Book Review – NOTHING IS FORGOTTEN by Peter Golden

NOTHING IS FORGOTTEN by Peter Golden

NOTHING IS FORGOTTEN by Peter Golden

Synopsis
From the beloved author of Comeback Love and Wherever There Is Light, comes a novel about the life-changing journey of a young man who travels from New Jersey to Khrushchev’s Russia and the beaches of Southern France as he finds love and discovers the long-hidden secrets about his heritage.

In 1950s New Jersey, Michael Daniels launches a radio show in the storage room of his Russian-Jewish grandmother’s candy store. Not only does the show become a local hit because of his running satires of USSR leader Nikita Khrushchev, but half a world away, it picks up listeners in a small Soviet city.

There, with rock and roll leaking in through bootlegged airwaves, Yulianna Kosoy—a war orphan in her mid-twenties—is sneaking American goods into the country with her boss, Der Schmuggler.

But just as Michael’s radio show is taking off, his grandmother is murdered in the candy store. Why anyone would commit such an atrocity against such a warm, affable woman is anyone’s guess. But she had always been secretive about her past and, as Michael discovers, guarded a shadowy ancestral history. In order to solve the mystery of who killed her, Michael sets out to Europe to learn where he—and his grandmother—really came from.

Featuring Peter Golden’s signature “vivid characters and strong storytelling” (The Washington Post), Nothing Is Forgotten changes our understanding of the impact of World War II on its survivors and their descendants, and will appeal to fans of novels by Anita Diamant and Kristin Hannah..

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My Review
NOTHING IS FORGOTTEN is currently in my top five favorite books of all time, joining A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY, SHE’S COME UNDONE, GONE WITH THE WIND, and MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA. At times, the book is a thriller, others a mystery, and still others, a romance, but at all times, it’s captivating, emotional, and incredibly well told. The story opens in Michael’s childhood and reads like a memoir until his grandmother is killed, and then it takes off like a thriller wrapped in a mystery as Michael tries to figure out who killed his grandmother and why. His search for the truth takes him to Europe and Russia where he meets and falls for Yuli, a smuggler and defacto spy. Together they seek clues about the death of Emma, which only raises more questions and puts them both in danger.

Plot
Impeccably  researched, there is as much history as there is storytelling going on between the pages. The story is expertly plotted and moves along at a steady rate. The pace picks up speed at the climax and keeps it up until the very end. And that ending…wow. For me, it’s perfect. Yes, I want to know what happens next, but I don’t need to know. It’s such a satisfying conclusion with just the right amount of uncertainty to allow me to imagine what comes after without feeling frustrated.

The Characters
The characters are a masterpiece. Michael, Yuli, Der Schmuggler…they’re deep, nuanced, and intriguing. Throughout the story, Emma goes from being an enigma to someone fully fleshed out as the reader learns through Micheal’s research who Emma really was. The characters seem so much a part of the era (late 1950s to 1960s), that I never once questioned the setting.

Top Five Things I Loved About NOTHING IS FORGOTTEN
1. Yuli. She was by far my favorite character. She’s so complex, strong and vulnerable, proud with fits of guilt, having lived through the horrors of the second World War, she’s hard to identify with, but so easy to root for.

2. Michael. His optimistic Americanism is the polar opposite of Yuli’s Eastern European post-war hopelessness. His quest to uncover the truth is both reckless and admirable, making him an absolutely fascinating protagonist.

3. History. I love history, but even more when it serves as a backdrop to a compelling story. The author’s meticulous attention to detail made history come alive, leaving me wanting to learn more about the events of that time.

4. The ending. One of the best endings ever.

5. Storytelling. The way the story unfolds kept me glued to the pages, but the characters made me care about what happened.

Bottom Line
One of my all-time favorite novels. I will be reading more by Peter Golden.

Disclaimer
I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: NOTHING IS FORGOTTEN
Author: Peter Golden
Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: April 10, 2018
Pages: 352
Genre: New Adult Historical Mystery/Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon  | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay | !ndigo | BAM! | Book Depository

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Author Peter Golden

Author Peter Golden

About the Author
Peter Golden is an award-winning journalist, historian, and novelist who has written nine books and interviewed Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Bush (41); Secretaries of State Kissinger, Haig, Shultz, and Eagleburger; Israeli Prime Ministers Rabin, Peres, and Shamir; and Soviet President Gorbachev. His first novel, Comeback Love, was praised by the novelist and reviewer Caroline Leavitt as an “extraordinary debut.” Wherever There Is Light, his second novel, was featured in New York Magazine’s Fall Preview issue, widely reviewed, and selected by the New Jersey Star-Ledger as one of the best books of 2016. His third novel, Nothing Is Forgotten, which explores the connection between the Holocaust and the Cold War, will be published on April 10, 2018.

 

Where to Find Peter Golden
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

 

Young Adult Book Review – HIDING LIES (Eleanor Ames) by Julie Cross

HIDING LIES (Eleanor Ames #2) by Julie Cross

HIDING LIES (Eleanor Ames #2) by Julie Cross

Synopsis
At Holden Prep, dirty little secrets always have a way of coming to the surface.

Eleanor Ames has never been what she seems. Average high school student on the outside, but reformed con artist trying to break free of her past on the inside. When Eleanor receives startling news about someone from her previous criminal life, plans for a new operation coinciding with her school’s upcoming field trip quickly consume her.

But operations rarely go according to plan. And this is one her irresistible teen FBI agent boyfriend, Miles, would never approve of.

Now, more than just Ellie’s reputation is at stake. If she fails, it could be her life.

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My Review
WARNING – Spoilers Ahead for Book 1
It’s been over 18 months since I read CHASING TRUTH by Julie Cross, yet the characters and story were still so vivid in my memory, I didn’t need any refreshers. HIDING LIES picks up where CHASING TRUTH left off, with life returning to relative normal, considering Ellie’s past and Mile’s future. With Miles returning to his military academy after spending the holidays with his family abroad, Ellie fills her time with her sister, Harper, Harper’s former Secret Service boyfriend, Aidan, and her classmates from Holden Academy.

When Miles fails to meet her as planned after returning from overseas, and Miles’s CIA Agent father makes an unusual request of Ellie, she can’t help but worry about Miles. Things get more interesting when Ellie’s past confronts her in her present, setting up an opportunity to undo the damage from one of the biggest regrets in her short life. With one twist after another, this was the first page-turner I’ve read in a while. I’m a huge fan of Julie Cross, and HIDING LIES reminds me why.

Plot
The plot is flawless. Everything flows with important information is sprinkled throughout so when something unexpected happens, you realize the hints were there all along. This is a “stay up late and read until your eyes blur” kind of story. While some of it on the surface seems implausible for teens, the author always explains it in a believable fashion. And if if she didn’t, I wouldn’t care, because it’s just that good.

The Characters
I have so much love already for former con-girl, Ellie, straight-laced Miles, flakey Harper, and G-man Aidan, but in HIDING LIES, Ellie spends more time with Dominic, the moody secret love interest of Ellie’s tragic friend, Simon. Dominic and Ellie forge an almost friendship and I grew to love him in this book. A number of new characters are also introduced who add a lot to the story, and I also got to know and respect Justice just a little bit more. All the characters are deeply drawn and realistic.

Top Five Things I Loved About HIDING LIES
1. Miles. He drove me nuts with his conflicted feelings, but he totally redeems himself in the best possible way.

2. Ellie. She’s changed by the events in the first book and is less confident, leading her to make choices I might not have expected before, but given everything she’s been through, they are completely within character. I loved seeing a more vulnerable side of her.

3. Surprises. There were so many unexpected twists, I couldn’t put this book down.

4. The ending. Well done and even more exciting and satisfying than the first book.

5. Teen angst. While different this time around, there is no less drama surrounding Ellie and Miles’ romance.

Bottom Line
Julie Cross upped her game and wrote one of my favorite young adult novels ever!

Disclaimer
I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: HIDING LIES
Series: Eleanor Ames #2
Author: Julie Cross
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: April 17, 2018
Pages: 304
Genre: Young Adult Mystery/Suspense/Thriller/Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon  | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay | !ndigo | BAM! | Book Depository | Entangled

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Author Julie Cross

Author Julie Cross

About the Author
Julie Cross is a NYT and USA Today bestselling author of New Adult and Young Adult fiction, including the Tempest series, a young adult science fiction trilogy which includes Tempest, Vortex, Timestorm (St. Martin’s Press). She’s also the author of Letters to Nowhere series, Whatever Life Throws at You, Third Degree, Halfway Perfect, and many more to come!

Julie lives in Central Illinois with her husband and three children. She’s a former gymnast, longtime gymnastics fan, coach, and former Gymnastics Program Director with the YMCA. She’s a lover of books, devouring several novels a week, especially in the young adult and new adult genres.

Outside of her reading and writing credibility’s, Julie Cross is a committed–but not talented–long distance runner, creator of imaginary beach vacations, Midwest bipolar weather survivor, expired CPR certification card holder, as well as a ponytail and gym shoe addict.

Where to Find Julie Cross
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

Blog Tour + Review and Giveaway – TELL ME A STORY (Claire Goodnight) by Jennifer Rebecca

TELL ME A STORY Blog Tour

Welcome to the blog tour for DATING IN THE DARK, the first book in the adult romantic suspense/crime thriller series, Claire Goodnight, by Jennifer Rebecca. See below for information on the book, buy links, and my review. Be sure to scroll all the way down for details on her giveaway.

