Thursday, April 30, 2015

Cover Reveal: After She's Gone by Lisa Jackson

Are you ready for some suspense? Lisa Jackson's After She's Gone promises a harrowing tale of jealousy, betrayal and the darkside of fame.  Let's check out the gorgeous cover that stares into your soul.

Pre-order Links: Amazon or Kobo

Cassie Kramer and her younger sister, Allie, learned the hazards of fame long ago. Together, they’d survived the horror of a crazed fan who nearly killed their mother, former Hollywood actress Jenna Hughes. Still, Cassie moved to L.A., urging Allie to follow. As a team, they’d take the town by storm. But Allie, finally free of small-town Oregon, and just that little bit more beautiful, also proved to be more talented—and driven. Where Cassie got bit parts, Allie rose to stardom. But now her body double has been shot on the set of her latest movie—and Allie is missing.

Police discover that the last call to Allie’s phone came from Cassie, though she has no recollection of making it. Instead of looking like a concerned relative, Cassie is starting to look like a suspect—the jealous sister who finally grew sick of playing a supporting role. As the tabloids go into a frenzy, Cassie ends up on a Portland psych ward. Is she just imagining the sinister figure who comes to her bedside, whispering about Allie—a visitor of whom there is no record? Is someone trying to help—or drive her mad?

Convinced she’s the only one who can find Allie, Cassie checks herself out of the hospital. But a sudden slew of macabre murders— each victim masked with a likeness of a member of Cassie’s family—makes Cassie fear for her safety and her sanity. The only way to end the nightmare is to find out what really happened to Allie. And with each discovery, Cassie realizes that no one can be trusted to keep her safe—least of all herself…

Lisa Jackson is the number-one New York Times bestselling author of more than 85 novels, includingAfraid to Die, Tell Me, You Don’t Want to Know, Running Scared, Without Mercy, Malice, and Shiver. She is also the co-author of the Colony Series, co-written with her sister, Nancy Bush. There are over 20 million copies of Lisa Jackson’s books in print in twenty languages.
Before she became a nationally bestselling author, Lisa Jackson was a mother struggling to keep food on the table by writing novels, hoping against hope that someone would pay her for them. Today, neck deep in murder, her books appear on The New York Times, the USA Today, and thePublishers Weekly national bestseller lists.
With over thirty bestsellers to her name, Lisa Jackson is a master of taking readers to the edge of sanity – and back – in novels that buzz with dangerous secrets and deadly passions. She continues to be fascinated by the minds and motives of both her killers and their pursuers—the personal, the professional and downright twisted. As she builds the puzzle of relationships, actions, clues, lies and personal histories that haunt her protagonists, she must also confront the fear and terror faced by her victims, and the harsh and enduring truth that, in the real world, terror and madness touch far too many lives and families.

Contact  Lisa:  Facebook or Goodreads

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Book Review: Cold Burn of Magic (Black Blade #1) by Jennifer Estep

Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: Cold Burn of Magic
   * Series: Black Blade #1
Author: Jennifer Estep
Publisher: Kensington
Pages: Paperback; 368
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Source: The Fantastic Flying Book Club
Content Screening: Violence

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy stories with strong female characters and tons of magic.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes
There Be Monsters Here. . .

It's not as great as you'd think, living in a tourist town that's known as "the most magical place in America." Same boring high school, just twice as many monsters under the bridges and rival Families killing each other for power. 

I try to keep out of it. I've got my mom's bloodiron sword and my slightly illegal home in the basement of the municipal library. And a couple of Talents I try to keep quiet, including very light fingers and a way with a lock pick. 

But then some nasty characters bring their Family feud into my friend's pawn shop, and I have to make a call--get involved, or watch a cute guy die because I didn't. I guess I made the wrong choice, because now I'm stuck putting everything on the line for Devon Sinclair. My mom was murdered because of the Families, and it looks like I'm going to end up just like her. .

Okay, let's be honest. We all know why I picked up this book. I've been meaning to pick up a book by Jennifer Estep for ages, and I love a strong female character. I was so excited to read Cold Burn of Magic. What better place to start my Estep experience than with a brand new YA book? Coming in at the beginning of a new series sounded perfect.

