Thursday, June 30, 2016

Book Review and Giveaway: Cable Car Mystery by Greg Messel


Media Type: Paperback
Title: Cable Car Mystery
Series: Sam Slater Mystery Book 6
Author: Greg Messell
Publisher: Sunbreaks Publishing
Pages: 180
Release Date: June 14, 2016
Source: PUYB/Author
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Genre: Mystery/Romance

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy a good mystery set in 1950's San Francisco.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes
On the hottest day of the year in San Francisco in 1959, Private Detectives Sam and Amelia Slater are contemplating fleeing the city for their Stinson Beach house. However, when Sam decides to take a cable car ride to run some errands on the lazy summer day, he's suddenly thrust into the spotlight when he rescues a woman who fell onto the busy street. Sam pulls the mysterious red haired woman out of the path of an oncoming cable car in the nick of time. The entire incident is captured by a newspaper photographer who splashes Sam's heroics all over the front page. Sam is troubled not only by his new status as a city hero, but by the rescued woman's plea for help. She whispers to Sam that she didn't fall from the cable car but was pushed. She is frightened and disappears into the crowd before Sam can get more details. A San Francisco newspaper launches a campaign to find the mystery woman and Sam hopes to cross paths with her again. Meanwhile, Amelia is troubled by the sudden disappearance of her elderly neighbor. Two thuggish younger men who now occupy the house next door say he took a sudden trip. One night when she's alone Amelia grabs a flashlight and finds some disturbing clues in her neighbor's garage. What really happened to her neighbor? Amelia is determined to find out. Award winning author Greg Messel spins a new tale of intrigue in Cable Car Mystery, the sixth book in the Sam Slater Mystery series set in at the 1950s in San Francisco.
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I have to say this was a refreshing week for me in the reading department. I received this lovely book a few weeks ago and I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I haven't read any of the previous books in the series, so this can definitely be read as a standalone, but there are definitely references to the other books if you feel inclined to read more about Sam Slater.

All of the characters are well developed and interesting, and the story flows flawlessly. The dialogue is great and the San Francisco backdrop is fun to read about. Sam and his wife Amelia run a PI firm and get caught up in the Cable Car Mystery when Sam saves a lady after falling from a car. Their research into the woman he saved brings about new questions and a problem to solve.

Amelia's character has her own story line with her neighbor and it compliments the main story well. I really enjoyed the banter between her and Sam, especially since the newspaper pictures put him in a risque position with the woman he saved. There is just enough background information and references to previous books (aka character history) that keep the story moving without rehashing everything from the rest of the series.

This was a fun, short mystery that I would highly recommend to all readers. I will definitely be looking for more books by this author!







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, June 29, 2016

Book Spotlight & Giveaway: Lazlo's Revenge by Glen Hierlmeier

Do you love stories about history and finding out about your past? Do you love a little romance with your war stories? Well then I have just the book for you!

Lazlo’s Revenge follows Maxine “Max” Fischer, a writer and Swiss war correspondent, whose parents (Hank and Roberta Fischer, the main characters from Hierlmeier’s previous book, Honor and Innocence) lived through the tragedies of the Great World Wars.
In Lazlo’s Revenge, Max sets out on an adventure throughout Europe to uncover her parents’ pasts and see the very places where they survived on their odyssey to escape danger and death. Stories of romance, war, and traumas are unearthed as she traces their footsteps back to the major sites of World Wars I and II.
During her journey, Max becomes fascinated by the people who influenced her parents' lives. She follows the life and times of Lazlo Floznik, the man who saved her parents and helped them escape catastrophe in Europe by seeking out refuge beyond the reach of the security forces that sought to imprison them. The years leading up to World War I, the time between the wars, and the experiences of World War II reveal their secrets as Max explores her family roots, in this deeply emotional story tied together by Lazlo’s intense story of love, and that of his father, Miklos, before him.

Buy Links: Amazon

If the description didn't quite sell you, here's an exclusive excerpt from the book itself. I know it's on my TBR list, what about yours?

August 1914
Czernovitz, Bukovina 
Austro-Hungarian Empire

Miklos Floznik 

I approached the first houses, gasping for breath, horrified to see the destruction being wrought by round upon round of artillery fusillades. There was no cover to be found. Dazed, I continued running, desperately trying to save myself. I passed perhaps a dozen or more homes laid nearly flat. Mutilated bodies lying all about and the wounded wailing like nothing I had ever heard. As I neared the outskirts of the city, the shelling began again as suddenly as it had stopped. Cannonade pounded in the distance. The earth trembled ferociously at my feet. Turning a corner behind what still stood of the only remaining wall of a large stone building, another round of explosions pounded the city as I leaped down into a now-exposed basement filled with debris from the collapsed upper floors—only one wall and half another standing. Hope drained from me. Each deafening blast shook my senses, sending shards of glass and cracking timbers high into the air with a sickening burst. 

