Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy











God's FormulaFrom Goodreads: It is 1939. The scourge that is Nazi Germany is trampling Europe as its scientists vie to deliver ever-increasing destructive power. Now physicist Walter Friedeman – a friend of Albert Einstein’s since childhood – has found a formula to enrich uranium in three months rather than the previously expected five years. Such a formula could deliver Germany the first atomic arsenal. But Friedeman does not believe in the Nazi cause. Friedeman wants the formula in the hands of America, but getting it to them himself will be nearly impossible. He sets into motion a plan to use his teenaged son, a Hitler Youth, to unwittingly do the job using a message Friedeman has encoded in the Elvish language created by J.R.R. Tolkien in his novel The Hobbit.

What follows is a quest across continents as Einstein, Tolkien, and MI-6 officer Ian Fleming work together to find Friedeman’s son, decode the message, and wrest control of the nuclear future before Hitler can steal it for himself.

Reuniting Tolkien and Fleming after their adventure in No Dawn for Men, God’s Formula is a heart-pounding thriller filled with history both real and imagined.

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James LePore and Carlos Davis are back with another riveting tale of espionage surrounding Nazi Germany and Tolkien’s famous novel, The Hobbit. If you’ve read No Dawn for Men, then you already know God’s Formula is going to be a riveting read. And riveting it is—told in chapter format specific to date and time, readers are whisked away to Germany, the United States, England, and beyond as we follow multiple characters through the pages, intertwining with their stories until they collide, leaving us breathless in anticipation as the plot thickens.

I truly love how this story builds suspense; jumping from character to character, situation to situation always leaves me on pins and needles, and I thought it was extremely easy to keep track of all the characters, since LePore and Davis do such a wonderful job fleshing them all out and making them realistic in my mind. The fact that the novel is peppered with real people—real famous people—such as Einstein, Tolkien, and Fleming also adds a bit of fun to it all, dire circumstances and all.

And while God’s Formula does bring together some old favorites from No Dawn for Men, God’s Formula is more of a companion novel, and not a sequel; it can definitely be read as a standalone if you so choose. Though I really do suggest reading both novels because they’re both absolutely intriguing, especially as they combine fact with fiction, leaving readers pondering the aged old question, “what if…” As the final chapter in The Hobbit saga readies for release in the theatric world, now is the perfect time to pick up God’s Formula and see how masterfully LePore and Davis weave fact and fiction together. Four stars.

4 starsI received this novel from the author and publisher in exchange for an honest review.

This title releases today, December 2, 2014

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Read my review of No Dawn For Men HERE.

No Dawn for Men

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Silver VengeanceFrom Goodreads: Were-witches. These hybrid creatures stalk the earth with the raw, primal power of the werewolf and the cunning, dark magic of the witch. They’re deadly hunters with the capability for both bloodthirsty vengeance and an unwavering loyalty to their own.

Gabrielle Gayle is an ambitious chef in one of New Haven’s trendiest restaurants. Her concerns consist of getting ahead in her career, dodging barbed insults from her sharp-tongued mother, and dealing with the nagging certainty that she has always had powers. However, when the Clan of were-witches seeks revenge for her mother murdering one of their own, she and her sister are brutally attacked. With nowhere else to go, she turns to Nick, a Hunter of witches, werewolves, demons, and any combination thereof.

However, Gabrielle learns that she has much more in common with the Clan than she ever imagined. And, in order to save herself and her family from being destroyed, she must embrace her powers and become the very creature she fears the most.

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If you’re looking for something completely different in the paranormal world, or urban fantasy, for that matter, then look no further than Kasey Shoemaker’s enticing novel, Silver Vengeance. Filled with mystery and mayhem, readers are introduced to Gabrielle Gayle, a kick-butt heroine who must seek the truth about her own heritage in order to survive a deadly game of cat and mouse.

The characterization within this novel is a wonderful testament to Shoemaker’s writing capabilities. All the characters, both good and evil, are exceptionally real, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them as the novel unfolded. Nick reminds me very much of Dean Winchester from Supernatural, out to take down those who shouldn’t exist, and as Gabrielle and her family team up with him to fight against the were-witches, a coven/pack dead set on ripping apart the Gayle family, sparks and blood fly.

I really enjoyed the combination of werewolves with witches, an ingenious idea that has me wondering what other hybrid concoctions would produce in the paranormal world… being a lover of all things strange, I find it absolutely fascinating, and I loved how Shoemaker brought the two together, creating a unique backdrop to this awesome story. All around, this novel is a ton of fun, and if you’re a fan of Supernatural or Grimm, then I highly suggest you check it out. Four stars.

4 starsI received this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Heir of FireFrom Goodreads: Lost and broken, Celaena Sardothien’s only thought is to avenge the savage death of her dearest friend: as the King of Adarlan’s Assassin, she is bound to serve this tyrant, but he will pay for what he did. Any hope Celaena has of destroying the king lies in answers to be found in Wendlyn. Sacrificing his future, Chaol, the Captain of the King’s Guard, has sent Celaena there to protect her, but her darkest demons lay in that same place. If she can overcome them, she will be Adarlan’s biggest threat – and his own toughest enemy.

While Celaena learns of her true destiny, and the eyes of Erilea are on Wendlyn, a brutal and beastly force is preparing to take to the skies. Will Celaena find the strength not only to win her own battles, but to fight a war that could pit her loyalties to her own people against those she has grown to love?

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This novel, like the others in the series, in indeed very, very good, but it’s also extremely long. Even with series that I absolutely adore, there sometimes comes a time when reading that I tend to zone out a bit, and I’m sorry to say that that did happen with Maas’ third novel, Heir of Fire. Whereas the other novels tend to be a bit more action packed and, let’s face it, shorter, this novel is nearly 600 pages and there is a bit more down time than I personally can handle in a 600 pager. Don’t get me wrong, the novel is fantastic, but there were a few points in the middle where I personally felt like it was just dragging along. Thankfully, Maas would come in a spruce it up a bit with a fight scene or some other tidbit that would throw me right back into the pages with a vengeance, so the downtime was few and far between, but enough that it sticks out in my mind.