Now that I've rambled at you about why I chose this book, I can tell you that I definitely have a soft spot in my heart for Lila. As the main character, she was instantly built up as this girl who could handle herself. Full of fire, of haunting memories, and of the kind of loyalty that can only be held by a person who has lost someone before. Lila was really what kept me reading. Not only did I constantly look forward to uncovering something new about her, but there was just something so fierce about her personality. I was entranced.

That being said, I'm thrilled beyond belief that this was never horribly overshadowed by romance. Oh, I'm sure that's coming around the bend. It always does. However the simple fact that there was more character development, and forward moving plot, than insta-love made me giddy. I'll admit that Lila's thoughts about Devon threw me off for a bit. I was terrified that he'd manage to smash the strong person that I had fallen in love with. Luckily, that never happened. I'll admit she may have made some decisions I didn't quite agree with, but I gave her a pass. Teenagers, no matter how bad-ass they may be, are still teenagers.

So why the three-star rating? It's hard for me to pinpoint exactly. I definitely wanted more action, and less description. There were some points of this story that moved a bit too slow for my taste. In truth, I also believe that it was because Devon was just a bit too perfect. I'm all for a swoon-worthy guy, but he needs to feel real. No one, and I repeat no one, is as perfect as Devon was. In terms of this being the first book in a new series though, it absolutely has me intrigued. I'll be looking for what comes next.

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, April 21, 2015

A Quarterly Goals Update

Hello lovely bookish people!

I'll bet you thought that I had vanished, hm? I know I haven't had time to sit down and actually write a post in here that wasn't a review or a spotlight. Once upon a time I wrote random posts constantly. Lately though, blogging has had to take a back seat. I still read like mad, and review whenever possible, but the days of extra time to ramble on have passed. Still, I'll pop in here when I can!

I thought I'd do a post about some updates to my reading goals this year. Since, you know, it's already almost the end of April. Yeah, I'm panicking too. I'll try to do another one of these on time in June :).

Let's see where I'm at.

* Clear my NetGalley list by July

Okay, well, on the bright side I haven't ADDED any books to this list! I've been keeping myself from requesting anything new since I promised myself I'd clear NetGalley out. Sadly, I'm still behind. I don't think I'm going to make it by July. I think to revise this goal we'll say: Clear NetGalley list by the end of 2015.

* Read more outside the box

So far, so good on this goal! I've been periodically picking books that look interesting from other readers' reviews, and from the NPR list I found regarding "Books That Should Be Classics". I have yet to tackle any non-fiction yet though, which was one of the things I promised myself I would do.

* Read my OWN BOOKS

So far I've cleared about two books a month from what I lovingly refer to as my "forever languishing" shelf. These are books I've bought, and haven't gotten to yet. Some, to be honest, have been sitting for years. I'm at about 7 of them read this year. Not too shabby!

* Do more buddy reads!

Running a book club has really fostered this. There's nothing better than a good conversation over a book. I'm still going to try to sneak in more random buddy reads though.

* Take my time

This is still a struggle. I've been a little better about slowing down, and savoring a book. Still, there are times when I get antsy and speed read. I'm getting better at DNFing books now though, so I shouldn't have to worry about rushing through books I'm not enjoying. 

Well now, that doesn't look too bad! I think the two things I'll be looking closely at the next two months are reading more "outside the box" books, and clearing that dang list. Darn you clicking finger. *sigh*

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Book Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: We Were Liars
Author: E. Lockhart
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Pages: Kindle; 227
Release Date: May 13, 2014
Source: NetGalley
Content Screening: Adult Language; Mild Violence

HDB Rating: 5 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy deep, poignant and original stories.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes
A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from New York Times bestselling author, National Book Award finalist, and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.
Ah, where do I even begin with my passion for this book? How do I accurately express to you how much this book surprised me, and broke me apart? When We Were Liars first came out, and everyone was praising it, I was skeptical. I always am when a book seems perfect. I now know what all the hype was about. This book is perfect, or at least it was to me. It's sad, it's beautiful, and it's full of so many sharp and bitter truths. I only hope this review does it some justice.

Cady, and the entire Sinclair family, came alive for me while I read this book. I saw their shimmering, golden outsides that only barely masked the vicious cracks running underneath. I fell in love with this family. Despite their flaws, despite their entitlement, I fell absolutely head over heels in love with them. Especially Cady. The "Liars", as Cady lovingly calls the group of the four of them, sat in my mind long after I'd finished this book. Each with their own special quirks and faults. They're still there too. I don't think they're ever going to leave.

