Monday, August 31, 2015

Monday Book Review: UNDER A BLOOD MOON by Rachel Graves, #TWRP

Under a Blood Moon, By Rachel Graves
Published 2015 by The Wild Rose Press

About the Book:

Mallory Mors, death witch and detective with Baton Rouge’s Supernatural Investigative Unit, controls every aspect of death; she can even touch a dead body and know how it died. When she’s called to the scene of the city’s first zombie attack, her magic leads her to a voodoo queen who claims to be controlled by werewolves.

The Werewolf Protection League, a political organization fighting for werewolf rights, insists they have nothing to do with the killings. As the kidnappings and murders continue, everyone becomes a suspect. Aided by her boyfriend, a six hundred year old vampire, and all the supernatural citizens of her city, Mallory fights to close a case that may claim her life.

My Take:

In a world where supernatural creatures are commonplace, Mallory Mors is still unusual. She is a Death Witch, the last of her kind, and she works in the supernatural division of her local police department. She can touch a dead body and know how they died, as well as visit a crime scene and "see" the murder occur. She can also raise the dead, but she's not the one creating zombies and stirring up her city. She is, however, the one they call on to solve the crime.

Except, it turns out that the zombies aren't the real problem. That would be the out-of-control werewolves.

This story jumps in midstream and keeps up a swift pace. I kept thinking that maybe I'd missed the first book in the series, but, no, this is book one. The author drags us along for a wild ride, filling in the blank spaces along the way. If you enjoy Charlaine Harris's supernatural South, you will love this sassy take from a new author. Rachel Graves does a wonderful job of revving the engines and keeping her foot on the gas pedal for a fast, fun ride.

I loved Mallory's insecurities, her funky witch friends and her steaming hot vampire boyfriend. The plot twists kept me turning pages, although I have to admit the some of Mallory's choices were head scratchers. When you're investigating bloodthirsty werewolves DON'T GO ALONE. Shades of Jamie Lee Curtis, for goodness sakes!

Despite her occasional lack of good sense, I really liked the main character and can't wait to read her next adventure. (And Rachel Graves, there had better be a next adventure soon! Fans are waiting!)

Totally recommend this book for fans of Harris's Sookie Stackhouse and J.C.McKenzie's Andrea McNeilly. Paranormal romance and adventure at its hottest!

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, August 24, 2015

MONDAY BOOK REVIEW: ANY WAY YOU SLICE IT, by Kristine Carlson Asselin, #YA

Any Way You Slice It
By Kristine Carlson Asselin
Published April 2015 by Bloomsbury Spark

About the Book:
Penelope Spaulding just can't catch a break. Between long hours at the family restaurant, homework, and her parents' plans for her future, it's hard to find a spare moment to breathe. But when she laces up her skates and steps on the ice, everything slips away...

Racing around the rink allows her to blow off steam after yet another fight with her dad about going to culinary school. So when Jake Gomes, the bad boy who lives down the street, dares her to join the Rink Rats, the local misfit hockey team, she surprises herself and joins in silent defiance of her father and his expectations.

The more she plays, the easier it is to keep lying, and soon Pen finds it impossible to come clean. She’s sneaking out to practice—and loving every minute of it. It doesn’t take long for her to fall in love with hockey…and Jake’s not half bad either. But she knows it can’t last. As soon as her dad finds out, she’ll be benched. For good.

She’s absolutely not going to tell her parents until she’s sure it will be worth the inevitable fight. Not only is she skipping shifts at Slice Pizza while a foodie reality show is on the horizon, but her lies are starting to take their toll on her game. It’s only a matter of time before everything falls apart.

With the team counting on her and with her relationship with Jake on the line, will she have to sacrifice the thing she wants most for the people she loves? Or can she step up and take her best shot?
 My Take:

A wonderful tale of first love and self discovery! This contemporary YA is written in first person POV of the 15 year old narrator, Penelope "Penn" Spaulding, the local "Pizza Princess" of her small NH town.

Her family owns the best pizza restaurant on town, that's just been chosen for a reality show feature, adding stress to the family dynamic. If that weren't enough, Penn is also fighting with her dad about not wanting to be in the pizza business for the rest of her life, or go to culinary school for college. A run in with a local bad boy at the ice rink gives her a way to rebel against her strict father, but things spiral out of control quickly and Penn finds herself lying to everyone in her life.

