Saturday, December 9, 2017

Book Review: Saving Abby, by Steena Holmes

Guest review by: Erin Krajenke


"Claire, your headaches are a result of a grade-three tumor that is putting pressure on your skull at the base. I wish I could tell you they were due to pregnancy hormones, but I can't." The doctor sat back down but leaned forward, resting his elbows on the desk, and watched Claire intently. 

"What does stage three mean?" she asked. 

"Some cancers disappear after treatments - whether it’s through surgery or radiation or even chemotherapy. Some may grow back. Stage three means that regardless of treatment, chances are strong that it will grow back."

..."I'm going to be honest with you." Dr. Shuman cleared his throat. "If you weren't pregnant, I'd recommend immediate surgery followed by radiation."
...
For a moment, Josh was speechless. "So you're saying she should have an abortion?" Dr. Shuman shook his head. "No, I'm not saying that. If that is what you both decide, then we can discuss what that looks like. But I think the active surveillance is our best option right now". He clasped Josh on the shoulder. "It's a lot to take in. If you need me, call me anytime. We'll get through this, Josh, and both Claire and your baby with be fine." 

The memory of his mother, the way she wasted away, of what her life was like those last few months hit him hard. "But you can't promise. I know. I've lived through it. I know what brain cancer is like. Claire..." his throat thickened, and it was hard to get the words out. "She's my life. She can't die. Do you understand? I don't care what that looks like, but she cannot die." He was over the moon to be a father, to know that their dream of being parents was finally coming true, but he loves his wife more. He prayed he didn't have to make that choice that he could have the best of both worlds. But if he had to, if it meant Claire's life or their baby? There was no choice, not for him.

Initially, I was enjoying this book. The two main characters are sweet and loving, and so is their town and all of their friends and family. But then it just got to be too much. Not that I wanted anything bad to happen to them, just that EVERYTHING was so perfect that it made me want to roll my eyes. Especially when Claire would complain about the simplest, mundane things.

Book Review: Saving Abby, by Steena Holmes
Official synopsis:
All children’s book illustrator Claire Turner ever wanted was to be a mother. After six years of trying to conceive, she and her husband, Josh, have finally accepted that she will never be pregnant with a child of their own.

Yet once they give up hope, the couple gets the miracle they’ve been waiting for. For the first few months of her pregnancy, Claire and Josh are living on cloud nine. But when she begins to experience debilitating headaches, blurred vision, and even fainting spells, the soon-to-be mother goes to the doctor and receives a terrifying diagnosis. Since any treatment could put their unborn baby’s life at risk, the Turners must carefully weigh their limited options. And as her symptoms worsen, Claire will have to make an impossible decision: Save her own life, or save her child’s?


This book is told in multiple first-person format, which I like since it gives the reader insight on more than one character in the story. It especially helps in the case where you might not care for one character since you get to spend ‘more time’ with multiple characters. It also had chapters that were flashbacks to a trip Josh and Claire took before she got pregnant which I really enjoyed since it discussed their fun travels, traditions, and they were all very fun, happy chapters.

I know I was supposed to care about Claire and empathize with her, but I just couldn’t. The more I read the book, the more spoiled and entitled she seemed to be. She claimed all she wanted in life was to be a mother, but once she was pregnant, she did nothing to take care of herself or her child. She slept all day, had debilitating headaches (causing her to take more medicine than safe), refused vitamins and protein shakes since they didn’t taste good or made her sick, and also refused to see a doctor since she doesn’t like getting poked. It was obvious that there was something wrong, so her not taking action, to me, contradicted her claim that she wanted to be a mother, since she wasn’t willing to even do the bare minimum during her pregnancy. 

There were many other parts of the story as well where I found her behavior to be laborious. That being said, I was rooting for her since her husband, Josh, was such a wonderful character and I wanted him to be happy. 

I am not one who tries to guess what will happen next in a book, but this book seemed very obvious as to which direction it was heading right from the beginning which made the journey a little tedious at some points. Even though I did not like the main character, I did enjoy every secondary character, the town, all of the stories, and the flashbacks that were told throughout to a time before the pregnancy. So in the end, overall, I would say it was an enjoyable read.

3 stars out of 5.
{Click here to purchase}
*This book is currently (Dec. 2017) available for free with Kindle Unlimited.

Erin Krajenke is a chatty Virgo who likes Peter Pan, will never grow-up, and just recently hurt herself on a jungle gym playing tag with her dog.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Roomies, by Christina Lauren {ends 12/12}

I see the cast and crew eying him, eyeing us. We look like any other married couple. Calvin touches me freely and kisses me—on the forehead. We come together and leave together, even though I'm not needed here a fraction of the time I'm around. And while I'm not completely unfortunate-looking, I know everyone is half wondering how I ended up with someone like him. I'm that girl with the freckles, the one with snagged tights who spills her coffee awkwardly on her boobs, the one who knocks into everyone with my camera. Calvin, by contrast, drifts gracefully in and out of spaces, and we've already established how he can eat a salad without greasing up his chin.

It really is unfair.

Roomies
 is the newest novel by Christina Lauren, the author duo who writes under one name as a pseudonym. I'm a big fan of their books, and Roomies is a big more PG-13 than what they normally write (the Beautiful Bastard books in that series are mostly R-rated). That being said, it still ended up being a cute story.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Roomies, by Christina Lauren
Marriages of convenience are so…inconvenient.

Rescued by Calvin McLoughlin from a would-be subway attacker, Holland Bakker pays the brilliant musician back by pulling some of her errand-girl strings and getting him an audition with a big-time musical director. When the tryout goes better than even Holland could have imagined, Calvin is set for a great entry into Broadway—until he admits his student visa has expired and he’s in the country illegally.

Holland impulsively offers to wed the Irishman to keep him in New York, her growing infatuation a secret only to him. As their relationship evolves from awkward roommates to besotted lovers, Calvin becomes the darling of Broadway. In the middle of the theatrics and the acting-not-acting, what will it take for Holland and Calvin to realize that they both stopped pretending a long time ago?


I was reading this novel while I was traveling to DC,  back in October, and it was on my Kindle. I then had to stop reading it, because I had a blog tour post due for another book, so I then picked it back up this past week. It took me a minute to get back into the characters' lives, but I'm glad I did, as the love story between Holland and Calvin is great.

Holland marries Calvin so that he can stay in NYC and be in her uncles' Broadway show, but later, real sparks can be found between the two of them. Many of the show employees think she's insane for marrying him, but meanwhile, he's able to pursue his musical dreams, and she's doing a favor for her uncles, who basically helped raise her.

I'm sure there are many "marriages of convenience" in this country, and this was an interesting read because it showed all of the hoops you have to jump through to make a marriage like that seem "real" or "convincing." I enjoyed seeing the relationship between Holland and Calvin develop, as wellfirst as a friendship and then as an actual romantic relationshipand I was curious to see if all would end well for the couple. 

3.5 stars out of 5
{Click here to purchase}

*Disclosures:
-I received a copy of this book for reviewing. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.
-All product links are Amazon affiliate links; I make a small percentage off any purchases.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a print copy of Roomies!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, December 12th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be notified the next day via email, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Paperback copy of ROOMIES, by Christina Lauren

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Book Review: Not Now, Not Ever, by Lily Anderson

*All Amazon links included are affiliate links - I receive a small percentage if you choose to purchase through these.