Oh, and the pieces of this book that just got me with their brutal honesty were so plentiful that I stopped counting. They stabbed me with their sharp, poignant little truths that we all forget to consider. My favorite part was watching as the Liars realized the reality of their situation. That wealth and glamour don't always make a happy life. These four were so wise beyond their years. Even while being silly, even while being teens, they spoke to me. I loved the line "Be a little kinder than you have to." and I've been repeating it all day. This book broke my heart so many times, and I'm not even upset about it.

I would ramble on, but I can't because I don't want to spoil one moment of this book for you. It shocked me how much We Were Liars crawled under my skin and became a part of who I am now. I don't run across books like this often. When I do, I savor them. Just like I did this one. Word of warning? Have tissues on hand, and quite possibly a fuzzy blanket to curl up under. You're going to need them.

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, April 15, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (4/15/15)

"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.


This week I wanted to share an upcoming YA book that I am looking forward to!

I am a big fan of music, especially of the country variety. I enjoy stories about musicians and their complicated life in and out of the spotlight. When I heard about Miranda Kenneally's Jesse's Girl I knew I had to add it to my list. 

Everyone at Hundred Oaks High knows that career mentoring day is a joke. So when Maya Henry said she wanted to be a rock star, she never imagined she’d get to shadow *the* Jesse Scott, Nashville’s teen idol.
But spending the day with Jesse is far from a dream come true. He’s as gorgeous as his music, but seeing all that he’s accomplished is just a reminder of everything Maya’s lost: her trust, her boyfriend, their band, and any chance to play the music she craves. Not to mention that Jesse’s pushy and opinionated. He made it on his own, and he thinks Maya’s playing back up to other people’s dreams. Does she have what it takes to follow her heart—and go solo?
Publishing July 7, 2015
Amazon | B&N | Goodreads 

Jesse's Girl is what I'm excited about this week! What are you eagerly waiting on?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Cover Reveal: An Oath Sworn by Diana Cosby

Happy Monday lovely readers! What better way to start the week than with an exciting new cover! An Oath Sworn by Diana Cosby is coming this December, just in time for Christmas. Who wouldn't want a man in a kilt for Christmas? I know I would!

Pre-order Link: Amazon

A man of honor.
A woman of spirit.

As the new castellan, Sir Nicholas Beringar has the daunting task of rebuilding Ravenmoor Castle on the Scottish border and gaining the trust of the locals—one of whom wastes no time in trying to rob him. Instead of punishing the boy, Nicholas decides to make him his squire. Little does he know the thieving young lad is really…a lady.

Lady Elizabet Armstrong had donned a disguise in an attempt to free her brother from Ravenmoor’s dungeons. Although intimidated by the confident Englishman with his well-honed muscles and beguiling eyes, she cannot refuse his offer.

Nicholas senses that his new squire is not what he seems. His gentle attempts to break through the boy’s defenses leave Elizabet powerless to stem the desire that engulfs her. And when the truth is exposed, she’ll have to trust in Nicholas’s honor to help her people—and to surrender to his touch…

A retired Navy Chief, Diana Cosby is an international bestselling author of Scottish medieval romantic suspense. Her award-winning books are translated in five languages. Diana has appeared at Lady Jane’s Salon, in NYC, and in Woman’s Day, on USA Today’s romance blog, “Happily Ever After,”, and in Texoma Living Magazine.

After retiring as a Navy Chief, AGC(AW), Diana dove into her passion – writing romance novels. With 34 moves behind her, she was anxious to create characters who reflected the amazing cultures and people she’s met throughout the world.

Her years of living in Europe inspired Diana to write in the medieval time frame. After watching the movie Braveheart and with her passion for writing complex plots, the idea for the MacGruder brothers series was born.

