town-girl book. Written on Her Heart was a delightful read full of great scenery and some interesting characters.

It is easy to write about friends that are great, that have your back at every turn and are there to support you. This is not that book. Andi's friends are complicated, selfish and some of them ultimately aren't friends at all. It was a nice break from a lot of the other romance books I've read lately. I hope that some of the next books in the series go into more detail about these characters because some of the issues seem to have been a little glossed over in this story.

Andi and Ford's chemistry jumps off of the page from the get go. I enjoyed the slow build of their relationship and the fact that she tried to salvage her current relationship despite her attraction to Ford. Not every relationship starts on the best of terms, but Andi needed to realize on her own terms that her boyfriend was not everything she deserved.

I really enjoyed reading this story and am looking forward to more from this author. 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.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (12/17/14)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted here, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. It's hosted by Breaking the Spine.

One of my biggest surprises this year was falling in love with The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. I chose it for our book club, on a whim, and ended up absolutely adoring it as a read! Color me a happy bookworm when I found out that there is going to be more! The Rosie Effect is out soon, and I'm excited.

Don Tillman and Rosie Jarman are back. If you were swept away by Graeme Simsion’s international smash hit The Rosie Project, you will love The Rosie Effect.The Wife Project is complete, and Don and Rosie are happily married and living in New York. But they’re about to face a new challenge.Rosie is pregnant.Don sets about learning the protocols of becoming a father, but his unusual research style gets him into trouble with the law. Fortunately his best friend Gene is on hand to offer advice: he’s left Claudia and moved in with Don and Rosie.As Don tries to schedule time for pregnancy research, getting Gene and Claudia back together, servicing the industrial refrigeration unit that occupies half his apartment, helping Dave the Baseball Fan save his business and staying on the right side of Lydia the social worker, he almost misses the biggest problem of all: he might lose Rosie when she needs him most.Get ready to fall in love all over again.

Now that you know what I'm excited for, share out! What are you eagerly waiting for?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Book Review & GIveaway: One Song Away by Molli Moran

Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: One Song Away
Author: Molli Moran
Publisher: Self
Pages: ebook, 200
Release Date: December 1, 2014
Source: Author
Content Screening: Intended for mature audiences 18+

Genre: Romance/New Adult

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Fans of hometown love stories

Add it on: Goodreads / Amazon BookLikes

She needs a fill-in boyfriend. He needs a favor. It’s the perfect, no-strings arrangement until they both realize it’s too real…

Sophie-Claire Wright’s life is like a bad country song on repeat. She keeps running into her cheating ex, her songwriting career isn’t taking off, and her roommate just kicked her out of their apartment. With nothing to lose, she decides to do the one thing she said she’d never do: she moves back home. She left her small Southern town with big dreams, but now she’s going home with empty pockets.

Life moves at a slower pace in Sophie’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it hometown, but her well-meaning, matchmaking mama doesn’t have a slow gear. Sophie invents a boyfriend to hold off her mother’s efforts, but she’s out of luck when her mom wants to meet him. Sophie panics until she runs into Jake Cooper. Her high school crush is back in town, too, and when he asks her for a favor, she agrees—on one condition. He says he’ll be her fill-in boyfriend, so it should be simple: introduce him to her family and then “break up” with him after a few weeks.

Sophie is sure she’ll be able to resist Jake this time and that their fake relationship will keep them both away from wagging tongues. Sure, she was in love with him years ago, but that was then. This is now, no matter how great he looks, or how she feels around him. But she didn’t bargain for moments that feel all too genuine. Dates that don’t seem fake. Kisses that leave her shaken and wanting more. And she didn’t count on old feelings resurfacing and complicating their arrangement—which is starting to feel less like acting and more like the real deal.

Soon, Sophie can’t tell which kisses are real or fake, but she knows she’s in deep…and she thinks Jake is, too. When she gets a chance to go back to Nashville and chase her dreams again, she has a choice to make: stay or go? Continue hoping that the life she wants is one song away, or write her own?

Let's start with what I enjoyed about this book. The supporting cast is definitely a high point in this story for me. The don't-take-shit-from-anyone attitude of Sloane was a breath of fresh air against the under confident Sophie-Claire. Even when Sophie-Claire didn't want to be pushed, Sloane knew how to take care of her friend by taking her phone away when she was wallowing over texts and making her go out and let loose instead of sitting at home. This is what a best friend should be.