Getting admission to Camp Onward wasn't easy. I'd sat through a two-hour-long test while I was supposed to be at my last ACLU club meeting of the school year. I'd crafted an essay about why I was the perfect candidate for Rayevich College. I'd emptied my savings to pay for my train ticket. I'd changed all of my social media profiles to a picture of a sunset.
....
Elliot Gabaroche was everywhere and nowhere.

Ever Lawrence, seventeen-year-old girl and newly certified genius, was going to summer camp.

This book is technically a sequel, to The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You, but this one can be read as a standalone, in my opinion. I realized later that the characters from the first book have minor roles in the second, but I'd be willing to bet that Elliot/Ever (the heroine in this book) is not present in the first novel.

Official synopsis:
Elliot Gabaroche is very clear on what she isn't going to do this summer.

1. She isn't going to stay home in Sacramento, where she'd have to sit through her stepmother's sixth community theater production of The Importance of Being Earnest.
2. She isn't going to mock trial camp at UCLA.
3. And she certainly isn't going to the Air Force summer program on her mom's base in Colorado Springs. As cool as it would be to live-action-role-play Ender's Game, Ellie's seen three generations of her family go through USAF boot camp up close, and she knows that it's much less Luke/Yoda/"feel the force," and much more one hundred push-ups on three days of no sleep. And that just isn't appealing, no matter how many Xenomorphs from Alien she'd be able to defeat afterwards.

What she is going to do is pack up her determination, her favorite Octavia Butler novels, and her Jordans, and run away to summer camp. Specifically, a cutthroat academic-decathlon-like competition for a full scholarship to Rayevich College—the only college with a Science Fiction Literature program, and her dream school. She’s also going to start over as Ever Lawrence: a new name for her new beginning. She’s even excited spend her summer with the other nerds and weirdos in the completion, like her socially-awkward roommate with neon-yellow hair, and a boy who seriously writes on a typewriter and is way cuter than is comfortable or acceptable.

The only problem with her excellent plan to secretly win the scholarship and a ticket to her future: her golden-child, super-genius cousin Isaiah has had the same idea, and has shown up at Rayevich smugly ready to steal her dreams and expose her fraud in the process.

This summer’s going to be great.


I love books about teens (Young Adult lit) and this one was definitely interesting, as Ever (aka Elliot) has an interesting backstory. Her mom is in the military, and wants her to enlist. Her step-mom and father want her to go to college, but I believe somewhere nearby—she lives in California. Unbeknownst to all of them, this summer she's at a camp for geniuses, with the possibility of winning a college scholarship to Rayevich College—which is in Oregon.

There's a bit of a love story mixed in, of course, but the focus is mostly on Ever, and how she matures in only a few short weeks at camp. Things get complicated when she finds out her 15-year-old cousin, Isaiah, is at camp too, and ALSO didn't tell his parents where he is, but the two of them end up finding a solution.

Overall, I liked this book, although I'd be curious to know even more about Ever's background—she hasn't seen her biological mother since she was 5, for example, and I assume that's because the mother is in the military and always busy ... but it's not explicitly said.

I'd like to read the first novel in the "series" now, too, although it may have to wait a bit—both my TBR and "e-TBR" (e-copy) piles are crazy right now!

I'd recommend this novel for anyone who likes a good YA story or for anyone who is or has family in the military.

3.5 stars out of 5.
{Click here to purchase}

*Disclosure: I received an e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY - Death in the Air: The True Story of a Serial Killer, the Great London Smog, and the Strangling of a City, by Kate Winkler Dawson {ends 12/3}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“Neighbors watched me digging,” he said. “They nodded ‘cheerios’ to me.” When they left, he dragged Ruth from the washhouse and rolled her into the grave.

In 1952, nine years later, she was still there, secluded by the fog
just another object planted in the garden. His garden. She was lying beneath him, many days. The war constable with a large forehead, thinning hair, and startling voice frequently dragged a rake less than two feet above her. His steps disturbed the dirt. He shoved plants into the ground just inches from her facehe fancied himself a talented gardener.

Death in the Air is a non-fiction book covering a couple subjects – serial killer John Reginald Christie of London, and the London fog/smog disaster of 1952.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY - Death in the Air
A real-life thriller in the vein of The Devil in the White City, Kate Winkler Dawson's debut Death in the Air is a gripping, historical narrative of a serial killer, an environmental disaster, and an iconic city struggling to regain its footing.

In winter 1952, London automobiles and thousands of coal-burning hearths belched particulate matter into the air. But the smog that descended on December 5th of 1952 was different; it was a type that held the city hostage for five long days. Mass transit ground to a halt, criminals roamed the streets, and 12,000 people died. That same month, there was another killer at large in London: John Reginald Christie, who murdered at least six women. In a braided narrative that draws on extensive interviews, never-before-published material, and archival research, Dawson captivatingly recounts the intersecting stories of these two killers and their longstanding impact on modern history.


In reading Death in the Air, I couldn’t help but feel the topics could have worked as two completely separate books. The author tried to show an intersection between John Reginald Christie’s killings of young women over the course of at least 10 years, and the thousands of deaths resulting from a toxic fog over the city for five days in 1952. While they did happen in part at the same time, the similarity ended there. It made it a sort of odd read by jumping back and forth between the two story lines.

I loved the ‘real people’ parts—reading about the people who lost family members to respiratory failure from the fog, learning about Christie and his victims, and even the real struggles of members of Parliament to prevent further deaths or miscarriages of justice. Not being a Londoner (where both stories took place), I also liked the tie-in that referenced an air pollution disaster just a few years earlier in Pennsylvania.

Death in the Air was also meticulously researched by Kate Winkler Dawson, and I feel completely equipped to choose either ‘London Smog in 1952’ or ‘Reg Christie, Serial Killer’ on Jeopardy. I could risk it all and win.

In conclusion, I would give Death in the Air 3 stars out of 5. This would be a great book for history buffs, serial killer aficionados, or prevention of air pollution advocates.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley liked zombies and sloths before they were cool. She’s been blogging around SE Michigan at SweetlyBSquared.com for more than 15 years.

GIVEAWAY:

Three of my lucky readers will win a copy of Death in the Air!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Sunday, December 3rd, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be notified via email the next day and have 24 hours to respond, otherwise an alternate winner(s) will be chosen.

U.S. and Canadian residents only, please.

Good luck!

Death in the Air hardcover copies

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Book Review: The Scattering, by Kimberly McCreight (Outliers #2)

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“Yes, Wylie, things have been quiet in the press so far,” my dad goes on. “But if I can convince the NIH to fund a full-on study of the Outliers and get peer-reviewed publication that will change, and quickly. There’s already some Senator Russo, from Arizona. He’s on the Intelligence Subcommittee and he’s insisting on a meeting. Somehow he got wind of my funding application. My guess is he’s worried about protecting some secret research the military has been doing.”

“Secret research?” Fear surely shows on my face.

