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BOOK TOUR REVIEW: Camp Utopia and the Forgiveness Diet by Jenny Ruden

Camp Utopia and the Forgiveness Diet

by Jenny Ruden

YA Contemporary

Book Description

Sixteen-year-old Baltimore teen Bethany Stern knows the only way out of spending her summer at Camp Utopia, a fat camp in Northern California, is weight-loss. Desperate, she tries The Forgiveness Diet, the latest fad whose infomercial promises that all she has to do is forgive her deadbeat dad, her scandalous sister, and the teenage magician next door and (unrequited) love of her life. But when the diet fails and her camp nemesis delivers the ultimate blow, Bee bids sayonara to Camp-not-Utopian-at-all to begin what she believes will be her “real” summer adventure, only to learn that running away isn’t as easy—or as healing—as it seems.

Her wry and honest voice bring humor and poignancy for anyone, fat or thin, tired of hearing “you’d be so pretty if…[insert unwelcome judgment about your appearance from loved one or perfect stranger].”

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MY THOUGHTS: 4 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS

 

Camp Utopia and the Forgiveness Diet by Jenny Ruden

As a bigger girl myself, I knew I had to read about Bethany’s journey to fat camp. If I had a dollar for every time in my life I heard, “Well you’d be so pretty if you lost weight,” or, “You’re very beautiful for a big girl,”then I could have sent myself to fat camp. The main character, and I’m guessing by extension the author, knows exactly what it’s like to be in the same position. I identified so much with Bethany sometimes, it kind of scared me.

Bee knows she needs to lose weight, OK? Like, she totally gets it. She knows if she could just shed that roll around her belly, her mother wouldn’t hound her so much, her older sister might be nicer, and maybe she could nail down her best friend TJ. But she likes to eat. She doesn’t know how to do the whole weight loss thing the right way. So that’s why, even though she’s dreading it, Bethany makes the road trip to California to spend the summer at Camp Utopia.

Right off the bat, I couldn’t believe the way Bethany’s own family and friends talked to her. They would tell her to her face that she needed to lose weight (and in a rather rude manner), call her fat, and even worse insults. During the road trip, it actually really pissed me off that Bethany’s sister was letting her boyfriend be so cruel to Bee. I have two sisters, and though we may pick on each other, I dare someone else to say something inappropriate to one of us. It’s as if the author was trying to make a point as to how often and ruthlessly overweight people get picked on, but in my opinion it went overboard. I was like, “OK, I GET IT!”

Bethany is a pretty witty girl, and she takes most of the insults hurled her way in stride. A girl can’t hold out forever, though, and that’s why I’m glad when Bee had her breakdown she had a good friend alongside her. There is also romance, but it’s not a main plot point and its’ progression is unusual to say the least.

The book drags in the middle some. I didn’t see the point of Bethany and her friend Cambridge’s little foray into a drug filled party, and I think the book could have done without that scene and a few others that seemed like page fillers. But by the end, there are a couple of really cool surprises and the book wraps up in a believable way.

I think a lot of girls will relate to Bethany and her journey, teenagers or even older. The author had a way of making you feel for a character while also being able to see their flaws. This was a fun summer read and I definitely recommend it.

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About the Author

Jenny Ruden has published short stories and essays in Nerve, Salon, Eclectica Magazine, Literary Mama and High Desert Journal. She won an Orlando award for creative nonfiction, was named a finalist in Glimmertrain’s short fiction contest, and has been nominated for the Pushcart prize two years in a row. She has worked with teenagers for over ten years as a teacher of Reading, Writing and GED, and has an MFA in Fiction from the University of Oregon. She lives with her husband, two daughters, two basset hounds and cat in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Visit her website jennyruden.com, and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

 

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BOOK TOUR REVIEW: I Wish by E.B. Tatby

 I Wish 

by E.B. Tatby

YA Supernatural

Book Description

All her life, sixteen-year-old Kenza Atlas has heard the stories, but she never believed them. She never expected the allure of power or, worse, how far the dark shadows could cast. Genies and wishing are for fairy tales, not teenage girls, and especially not in Omaha.

But when a Moroccan jinn with undulating tattoos and mysterious black eyes whisks her 500 years back in time, she witnesses the death of her powerful ancestor and the gorgeous slave she loved. They sacrificed themselves to escape the Caliph, a tyrant named Mazin.

And now he’s after Kenza.

He’s tracked her to her present time. Now she spends her days stealing paranoid glances over her shoulder, obsessing over a slave who died hundreds of years ago, and praying her family will survive.

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MY THOUGHTS: 3 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS

This is one of the few books I have read that have Jinn (genies) as the main supernatural character.  While I appreciate novelty in the YA world, I’m not sure I will ever love Jinn as a creature.