Heir of Fire follows four different stories at the same time, all including a new cast of characters to love, which was tons of fun. We are given an indepth look at events in both Adarlan and Wendlyn, following Chaol and newcomer Aiedan as they placate the King of Adarlan, Dorian and newcomer Sorcha as they work together to protect Dorian’s secret, Celaena and newcomer Rowan as he teaches Celaena how to harness her powers, and newcomer Mannon Blackbeak, an iron witch intent on fulfilling her duties to the King of Adarlan before retaking her homeland. I have to say, that out of all of them, Manon’s story was the most interesting to me. It is with Manon that we are introduced to the Wyvern, beasts I liken to a dragonish creature, similar to the black fell beast—sometimes known as a Hell-Hawk or Nazgûl-bird—we see the Witch-King of Angmar and his comrades ride in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. As the witch covens fight to tame the Wyverns, Manon seeks to win the games with her coven of 13 in order to lead the vast witch army—a group of cutthroat women who despise the other covens. Though I will admit that some of Manon’s story did feel like it could be cut out—I certainly didn’t need all the background information that was provided—readers will walk away knowing Manon and the Iron Witches quite well, and I am extremely interested to see what happens when Manon meets Celaena as some foreshadowing is at play that has me wondering just where Manon’s loyalties will lie.

Celaena’s story paints her in a much weaker light throughout this novel. In fact, all the characters are painted as weak as this novel unfolds. Chaol is not the same, unable to speak his mind to his best friend Dorian, and even Dorian seeks solace in the most surprising of places. I guess that at some point the strong characters must be portrayed as weak in order for growth to happen, as well as for the plot to thicken, but I found myself losing patience with them as the story unfolded as they continually backed down throughout the novel.

The end, however, was a wake-up slap to the face, and suddenly everyone we love, and I do mean everyone, is in danger, leaving me on pins and needles for the next installment, though I see that right now this series is slated for six novels, and we’ll only be at number four with the next—I do hope Maas picks up the pace in the next segment. Four stars.

4 stars

I received this novel from publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

This title releases today.

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The Girl From the WellFrom Goodreads: You may think me biased, being murdered myself. But my state of being has nothing to do with the curiosity toward my own species, if we can be called such. We do not go gentle, as your poet encourages, into that good night.

A dead girl walks the streets.

She hunts murderers. Child killers, much like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years ago.

And when a strange boy bearing stranger tattoos moves into the neighborhood so, she discovers, does something else. And soon both will be drawn into the world of eerie doll rituals and dark Shinto exorcisms that will take them from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Aomori, Japan.

Because the boy has a terrifying secret – one that would just kill to get out.

The Girl from the Well is A YA Horror novel pitched as “Dexter” meets “The Grudge”, based on a well-loved Japanese ghost story.

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This novel is intense—from the very beginning—and scary to boot! If you’ve seen The Ring, then you’re familiar with the insanely creepy girl that crawls out of the well, out of the TV, and into the life of strangers—to kill them. Well, that very frightening girl is indeed our narrator! Talk about scary! Now, while the narrator, Okiku, is the same ghost-like figure from the movie, this is not that story. Instead, Chupeco focused heavily on the Japanese folklore surrounding Okiku’s murder and her ghostly decision to murder child killers and protect the pure of heart.

Opening with Okiku standing on the ceiling observing a vile man who has murdered a young child, the introduction quickly escalates as Okuku removes all the lights and taunts the man as she appears in his mirror, crawls out of his bathtub, and ultimately sends him screaming to his watery death. INTENSE. I began this novel on a sunny afternoon, and I had chills as I descended into this amazing story. And it only gets better from there.

As the story progresses, we see other characters through Okiku’s eye and also learn more about her and why she is haunting the world—including the circumstances surrounding her death. As the living main character, Tark comes on the scene, the ghost’s interest is piqued, and we learn much about ancient Japanese beliefs, the spirit world, and exorcisms. Of course, I saved the novel for the nighttime because I do enjoy a good scare, and that’s exactly what I got…

The writing is unique, and our ghost, Okiku, is fascinated with numbers, hence, her constant counting throughout the novel. While generally a silent entity throughout, observing those around her but rarely speaking with them, we still learn so much about her and, as Tark’s darkness becomes ever more present, the things that go bump in the night will leave narrators completely and utterly petrified. I loved the characterization, and while not all the events seemed plausible to me in terms of how Tark’s father treated him, etc., the eerie nature of the novel has be almost believing in ghosts myself…

This novel is great–from the scare factor to the characterization, I was in love from the very beginning. Read it. You don’t want to miss this fantastic story. Five stars.

5 starsI received this novel from the publisher, via Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review prior to its release tomorrow, August 5, 2014.

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Shades of WyrdFrom Goodreads: Dante Salazar doesn’t know if he’s a drunk who dreamt he was an ancient general, or an ancient general dreaming he’s a drunk. He wakes in Las Vegas, imprisoned in an identity that doesn’t fit him, married to someone he doesn’t remember, and tormented by a stranger who won’t show his face.

A woman named Lucia haunts his memories. His love for her is the only thing that has endured the mysterious fate befallen him. What follows is one man’s search for answers. Why does he feel like an imposter in his own skin? Which memories can he trust? How will he find his lost love? And – most troubling of all – what lies buried in his back yard?

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This novel is worth reading if just for the ending alone—a shocking revelation that had me sitting straight up in bed, riveted to the explanation as it unfolded, instantly and perfectly answering all my befuddled questions that I had carried with me throughout the entire novel. I admit that the beginning of the novel was a bit slow, and though interesting, beyond confusing. As the novel unfolds, readers follow multiple characters as their stories intertwine, embarking on an intriguing, yet confusing ride as Dante attempts to make sense of his life—a life he doesn’t remember. At the same time, Dante’s “past life” haunts him, and he has no bearings on the current life he lives—with a wife, Pixie, he doesn’t remember, an alcohol addiction he isn’t fond of, and an obsession with finding Lucia, his love he is certain is from another lifetime, and thus, everything begins to quickly spiral downhill for Dante.

While readers find themselves both enraptured and confused alongside Dante, the story does have a pulling merit—making it hard to set aside as thoughts of wonderment trek through the readers brain. What happened to Dante? Is his past life real? Does Lucia really exist? Will Pixie finally break and end up in the arms of her neighbor? Who is Bernie and what sinister plans does he have for Dante?

Sparked by these haunting questions, I was drawn to the novel, even though I didn’t find any of the characters particularly enticing. Though juvenile in many ways, the characters still spurned me on, and I found myself interested in their story, even though I truly had little idea what was happening throughout a majority of the novel. And yet, in the end, it all comes together to make a rather intense, intriguing read. In fact, it was so mind-blowing for me that it changed my entire perspective of the novel, raising it much higher in my eyes, and making it one I highly suggest you read. Four stars.

4 stars

I received this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Quarantine The BurnoutsFrom Goodreads: Lord of the Flies in a 21st-century high school setting.Welcome to Quarantine 3: The Burnouts , where readers of The Maze Runner, Gone, and Divergent go when they’re hungry for more dark, compelling survival stories.