My dad grimaces, then holds up his hands. “I just mean, in the way everything the military does is secret. They’ve been looking into how to use emotional perception in combat for decades,” he says.


As the second book in the trilogy, The Scattering was great. It introduced a few more characters, while looking a little more in-depth at Wylie’s "gift."

Official synopsis:
Book Review: The Scattering, by Kimberly McCreight (Outliers #2)
Wylie may have escaped the camp in Maine, but she is far from safe. The best way for her to protect herself is to understand her ability, fast. But after spending a lifetime trying to ignore her own feelings, giving in to her ability to read other peoples’ emotions is as difficult as it is dangerous.

And Wylie isn’t the only one at risk. Ever since they returned home, Jasper has been spiraling, wracked with guilt over what happened to Cassie. After all they’ve been through together, Wylie and Jasper would do anything for each other, but she doesn’t know if their bond is strong enough to overcome demons from the past.

It is amid this uncertainty and fear that Wylie finds herself confronted with a choice. She was willing to do whatever it took to help Cassie, but is she prepared to go to the same extremes to help complete strangers . . . even if they are just like her?


I honestly can’t wait til the third book in this trilogy by Kimberly McCreight is published next May. As with The Outliers, The Scattering started a little slow, describing the characters and places we’d need to know. But once she gets rolling—look out! This was another page-turner that had me mumbling my realizations while my kids wondering what I was going on about.

Wylie continues exploring her emotional perception gifts, and is surprised to find herself with other girls who potentially have the same gift. Unfortunately, no one is sure why they have been gathered, and everyone is just assuming the traits they may have in common.

As the story continues, she is less sure of who to trust, and has to rely primarily on her own instincts to save herself, while deciding how much help and support she owes to those around her.

Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed the first two books of The Outliers trilogy, and can’t wait for the release of the third book, The Collide, in May 2018. I would give The Scattering 4 out of 5 stars. The fifth star for me is usually worthy of a re-read, and this suspenseful trilogy wouldn’t be quite as surprising on a second read.

Click here to purchase:
The Outliers (#1)
The Scattering (#2)
The Collide (#3)

Becki Bayley loves her heated mattress pad, tall boots, and yum yum sauce. She’s been blogging in SE Michigan at sweetlybsquared.com for more than 15 years.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Wait for Me, by An Na {ends 11/17}

Mina

I drove home thinking about Ysrael's story. Woke up Suna and helped her into the apartment and could still picture Ysrael's eyes, the jut of his chin. He's lived so many lives, I thought as Suna and I entered our bedroom and got ready for bed. So many lives and I can't even figure out this one.

This book is more of a novella than a novel: it clocks in at 186 pages. Because of that, it was a quick read, and I like that it went between Mina's POV and her sister's, Suna.

Official synopsis:
A teen pretends to be a perfect daughter, but her reality is far darker, in this penetrating look at identity and finding yourself amidst parents’ dreams for you, by Printz Award–winning novelist An Na.

Mina seems like the perfect daughter. Straight A student. Bound for Harvard. Helps out at her family’s dry cleaning store. Takes care of her hearing-impaired little sister. She is her parents’ pride and joy. From the outside, Mina is doing everything right. On the inside, Mina knows the truth. Her perfect-daughter life is a lie. And it isn’t until she meets someone to whom she cannot lie that she’s willing to consider what the truth might mean, and what it will cost. Because Ysrael, the young migrant worker who dreams of becoming a musician and who comes to work for her family, asks Mina the one question that scares her the most: What does she actually want?


I overall liked this book—because of its length, it's a quick read. The prose is well-written, too, so at times it almost feels more like poetry than a novel.

Mina's parents, especially her mother, want her to succeed in life, but as a result, they put too many expectations on her. She's at that period in high school where she is taking standardized tests, like the SATs, and her mother pressures her to do well on them. A local neighborhood boy, Jonathan, is headed to Stanford, and her mother makes her go and retrieve his used SAT prep books. What she doesn't know, though, is that Mina and Jonathan's relationship isn't very solid right now, and it's because of events that recently transpired between them.

At the same time, the family hires a migrant teen, Ysrael, to work at their dry cleaning store, and he and Mina start to become close. Mina also helps care for her younger sister, Suna, who has hearing issues.

The ending of this book is not your typical HEA (Happily Ever After), but I found it to be realistic. I did think it was a bit abrupt, but it may have been a result of the story being so short. If you are the parent of a teen, have ever been a teen (and remember those years well), or like YA literature, you will enjoy this book.

3.5 stars out of 5.
{Click here to purchase}

GIVEAWAY:

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Friday, November 17th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be contacted via email the next day and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen. 

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Wait for Me, by An Na

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Book Review: The Radius of Us, by Marie Marquandt

Guest review by: Erin Krajenke

"And then what happened? The toffee sticks to my teeth, almost forcing my mouth shut, so I can’t tell this nice woman how I felt that night. How I walked to my car, on legs exhausted from a double shift at the restaurant. How I went alone through the dark August night. How humid the air felt - so humid that its heaviness pressed down on my bare shoulders. I didn't want to stop to get my mother half-and-half. I didn't want the smell of fried chicken clinging to my scalp...I do not want to tell this nice woman how I was halfway to my car, the only car left parked against the curb. I don't want to tell Karen how I had been late to work twelve hours earlier, how I had barely squeezed my economy car into the only remaining spot on this now-abandoned street. I do not want to tell her how I heard him first, his feet pounding, and how I turned to see him running toward me, with crazed eyes. How my legs launched into a run, trying to close the distance to my car. I didn't see his body when it slammed against my back. I only felt it, hurling us both to the ground. And then he pressed my face against the cracked sidewalk and wrenched my hands above my head. I felt his knee in my back, smelled his stale breath, warm against my cheek. He dug his hand into my pockets, and I freaked. I felt his hand near my crotch, and I knew he would try to pull my pants off. I bit his arm and he flinched. My red lipstick smeared across his forearm. I saw it there, part of me on him. That's when I tried to break free. I flipped my body over and struggled to stand. He punched me in the gut. I was on the ground, lying on my side, folded over myself. He kicked me, maybe twice, until I was flat on my stomach. Then he dug through my pockets. 

"Please don't hurt me," I heard myself beg quietly, over and over. I think what I really wanted to say was, Oh please, God, don’t rape me. Please don’t. He was on top of me again, holding me down with his body while his hands roved. I could see his face, his smooth skin and his wide brown eyes. I couldn't look away, because his eyes looked terrified. They looked as scared as I felt. "Be still," he said. "Don't make me hurt you." I squirmed, feeling his hands there. "I don't want to hurt you, I need money." Could that be true? I wished I'd had a purse so he could just take it and go, but my money was shoved into my front pockets. Tips - ones and fives, split with the wait staff. He pulled my phone from my pocket and threw it aside. He found the cash and pulled me to my feet. "Leave," he said, "Run!" And then he was gone. Just like that. I watched him sprint away, a wad of my money in his hand. He told me to run. Why did he tell me to run? I could not run. Everything hurt. I wasn't even sure I could stay on my feet. I reached for my phone..."He came up to you and what happened, Gretchen?" Karen asks. "He took my money," I say. "I had cash in my pocket - tips - he took them out and ran away. That's all" A lie. I lie to my mom, staring out the window. I lie to my dad, gripping my knee. I lie to the nice prosecutor, Karen, and to myself. I lie because there's more. This isn't even the most disturbing part, the part I've forbidden myself to think about or acknowledge. The part I can’t tell myself. 