TELL ME A STORY (Claire Goodnight #1) by Jennifer Rebecca

TELL ME A STORY (Claire Goodnight #1) by Jennifer Rebecca

Synopsis
George Washington Township, New Jersey has seen its fair share of crime and tragedy. Most recently, a young boy is missing from his home and the tenacious Detective Claire Goodnite is eager to find him.

But the case is stirring up old memories best left forgotten. When a blast from her own past, FBI Special Agent Wesley O’Connell, turns up, Claire finds it hard to keep old ghosts at rest. And even harder to keep the sexy SAIC out of her case and her bed.

Claire Goodnite is the best damn detective in the state of New Jersey and you better believe she’s coming for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
Equal parts romance and crime thriller, TELL ME A STORY is a fast-paced, steamy read with deep characters. Twenty-nine-year-old Claire Goodnight is a police detective, whose captain just happens to be her big brother. When she catches a case of a missing six-year-old-boy, we discover Claire has a haunting past that has her brother, and FBI agent, Wes O’Connell, questioning her ability to handle it. In addition to a horrific event in her young life, she also has a long history with Wes, which threatens to derail their investigation and her heart. Nothing about the case feels right to Claire, but the deeper in she gets, the more her own nightmares return.

Plot
The plotting is well done. I had my suspicions about the guilty party, of an on, but never completely figured it out. The author does a great job of shaking things up by throwing in twists and turns. There were a couple of things that seemed off to me in a crime thriller, but they may not bother readers who don’t work with the law enforcement community. The pacing was spot on, moving from one event to the next at just the right speed.

The Characters
Claire’s backstory was unique and set up some of the best scenes in the book. While her flashbacks were hard to read at times, they were necessary to fully understand her character. Wes was equally interesting and because of their history, Claire’s demons are Wes’s demons, which made these two a couple that was easy to root for.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About TELL ME A STORY
1. Claire. She’s one part straight-laced cop, one part insecure female, and one part snark, making her unpredictable in the best way.

2. Claire’s backstory. Unnerving and dark, the events that took place in her youth helped shape the detective and woman she’s become.

3. Wes. He’s got a good heart, brains, and Chris Hemsworth biceps. Enough said.

4. Liam. Claire’s older brother struggles with being a brother and a boss and his internal conflict makes him one of the best characters in the book

5. Plot twists. Several events took the story in directions I didn’t expect, which made it all the more difficult to put down.

Bottom Line
A steamy romantic crime thriller with unique characters.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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TELL ME A STORY Teaser 3

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About the Book
Title: TELL ME A STORY
Series:  Claire Goodnight #1
Author: Jennifer Rebecca
Release Date: March 13, 2018
Pages: 243
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance/Mystery/Crime Thriller
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author Jennifer Rebecca

Author Jennifer Rebecca

About the Author
Jennifer is a thirty something lover of words, all words: the written, the spoken, the sung (even poorly), the sweet, the funny, and even the four letter variety. She is a native of San Diego, California where she grew up reading the Brownings and Rebecca with her mother and Clifford and the Dog who Glowed in the Dark with her dad, much to her mother’s dismay.

Jennifer is a graduate of California State University San Marcos where she studied Criminology and Justice Studies. She is also an Alpha Xi Delta.

10 years ago, she was swept off her feet by her very own sailor. Today, they are happily married and the parents of a 8 year old and 6 year old twins. She can often be found in East Texas on the soccer fields, drawing with her children, or reading. Jennifer is convinced that if she puts her fitbit on one of the dogs, she might finally make her step goals. She loves a great romance, an alpha hero, and lots and lots of laughter.

Where to Find Jennifer Rebecca
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

Blog Tour – Review – YOU WILL BE MINE by Natasha Preston

YOU WILL BE MINE Blog Tour

YOU WILL BE MINE by Natasha Preston

YOU WILL BE MINE by Natasha Preston

Synopsis
Love turns deadly in a new, heart-pounding thriller from Natasha Preston, author of the runaway bestsellers The Cellar and The Cabin.

ROSES ARE RED
VIOLETS ARE BLUE
WATCH YOUR BACK
I’M COMING FOR YOU

Lylah and her friends can’t wait to spend a night out together. Partying is the perfect way to let loose from the stress of life and school, and Lylah hopes that hitting the dance floor with Chase, her best friend, will bring them closer together. She’s been crushing on him since they met. If only he thought of her the same way…

The girls are touching up their makeup and the guys are sliding on their coats when the doorbell rings. No one is there. An envelope sits on the doormat. It’s an anonymous note addressed to their friend Sonny. A secret admirer? Maybe. They all laugh it off.

Except Sonny never comes home. And a new note arrives:

YOUR TURN

 

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My Review
YOU WILL BE MINE is a new adult psychological thriller that challenges everything the characters thought they knew. College sophomore, Lylah, shares an off-campus home with five other students. After the sudden, unexpected death of her parents on Valentine’s Day two years earlier, they’re as close to family as she has, with the exception of her brother, Riley. So when Lylah and her housemates are targeted one-by-one by a serial killer, who may or may not have a history with each of them, life becomes a terror-fueled nightmare to catch the killer before he strikes again.

Plot
The plotting is magnificent. The story unfolds with one terrifying note from the killer after another. Unexpected twists and turns keep the story moving forward, although not at a breakneck pace. Pacing is one of my two complaints with this book. Lylah spends a lot of time inside her head thinking about the same things over and over again, which drags the pace down. And we’re constantly told what she’s feeling instead of allowing us to feel it through her actions. The ending is pulse-pounding, though, and I never saw it coming.

The Characters
This is my second complaint with the story. I couldn’t stand Lylah. She was often reckless and almost always annoying. However, I loved the rest of the characters and that was enough to keep me turning the pages to find out what happened to them. Chace, the love interest, came across as too good to be true at points, but a typical college guy at others, making him a bit of an enigma throughout, which I enjoyed. Isaac, Charlotte, and Sienna were equally intriguing characters and I was rooting for this gang from the opening pages.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About YOU WILL BE MINE
1. The thriller aspects. Nathasha Preston keeps the reader guessing, terrifying us, and ending chapters on a phrase that only makes you want to keep reading.

2. The ending. The author does a masterful job of keeping the truth hidden from the reader, just sprinkling in enough breadcrumbs to never make it feel contrived. I adore a good surprise.

3. Terror. The killings are suitably gruesome to provide shock and horror, without being over the top.

4. Sienna. She was easily my favorite character. Her spunkiness and quiet confidence made her a great foil to Lylah’s dark insecurity.

5. Campus life. I feel as if the author captured college life fairly accurately, contributing to the atmosphere of the story.

Bottom Line
A decent thriller with a surprise twist.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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YOU WILL BE MINE Teaser

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About the Book
Title:
YOU WILL BE MINE
Author: 
Natasha Preston
Publisher:
Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: 
February 6, 2018
Pages: 304
Genre:
 New Adult Mystery/Psychological Suspense
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

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Author Natasha Preston

Author Natasha Preston

About the Author
My name is Natasha, but most people call me Tash or Tasha. I don’t mind either. I was born in England and have lived in small towns and villages out in the countryside ever since.

My husband, Joseph, is the most supportive person in my life. Without his love, help and patience I wouldn’t be where I am today. I’m a proud mummy to two amazing little boys who are my whole world.

At school I drifted through, achieving average grades. I fell into administration and receptionist jobs, thinking that I couldn’t really do anything else.

In 2010 I stumbled into writing completely by accident. I was searching the ‘app store’ and came across Wattpad – an amateur writing site. For the first few months I just read, but then I decided to type out some of the ideas swirling around in my head. I’m so glad I did because I love creating new stories.

Writing gave me an escape and Wattpad gave me the confidence I lacked..

Where to find Natasha Preston
Goodreads Website | Newsletter | Facebook Twitter | Instagram

 

Blog Tour – Review + Giveaway – TRAP AND TRACE by Megan Carney

TRAP AND TRACE Blog Tour

TRAP AND TRACE by Megan Carney

TRAP AND TRACE by Megan Carney

Synopsis
A sabotaged CIA operation makes Navy Trent a captive. But surviving the kidnapping is just the beginning of her ordeal. The CIA will kill her if she doesn’t stay quiet. The saboteurs will kill her if she does. Navy is forced into a high-tech, high-stakes game of cat-and-mouse where only her wits – and a little bit of luck – can keep her alive.

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My Review
Navy Trent’s life is turned upside down when she’s mistaken for an influential senator’s niece and is kidnapped by terrorists attempting to get the identities of CIA operatives. Her ability to escape and rescue her friends isn’t the end of her ordeal, it’s only the beginning. She knows more about what happened than she’s supposed to and someone wants to keep her quiet. Maybe permanently. TRAP AND TRACE is a fast-paced, wild ride, part thriller, part suspense, part mystery. I wasn’t sure I was going to like Navy in the beginning, but she won me over.

Plot
The book was expertly plotted. There were so many twists and turns, all of which were perfectly foreshadowed. I loved that I never knew what was going to happen next. Just when I thought I had it figured out, I was proven wrong. My only complaint is that there was a lot of repetitiveness, the same things being told from different points of view, that had me skimming portions.

Characters
I wasn’t sure about Navy at first. She seemed almost too contrived, but as the story unfolded and I learned more about her, it became apparent that everything she did was well within her established character. I loved the entire cast, from Jackson, to Byron, to Erin. Even William came across as the total tool he was for completely plausible reasons.

