The Girl I Used to Be by April Henry | Mini Book Review

July 6, 2017 Book Review, Young Adult 0 ★★

The Girl I Used to Be by April Henry | Mini Book ReviewThe Girl I Used to Be by April Henry
Published by Christy Ottaviano Books on May 3, 2016
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 240
Format: Audiobook
Source: From the Publisher
Amazon Add to Goodreads
2 Stars
When Olivia's mother was killed, everyone suspected her father of murder. But his whereabouts remained a mystery. Fast forward fourteen years. New evidence now proves Olivia's father was actually murdered on the same fateful day her mother died. That means there's a killer still at large. It's up to Olivia to uncover who that may be. But can she do that before the killer tracks her down first?

Ok… I think I’ve officially given up on April Henry. This is my third book from her and I haven’t liked any of them. I’m honestly surprised that I’ve given her books this many chances, although they are usually very short and very fast reads, so maybe I keep trying because her books are easy to get through if I’m behind on my Goodreads goal. Wow. That sounds harsh. And don’t get me wrong, I think young teens might really enjoy them. I just think they read a little younger than most YA mysteries I’ve read and loved over the years (like Dangerous Girls, for example).

I feel like there was not much thought put into this story. Things seemed very flat, and the characters all very shell-like… the kind of stock characters that get thrown into stories to fill roles but not connect with you or make you feel anything. The story itself was not suspenseful or exciting, and the anticlimactic ending left me wondering why I even bothered wasting my time. Everything that did happen felt very convenient, as though there was a checklist of things that needed to happen for the book to end when it was time to end. Many things felt unbelievable to me as well. A 17 year old doesn’t just move herself into a new town and start interrogating all these strangers about the intimate details of the lives of her murdered parents without raising some suspicion. Why did these people even talk to her at all, much less tell her the things that they did? I don’t understand. Everything ended so quickly, but nothing was really explained. Rather than tying up loose ends and explaining why things happened, the author cut those loose ends off bluntly and chose to not explain anything at all. It could have been better. Maybe not much better, but almost anything would have been better than what I got.

So… Goodbye, April Henry. I had such high hopes for finding a YA author that writes a ton of mysteries because I LOVE THEM, but unfortunately I’ll have to keep looking for an author that puts a little more thought into their stories. I did like the appeal of Henry’s short mysteries because sometimes I just want a quick escape, but I’d rather read a longer novel that is more complex, more thought out, less convenient, and more exciting.

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Nimona by Noelle Stevenson | Mini Book Review

July 3, 2017 Book Review, Graphic Novel, Young Adult 1 ★★★★★

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson | Mini Book ReviewNimona by Noelle Stevenson
Published by HarperCollins on May 12, 2015
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Graphic Novel
Pages: 272
Format: Hardcover
Source: Gift from Secret Sister
Amazon Barnes & Noble Add to Goodreads
5 Stars
Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the legions of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren't the heroes everyone thinks they are.

But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona's powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

I’d never ever been interested in graphic novels. Sadly, I fell prey to the assumptions that come with the word “graphic”. Instead of pictorial representations of stories, I was thinking “graphic” in the negative context, so I never felt inclined to pick one up. I was also convinced that there was no way I’d be reading an actual story with any depth to it. I’ve always assumed that stories took back seats to the illustrations as far as graphic novels are concerned. I’d been seeing so many friends fall in love with spunky heroine Nimona, however, that I decided I’d trust them and give it a go!  Nimona may have been my first graphic novel, but it certainly will not be my last!

Nimona was a fast and entertaining read. I really liked the illustrations for the most part, and Nimona’s snarky, take-no-crap attitude was very refreshing and also hilarious. I liked her a lot. The story, which centers on villainous shenanigans, was deep enough that I felt like it was an actual story and not a series of pow!s, bam!s, and zap!s, but not so deep that it was too complicated to illustrate. You can’t expect the amount of depth from a graphic novel that you can from a 500-page fantasy, but I did feel like this story had enough meat to it that it will stick with me.

I’m so glad I gave Nimona a try! I can tell that I will never prefer graphic novels to traditional novels, but it’s so nice to add some variety to my to-be-read list. Sometimes I like something a little fluffier or something that can distract me for a day, and that’s why I’ve come to appreciate graphic novels. It also helps that I’m artsy. lol. I think Nimona was a great gateway graphic novel for me. I enjoyed the characters, the story, the storytelling, the illustrations, and the kind of book I could read very quickly and enjoy over the course of a few hours. It reminded me of watching a movie, and that was very fun for me.