This book is told from alternating points of view: Gretchen, an 18-year-old American girl from Georgia who experienced ‘an incident’ as it was referred to by her in the story; and Phoenix, a 19-year-old asylum seeker from El Salvador, currently living in Georgia with a sponsor family. Right off the bat, I was enjoying this book. The flow was an easy pace and I liked Gretchen. While she seemed to have something that troubled her caused by the incident, she still seemed like she was trying to get her life back together and was a smart and fun character. And Phoenix seemed like a good person trying to escape gang life in El Salvador and make a better life for him and his little brother in America.

Official synopsis:
Ninety seconds can change a life ― not just daily routine, but who you are as a person. Gretchen Asher knows this, because that’s how long a stranger held her body to the ground. When a car sped toward them and Gretchen’s attacker told her to run, she recognized a surprising terror in his eyes. And now she doesn’t even recognize herself.

Ninety seconds can change a life ― not just the place you live, but the person others think you are. Phoenix Flores Flores knows this, because months after setting off toward the U.S. / Mexico border in search of safety for his brother, he finally walked out of detention. But Phoenix didn’t just trade a perilous barrio in El Salvador for a leafy suburb in Atlanta. He became thatperson ― the one his new neighbors crossed the street to avoid.

Ninety seconds can change a life ― so how will the ninety seconds of Gretchen and Phoenix’s first encounter change theirs?

Told in alternating first person points of view,
The Radius of Us is a story of love, sacrifice, and the journey from victim to survivor. It offers an intimate glimpse into the causes and devastating impact of Latino gang violence, both in the U.S. and in Central America, and explores the risks that victims take when they try to start over. Most importantly, Marie Marquardt's The Radius of Us shows how people struggling to overcome trauma can find healing in love.

While I liked all of the minor characters in this book from Gretchen’s friends, to Phoenix’s sponsors and other people he met during his journey, I started to get annoyed with the main characters. Probably because this is a teen love story, and it seemed trivial to me that they were comparing Gretchen’s ‘incident’ with Phoenix’s experience, which was much more traumatic. Honestly, the first paragraph insinuates that ‘something more’ happened to Gretchen that she won’t let herself think about, and honestly, I don’t think they mentioned it. And if they did, it was fleeting and trivial and I forgot it. 

What started off a strong independent character (Gretchen) slowly seemed to get weaker and more annoying to me. And her suddenly getting over something so troubling to her because of a boy was bothersome. I liked the Spanish that was peppered throughout the story and some of the minor details of the other characters, but the love story seemed weak to me and made me lose interest in the characters and the overall story.

This was not my cup of tea ... 2 stars out of 5.

Erin Krajenke is a chatty Virgo. She also wishes that every day was Taco Tuesday.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Book Review: The Diabolic, by S.J. Kincaid

Guest review by: Karen Doerr

“You are extraordinary.”

“What?” The word slipped from me in a stunned whisper. I had been waiting, dread-filled, but there was nothing but admiration in his voice.

“He spat out more blood. “I understand the brute power, the speed, but where did you learn technique?”

I blinked. Normally I disliked any questions about my upbringing in the corrals, but since I’d just nearly killed him, I felt I owed him an answer…

As a sci-fi nerd, I found the premise of The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid intriguing. I’m not normally big fan of Young Adult fiction, but this one managed to keep my attention. I found it very similar to The Hunger Games and would recommend it to any one who enjoyed that series.

Official Synopsis:
A Diabolic is ruthless. A Diabolic is powerful. A Diabolic has a single task: Kill in order to protect the person you’ve been created for.

Nemesis is a Diabolic, a humanoid teenager created to protect a galactic senator’s daughter, Sidonia. The two have grown up side by side, but are in no way sisters. Nemesis is expected to give her life for Sidonia, and she would do so gladly. She would also take as many lives as necessary to keep Sidonia safe.

When the power-mad Emperor learns Sidonia’s father is participating in a rebellion, he summons Sidonia to the Galactic court. She is to serve as a hostage. Now, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia. She must become her. Nemesis travels to the court disguised as Sidonia—a killing machine masquerading in a world of corrupt politicians and two-faced senators’ children. It’s a nest of vipers with threats on every side, but Nemesis must keep her true abilities a secret or risk everything.

As the Empire begins to fracture and rebellion looms closer, Nemesis learns there is something more to her than just deadly force. She finds a humanity truer than what she encounters from most humans. Amidst all the danger, action, and intrigue, her humanity just might be the thing that saves her life—and the empire.

One of the things I liked most about the book was how it managed to throw a little bit of everything into the mix to appeal to a wider audience. Enough blood was present to remind me how dangerous the main character really was. Just as I was craving a bit of romance, a kiss would suddenly appear and make my heart flutter. I feel that this whole review could have been me explaining the different aspects from different genres and well known stories which were so skillfully combined. I also genuinely liked Nemesis, the main character. It was fun to explore this alien world through eyes lacking tear ducts. The author did a good job of twisting the usual coming of age story with a monster finding her own heart.

Overall, I enjoyed this light read. The author presented an interesting world where humanoids are a common fixture among the upper classes. As with most Young Adult fiction, the writing is at times a bit fast paced and I wished that more time had been devoted to describing this society. I favorably compare it to The Hunger Games, but of course there are some stark differences. I don’t want to go into too much detail about the plot but the one thing that I found the book really lacked was an understanding of daily life for those not among the Elite. While I did understand the motives of the rebellion, I couldn’t sympathize with the everyman plight as all of my interactions were with the upper crust. It really could have taken a page or two out of Star Wars.

3 stars out of 5.
{Click here to purchase}


Karen K. Doerr is a Hufflepuff from District 6 who takes her coffee with far too much sugar.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe, by Melissa de la Cruz {ends 11/8}

She turned then to face her reflection. It was true: at twenty-nine and as partner at the second most successful hedge fun in NYC, she didn't look a day over twenty-four. She was confident in her good looks and considered herself to be just as gorgeous as everybody told her she was. Her slender, heart-shaped face boasted elegantly chiseled cheekbones; a lightly freckled, ski-slope nose; big, stormy grey eyes shuttered by naturally long lashes; and a perfectly pouty set of pale pink lips.

... 

See, it is a truth universally acknowledged that any beautiful, brilliant, single women who is rich as hell will be in want of a husband. She'd heard it time and time again.

This novel is Melissa de la Cruz's contribution to the Jane Austen craze, but with a slight twist: it's Darcy Fitzwilliam, the woman, who is the rich and successful one here, and who falls in love with one of her high school friends, Luke Bennet, a carpenter.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe, by Melissa de la Cruz
Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe from New York Times bestselling author, Melissa de la Cruz, is a sweet, sexy and hilarious gender-swapping, genre-satisfying re-telling, set in contemporary America and featuring one snooty Miss Darcy.