What I Enjoyed About TRAP AND TRACE
1. Plotting.
The plotting was among the best I’ve ever read!

2. Research. The author did her homework. The world of spies felt authentic and even something as simple as the right way to meditate was accurate.

3. Unexpected Twists. Kept me turning pages long after I should have gone to sleep.

4. Characters. Rich and complex, they drive the story in ways lesser characters couldn’t.

5. The End. No spoilers, here, but it was perfect.

Bottom Line
Expertly plotted suspense with so many unexpected twists. Will be reading more by this author!

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: TRAP AND TRACE
Author: Megan Carney
Pages: 453
Category: Adult Suspense/Thriller/Adventure
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

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Author Megan Carney

Author Megan Carney

About the Author
Megan Carney is an author, geek and amateur photographer living in the Twin Cities. She has ten years of experience in the field of computer security. Her previous short story publications include: ‘Flighty Youth’ in the Raritan, ‘Modern Mayhem’ in the Wayfarer, ‘Swing By Close’ in the Wayfarer, ‘Directions’ in the Bell Tower. ‘Swing By Close’ and ‘Directions’ both won first prize in the fiction sections of that issue. The Christian Science Monitor dubbed her self-published photography book, ‘Signs of My Cities’ as having “youthful zest.”

Her non-literary creations include: a robot to clean the bathroom tub, Zim and Gir costumes, No-Dig tomato stakes, StickFriend the bear bag hanger, and a burning coal costume so she could be Katniss for a night.

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Where to Find Megan Carney
Goodreads | Twitter

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Giveaway
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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – Forget Me Always (The Lovely Vicious) by Sara Wolf

Forget Me Always Blog Tour

Forget Me Always (The Lovely Vicious #2) by Sara Wolf

Forget Me Always (The Lovely Vicious #2) by Sara Wolf

Synopsis
It’s been three years, twenty-five weeks, and five days since Isis Blake fell in love, and if she has it her way, it’ll stretch into infinity. Since then, she’s punched Jack Hunter—

her nemesis-turned-maybe-something-more—in the face, survived a brutal attack by her mom’s abusive ex thanks to Jack’s heroics, and then promptly forgotten all about him.

The one bright spot for Isis is Sophia, the ephemeral girl who shares Isis’s hospital stay as well as a murky past with Jack. But as Isis’s memories return, she finds it harder and

harder to resist what she felt for Jack, and Jack finds it impossible to stay away from the only girl who’s ever melted the ice around his heart.

As the dark secrets surrounding Sophia emerge, Isis realizes Jack isn’t who she thought he was. He’s dangerous. But when Isis starts receiving terrifying emails from an

anonymous source, that danger might be the only thing protecting her from something far more threatening.

Her past.

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My Review
It was fun to be back with Isis and Jack and the gang. I do love Isis, and even though she’s got some memory issues, she’s as snarky, irreverent, and insecure as ever. I wasn’t sure about this whole amnesia thing at first. It felt too contrived, but as the first third of the story unfolded, the author made a convincing case not only for the brand of amnesia itself, but also why it happened. Isis has a lot of issues and it definitely fits with her character. Once I fully embraced that, I was deep into the story that picks up where Love Me Never leaves off. As Isis struggles to come to terms with her memory loss, she befriends Sophia in the hospital. Jack’s Sophia. That’s so ripe with potential conflict, I knew it would set some great events in motion.

There is a bit of a mystery this time around, too, or maybe elements of a thriller. I don’t want to give anything away, but I was on the edge of my seat more than a few times. A lot of unanswered questions from the first book are resolved, but more are introduced and we’re left with another cliffhanger ending.

Plot
The plot is fantastic. Isis struggles with regaining her memories, Jack is bereft that Isis doesn’t remember him. There’s the trial of Leo, the discovery of more information about what happened that night in middle school, and a side of Jack we never knew. There’s a lot going on, but it never feels overwhelming.

Characters
Isis is incredibly complex and I love her. I love the way she thinks out loud, the way she over-analyzes everything, the way she puts up walls to protect herself. She has some growth in this book, but not as much as she could have. But part of that is because of the amnesia, so much of the struggle is getting back to who she was, not leaving enough time for her to really grow more. So hopefully we’ll see more in the next installment. Jack, on the other hand, is dissected this time around. We see so much more of what makes him tick and he has some great character development.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The principal. Still not sure about this guy. He doesn’t come across as completely believable. But he’s more of a minor character this time,so I’m giving him a pass.
2. The cliffhanger. Not a huge fan. Yes, I want to read the next book, but I would have read it anyway.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About Love me Never
1. Isis. I just love everything about her and she is so much more…Isis…this time.
2. Jack. Being inside his head gave me a new appreciation for him. Sure, he’s still a complete jerk, but understanding why goes a long way toward me embracing him.
3. Mystery. I love all the missing pieces falling into place like a beautiful, messed up in a total head-case kinda way, puzzle.
4. Wren. This boy is everything and a bag of chips.
5. Angst. Always, always, always. And when done well, makes me one happy reader.

Bottom Line
Forget me Always is a thrilling teen romance with an edge.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: Forget Me Always
Series: The Lovely Vicious #2
Author: Sara Wolf
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Pages: 250
Category: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | Entangled

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Author Sara Wolf

Author Sara Wolf

About the Author
Sara Wolf is a twenty-something author who adores baking, screaming at her cats, and screaming at herself while she types hilarious things.

When she was a kid, she was too busy eating dirt to write her first terrible book. Twenty years later, she picked up a keyboard and started mashing her fists on it and created the monster known as the Lovely Vicious series.

She lives in San Diego with two cats, a crippling-yet-refreshing sense of self-doubt, and not enough fruit tarts ever.

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Where to Find Sara Wolf
Goodreads Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Giveaway
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Young Adult Book Review – The Row by J.R. Johansson

The Row Blog Tour

The Row by J.R. Johansson

The Row by J.R. Johansson

Synopsis
A death sentence. A family torn apart. One girl’s hunt for the truth.

Seventeen-year-old Riley Beckett is no stranger to prison. Her father is a convicted serial killer on death row who has always maintained that he was falsely accused. Riley has never missed a single visit with her father. She wholeheartedly believes that he is innocent.

Then, a month before the execution date, Riley’s world is rocked when, in an attempt to help her move on, her father secretly confesses to her that he actually did carry out the murders. He takes it back almost immediately, but she cannot forget what he’s told her. Determined to uncover the truth for her own sake, she discovers something that will forever change everything she’s believed about the family she loves.

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My Review
This was very different from any other young adult book I’ve read. Ever. Seventeen-year-old Riley’s father has been on death row since she was seven for crimes he claims he didn’t commit. Riley’s close relationship with her father is shown through weekly visits where the two hug and play chess. When the last of her father’s appeals run out, Riley must accept that she’s going to lose her father, something she can’t quite bring herself to accept. At least until her father confesses he’s guilty, telling Riley to move on with her life. Riley is devastated and confused, which gets worse when he immediately recants his confession. With the help of her only friend, adorable dark-haired Jordan, Riley decides she needs the truth, whatever that may be.

The Row GIF 1

Plot
The main plot centers around Riley’s search for the truth and unfolds like a mystery. A secondary plot is the romance between Riley and Jordan. Riley’s family has many secrets and the more Riley learns, the more she begins to question everything, not just her father’s sudden confession and retraction. At times the pacing was slow, but the author throws in a number of twists to keep things interesting.

The Row GIF 2

Characters
Riley is intriguing. Having essentially grown up with only her mother and a relationship with her father who is behind bars, her life is anything but normal. The story takes place over summer, so there is little interaction with other kids her age, with the exception of Jordan, whom she meets at a mall an hour away — a place she goes so she won’t be recognized. Being the daughter of a convicted serial killer can’t be easy and I would have loved to explore a little more of this aspect of her life. Riley’s father was an enigma throughout and her mother was complex. Jordan is likeable as the friend and love interest, but he isn’t as deeply developed as he could have been. This is Riley’s story though, and she’s pretty well fleshed out. On the other hand, Mr. Masters, the defense attorney for Riley’s dad, is well developed and a great foil for Riley.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. Parts of the plot.
 I don’t want to give anything away, because there are some great twists, but not all of it works. There were a few things that happened that I thought needed more fleshing out for me to fully embrace them.

2. The cover. I don’t think the cover does the story justice.

3. Jordan. He’s interesting right off the bat, but I never really understood why he was so devoted to Riley from the beginning. They don’t spend all that much time together before he’s dropping everything to help her out, pledging his enduring loyalty.

What I Enjoyed About The Row
1. The chess.
 I love how the author weaves in the game of chess throughout, drawing parallels between the game and the plot.

the-row-gif-3The Row GIF 3

2. Riley. She’s sympathetic, smart, determined, and tough. She’s not perfect by any means. There are many times she makes huge mistakes, but it’s easy to forgive her because so much of how she reacts is based on her unorthodox upbringing.

3. The plot. I love both the mystery aspect and the young adult romance. Both are well done and tie together nicely.

4. The law. I love legal thrillers and this almost reads like one from a teen’s point of view.

The Row GIF 4

5. Mr. Masters. Riley’s dad’s law partner, defense attorney, and Riley’s surrogate father figure is fantastic, driving some of the best parts of the story.