Coop was down to earth and seemed like a pretty typical guy. His revelations towards the end of the book aren't surprising but the whole scenario seems far fetched to me. There is so much history between Sophie-Claire and Coop that I found it impossible that neither knew how the other felt. As a reader, everything that is done and said by Coop confirmed his attraction to Sophie-Claire and the fact that she remained clueless frustrated me immensely. Based on the story line, these characters were best friends for several years, reconnected and talked every night but somehow their feelings never came up? I'm not buying it.

I really want to connect with Sophie-Claire as a character, but I couldn't relate to her incessant insecurities. I've had my fair share of low self-esteem moments (haven't we all?), and definitely could relate to the presumably unrequited love moments, but I feel like Sophie-Claire's character is a bit over dramatic. She is written as willfully ignorant of the situation around her, but claims to spend lots of time analyzing it. Those two things, in my head, don't add up.

All in all this book was just okay for me. The settings and supporting cast made this a 3 star read for me since I couldn't connect with the main characters.

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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, December 11, 2014

Book Review: Facial by Jeff Strand

Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: Facial
Author: Jeff Strand
Publisher: DarkFuse
Pages: ebook;  86
Release Date: December 16, 2014
Source: Netgalley
Content Screening: Violence and Sexual Situations

HDB Rating: 5 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy dark humor and aren't afraid of a little gore.

Add it on: Goodreads Amazon / BookLikes

Greg has just killed the man he hired to kill one of his wife’s many lovers. He’s now got a dead body in his office.
Carlton, Greg’s brother, desperately needs a dead body. It’s kind of related to the lion corpse that he found in his basement.
This is the normal part of the story.
From Jeff Strand, the author of Benjamin’s Parasite, The Sinister Mr. Corpse, and Fangboy, comes a tale that’s weird even by his standards.
Facial. It’s not about what you’re thinking. Well, okay, part of it is...
This is my first DarkFuse book and I have to say, I really enjoyed it! Based on the synopsis I wasn't really sure what to expect, and I still can't quite do it justice except to say that it is great. 

 Facial is dark, and a bit graphic, but hilarious and witty too. At only 86 pages it is a quick read, but it is enough for this story. Not a lot of suspense or thrills, just matter-of-factly stated insights from the characters on their current predicament. 

If you enjoy books like John Dies at the End that are a little unorthodox then this book is 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.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Book Spotlight + Giveaway: The Lebrus Stone by Miriam Khan

It's time for another bookish spotlight! This time the lovely Giselle of Xpresso Book Tours is running a tour for The Lebrus Stone by Miriam Khan. I have to say, the reason that I chose to host this was that it sounds deliciously creepy. Nightmares and witchcraft? That's my kind or read. Perhaps it's yours too?

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
When Eighteen-year-old orphan, Crystal Valdez, accepts an invitation to the small town of Blacksville, West Virginia, she hopes to have a summer to remember and a chance to learn more about her parents, to also get to know the family she never knew existed.

But the Lockes begin to act strange and erratic; eerie movements in the night fuel her vivid and gruesome nightmares. To complicate her summer further, she becomes attracted to the menacing yet handsome Cray Locke: her none blood related cousin who seems determined to keep his distance. The only bonus seems to be the Housekeeper and Gardener.

And when a local informs Crystal of the secrets buried at Thorncrest Manor, the kind consisting of a forbidden relationship and a war between hidden worlds, and witchcraft, she must decide whom to trust. Even if it means leaving behind those she has come to love.
     I lay back and tried not to over think things to calm the storm in my head, but a knock on my door moments later interrupted it. 

     "Come in!" I called out, sitting up to retrieve my book. 

      Syd entered, carrying in what looked like a sandwich and a glass of her homemade lemonade.

     I could have done with a hot soup.

     But I blew a sigh of relief it wasn't one of the Lockes.

     "Isobel said to make sure you had some lunch by now," she said, placing the tray on my bedside cabinet.

     "Thanks, Syd."

     "Any reason why you're hiding in here?" she asked as she sat on my bed. 

     I tensed. Being told I was hiding annoyed me, but I wasn't annoyed at Syd, just at myself. I had come too far in life to start acting like a coward, especially over something clearly in my head.