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Debut Author Challenge 2017: July-September Review Link-Up

July 1, 2017 Debut Author Challenge 0

Hi all! Can you believe the year is officially halfway done?? I can’t! 2017 is FLYING, and I’m having trouble keeping up.

I hope you’re all enjoying your summer so far! It’s hot here, but not so hot that I’m dying yet. Either we’re lucky this summer, or the worst is still to come. I’m hoping for the former. I really dislike the heat. Some of you are just entering winter, and I’m jealous. Do you like the hot weather or the cold weather?

If you’re trying to stay on track by reading one debut a month, that means you’ve read 6 up to this point. Which has been your favorite? Which ones are you still looking forward to over the next 6 months? I’m excited to read Last Star Burning by Caitlin Sangster, A Short History of the Girl Next Door by Jared Reck, and Wicked Like a Wildfire by Lana Popović.

Some things to remember:

– This is the review link-up for all debut reviews you write in July, August, and September. This does not mean that the books you review have to be published during these three months. You can read and review any debut, any month of the year.

– In order to get credit for your review, you must have read the book in 2017. If you read an ARC of a 2017 debut in 2016, it does not count. (I don’t want people with access to ARCs to have an advantage over those who don’t.)

– It’s never too late to join the fun! If you’d like to join or make sure you’re signed up, there is a sign-up list and list of participants located in the Debut Author Challenge tab at the top of my blog.

– I’m here if you have any questions at all, so don’t hesitate to shoot me a message via Twitter or comment!

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Top Ten Series I’ve Been Meaning To Start But Haven’t

June 19, 2017 Top Ten Tuesday 7


Top Ten Tuesday is hosted over at the other blog I write for, The Broke and the Bookish.

I love series, but I also hate them. I love getting LOTS of time in the worlds that I love, with the characters that I love. But at the same time, there’s always a long wait between books and there’s always so much to remember! I really suck at finishing series, which has made me super leery of starting them. Needless to say, I have started a LOT of series… but I found a whole bunch more I’d like to start anyway, so it was hard to narrow it down to ten!

Legend Trilogy
by Marie Lu

Graceling Realm Trilogy by Kristin Cashore

Bridgertons Series by Julia Quinn

The Wanton Dairymaid Trilogy by Tessa Dare

From Manhattan With Love Series by Sarah Morgan

Sevenwaters Series by Juliet Marillier

Pink Carnation Series by Lauren Willig

Snow Like Ashes Trilogy by Sara Raasch

Lucky Harbor Series by Jill Shalvis

Scarlet Trilogy by A.C. Gaughen

How do I even prioritize these?
Any I should push ahead of the others? Any I should not even bother with?
Which of these would you love to start soon, too?


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The Debut Dish: Kayla Olson, A.V. Geiger, Gillian French, Gwen Cole, & Christina June (+ Giveaways)

June 18, 2017 Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway 6

The Debut Dish, a bi-monthly Debut Author Challenge feature, is where you go for the scoop on some pretty awesome debut authors and their new books! Hopefully these interviews will inspire you to add many, many more books to your to-read list. Because, really, who doesn’t need more books in their lives?

This issue of The Debut Dish features Kayla Olson (The Sandcastle Empire), A.V. Geiger (Follow Me Back), Gillian French (Grit), Gwen Cole (Cold Summer), and Christina June (It Started With Goodbye).

The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson
June 6, 2017 from HarperTeen
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

When all hope is gone, how do you survive?

Before the war, Eden’s life was easy—air conditioning, ice cream, long days at the beach. Then the revolution happened, and everything changed.

Now a powerful group called the Wolfpack controls the earth and its resources. Eden has lost everything to them. They killed her family and her friends, destroyed her home, and imprisoned her. But Eden refuses to die by their hands. She knows the coordinates to the only neutral ground left in the world, a place called Sanctuary Island, and she is desperate to escape to its shores.

Eden finally reaches the island and meets others resistant to the Wolves—but the solace is short-lived when one of Eden’s new friends goes missing. Braving the jungle in search of their lost ally, they quickly discover Sanctuary is filled with lethal traps and an enemy they never expected.

This island might be deadlier than the world Eden left behind, but surviving it is the only thing that stands between her and freedom.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Survival—but at what cost?