Darkness fell quickly in the gloomy gray of dark as I slipped over a broken wall of stones and fell into the pit of the decimated structure. I pushed tightly into a corner of what was once someone’s home, protected from the drenching rain by a small portion of what remained of a badly damaged wall hanging precariously overhead—a welcome but uncertain shelter in the midst of chaos. I pushed tightly back against the cold stone walls on either side, finding as much safety as possible against a new round of explosions that pounded above and around. Each blast shook the skeletal rubble of the house, wrenching stone and wood from tenuous perches and sending more flying debris into the desolate hole that would be their final resting place . . . and perhaps mine as well. I was trapped—I couldn’t move for fear of being crushed in that dreadful place or being shelled to death outside. I pulled my knees to my chin…all I could think to do was pray…and as I prayed…tears came but did not assuage my fear. 

Mercifully, with the darkness, silence also descended—even warriors need their rest. Only screams of the wounded and desperate pleas of survivors who searched frantically through the rubble for lost loved ones pierced the cold, wet, bleak night. Soon, darkness also shrouded them in silence, all but the woeful cries of the dying calling out miserably in their hopeless plight—my hopelessness too, I thought. In my corner hideaway, I could see nothing but the black of night illuminated only by the flickering dance of fires burning what remained. I knew without seeing that only rubble lay before me, and there was no hope to be found. 

Bombardment of the trenches and the city paved the way for the Russian ground troops, armored cars pulling cannons, and the dreaded Cossack horsemen. I knew they would come—surely, by morning they would come. Everything in their path would be destroyed, everyone who resisted would be killed, and all others would be taken prisoner. There was no doubt. It was their way— what Colonel Eduard Fischer and the Hungarian Army had come to Bukovina to prevent, what I bravely thought we could accomplish was lost. I had not even seen a Russian, but I knew there was no hope of saving anyone. The Kingdom of Bukovina was doomed, and surely none of Austria-Hungary would be safe. With the Hungarian Army defeated and the stronghold city of Czernovitz overrun, no one remained to save us. Even Colonel Fischer might be dead, leaving no leader to stand boldly and hold the remnant together. 

In the barren darkness, my youthful excitement as a proud Hungarian soldier on a mission to save the Kingdom of Bukovina, and ultimately the empire, suddenly struck me as a foolish notion. Wearing my uniform once made me very proud, but now I was only frightened and angry. My comrades and I were assured that victory would quickly prevail, but war and death tragically became very real, fearful, foreboding, and final. I questioned myself: Was I a coward to run? Do I really know what bravery is? Do I really know what all these good people are dying for? Do I know what this war is all about? Do I even care about Jews? After all, these people in Bukovina are Jews, many of them. Are they worth the death of so many fresh, hopeful young Hungarian and Austrian men? Are they worth my life? 

My head swirled with doubts. My heart ached for answers I didn’t have. Life became too real, too fast. My tortured mind flashed back to the wretched face of the too-young boy, dead in the trench, and the unknown soldier whose bloated corpse had lifted my escape. I sat in my wretched corner and questioned why I had come to such a place—why anyone would engage in such brutality. 

Was this worth it…for them…for us…for anyone? 

After being drenched for nearly all of three days, the rain finally stopped. The choking smell of charred remains of buildings, gunpowder, and the rotting dead hung heavily in the air. I wished for the rain again, to dilute the ghastly stench. Time slipped slowly by. The dying must have passed through death’s mercy in the eerie silence and the wounded attended to, for as I listened—no sound. Strange, I thought, that in the midst of all this evil, there should be silence. I knew it could not last. Fear grabbed my throat again. My impulse was to get up and go, take action, do something, anything, but my mind held me back—there was nowhere to go, no escape, no hope. The Russian Cossacks would be here by morning—nothing to do but hide and wait, then fight to my death, to salvage whatever honor there might be in resisting. 

Below the woeful mute of night, I crouched and cowered. Shivering in fear, my mind drifted back to happier days in Budapest when, as a young boy, I…

Just then! 

Something fell on the far side of the rubble, sounding as if it came from behind the largest pile of debris—perhaps another dislodged stone. I leaned forward to hear and peered vainly into the darkness as my heart leaped in my chest and immense fear gripped me. The worst of my thoughts seized me—the Russians were coming in the night and rooting out survivors! Desperate, I slowly reached to my side, and silently drew out my pistol. Another sound. Someone was moving, and not more than ten meters from me. 

I raised my pistol and aimed in the direction of the sounds, I was prepared to shoot anything on sight, at any slight movement—my hands trembled against the trigger. A faint light appeared, flickering behind the rubble, like the light of a small candle casting a very large, daunting shadow around me, barely visible as it slowly danced in the eerie candlelight, nearly scaring the life out of me as my finger tightened on the cold trigger. 