A quick and totally absorbing read, I finished this in a few hours and loved every minute. The pacing was perfect and the narrator's anxiety as she loses control of the situation was almost palpable. I loved Penn's fresh, honest voice and the dynamics between her family. Wish this was in paperback so I could give it to my niece to read, but for now it's ebook only.

Grab your copy on AMAZON today

Monday, August 17, 2015


Map to the Stars, by Jen MalonePublished 2015 by Epic Reads Impulse, an imprint of Harper Collins

About the Book:
Author Jen Malone draws on her real-life experiences as a movie studio publicist to bring you an insider peek at love, Hollywood-style.

The California dream was supposed to give seventeen-year-old Annie Shelton a fresh start far removed from her dad’s unusual betrayal. But when things don’t go according to plan in La La Land, Annie’s mom snags a last-minute gig as makeup artist to a teen movie idol and finagles a spot for her daughter on his European promotional tour.

Down-to-earth Annie would rather fangirl architectural sights than an arrogant A-lister. That is, until behind-the-scenes Graham Cabot turns out to be more sweetly vulnerable than she could have imagined.

Too bad falling for a poster boy isn’t all red carpets and star treatment, especially when you factor in obnoxious fans, an overprotective assistant, a stage mom/manager, and a beefy bodyguard.

But it isn’t until the paparazzi make an appearance that things get really sticky…
My Take

What a fun contemporary YA romance! Yes, the premise of the movie star falling for the nobody narrator is a cliche at this point, but Jen Malone does it so well, and adds such realistic details that it made it such fun to read! The first person POV is both fresh and refreshing as her small town heroine gets her first taste of Hollywood, making a mess of things along the way.

Annie Shelton grew up in Georgia, so far from the bright lights of LA that she was never interested in tabloid gossip or crushing on hot movie stars. Her best friend Wynn was the total opposite and a great counterpoint to Annie's hard focus on reality. When Annie and her mom move out to California, its not to pursue dreams, but to escape the reality of her father's deception.

Graham Cabot grew up in LA-LA-land, on screen from an early age, and now a genuine movie star at seventeen. Girls throw themselves at him all the time, but the real Graham is actually a little shy and insecure. He admits to Annie that he's never had a real girlfriend, hasn't even had real friends since his elementary school years, before the fame and fortune changed his life.

Their budding relationship is cute and sweet, and the one-POV storytelling has the reader riding along with Annie's confusion at Graham's shifting attitudes and emotions. I won't give away any more of the story except to say the ending is totally satisfying and everything worked out the way I wanted it to.  This is a standalone read, no series or setup for the next book, which I also found refreshing. Quick, satisfying contemporary YA romance of first love and self discovery that I can totally recommend!

Get it on Amazon HERE

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Writing Wednesday: Have you heard of Book Gorilla?

In a meeting with my new YA publisher last week, she gave me a to-do list of items to complete and social media sites to investigate. Now, I consider myself fairly competent on the social media front, but I'd never even heard of Book Gorilla.

I spent a chunk of my morning investigating, and it seems to be similar to Book Bub: another free newsletter you can sign up for, indicate your preferences, and they will send you a daily email with all the bargain ebooks that fit your reading needs. It's also different than Book Bub in that it's slightly more interactive for the authors, who can set up author pages and presence on the site.

I signed up. We'll see how it goes. I'm still not sure how I monetize a presence there, but I'm there.

The thing is, there are new social media sites and spots you need to be cropping up all over the place. In March when I participated in a YA round table at a few local schools, I ended up having to create an Instagram account, because I was the only one out of the six of us who didn't have an account. And not because I was the oldest, either.

And then there's my lame Triberr account - I haven't signed on in so long that my feed went inactive. Again. So my Twitter friends/Triberr buddies haven't been tweeting my posts out like they used to, and my blog traffic has definitely fallen off as a result.

How does anyone keep up with it all?

I just want to write. Edit. Sell books. Ebooks and social media make keeping an online presence a necessity. But they take up such a chunk of time that it cuts into actual writing time.