Darcy Fitzwilliam is 29, beautiful, successful, and brilliant. She dates hedge funders and basketball stars and is never without her three cellphones―one for work, one for play, and one to throw at her assistant (just kidding). Darcy’s never fallen in love, never has time for anyone else’s drama, and never goes home for Christmas if she can help it. But when her mother falls ill, she comes home to Pemberley, Ohio, to spend the season with her family.

Her parents throw their annual Christmas bash, where she meets one Luke Bennet, the smart, sardonic slacker son of their neighbor. Luke is 32-years-old and has never left home. He’s a carpenter and makes beautiful furniture, and is content with his simple life. He comes from a family of five brothers, each one less ambitious than the other. When Darcy and Luke fall into bed after too many eggnogs, Darcy thinks it’s just another one night stand. But why can’t she stop thinking of Luke? What is it about him? And can she fall in love, or will her pride and his prejudice against big-city girls stand in their way?


This was a fast and easy read. I'm a fan of books that provide a twist on Austen—Curtis Sittenfeld's Eligible was great—but it was hard for me to get into this one. I definitely laughed at the quote above, about the "truth universally acknowledged" (a spin off of one of Austen's quotes from the original book) but otherwise, I actually found Darcy to be a little unlikeable.

Darcy has an on-and-off-again relationship with Carl, whom her father really wanted her to marry in high school—that was the original plan, to stay in Pemberley, Ohio (Darcy's hometown) and be a housewife or whatnot—but instead, Darcy left for NYC and established a life for herself there. When Darcy finally agrees to marry Carl, it's because Luke is already taken, so she figures that she'll just settle down since she can't have Luke.

I'm aware that de la Cruz was probably being glib for most of this book, and/or taking a stab at the original (the characters in the original are just as ridiculous) but I'll be honest and say I was a little disappointed in it, versus the other books of hers that I've read. Her other recent book, Alex & Eliza, was also a romance, albeit a historical one, and I liked that novel much more.

If you're looking for a quick and easy read, though, this would fit the bill, and fans of Austen will appreciate the gender switch-up, which I did as well—and especially that you can be a successful woman and not *need* a man by your side, until you choose to have one, like Darcy did here.

2.5 stars out of 5.
{Click here to purchase}

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Wednesday, November 8th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be emailed the next day and must respond with 24 hours, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe book

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Book Review: Happy People Read and Drink Coffee, by Agnes Martin-Lugand

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

One last time, I snuggled up against Colin’s side of the bed, my head buried in his pillow, and cuddled Clara’s favorite soft toy; my tears made them damp. The alarm clock went off and I got out of bed, like a robot.

Reading Happy People Read and Drink Coffee wasn’t exactly the carefree pool read I’d been planning on, but I definitely wanted to know how everything ended for Diane and the others in her life. Maybe there can be a rule against saying ‘happy’ in the title, and then having a lot of the book be sad?

Official synopsis:
Book Review: Happy People Read and Drink Coffee, by Agnes Martin-Lugand
Diane seems to have the perfect life. She is a wife, mother, and the owner of Happy People Read and Drink Coffee, a cozy literary café in Paris. But when she suddenly loses her husband and daughter in a car accident, the world as she knows it disappears.

One year later, Diane moves to a small town on the Irish coast, determined to heal by rebuilding her life alone-until she meets Edward, a handsome and moody photographer, and falls into a surprising and tumultuous romance.

But will it last when Diane leaves Ireland for good? At once heartbreaking and uplifting, Diane's story is deeply felt, reminding us that love remembered is love enduring.

I was originally expecting a hipster, coffee-shop, feel good book when I started reading this on the plane to Vegas, but I learned better in a hurry. As I was flying away from my children and husband for almost a week, I got to read about Diane losing her family and the crushing effect it had on her.

Luckily, she finally chooses to move on (thanks for not giving us a lot of the depressing year or so in the apartment!) and relocates. Who hasn’t had that dream of running away before?

In Ireland, the shadows of Paris slowly lift, and she finds her way through a totally different normal. Learning her way around a whole new world is exciting an terrifying all at once. The romance that develops is reasonably predictable, but after the tragedies in the beginning, I was happy for the change of pace. The ending admittedly threw me for a loop, and I still haven’t decided if that was good or bad.

Overall, the descriptions and characters make this book worth the read. It was also a nice length for a flight, layover, and waiting around between conference meetings. I could read a few pages and not end up confused, which is perfect for a book I just had along for extra entertainment.

I’d give it 3 out of 5 stars.
{Click here to purchase}


Becki Bayley loves hearing her children giggle, oatmeal scotchies, and baby sloth videos. She’s been blogging in SE Michigan since March 2002 at www.sweetlybsquared.com.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Without Merit, by Colleen Hoover {ends 10/30}

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Without Merit, by Colleen Hoover

My father is an atheist, although that isn't at all why he chose to purchase the foreclosed house of worship and rip it from the hands of the people. No, God had no say in that matter.

He bought the church and closed the doors simply because he absolutely, vehemently, without doubt, hated Pastor Brian's dog, and subsequently, Pastor Brian. 

Funny story about this book: I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I actually had forgotten that I had signed up for the book tour (thanks, past self ...) and almost didn't review it. Without Merit is definitely a book that you cannot skip.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Without Merit, by Colleen Hoover
The Voss family is anything but normal. They live in a repurposed church, newly baptized Dollar Voss. The once cancer-stricken mother lives in the basement, the father is married to the mother’s former nurse, the little half-brother isn’t allowed to do or eat anything fun, and the eldest siblings are irritatingly perfect. Then, there’s Merit.

Merit Voss collects trophies she hasn’t earned and secrets her family forces her to keep. While browsing the local antiques shop for her next trophy, she finds Sagan. His wit and unapologetic idealism disarm and spark renewed life into her—until she discovers that he’s completely unavailable. Merit retreats deeper into herself, watching her family from the sidelines, when she learns a secret that no trophy in the world can fix.

Fed up with the lies, Merit decides to shatter the happy family illusion that she’s never been a part of before leaving them behind for good. When her escape plan fails, Merit is forced to deal with the staggering consequences of telling the truth and losing the one boy she loves.

Poignant and powerful,
Without Merit explores the layers of lies that tie a family together and the power of love and truth.

This novel reminded me a bit of the Running with Scissors family combined with elements of David Sedaris's books. Merit is a twin, but isn't close with her sister, Honor. They live with their brother, Utah; half-brother, Moby (named after Moby-Dick, not the singer); father, Barnaby; step-mother, Victoria; and biological mother, also named Victoria, who lives in the basement. On top of all of that, they live in a church that their father bought from foreclosure just to spite the local pastor. 

All of the characters created here are very unique, which is why I liked the novel so much. Merit likes to collect trophies—but not trophies she personally has won, but rather, trophies that she finds in thrift stores. Her sister, Honor, likes to pursue relationships with teen guys who are on the brink of dying; her first boyfriend died during their relationship, and for some reason that stuck with her. Another relative gets thrown into the mix later on, too, which shakes up the family dynamic, and there are also secrets revealed by Merit in the latter half of the novel which threaten to break up the family.