When an explosion rocks David and Will’s suburban high school one morning, a deadly virus is unleashed on the school. After a year of quarantine, with no adults around, the students have created their own society. All of the social cliques have developed into gangs-The Nerds, The Geeks, The Freaks, The Sluts, The Skaters, The Burnouts, The Pretty Ones, and The Varsity-and each gang provides a service with which they can barter for provisions. Without a gang, it’s almost impossible to secure food, water, territory, or supplies. In the final installment in the Quarantine trilogy, the brothers are reunited on the Outside and it appears as if, for once everything is going right. But inside the school, Lucy is alone with no gang and no hope, until the Burnouts welcome her into their filthy arms.

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This is a series that, though gruesome and not for the faint of heart, I have thoroughly enjoyed. The characters are realistic, and over the course of three novels, we’ve really gotten to know them—all of them, both the good and bad. The novels have perfectly built on one another, and though they made my cringe more often than not, I can see events like this unfolding in any high school, mine included, should students be cut off from the adult world and locked in a school for years due to a deadly virus. And it’s scary, but Thomas does an amazing job portraying events.

But while I really, really liked this third installment, I’m less than pleased with the entire ending. Truthfully, as I received an ARC from Netgalley, I’ve been wondering if perhaps I received an unfinished copy, doubtful as that is, but the hope remains the same as Thomas just sort of leaves readers hanging with a rather strange sentence. It took me unawares.

As I’ve said, the novel itself is extremely well done, as are the two novels that come before it, The Loners and The Saints. I love David, and always have, and I’m glad he’s back in the picture in this novel. His good sense helps drive the plot, though he’s definitely in over his head in this one. Will has a tendency to get on my last nerve, but I love him anyway, and Lucy’s story made my heart bleed. I knew Thomas’ style certainly wouldn’t let these three main characters finally get out of the school and go unscathed, but, like, whoa. What Thomas does to them isn’t nice… not one bit, and a piece of my heart sort of died with this particular event. And, while I could see the other big revelation coming a mile away, it was still jarring when it occurred, and, true to Thomas’ style, filled me with horror. I sort of feel like it couldn’t have come about any other way—no clean breaks would have fit the story, but… I had to read it twice to really believe that Thomas has done it. But all that aside, it’s the epilogue that really stuns me. It jumps time, barely explains anything, and ends with a hanging sentence, as I mentioned, that just leaves the reader unsatisfied. Perhaps there will be a novella conclusion later—that would be nice. Four stars.

4 stars

EgmontUSA has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release today.

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Two Little LiesFrom Goodreads: Lies can be very dangerous and deadly little things.

Almost four years after Laney Matthews survived a brush with death at the hands of Robbie Jameson, she has finally picked up the pieces of her life and started over. She’s made new friends, began dating again, attended countless therapy sessions, and is about to graduate in the spring from Blackburn University. Ever since that fateful night, Laney has tried to surround herself with positivity, and so far it’s been successful … but that’s all about to come crashing down.

When Laney receives news of Robbie’s release from prison, her bubble of security bursts and she begins to withdraw from everyday life. Her friends come to the rescue with a fun winter break getaway in order to clear their heads and shake off the end of semester finals. It’s here that Laney comes face to face again with Brent Lyles, the one true love that got away, and she begins to realize maybe he’s the exact thing that’s been missing in her crazy life.

Something’s amiss at the sprawling rental property though, and when things take a deadly turn, Laney and her friends are forced to fight for their lives. Has Robbie returned to finish what he started years ago? And is Laney prepared to stand up to her past demons once and for all?

The key to her survival this time though will be trust—a feeling she hasn’t embraced in quite some time.

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Two Little Lies is a heartpounding psychological thriller by the ever talented T.A. Kunz; one you seriously don’t want to miss. This novel pulled me in from the very first page and left me breathless at the end. Juxtaposing lighthearted banter with deadly intent, this mystery novel will leave you on the edge of your seat, waiting for the shoe to drop as Laney and her friends seclude themselves on a rental property in the dead of winter. Not all are going to survive the weekend…

I really enjoyed this novel! Kunz’s characterization was spot on, and I found myself seeing a bit of myself in Laney. Although I’ve never experienced anything to the extent that she has, the connection was there as I read of her insecurities and fear that the past might come back to haunt her. A survivor by nature, Laney is a strong-willed character that is forced to face her demons head on in a game of cat and mouse as the weekend unfolds, and as she learns through the many harrowing trials and tribulations, not everyone is who they profess to be.

I loved the characters, and the climax of the story really did have me on the edge of my seat, fretting about the characters and what would happen next. Kunz has created an extremely realistic and, therefore, scary world where evil pursues good, and I loved not knowing who to trust and waiting on pins and needles for the climax and the revelation that I never saw coming. This is a must read for sure. Five stars.

5 stars

I purchased this novel from Amazon.

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The String DiariesFrom Goodreads: A family is hunted by a centuries-old monster: a man with a relentless obsession who can take on any identity.

The String Diaries opens with Hannah frantically driving through the night–her daughter asleep in the back, her husband bleeding out in the seat beside her. In the trunk of the car rests a cache of diaries dating back 200 years, tied and retied with strings through generations. The diaries carry the rules for survival that have been handed down from mother to daughter since the 19th century. But how can Hannah escape an enemy with the ability to look and sound like the people she loves?

Stephen Lloyd Jones’s debut novel is a sweeping thriller that extends from the present day, to Oxford in the 1970s, to Hungary at the turn of the 19th century, all tracing back to a man from an ancient royal family with a consuming passion–a boy who can change his shape, insert himself into the intimate lives of his victims, and destroy them.

If Hannah fails to end the chase now, her daughter is next in line. Only Hannah can decide how much she is willing to sacrifice to finally put a centuries-old curse to rest.

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Imagine being hunted by a shape shifter–you’d never know your enemy, they could silently become a loved one at any moment, getting close to you without sparking an inkling of suspicion until it’s too late. Imagine a life where you’re forced to constantly pay attention to every small detail and validate everyone who crosses your path, being on the run to stay ahead of a crazed killer intent on reuniting with his love from so long ago… so is the story of Jakab, a sociopathic shape shifter obsessed with the female lineage of one specific family. Of Hannah’s family.

This novel opens in a whirl as Hannah drives recklessly towards an abandoned farmhouse, her husband bleeding out in the passenger seat while her nine year old daughter sleeps in the back. Fraught with danger, this novel exemplifies the creep factor, and as I read it late at night, I was constantly on watch as Jakab sent fear coursing throughout my body as I turned the pages.

Told in alternating timelines, both present and past, the novel sucks readers in from the get go. The characters and events within the story are puzzle pieces waiting so patiently to be put together, and as the tale weaves in and out, readers learn of what hunts Hannah, how Jakab came to be, what lore resides behind shape shifters, and the faction that plans to finally finish wiping the seemingly immortal shifters from the world.