With the release of her 1st book in her new Scottish medieval The Oath trilogy, An Oath Taken, which hit bestseller lists in Canada and the United Kingdom, she’s now preparing for the release of the e Box Set of the MacGruder Brothers series on February 24th, and the last two books in The Oath trilogy, An Oath Broken – 22 June, and, An Oath Sworn – 23 December, 2015!
Diana has many passions in life, but one that resonates in her life is that of giving. She firmly believe that each of us can make a positive difference in another person’s life. Some of the charities she supports are listed below:

The National Trust for Scotland, which acts asguardian of Scotland’s magnificent heritage of architectural, scenic and historic treasures.
Habitat For Humanity, which gives a deserving family more than a home, but a foundation upon which to build their dreams..
Semper Fi Fund , is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit to help with immediate financial support for injured and critically ill members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families.
Homes For Our Troops, assists severely injured Servicemen and Servicewomen and their immediate families through various venues to aid them in building a home that allows them live a more independent life.
The Navy SEAL Foundation, provides immediate and ongoing support and assistance to the Naval Special Warfare community and their families.

Contact Diana at: Website or  Facebook

Friday, April 10, 2015

Book Review: Watch the Shadows by Robin Winter

Robin WinterMedia Type: Print Book (ARC)
Title: Watch The Shadows
Author: Robin Winter
Publisher: White Whisker Books
Pages: Print/Ebook, 176
Release Date: April 20, 2015
Source: Author/Book Publicity Tour
Genre: Suspense/Thriller

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy darker suspense stories, with a slow burn.

Add it on: Goodreads
In the college town of Isla Vista, California, small, odd things start happening. Science-geek Nicole notes the crows are leaving. Meg Burdigal can’t find her tabby cat, Schrand. Brian the postman feels uneasy at the rustlings, the shadows he’s seen at the edge of his vision on his delivery route in town. Now Nicole sees fewer and fewer homeless in the park. Using her knowledge of biology and forensics, Nicole searches for answers—but will anyone take the horror she finds seriously? In this unusual thriller, 'Watch the Shadows', author Robin Winter explores where the ordinary slams against the extraordinary.
I've been trying my best to wrap my mind around this book since I finished it. While I'm not sure Robin Winter's book could be called horror, persay, it's most definitely a read on the creepy side. If you're willing to suspend disbelief, and to work your way through some slower parts, the payoff is there. This wasn't what I was expecting, and that's a compliment.

You know those movies where the unnamed creature lurks in the darkness, always on the periphery until the very end? I love those kinds of movies. The simple act of waiting for the creature to appear is always my favorite part. You stop, you wonder, you wait. Watch the Shadows makes perfect use of this. I felt the tension. Saw the creature a ton of different ways through the eyes of the characters. When it was finally revealed? It was perfect.

Sadly, I wasn't able to give this story a higher rating. While the concept was brilliant, the execution was a little choppy. The characters felt a bit flat to me, since there wasn't a lot of time to fully flesh them out. The writing, too, was a little jarring at times. I knew I was in the head of some characters who weren't fully there, but it was still confusing. Only when I was in Nic's head could I really latch onto things. Add in a rather slow middle portion, and I had to knock some stars off.

Still, this is an interesting read. It goes by quickly, the concept is intriguing, and I can see why so many readers praise Robin Winter. I do believe I'll go out and seek more.

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.

Book Spotlight + Guest Post: Dwarves in Space by S.E. Zbasnik

Good morning, and happy Friday, my lovely bookworms!

What better way to celebrate this wonderful day of the week than another book spotlight? Oh, I promise this is a good one. As soon as I saw the synopsis, and the absolutely wonderful cover, to S.E. Zbasnik's Dwarves in Space I knew I'd be sharing it with all of you. Sci Fi, Fantasy, Satire, this book has it all.

Amazon | Goodreads
The Elation-Cru is not the flashiest ship, nor the newest, or even has all of its bolts attached; but she can fly. Well, sort of wade through space, and that’s when all the parts are working. She supports a sugar addicted dwarven pilot, an elven engineer, an orcish doctor, a silent djinn, and the lone human trying to hold the entire thing together with duct tape. Variel, the captain, has been hiding from a secret for the past five years and time’s finally run out.

When she goes against her common sense and fights to save her onboard assassin/renter from a job gone sour, she finds herself before an ex-colleague that knew her in her previous life as the Knight of the realm. The entire ship is sent on a mad dash across the universe — from a decaying space station, home to the wackiest species the galaxy has to offer, down to the Orc homeworld, which wouldn’t be so bad if Variel hadn’t spent most of her previous life fighting in the war against them. Chances of survival are nil and slipping fast.