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
Ahhh, such a tough question! So many of my favorites are close to the end of the book, or at places where there are big reveals. I also love any time there are quiet moments on the island’s beach, where the girls are trying to figure out their new normal—how to be, with themselves and each other, in this new place. I also love the big flare-up moments that happen while they’re trying to figure those things out, too.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
In my office, lying on the floor, listening to a podcast—and then my phone rang, and everything changed. It was all very surreal!

What’s your favorite junk food?
Dark chocolate, for sure! The darker the better, bonus points if there is a spicy element to it.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
Probably this shiny gold robot whose head pops off to reveal a ballpoint pen? I also have a dilophosaurus made of Legos, which I might have permanently borrowed from my little guy’s collection…

Don’t miss the opportunity to win a copy!

Follow Me Back by A.V. Geiger
June 6, 2017 from Sourcebooks Fire
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

Tessa Hart’s world feels very small. Confined to her bedroom with agoraphobia, her one escape is the online fandom for pop sensation Eric Thorn. When he tweets to his fans, it’s like his speaking directly to her…

Eric Thorn is frightened by his obsessive fans. They take their devotion way too far. It doesn’t help that his PR team keeps posting to encourage their fantasies.

When a fellow pop star is murdered at the hands of a fan, Eric knows he has to do something to shatter his online image fast—like take down one of his top Twitter followers. But Eric’s plan to troll @TessaHeartsEric unexpectedly evolves into an online relationship deeper than either could have imagined. And when the two arrange to meet IRL, what should have made for the world’s best episode of Catfish takes a deadly turn…

Told through tweets, direct messages, and police transcripts.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Fangirl + Popstar + Twitter + Love = CREEP-ITUDE

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
My favorite scenes are all the Twitter direct message conversations between the two main characters. Tessa and Taylor develop a rich friendship through their shared celebrity obsession, but they’re both hiding secrets from one another. I love the interplay of truth and concealment as their friendship turns into something more… and all their lies come back to bite them.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was in my office on a Monday morning. I didn’t expect to hear anything that day. I’d been told the week before that the book had gone to acquisitions, and I should expect an answer by Friday afternoon. Friday came and went. I heard nothing. I assumed the silence meant they had passed. I spent the weekend drowning my sorrows with raw cookie dough and a marathon of New Girl episodes. Then, Monday morning I got the news. I’ll leave my reaction to your imagination. (It involved more cookie dough and lots of screaming.)

What’s your favorite junk food?
Currently obsessed with chocolate peanut butter cups.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
Besides the 7,000 empty peanut-butter-cup wrappers? Probably the pile of scrap paper where I was practicing my author signature. Book signings will be a new experience for me!

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Grit by Gillian French
May 16, 2017 from HarperTeen
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

His presence beside me is like heat, like weight, something I’ve carried around on my back too long.

It’s summer in rural Maine; when seventeen-year-old Darcy Prentiss isn’t raking berries with her sister, Mags, and cousin, Nell, during the day, she’s drinking and swimming with the boys in the quarry by night. She knows how to have a good time, just like anyone else, but when you’ve been designated the town slut, every move you make seems to further solidify your “trashy girl” reputation.

But the fun is what’s been keeping Darcy’s mind off the things she can’t forget: a disturbing secret she shares with Nell, the mysterious disappearance of her ex-best friend, and that hazy Fourth of July party that ended with Darcy drunk, on her back, wondering how she let it get this far.

Then someone in town anonymously nominates Darcy to be in the running for Bay Festival Princess—a cruel, almost laughable gesture that can only be the work of someone with a score to settle. Everything Darcy has been trying to keep down comes bubbling to the surface in ways she wasn’t prepared to handle…and isn’t sure if she can.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Dark, suspenseful, heartfelt.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
I’m not sure I can do this without spoilers! I’ll just say that it’s the climatic scene at the quarry; you’ll have to read it to find out more.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
In my living room. My husband played back the telephone message my agent had left (we had a landline and an old-school answering machine at the time) and found out HarperCollins was interested in Grit! I burst into tears; it had been a long road getting to that point.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Dark chocolate, hands-down.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
The hospital wristbands that my youngest son wore after his birth (he was born 2/1/17.)

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Cold Summer by Gwen Cole
May 2, 2017 from Sky Pony Press
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

Today, he’s a high school dropout with no future.
Tomorrow, he’s a soldier in World War II.