Intense and amazing, this is a must read novel that kept me on my toes as it unfolded. I loved putting the pieces together, learning about Hannah’s current story, that of her parent’s in the 1970s, and that of Jakab as he became the sinister, sociopathic enemy that he truly is. You wont be able to stop reading once you start, and I highly suggest you pick up this amazing read stat. Five stars.

5 stars

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher via Netgalley, prior to its republication, in exchange for an honest review.

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ComplicitFrom Goodreads: Two years ago, sixteen-year-old Jamie Henry breathed a sigh of relief when a judge sentenced his older sister to juvenile detention for burning down their neighbor’s fancy horse barn. The whole town did. Because Crazy Cate Henry used to be a nice girl. Until she did a lot of bad things. Like drinking. And stealing. And lying. Like playing weird mind games in the woods with other children. Like making sure she always got her way. Or else. But today Cate got out. And now she’s coming back for Jamie. Because more than anything, Cate Henry needs her little brother to know the truth about their past. A truth she’s kept hidden for years. A truth she’s not supposed to tell. Trust nothing and no one as you race toward the explosive conclusion of this gripping psychological thriller from the William C. Morris Award-winning author of Charm & Strange.

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The synopsis of Complicit drew me in from the get go, and I knew I had to read this novel. With a premise like this one, you just know it’s got to be good, and it was. Very good, especially with its ending that completely knocked me on my butt. I mean, WOW.

According to her confession and the evidence her brother Jamie found in the woods, Cate Henry set alight a horse barn with the horses still inside in hopes of drawing out their riders and doing as much damage to both them and the horses as possible. Sent to juvie for two years, the novel begins as Jamie learns that his sister, Cate, has been set free, sending him spiraling down as she taunts him with statements about their deceased mother and the fact that Cate’s now coming for Jamie.

Determined to find the truth at any cost, Jamie begins to stir up the past, including that surrounding his mother’s murder when he was a young child; an event that not only left him emotionally scarred, but also suffering from blackouts and seemingly sporadic loss of his hands mobility. Unable to remember the events of his past, or even his mother’s features, though certain that they hold the key to Cate’s odd, cultish behavior, Jamie sets off on a journey of self-discovery, and what he finds is beyond alarming. Told through both past and present revelations, readers begin to put together the puzzling pieces of Jamie and Cate’s existence, understanding that not everything is as it seems, and that the cost of protecting the fragile mind of the young can indeed turn deadly.

I highly enjoyed this novel, especially with this ending that left me mystified and chilled to my core. While I was able to pinpoint the truth behind Cate’s actions fairly early on, the events that readers are left with at the very end were still shocking and, in a way, more appalling than that of the horse barn burning in the first place. Jamie’s attempts to placate his sister while maintaining the semblance of his life, including his very first crush, sends readers on an intense psychological ride as Cate gets ever closed to Jamie, and as everything comes to a head, it’s beyond mind blowing. If you’re looking for something completely different, I suggest picking up Complicit—be prepared for a chilling conclusion. Four stars.

4 stars

I received an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

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The Body in the WoodsFrom Goodreads: In this new series told from multiple perspectives, teen members of a search and rescue team discover a dead body in the woods. Alexis, Nick, and Ruby have very different backgrounds: Alexis has spent her life covering for her mom’s mental illness, Nick’s bravado hides his fear of not being good enough, and Ruby just wants to pursue her eccentric interests in a world that doesn’t understand her. When the three teens join Portland County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, they are teamed up to search for a autistic man lost in the woods. What they find instead is a dead body. In a friendship that will be forged in danger, fear, and courage, the three team up to find the girl’s killer—before he can strike one of their own. This first book in April Henry’s Point Last Seen YA mystery series is full of riveting suspense, putting readers in the middle of harrowing rescues and crime scene investigations.

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This was an intriguing story that follows the lives of three teen members of a search and rescue crew—three teens who have nothing else in common and, truth be told, want nothing to do with one another. Through their third-person stories, readers learn of their own lives and personal idiosyncrasies, and as the novel takes shape, they begin to depend on one another, forming a friendship of sorts that will bring a smile to readers’ faces.

This was an intriguing mystery novel that I found highly engaging, especially with the quirky main characters. This is somewhat of a classic whodunit, with teens as sleuths, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised how difficult it was for me to pinpoint the murdered. I did eventually figure it out prior to the big reveal, but Henry had me going to quite a while, and I just loved the continual tension between the characters and their inner demons. If you like mystery novels, definitely give this book a read.

I received this novel from the publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

4 stars

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Real MurderFrom Goodreads: When Homicide Detective Cameron Gates befriends Dolly, the little old lady who lives across the street, she is warned not to get lured into helping the elderly woman by investigating the unsolved murder of one of her girls. “She’s senile,” Cameron is warned. “It’s not a real murder.”

Such is not the case. After Dolly is brutally murdered, Cameron discovers that the sweet blue-haired lady’s “girl” was a call girl, who had been killed in a mysterious double homicide.

Meanwhile, Prosecuting Attorney Joshua Thornton is looking for answers to the murder of a childhood friend, a sheriff deputy whose cruiser is found at the bottom of a lake. The deputy had disappeared almost twenty years ago while privately investigating the murder of a local prostitute.

It doesn’t take long for the Lovers in Crime to put their cases together to reveal a long-kept secret that some believe is worth killing to keep undercover.
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Expertly crafted characters and a seamless plotline grace the pages of Lauren Carr’s latest mystery novel, Real Murder, a whodunit featuring Joshua Thornton and Cameron Gates from the riveting Lovers in Crime series; lovers of all things mystery will not want to miss this gem.

Carr does a phenomenal job keeping readers on their toes in this fast-paced novel, especially as Joshua and Cameron begin to uncover the truth behind an 18-year-old cold-case. While at times I was certain Carr was making the truth much to obvious for readers, time and time again she threw me for a loop with the revelation of new evidence and motives, causing me to continually point the finger in multiple directions. And once again, though I tried very hard, Carr remained one step ahead of me and floored me with her final reveal of the killer’s identity.

Of course, I love how strong-willed Cameron is, and the fact that she’s just as smart and capable as her husband, Joshua, makes them a great team. And Irving? The fat cat that looks like a skunk? Priceless. Carr always adds amazing, fun animal companions to her novels, and it might just be true that Irving and his antics make him one of my favorites of the novel—and series—as it were.

Complete with many layers, including a little romance, familial grudges, humor, and of course, sleuthing, Carr has created a great read that will leave readers satisfied in all aspects. If you love mysteries, I highly suggest you pick up a copy of Real Murder by Lauren Carr. Though part of a series, each novel stands alone, and if you’ve never picked up one of Carr’s novels, then this is definitely one with which to start. Four stars.