Bottom Line
The Row is a dark tale of a girl seeking truth and justice about and for the father she adores.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: The Row
Author: J.R. Johansson
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Release Date: October 11, 2016
Pages: 352
Genre: Young Adult Mystery/Romance
Rating:
 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Author J.R. Johansson

Author J.R. Johansson

About the Author
J.R. Johansson’s books have been published in a dozen languages and more than twenty countries worldwide. She has a B.S. degree in public relations and a background in marketing. She credits her abnormal psychology minor with inspiring many of her characters. She lives inUtah with two sons, a wonderful husband, three cats, and a hot tub named Valentino.

She is represented by the stellar Kathleen Rushall of Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

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Where to find J.R. Johansson
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Young Adult Book Review – Valley of the Moon by Bronwyn Archer

Valley of the Moon by Bronwyn Archer

Valley of the Moon by Bronwyn Archer

Synopsis
There’s just one semester left at the Briar School for Girls in Sonoma, CA. But it will take more than straight As for Lana Goodwin to survive . . .

Senior year is not going well for 17-year-old Lana Goodwin. Her father’s vintage car business is about to crash and burn, the nicest (and cutest) teacher at school was fired under a cloud of scandal, and her hot sort-of boyfriend may or may not have something big to hide.

She’s also totally over being the class pauper. It’s bad enough her dad was briefly married to the head of the board—the rich, cruel, impeccably groomed Ramona Crawford. What’s worse is going to school with her vindictive ex-stepsister, who never misses an opportunity to make her life hell. Not ever.

It also happens to be the tenth anniversary of her mother’s suicide. No one knows why Annie Goodwin jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge the day after Christmas. She didn’t leave a note. She wasn’t sick. Even Lana’s father can’t explain it. Ten years later, someone—or something—starts sending her clues about her mother’s past.

Before Lana can escape to college, she finds herself in a life-or-death race to uncover her mother’s long-buried secrets.

Can she claim her birthright before her future and her life are snatched away?

Valley of the Moon is a modern-day fairy tale with some intense themes.

A contemporary YA romantic mystery for ages 16 and up.

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My Review
Valley of the Moon is a young adult page-turning thriller/mystery with a healthy dose of romance and a huge twist I never saw coming. Author Bronwyn Archer creates a stunning tale of a girl caught in the middle of the Russian mafia and a mystery surrounding her mother. There is a thread of the supernatural, but it may not be supernatural at all, that’s part of the mystery. Lana lives with her father, the owner of an exotic car dealership with financial difficulties. She meets and begins dating a hot guy who seems almost too perfect to be true. When her ex-stepmother starts meddling in her life, Lana is sure she’s up to something, but even she couldn’t anticipate how bad that something is.

Plot
The story is well-plotted with lots of suspense. There’s a particularly dark event I never saw coming and couldn’t believe at first, but the more I examined the story in retrospect, the more I realize it’s part of the longer plot, as this is the first book in the series. The author weaves an intricate tale of loss, fear, longing, and revenge with fascinating characters and mind-numbing twists.

The Writing
The writing is fluid and poetic at times. The author does a great job of building tension and interspersing it with lighter moments, allowing the reader to breathe, before building back up again to a breathless conclusion.

The Characters
Lana is one of my favorite young adult heroines. She’s brash, tough, smart, but is still vulnerable enough to make her sympathetic. She’s got a smart mouth and sometimes overuses it, but that’s one of my favorite things about her. The other characters are equally interesting, especially because we never get to really know them except through Lana’s eyes, making them all enigmas that I can’t wait to find out more about in the next book.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. There’s only one thing that rubbed me the wrong way and that’s the ending. It wasn’t a cliffhanger, it just…ended. It was odd and it left me unsettled rather than satisfied or dying to read more. This was the only thing that kept this from being a perfect five stars for me.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About Valley of the Moon
1. Lana. She’s an amazing heroine with just enough grit and softness to make her kickass and belivable.

2. Lana’s dad. He’s troubled, but I like him. He puts his daughter’s safety and interests first.

3. The mystery. Trying to figure out what’s going on is half the fun with this gripping tale.

4. The twists. So many things I didn’t see coming kept me turning the page to find out what the heck happened.

5. The cars. Lana has an amazing collection of awesome cars at her disposal. If only the Russian mafia weren’t trying to kill her, she could have really enjoyed them.

Bottom Line
Valley of the Moon is a fast-paced young adult mystery thriller with enough romance and suspense to please nearly any audience.

Disclaimer
I was provided a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: Valley of the Moon
Author: Bronwyn Archer
Publisher: Bronarch Books
Release Date: April 13, 2016
Pages: 285
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance/Mystery/Thriller
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Author Bronwyn Archer

Author Bronwyn Archer

About the Author
Bronwyn Archer is a young-adult author, digital media copywriter, and mother to several children, last time she counted.

At her all-girls high school, Bronwyn discovered a love of writing and the importance of a good fake ID. The only sport she was good at was boogie-boarding, but she decided to hang up her board after a terrifying close encounter with a seven-foot blue shark in the Santa Monica Bay.

She still gets nervous in black-bottomed swimming pools.

After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with degrees in English and Art History, she moved to Paris, where she edited a magazine for expatriates. After failing to become the next Hemingway—despite putting in many hours at the Ritz Hotel’s Hemingway Bar—she moved back to the States, where she developed a semi-successful career in New York and Los Angeles as a copywriter for ad agencies and companies like HBO and Disney.

Now Bronwyn writes fiction and raises children. She’s up to two rescue mutts and four kids, which makes her a semi-freak in this neck of the woods, but she’s learned that once you decide to live your life your way, everything else gets a little easier.

Besides writing and expertly avoiding baskets of laundry that need folding, Bronwyn loves movies from the 80s, comedy, Disneyland (sorry WDW), the paintings of Winslow Homer and Maxfield Parrish, coffee, Paris, Oscar Wilde, hot sauce, the Christmas season, Thai street food, making things with felt, and the smell of freshly printed books.

She is still searching for her own “signature fragrance,” which she’ll know when she finds it. .

Where to Find Bronwyn Archer
Goodreads | Website  | Twitter
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Month in Review – December 2015

Two weeks late, but you know, the holidays… Also, some front yard landscaping, and Aussie exchange student for eleven days, and final edits and publishing of The Uprising (which comes out on Tuesday!). Better late than never. Here are the books I read and reviewed in December, 2015.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Story: 4 Stars
Audiobook: 5 Stars

Title: Gone Girl
Author: 
Gillian Flynn
Release Date: 
May 24, 2012
Publisher:
Random House Audible
Narrators:
Julia Whelan and Kirby Heyborne
Length:
19 Hours 11 Minutes
Genre:
 Contemporary Mystery/Thriller/Suspense
Story Rating: 
4 out of 5 Stars
Audio Production Rating:
 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | AudibleAmazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis
On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge.

Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

Bottom Line
Gone Girl is a disturbing tale, beautifully written, and the audiobook version is one of the best produced I’ve ever listened to.

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Bad Romance: A Stepbrother Novel by by Jen McLaughlin

Bad Romance A Stepbrother Novel by by Jen McLaughlin

Bad Romance A Stepbrother Novel by by Jen McLaughlin

4 Stars

Title: Bad Romance: A Stepbrother Novel
Author: 
Jen McLauchlin
Publisher: 
Loveswept
Release Date: 
September 15, 2015
Pages:
242
Genre: 
New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 
4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Synopsis
In this explosive novel from New York Times bestselling author Jen McLaughlin, a good girl falls for the ultimate bad boy: her stepbrother. Perfect for fans of Sabrina Paige, Caitlin Daire, and Krista Lakes, Bad Romance proves that passion can be so wrong it’s right.

Seven years in the army will change a guy. But after a shoulder wound ends his career as a sniper, Jackson Worthington finds himself back home, fighting a battle that’s all too familiar: keeping his hands off Lily Hastings. She’s still her rich daddy’s little angel, innocent, impossibly lovely, as squeaky-clean as Jackson is dirty. And she’s still his stepsister—forbidden but not forgotten, not after the soul-melting kiss that got him kicked out of the house at eighteen. He couldn’t resist her then. How the hell can he resist her now?

Lily is about to marry a man she doesn’t love, and commit to a high-stress job she hates, all to please the father who controls every waking moment of her life. On top of everything, her teenage crush is back, with a sleek, chiseled body and a trace of the rebellious boy whose lips sealed her fate. Jackson’s timing couldn’t be worse . . . or better. Because Lily’s all grown up, too. She’s aching for another taste. And for the first time, she’s ready to be a bad girl.

Bottom Line
Bad Romance is a page-turning romance about forbidden love and learning to live your own life.

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Royal Marriage Market by Heather Lyons

Royal Marriage Market by Heather Lyons

Royal Marriage Market by Heather Lyons

4.5 Stars

Title: Royal Marriage Market
Author: Heather Lyons
Publisher: Cerulean Books
Release Date: December 15, 2015
Pages: 335
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | iBooks | Kobo

Synopsis
Every decade, the world’s monarchs and their heirs secretly convene to discuss global politics and social issues—and arrange marriages between kingdoms. Elsa may be the Hereditary Princess of Vattenguldia, but she finds the entire situation archaic and unsavory. While she wants what’s best for her country, she isn’t about to jump into an unwanted relationship—let alone a marriage—with a virtual stranger. Of course, her feelings matter little to her parents, whose wheeling and dealings over trade pacts and alliances achieved at her expense begin the moment they set foot in California for the Summit. So when a blindingly handsome royal runs into her, she doesn’t hesitate to tell him there’s no way she’s marrying him.