Kale Jackson has spent years trying to control his time-traveling ability but hasn’t had much luck. One day he lives in 1945, fighting in the war as a sharpshooter and helplessly watching soldiers—friends—die. Then the next day, he’s back in the present, where WWII has bled into his modern life in the form of PTSD, straining his relationship with his father and the few friends he has left. Every day it becomes harder to hide his battle wounds, both physical and mental, from the past.

When the ex-girl-next-door, Harper, moves back to town, thoughts of what could be if only he had a normal life begin to haunt him. Harper reminds him of the person he was before the PTSD, which helps anchor him to the present. With practice, maybe Kale could remain in the present permanently and never step foot on a battlefield again. Maybe he can have the normal life he craves.

But then Harper finds Kale’s name in a historical article—and he’s listed as a casualty of the war. Kale knows now that he must learn to control his time-traveling ability to save himself and his chance at a life with Harper. Otherwise, he’ll be killed in a time where he doesn’t belong by a bullet that was never meant for him.

Describe your book in five words or less.
A non-typical time-travel book.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
It’s actually the first WWII scene in the book, where the MC is sitting in a foxhole with another guy. It’s one of the first scenes that came to me when I starting writing the book.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
At home—boring I know. I love all those cool stories about people crying in public, but mine was nothing like that. My agent already told me Sky Pony was interested, so I kinda knew what was coming when the call finally came. Still an awesome moment, though.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Cheetos and Oreos (original double stuffed).

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
Actually, I don’t have a desk. Our house is pretty small, but one day I will have an office with a great desk. And when that day comes, the oddest thing will be a couple gamer figurines.

It Started With Goodbye by Christina June
May 9, 2017 from Blink/HarperCollins
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

Sixteen-year-old Tatum Elsea is bracing for the worst summer of her life. After being falsely accused of a crime, she’s stuck under stepmother-imposed house arrest and her BFF’s gone ghost. Tatum fills her newfound free time with community service by day and working at her covert graphic design business at night (which includes trading emails with a cute cello-playing client). When Tatum discovers she’s not the only one in the house keeping secrets, she finds she has the chance to make amends with her family and friends. Equipped with a new perspective, and assisted by her feisty step-abuela-slash-fairy-godmother, Tatum is ready to start fresh and maybe even get her happy ending along the way.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Modern Cinderella with no magic.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
My favorite scene is the very first one I wrote. My main character, Tatum is feeling sorry for herself because she’s found herself in a pickle, both legally and with her family. She’s been forced to attend an event for her stepsister. There, she bumps into a cute stranger with whom she has an undeniable connection. Tatum also takes the first step in advertising her new graphic design business at this event. So, it’s the scene where things start to take a turn for her, in some unexpected ways.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I think I had gone home from work sick that day and was actually laying in bed when the email came through. I burst out crying and called my husband, still in disbelief.

What’s your favorite junk food?
All of it? I love chocolate, pizza, all carbs, but the one I munch on mindlessly while writing is popcorn.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
I’m not sure if this counts as odd, but I have a Golden Girls mug right next to my monitor. My mom gave it to me because one of my characters in ISWG is a big fan of the show.

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Customizable, Promotional Book Flash Drives for Bloggers & Authors | Product Review

June 2, 2017 Product Review 1

I recently teamed up with the awesome people at USB Memory Direct, and could not be more thrilled with my experience! USB Memory Direct provides customizable flash drives in a number of different colors and styles, but of course my favorite one is the book-shaped one! Just take a look!


I’ve always been a fan of the idea of having my own branded flash drives for my graphic design portfolio to hand out with my resume, or to give my clients their products in a way that makes them remember who I am for a long time after our partnership has ended. But then I was pitched this book-shaped flash drive, and think of the possibilities! You can never have too many flash drives, so instead of printing business cards for your book blog why not get a batch of these to hand out to publishers, authors, and readers? I know it won’t end up in the trash like a stack of business cards might after a long day at BookExpo or ALA. What about ordering a batch to be included in giveaways you host on Twitter or on your blog? They are cute, classy, functional, and make you stand out from all the other book bloggers out there.

Authors! Did you know USB Memory Direct will make pretty much anything your heart desires? What about designing one of these book-shaped flash drives to help promote your upcoming release? I know I would love to receive one of these in a promotional swag pack. Publishers and libraries could also benefit from having a few custom drives laying around for visiting authors, conventions, and giveaways. Anything to get your name out there, right?