4 stars

 I received an ARC of this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Only 99 cents



Dark DaysFrom Goodreads: The future world has been divided into sectors–each the same as the other. Surrounded by thick steel fences, there is no way in and no way out. Yet a cyborg army penetrates each sector, picking off its citizens one by one, until no one is left. Behind the sectors’ thick walls, the citizens wait to die. Few will be chosen to survive what’s coming; the rest will be left behind to suffer. A new world has been created, and its rulers are incredibly selective on who will become a citizen. They want only those with important roles in society to help create a more perfect future. Sixteen-year-old Sia lives in one of the sectors as part of a family that is far too ordinary to be picked to live. According to the digital clock that towers high above her sector, she has only fifteen days to live. Sia has seen the reports and knows a horrific death is in store for her, but she is determined to make the most of her final days. Sia refuses to mourn her short life, instead promising herself that she’ll stay strong, despite being suffocated by her depressed mother and her frightened best friend. Just when Sia feels more alone than ever, she meets Mace, a mysterious boy. There is something that draws Sia to him, despite his dangerousness, and together, they join a group of rebels and embark on an epic journey to destroy the new world and its machines, and to put an end to the slaughter of innocent people.

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Imagine knowing the exact day you’re going to die—as if you could forget, the clock tower is counting down the days for you. Imagine knowing a cyborg army is coming to kill you and everyone you love; knowing there is no chance of survival. Welcome to the future, where the select are creating a new world, and you’re not invited. In 15 days, the cyborgs will come, and everyone knows it’ll be a painful death—the 24 hour TV footage of other sectors’ demolishen proves that. You can’t hide; there’s nowhere to go. No one in any sector has survived the cyborgs. No. One.

This is Sia’s reality; thankfully it’s not ours, but Ormand does a great job putting readers right in the thick of the action as Sia lives out her last 15 days, first in fear, then in resignation, and then in determination to fight back. Who has the right to say you’re not worthy to live? According to Sia, nobody.

While the novel starts out believable enough, with Sia’s revelations and resignations, I have to admit that as the action begins to quicken, the believability became a bit disjointed for me. Infiltrating a high security site with little to no incident just didn’t seem real, especially as Sia flys by the seat of her pants, has had no infiltration training, and doesn’t know anything about the people she needs to know about in order to survive in this new world. Her ill-thought-out plan does backfire, but the ease of escape was just too perfect in my mind—not that I’m looking for terrible things to happen to the characters, but it just seemed to me that every time an obstacle came up, it was easily overcome by the characters in one way or another. Of course, this is just a small segment of the overall novel; much more is to come for Sia and the characters after her antics, and the final events and showdowns were, in my opinion, much more up to snuff in terms of believability. So while the novel seems to take a small dive in the midst of it all, by the end I found it to be back on track and intense, and I certainly do not want to switch places with Sia. Three and a half stars.

3.5 stars

Sky Pony Press was extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.

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Vivian Devine is DeadFrom Goodreads: When a death threat arrives with teen celebrity Vivian Divine’s fan mail, Vivian has no choice but to go on the run to Mexico. She soon discovers, though, that her Oscar-nominated performance killing villains on-screen did nothing to prepare her for escaping a madman in real life. Some people say he’s a hero, others tremble in his presence, but one thing is clear: he won’t stop until Vivian is in his grasp. Why didn’t she pay more attention during those judo lessons for her role in Zombie Killer? Vivian finds an ally in the mysterious and charming Nick. He is everything Hollywood boys are not-genuine, kind, and determined to see Vivian for who she really is. But even he seems like he can’t be trusted-what could he be hiding? Beat up, hungry, and more confused than ever about who she’s running from, Vivian is living in a real-life blockbuster horror flick. But there’s no option to yell “cut” like there is on set…. Lauren Sabel’s Vivian Divine Is Dead is a creepy, witty, fast-paced adventure about family, fame, and having the courage to save yourself.

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I have to say that I enjoyed this story overall, but some of the events were a little far-fetched for me. Vivian Divine is an extremely well known celebrity, so when she’s forced to go on the run, she has to hide in plain sight, which is much easier said than done. Still reeling from her mother’s murder, her boyfriend’s betrayal, and a scary run in with a man in a black suit, her mind isn’t in the best of places, and her only option, so she believes, is to run. But, running off into the deep of Mexico alone to meet someone she has never met doesn’t seem like the best course of action…

Between a rock and a hard place, Vivian embarks on a journey filled with peril. I almost feel as though the events themselves would be more fluid on the big screen than on paper as the action seems to just jump for sequence to sequence, but it is engaging nevertheless. While some of the events and outcomes are indeed obvious, others were much more discreet, and the revelation of Vivian’s pursuers was rather shocking. Though I have a few questions about certain cover ups that take place within the novel, overall it was a fun read. I wish that Vivian had a better relationship with others and was able to confide in them more, especially since grown-ups really can help, but I also understand the feeling of being all alone and feeling like there is no one to turn to. Three stars.

3 stars

I received this novel from the publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

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The Rules for BreakingFrom Goodreads: Anna Boyd almost lost her life to get what she wanted most in the world: freedom.

But just when it seems that her family has finally escaped Witness Protection, the illusion that Anna could resume a normal life comes crashing down.

The deadly man Anna knows as Thomas is still on the loose, and now he’s using her as a pawn in a dangerous game with the drug cartel determined to silence her forever. When Thomas and a mysterious masked man capture not only Anna but also her fragile younger sister and her boyfriend, Anna decides it’s time to break all the rules-even if it means teaming up with the lesser of two evils.

Anna will do whatever it takes to protect the people she loves and win her life back once and for all. But her true enemies are hidden in plain sight. Before long, Anna will learn that putting her trust in anyone may be the last mistake she ever makes.

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Somehow I keep missing the fact that the books I’m picking up are indeed sequels and not the first in a series. Luckily, like Elston’s novel, I didn’t need to read the first novel in order to understand the second from the get go. While I do wish I’d read the first, mainly because Elston does such a great job writing this intense heart-pounding story, you don’t need to (though I eventually will because this one was so awesome).

Elston introduces readers to her characters and paints the entire background for readers without even letting on that she’s doing it. I actually read 25% of the novel before I began to wonder if maybe it was a sequel, and that right there is a testament to Elston’s sheer writing capabilities.

When Anna, Ethan, and Teensy are abducted by Thomas, a trained assassin that’s been on their tale for far too long, the plot thickens immensely, and it isn’t obvious who should be trusted. While a serious jerk, Thomas has qualities that make Anna question whether or not he really intends to harm them, and I have to admit, I was on his side for a while, too. Someone is not telling the truth, though, and it could be any number of people, from Thomas, to Tyler, to any of the FBI agents… someone is not to be trusted, and Elston takes readers on a ride while it all comes to a head.