Crying—quiet, sorrowful weeping—as if the person hidden by the pile of debris knew she had to be very quiet but could not help herself…clearly a woman, perhaps a very young woman, maybe just a girl. I was still…very still…and listened for perhaps fifteen or even twenty minutes, until the light wavered and died. The soft whimpering continued for a long, long time in the fearful dark that kept me huddled closely against the walls of my corner as though I wished to disappear in its grasp. I would wait. By the dim light of morning, I would see who my companion in that hellacious hole might be. Though I resisted, sometime later I dozed, exhausted, dreamily wishing for the safety of my home in Budapest. 

I woke to the constant patter of a dreary rain as the breaking dawn cast a ghastly glow over the destruction strewn around and about me. My eyes fixed toward the sound and the light of a few hours earlier; I listened but…only quiet and stillness…no sound but the steady falling rain. 


About the Author

Glen Hierlmeier is a graduate of the United Sates Air Force Academy, and has an MBA from The University of Wisconsin. He served in the U.S. Air Force, where he helped develop the Manned Orbiting Laboratory and the F-15 Eagle fighter aircraft, and gained a deep interest in world affairs and warfare.

He subsequently completed a career as a banker and real estate executive, serving as President and CEO of various companies for over thirty years before retiring in 2009.

Glen enjoys writing historical fiction and has published three other books including Thoughts From Yesterday: Moments to Remember, We Had to Live: We Had No Choice..., and Honor and Innocence: Against the Tides of War, the prequel to Lazlo’s Revenge. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Book Spotlight + Giveaway: Black Five by J. Lynn Bailey


YA Bound Book Tours is organizing a Blog Tour for: Black Five by J. Lynn Bailey. This tour will run from June 27th to July 1st. I'm lucky enough to be one of the first promo stops on the tour, and share this awesome looking book with all of you. Are you ready for Black Five?


Black Five
Release Date: 11/17/15
Poorhouse Publishing
400 pages
No one ever accused Penelope Jackson of being normal, nor did they suspect the dark secret she kept. A dangerous web of deceit and secrecy unravels when news of a stranger’s death puts Penn on a collision course with the very person she’s been hiding from her whole life. Her fragile world is shaken to its core with the sudden arrival of Vacavious and she soon discovers the bizarre and magical world surrounding her seemingly ordinary life.

No one is who they claim to be, including those closest to Penn. A mysterious security detail emerges from the shadows scrambling to protect her as powerful forces await the fall of her protective veil on her eighteenth birthday.

Penn prepares to fight against unseen evils before it’s too late. The world of Nighmerianotte and its population depends on her survival, for she is the Sanguine, the Black Five.


Buy Links:
Amazon

This book is definitely on my radar now! Is it on yours too? If so, you're in luck! Scroll on down, meet the lovely author, and then enter to win! It's that easy. Happy reading everyone!

About the Author
I'm a mother of two beautiful children and a wife to an adorably supportive husband. Seriously, he's adorable and tall. Really tall; he's my high school sweetheart. I'm also a mother of two fur children who are extremely needy, Leo and Vinni.

I live with my family in a small town tucked away in the redwood forest located on California's northern coast.

I'm quite boring. But in case you're wondering, you can see what my loves, my loathes and things you may not know about me by clicking the menu above.



Author Links:
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GIVEAWAY:
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Book Tour & Blitz Organized by:
YA Bound Book Tours




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, June 27, 2016

Novella Review: The Planets All Shone by Nora Fleischer


Media Type: Ebook (Novella)
Title: The Planets All Shone
Author: Nora Fleischer
Publisher: Jennifer Lee Goloboy
Pages: Kindle; 44
Release Date: May 25, 2016
Source: Author
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Genre: Science Fiction, Humor

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers looking for a quick jaunt into a funny and lighthearted Science Fiction read.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes
Dana Elson never should have drunk that soda. Now she's sharing her body with the clone of a dead man-- and she and the clone's gun-happy boyfriend are on the run from the sinister Mahler Corporation. Can Dana to get her own body back before Mahler catches up to them? The Planets All Shone is a buddy comedy for fans of the great American road trip.

I jumped at the chance to review this novella, because The Planets All Shone looked like a perfect mesh between Sci Fi and humor! It's not easy to mesh those two things, but when it's done right it can be pretty amazing. Best of all, this was a novella. It's nice to have a short jaunt into somewhere new, interspersed between longer novels. Nora Fleischer had my attention.

For characters that I didn't have much time to get to know, Dana, Adam and Jay were actually fairly well fleshed out. They each had their own quirks, their own personalities, and I liked how they bantered with one another. The concept of sharing your body with someone else has been done before, but I liked that Fleischer added in the ability for that body to morph back and forth. I can't even imagine how odd it would feel to know that you're changing into someone else. Especially when that someone else isn't even the same gender as you. Dana was a good sport about it, and she had me giggling more than a few times at the way that she handled her "relationship" with Adam.

Truly, it was the plot that suffered in this novella format. There was only a small portion of time to settle Dana into her new reality, give the entire backstory for Adam and Jay's abilities, plus make sure that the reader knew why they were on the run. Things flew by at break neck speed, and a lot of times it was really difficult to figure out exactly what was going on. The times that things slowed down enough to really get into, like when Dana introduced Adam to her family, I loved. I would have loved to see The Planets All Shone ravamped into a longer format, so that there was more time to really fall into the story.