Kenza has a Moroccan heritage, and as such, her father has been telling her tales of Jinn and evil in her family generations back.  But Kenza was unprepared for the fact that all of the stories her dad told her were actually true…which she realizes when a Jinn shows up in her bedroom and transports her to the past.  Kenza learns that she shares a body with a powerful relative whose past will intertwine with Kenza’s present in a potentially dangerous way.

Kenza is a teenager, and while she’s not particularly rebellious, her parents are quite strict.  Perhaps this stems from her father’s upbringing in a place other than America, but it makes it somewhat difficult for Kenza to fit in.  She’s even bullied at school.  So I don’t blame her when she jumps at the chance to get away from her parents and her terrible school life.

While the Jinn action starts almost immediately, it still takes quite a while for the book to get rolling.  Kenza goes back and forth through time, but doesn’t actually question the fact of Jinn being real as much as I feel a normal person would.  It also took me a little time to get used to the idea of a Jinn being a part of another person’s body.

The romance can kind of seem like a case of insta-love, but it’s hard to say that it is really–Kenza shares her Jinn ancestor’s thoughts and memories, so while it seems Kenza is falling for Amal when she’s barely seen him, maybe it’s just because of feelings she’s getting from the past.

I can tell this is the author’s first book; the conversations are sometimes stilted and the writing doesn’t flow as easily as it should.  Still, I appreciate a new idea in fiction, and I think if the author puts more work into writing this series could gain a lot of fans.

 

About the Author

E.B. Tatby was born and raised in Sioux City, Iowa. She is living her life-long dream of being an Author and is passionate about inspiring others (especially teens) to follow their dreams. Above all, she wants to remind them of the power to wish.

I Wish, a YA story, is her first published novel. She is currently working on a sequel.

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BOOK TOUR SPOTLIGHT: In the Mirror by Kaira Rouda

 In the Mirror

by Kaira Rouda

Women’s Fiction

Book Description

What choices would you make if you knew you might die soon?

In the Mirror is the story of Jennifer Benson, a woman who seems to have it all. Diagnosed with cancer, she enters an experimental treatment facility to tackle her disease the same way she tackled her life – head on. But while she’s busy fighting for a cure, running her business, planning a party, staying connected with her kids, and trying to keep her sanity, she ignores her own intuition and warnings from others and reignites an old relationship best left behind.

If you knew you might die, what choices would you make? How would it affect your marriage? How would you live each day? And how would you say no to the one who got away?

 

sshexcerpt

 