I really enjoyed the characterization, and while I certainly didn’t agree with half the decisions Anna makes in the novel, I have to admit that I probably would have been in the same boat had it been me. I found that all the characters reacted in a real way throughout the novel, and that really made it even more scary. Imagine being kidnapped and knowing you were most likely going to die. Yikes.  I highly recommend this one to any and all YA readers out there looking for a heart-pounding adventure.  Four stars.

4 starsI received an ARC of this novel from the publisher during NCTE 2013 in exchange for an honest review prior to its release tomorrow, May 20, 2014.

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Shana's Only

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Scare CrowReview:

From Goodreads: Nineteen-year-old Emily Sheppard is losing her sanity.

Ever since her mob king boyfriend, Cameron Hillard, abandoned her for her own good, Emmy has been attempting to move on with her charmed college student life as if nothing happened.

Now rejected from the underworld and left grieving over Cameron’s alleged death, Emmy realizes she belongs nowhere.

Worse yet, she is now keeping a dangerous secret.

After just a short time with Emily, Cameron has lost control over his world.

As he miserably attempts to return to what is left of his life and unravel the mess he has made of the underworld, Emily’s hate turns to desperation. She needs to kill the kingpins responsible for Cameron’s death before they come looking for her.

As Cameron secretly observes Emily, he has no idea of the danger he has placed her in—or that it may already be too late for him to save her.

Scare Crow is a tale of revenge, terror, and love as Emmy and Cameron embark on separate journeys to face enemies, correct past mistakes, and…………..

find their way to their destinies.

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Oh. My. God. While I usually try to maintain a sense of professionalism in my reviews of novels, it is impossible for me to not fangirl a little over this amazing novel by the extremely talented Julie Hockley. I finished this second installment in the Crow’s Row series late in the evening not too long ago, and I have been unable to think of anything else since. My dreams have been permeated with scenes of Cameron, my heart’s desire, as I sleep through the night, and I’m just absolutely in love. In. Love. Not only with Cameron, but with Hockley’s writing style, her characters, the plot, the suspense, the alternating points-of-view, Meatball (at one point I literally yelled out, “Meeeeeeeeeeeeeatbaaaaaaaaaaaaaaal!” as I was reading). Every. Thing. I’m in love with Every. Last. Thing. About this novel.

I have been diligently waiting for this second installment since 2012, and let me just tell you, it was worth the wait. Hockley’s novel is perfection. Absolute. Perfection.

In this sequel to the amazing Crow’s Row, Hockley continues the tale of Emmy and Cameron, juxtaposing their stories as the novel unfolds. Bereft and out for blood, Emmy has no idea that her beloved still lives. Neither does Cameron realize that Emmy will stop at nothing to bring justice to those who stole her one true love in death. In a harsh reality where neither can fit into the other’s world and survive, this is a tale of love, deceit, revenge, and new beginnings.

Hockley’s story is enticing—I love the bad boy image, and although Cam is as bad as it gets, a mob king who kills mercilessly, he is also truly good at heart. And he’s impossible not to love. His heart bleeds throughout the novel; forced to separate himself from Emmy in order to keep her safe, and intent on bringing justice to the memory of his little brother Rocco, Cameron bares his soul for all to see in this beautiful novel, all the while maneuvering the underworld in a game of cat and mouse as it all comes to a head between the captains of the crime world.

And Emmy, filled with the hatred for those who killed her beau, is also extremely vivid and real. Her cross to bear is even more intricate and dangerous as she learns that even though she was set free from the underworld, she will never truly be safe, a revelation that causes her to rear back and fight with all her might.

A little dash of side romance, unrequited love, truths, lies, misunderstandings and murder all come together to create this riveting love story; you don’t want to miss it. Five amazing stars.

5 stars

I received this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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An Interview with Julie Hockley:

If you could devise the perfect dinner date for Cam and Emmy, what would be on the menu/what would they order?

Blood sausage. Blood pudding.

You drop a huge surprise on readers in Scare Crow—what was it like to create such a surprise?

That’s funny because to me, it wasn’t a surprise to me. That was always going to happen. Though I’m happy that readers saw it a surprise!

If you could meet anyone in the entire world, fictional included, who would it be and why?

Rocco. I miss him so much.

What/who was your inspiration for your novels Crow’s Row and Scare Crow?

Crow’s Row is Beauty and the Beast meets the Godfather.

Scare Crow is Pride and Prejudice meets Kill Bill.

Do you have a playlist for either of your novels?

When I’m writing I listen to everything and anything. It’s pretty weird. I’ll be in my car, listening to whatever comes on next and boom! A whole scene comes into play. Then I have to pull over as quickly as possible and type furiously on my phone before I forget it.

While I was writing certain Emmy scenes in Scare Crow and re-editing Crow’s Row, I listened to Skinny Love by Birdie a LOT! That song makes me want to weep every time.

What’s next for Cam and Emmy?

Scare Crow was about them changing. They needed to chance. Emmy especially.  She had a lot of growing up to do and a very short time to do it. Next Emmy and Cam will have a lot of explaining to do. Cam especially.

Are any of your characters based on real life people?

No. I’ve never had a picture in my head of who they could be. They exist only in my head. Fans have sent me pictures that are pretty close, but never have I seen Cam and Emmy and the rest of them exact. Of course, there are pieces of my character’s personalities that I have scooped up from other people. Rocco has a lot of my husband’s immature traits. Hands off ladies!

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Between the publishing of the first edition of Crow’s Row, to writing Scare Crow, to formally editing Scare Crow, to formally editing Crow’s Row, I’ve learned that the more you write, the better you become. I would tell them to read, a lot. Take a critical eye to their favorite novel.

Why do you like that novel? Is it the dialogue? Angst between characters? The way the author describes?

Then I would tell them to forget everything that I just said above and write what you want to write. A fan recently reminded me that, no matter what anyone says about you or your writing, as long as you’re proud of your work, your art, then you can hold your head up high. The rest is just noise.

What is the writing process like for you?

Sometimes difficult. Sometimes excruciating. Often it seems like I can’t find the words to describe what is happening in my head. It’s rather frustrating.

What inspired you to write/become a writer?

I love the feeling of pretending I’m someone else. Don’t get me wrong, I have a beautiful life. Nothing to complain about. So I need to get my drama fix somehow.

What does your writing cave look like?

Ha! My kitchen table. I pick the worse spot in the house. No privacy. Very little quiet. And the weird thing is that I can’t write unless there’s no one around me. My husband will get the evil eye until he is forced to leave the room. I need to pick and stick to a better spot. Unfortunately, my house is pretty small, so maybe I’ll have to go write in the garage or bathroom.

Do you ever get writers block—if so, how do you overcome it?