     I fingered the dog-eared cover of my book.

     "I think I just need a quiet day to myself. It could be some type of…delayed jet lag." It could be partly true, I thought. It had taken two flights to get from Salt Lake City to Blacksville; six hours in total. I smiled, pleased with the conclusion. Exhaustion could have been why I had such a freakish dream. 

     "I see," Syd said, seeming unconvinced. "Well, do you think you'll be joining the Lockes for dinner?"

     "Do I have to?" No matter how much I was becoming fond of Syd, she worked for the Lockes. They could try and make her tell me what do. 

     "No." She chuckled. "But I think you should try to interact. Cray's alright, by the way. A little scratch like that won't do a boy like him any harm."

     Boy like him?

     So, I had hurt him. My chest tightened.

     "Oh, don't look so beat up about it, honey. The boy is as tough as old boots." She chuckled again. "And luckily for you, he's not as vain about his looks as you would think. He won't hold what happened against you." She patted my hand.

     I gulped. "Has he…said something?"

     "No. He left early this morning. He didn't say where he was going, and Isobel never dares ask these days. He's a very private person, as you've probably noticed. She respects that. We all do." She looked lost in thought for a moment, then smiled in her sad little way, and asked, "So, are you ready to talk about what happened last night?" 

     My mouth felt too clamped to begin.

     "I have to say, not many girls would have left home to meet so many strangers. I admire your courage."

     Her comment only made me sound irresponsible. I gritted my teeth. 

     "I don't feel very courageous," I admitted. "I feel pretty stupid right now." 

     Thanks for the added comment to make me feel even more naive, I wanted to add. 

     "I don't think five months was long enough to think this through," I said. 

     She nodded. "Maybe. But everything happens for a reason. You followed your heart. It's all you can do in life. It's your only real compass."

     I wanted us to keep talking. When Syd wasn't nicely pointing out my flaws, she had a way of calming me until I felt optimistic about my trip again. But she had dinner to prepare, so she reluctantly left me after insisting I get ready to face my evening with the Lockes.

     Something about her was becoming familiar. It could have been the warmth in her eyes and how they reminded me of Selma. She had always been as hospitable and over helpful.

     I still missed her. Talking to Syd was like getting back something that had been cruelly taken away, too. It wasn't just my parents I'd lost, but my pride, self-worth, my best friend, at times my composure. It had been an uphill struggle this past year or so. But I was finally feeling on top of things…I think.

     I sure wasn't going to let it keep me down.

     Coming to Blacksville was my new start as the new and improved me. I really had to keep believing that.

Miriam is from Cheshire, England and a family of six siblings. Her love for creativity led to acting at her local theatre before being a lead vocalist in rock bands. During those years, she often found solace penning her thoughts and feelings through lyrics or poetry. She chose not to continue singing in 2006, and two years later she woke up with the idea for The Lebrus Stone and began typing. revising and editing it for the next six years. She is now eager to see what readers will think.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Guest Post: There's Something About Bim by Michael Jasper

Happy release day to the wonderful Michael Jasper! In celebration of his new release Finders, Inc., we get some insights into the world of Bim- one of the characters. Check it out!

My latest novel, Finders, Inc., is the first book in what I hope will be a long series of mystery novels (with a hint of the paranormal) set in the small town of Boone, North Carolina tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The name of the series is "The Finder Team," and the team is made up of an eclectic group of forty-somethings, all of whom bring a powerful set of skills to the table. They use these skills -- from intuitive people skills to sharp-as-a-knife deduction skills to not-really-legal hacking abilities -- to help the local police solve crimes.

And the main focus of the Finder Team, not surprisingly, is finding missing people.

In Finders, Inc., the team has to deal with a strange outbreak of missing elderly people -- all of them former professors -- along with an outbreak of crystal meth in their sleeping little mountain town.

But enough about the plot; I want to tell you about Bim Mayer, one of the co-founders of theFinder Team, and how he first appeared in my head.
You see, I tend to squirrel away ideas and save them for much later. Bim Mayer is the result of over five years of squirreling. He's a "plus-size" character (modeled quite a bit on Jorge Garcia, who played Hurley on "Lost"), a type of person I've always wanted to use as a protagonist, not as a secondary "stock" character.