Anyone have ideas as to how to handle this social media pressure to be present? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Monday, August 10, 2015

Monday Book Review: ALL THAT'S UNCLAIMED and ALL THAT'S UNREALIZED by Constance Phillips, #romance

ALL THAT'S UNCLAIMED, Sunnydale Days #2
by Constance Phillips
Published January 2015 by Turquoise Morning Press

About the Book:

Ben Crawford is forced to face the ghosts of his past after his mother’s accident and Anna Jenkins’s announcement she’s starting her own stables. Only then does he find the strength to hold on to all he’s left unclaimed.***
Ben Crawford has always believed the professional respect and acceptance he desired couldn’t be found at Sunnydale Farms. There were just too many ghosts residing in his broken home. Only when Anna Jenkins, the one constant at his mother’s therapeutic riding facility, announces she is leaving to start her own stables is Ben forced to grasp hold of all he’s left unclaimed.

My Take:

Constance Phillips writes with heart and longing, a wonderful combination in a sweet, small town romance. I love the way she lets us know the characters, their emotions, their dreams, and their fears, as if the reader is part of the same small town circle of friends.

We met Anna Jenkins in the first book of this series, as the sister of one of the main characters. She's worked at Sunnydale Farms since she was a teen in love with horses, and is now a riding instructor in their hippotherapy program while also doing a little bit of everything to keep the farm running. In  All That's Unspoken, Anna was blamed for the death of a horse and realized how tenuous her situation could be, placing her dreams for the future at the whims of her employer. She decided she needs to be her own boss and own her own farm and riding program. She just didnt count on Ben Crawford finally coming home.

Ben Crawford is the son of Sunnydale Farm's owner and matriarch, and has a serious chip on his shoulder. His father left to follow the rodeo circuit when Ben was young, leaving him and his mother to tend the farm alone and make ends meet. It was his idea to take the farm from merely training and stabling horses to being a certified hippotherapy center, but he feels like he will never have the respect and recognition he craves from his mom...and his father, who's back in town with his new family.

Ben is home now with his Masters in therapeutic riding techniques and training, and noticing that Anna has grown up in the time he's been away. He doesn't know she's always had a secret crush on him, nor does he realize she's planning on buying her own place and leaving Sunnydale, now that he's back to help his mom.

Sparks fly with their very first kiss, but both Ben and Anna are afraid to claim what they truly desire, not just in their relationship with each other but with their hopes and dreams for the future.

Of the three books in the series, Anna is my favorite heroine, but Ben is my least favorite hero because he is a little too caught up in his own head, busy being a little too selfish in his insecurity. He seems younger and more unsure of himself than he should be, given his age and his academic accomplishments, but his story arc into claiming his dream is all the more satisfying.

This sweet romance is the second book in the series, but can easily be read and enjoyed as a standalone. All three books leave everything but a few kisses firmly behind closed doors, well off the pages, and the ever present horses in this story make it a great fit for horse-obsessed teens as well as older fans of sweet romance. Constance Phillips is a wonderful storyteller, and knows how to write a satisfying happily ever after.

 ALL THAT'S UNREALIZED, Sunnydale Days #3
by Constance Phillips
Published February 2015 by Turquoise Morning Press

About the Book:
It’s what the doctor ordered for Rhonda Gables, owner of three successful boutiques: four weeks of rest between winning this season’s Retail Project and claiming her prize. Rhonda must decide if being a TV reality show star is worth leaving behind her loved ones, including the increasingly appealing Trevor Collins.

In a month, fashion mogul and reality TV judge Conrad Ryse, of The Retail Project fame, has promised to take Rhonda Gables under his wing and invest in her fledgling career. That’s her grand prize after a winning season on his show. Too bad exhaustion has sent Rhonda out of her city apartment, away from her three successful boutiques, and into her cousin’s guest room for a month of recuperation in her hometown.

She’s on the cusp of everything she’s ever wanted, but what will it cost? Doctor’s orders be damned, she balks at first. But soon Rhonda is both delighted and disconcerted by the attentions of her friend-maybe-lover, Trevor Collins, and the contentment she is surrounded by back home. She must realize all she’s willing to compromise and all her heart truly desires.