I received my first batch of book flash drives for That Artsy Reader Girl, and I LOVE them. Not only do they come in a ton of different storage sizes, USB Memory Direct’s customer service is amazing. I think Chelsea and I came up with probably 5 designs before I finally settled on the perfect one. I shot my logo over to her and then we worked together to come up with the best color combination (only two colors can be printed on these drives, so I had to picky about the colors I would use and make sure they showed up nicely on the wood). Even though the drives are produced in and shipped from China, they arrived quickly. Each drive was individually packaged in a plastic bag. I love the look and the feel of the real wood design. They are sturdy and of amazing quality. The printing is smooth and the colors are saturated. I couldn’t be happier, as they are just so cute! I’ve already received multiple demands from friends and family who are placing dibs on one. I only wish they had a split ring (or a drilled hole for me to add one myself) on them somewhere so I could put one on my keyring for easy access.

Bottom line, if you’re looking for a way to stand out in the crowd and promote yourself, your blog, your book, your library, your bookstore, your publishing house, or even just show off your favorite hobby I would definitely recommend checking out USB Memory Direct. You can choose between USB 2.0 and 3.0, and between 64 MB of storage all the way up to 128 GB. The people at USB Memory Direct will have your quote to you in less than 15 minutes, and will help you every step of the way. With reasonable prices, unbeatable customer service, and unique designs I can’t see why you’re still reading this blog post and not ordering your drives already!

This promotional post was sponsored by USB Memory Direct, who sent That Artsy Reader Girl custom flash drives in exchange for an honest, unbiased review of their product.

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The Debut Dish: Katie Nelson, Kate Watson, & Karen M. McManus (+ Giveaways)

May 28, 2017 Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway 8

The Debut Dish, a bi-monthly Debut Author Challenge feature, is where you go for the scoop on some pretty awesome debut authors and their new books! Hopefully these interviews will inspire you to add many, many more books to your to-read list. Because, really, who doesn’t need more books in their lives?

This issue of The Debut Dish features Katie Nelson (The Duke of Bannerman Prep), Kate Watson (Seeking Mansfield), and Karen M. McManus (One of Us Is Lying).

The Duke of Bannerman Prep by Katie Nelson
May 9, 2017 from Sky Pony Press
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

Words are weapons. Facts can be manipulated. And nothing is absolute—especially right and wrong.

Tanner McKay is at Bannerman Prep for only one reason: the elite school recruited him after he brought his public school’s debate team to victory last year. Bannerman wants a championship win. Debate is Tanner’s life—his ticket out of his poor-as-dirt life and family drama, straight to a scholarship to Stanford and the start of a new, better future.

But when he’s paired with the Duke, his plans for an easy ride seem as if they’ve hit the rails. The Duke is the quintessential playboy, beloved by everyone for his laissez-faire attitude, crazy parties, and seemingly effortless favors.

And a total no-show when it comes to putting in the work to win.

But as Tanner gets sucked into the Duke’s flashy world, the thrill of the high life and the adrenaline of existing on the edge becomes addictive. A small favor here and there seems like nothing in exchange for getting everything he ever dreamed of.

But the Duke’s castle is built on shady, shaky secrets, and the walls are about to topple down.

A contemporary retelling of The Great Gatsby, Katie Nelson’s taut debut is perfect for fans of John Green’s Looking for Alaska, Kate Brian’s Private series, and anyone who’s encountered the cut-throat world of competitive high school.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Great Gatsby meets debate team.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
There is a scene where the characters go to the beach for the first time. I love it because there have been some significant conflicts up to that point, and many of them get resolved there. But it opens the door for the drama that is to come in the rest of the novel.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was at home, doing something extremely exciting like washing dishes or folding laundry (I can’t remember). I got an email from my agent, but she didn’t have a bunch of details at that point. I remember texting my husband and friends and just being so thrilled!

What’s your favorite junk food?
Mint brownies and diet Pepsi. They cancel each other out. ;)

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A pile of Starburst wrappers (all pink).

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Seeking Mansfield by Kate Watson
May 16, 2016 from Flux
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

Sixteen-year-old Finley Price has perfected two things: how to direct a world-class production, and how to fly way, way under the radar. The only person who ever seems to notice Finley is her best friend, the Bertram’s son Oliver. If she could just take Oliver’s constant encouragement to heart and step out of the shadows, she’d finally chase her dream of joining the prestigious Mansfield Theater.