Christian is all too happy to agree: no marriage. As the Hereditary Grand Duke of Aiboland, his main goal is to get through the summit without a bride being foisted on him. Which is why he suggests they help each other field potential intendeds. As Christian slowly gets to know Elsa, though, he realizes they have a lot more in common than just their feelings about the Royal Marriage Market. Only he can’t fall for her, because royal or not, they’re not meant for each other. Elsa and Christian will have to evaluate matters of the heart verses those of state and crown, and decide whether or not tradition trumps love.

Bottom Line
Royal Marriage Market is a fun twist on the contemporary romance genre with plenty of chemistry and more than a few laughs.

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The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus by Fred White

The Writer's Idea Thesaurus by Fred White

The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus by Fred White

3.5 Stars

Title: The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus: An Interactive Guide for Developing Ideas for Novels and Short Stories
Author: Fred White
Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books
Publication Date: September 30, 2014
Pages: 320
Category: Writing Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis
Endless ideas at your fingertips, and at the turn of a page…

Need an idea for a short story or novel? Look no further than The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus. It’s far more than a collection of simple writing prompts. You’ll find a vast treasury of story ideas inside, organized by subject, theme, and situation categories, and listed alphabetically for easy reference. Author and award-winning writing instructor Fred White shows you how to build out and customize these ideas to create unique plots that reflect your personal storytelling sensibilities, making The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus an invaluable tool for generating creative ideas and vanquishing writer’s block—for good.

Inside you’ll find:
•2,000 unique and dynamic story ideas perfect for novels and short stories of any genre or writing style
•Twenty major idea categories, such as The Invasion of X, The Transformation of X into Y, Escape from X, The Curse of X, and more
•Multiple situations that further refine the major categories, such as The Creation of Artificial Life, The Descent Into Madness, Love in the Workplace, The Journey to a Forgotten Realm, and more
•Invaluable advice on how to customize each idea.

The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus is an interactive story generator that opens the door to thousands of new story arcs and plotlines.

 Bottom Line
The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus lives up to its name as a unique reference guide to aid writers in developing story ideas.

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Next Door to a Star (Star Series) by Krysten Lindsay Hagar

Next Door to a Star by Krysten Lindsay Hagar

Next Door to a Star by Krysten Lindsay Hagar

4 Stars

Title: Next Door to a Star
Series: Star Series #1
Author:
Krysten Lindsay Hagar
Publisher: Limitless Publishing, LLC
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Pages: 185
Genre: 
Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon InternationalBarnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | BAM!

Synopsis
Hadley Daniels is tired of feeling invisible. After Hadley’s best friend moves away and she gets on the bad side of some girls at school, she goes to spend the summer with her grandparents in the Lake Michigan resort town of Grand Haven. Her next door neighbor is none other than teen TV star Simone Hendrickson, who is everything Hadley longs to be—pretty, popular, and famous—and she’s thrilled when Simone treats her like a friend. Being popular is a lot harder than it looks.

It’s fun and flattering when Simone includes her in her circle, though Hadley is puzzled about why her new friend refuses to discuss her former Hollywood life. Caught up with Simone, Hadley finds herself ignoring her quiet, steadfast friend, Charlotte. To make things even more complicated, along comes Nick Jenkins… He’s sweet, good-looking, and Hadley can be herself around him without all the fake drama. However, the mean girls have other ideas and they fill Nick’s head with lies about Hadley, sending him running back to his ex-girlfriend and leaving Hadley heartbroken.

So when her parents decide to relocate to Grand Haven, Hadley hopes things will change when school starts…only to be disappointed once again. Cliques. Back-stabbing. Love gone bad. Is this really what it’s like to live…Next Door To A Star?

Bottom Line
While Next Door to a Star moves slow at times, it’s filled with a colorful cast of young teens who think and act like the kids on the cusp of adulthood they are.
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Audiobook Review – Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Story:
Audiobook: 

Synopsis
On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary.

Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge.

Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior.

Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

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My Review
I got the unabridged version of this book from Audible. All 19 hours and 11 minutes worth. At times, I loved the story and took the long way to and from my destination, or lapped the block one more time to continue listening. Other times, I hated it, chose music over audiobooks for months at a time. It took me nearly ten months to finish it. What I can’t deny is that Gillian Flynn is a hell of a writer. The story is intriguing, captivating, unnerving. The audiobook production is among the best I’ve ever listened to, and I listen to a lot of audiobooks. The narrators are talented and brought the characters to life. And what characters they are. Complex, deep, fully three-dimensional, and unfortunately, utterly loathsome.

I absolutely salivated over the brilliant writing of Gillian Flynn, took notes, wished I could write like that. The story was engaging at times, difficult to read at others. The pacing was slow in spots, and those were the times I felt myself less inclined to listen for awhile. At other times, it was fast, riveting. At no point did I figure out what was going to happen next. The plot twists are inspired. So with all of this going for it, why couldn’t I give it five stars? The book left me unsettled, and not in the way a good thriller does. It left me feeling ambivalent toward all the characters, as in I don’t really care what happens to them. In some ways, I wish I’d never read about them. And the ending was flat, not living up to the expectations the author set with her amazing plotting throughout.

Plot
The plotting was fantastic. There were so many twists and turns and unexpected surprises. Gillian Flynn is a master of pre-shadowing. Everything that happens has a purpose that may not become clear until a long time later, but her method of storytelling ensures even the smallest detail is memorable.

Characters
The characters are well developed, believable, stunningly crafted. Even the smallest character was thoroughly developed. I just didn’t care for any of them. Didn’t care what happened to them, and still don’t. But they will not soon be forgotten.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The ending. I absolutely despised how it just ended in a way that felt unfinished. Sometimes, I wonder if maybe it went on longer than necessary, other times, I think it stopped too soon. I just know it feels unfinished and not in a “sequel is coming” kind of way.

2. The characters. Man, I hate them all, with the exception of maybe Margo and Boney. I can’t deny the characters are three-dimensional and wholly realistic. The world is full of people who are difficult or impossible to like. But in the end, I had no one to root for in Gone Girl.

What I Enjoyed About Gone Girl
1. The writing. Flawless, beautiful prose underlies a dark mystery with contemptible characters.

2. The plot twists. There were so many of them and they were so perfectly woven in, they were nearly seamless.

3. The narration. Both voice actors were amazing. This is one of the best audiobook productions I’ve ever listened to.

4. The character development. Yes, I loathe them, but they are so well crafted, I have to remind myself they’re fictional.

5. Attention to detail. The vivid writing made the scenes come alive in my mind as I listened. In some ways, I feel as if I watched a movie.

Bottom Line
Gone Girl is a disturbing tale, beautifully written, and the audiobook version is one of the best produced I’ve ever listened to.

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About the Audiobook
Title:
 Gone Girl
Author: Gillian Flynn
Release Date: May 24, 2012
Publisher: Random House Audible
Narrators: Julia Whelan and Kirby Heyborne
Length: 19 Hours 11 Minutes
Genre: Contemporary Mystery/Thriller/Suspense
Story Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Audio Production Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | AudibleAmazon | Barnes & Noble

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Author Gillian Flynn

Author Gillian Flynn

About the Author
Gillian Flynn is an American author and television critic for Entertainment Weekly. She has so far written three novels, Sharp Objects, for which she won the 2007 Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for the best thriller; Dark Places; and her best-selling third novel Gone Girl.

Her book has received wide praise, including from authors such as Stephen King. The dark plot revolves around a serial killer in a Missouri town, and the reporter who has returned from Chicago to cover the event. Themes include dysfunctional families,violence and self-harm.

In 2007 the novel was shortlisted for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar for Best First Novel by an American Writer, Crime Writers’ Association Duncan Lawrie, CWA New Blood and Ian Fleming Steel Daggers, winning in the last two categories.

Flynn, who lives in Chicago, grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. She graduated at the University of Kansas, and qualified for a Master’s degree from Northwestern University.

Where to Find Gillian Flynn
GoodreadsWebsite | Facebook

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Review + Giveaway – The Rebel by Adrienne Giordano

The Rebel by Adrienne Giordano

The Rebel by Adrienne Giordano

Synopsis

Bad to the bone…in all the right ways 

A brilliant civil lawyer, David Hennings has always been the outsider—at odds with his wealthy family, shunning relationships, defying convention as a sexy leather-jacketed biker. Which is why sculptor Amanda LeBlanc agrees to his request to reconstruct a skull from a cold case murder. The instant heat between them is scorching. 

But once Amanda takes the job and gets too close to the rebellious attorney, her carefully balanced life is upended by a series of methodical attacks. Someone doesn’t want her to finish the job. Now David will risk everything not to lose the woman he unknowingly put in jeopardy.

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My Review
I love a good mystery. Add romance and instant heat and I’m there. The Rebel pairs pragmatic artist, Amanda, with edgy civil lawyer, David. David comes from a family of lawyers, but he’s the only one to shy away from criminal law, so it’s ironic he’s the one his mother enlists to convince Amanda to reconstruct the identity of a woman only from her skull. Sparks fly upon their first meeting, but they dance around their attraction for more than half the book before anything happens. There was more than enough intrigue, and good juicy mystery, and lots of unresolved sexual tension to keep me invested.

The timeframe is short, so a lot is packed into several fast-paced days, including a red hot romance. Despite that, the pacing of the writing itself is steady rather than intense. It moves, but for me, never reached the I-can’t-put-it-down stage. Not to say that I didn’t find that I wasn’t interested in finishing it, only that I was okay to wait until morning to finish reading. It was a good solid story, though, with interesting characters and an intriguing plot.