As it stands, this is a pretty solid and fun read. It flies by, all told. The only other thing I wanted to mention is that the formatting makes this a little hard to figure out when Jay is "speaking" and when Dana is just thinking to herself. It would have been great for that to be a bit more easy to discern. Other than that, I think this has great promise! If Nora Fleischer can capture my attention with this length of a story, I have no doubt she can do it again with a much longer one.



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, June 25, 2016

Original Bespoke Poetry by Dane Cobain

Good evening my darling bookworms!

I've quite the treat for you today, as bookish things go. Dane Cobain, author of the amazing books you'll see below, has graced us with a piece of original poetry! What's even cooler, is that he allowed me to give him 5 words, and then wove those into said poetry. I played with a random word generator and came up with:

justice   passion   joy   cement   breakfast

If that's not an impressive set of words to weave into a bespoke poem, I don't know what would be. Please enjoy a look at Dane's books below, as well as his original poetry! 




Eyes Like Lighthouses is Dane Cobain’s first book of poetry, distilled from the sweat of a thousand memorised performances in this reality and others. It’s not for the faint-hearted. “I’ve never seen anyone do a stream of consciousness piece as talented as that. Very impressed.” – Mark Allard-Will, author of Saskatch-A-Man and co-founder of Cuckoo’s Nest Press “Dane’s poetry is a multi-layered spiral of the macabre, quirky humour and disjointed imagery. Not only does he make you think, he captures the small forgotten moments of everyday life.” – Nikki Dudley, co-editor of Streetcake Magazine “…[Dane] combines concrete detail with socioeconomic concerns.” – Lorna Wood, associate editor of Gemini Magazine.

When the Angels attack, there’s NO REST FOR THE WICKED.

Father Montgomery, an elderly priest with a secret past, begins to investigate after his parishioners come under attack. With the help of Jones, a young businessman with an estranged child, Montgomery begins to track down the origin of the Angels.

The Angels are naked and androgynous. They speak in a dreadful harmony with no clear leader. These aren’t biblical cherubs tasked with the protection of the righteous – these are deadly creatures of light that have the power to completely eradicate.

When Jones himself is attacked, Father Montgomery knows he has to act fast. Will the final showdown force him to make the ultimate sacrifice?

Former.ly - Thriller
When Dan Roberts starts his new job at Former.ly, he has no idea what he's getting into. The site deals in death - its users share their innermost thoughts, which are stored privately until they die. Then, their posts are shared with the world, often with unexpected consequences.

But something strange is going on, and the site's two erratic founders share a dark secret. A secret that people are willing to kill for.

And now... bespoke poetry!

New Laws and Governments

It’s not quite as simple

as it ought to be,

because more cogs

means more wheels

and more catastrophic

mechanical failures,

and laws get passed

to change the way we communicate,

so I picked up the phone

and told my mom I love her.



There is hope

and there is joy,

and there’s a joyful hope

I hope to enjoy,

and I joined my joints

to a joystick,

so you can press X to kick

and Y to punch

and start to start

all over again.



There is justice

if you fight for it,

a strange sense

when you realise

really,

we’re all just the same,

and we should be ashamed of it.



I turned my passion to motion

and built houses of learning

with the words I’m burning,

working with sand and cement

to form a new government

where pens are the weapons

we lent to our enemies.



I eat bureaucracy

for breakfast;

I skip lunch

and eat democracy

for dinner.



It tastes like

home-made

apple pie.


Dane Cobain (High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, UK) is an independent poet, musician and storyteller with a passion for language and learning. When he’s not in front of a screen writing stories and poetry, he can be found working on his book review blog or developing his website, www.danecobain.com. His debut novella, No Rest for the Wicked, was released in the summer of 2015.

 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Book Review: Neverwhere (Author's Preferred Text) by Neil Gaiman


Media Type: Print Book
Title: Neverwhere: Author's Preferred Text
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Pages: Paperback; 464
Release Date: June 7, 2016
Source: TLC Book Tours
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Genre: Urban Fantasy

HDB Rating: 5 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy darkly written fiction with vivid characters.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes
The #1 New York Times bestselling author’s ultimate edition of his wildly successful first novel featuring his “preferred text”—and including his special Neverwhere tale, “How the Marquis Got His Coat Back”.

Published in 1997, Neil Gaiman’s darkly hypnotic first novel, Neverwhere, heralded the arrival of a major talent and became a touchstone of urban fantasy.

It is the story of Richard Mayhew, a young London businessman with a good heart and an ordinary life, which is changed forever when he discovers a girl bleeding on the sidewalk. He stops to help her—an act of kindness that plunges him into a world he never dreamed existed. Slipping through the cracks of reality, Richard lands in Neverwhere—a London of shadows and darkness, monsters and saints, murderers and angels that exists entirely in a subterranean labyrinth. Neverwhere is home to Door, the mysterious girl Richard helped in the London Above. Here in Neverwhere, Door is a powerful noblewoman who has vowed to find the evil agent of her family’s slaughter and thwart the destruction of this strange underworld kingdom. If Richard is ever to return to his former life and home, he must join Lady Door’s quest to save her world—and may well die trying.