Rhonda Gables just finished a grueling season as a contestant on a fashion reality show-- and won! Bright lights, big city fame and fortune -- all the things shes always dreamed of are right within her grasp. She has one month  to design runway-worthy dresses for the final test: if she passes, she'll be offered a job as a designer for an exclusive label, otherwise she merely takes home the cash prize. Obviously, career-driven Rhonda is going for the job, burning the candle at both ends until severe exhaustion lands her in the hospital.

The doctor insists she take a few weeks to recuperate, and she ends up staying with her cousin Hailey, back in her little hometown where life is slower paced but no less complicated. She realizes her feelings for her friend Trevor Collins are more than platonic, and it scares her. She doesn't want to be trapped in her hometown when the New York fashion world is finally within her reach. But being forced to slow down her whirlwind pace also forces her to take a closer look at what's important in life, and at the way true success should be defined.

Trevor is caring, sexy, and has a little plot line of his own regarding his own work/life choices, but this is really Rhonda's story. She's the one who needs to take a deep breath and realize what it is that makes her truly happy, and what she wants out of life. I love the way the author lets her characters go through their thought and growth processes in a natural way, including the insecurities each feels at taking the plunge into a new relationship.

This is a short and sweet romance, with all but the briefest of kisses happening behind firmly closed doors. The POV alternates between Rhonda and Trevor, and it's interesting to see how insecure each of them feels despite all outward appearances of confidence. Watching them each conquer certain insecurities is wonderful, and I love the way the author wraps up the ending. HEA all the way, and I loved it.

This book is part of a series and has characters that have been introduced (and featured) in other books. All That's Unrealized stands on its own and can be fully enjoyed just fine with or without the other stories, and makes for a sweet afternoon of reading by the pool.


...and while you're at it, get the first book in the series

Friday, August 7, 2015

FRIDAY FEATURE: New YA Release! SWEET MADNESS, by Trisha Leaver and Lindsay Currie

Today we’re celebrating the release of the Sweet Madness ebook by Trisha Leaver and Lindsay Currie. Sweet Madness is a retelling of the infamous Borden Murders told from the POV of Lizzie’s Irish maid, Bridget Sullivan.

Seventeen-year-old Bridget Sullivan is alone in Fall River, a city that sees Irish immigrants as nothing more than a drunken drain on society. To make matters worse, she's taken employment with the city’s most peculiar and gossip-laden family—the Bordens. But Bridget can’t afford to be picky—the pay surpasses any other job Bridget could ever secure and she desperately needs the money to buy her little sister, Cara, passage to the states. It doesn’t hurt that the job location is also close to her beau, Liam. As she enters the disturbing inner workings of the Borden household, Bridget clings to these advantages.

However, what seemed like a straightforward situation soon turns into one that is untenable. Of course Bridget has heard the gossip around town about the Bordens, but what she encounters is far more unsettling. The erratic, paranoid behavior of Mr. Borden, the fearful silence of his wife, and worse still...the nightly whisperings Bridget hears that seem to come from the walls themselves.

When Bridget makes a horrifying discovery in the home, all that she thought she knew about the Bordens is called into question...including if Lizzie is dangerous. And the choice she must make about Lizzie’s character could mean Bridget’s life or death.

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | BAM | The Book Depository | Powell’s

What Readers Are Saying

“This thrilling novel will keep readers on their toes until the last page. Fans of historical fiction and horror will thoroughly enjoy this book.” —VOYA Magazine

“The portrait of the claustrophobic, creepy Borden household and its denizens, Lizzie especially, is grippingly vivid.” -Kirkus

“Engaging historical novel that gives readers another glimpse into the infamous Lizzie Borden.” -YA Book Central

“Dark, creepy and overall fantastically moody; SWEET MADNESS remains firmly entrenched in the Hitchcock side of horror.” -Fangirlish

About the Authors

Trisha Leaver lives on Cape Cod with her husband, three children, and one rather disobedient black lab. She is a chronic daydreamer who prefers the cozy confines of her own imagination to the mundane routine of everyday life. She writes Young Adult Contemporary Fiction, Psychological Horror and Science Fiction and is published with FSG/ Macmillan, Flux/Llewellyn and Merit Press.

Trisha is a member of the SCBWI, The Cape Cod Writers Center, and the YA Scream Queens—a group of nine female authors who are deathly serious about their horror.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Tumblr

Lindsay Currie lives in Chicago, Illinois with one incredibly patient hubby, three amazing kids and a 160 pound lap dog named Sam. She's fond of tea, chocolate and things that go bump in the night.