Plot
On the surface, it seems the plot is the mystery of the skull found in the prologue, but it’s really the story of David and Amanda’s romance. They’re thrown together because of the mystery, and danger follows them as a result, driving conflict. The romance moves almost too quickly based on the compressed timeframe of only a few days, but in the span of the story itself, it unfolds slowly. But at no time did I doubt these two would end up together.

Characters
The characters are where this story really shines. Adrienne Giordano creates deep, layered characters who are exceedingly likeable as they spew witty banter. The family dynamics of David, his siblings, and his mother are as real as it gets and were at the root of some of the best scenes in the book.

Writing
The author does a great job of setting the scene, getting us inside her character’s heads, and developing those characters. There were a few pacing issues, but nothing major. There was also a pretty good twist I didn’t see coming, even though it was excellently foreshadowed.

Ending
Things wrapped up pretty much the way I expected in a satisfying conclusion.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About The Rebel:
1. The mystery. When a skull is found, the hunt is on for the identity it belongs to, putting everyone in danger.

2. The flirty banter between David and Amanda. Their attraction is instant and it shows.

3. Family dynamics. The sibling rivalry and revelry between David and his brother and sister is palpable.

4. The twist. I won’t give it away, but it was fun to not figure it out ahead of time.

5. Jenna. The smart, tough investigator is a solid supporting character and I’d love to read a whole book from her point of view. Think Kalinda from The Good Wife.

Bottom Line
The Rebel is a mystery wrapped in a romantic suspense with a big dose of fully-developed characters.

Disclaimer
I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: The Rebel
Author: Adrienne Giordano
Publisher: Harlequin Intrigue
Release Date: October 1, 2015
Pages: 234
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Rating: 4 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | GooglePlay | Harlequin

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Author Adrienne Giordano

Author Adrienne Giordano

About the Author
USA Today bestselling author Adrienne Giordano writes romantic suspense and mystery. 

She is a Jersey girl at heart, but now lives in the Midwest with her workaholic husband, sports obsessed son and Buddy the Wheaten Terrorist (Terrier).

She is a co-founder of Romance University blog and Lady Jane’s Salon-Naperville, a reading series dedicated to romantic fiction. 

Where to Find Adrienne Giordano
Goodreads | Website | Newsletter | Street TeamFacebook | Twitter

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Giveaway
There is a tour-wide giveaway of a $25.00 eGift Card to an online book retailer of winner’s choice and three swag packs.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Young Adult Book Review – Deception So Dark (Run to You Series) by Clara Kensie

Deception so Dark (Run to You #2) by Clara Kensie

Deception so Dark (Run to You #2) by Clara Kensie

Synopsis
Originally published as the Run to You serial parts 4-6— Fourth Shadow, Fifth Touch, and Sixth Sense.

Deception So Dark is the complete second novel in the Run to You series, a riveting thriller about a family on the run from a deadly past, and a first love that will transcend secrets, lies and danger…

With no more secrets to keep them apart, Tessa and Tristan embark upon a desperate search to find her missing brother and sister. But not even Tristan can keep Tessa safe from the hostile classmates at her new school…or from the nightmare that haunts her even while she’s awake. As Tessa’s nightmare becomes all too real, her hope of getting her family back together feels ever more out of reach. When a psychic warns her that leaving town may mean her death, Tessa still cannot stay when she uncovers a potential lead to her brother and sister. Not even if she must go alone and risk losing it all: Tristan, her family, and even her life.

Run to You is Tessa and Tristan’s story—two full-length books about psychic gifts, secret lives and dangerous loves. Danger. Deception. Betrayal. It must be true love.

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My Review
Book 2 picks up right where Book 1 ends with Tessa now  staying with Tristan and his family. Jillian and Logan are on the run, believing Tessa and their parents are dead. Only Tessa knows the awful truth about their family. With Tristan’s help, Tessa searches for Jillian and Logan, only to be met with one setback after another. The author throws in a lot of twists, introduces some fascinating new characters, and takes the level of adventure up another notch.

Plot
Romance takes a backseat to the adventure and danger this time around. Now that Tristan and Tessa know each other’s secrets, they’re together. They have some ups and downs, but the story is about finding Jillian and Logan more than about whether Tessa and Tristan will end up together. The plot is interesting and anything but predictable, and aside from a few pacing issues, moves pretty well.

Characters
Tessa has a lot on her plate and I think she deals with it the way I expect a teenage girl to. She’s only known life on the run and settling down doesn’t come naturally to her, even though its what she’s craved her whole life. She struggles to come to terms with her parents’ crimes, and the constant taunting by the families of their victims isn’t helping. I got a better sense of Tristan this time around and he’s a good guy, although at times he’s almost too good to be true.

World Building
The world of psionic powers is further explored, particularly when it comes to Tessa’s gifts and, again, the author weaves it into the story seamlessly.

Writing
I didn’t think the fluidity was quite as strong as with the first one, but Clara Kensie is a master at creating tension and throwing in twists that in hind view, were perfectly foreshadowed. There’s a lot more symbolism in this story and I love the author’s use of it.

Ending
I enjoyed the ending. I thought it wrapped up well but leaves the door open for maybe a spin-off from another character’s point of view.

Top Five Things I enjoyed about Deception So Dark:
1. Tessa’s loyalty to her brother and sister knows no bounds and it’s one of her strongest character traits.

2. Aaron. The sweet nerd of a boy with a computer-like brain who helps Tessa is someone I’d like to see more of.

3. Surprising plot twists. There were more than a few and they were all deliciously unanticipated.

4. Tristan. I wasn’t sure about him after reading Book 1. And although there were times he seemed too good to be true, his love for Tessa was never in doubt and he’d clearly do anything for her.

5. Dennis and Deirdre. They love Tessa as their own and they provide the paternal stability that Tessa needs.

Bottom Line
Deception So Dark is a solid follow-up to the first book with lots of action and suspense.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: Deception So Dark
Series: Run to You #2
Author: Clara Kensie
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: May 1, 2015
Pages: 252
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks

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Author Clara Kensie

Author Clara Kensie

About the Author
…don’t forget to breathe…

Clara Kensie grew up near Chicago, reading every book she could find and using her diary to write stories about a girl with psychic powers who solved mysteries. She purposely did not hide her diary, hoping someone would read it and assume she was writing about herself. Since then, she’s swapped her diary for a computer and admits her characters are fictional, but otherwise she hasn’t changed one bit.

Today Clara is the author of dark fiction for young adults. Her debut series is the romantic thriller RUN TO YOU: Deception So Deadly and Deception So Dark.

Her favorite foods are guacamole and cookie dough. But not together. That would be gross.

Where to Find Clara Kensie
Goodreads | Website | NewsletterFacebook | Twitter | Tumblr | Instagram
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Young Adult Book Review – Deception So Deadly (Run to You Series) by Clara Kensie

Deception so Deadly (Run to You #1) by Clara Kensie

Deception so Deadly (Run to You #1) by Clara Kensie

Synopsis
Originally published as the Run to You serial parts 1-3: First Sight, Second Glance, and Third Charm.

Deception So Deadly is the complete first novel in the two-book Run to You series, a riveting romantic thriller about a family on the run from a deadly past and a first love that will transcend secrets, lies and danger…

Sarah Spencer has a secret: her real name is Tessa Carson, and to stay alive, she can tell no one the truth about her psychically gifted family and the danger they are running from.

As the new girl in the latest of countless schools, she also runs from her attraction to Tristan Walker—after all, she can’t even tell him her real name. But Tristan won’t be put off by a few secrets. Not even dangerous ones that might rip Tessa from his arms before they even kiss…

Run to You is Tessa and Tristan’s story—two full-length books about psychic gifts, secret lives and dangerous loves. Danger. Deception. Betrayal. It must be true love.

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My Review
The story starts off with a bang as Sarah, aka Tessa, gets a text while sitting in class that it’s time to run. Again. Something her family has been doing for the past eight years. Her family isn’t normal. They have secrets. Secrets that the government wants.

Tessa doesn’t make friends, because what’s the point? But when they settle into Twelve Lakes, she’s pursued by Tristan, a boy with beautiful blue eyes and broad shoulders. She initially pushes back, but she’s a girl and he’s a boy and…hormones. While Tessa keeps her true identity from Tristan, she can’t help falling for the sweet boy who makes her feel things she never has before.

The push and pull of their relationship is raw and real and kept me turning the page. As Tristan and Tessa fall for each other, Tessa is constantly looking over her shoulder, never able to relax and be normal, because at any moment she’ll be on the run again, leaving Tristan behind forever.

Plot
The plot is a dual-pronged. It’s the story of Tristan and Tessa, but it’s also the story of Tessa’s family and their survival. They must stay one step ahead of their pursuers, never knowing when they’ll be found, because it is only a matter of when, not if. Both plots are very well done and kept me on the edge of my seat. They’re woven together seamlessly, each driving the other in complex fashion.

Characters
Tessa is complex, deep, and wounded — everything you want your teen protagonist to be. And while I liked the other characters, I didn’t get the same level of depth from them. Even Tristan didn’t come across as fully-developed as I would have liked. That may have been deliberate on the author’s part, though. We see the world and the other characters through Tessa’s eyes, and she’s got a lot going on, what she chooses to observe and not observe are part of her character. Tessa’s well-developed enough, I don’t know that the lack of depth of the other characters is really a problem, but I did notice it.