My only complaint about this book is that the last few chapters take a while to wrap up—all of the plot points had mostly been finished, but the novel continued on for a few more chapters.

Other than that, I really enjoyed this book, and I'll have to check out more novels by Colleen Hoover in the future.

4.5 stars out of 5.
{click here to purchase}

GIVEAWAY:

Enter to win below. This is a group giveaway that the other blog tour participants and I are hosting on our blogs.

Five lucky winners will receive a signed hardcover copy of Without Merit!

Giveaway will end on Monday, October 30th.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Book Review: Where We Fall, by Rochelle B. Weinstein

Guest review by: Erin Krajenke


There were times as a child and young adolescent—before I could give words to my fears and inner thoughts—that I actually wished for calamity. If only that Rottweiler had taken a bite out of my leg, an area that healed quickly and didn't leave any long-term bruises. If only I could actually faint, instead of always feeling faint. If only something truly terrible would happen to me, then maybe my parents would have dragged me to a doctor and experts would have studied me to find out exactly what was wrong. Because I was sure there was something really broken in me.

… I have held Ryan back for as long as I can remember. What started as a mistake has grown progressively worse. Sometimes the guilt consumes me. I wish I could be a better wife, a better mother, though my handicaps prevent me from doing normal things that most women take for granted.

…"Baby, this doesn't have to be a bad thing. It’s been hard, for you, for us, but you mostly, for a long time."  "You're being kind."  "Heck, I've suffered. We've all suffered." "Are you giving up on me?" I cry out, feeling the separation wedge a space between us. "I'm fighting for you, Abs. Even if it means we fight. If this gets you better, I'll do whatever it takes." A montage of Ryan playing the hero reminds me of all the reasons I must go. He is picking me up from the mall because I can't catch my breath, and I'm having what I believe is the third heart attack of the week. He is hugging me in our bed while waves of panic ripple through me. He thinks he can push the waves back to sea, though I know he can’t. But he tries. He is looking me in the eyes when I am in the throes of a depressive episode, and he is telling me how beautiful I amnot just outside but insideand how he wishes I could see in myself a fraction of what he sees. And then there's the time we were flying to Dallas for the weekend and the turbulence got so badI was sure we were going down. The vodkas weren't the best decision. He had to carry me off the plane.

This story involves the aftermath (and kind of still continuation) of a love triangle amongst three friends, one of whom is suffering from a mental illness.  This book is told from multiple points of view (Ryan, Abby, Lauren, and Juliana) which I always enjoy in a novel. Sometimes I feel like just telling a story from multiple perspectives can create even more turmoil in a story due to the reader being privy to personal thoughts and information.

Official synopsis:
By all accounts, Abby Holden has it all.  She's the mother of a beautiful teenager and the wife of a beloved high school football coach. And all it took to achieve her charmed life was her greatest act of betrayal.

Coach Ryan can coax his team to victory, but he can't seem to make his wife, Abby, happy. Her struggles with depression have marred their marriage and taken a toll on their daughter, Juliana. Although this isn't the life he's dreamed of, he's determined to heal the rifts in his family.

Chasing waterfalls and documenting their beauty has led photographer Lauren Sheppard all around the world.  Now it has brought her back home to the mountains of North Carolina - back to the scene of her devastating heartbreak.

For the first time in seventeen years, a trio of once-inseparable friends find themselves confronting past loves, hurts, and the rapid rush of a current that still pulls them together.

I have read a lot of books with characters dealing with mental illnesses recently and I like that the books have been told from their perspective as well as others to give you an idea of what someone with mental health issues is dealing with. I really enjoyed the chapters where Abby is getting the help she needs and is actually getting better, being happy, and loving herself and life.

However, that was about the only part of the book I enjoyed. The love triangle just didn’t do it for me…mostly because it happened 17 years ago and they are still wallowing in it…get over it and move on already. Each character is pointing the blame when in fact, I feel they were all to blame for at least part of the problem…and it happened 17 years ago. As I said, get over it. I guess I just had a hard time really caring about the characters or their love triangle. But I did like the light it shed on mental illness, how hard it is for the individual and their loved ones, how hard getting help might be, and then seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

…I know there's no finish line; that this never ends. I'm learning how to fall, dust myself off, and take the next step. I'm also weeks into a really good antidepressant and a mild anti-anxiety medication. They definitely help. I will probably remain on these drugs for the rest of my life. ‘Stigma’ is a terrible word in the world of quiet sufferers....when a patient presents with symptoms of diabetes or heart disease, and the treatment is lifelong, the general population accepts the diagnosis as a matter of physical health. Unfortunately, diseases of the brain are classified and perceived differently than diseases of the body. Your brain forms your personality. Your behavior is the result of the disease, of the brain misfiring. It's easier to separate blame and fault from an impaired kidney or a damaged aorta than from an obsessive, compulsive, phobic person.

Start rating: 3 out 5 …but a low 3.
{Click here to purchase}


Erin Krajenke is a chatty Virgo. She always has coffee when watching radar (and she hopes someone gets this Spaceballs reference).

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Borrowed Souls, by Chelsea Mueller {ends 10/20}

Callie Delgado needed a soul.

Her brother had been kidnapped, his captors were blackmailing her, and here she was, outside one of the most unusual pawn shops in all of GEm City, about to rent one. She just needed to force herself to walk the twenty steps to the Soul Charmer's front door. The one wedged in a dirty, rundown building on a dirty, rundown street in the dirty, rundown part of town. It was the last place she wanted to be, but the one place she had to go.

Fate was kind of a dick like that. 

Borrowed Souls had been sitting in my TBR pile for a few months now, but the concept of the novel had always intrigued me. I finally had a chance to read it this week when traveling (airplane time = no interruptions reading time!), and if you like dystopian and/or fantasy novels, you will like this one.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Borrowed Souls, by Chelsea Mueller
Callie Delgado always puts family first, and unfortunately her brother knows it. She’s emptied her savings, lost work, and spilled countless tears trying to keep him out of trouble, but now he’s in deeper than ever, and his debt is on Callie’s head. She’s given a choice: do some dirty work for the mob, or have her brother returned to her in tiny pieces.

Renting souls is big business for the religious population of Gem City. Those looking to take part in immoral—or even illegal—activity can borrow someone else’s soul, for a price, and sin without consequence.

To save her brother, Callie needs a borrowed soul, but she doesn’t have anywhere near the money to pay for it. The slimy Soul Charmer is willing to barter, but accepting his offer will force Callie into a dangerous world of magic she isn’t ready for.

With the help of the guarded but undeniably attractive Derek—whose allegiance to the Charmer wavers as his connection to Callie grows—she’ll have to walk a tight line, avoid pissing off the bad guys, all while struggling to determine what her loyalty to her family’s really worth.

Losing her brother isn’t an option. Losing her soul? Maybe.


This is actually "Soul Charmer #1," and the ending definitely leaves things open for a sequel, although there isn't one listed on Goodreads as of this writing.

Callie is trying to save her brother from some mobsters, so to speak, and so she goes into a sort of "indentured servitude" agreement with the Soul Charmer, a slimy guy who rents out souls. By the end of the novel, though, things are still not finished with him, which sets things up for the next book in the series.