Rolling over to get out of bed, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and cringed. My reflection said it all. Everything had changed.
I looked like death.
I blinked, moving my gaze from the mirror, and noticed the calendar. It was Monday again. That meant everything in the real world. It meant groaning about the morning and getting the kids off to school. It meant struggling to get to the office on time and then forcing yourself to move through the day. It meant the start of something new and fresh and undetermined. But Mondays meant nothing at Shady Valley. We lived in the “pause” world, between “play” and “stop.” Suspension was the toughest part for me. And loneliness. Sure, I had visitors, but it wasn’t the same as being surrounded by people in motion. I’d been on fast-forward in the real world, juggling two kids and my business, struggling to stay connected to my husband, my friends. At Shady Valley, with beige-colored day after cottage-cheese-tasting day, my pace was, well –
I had to get moving.
I supposed my longing for activity was behind my rather childish wish to throw a party for myself. At least it gave me a mission of sorts. A delineation of time beyond what the latest in a long line of cancer treatments dictated. It had been more than 18 months of treatments, doctor’s appointments, hospitalizations and the like. I embraced the solidity of a deadline. The finality of putting a date on the calendar and knowing that at least this, my party, was something I could control.
I noticed the veins standing tall and blue and bubbly atop my pale, bony hands. I felt a swell of gratitude for the snakelike signs of life, the entry points for experimental treatments; without them, I’d be worse than on pause by now.
I pulled my favorite blue sweatshirt over my head and tugged on my matching blue sweatpants.
Moving at last, I brushed my teeth and then headed next door to Ralph’s. He was my best friend at Shady Valley—a special all-suite, last-ditch-effort experimental facility for the sick and dying—or at least he had been until I began planning my party. I was on his last nerve with this, but he’d welcome the company, if not the topic. He was paused too.
My thick cotton socks helped me shuffle across my fake wood floor, but it was slow going once I reached the grassy knoll—the leaf-green carpet that had overgrown the hallway. An institutional attempt at Eden, I supposed. On our good days, Ralph and I sometimes sneaked my son’s plastic bowling set out there to partake in vicious matches. We had both been highly competitive, type-A people in the “real” world and the suspended reality of hushed voices and tiptoeing relatives was unbearable at times.
“I’ve narrowed it down to three choices,” I said, reaching Ralph’s open door. “’Please come celebrate my life on the eve of my death. RSVP immediately. I’m running out of time.’”
“Oh, honestly,” Ralph said, rolling his head back onto the pillows propping him up. I knew my time in Shady Valley was only bearable because of this man, his humanizing presence. Even though we both looked like shadows of our outside, real-world selves, we carried on a relationship as if we were healthy, alive. I ignored the surgery scars on his bald, now misshapen head. He constantly told me I was beautiful. It worked for us.
“Too morbid? How about: ‘Only two months left. Come see the incredible, shrinking woman. Learn diet secrets of the doomed,’” I said, smiling then, hoping he’d join in.
“Jennifer, give it a rest would you?” Ralph said.
“You don’t have to be so testy. Do you want me to leave?” I asked, ready to retreat back to my room.
“No, come in. Let’s just talk about something else, OK, beautiful?”
Ralph was lonely, too. Friends from his days as the city’s most promising young investment banker had turned their backs—they didn’t or couldn’t make time for his death. His wife, Barbara, and their three teenage kids were his only regular visitors. Some days, I felt closer to Ralph than to my own family, who seemed increasingly more absorbed in their own lives despite weekly flowers from Daddy and dutiful visits from Henry, my husband of six years. Poor Henry. It was hard to have meaningful visits at Shady Valley, with nurses and treatments and all manner of interruptions. We still held hands and kissed, but intimacy—even when I was feeling up to it—was impossible.
So, there we were, Ralph and I, two near-death invalids fighting for our lives and planning a party to celebrate that fact. It seemed perfectly reasonable, at least to me, because while I knew I should be living in the moment, the future seemed a little hazy without a party to focus on.
“Seriously, I need input on my party invitations. It’s got to be right before I hand it over to Mother. I value your judgment, Ralph; is that too much to ask?”
“For God’s sake, let me see them.” Ralph snatched the paper out of my hand. After a moment, he handed it back to me. “The last one’s the best. The others are too, well, self-pitying and stupid. Are you sure you can’t just have a funeral like the rest of us?”
I glared at him, but agreed, “That’s my favorite, too.”
Mr. & Mrs. E. David Wells
request your presence at a
celebration in honor of their daughter
Jennifer Wells Benson
Please see insert for your party time
Shady Valley Center
2700 Hocking Ridge Road
RSVP to Mrs. Juliana Duncan Wells
No gifts please—donations to breast cancer research appreciated.
#
At first, I had been incredibly angry about the cancer. Hannah’s birth, so joyous, had marked the end of my life as a “normal” person. Apparently, it happened a lot. While a baby’s cells multiplied, the mom’s got into the act, mutating, turning on each other. Hannah was barely two weeks old when I became violently ill. My fever was 105 degrees when we arrived in the ER. I think the ER doctors suspected a retained placenta or even some sort of infectious disease, although I was so feverish I can’t remember much from that time. All I remember was the feeling of being cut off from my family—Henry, two-year-old Hank, and newborn Hannah—and marooned on the maternity ward, a place for mothers-to-be on bed rest until their due dates. That was hell.
At 33, I was a pathetic sight. My headache was so intense the curtains were drawn at all times. I didn’t look pregnant anymore, so all the nurses thought my baby had died. That first shift tip-toed around me, murmuring. By the second night, one of them posted a sign: “The baby is fine. Mother is sick.” It answered their questions since I couldn’t. It hurt my head too much to try.
By the third day, my headache had receded to a dull roar. Surgery revealed that there was no retained placenta after all. I was ready to go home to my newborn and my life. So with a slight fever and no answers, I escaped from the hospital and went home to a grateful Henry and a chaotic household. I was weak and tired, but everyone agreed that was to be expected. I thanked God for the millionth time for two healthy kids and my blessed, if busy, life.
And then, not two weeks later, I found the lump.

 

About the Author

Kaira Rouda is an award-winning and bestselling author of both fiction and nonfiction. Her books include: Real You Incorporated: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs; Here, Home, Hope; All the Difference;In the Mirror; and the short story,A Mother’s Day.  She lives in Southern California with her husband and four children and is at work on her next novel.

Her latest novel is the women’s fiction, In the Mirror.

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BOOK TOUR REVIEW: Cancel the Wedding by Carolyn T. Dingman

Cancel the Wedding

by Carolyn T. Dingman

Women’s Fiction

Book Description

On the surface, Olivia has it all: a high-powered career, a loving family, and a handsome fiancé. She even seems to be coming to terms with her mother Jane’s premature death from cancer. But when Jane’s final wish is revealed, Olivia and her elder sister Georgia are mystified. Their mother rarely spoke of her rural Southern hometown, and never went back to visit—so why does she want them to return to Huntley, Georgia, to scatter her ashes?

Jane’s request offers Olivia a temporary escape from the reality she’s long been denying: she hates her “dream” job, and she’s not really sure she wants to marry her groom-to-be. With her 14-year-old niece, Logan, riding shotgun, she heads South on a summer road trip looking for answers about her mother.