I got the idea for a big character like Bim from a billboard, actually, as we were driving to North Myrtle Beach for a summer vacation. The billboard boasted an ad for a T-shirt place, and the ad claimed it had shirts from "Sizes XS to 6X." As an XL guy myself (well, sometimes a 2X if it's a "petite" cut), I started wondering just how big you'd have to be to be a 6X. Or 7X...
So Bim Mayer, my amateur detective with other special skills was born, and he's one of the two main characters of The Finder Team. And it's not all about Bim eating a lot! His size is just a secondary trait, like eye or hair color. He's not the comic relief or the sidekick, but the guy with the most to lose on this first outing with the Finder Team.
Oh, and just what are those "other special skills" of Bim's? I could tell you that about Bim, but that would spoil the fun...

If you haven't picked a copy of Finders, Inc  you can do so on Amazon today, also check out my review here.

Thanks Michael!

Book Review: Finders, Inc by Michael Jasper

Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: Finders, Inc.
 Series: The Finder Team Book 1
Author: Michael Jasper
Publisher: UnWrecked Press
Pages: ebook; 204
Release Date: December 9, 2014
Source: Author/Publisher
HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy a good characters with some unusual research tactics.

Add it on: Goodreads Amazon / BookLikes
Sometimes those who can’t be found just might not be lost…

Finders, Inc. co-founders Hank Johnson and Bim Mayer have spent the past two decades successfully solving mysteries and—almost miraculously, thanks to Bim's special skills—finding missing people in and around the remote mountain town of Boone, North Carolina.

Until now.

Their most recent case deals with an outbreak of missing elderly people, all of whom used to teach at nearby Appalachian State University. With the help of teammates Juan and Marly Hernandez, along with Shelby Jamiston, a sharp new private investigator Hank just hired, they soon learn that the absent old folks all have something else in common. They’re all connected to a shady character with deep, dark ties to both Bim and Hank.

The events of those chaotic three days in late winter will test the friendship of the two men as they—and all the other members of the “Finder Team”—risk their lives to solve this mystery and find a group of people who just might not want to be found.

The first book in an all-new mystery series with hints of the paranormal!
If that introduction doesn't get your attention then I don't know what will. This book promises some action, interesting characters and, of course, mystery solving and Jasper comes through on all counts. 

I really enjoy characters that are outside the norm. When you have a whole group of misfits it is even better. While Bim and Hanky J are quite the pair of oddballs themselves, I really enjoyed the supporting cast as well. The Finders Team was well balanced with complementing personality types who all specialize in their own skills,

The rural mountain area that this story takes place comes to life with the muddy roads and hole in the wall diners and bars. Even though I'm not familiar with that part of the country I didn't have a problem getting absorbed into the scenery.

While I enjoyed this read, it didn't really stick with me. There wasn't anything I particularly disliked about the story but I didn't love it either. I'd recommend this book for readers who enjoy the hints of paranormal and some fun filled characters.

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, December 8, 2014

Book Review: Suspicion by Alexandra Monir

Media Type: Print Book (ARC)
Title: Suspicion
Author: Alexandra Monir
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Pages: Hardcover; 368
Release Date: December 9, 2014
Source: NetGalley
Content Screening: Mild Violence

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy gothic mysteries set against lavish backdrops.

Add it on: Goodreads / Amazon / BookLikes
"There's something hidden in the Maze." Seventeen-year-old Imogen has never forgotten the last words her father said to her seven years ago, before the blazing fire that consumed him, her mother, and the gardens of her family's English country manor.

Haunted by her parents' deaths, Imogen moves to New York City with her new guardians. But when a letter arrives with the news of her cousin's untimely death, revealing that Imogen is now the only heir left to run the estate, she returns to England and warily accepts her role as duchess.

All is not as it seems at Rockford, and Imogen quickly learns that dark secrets lurk behind the mansion's aristocratic exterior, hinting that the spate of deaths in her family were no accident. And at the center of the mystery is Imogen herself--and Sebastian, the childhood friend she has secretly loved for years. Just what has Imogen walked into?

Combining a fresh twist on the classic REBECCA with a spine-tingling mystery and powerful romance, SUSPICION is an action-packed thrill ride.