Dystopian novels are usually some of my favorite to read. I found the idea of "renting souls" to be fascinating, especially when they talk about how the second soul co-exists (or tries to ...) with the owner's original soul. I don't believe they say what year it is, in the novel, but it's implied that it's sometime within the near future.

There's a bit of a romance angle with Derek and Callie, too, which integrated nicely into the book—it didn't overtake the main story, which was Callie trying to get her older brother out of trouble, but was a side plot.

3.5 stars out of 5.
{Click here to purchase}

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a paperback copy of Borrowed Souls!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Friday, October 20th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be notified the next day via email and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. and Canadian residents only, please.

Good luck!

Borrowed Souls paperback copy

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Book Review: The Outliers, by Kimberly McCreight

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“Give me your arm,” I say to Jasper without looking at him. He hesitates, then holds a bicep out toward me. I wrap a couple of fingers around his bare elbow, which was supposed to feel less weird than actually holding his muscular arm. But does not. “I just need you to walk me to your car. Don’t ask why, please. I’m not going to tell you anyway.”

And then I close my eyes. Because pretending I’m not actually doing this couldn’t hurt either.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: The Outliers, by Kimberly McCreight
It all starts with a text: Please, Wylie, I need your help. Wylie hasn’t heard from Cassie in over a week, not since their last fight. But that doesn’t matter. Cassie’s in trouble, so Wylie decides to do what she has done so many times before: save her best friend from herself.

This time it’s different, though. Instead of telling Wylie where she is, Cassie sends cryptic clues. And instead of having Wylie come by herself, Jasper shows up saying Cassie sent him to help. Trusting the guy who sent Cassie off the rails doesn’t feel right, but Wylie has no choice but to ignore her gut instinct and go with him.

But figuring out where Cassie is goes from difficult to dangerous, fast. As Wylie and Jasper head farther and farther north into the dense woods of Maine, Wylie struggles to control her growing sense that something is really wrong. What isn’t Cassie telling them? And could finding her be only the beginning?

I knew nothing about The Outliers when I picked it up, and wasn’t sure quite what it would be about at the beginning. It was a marvelous psychological thriller, not only with mind games, suspense, and deceit, but even with the basis of the story dealing with psychological research. By a few pages in, some of the back story fell quickly into place.

This was definitely a page-turner, and I can’t wait to read the next book! Not gonna lie, it did take me a few pages to figure out, and then remember, that Wylie was a girl (named after her grandfather, as it turned out). I did end up intrigued by several of the characters, and it sounds like they’ll be back in the next book.

I can’t think of much I didn’t like about this book, and I’m in a hurry to get to the next one. While most of the reading I do is just for my own entertainment and enjoyment, I feel like a 5 star should give me something more than just escaping from a few hours of my life. I’d give this a solid 4 out of 5 stars.


Becki Bayley loves fuzzy slippers, artichokes with butter, and the feeling of contentment that comes from seeing her children safe at home. She’s been blogging in SE Michigan since March 2002 at www.sweetlybsquared.com.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Her Every Fear, by Peter Swanson {ends 10/17}

Guest review by: Erin Krajenke

Her stomach folded again, starting to cramp. When did I last go to the toilet, she thought, and her panic ratcheted up a notch. It was such a familiar feeling: heart speeding up, limbs turning cold, the world sharpening before her eyes. But she knew what to do. Her therapist's voice was in her head. It's just a panic attack, an accidental surge of adrenaline. It can't hurt you, or kill you, and no one will notice it. Just let it happen. Float with it. Ride it out.

But this one's different, Kate told herself. The danger felt real. And suddenly she was back at the cottage in Windermere, crouched and cowering in the locked closet, her nightgown wet with urine, George Daniels on the other side of the door. She felt almost like she'd felt then, cold hands inside of her, twisting her stomach like it was a damp dish towel. There'd been the gunshot blast, then the terrible silence that lasted for hours and hours. When she'd finally been pulled from the closet, her joints stiff and her vocal cords raw from screaming, she didn't know how she was still alive, how the fear hadn't killed her.

I am not typically a fan of suspense/mystery novels, but I enjoyed this book. It took me about 20% of the way to get into this book but once I got into it, I could not put it down!

Official synopsis:
Book Review: Her Every Fear, by Peter Swanson
Growing up, Kate Priddy was always a bit neurotic, experiencing momentary bouts of anxiety that exploded into full-blown panic attacks after an ex-boyfriend kidnapped her and nearly ended her life. When Corbin Dell, a distant cousin in Boston, suggests the two temporarily swap apartments, Kate, an art student in London, agrees, hoping that time away in a new place will help her overcome the recent wreckage of her life.

Soon after her arrival at Corbin's grand apartment on Beacon Hill, Kate makes a shocking discovery: his next-door neighbor, a young woman named Audrey Marshall, has been murdered. When the police question her about Corbin, a shaken Kate has few answers, and many questions of her own-curiosity that intensifies when she meets Alan Cherney, a handsome, quiet tenant who lives across the courtyard, in the apartment facing Audrey's. Alan saw Corbin surreptitiously come and go from Audrey's place, yet he's denied knowing her. Then, Kate runs into a tearful man claiming to be the dead woman's old boyfriend, who insists Corbin did the deed the night that he left for London.

When she reaches out to her cousin, he proclaims his innocence and calms her nerves--until she comes across disturbing objects hidden in the apartment and accidentally learns that Corbin is not where he says he is. Could Corbin be a killer? What about Alan? Kate finds herself drawn to this appealing man who seems so sincere, yet she isn't sure. Jet-lagged and emotionally unstable, her imagination full of dark images caused by the terror of her past, Kate can barely trust herself, so how could she take the chance on a stranger she's just met?

As I said, I am not typically a fan of suspense/mystery novels (my nerves cannot take it!), but I enjoyed this book. This novel was probably not as suspenseful as most books in this genre, but it held my interest the entire way through which seems to be a rarity for me these days. The book was told through multiple points of view which I always enjoy in a book since it gives you a different perspective or understanding of the various characters.

With that said, I still feel like Kate was the main character and I really enjoyed her, which I think helped me enjoy the book. There were not as many twists and turns as I expected, but I guess that helped to keep the story more realistic. This book was a nice easy read that I might put on par with The Girl on the Train, but better.

To quote Liz: 3.5 stars out of 5, so I will round up to 4.
{Click here to purchase}


Erin Krajenke is a chatty Virgo. She also likes eating, reading, and petting all the doggos.

GIVEAWAY:

Three of my lucky readers will win a copy of Her Every Fear!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, October 17th, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be notified the next day via email, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner(s) will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Her Every Fear book

Monday, October 2, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Feast of Sorrow, by Crystal King {ends 10/10}

Guest review by: Karen Doerr

“You are wondering why I’m chopping vegetables with you.” It wasn’t a question.

“The thought had crossed my mind, Dominus.”

He pushed the chopped carrot to the side and took up the parsnips. “When I am in the kitchen, making food, it is as though the gods are with me.”

“What do you mean, Dominus?” I was not accustomed to asking my master questions, but Apicius seemed to be inviting conversation.