The joy of writing is in creating that which has never been seen before; an alien world where the rocks are sentient, or a woman posing as a man to rob from the rich and keep some for herself. But sometimes, even when I can see the furrow of a character’s brow or the demoralizing sneer, I can’t see the whole face. 

That’s when I break out my character generators.

With a slide of a cursor here, a shift of the right stick there, I can try out various nose sizes, eye shapes, and lip pouts until I see my mind’s eye before me. My current favorite is the incomparable engine behind Dragon Age: Inquisition.

With it, I was able to create the captain of my current Dwarves in Space series:

DA:I gave me the opportunity to create nearly my entire crew so I could see them and cement their appearance. (It’s also a wonderful game I can about talk for hours if there are any other Bioware fans out there. Dual-wielder for life!) If you’re already a gamer, RPGs (role playing games) offer a useful tool for you to test and pinch to bring your character to life.

Another classic game you can use is Sims. Their character engines are nowhere near as sophisticated as DA:I, but -- thanks to the mods created by fans -- if you can dream it, it already exists. What makes Sims even more useful than a character generator is the ability to design layouts.

When I was writing Dwarves in Space, I often realized I had no idea what was down a corner, to the right of a door, or if there was even room for a pool table. I needed to sit down and sketch out the floor plan of my spaceship. 

The various mods I downloaded gave me the opportunity to not only drop in a more realistic kitchen table for my space rats, I explored beyond the setting. While poking around, I found this adorable lamp of a cow being abducted. I realized instantly that it was something my pilot character would ecstatically keep in his bedroom. 

Poking around in my setting, testing what would and wouldn’t work for a living space, allowed me to delve deeper into my characters. It helped me give them more dimensions.

To know someone’s living space is to know their brain. What kind of coffee mug would a mad scientist keep on her desk? How messy would a zombie paralegal keep his bathroom? Sims helps you explore these questions while building their house.

But, if you don’t own Dragon Age, or Sims, there is a way you can get cracking on visualizing your character for free right now. Paper dolls, once the purview of little girls with nimble scissor skills are a popular app on the internet.

One of my favorites is Azalea’s dolls.

Using the Tudor game I was able to create a couple characters from my manuscript in progress. (It’s the cross-dressing Robin Hood tale I mentioned earlier)

There are dozens of other games, from fairies and mermaids to animal creators. If your main character is a magical talking fish, you can make that with the paper dolls. 

Inhabiting the world inside your mind, making it physical (even if it’s just in pixel form) greatly helps to explore it and discover ideas you’d never have dreamed of. It’s also highly addictive, so be careful. There’s still writing to be done.

Looking for Sabrina?


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Book Review: What a Lady Requires by Ashlyn Macnamara

Media Type: Ebook
Title: What a Lady Requires
*Series: Eton Boys Trilogy (Book 3)
Author: Ashlyn Macnamara
Publisher: Loveswept
Pages: 231
Release Date: March 31, 2015
Source: Netgalley
Content Screening: Sexual Content- Mature audiences 18+

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy a strong heroine in their historical romance

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes

Unlike every other proper young lady, Miss Emma Jennings views marrying well as little more than a means to an end. Such a merger would provide her industrious father with social credibility, and Emma with a chunk of her vast inheritance. Emma’s practical views are shattered, however, when her father ties her to the fabulously handsome ne’er-do-well Rowan Battencliffe, a man she loathes on sight—from the smile that promises all manner of wickedness to the way he ogles her with those striking blue eyes.

Deep in debt, especially to his wine merchant, Rowan figures the sooner he gets his finances in order, the sooner he can go back to doing what he does best: burning through ridiculous sums of cash. Which is why Rowan agrees to marry the merchant’s daughter, a prim and proper woman with delightful curves and an ample dowry. But Emma seems to think it’s her business to reform him! Their marriage is a tinderbox—and it’s just too tempting to resist playing with fire.

While I'm still relatively new to the Historical Romance genre, I am really enjoying it so far. Ashlyn Macnamara does a wonderful job creating a smart, witty heroine and her counterpart a rough, secret keeping husband. They marry shortly after their awkward introductions and over the course of the book learn what it means to be married and to open your heart. 

Emma's character is by far my favorite part of this story. As a woman who loves crunching numbers, like Emma, I would find the "sit and look pretty" aspects of our history incredibly boring and hard to deal with. I thoroughly loved her keen interest in all matters of the estate and her willingness to ignore the societal norms of the time. She goes into her marriage thinking it is just a business transaction but quickly learns that sharing a bed means a lot more than creating an heir. 