As Olivia gets to know the town’s inhabitants, she begins to peel back the secrets of her mother’s early life—truths that force her to finally question her own future. But when Olivia is confronted with a tragedy and finds an opportunity to right a terrible wrong, will it give her the courage to accept her mother’s past—and say yes to her own desire to start over?

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MY THOUGHTS: 3 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS

Cancel the Wedding: A Novel by Carolyn T. Dingman

While Cancel the Wedding isn’t the deepest thing you’ll read, it makes for a good beach book and a quick getaway from whatever might be troubling you.

Our main character is Olivia, a 32 year old who’s soon to be married to her high-powered attorney fiance, Leo. However, when Leo surprises her by telling her that he’s got the date and venue picked out, Olivia sort of freaks out and decides it’s time for an impromptu road trip down to Georgia with her teenage niece. Olivia aims to spread her mother’s ashes according to her final wishes, and just maybe found out about the past her mom Janie never wanted to share.

Once she gets there, though, Olivia finds out there is so much more to the story than she could have imagined. She soon realizes that it will take some time to uncover all her mom’s secrets, and it’s OK with her because she needs some time away from her life anyway. Helping her along this journey is town newspaperman Elliot, whose sweet southern demeanor quickly pulls Olivia in.

I believe that a book’s review is ultimately affected by what the reader expects the book to be. I was hoping that Cancel the Wedding would be a book of discovery and growth, but unfortunately the writing and characters fall into that chick lit, rom com rut that is so filled with stereotypes.

Olivia is a woman in her thirties but she can’t pull herself together enough to break things off with a fiance she doesn’t love. He’s always busy and from the way he seems to be wanting to marry her only to further his career, you know as a reader that there is no chance they are going to work out. Inserting a new, angelic guy into the mix just really leads you down the road you think.

But, the journey was OK. At first, I thought I had it figured out as far as the terrible secret Olivia’s mom had hidden, but I soon found that I did not, and at least that was refreshing. The book also touches on some of the things I was thinking as I was reading it: Why did Janie hide her past but want to be back in it after her death? How did Janie’s husband cope with everything? How will her children shoulder the truth? I didn’t exactly get the answers I may have been looking for, but at least the book attempted to address these issues.

The romance unfolds exactly the way you think it will in this type of book, and there was no surprise there. While Olivia is immature and runs from confrontation, Elliot is painted as a saint, so it’s easy to see that Olivia will choose him over her overbearing fiance Leo. I also thought the scenes at the end with everyone present were wrapped up a little too neatly and on the unrealistic side for my taste, but hey, maybe my life is just too drama filled.

As I said, if you’re looking for light hearted summer reading material, Cancel the Wedding is a nice choice.

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About the Author

Carolyn T. Dingman lives in her adopted hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and two daughters. Cancel the Wedding is her first novel.

Find out more about Carolyn at her website, and connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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BOOK TOUR SPOTLIGHT & GIVEAWAY: Death at Carp High by Jeremy Gold

 

Death at Carp High

by Jeremy Gold

Jake Brown Mysteries, Book One

Book Description

Jake Brown is your average, above-average kid. He generally has his mind on the usual things high school seniors think about: girls, avoiding Spanish class, girls, pizza, surfing, girls, and of course, girls. None of that changes when he and his best friend, Dean, go surfing and find a body with a hole in its head floating beyond the waves. Suddenly, Jake’s life is about to change, some of it in a good way, some of it, not so much.

Shortly after “the big discovery,” Sydney, a cross country teammate of Jake’s, asks him to go to Morp—Prom spelled backwards—a Sadie Hawkins-style dance where the girls ask out the boys. As if life isn’t exciting enough trying to solve a murder, it looks like Jake is about to have his fondest wish granted—a real, live girlfriend. Despite Sydney’s obvious attraction to him, it takes a little work to convince Jake the attraction is real. Luckily, Sydney is very convincing.

In the beginning, Jake and Dean try keeping Lily and Sydney out of harm’s way. Their concern for their girlfriends doesn’t last long. Eventually, the four of them become entangled in clues—and making sure dire threats from their prime suspect don’t pan out. Jake might not say he’s gotten himself into a life-threating situation but not wanting to say it doesn’t make it any less true.