Ah, happiest of sighs. I think everyone knows my obsession with Neil Gaiman at this point. Which is why, even though I've already read Neverwhere, I hopped on the opportunity to read this new version with Gaiman's preferred text. There's a wonderful note from him at the beginning that chronicles what he had to pull to make this what his publisher would be considered palatable for U.S. readers. In this particular version, everything is right back where it should be. As you might imagine, that makes this book a bit longer than normal. Trust me though, that's not a bad thing at all.

Richard Mayhew remains one of my all time favorite characters. His endearing awkwardness, his unfathomable kindness, everything about him just makes me adore him. Even when the world of London Below swallowed him up, Richard managed to keep his head about him. Watching him stumble through an adventure that he never thought he'd be taking, and slowly learn to accept that the world isn't quite what he believed it to be, never gets old for me! This is the third time I've read this book, although it's only the first time I've read this version. Richard continues to be his wonderful, too kind for his own good, self.

If you pressed me to tell you exactly what's different about Gaiman's preferred text version, versus the originally printed version, it would be difficult to pinpoint it for you. I noticed more description, specifically when it came to the Floating Markets and the Black Friars. I also noticed that Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandermeer were a bit more fleshed out. Which is lovely, because those two are as bad as bad guys could ever be. The best part about this version though is that there is an additional story at the end, centering around our lovely friend the Marquis de Carabas. If you're a fan of his egotistical ways, you'll love this story. Let's just say, he does get a bit of what's coming to him.

For those you who haven't yet taken the dive into London Below, let me assure you that it's well worth your time. Door, Hunter, the Marquis and Richard are all wonderfully written characters who are ready and waiting to transport you to their reality. I've always wished I'd actually been to the places that are mentioned in this story. If you're familiar with London, or better yet if you live there, you'll find Richard's inability to understand the quirkiness of London Below's maps quite reasonable. Ah, to have point of reference. You lucky readers, you.

Gaiman is wonderful. This book is wonderful. If you haven't yet read Neverwhere, I recommend picking up this version. It's well worth your time.


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, June 22, 2016

Book Review: What Happens Now by Jennifer Castle


Media Type: Print Book
Title: What Happens Now
Author: Jennifer Castle
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: Hardcover; 384
Release Date: June 7, 2016
Source: Publisher / FFBC Tours
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Content Screening: Trigger warnings for depression/anxiety and cutting.

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy deeper contemporary reads with real relationships.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes
"I know what it is to want something so badly, you feel like your cells aren’t properly bonded together without it.
I also know what it’s like to get that something.
And honestly, I’m still not sure which is worse..."

Ari Logan is battling to win her war against depression and the dark night she hurt herself on purpose. It’s not easy: her best friend is drifting away, her mom’s emotionally checked out, and she spends her days playing caregiver to her handful of a half-sister, Danielle. But it’s summer, and anything is possible...

That’s when Camden Armstrong steps onto the beach of Ari’s local swimming lake.

At first, Ari quietly longs for Camden from afar, seeing in him everything she wants to be. When the two discover a true connection the following summer, Ari lets herself fall not just for the quirky and self-assured Camden but also his friends, tumbling into their world of independence, adventure, and shared sci-fi fandom. As Ari’s romantic dreams come true, she must unlock the mysteries of the very real and troubled boy behind her infatuation, while also struggling with her own demons, obligations, and loyalties.

From the award-winning author of "The Beginning of After" and "You Look Different in Real Life," "What Happens Now" is a touching, insightful novel about learning to heal, learning to love, and what happens when fantasy becomes reality.

What Happens Now was honestly a much deeper story than I expected it to be, and that's a good thing. When I first met Ari, our main character, I believed that this would be a story that dealt strictly with depression and cutting. While it definitely dealt with those topics, Jennifer Castle manages to wrap up so many other things right along with it. She adds in perfect moments of levity, and of self-discovery. This book isn't nearly as dark as I thought it might be, and I appreciated that.

Ari was an excellent main character, especially when it came to her battle with depression and anxiety. I really appreciated how Castle dealt with the way that Ari felt, on a daily basis. Her life didn't automatically go back to normal after the big life choice she made, and her relationships were simply perfect again. No, Ari had to fight for normality. She had to battle against people who just expected her to be okay, by explaining that she just didn't work the same way as others. I loved that Castle gave Ari a strong support network, but also added in some barriers for her as well.