When teen movie stars Emma and Harlan Crawford move next door to the Bertram’s, they immediately set their sights on Oliver and his cunning sister, Juliette, shaking up Finley and Oliver’s stable friendship. As Emma and Oliver grow closer, Harlan finds his attention shifting from Juliette to the quiet, enigmatic, and thoroughly unimpressed Finley. Out of boredom, Harlan decides to make her fall in love with him. Problem is, the harder he seeks to win her, the harder he falls for her.

But Finley doesn’t want to be won, and she doesn’t want to see Oliver with anyone else. To claim Oliver’s heart—and keep her own—she’ll have to find the courage to do what she fears most: step into the spotlight.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Jane Austen meets Stephanie Perkins.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
One of my favorite scenes in the book has my main character, Finley, in a club setting, which is one of the most uncomfortable and triggering places that she can be. She gets a text from one of her godparents’ sons–Tate–that he needs something, and because she’s Finley, she runs to help him. In the course of ten minutes, she interacts with one of the sons, then the other, though in very different ways. The way they interact with her pushes her into wanting to do something she hasn’t done before: speak up. The scene ends with her seeing the famous Harlan Crawford and yelling at someone (him) for the first time in her life.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
Sitting at my kitchen table, working on another manuscript while my toddler was napping. I think I screamed loud enough to wake her up, but for once, I didn’t care (and if you’ve ever interacted with toddlers, you know how sacred nap time is). I called my husband immediately to tell him the news, and then I called my sisters and screamed some more with them. It was a pretty great day.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Here’s the reality: I *should* be contractually obligated by Diet Pepsi and Cadbury Mini Eggs to name them, given how much I consume them, how much I post on social media about them, and how much money I’ve given them. They really should be paying me at this point. But they’re not. So, um, water and…apples. Yeah, that’s right. Water and apples. (Take that, Diet Pepsi and Mini Eggs.)

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A sweater. It’s “spring” in Phoenix, which is code word for pushing 100*, so the presence of a sweater anywhere in my house is a sign that maybe I’m having a bit of a breakdown of some kind. Send help. Also ice. Or an ice cold Diet Pepsi…shoot. I’m advertising for them again, aren’t I?

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One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus
May 30, 2017 from Delacorte Press
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.

Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.

Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.

Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.

Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.

Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.

And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

Describe your book in five words or less.
The Breakfast Club, with murder.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
One of the best parts of having four narrators is throwing them together and letting them react to one another. In one scene, Bronwyn, Cooper, Addy and Nate are all called to the principal’s office after their secrets have been revealed. They’re suspicious of one another as possible murderers, but also drawn together as the only four people who can understand this strange, shared experience. That mix of distrust and reluctant bonding was fun to write.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was at a potluck dinner at my son’s school, chatting with his librarian, when the email came through. She was the first person I told.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Chocolate-covered pretzels.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
Not odd, exactly, but my publisher made pens with my characters’ names on them and I’ve gotten very attached to the Addy pen. It’s a great purple color. I keep writing notes I don’t need just so I can use it.

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Beautiful Storm by Barbara Freethy | DNF Book Thoughts

May 23, 2017 Adult Fiction, Book Review 2 DNF

Beautiful Storm by Barbara Freethy | DNF Book ThoughtsBeautiful Storm by Barbara Freethy
Series: Lightning Strikes #1
Published by Hyde Street Press on October 1, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Romance, Mystery, Romance, Romantic Suspense, Suspense
Pages: 321
Format: eBook
Source: Bought from Amazon
Amazon Add to Goodreads
DNF Stars
When her father's plane mysteriously disappeared in the middle of an electrical storm, Alicia Monroe became obsessed with lightning. Now a news photographer in Miami, Alicia covers local stories by day and chases storms at night. In a flash of lightning, she sees what appears to be a murder, but when she gets to the scene, there is no body, only a military tag belonging to Liliana Valdez, a woman who has been missing for over a year. While the police use the tag to jumpstart their stalled investigation, Alicia sets off on her own to find the missing woman. Her search takes her into the heart of Miami's Cuban-American community where she meets the attractive but brooding Michael Cordero, who has his own demons to vanquish. Soon Alicia and Michael are not just trying to save Liliana's life but also their own, as someone will do anything to protect a dark secret…

So… There are TONS of Barbara Freethy books out there and I’ve always been intrigued. Many of the story lines sound good, and I’ve collected her titles as I’ve seen them show up for free on Amazon. I had a hankering for a little romantic suspense and was eager to finally see if Freethy is an author for me. And… nope. She’s not.