I get writers block all the time (hello, 3 years to write one book). When it happens, I try not to panic because panic is useless. And then I panic. And then I pretend that I don’t care. That I don’t need to ever write another word. The writer’s block will not get the best of me because I’m breaking up with writing. And then I sit back down and try again, later.

Are you working on any new series at this time?

Series? No! Never again! I’ve always got a few books floating around in my head and notes lying around my house, but I will not write another series. I will keep writing because it haunts me if I don’t, but if I ever publish anything after Crow’s Row is complete, it will be a stand-alone book. Though I need to figure out what a stand-alone book looks like because I thought Crow’s Row was a standalone book.

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Haven’t read book one, Crow’s Row?  Scoop it up now for just $2.99!  You WON’T be disappointed!!!

Crow's Row

Available Now:

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4f337-juliehockleyAbout Julie Hockley:

A former germaphobe and clean-freak turned mother of two, Julie collects enough tears and snot in a month to recreate Slimer Monster from Ghostbusters. Other than playing devoted wife and mama, Julie is the funniest person in the room (according to the 3 year-old and 2 year-old in said room) and can build the most awesome Lego rocket ship you’ve ever set your eyes on (according to her). Oh, and she has a full time career and has also written a bestselling novel. Superhero, or just downright insane?

 

 
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X and YFrom Goodreads: Olivia Adonane has it all; remarkable intelligence, stunning beauty, and – as the daughter of the head of the Triad, Society’s top three Human Designers – immeasurable wealth. Yet, all is not as it seems. Olivia discovers a dark secret about her homeland, formerly known as Great Britain, where humans are designed in the womb, and she watches her best friend, Lily, die in a secret chamber below the Triad Building in London. From here on, she has a choice. Will she continue on her pre-designed path, following in her father’s footsteps to become the country’s most powerful Human Designer? Or will she seek to rebel against the government, attempting to expose and overthrow the seemingly-invincible regime so that her fellow citizens can be truly free?

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Finlayson’s novel, X&Y, thrusts readers into a society that designs and tags its population, keeping the wealthy beyond rich and the poor barely scraping by. Everyone is designed for a reason, and no one goes against the system; it’s in place for their own protection, and it’s existed long enough that no one really questions it. After all, everyone has a purpose. It’s destiny.

Told in a series of sections, readers really get to know Olivia as she goes from timid high school student to determined university student. Questioning everything she’s ever known, watching people disappear, and believing the worst of her parents, Olivia’s struggles are very real, and though I didn’t always agree with her decisions, it’s easy for me to take the high road as an outsider looking in; it always is. But what isn’t easy is deciding to do what’s right when you know it could end with your death, and worse, the death of those you love and hold dear. This is the obstacle that Olivia is up against, and as she struggles and comes into herself, it’s impossible not to fall in love with her. As the novel progresses, what seems like a lifetime passes as Finlayson weaves together her tale, giving it life and validity. I enjoyed the sectioning within the novel, allowing time to pass easily without any sudden transitions, and for a novel that takes place over a span of years, it was the perfect execution.

What I think perhaps floored me the most about this novel is the fact that the genetic engineering imposed in former Great Britain is actually happening under the radar of the rest of the world. Indeed, the rest of the world, the United States in particular, has continued its existence and democracy much as if this were a present day novel and not a dystopian one, and it was both jarring and awesome when I realized that Olivia’s country was on its own in the technological advances and misuse of genetic engineering. Ingeniously, former Great Britain has adopted this strategy unbeknownst to the rest of the world, and I found that really interesting as Finlayson ties it all in to the idea of world police, a topic that has been in the news much recently due to the civil unrest in many countries, causing the United States to once again attempt to police other countries.

Overall, this was a great read. If you enjoy movies like Gattaka, I think you’ll definitely love this X&Y.  Four stars.

4 stars

I received this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Check out Rebecca Finlayson’s Guest Post!

 



A Guest Post with Rebecca Finlayson–author of X & Y

“Olivia Adonane has it all; remarkable intelligence, stunning beauty, and – as the daughter of the head of the Triad, Society’s top three Human Designers – immeasurable wealth. Yet, all is not as it seems. Olivia discovers a dark secret about her homeland, formerly known as Great Britain, where humans are designed in the womb, and she watches her best friend, Lily, die in a secret chamber below the Triad Building in London. From here on, she has a choice. Will she continue on her pre-designed path, following in her father’s footsteps to become the country’s most powerful Human Designer? Or will she seek to rebel against the government, attempting to expose and overthrow the seemingly-invincible regime so that her fellow citizens can be truly free?”

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X and YEvery author has a dream of where their book could end up – top of the New York Times list, worldwide bestseller, movie deal . Sure, they may not believe it could ever happen but dreaming is still fun. At least, that was the case for me.

The problem I had was to not let those dreams distract me from the actual novel-writing process.

When I sat down to type the first words of “X&Y” I had to forget about all the YA novels I had read, particularly the Dystopian ones, and just focus on my story. How could I make “X&Y” the best it could be on its own terms, and not compared to, say, The Hunger Games? How could I make Olivia, the protagonist, successful as a character in and of herself, and not trying to live up to Katniss Everdeen’s reputation?

Good writers read and learn from successful writers, but for me there came a point where I just had to forget about all the rest, otherwise I would lose sight of what I was doing, which was trying to communicate something about the world I had built in my head. I wanted to build good relationships with my characters because they’re great characters (at least, I think so). I wanted to do something that many good authors have done successfully – i.e. portray a vision of the future as a warning to our society. ‘Society’ (the futuristic new version of Great Britain in X&Y) could exist. At the rate our technology is developing, it wouldn’t be crazy to think so.

Dreams of a movie deal aside, I am personally very proud of “X&Y”. I am letting others decide whether it can stand up to other YA Dystopian novels, but I am glad that it’s out there and that readers are enjoying it. I hope whoever reads this post will join them!

—Rebecca Finlayson

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Rebecca FinlaysonAbout Rebecca Finlayson:

Since graduating in 2010 with a degree in Classical Civilisation, Rebecca worked as a Special Educational Needs Teaching Assistant at Blue Coat Academy in Coventry. She took a year off from September 2012 to July 2013 in order to engage in charity work and concentrate on some writing projects. During that time she completed two novels and began work on a third. Her debut novel, a YA Dystopian fiction called “X&Y,” is now available on Amazon Kindle. Her second novel, an epic fantasy entitled “The Secrets of Nethiaria: The Magician’s Book” will be released as an ebook in Spring 2014. 

Connect with Rebecca Finlayson

Website: http://www.musingsofanotherwriter.blogspot.co.uk

Twitter: @Finlaysonauthor

Blog: http://rebeccafinlaysonbooks.blogspot.co.uk/

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Be sure to stop by the blog tomorrow for my review of X&Y!