In fact, one of my favorite parts of this story was the big focus on relationships. Ari's relationship with her stepfather and mother was interesting. Often, in books like this, the main character isn't a fan of their stepfather. For Ari, her relationship with him was stronger with her mother, and I kind of liked that. It made for an excellent opportunity for self-discovery and growth. Even the relationship between Ari and her best friend Kendall wasn't perfect. They bickered, they got annoyed with one another, but at the end of the day they were always there for one another. Just like real life, which is refreshing to read about in a book.

So why the missing star? Honestly, there are portions of this book that tended to drag a bit, and it made some of it a burden to get through. I loved Ari. I ate up her adorably awkward friendship with Camden and his own group of friends. Still, some of the decisions that Ari made took so long to come to fruition, that it made things slow down. Overall it was a really solid story though, and I ended up enjoying it quite a lot.


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, June 20, 2016

Book Review: The Tumbling Turner Sisters by Juliette Fay


Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: The Tumbling Turner Sisters
Author: Juliette Fay
Publisher: Gallery Books
Pages: Ebook; 352
Release Date: June 14, 2016
Source: Publisher
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Genre: Historical Fiction

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy historical fiction with family drama and growth.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes
In 1919, the Turner sisters and their parents are barely scraping by. Their father is a low-paid boot-stitcher in Johnson City, New York, and the family is always one paycheck away from eviction. When their father’s hand is crushed and he can no longer work, their irrepressible mother decides that the vaudeville stage is their best—and only—chance for survival.

Traveling by train from town to town, teenagers Gert, Winnie, and Kit, and recent widow Nell soon find a new kind of freedom in the company of performers who are as diverse as their acts. There is a seamier side to the business, however, and the young women face dangers and turns of fate they never could have anticipated. Heartwarming and surprising, The Tumbling Turner Sisters is ultimately a story of awakening—to unexpected possibilities, to love and heartbreak, and to the dawn of a new American era.


In my quest to discover more Historical Fiction, I've been seeking out stories that deal with concepts that I'm intrigued by. When The Tumbling Turner Sisters was offered to me for review, with its family spotlight and its glimpse into the life of Vaudeville, I knew this was something that I would want to read. Kit, Gert, Nell and Winnie beckoned to me from behind the stage. As I started to dive in, it was obvious that Juliette Faye has done her research on the lives of Vaudeville entertainers. The fierce competition, the dismal accommodations, and the sincere relationships that were struck between these travelers, all come to life on the page. If this era interests you, you're in for a treat.

One of the things I most enjoyed about The Tumbling Turner Sisters were the fascinating people that this family met on their journeys. Juliette Fay manages to create a menagerie of people for the girls to learn from. Some are good, some bad, but all are important to moving forward the lives of our featured sisters. Most of the characters I ended up enjoying the most were these secondary characters. They really brought a richness to the story that would have otherwise been missing. What's really interesting about this aspect of the book, is that it allows Fay to touch on subjects that were in the limelight at this point in time. The sisters encounter racism aplenty, discussions of prohibition, and even women's suffrage.

The problem was that, while the setting is laid out in great detail, our main characters were lacking as narrators. I didn't mind Winnie and Gert for the most part, however I never felt as endeared to them as I ought to have been. They were a little lackluster as narrators, choosing quite often to spend most of their time focused on the travel between spaces rather than the Vaudeville itself. I wanted more of the quirkiness and delight of the Vaudeville stage. Since most of my favorite characters were encountered here, I missed them when the girls were focused on where they were going, and how they would get there. It made things lag a bit.

In fact, a vast majority of this story is focused on the girls and their own individual coming-of-age stories. They love, they lose, and they weather it all by sticking together as a family. It's tough not to fall in love with a family story, especially once where sisters are so close. I only wish that the girls had been a little more fleshed out. The story tried so hard to include all of them, constantly, that it brushed over a lot of what I would have wanted to know about them. I'd have happily read a much longer book if it meant more insight into their personalities, hopes, and fears.

As a whole, The Tumbling Turner Sisters is a solid story. I think that readers looking for a glimpse into the world of Vaudeville, and into the lives of those who were caught up in its midst, will enjoy this lighter read.



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, June 16, 2016

Book Review: Read Me Like A Book by Liz Kessler

Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: Read Me Like A Book
Author: Liz Kessler
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Pages: Hardcover; 304
Release Date: June 14, 2016
Source: Publisher
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Content Screening: Sexual Situations

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who are looking for a character who is journeying through self-discovery and realizing who they really are.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes
Ashleigh Walker is a mediocre student with an assortment of friends, a sort-of boyfriend, and no plans for the future. Then a straight-from-college English teacher, Miss Murray, takes over Ash’s class and changes everything. Miss Murray smiles a lot. She shares poetry with curse words in it. She’s, well, cool. And she seems to really care about her students. About Ashleigh. For the first time, Ash feels an urge to try harder. To give something — someone — her best. Before she knows it, Ashleigh is in love. Intense, heart-racing, all-consuming first love. It’s strong enough to distract her from worrying about bad grades and her parents’ marriage troubles. But what will happen if Miss Murray finds out Ashleigh is in love with her?