The mysticism of the lightning was just a bit too over the top for me. The lightning calls Alicia to it because it wants to show her something? No… And I did not like the relationship between the two main characters. Plus, how dumb is Alicia? Michael is a person of interest in this case. He’s a suspect with a troubled past and a reputation. She has known him for a few hours and all of a sudden wants to shove herself into his life and his family to try and find his missing friend. She FLIES with him to Texas and stays in an ADJOINING ROOM after knowing him for like 12 hours. WHAT. She also has no problems at all voicing her opinions to his family and his friend’s family about things she has no right knowing about, much less has the ability to know about. She’s been a part of this case for a few HOURS and does not know anyone involved. They have been grieving and searching for MONTHS and have known the missing person and the people involved for lifetimes. So all because Alicia found a military ID in a park, she knows everything about the case? There was also some major instalove/lust going on that I was not on board with.

The dialogue was cringeworthy. Almost everything anyone said to anyone included their name. It kind of went like this:

“Alicia, aren’t you happy we know each other?”
“Yes, Michael, I am.”
“Mother, are you happy that Michael and I know each other?”
“Yes, Alicia, I am.”
“Oh, Alicia, I am so glad that your mother is happy we know each other.”
“I am too, Michael.”

Like… I went through and started counting the number of names used in the dialogue on each page and it was just awful! That’s not how people talk to one another, and I felt like the author legitimately thought that we were too dumb to follow the dialogue on our own so she used all the names to try and make sure we knew who was talking to whom.

The mystery itself was very boring and slow and I started skimming because I was mildly curious about what happened. But by about 60% my curiosity has been killed and I threw in the towel.

So basically, this was a complete and total flop. It was horrible. Maybe now I know why Freethy books are in abundance and I can almost always find one for free or very cheap… At least now I know.

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The Dreaded Blogging Slump | A Call for Advice/Commiserating

May 5, 2017 Discussion, Personal 10


Hello!! Remember me!? I’m the person who you think fell off the Internet. I’m here! I’m just having trouble finding my blogging mojo at the moment. I’m reading, but I’m months behind on writing reviews. I’m staying on top of the Debut Author Challenge, but not as much as I’d like. What’s happening to me!?

We all know I’ve been in grad school the last 3.5 years, so the blog took a back seat in my life. But I graduated in December! But then I went to Hawaii and California for a month. But I’ve been home!! I’ve been reading!! What’s going on? I still love reading and blogging, so that’s not the issue. I’m not going anywhere, so it’s not like I’m phasing myself out.

What do I do?? Has this happened to you? Any tips for getting a handle on the reviews I still need to write? How do I make blogging a priority again? Every time I think of sitting down to write a review I go to Netflix or play Two Dots on my phone because I’m great at adulting and being responsible. I used to be so ON IT. Anyone else feeling this way? I need some help. Or a blogging intervention.

Throw your thoughts at me, and while you’re at it tell me what you’ve been up to!

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The Debut Dish: Erin Beaty, Heather Maclean, & Kelly Garrett (+ Giveaways)

April 30, 2017 Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway 15

The Debut Dish, a bi-monthly Debut Author Challenge feature, is where you go for the scoop on some pretty awesome debut authors and their new books! Hopefully these interviews will inspire you to add many, many more books to your to-read list. Because, really, who doesn’t need more books in their lives?

This issue of The Debut Dish features Erin Beaty (The Traitor’s Kiss), Heather Maclean (Toward a Secret Sky), and Kelly Garrett (The Last to Die).

The Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beaty
May 9, 2017 from Imprint
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

An obstinate girl who will not be married.
A soldier desperate to prove himself.
A kingdom on the brink of war.

With a sharp tongue and an unruly temper, Sage Fowler is not what they’d call a lady―which is perfectly fine with her. Deemed unfit for marriage, Sage is apprenticed to a matchmaker and tasked with wrangling other young ladies to be married off for political alliances. She spies on the girls―and on the soldiers escorting them.