Rowan is a troubled man, and his lack of business finesse has cost him most of his fortune. His marriage to Emma not only helps him financially but it is the hope of his brother and Emma's father that her business sense will rub off on him. He has his own past to face before being able to commit to his marriage and his wife. 

Macnamara is a wonderful storyteller and finds a way to build tension both sexually and among the supporting characters in a well crafted plot. Emma and Rowan are learning about themselves and each other as they navigate their new marriage and I enjoyed their story right through the last page. 

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, April 4, 2015

Book Review: Nightbird by Alice Hoffman

Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: Nightbird
Author: Alice Hoffman
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Pages: Hardcover; 208
Release Date: March 10, 2018
Source: NetGalley
Content Screening: Nothing of note.

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy magical realism, and quirky protagonists.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes
In her first novel for middle-grade readers , bestselling author Alice Hoffman tells a bewitching story of love and friendship that is truly magical.

Twig lives in Sidwell, where people whisper that fairy tales are real. After all, her town is rumored to hide a monster. And two hundred years ago, a witch placed a curse on Twig’s family that was meant to last forever. But this summer, everything will change when the red moon rises. It’s time to break the spell.

For many years, Alice Hoffman's books have been sitting on my reading list. When I first wanted to immerse myself in Magical Realism, it was her books that most of my trusted fellow bookworms pointed to. Sadly, I still haven't gotten to any of them. Which is why, when I saw that Nightbird was not only a new story by Alice Hoffman, but an MG book as well, I was instantly sold.

There are a lot little pieces to completely fall in love with in this story, not the least of which are the characters. Each one is completely original, and has a sense of whimsy about them that just adds to the magic of this story. Twig was absolutely wonderful as a main character. Sweet and honest. Brave and true. Her story of sweets and secrets swept me up, and carried me along. I only wished that there had been a bit more depth to all the amazing people who populated this story. While the writing is gorgeous, the characters felt lacking to me. I loved of a small town full of quirky people, and I would have liked to learn more.

In fact, despite my fervent ardor for the story at the heart of this book, I felt like much of it wasn't fully explored. I'm very much in favor of MG stories that don't underestimate their audiences. Young readers deserve complex plots, exciting twists, and honest depictions of emotions just as much as any other age group. Which is why I had to knock my star rating down a bit for Nightbird. As I mentioned above, the writing is lovely and matches the magical nature of this book perfectly. If only the characters had been stronger, and the climactic points a bit sharper, this would have been a perfect read for me.

As it stands, Alice Hoffman has still proven she is a strong MG writer. My glimpse into her first book for younger readers has further strengthened by want to read her adult books as well. I'd recommend this story to young readers who love magical realism. Readers who look at the world, and see not only what is, but what could be as well.

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, April 3, 2015

Book Review: Murder in Hindsight by Anne Cleeland

Media Type: Ebook
Title: Murder in Hindsight
*Series: A New Scotland Yard Mystery (Book 3)
Author: Anne Cleeland
Publisher: Kensington
Pages: 352
Release Date: March 31, 2015
Source: Netgalley
Content Screening: Mild Violence

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy a good cop story and are fans of the series

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes

While Acton and Doyle, two of Scotland Yard’s finest, pursue a self-appointed judge, jury, and executioner, Acton’s own questionable methods may prove their undoing…
The victims are all criminals who eluded justice—until they ran afoul of an avenger whose modus operandi is a bullet to the back of the head. The key to the vigilante’s identity lies in connecting the cold cases to an event that may have triggered retribution after all these years.
Meanwhile, Doyle finds herself shadowed by a mysterious figure. After the man steps forward to rescue her from harm, she wonders why he is invested in protecting her. But when she learns he’s in contact with Acton’s nemesis, she fears she’s being used in a plot against her husband.
The stakes are high, and both Doyle and Acton must work independently to outwit the players—before their lives are brought crashing down like a house of cards…

I haven't read the first two books in this series and while this can be read as a standalone novel, I felt that I was missing something through most of the book. Perhaps the history between the characters would have been helpful to keep me interested.