Before anything else, can we please all take a moment to exclaim in delight over this cover? I can't pinpoint exactly what prompts it, but this cover makes my Fantasy loving heart all aflutter. I won't even attempt to deny that my choice to read this was a serious case of cover lust. In fact, I only skimmed the synopsis for this before I started. Honestly? I think that was the perfect way to go. Everything that came next was a surprise.

All my love goes to Alexandra Monir for bringing to life a world of wealth and opulence. The beginning of this story grabbed my hand, and led me into Imogen Rockford's life. A life filled with sprawling mansions, elegant libraries, and enough hidden secrets to keep me wanting to read on. I loved the disconnect between Imogen and Rockford Manor. Monir artfully keeps our heroine away from everything until she's older, which makes for a much more in depth look into the secrets her family hides. I felt like, despite the fact that this is set in current times, it was almost an older tale of sorts. The kind that lies hidden until someone is ready to uncover it.

In fact, Imogen is a rather likable character overall. I never found her pompous, or overbearing, despite her family's wealth. Imogen is the exact opposite of all that. She sees the people around her for what they are. Simply, people. As she navigated the ins and outs of the British peerage, I couldn't help but be amused. Imogen's view of the whole thing was candid and enjoyable. It made for a nice balance between her observations of her wealth, and the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the way she obtained it.

Where the story fell apart, in my opinion, was near the ending. Up to that point, you would have gotten nothing but love from me if you asked how I was enjoying the book. Imogen and Sebastion were stellar characters, the world they inhabited was lavish, and the history they were uncovering intriguing. The problems started when the twist near the end of the book hit. It wasn't what I was expecting, to be sure, but moreover it left so many things untouched. I can't really explain what I was hoping for without spoilers, but I can say that I genuinely hope that there are more of these books. I absolutely must know more about the Rockford family.

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.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Book Review: The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham

Media Type: Print Book
Title: The Luck Uglies
Author: Paul Durham
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: Hardcover; 400
Release Date: April 29, 2014
Source: Library
Content Screening: Mild Violence

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who love adventure and intrigue in a Middle Grade package.

Add it on: Goodreads / Amazon / BookLikes
Rye O’Chanter has seen a lot of strange things happen in Village Drowning: children are chased through the streets. Families are fined for breaking laws that don’t even exist. Girls aren’t allowed to read anymore, and certain books—books that hold secrets about Drowning’s past—have been outlawed altogether.

Now a terrifying encounter has eleven-year-old Rye convinced that the monstrous, supposedly extinct Bog Noblins have returned. Before the monsters disappeared, there was only one way to defeat them—the Luck Uglies. But the Luck Uglies have long since been exiled, and there’s nobody left who can protect the village.

As Rye dives into Drowning’s maze of secrets, rules, and lies, she begins to question everything she’s been told about the village’s legend of outlaws and beasts . . . and what she’ll discover is that it may take a villain to save them from the monsters.

In my mind, exploring new worlds is the best part of reading. Imagine my excitement when The Luck Uglies transported me to the Village Drowning and gave me enough rich backstory to fully immerse myself there. I was dropped into a world where magic and mischief rule the day. Where dark things lurk in the shadows. A story where a brave heart means everything. Needless to say, I adored my trip to Drowning. I honestly can't wait to go back.

Rye O'Chanter is a wonderful main character. She's brave and resourceful. The type of young girl who readers of all ages will easily fall in love with. In fact, Durham writes a whole cast of characters who are fully formed. From the dastardly regent of the land, to the blind boy who becomes Rye's ally, each one of them were beautifully done. It's not hard to fall into step with them. I had a lot of fun getting to know these characters.

The story is where this first book suffered a little bit. As I said, the world is large and the characters vivid. It takes a lot of descriptive writing to get them to that point. While there was definitely a fair amount of forward movement in this, and some moments of action-packed goodness, there were big portions of explanations. In my case, it didn't really phase me too much. I love getting to know more about the people and places in my books. Just giving a warning to those of you who might feel that things are a bit slow. Keep going! By the end I promise you'll be extremely eager for more.

Last month was a tough reading month, and this book helped immensely with getting me out of that slump. It was just so much fun to read! I'm thrilled that The Luck Uglies was only the first installment, and that Rye O'Chanter will be back for more adventures. I can't wait to go back to the Village Drowning.


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