World Building
The world of psychic gifts is a central part of the book, and while there isn’t anything really new here, it’s detailed and flows effortlessly through the story.

Writing
Clara Kensie does a great job of building tension, making Deception So Deadly read much like a thriller, but without the gore, violence, and language often found in adult thrillers. A number of twists wind their way through the plot like vines. Some I saw coming, some not so much, and the pacing was damn near perfect.

Ending
Considering this is the first of a two-book series, I thought the author did a great job of wrapping up the main story lines, leaving me satisfied, but still wanting to read the second book.

Top Five Things I enjoyed about Deception So Deadly:
1. The psychic abilities. Let’s face it, no matter what you call them, super powers rock!

2. Tessa. All four-foot-ten of her. She’s feisty, determined, and loyal. In her case, size really doesn’t matter.

3. The twists and turns. I won’t mention any of them because even one could spoil things, but I love the plotting in this book.

4. Tristan. I was hot and cold on Tristan throughout the book and I think that’s part of his appeal. Just like Tessa, the author was able to pull me in before making me doubt him and his motives, then pull me in again, only to question everything I thought I knew about him all over again.

5. Jillian and Logan. As Tessa’s older sister and younger brother, they look out for Tessa, but they each bring something different to the dynamic. Jillian pushes Tessa to have fun, to fall in love, because even love lost is better than not at all. Logan is two years younger, but he acts more like an older brother at times, protecting Tiny Little Tessa at all cost.

Bottom Line
Deception So Deadly is a fun, fast-paced young adult paranormal romantic adventure that is as much about the danger as it is about the romance.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: Deception So Deadly
Series: Run to You #1
Author: Clara Kensie
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: May 1, 2015
Pages: 264
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks

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Author Clara Kensie

Author Clara Kensie

About the Author
…don’t forget to breathe…

Clara Kensie grew up near Chicago, reading every book she could find and using her diary to write stories about a girl with psychic powers who solved mysteries. She purposely did not hide her diary, hoping someone would read it and assume she was writing about herself. Since then, she’s swapped her diary for a computer and admits her characters are fictional, but otherwise she hasn’t changed one bit.

Today Clara is the author of dark fiction for young adults. Her debut series is the romantic thriller RUN TO YOU: Deception So Deadly and Deception So Dark.

Her favorite foods are guacamole and cookie dough. But not together. That would be gross.

Where to Find Clara Kensie
Goodreads | Website | NewsletterFacebook | Twitter | Tumblr | Instagram
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Book Review + Sale and Giveaway – The Accidental Assassin by Nichole Chase

The Accidental Assassin Tour

Welcome to the next stop on the blog tour for The Accidental Assassin, a new adult contemporary novel by Nichole Chase. See below for my review, information on the book, buy links, and details on her giveaway. Also, during the tour, you can pick up the eBook for just $0.99!

The Accidental Assassin by Nichole Chase

The Accidental Assassin by Nichole Chase

Synopsis
Ava McKenzie is a creature of habit. Life is passing her by and she has nothing to show for it. She’s had the same job since she started college, she orders the same dish every time she goes to her favorite restaurant, and only reads books from authors she knows. There is nothing new or surprising in her life… until her best friend marries a man from London.

When her newlywed friend asks her to house-sit while she honeymoons, Ava jumps at the chance. She thinks this could be the very thing she needs to shake up her life. Ava throws herself head first into her new lifestyle; she wants to try everything, go everywhere, and never get stuck in a rut again. Of course, offing a man in a car garage hadn’t been one of the things on her list to try.

Owen Walker spends every day in a new place with a new case. As one of the most renowned assassins in the world, he has his choice of marks—and he’s never failed in a mission. When a new hit takes him back to his hometown, he looks forward to spending time somewhere familiar. What he isn’t expecting is to help an attractive, confused American woman find out how she’s ended up on a hit man’s list.

As Ava and Owen dodge bullets, will they be able to escape their undeniable attraction to each other? Or will all of that chemistry blow up in a shower of hot and dangerous sparks?

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My Review
The Accidental Assassin was such a fun, unique twist on the new adult romance genre. The characters are quirky and likable and the plot weaves danger and humor, keeping me glued to the virtual pages.

Ava is an American house-sitting her honeymooning best friend. Owen is an assassin assigned to taking out one of the other inhabitants in the same building where Ava is staying. When Ava accidentally backs over the target with her car, she finds herself in the middle of a murder-for-hire plot, relying on the the hot, yet mysterious, Owen to survive.

Plot
The plot is unique in the new adult genre, at least for me. It’s a romance, nestled in danger, surrounded by nearly non-stop action. Nichole Chase pulls off a charming tale of an unlikely heroine, some intense chemistry, and a fast-moving thrill-ride, that is reminiscent of Janet Evanovich but really is all its own.

Characters
Ava is likable from the opening paragraph and even Owen makes it hard to dislike him. What with being choosy about who he’ll kill, and ensuring there is never any collateral damage and all. These two seem like an unlikely pair, and yet the attraction is palpable from the first meet. The supporting cast are all equally interesting, right down the shop store clerk and the arms dealer.

World Building
The world of spies and assassins comes alive between the pages, the settings feel authentic, with pop culture references thrown in to connect readers with the story even more.

Writing
I love Nichole Chase’s style. She tackles tough subject matter with traces of humor, but never making light of a serious topic.

Top Five Things I Loved about The Accidental Assassin:
1. Ava. She’s a fun, refreshing heroine who had me rooting for her from the first page.

2. Owen. He’s smexy, intelligent, and loyal. Hard to beat that combination.

3. The settings. Everywhere from Owen’s cottage in Oxford to the streets of Notting Hill were as alive as the characters who inhabit them.

4. The plot. A fun idea that was wonderfully executed.

5. The banter. I loved watching Ava and Owen going tit for tat, amping up the chemistry in a playful way.

Bottom Line
The Accidental Assassin is a fun, fresh take on new adult romance with a twist.

Disclaimer
I was provided a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: The Accidental Assassin
Author: Nichole Chase
Release Date: August 26, 2014
Pages: 354
Genre: New Adult Contemporary
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes

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Author Nicole Chase

Author Nicole Chase

About the Author
Nichole Chase is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Suddenly Royal, Flukes, The Dark Betrayal Trilogy, and several short stories.

She is also the instructor of Say What? a dialogue class at the Romance Academy.

Nichole lives in Georgia with her husband, energetic daughter, superhero dog, Sulcata tortoise, and two cats.

When not writing, you may find her reading, painting, crafting, or chasing her daughter around the house while making monster noises.

Where to Find Nichole Chase
Goodreads | Website | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Instagram | Amazon

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Giveaway
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YA Book Review – Never Gonna Tell by Sarah M. Ross

Never Gonna Tell by Sarah M. Ross

Never Gonna Tell by Sarah M. Ross

Synopsis
My name is Reagan Wilcox: high school senior by day, kick-ass investigative journalist by night. I’ve always loved observing people—especially when they think no one is paying attention.I thought I was ready to cover any story. Work any angle.

Nothing could have prepared me for what happened that night. I wasn’t ready for what I saw. And I certainly wasn’t ready for him.

I always knew I’d write the headlines. Now, I just might become one.

My Review
I was expecting a teen mystery when I picked this up, but what I got instead was a teen thriller with some elements of a mystery. It’s an intense, exciting, rollercoaster ride of action and emotion that was difficult to put down.

Reagan Wilcox likes to remain outside the limelight. She’s perfectly happy to sit back and observe unnoticed. Her dream of becoming an investigative reporter has her quietly looking for a story among her classmates. The odd behavior of the school’s star quarterback has her digging deeper. And what she finds just might get her killed.

The writing is strong, the characters interesting, and the story is riveting. While it was a bit slow to start, the story picked up quickly and took off at a manic pace, building to a nailbiting climax. This was a welcome change from the young adult novels I’ve been reading lately, and definitely one I’d recommend.

Plot
This is almost entirely plot driven, and it’s a heck of a plot. Sarah M. Ross keeps the story moving, doling out information to keep us hooked without overloading the story. We get the information we need as we needed it, and never before. If young adult thrillers is going to be a new thing, this is the blueprint for them. In the end, I felt as if there were still some unanswered questions, but the big issues were all wrapped up.

World Building
The world building is subtle and sometimes stereotypical, but the author injects enough humor to poke fun at those stereotypes, that it works. Everything from the small town “everyone knows your business” to mob families is built organically, so it never feels like a caricature.

Characters
None of the characters are particularly layered or deep, but I don’t think it’s necessary here. The characters are definitely fun and interesting, and drive the plot, which is what this story is all about. And the main character, Reagan, and her love interest, Marco, are infinitely likable. That’s all I really need in a book like this.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About Never Gonna Tell
1. Reagan. Her tenacity is inspiring. I love how this girl who never walks away from a good story, is willing to risk her own life to save the lives of those she cares about.

2. Marco. He defies his family and risks his life for a girl he barely knows.

3. Charlie. He’s got issues up the wazoo, but the kid is as loyal as they come. Everyone should have a best friend like Charlie.

4. The pacing. After getting off to a bit of a slow start, it takes off and kept me on the edge of my seat for the remainder of the story.

5. The uncertainty. Because this book was anything but formulaic, there were no guarantees. No one was safe, which made the story that much more compelling.

Bottom Line
Never Gonna Tell is a solid young adult thriller with lots of action, danger, and a sweet romance. I’d definitely read more by this author.