“Death at Carp High” has as many peaks and troughs as a winter swell at Rincon, and it’s all Jake and Dean can do to avoid wiping out.

sshexcerpt

I’m pretty sure Sandra DeFargo wasn’t wearing any under- wear in homeroom, this morning,” I repeated to Dean. Dean was my best friend.
“How could you tell, Jake?” he asked.
“When I turned around to look at the clock, I noticed she was sitting with her legs slightly apart. She was wearing pantyhose but nothing else.”
“Do girls even wear pantyhose and panties at the same time? Aren’t the panties already built in to the pantyhose? They are called ‘panty’ hose, after all.”
“Good point. The real question is, however, why was she wearing pantyhose to begin with?”
“Nobody wears pantyhose to school.” “I know. So why was she?” “For that matter, why was she wearing a dress?” “Hardly any girls wear dresses.” “Maybe it has to do with some sort of medical condition.” “Like varicose veins.” “Do kids our age even get varicose veins? I thought only
old people got that.”
“It could be an anomaly,” I said. “Or cancer.” “What? Why would having cancer necessitate having to
wear pantyhose?” “Maybe it’s some sort of skin cancer. Maybe her legs would
look really bad without something to cover them up.” “So why wouldn’t she just wear pants?” I wondered out loud. “Exactly. Ninety percent of the girls at school wear pants.
Only the real slutty girls wear dresses.” “Short dresses.” “Sans underwear.” “Maybe Sandra decided to go slutty, all of sudden.” “Pantyhose, though, definitely detract from the slutty look.” “And besides, she’s way too straight to be a slut.” “Which means, you might just have imagined the whole
thing.” “So you’re saying it was just wishful thinking on my part?”
I asked. “That I imagined the whole thing?” “I’m just saying that maybe some part of your subconscious
mind saw what it wanted to see,” Dean said. “It’s possible. Still…it still doesn’t answer why she was wearing
pantyhose to begin with.” “No it doesn’t. And it also doesn’t answer a more funda-
mental question.” “Which is?” I asked. “Why was she sitting with her legs apart?” “Hmm? ” “Exactly. Why weren’t her legs crossed?” “Or pressed together?”
“We’ve already ruled out the whole ‘slut’ angle, right?”
“Right. Sandra DeFargo is not a slut. Too smart, too straight. Too Christian.”
“On the other hand, you know what they say about those Catholic girls.”
“Except we’re not going to a Catholic high school.”
“Which doesn’t mean she couldn’t still be a repressed Catholic, acting out against her priest and parents.”
“You make a good point. Just because she ‘appears’ to be straight, doesn’t mean she actually is. For all we know, she’s having wild sex with different guys every night.”
“Don’t you think we would have heard about it if that were true, though?”
“Probably. But it’s not like we’re part of that crowd.” “The crowd that has wild sex every night?” “Yes. That crowd.” “You think this was a one-time deal or you think she’s,
uh…turned over a new leaf, decided to spice up her life a little bit?” Dean asked.
“You’re suggesting the pantyhose could actually be an attempt to change things up and get laid?” I said.
“Hooking up and getting laid is always a good thing,” Dean reminded me.
“Definitely. Though if she thinks wearing pantyhose is what it’ll take…”
“Dude, it doesn’t take much for a girl to get laid at our school.” “I wish I could say the same for the guys.” “I know what you mean.” “At least you have a girlfriend,” I said.
“Yeah, but we’re not doing it,” Dean said, holding out his hands disappointedly.
“And why exactly is that again?” “The biggest reason is that she’s ‘not ready,’” he said. “And the lesser reason?” “It’s against my religion.” “Oh that’s right…you’re Mormon,” I said, pretending I
hadn’t remembered. “Hard to forget something like that.” “I can imagine it would be,” I said. Unless you knew Dean like I did, you never would have
known that he went to church at least once a week and planned on going on a two-year mission abroad after his first year of college.
“So you’ve finally decided not to have sex before you’re married?” I asked.
“Well…not completely. If the right girl threw herself at me…I might just give in to the temptation.”
“And Lily isn’t ‘temptation’ enough?” I queried. “She’s definitely temptation…” “But she isn’t enough temptation?” I pressed. “Well…given the right circumstances…”
“Like both of you inebriated at a party? Which incidentally is also taboo in the Mormon religion. Drinking alcohol, right? Which, of course, you have freely sampled more than once.”
“I have, haven’t I,” Dean admitted nodding his head.
“So what’s one more sin in the book? You just have to say a few extra Hail Marys, right?”
“We don’t say Hail Marys, dude. Catholics say Hail Marys.”

 

About the Author

Jeremy Gold is seventeen years old…in his mind. He lives in Carpinteria, California, a small beachside town, ten miles south of its more celebrated sister, Santa Barbara. He loves hiking, mountain bike riding, and of course, writing. Death at Carp High is the first in the six-part Jake Brown mystery series.

Jeremy and his wife, Calla, have been married since 1979. Any resemblance between their 21-year-old son, Dan, and Jake Brown is purely…understandable.

 

BOOK TOUR REVIEW: This is the Water by Yannick Murphy

This is the Water

by Yannick Murphy

Mystery/Thriller

Book Description

In a quiet New England community members of the swim team and their dedicated parents are preparing for a home meet. The most that Annie, a swim-mom of two girls, has to worry about is whether or not she fed her daughters enough carbs the night before; why her husband, Thomas, hasn’t kissed her in ages; and why she can’t get over the loss of her brother who shot himself a few years ago. But Annie’s world is about to change. From the bleachers, looking down at the swimmers, a dark haired man watches a girl. No one notices him. Annie is busy getting to know Paul, who flirts with Annie despite the fact that he’s married to her friend Chris, and despite Annie’s greying hair and crow’s feet. Chris is busy trying to discover whether or not Paul is really having an affair, and the swimmers are trying to shave milliseconds off their race times by squeezing themselves into skin-tight bathing suits and visualizing themselves winning their races.