Not having history with the characters was a detriment to the story for me, however the characters were well developed individually. There was enough reference to their personal histories that I felt like I knew who they were. Doyle was interesting, rough around the edges and constantly putting herself in harms way. While that could have easily turned into too much risk, it teetered on the edge of reasonable for me so I enjoyed it.

Lord Acton was a bit elusive but Anne Cleeland did a great job with giving you his intentions even if she wouldn't give you his innermost thoughts. Along with the other characters, it was a well rounded cast of law enforcement and criminals all privy to their own set of moral judgement. As with real life, judgement isn't one person's job.

There were a few twists and turns that were unexpected but all in all this just didn't hit the mark for me. If you have read the first two in this series you would probably enjoy this book. It was well written and the plot flowed nicely.

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, April 2, 2015

Guest Post + Giveaway: Stones and Finger Bones by Jessica Minyard

Good morning lovely bookworms, and welcome to another amazing guest post! I tell you, choosing which of these to participate in is always hard for me. I only want to spotlight authors I know that I would read, and hopefully push them onto your overflowing TBR as well. In the case of Stones and Finger Bones by Jessica Minyard, that's definitely true!


Aurelia Barone, Jewel of Starry Stone, harbors no illusions about the purpose of her life as heir to the throne. But after two failed betrothals, she starts to feel like nothing more than a pawn being moved aimlessly about a game board.
Until the night she loses everything.
Kidnapped by a wise-cracking mercenary with more than one identity, Aurelia embarks on a mission across land and sea to avenge her father’s death.

But an evil is rising from the ashes of memory. Insidious magic is stirring. The dregs of a once-powerful nation are thirsty for blood and revenge.

They seek to harness Aurelia. To tempt her. To manipulate her.
And if necessary, to destroy her.
 Find this on: Goodreads / Amazon / BookLikes


Process for Creating Character Names

Naming characters, I think, is one of the most satisfying and frustrating part of the writing process. When you find the perfect name, you’re all like, “Yassss, it is ours, precious!” However, searching for that perfect moniker can be a long and fruitless adventure that takes up valuable time you could spend writing.

Some writers avoid this problem by giving their characters placeholder names, like Bill, Bob, Jane, or A, B, C while they’re on the hunt. I’m not one of those writers. I don’t even begin writing something new until I at least have the main characters named.

So, how do I go about naming my characters? Well, when I first started writing Stones, I would just use anything and everything that tickled my fancy. When I got deeper into the story, the naming process became part of my worldbuilding strategy. The culture of Myrinthia is based loosely around Italy during the Renaissance, and I actually didn’t know this was the direction I wanted to take until several drafts in. It is just by chance that Aurelia has been Aurelia since the beginning, and the name Aurelia has Italian usage. Once I made this decision, the names I started looking for would have to evoke the flavor of the setting, thus the frequent o, a, i endings.

Another naming rule – or convention – I decided to give my fictional world was the habit of keeping similar names in a family; you can especially see this in the royal family. Aurelia is the daughter of Aurelien; Gianmarelo is the son of Marel. While this caused some consternation for my editor (she wanted me to make all my names distinctively different) I stood by my decision for the sake of worldbuilding. The royal family is proud and has a long history of naming their children after themselves, so it would make sense for the tradition to continue in the current story.

I used this same process when coming up with, or finding, names for the inhabitants of Behru. Behru is a different country, with a different culture, so their names needed to reflect a different flavor.

There are some other things to consider when choosing names, like meaning or the personality of the character, but I always like to bear in mind setting first. You’re not going to find a Rycendithias in a contemporary setting (mainly because I plain-ole made that one up), just the same way you won’t – or shouldn’t! – find a Jessica or Kourtney or Mercedes in a fictional-pseudo-faux-medieval setting.


Many thanks to Jessica for sharing her insight into character names!

Make sure to add Stones and Finger Bones to your reading list and happy reading!

Jessica wrote and illustrated her first story in the fourth grade. “The Dragon of Grindley Grun” was about an evil wizard, a princess, and a dragon who was actually a prince. She likes to think her writing has evolved since that very first story, even though she still writes about magic and evil wizards...sometimes.

She likes to sing loudly and dance on occasion without being particularly talented at either. Her interests include reading, writing, procrastinating, animal advocacy, musicals, accessories, memes, Harry Potter, and sweet tea.

Jessica lives in Kentucky with a spoiled pitbull.

Find her here: Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads / Website


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