“I feel a sense of calmness, of true competence, infusing me. The same energy fills me when I am chopping and stirring, or when I discover a new wine vintage. Such culinary experiences bring me great pleasure.”


As a foodie and history buff, I was excited to start Feast of Sorrow by Crystal King. I thought that it would combine my two greatest loves into a story of political ambition with a hint of tragedy. What I got instead was an overly long, complicated and quite frankly, dull story. Such a shame for a concept that had amazing potential!

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Feast of Sorrow, by Crystal King
Set amongst the scandal, wealth, and upstairs-downstairs politics of a Roman family, Crystal King’s seminal debut features the man who inspired the world’s oldest cookbook and the ambition that led to his destruction.

On a blistering day in the twenty-sixth year of Augustus Caesar’s reign, a young chef, Thrasius, is acquired for the exorbitant price of twenty thousand denarii. His purchaser is the infamous gourmet Marcus Gavius Apicius, wealthy beyond measure, obsessed with a taste for fine meals from exotic places, and a singular ambition: to serve as culinary advisor to Caesar, an honor that will cement his legacy as Rome's leading epicure.

Apicius rightfully believes that Thrasius is the key to his culinary success, and with Thrasius’s help he soon becomes known for his lavish parties and fantastic meals. Thrasius finds a family in Apicius’s household, his daughter Apicata, his wife Aelia, and her handmaiden, Passia, with whom Thrasius quickly falls in love. But as Apicius draws closer to his ultimate goal, his reckless disregard for any who might get in his way takes a dangerous turn that threatens his young family and places his entire household at the mercy of the most powerful forces in Rome.


As strange as it sounds, I’ve had a keen interest in the dietary habits of Ancient Rome for quite a while. I have to believe that when your god of wine doubles as the god of ritual madness, you know how to have a good time. I admired Lucilius’ mentality and have occasionally referred to solitary meals as dining with myself. It saddens me that Rome has turned away from dormice and garum, as much as I do love modern Italian cuisine. I was hoping that this novel would expound on my knowledge. While the author had clearly done her research on the topic, I think her factoids would be better appreciated by someone with a little less background on the topic.

We discover at the end of the story that one of the main characters was a true historical figure. I think it would have been better to present this at the beginning to give some perspective. It at least would have explained the title. The over-arching story depends on the reader becoming emotionally invested in the main characters. This took much longer to build than I would have thought as so many characters are initially presented. It doesn’t help that the naming traditions leave many key figures with similar sounding names. One also needs to keep in mind that one character may be called many different things depending on who is speaking. It took me a while to sort it all out. It would have been helpful to have a character guide of some sort.

My biggest complaint about the book was how quickly conflict seemed to be resolved. The author would present something that left me wondering how it would be handled, only to have it wrapped up in a neat package two paragraphs later. I doubt that I would have finished the book if I had just picked it up from the library.

2 stars out of 5.
{Click here to purchase}


Karen K. Doerr is a self-proclaimed glutton with a habit of watching food documentaries while eating take out. She can usually be heard complaining that her jeans shrunk in the wash. 

GIVEAWAY:

Enter via the widget below to win a hardcover copy of Feast of Sorrow.

Giveaway will end on Tuesday, October 10th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be notified the next day via email, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Feast of Sorrow hardcover book

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Book Review and SIGNED copy giveaway: Class Mom, by Laurie Gelman {2 winners, ends 10/4}

Subject: Getting to know me - your new class mom

Hello, parents of Miss Ward's kindergarten class!

My name is Jennifer Dixon and I have "volunteered" to be your class mom for this coming year. Since this is a thankless job, don't expect warm fuzzy emails like you probably got in preschool. Wake up! You're in kindergarten on the mean streets of William H. Taft Elementary School, and it's time to face a few facts. The main one is that I'm in charge and I have some strong suggestions to make this an easy year for all of us, especially me.

First and foremost, read the school's @#$%& weekly email! It may seem boring, but it actually gives good information and keeps me from having to answer questions like "When is curriculum night?" (See below, by the way, for the answer to that one)

This is Laurie Gelman's first novel, and I found myself laughing out loud while reading it. If you enjoy books written with a hilarious first-person POV, you will enjoy this one.

Official synopsis:
Laurie Gelman's clever debut novel about a year in the life of a kindergarten class mom - a brilliant send-up of the petty and surprisingly cutthroat terrain of parent politics.

Jen Dixon is not your typical Kansas City kindergarten class mom—or mom in general. Jen already has two college-age daughters by two different (probably) musicians, and it's her second time around the class mom block with five-year-old Max—this time with a husband and father by her side. Though her best friend and PTA President sees her as the-wisest-candidate for the job (or oldest), not all of the other parents agree.

From recording parents' response times to her emails about helping in the classroom, to requesting contributions of-special-brownies for curriculum night, not all of Jen's methods win approval from the other moms. Throw in an old flame from Jen's past, a hyper-sensitive -allergy mom,-a surprisingly sexy kindergarten teacher, and an impossible-to-please Real Housewife-wannabe, causing problems at every turn, and the job really becomes much more than she signed up for.

Relatable, irreverent, and hilarious in the spirit of Maria Semple this is a fresh, welcome voice in fiction--the kind of novel that real moms clamor for, and a vicarious thrill-read for all mothers, who will be laughing as they are liberated by Gelman's acerbic truths.


I love books that include emails, and this one included all of the emails from Jen, as class mom, to the kindergarten class. The emails were hysterical, too, and some of the parents didn't know what to make of them, although they were meant to be light-hearted and sarcastic.

Jen is in her mid-40s, so she's one of the older moms in the class; her son, Max, is her third child, and her two daughters are in their 20s and in college. This isn't her first rodeo, but parents these days are definitely more demanding than 15-20 years ago, and as class mom, she has to make sure everyone is accommodated, or at least their children are.

Jen was definitely a funny character, and because the book is written in first-person POV (point of view), we get to see inside her head a bit too. One of her friends asked her to sign up for class mom (a job she would probably not normally sign up for), and Class Mom follows her throughout Max's kindergarten year, and all of the trials and tribulations that pop up along the way.

The supporting characters here were well-written, too: from her husband, Ron, to her friends and trainer, who actually ends up dating one of her friends.

Although I'm fairly certain that this is a standalone book, I wouldn't mind seeing a sequel, as we get a peek of the future (Max's 1st grade year) at the end of the novel, too.

Fun fact, too: if you are a fan of Regis & Kelly (aka Live with Kelly & Ryan in its current incarnation), you might have heard of the producer, Michael Gelman - Laurie Gelman is his wife. I didn't figure this out until I read her bio (she lives in NYC) and remembered Regis yelling "Gelman!" all of the time, ha ... and then when I Googled it, I then put the pieces together.

4 stars out of 5.
{Click here to purchase}

GIVEAWAY:

Enter via the widget below. Two of my lucky readers will each win a signed copy of Class Mom!

Giveaway will end on Wednesday, October 4th, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be contacted the next day via email, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen. 

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Class Mom - 2 autographed copies

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Elizabeth has read 2 books toward her goal of 70 books.
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