As the girls’ military escort senses a political uprising, Sage is recruited by a handsome soldier to infiltrate the enemy ranks. The more she discovers as a spy, the less certain she becomes about whom to trust―and Sage becomes caught in a dangerous balancing act that will determine the fate of her kingdom.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Jane Austen with espionage.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
I love them all, even the ones I cried about (either from angst from what was happening in the scene or because I was struggling to get it right), but the one that pops in my mind is when Sage goes to apologize to the matchmaker. I had an end result from the conversation in mind, but the way it ended up getting there was not what I expected. It became much richer and made the matchmaker a complex and likable character.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was in our family room with a movie on in the background – North and South, I think – ironing a whole bunch a shirts for a wedding when I found out I was going to an acquisitions board. When I got the news of an official offer, I was at my in-laws’ house, getting ready for the wedding’s rehearsal dinner – interestingly the very same room I was in when I got my future agent’s request for the full manuscript.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Chocolate covered pretzels. I hardly ever eat them, though, because if I do I eat them ALL.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A packet of stick-on bindis I got from Shaila Patel.

Extra Important Information:
Erin will be on the FierceReads tour May 9th-16th and also at the RT convention May 6th, so stop by to say hi if she’s near you!

Click here for details about Erin’s pre-order giveaway!

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Toward a Secret Sky by Heather Maclean
April 4, 2017 from Blink
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

Shortly after 17-year-old Maren Hamilton is orphaned and sent to live with grandparents she’s never met in Scotland, she receives an encrypted journal from her dead mother that makes her and everyone around her a target. It confirms that her parents were employed by a secret, international organization that’s now intent on recruiting her. As Maren works to unravel the clues left behind by her mother, a murderous madness sweeps through the local population, terrorizing her small town. Maren must decide if she’ll continue her parents’ fight or stay behind to save her friends.

With the help of Gavin, an otherworldly mercenary she’s not supposed to fall in love with, and Graham, a charming aristocrat who is entranced with her, Maren races against the clock and around the country from palatial estates with twisted labyrinths to famous cathedrals with booby-trapped subterranean crypts to stay ahead of the enemy and find a cure. Along the way, she discovers the great truth of love: that laying down your life for another isn’t as hard as watching them sacrifice everything for you.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Scotland, secret society, adventure, romance.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
When Gavin, the hero, is forbidden from entering Campbell Hall and must watch his love, Maren, enter on her own. His powerlessness makes him crazy, and he starts bashing his head against the trees. I love extreme physical fits of passion!

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
Driving carpool. My three kids go to three different schools, so I’m pretty much always driving carpool.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Snickers Bites. They should come with an addiction warning.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
My husband’s sgian-dubh (“SKEE-in due”), a traditional Highland knife he wears in his kilt hose.

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The Last to Die by Kelly Garrett
April 4, 2017 from Poisoned Pen Press
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

Sixteen-year-old Harper Jacobs and her bored friends make a pact to engage in a series of not-quite illegal break-ins. They steal from each other’s homes, sharing their keys and alarm codes. But they don’t take anything that can’t be replaced by some retail therapy, so it’s okay. It’s thrilling. It’s bad. And for Harper, it’s payback for something she can’t put into words-something to help her deal with her alcoholic mother, her delusional father, and to forget the lies she told that got her druggie brother arrested. It’s not like Daniel wasn’t rehab bound anyway.

So everything is okay-until the bold but aggravating Alex, looking to up the ante, suggests they break into the home of a classmate. It’s crossing a line, but Harper no longer cares. She’s proud of it. Until one of the group turns up dead, and Harper comes face-to-face with the moral dilemma that will make or break her-and, if she makes the wrong choice, will get her killed.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Bling Ring meets Heathers.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
The final scene of the novel is one of my absolute favorites. I can’t say much with spoiling the book, so this will be a bit vague, but Harper, the anti-hero protagonist, has come a long way and grown a lot.

I also had a blast writing the opening scene. The opening line is one of the best sentences that I’ve ever written.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was finishing up a three-mile-run and looked at my phone to check the time, and saw the email with publishing offer. So I had dual a endorphins and happy glow thing going on.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Thai Peanut Butter Cups from Alma Chocolate. Coconut milk, Thai chiles, ginger, lime, and red volcanic sea salt, and peanut butter all combine to form a slightly spicy treat.

Sometimes I buy salted peanut butter cups from Alma instead of the Thai version, and they’re also amazing. They’re not very sweet but they’re oh so addictive.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
My coaster with a photo of a bacon on it is a bit odd, but it’s useful. My Alice In Wonderland pillow that’s shaped like an open book is quirky, and isn’t particularly useful on a desk so I should really find a better home for it.

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