But when a girl on the team is murdered at a nearby highway rest stop-the same rest stop where Paul made a gruesome discovery years ago-the parents suddenly find themselves adrift. Paul turns to Annie for comfort. Annie finds herself falling in love. Chris becomes obsessed with unmasking the killer.

With a serial killer now too close for comfort, Annie and her fellow swim-parents must make choices about where their loyalties lie. As a series of startling events unfold, Annie discovers what it means to follow your intuition, even if love, as well as lives, could be lost.

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MY THOUGHTS: 3.5 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS

 

This Is the Water by Yannick Murphy

It takes a little while to get into the style of this novel; the story is oddly told in second person and in the present tense. While this is something rarely seen in a traditional novel, it makes for a different, and sometimes intense, reading experience. But once I was sucked in to the story, I couldn’t put it down.

Most of the book takes place in or around a swimming pool. The main character, Annie, is the mother of two young girls who are competitive swimmers. The man who is the killer spends a lot of time at the pool too, watching the meets and practices and carefully choosing his next victim. While there’s never any mystery as to who the killer is, that doesn’t change the fact that the reader gets chills when getting into his mind and actually seeing him describe committing the murders.

For the most part, I think this book would have been better with the exclusion of several characters and subplots, but the addition of some others. As an example, we do not hear anything about a murdered girl’s parents and their journey through grief, but you see a random swim dad’s thoughts about how his boys are swimming in the practice. This dad never came up again in the rest of the novel, and the paragraphs from his point of view were apropos of nothing. In addition to the cheating subplot, which I felt didn’t add much or develop the story, paragraphs full of swimming jargon and descriptions of nature gave the novel an overall bloated feeling.

Where this book did work was the way that the unique narration style allowed the reader to get into the heads of characters better. In addition to seeing Annie’s neuroses, we see her feelings of rejection from her husband, guilt about how she sometimes treats her daughters, and desire when she’s around the guy she is starting an affair with. Though Annie is the main character, we also see into the mind of the killer, and his matter of fact way of describing things is quite chilling.

As I said, this book is different from the start, and I can tell that it’s one that won’t appeal to all readers. If you can stick with it, I think you’ll be happy with the ending, even though to me it was a bit anticlimactic. This writer has talent, for sure.

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About the Author

Yannick Murphy is the author of The CallSigned, Mata HariHere They Come; and The Sea of Trees, as well as two story collections and several children’s books. She is the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Award, a Chesterfield Screenwriting Award, a Pushcart Prize, and the Laurence L. & Thomas Winship/PEN New England Award. Her work has appeared in The Best American Nonrequired Reading and The O. Henry Prize Stories. She lives in Vermont with her husband and children.

Find out more about Yannick at her website.

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BOOK TOUR REVIEW: Help for the Haunted by John Searles

Help for the Haunted

by John Searles

Mystery/Family Drama

Book Description

It begins with a call in the middle of snowy February evening. Lying in her bed, young Sylvie Mason overhears her parents on the phone across the hall. This is not the first late-night call they have received, since her mother and father have an uncommon occupation, helping “haunted souls” find peace. And yet, something in Sylvie senses that this call is different than the rest, especially when they are lured to the old church on the outskirts of town. Once there, her parents disappear, one after the other, behind the church’s red door, leaving Sylvie alone in the car. Not long after, she drifts off to sleep only to wake to the sound of gunfire.

Nearly a year later, we meet Sylvie again struggling with the loss of her parents, and living in the care of her older sister, who may be to blame for what happened the previous winter.

As the story moves back and forth in time, through the years leading up to the crime and the months following, the ever inquisitive and tender-hearted Sylvie pursues the mystery, moving closer to the knowledge of what occurred that night, as she comes to terms with her family’s past and uncovers secrets that have haunted them for years.

4fleur

MY THOUGHTS: 3.75 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS

Help for the Haunted by John Searles

There were three things about the description of this book that made me want to read it: it’s a murder mystery, it has a touch of the supernatural, and it’s told from the point of view of a child. All three of these things blended together beautifully and really made the book a fun read for me.

Sylvie Mason is slowly trying to put her life back together after the murder of her parents. A freshman in high school, she’s currently in the guardianship of older sister Rose, who has been volatile in the past to say the least. As Sylvie tries to work through her jumbled feelings about the night of the murder, she eventually also starts to work out what the truth really is, both about the murders and her parents.