Disclaimer
I was provided a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

About the Book
Title: Never Gonna Tell
Author: Sarah M. Ross
Release Date: March 17, 2015
Pages: 202
Category: Young Adult Mystery
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Author Sarah M. Ross

Author Sarah M. Ross

About the Author
Sarah started her obsession with reading at an early age, often sneaking BabySitter Club and Nancy Drew books into math class. She would read any book she could get her hands on. Her love of reading quickly evolved into a love of writing and stories began to pour out of her.

She grew up in Pittsburgh, graduated from The University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English, and taught 8th graders to love reading as much as she does for several years. Sarah will always be a proud member of the Steelers’ Nation, but couldn’t take the cold and moved her frozen tush to Florida where she now lives with her family and two cats. You will find her now with her trusty Kindle in hand and toes in the sand!

Sarah’s debut novel, AWAKEN, released in January, 2012. Other novels include AVENGE, ATONE, ECHO OF AN EARTH ANGEL, and INHALE EXHALE.

Where to Sarah M. Ross
Goodreads | Website | Twitter | Facebook

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Giveaway
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Book Review – A Faint Cold Fear (Grant County #3) by Karin Slaughter

Synopsis
An apparent student suicide has brought medical examiner Sara Linton to the local college campus, along with her ex-husband, police chief Jeffrey Tolliver. But a horribly mutilated corpse yields up few answers. And a suspicious rash of subsequent “suicides” suggests that a different kind of terror is stalking the youth of Heartsdale, Georgia — a nightmare that is coming to prey on Sara Linton’s loved ones.

A small town is being transformed into a killing ground. And the key to a sadistic murderer’s motive and identity may be held in the unsteady hands of a campus security guard — a former police detective driven from the force by the hellish memories that will never leave her.

Lena Adams survived the unthinkable and has paid a devastating price. Now the survival of future victims may depend upon her … when she can barely protect herself.

My Review
Although I really liked A Faint Cold Fear, it’s my least favorite book in the Grant County series so far. It doesn’t seem to have that same gripping tension from the first two that kept me reading long after I should have gone to sleep. Don’t get me wrong, no one does the whole creepy thriller quite like Karin Slaughter, but I just felt like something was missing from this one. That little extra something that pushes itself under my skin and keeps me riveted. That said, it is a thoroughly enjoyable story that has some unexpected twists, some really creepy characters, and an ending I never saw coming.

Plot
I can seen Karin Slaughter’s progression as an author by this third book in the series. She’s developed a more honed ability to bait the reader and reel us in slowly, which makes reading this one a little more fun. But the plot does lack the unputdownable aspect of her previous two novels in this series.

Characters
The characters are as solid as ever and it’s both painful and engrossing to watch them try to come to terms with their inner demons. Karin Slaughter does an amazing job of keeping it real when it comes to the horrific events that have shaped her characters’ lives. And she doesn’t sugar-coat it. She doesn’t care if we like her characters or not. Being likeable isn’t really key to the story, but being real is, and they are authentic. It’s this characterization that really moves A Faint Cold Fear along more than the plot.

Bottom Line
Another solid thriller in the Grant County series that keeps the reader guessing. The author draws on the events of the previous books to develop her characters to realistic perfection.

Title: A Faint Cold Fear
Author: Karin Slaughter
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Pages: 448
Category: Thriller
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble

Book Review – Kisscut (Grant County #2) by Karin Slaughter

Kisscut (Grant County #2) by Karin Slaughter

Kisscut (Grant County #2) by Karin Slaughter

Synopsis
Saturday night dates at the skating rink have been a tradition in the small southern town of Heartsdale for as long as anyone can remember, but when a teenage quarrel explodes into a deadly shoot-out, Sara Linton–the town’s pediatrician and medical examiner–finds herself entangled in a terrible tragedy.

What seemed at first to be a horrific but individual catastrophe proves to have wider implications. The autopsy reveals evidence of long-term abuse, of ritualistic self -mutilation, but when Sara and police chief Jeffrey Tolliver start to investigate, they are frustrated at every turn.

The children surrounding the victim close ranks. The families turn their backs. Then a young girl is abducted, and it becomes clear that the first death is linked to an even more brutal crime, one far more shocking than anyone could have imagined. Meanwhile, detective Lena Adams, still recovering from her sister’s death and her own brutal attack, finds herself drawn to a young man who might hold the answers. But unless Lena, Sara, and Jeffrey can uncover the deadly secrets the children hide, it’s going to happen again

My Review
Kisscut is darker than Blindsighted and far more gripping. There are so many moving parts, it’s impossible to figure out what’s going on until the end. Even the subplots are engaging. First, there’s Sara and Jeffrey’s relationship. We take a trip back to Jeffrey’s childhood home and learn more about how he and Sara originally met and fell in love. Then there’s Lena’s recovery from the horror she endured in Blindsighted, and the weird kinship she feels with the brother of one of the young victims. And there’s Jeffrey’s unresolved guilt over shooting a teen girl, even though he didn’t really have a choice. Last but not least, running through all of that is why the girl put herself in a position that the police had no recourse but to shoot her, who took a young girl and why, and how the two are related.

Karin Slaughter does a masterful job of handling all of the subplots and the main plot, interweaving them, and keeping us on the edge of seats, wondering how they all intersect with one another. And they do, almost perfectly. The only thing that keeps this from being a five-star rating is the stomach-turning nature of parts of the story. While they were key to the plot, it kept me from loving the story, even if it is a page turner.

Plot
The plot was intense, and unique, and riveting. It was nearly impossible to put down at times. The subplots provided additional interest and the twists and turns kept me guessing until the end. But because of the nature of the crime and the people involved, it takes a strong stomach. Definitely not for the faint of heart or anyone who is easily offended. I know a lot of people complained about the disturbing nature of the crime and claimed the author was glorifying it. In no way is the crime glorified. It is detestable, but it is something that happens every day in this country, and pretending it doesn’t, won’t make the problem go away.

Characters
There were a lot of characters and they were often difficult to keep track of, but not to the point that I couldn’t keep up with the plot. I love that we get to dig deeper into our favorite characters from Blindsighted and learn more about Jeffrey, Sara and Lena. Karin Slaughter doesn’t try to gloss over the effects of what happened. The characters grapple with what happened, particularly Lena. This is something that I don’t think is done often enough in serial thrillers. Too often, characters just bounce back and go on with life, with very little reflection on what happened other than passing references. But what Lena endured at the hands of her attacker in Blindsighted becomes very much a part of who she is and the decisions she makes throughout Kisscut.

Bottom Line
Kisscut is an intense thriller that is equal parts moving, gripping, and disturbing. But it never failed to keep me turning the page, right to the very end. Sure, I felt like I needed to take a shower afterward, but isn’t that what a good thriller does?

Title: Kisscut
Author: Karin Slaughter
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Pages: 448
Category: Thriller
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links to PurchaseAmazonBarnes & Noble

Book Review – Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter

Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter

Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter

Synopsis
A small Georgia town erupts in panic when a young college professor is found brutally mutilated in the local diner. But it’s only when town pediatrician and coroner Sara Linton does the autopsy that the full extent of the killer’s twisted work becomes clear.

Sara’s ex-husband, police chief Jeffrey Tolliver, leads the investigation — a trail of terror that grows increasingly macabre when another local woman is found crucified a few days later. But he’s got more than a sadistic serial killer on his hands, for the county’s sole female detective, Lena Adams — the first victim’s sister — want to serve her own justice.

But it is Sara who holds the key to finding the killer. A secret from her past could unmask the brilliantly malevolent psychopath .. or mean her death.

My Review
This is my first Karin Slaughter novel. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of her until a friend of mine invited me to see her speak at the La Jolla library last year. To say she was a compelling speaker would be an understatement. She did not read from her book, she did not really talk all that much about her books. She spent the vast majority of the time talking about her childhood and how she came to write such dark and twisted fiction. And it was funny! I loved her on the spot!

After picking up her latest book, Unseen, and getting it signed of course, I rushed home and downloaded Blindsighted. As with most thrillers, the book kicked off on the first page with a gruesome murder that only became more disturbing the more we learned about it. The story is riveting, a definite page-turner.

Plot
The plot is relatively formulaic. A horrific murder is committed and the race is on to find the killer before he strikes again. The subplot about the town’s coroner, Sara Linton, who also happens to be the town pediatrician and hot police chief, Jeffrey Tolliver who also happens to be her ex-husband is well done and smoothly incorporated. Lena Adams, the twin sister of the victim and also one of Jeffrey’s detectives, has a more complex subplot as she copes with the death of her sister.

My only complaint is that I figured out whodunit before the big reveal. And that was where the plot became a little too formulaic for me. I just assumed it was the character you were least likely to suspect and I was right. However, I didn’t figure it out until late in the story, only a couple of chapters ahead, so it didn’t significantly impact my ability to enjoy the book overall.

Characters
For a plot-driven story, the characters were well-developed. Far more so than many in this genre. In fact, Karin Slaughter excels at character development, which makes you want to read the next book because you feel like the characters are real people and you want to know what happens to them next.

Bottom Line
I thoroughly enjoyed Blindsighted. It was gripping, intense, and scared the crap out of me. Pretty much what you want from a good thriller.

Title: Blindsighted
Author: Karin Slaughter
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Pages: 400
Category: Thriller
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links to PurchaseAmazonBarnes & Noble