An author of young adult and middle grade fiction, Lindsay is published with Flux/Llewellyn, Merit Press and Spencer Hill Contemporary.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram


To celebrate the ebook release, the authors are giving away a very special swag pack: A custom, exclusive bookmark, an exclusive image of the Borden house taken by photographer Frank C. Grace, and signed bookmarks.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, August 3, 2015

Monday Book Review: BECOMING JINN by Lori Goldstein

Becoming Jinn, by Lori Goldstein
Published April 2015 by Feiwel & Friends, an imprint of Macmillan
About the Book:
Forget everything you thought you knew about genies!

Azra has just turned sixteen, and overnight her body lengthens, her olive skin deepens, and her eyes glisten gold thanks to the brand-new silver bangle that locks around her wrist. As she always knew it would, her Jinn ancestry brings not just magical powers but the reality of a life of servitude, as her wish granting is controlled by a remote ruling class of Jinn known as the Afrit.

To the humans she lives among, she’s just the girl working at the snack bar at the beach, navigating the fryer and her first crush. But behind closed doors, she’s learning how to harness her powers and fulfill the obligations of her destiny.

Mentored by her mother and her Zar “sisters”, Azra discovers she may not be quite like the rest of her circle of female Jinn . . . and that her powers could endanger them all. As Azra uncovers the darker world of becoming Jinn, she realizes when genies and wishes are involved, there’s always a trick.

I met this author at a recent YA event on Cape Cod, and really liked her a lot. She was fun to chat with, easy to get along with, and I bought a hard copy of her book to give my niece who is currently performing in a stage production of Aladdin. While I enjoyed reading the story myself, I'm not going to be giving it as a gift for various reasons that can be summed up as inappropriate behavior that doesn't elicit appropriate consequences. I think the storyline as written would probably be better suited to an 18-year-old protagonist instead of 16, and a New Adult audience rather than a Young Adult one. But let me start at the beginning.

Azra is a moody sixteen-year-old full of attitude and a healthy disregard for rules, which leads her into all kinds of trouble. We meet her the morning of her sixteenth birthday, when she's just been granted her full powers as a Jinn, a magical race of genies who live in the human realm and grant wishes, like in storybooks but with a slight twist. A human only gets one wish, and they won't remember that the jinn granted it. The jinn also don't get to choose whom to grant wishes to, the almighty Afrit council does that for everyone.

Azra has felt different and left out for most of her life, or at least ever since her best friend (a human) died in an accident where magic couldn't save her. Since that day, she's resented the magic and been scornful of the powers her race possess. What good are powers if they can't save the people you love? She feels like a loner in the human world, unwilling to get close to anyone again, and a loner in her own Jinn circle, unwilling to embrace the magic. Now sixteen, she has no choice but to face the magic and its consequences.

She makes some really poor choices, which is normal in YA/NA, but each bad choice seems to lead to more, and get her deeper into trouble. Some bad choices lead to surprising discoveries, shedding light on secrets that have been shadowed all her life. I felt frustrated when some of the teen's bad choices didn't seem to have repercussions - for example, the teen Jinns use their magical powers to conjure fake IDs and get great tickets to see their favorite band. The parents don't seem to care about their daughter's underage drinking, or limit their use of powers. At one crucial point in the plot, there is more underage drinking that leads to tragedy, but nothing seems to happen to the teens who cause the problems. Yes, YA is supposed to have characters who push the rules and limits, but it doesn't hurt to show the trouble the rule breaking may cause and have the characters face their consequences.

The world and myth building is wonderful, and I loved the backstory to the Jinn and their powers. The troubled and complicated relationships between mothers and daughters all ring true, as well as the complicated relationship Azra has with her Jinn sisterhood. I enjoyed the author's writing style, storytelling and use of language, but felt as though some crucial bits might have been cut or curtailed by a well-meaning editor, leaving some of the scenes a little more hollow than I would have liked and a little loose around the timeline. And unfortunately, the story ends without a satisfying HEA or happy-for-now ending, making me NEED to read the next book to tie the loose ends that this one left dangling in the wind.

All in all an enjoyable read, and I'm looking forward to grabbing the sequel next spring.