If you're looking for a book to celebrate LBGQT month, look no further than Liz Kessler's Read Me Like a Book. This is a book on the lighter side. It celebrates the awkwardness of being a teenager, the beauty of discovering who you really are, and the strength that comes in sharing that with others. While it may not be the most serious book I've read on this subject, I can guarantee that it'll be a quick and enjoyable read.

Kessler has written one quirky character in Ashleigh, and I think that's what I liked most about her. She's the teenager who is caught in the middle. Caught in the middle of her parents, who seem to be on the road to divorce. Caught in the middle of wanting to hang out with friends, but also wanting to please her mother and do well in school. Now, as an extra layer, Ashleigh is caught in the middle of who society tells her she should be and who she thinks she might actually be. I liked Ashleigh a lot. She was adorable, awkward at times, and just too honest for her own good. The fact that the person who made her realize her full potential was a teacher, also made me smile! I have a soft spot in my heart for that.

My only qualm with this book was that it's a bit thin. A lot of things transpire in a very short amount of time, which doesn't leave much room for it all to be laid out and resolved. Now, I'm not saying that life is by any means clean when it comes to timelines. However, it made getting to know Ashleigh, her parents, and her friends, a lot more difficult. They ended up being a bit more transparent than I would have liked, because they were so busy pushing towards the ending that I knew was coming. I'm all about a happy ending, and I'm so glad that Ashleigh was given hers. I only wish I'd had a bit more time to enjoy her crazy journey, and rejoice in her decision to be true to herself.

As I said before, this book is lighthearted. It's a relatively easy journey through what it's like to bumble through realizing your sexuality. Ashleigh is presented with questions, yes. However she's also lucky enough to be surrounded by all manner of people who love, and support her. This might not be the case for everyone who is heading towards their coming-out moment, so I know some people will decry this story for being too simple. I think this kind of story is important though. It shows that the world isn't always a big, bad, and scary place. Sometimes it's just a little rough to realize that.




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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.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Book Spotlight + Giveaway: How to (Almost) Ruin Your Summer by Taryn Souders


You may be wondering why the picture above shows a goat in a canoe. 

Good question! Now that I have your attention, it's time to put the spotlight on How to (Almost) Ruin Your Summer by Taryn Souders. If you've ever been to summer camp, I think you'll love this story. Chloe's summer camp experience is both hilarious and adorable, which makes this the perfect addition to your warm weather reading list!

Top Three Reasons Camp Minnehaha is The Worst
1. The spiders (wayyyy too many legs)
2. King Arthur (a rampaging goat intent on my destruction)

3. Victoria a.k.a The Diva (an evil cabin mate obsessed with French beauty products and my humiliation)


Chloe McCorkle knew a summer camp where you had to learn a career was a bad idea. She tried to tell her parents, but they just had to go on vacation to Alaska and ship her off for two weeks. It’s not ideal, but she’s going to try to make the best of it. She might even learn some skills that will help her make money for the new bike she’s been eyeing. But Chloe quickly discovers there’s only one area at which she excels; she manages to get more demerits than anyone else in camp…

Poor Chloe. All she wanted to do was get a summer job, and save up for a bike. What she ended up with... well.. I'll let you discover it for yourself.

Buy links are below, as well as an excerpt and a giveaway! You can win a copy of How to (Almost) Ruin Your Summer for your very own. Happy summer reading!



     Someone once told me that money can't buy a girl happiness. Well, they obviously never had to ride a baby bike to the first day of middle school.

     My parents didn’t think there was anything wrong with my existing bike so they weren't going to shell out money for a new one for the fall. Apparently they didn't realize that in middle school, once you were labeled a dork, always a dork. My dorkiness would come in the form of a hot pink bicycle plastered with Dora the Explorer stickers. Definitely not a stellar way to debut my sixth grade year. But the parents said if I wanted a new bike, I’d have to pay for it myself.

     My best friends, Elenna and Jireh, didn't need new bikes, but they were obsessed with the idea of getting Zoo 'N You’s. I couldn't turn on the TV without seeing a commercial of giggling girls at a slumber party wrapped up in oversized blanket-pillow combinations of animals. The pillow part of a Zoo ‘N You was shaped like an animal's head, and the attached blanket looked like fur. It even had sleeves to slip your arms through so you could wear it like a robe—if you wanted the pillow hanging down your back. Personally, I found the whole concept bizarre and could think of a million other ways to spend $49.99 plus shipping and handling.

     So between a new bike and Zoo ‘N You, Elenna, Jireh, and I all needed money. The only way we could think to earn it was babysitting. The library offered a free babysitting class at the beginning of each summer. They taught CPR and everything, and the three of us had signed up right away.

     My plan for summer was simple: Make lots of money to buy a new bike.

     That was it.

     Nothing else.

     No summer school. No road trips. No awkward family reunions. And definitely no camps—on account of I'd heard they have tons of spiders. (I’m absolutely terrified of anything with eight legs. Actually, anything with more than two and you’re asking for trouble. Animals are irritating, destructive, and smelly. And the problems snowball out of control the more legs they have. By the time you get to eight, watch out world!)