Sylvie is 14 years old and while at times she can seem wise beyond her years, she also still has some of her childlike innocence, even in the face of the life she has led so far. Rose, four years older than Sylvie, was named for her mother but couldn’t be any more different than her. While Rose had a lot of arguments and misunderstandings with her parents during her teenage years, for the most part she never took it out on her younger sister. Rose and Sylvie are such different girls though, that it was impossible for them to always see eye to eye.

The Masons held an unusual job: they traveled the country offering “help for the haunted,” bringing peace to those claiming to be plagued by some demon or spirit. They often brought their work home with them, and as they became more well known, it made the girls’ lives tougher. Kids teased Sylvie, telling her that her parents were crackpots and so she must be too. But it wasn’t only kids that were detractors for the Masons’ work; they had plenty of adults against what they were doing as well–within their own family as a matter of fact. All of these different aspects made it a challenge for the reader to figure out the motive and killer.

In the end, I was quite surprised by the truth–I can definitely say I didn’t see it coming. While in a way I think it was disappointing, in another way I really appreciate what the author did. Sometimes bringing something out of left field doesn’t work in a book, but when it ties everything together, it can work nicely.

I was left with a ton of unanswered questions, but then again, so was Sylvie. I enjoyed going on her journey for the truth and can only hope she puts her life together to have some semblance of normalcy for the future.

View all my reviews

 

 

About the Author

John Searles is the author of the national bestsellers Boy Still Missing and Strange but True. He frequently appears as a book critic on NBC’s Today show and CBS’s The Early Show. He is the Editor-at-Large of Cosmopolitan. His essays have been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other national newspapers and magazines. He lives in New York City and can be found on Facebook and also on Twitter: @searlesbooks.

Purchase Links

Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble

Special offer for book clubs:

Book clubs that sign up to chat with John Searles about Help for the Haunted could win a tote bag of books for each member of their book club! Find out more details about John Searles’ goal to speak to a book club in each state of the United States over at Book Club Girl!

BOOK TOUR REVIEW & GIVEAWAY: Backward Compatible by Sarah Daltry & Pete Clark

Backward Compatible

by Sarah Daltry & Pete Clark

NA Contemporary

Book Description

Not too long ago, in a town that, depending on your current location, is either not super far or actually quite close… (insert Star Wars theme music here…)

It is a time of chaotic hormones.

Two nerdy gents home for winter break have discovered a female gamer at a midnight release.

During the break, the gamer trio manages to reveal the game’s secret boss, a hidden enemy with enough power to destroy anything in its path.

Pursued by other gamers who want to be the first to beat this boss, George and Katie race to level up, and, in so doing, restore decency and sexual activity to their personal galaxy…

3 fleur

MY THOUGHTS: 3 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS

 

Backward Compatible: A Geek Love Story by Sarah Daltry

As a female who plays video games (I hate the term “girl gamer”), I should be offended by a lot of the things that happen in this book; after all, a girl uses her cleavage to her advantage in the very first chapter. While I definitely hated all the ridiculous stereotypes this book is filled with, I have to admit that this book did have an original twist on boy meets girl and romance.
First off, let me say if you aren’t what some would call a nerd, you will not understand this book, much less enjoy it. There are references to nerd culture, video games, movies, books, and the like in practically every line. I would call myself a geek, and there were some parts even I didn’t understand. This is one thing that massively bothered me, actually: every single character in this book has snarky, geeky comments to make, which are basically the only things that come out of their mouths. The main characters sounded more like 12 and 13 year olds with all the raunchy insults they were throwing around, and that is not good because they are supposed to be in college.

Let’s talk a little about our main characters. Katie, George, and Lanyon are home during their respective semester breaks. Katie is a loner who would rather spend her time leveling up than dressing up. George and Lanyon are lifelong best friends who probably (definitely) spend way too much time together, to the chagrin of both their love lives. All three of these people are at the game store waiting on the midnight release of the hottest new MMORPG. When Katie and George both grab for the last copy of the game, it’s not exactly a love at first sight moment. But as they spend more time together both in the real world and the online gaming one, sparks slowly start to fly and they begin dating–even if Lanyon is tagging along for every one.

As I said, this book is chock full of gamer stereotypes, so many so that I have to wonder if the authors are even gamers themselves. The characters in this novel subsist on Mountain Dew, Snickers, and Denny’s, and regularly stay up for more than 24 hours at a time in front of their consoles. Not only does this sound more like the behavior of teenagers than college students, but I feel like these kids’ parents would not be letting them get away with these kinds of things during their time at home and the holiday season. Maybe I’m just a pragmatist since I’m a parent myself.

The best thing about the book is that Katie and George’s courtship was so sweet and unique. They both really have no romantic backgrounds and no idea how to let one another know how they really feel. But, they try their best, and with the help (and hindrance) of their friends they come together without the ton of drama that YA and NA romances usually have.