Flashes Part OneFrom Goodreads: Charley has flashes in her mind, psychic snapshots of terrifying events. After the death of her best friend, Charley’s flashes become more intense as she sees images of the murder of a teenage girl. But how will Charley ever convince Tom Henson, the new detective in the town of Marsh Bay, to believe she can help him solve the case?

** Part Two releases 1st May, 2014 **

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Flashes is Tim O’Rourke’s latest serial, sectioned into three parts that are set to release over the next two months. In this first installment, we meet seventeen-year-old Charley, a young woman who suffers from intense headaches, followed by flashes of murders in the act. Because this has plagued her for much of her life, Charley is a loner with just one friend, a friend who recently died in a train accident. But was it really an accident?

Tom Henson is new to the CDC, and as the newest addition to the police force, he feels he has something to prove. When another young woman is torn apart in a train accident, Tom’s suspicions are raised when he stumbles upon Charley near the scene of the crime. Together, they must learn to trust one another and put their differences aside if they’re going to solve the mounting train murders before both of them wind up dead.

For those who have read The Kiera Hudson Prequels, both one and two, Tom Henson is someone we already know a little bit about, but in O’Rourke’s serial, Flashes, readers now get to see him at the forefront of his very own series. I have liked Tom since the get go, and now seeing him interact with a new cast of characters has been extremely fun. Though I wish Flashes was released all at once and not in a serial format, it’s definitely worth the wait. Tim is a master storyteller and I’m on pins and needles waiting for part 2, which releases May 1. Five stars.

5 stars

I purchased this serial from Amazon.

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The full length novel encompassing all portions of this three part serial should be releasing in June

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Far From YouFrom Goodreads: Sophie Winters nearly died. Twice.

The first time, she’s fourteen, and escapes a near-fatal car accident with scars, a bum leg, and an addiction to Oxy that’ll take years to kick.

The second time, she’s seventeen, and it’s no accident. Sophie and her best friend Mina are confronted by a masked man in the woods. Sophie survives, but Mina is not so lucky. When the cops deem Mina’s murder a drug deal gone wrong, casting partial blame on Sophie, no one will believe the truth: Sophie has been clean for months, and it was Mina who led her into the woods that night for a meeting shrouded in mystery.

After a forced stint in rehab, Sophie returns home to a chilly new reality. Mina’s brother won’t speak to her, her parents fear she’ll relapse, old friends have become enemies, and Sophie has to learn how to live without her other half. To make matters worse, no one is looking in the right places and Sophie must search for Mina’s murderer on her own. But with every step, Sophie comes closer to revealing all: about herself, about Mina and about the secret they shared.

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Recovering addict Sophie witnessed the murder of her best friend, Mina, but no one believes her when she says it wasn’t a drug deal gone bad. Forced into rehab for a second time, dealing with her grief on her own, she vows to find the truth, and find the truth she does…

I felt like the narrative style of this novel really allowed me to get to know both Sophie and Mina on a much deeper level, one I wouldn’t have reached had this been delivered in a straightforward, start to finish style.  Instead, Sharpe takes the reader back and forth between the past and present, sometimes jumping back years, and other times mere months, all while showing the reader the ins and outs of the Sophie’s experiences.  We watch Sophie recover from a car accident that leaves her in constant pain, see her friendships and love life evolve, and experience her drug addiction alongside her, and know that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, there was no drug deal gone wrong, but rather a plot to murder Mina, stemming from events three years in the past. And I just fell in love with this narrative style.  I felt like I was a part of the story, not just an outsider looking in, but a real person on the inside, and that made it a wonderful read that I just couldn’t put down.

Now, I wasn’t ready for the love relationship between Sophie and Mina, but it is actually a perfect fit that shows how much the two cared for, loved, and struggled with their attraction to one another.  I also wasn’t ready for the truth of Mina’s murder; neither was Sophie, or anyone for that matter, and I really loved that I was kept guessing from the very beginning. This is a beautiful story that slowly evolves as we uncover the truth about what happened that fateful night.  Four stars.

4 stars

In exchange for an honest review, Disney-Hyperion has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on April 8, 2014.

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Liv ForeverFrom Goodreads: When Liv Bloom lands an art scholarship at Wickham Hall, it’s her ticket out of the foster system. Liv isn’t sure what to make of the school’s weird traditions and rituals, but she couldn’t be happier—especially when Malcolm Astor, fellow artist and scion of one of the school’s original families, starts falling for her. Fellow scholarship kid Gabe Nichols warns her not to get involved with a “Wicky,” but things are finally going Liv’s way, and all she wants to do is enjoy it.
 
But Liv’s bliss is cut short when she is viciously murdered. In death, she discovers that she’s the latest victim of a dark conspiracy that spans 150 years and many, many lives. Gabe, cursed with the ability to see their ghosts, turns out to be Liv’s only link to the world of the living.
 
Liv must rely on Gabe’s help to prove to Malcolm that she’s still present… lingering with the other spirits. Together, Liv, Gabe, and Malcolm fight to expose the terrible truth that haunts the halls of Wickham before more lives are lost.

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This a very well written story that, unfortunately, starts out just like all the other boarding school novels I’ve read lately. A scholarship student goes to a boarding school, isn’t liked by many, falls in love with the school hottie, and… is killed… finds out there is some bad mojo with the secret society within the school… realizes there are ghosts around… and basically fits the mold for the “boarding school” YA novel. It reminds me a little of a mash up of Poor Little Dead Girls, And We Stay, and Deceived.  Now don’t get me wrong, those are all good books, but I really wanted something different with this one, and even though these books are all different, there’s enough similarities that it just didn’t pique my interest all that much in the beginning.

Now, Liv, Forever focuses on Liv’s death, whereas the other novels I’ve read focus more so on attempted murders, so that was a nice change, especially as Liv’s ghost comes back to haunt Gabe as they try to figure out what happened.  And, while the first half of the novel fits the mold for this type of novel nicely, the last half of the book is where is begins to branch out and become a different story, which in turn caught my interest.  If you’ve never read a novel that takes place in a boarding school before, then I’d definitely recommend this as a good starting point.  I enjoyed the aspects of the ghosts, and I liked Liv, Gabe, and Malcolm as characters.  I also especially enjoyed the stories of each ghost’s death, told in first person, as if readers are drawn into the story to put the pieces together.  However, I felt the beginning dragged on a bit and it just seemed too much like déjà vu for me as a reader, especially with the similarities to novels that have come before it, so even though I enjoyed some aspects, it doesn’t stand out in my mind, personally, all that much.  Three stars.

3 starsSoho Teen has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Edelweiss, prior to its release on March 11, 2014, in exchange for an honest review.

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