     My parent's plan, on the other hand, was to celebrate their fifteenth wedding anniversary by taking a two-week long Alaskan cruise . . . alone.

     They came into my bedroom one night while I was reading and handed me a letter.


Dear Chloe McCorkle,

Let me be the first to say we are looking forward to having you at Camp Minnehaha. Enclosed you will find a packing guide and other helpful information. Please take the time to read through the electives we offer and get ready for two weeks filled with fun and excitement!

Sincerely,

Linda Mudwimple

Camp Director



      My jaw dropped as my eyes darted back and forth between my parents and the letter.

      "Umm . . . I had other plans." I folded the letter and held it out to my mom.

      Mom smiled.

     Dad barked a laugh so loud I dropped the letter. Based on their responses, strategic negotiating was needed if I wanted to get my way. I could handle this like an adult—after all, I was going into middle school. I decided to use last year's lessons in Peer Mediation about handling conflict. I needed to A.C.T.
  • Acknowledge the other person's feelings.
  • Compliment them.
  • Thank them.
     I cleared my throat. "I get you're going on a cruise, and I need to be somewhere while you enjoy artic blasts of air and whale watching. This Camp Minnehaha, while I'm sure it's fascinating, doesn't really fit into my summer plans. Thanks for thinking of me though."

     Nailed it.

     Mom raised one eyebrow and let her smile slip to the left side of her face—a look that directly translated to Think again.

     Maybe reasoning would work.

     "But now I'll never be able to get a new bike!"

     "The bike you have is perfectly fine," Dad said.

     "It's adorable!" Mom added.

     Yeah—adorable, if you’re a DORK.

     I tried reasoning again. “I would really like to take the babysitting class at the library with Elenna and Jireh. I can't do that if I'm not here."

     "The library offers the class more than once, Chloe.” Dad said. “You can take the babysitting class when you return."

     It was time to resort to begging—it wasn't very adult-like, but it sometimes worked. I clasped my hands together in desperation. "But Elenna and Jireh are taking the first class," I whined. "They'll get all the customers."

     Dad pulled a brochure from his shirt pocket, and handed it to me. Keeping my eyes on his, I slowly took it from him and then read aloud. "'Camp Minnehaha is a fun, educational, kid-approved career camp, surrounded by gently rolling hills and clear streams,'" I narrowed my eyes and cocked a brow. "What's a career camp?"

     Dad tapped the brochure. "It's where you'll see what it's like to be a cake decorator, athlete, scientist, and veterinarian," he said. "You try out all of them the first week, and the second week you pick your favorite and spend the rest of the time with that career."

     "Sounds thrilling," I said. “You know animals and I don’t get along and you want me to spend time pretending to be a veterinarian?”

     When I was nine my parents got me a hamster that I named What (because he always had an expression on his face like he was asking a question). Every time I picked him up he’d pee on me and then bite my finger. After six months, he escaped from his cage. I couldn't even keep a hamster safe and healthy. I didn't need to go to some career camp to know I'd never be a vet.

     This was horrible! It wasn't just the fact that going off to camp meant I couldn't hang with Elenna or Jireh. It also meant that when middle school started in the fall, I was going to be riding my baby bike. Put that together with my terrible hair problem, and I was going to be looking like the World's Biggest Dork.

     My hair? Totally out of control. On a good day I could be mistaken for a stalk of broccoli. And if the humidity was extra high, I looked like an electrocuted lion. Mom always said I was beautiful, but moms are supposed to say nice things.

     My hair I couldn’t change, but my bike situation I could . . . or at least I had hoped.

     Dad looked at me sadly, and a dagger of guilt poked my conscience. I knew they signed me up for camp thinking I'd enjoy it. I hated disappointing them.

     I glanced at the brochure. "Cake decorating, huh?" Ever since Baker's Dozen aired on TV, I'd obsessed over every episode. Thirteen people would compete in decorating cupcakes for a $5,000 cash prize.

     Mom joined Dad near my bedroom door, signaling the end of the family meeting. "Get some sleep, sweetie. In the morning, we'll go shopping for the things you’ll need. You leave the day after tomorrow." She winked. "I'm so excited for you!"

     I flipped through the camp brochure and paused at the Cake Decorating page.

     A few weeks ago my friend, Mrs. Marie, the owner of Beth-Marie’s Ice Cream Parlour, had introduced her new ice cream flavor, Cupcake Confetti. She told me she also wanted to sell cupcakes at the parlor since the ice cream was sooooo popular. The only thing stopping her was she didn't have time.

     A brilliant idea popped into my head. My forced exile to Camp Minnehaha just might work in my favor—as long as Mrs. Marie agreed to my plan.
Taryn Souders graduated from the University of North Texas with a specialization in mathematics. Her first book, Whole-y Cow! Fractions Are Fun was published by Sleeping Bear Press (2010). She lives in Florida, with her family.
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