I think this may be best suited for an audience a bit younger than me, though I’m glad I had the chance to read a refreshing romance for a change.

View all my reviews

About the Authors

Sarah Daltry:

Sarah Daltry writes about the regular people who populate our lives. She’s written works in various genres – romance, erotica, fantasy, horror. Genre isn’t as important as telling a story about people and how their lives unfold. Sarah tends to focus on YA/NA characters but she’s been known to shake it up. Most of her stories are about relationships – romantic, familial, friendly – because love and empathy are the foundation of life. It doesn’t matter if the story is set in contemporary NY, historical Britain, or a fantasy world in the future – human beings are most interesting in the ways they interact with others. This is the principle behind all of Sarah’s stories.

Sarah has spent most of her life in school, from her BA and MA in English and writing to teaching both at the high school and college level. She also loves studying art history and really anything because learning is fun.

When Sarah isn’t writing, she tends to waste a lot of time checking Facebook for pictures of cats, shooting virtual zombies, and simply staring out the window.

She has written several books, most notably Bitter Fruits, an urban fantasy in the Eden’s Fall series, and the six-part New Adult contemporary Flowering series. Her most recent release is Primordial Dust, a YA fantasy.

 

Pete Clark:

Pete Clark likes writing, animals, potato chips, and cheese. Midnight Riders was his first published novel, although he can also proudly say he finally finished Helix Crashing, the fantasy novel he has been working on for over a decade. In addition, he has written Across the Barren Landscape, a collection of linked Western short stories, and Tales from Midnight’s Graveyard, a collection of non-linked horror, science fiction, and fantasy stories. He also writes plays, both dramatic and comedic.

Pete’s Website: http://punchmyselfintheface.wordpress.com

Pete’s Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PeteClarkAuthor

Sarah’s Twitter: http://twitter.com/SarahDaltry

Pete’s Twitter: http://twitter.com/PeteClarkBooks

PURCHASE BACKWARD COMPATIBLE

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Prizes Include:

1 $25 Amazon gift card
2 signed paperbacks of the book (by both authors)
1 Ebook copy
1 Signed paperback of Midnight Riders by Pete Clark
1 Ebook of any of Sarah Daltry’s titles
1 Backward Compatible packet

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bewitching

REVIEW & GIVEAWAY: Strange and Ever After by Susan Dennard

 

Strange and Ever After

by Susan Dennard

Something Strange and Deadly, Book 3

Book Description

In the conclusion to the trilogy that Publishers Weekly called “a roaring—and addictive—gothic world,” Eleanor Fitt must control her growing power, face her feelings for Daniel, and confront the evil necromancer Marcus…all before it’s too late.
He took her brother, he took her mother, and now, Marcus has taken her good friend Jie. With more determination than ever to bring this sinister man to justice, Eleanor heads to the hot desert streets of nineteenth-century Egypt in hopes of ending this nightmare. But in addition to her increasingly tense relationships with Daniel, Joseph, and her demon, Oliver, Eleanor must also deal with her former friend, Allison, who has curiously entangled herself in Eleanor’s mission.
With the rising dead chomping at her every move and Jie’s life hanging in the balance, Eleanor is convinced that her black magic will see her through to the bitter end. But there will be a price. Though she and the Spirit Hunters have weathered every battle thus far, there will be consequences to suffer this time—the effects of which will be irreversible. And when it’s over, only some will be able to live a strange and ever after.
Susan Dennard will leave readers breathless and forever changed in the concluding pages of this riveting ride.

4fleur

MY THOUGHTS: 4 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS

 

This is one of my favorite series I’ve ever read.  It’s also the only steampunk type series I’ve ever read.  I originally started the series because of the promise of zombies, but I got into it quickly and discovered the books were about a lot more than just that.

The final novel starts out right in the middle of where the previous book left off.  This can be a problem if it has been a long time since you read the books in the series, as was the case with me.  The author does drop some hints about what happened to get us up to the point where we are, but I ended up having to Google to recall who certain characters were and I still found myself a bit lost at times.

Thankfully, the action in Strange & Ever After is immediate, and I found myself once again lost in Eleanor’s world.  You can tell that Eleanor has changed so much, not just over the course of the series, but actually from one book to the next.  She has experienced so much loss at the hands of Marcus, that her singular fixation is on making sure he is destroyed.  She doesn’t intend to let anyone get in her way, be they friend or foe.

The reader can tell Eleanor’s magic has changed her as well.  She is no longer tentative about using it, even though internally she is struggling with the thought of taking it too far.  Her use of necromancer magic has many effects: it physically drains her; it puts her at odds with her fellow Spirit Hunters; it makes her forget any sense of propriety she ever had.  I’m not going to say I didn’t like Eleanor in this novel, but her new demeanor did take a lot of getting used to, and I felt bad for some of the interactions she had with other characters.

I’m still undecided on whether I liked the ending.  I think I’m going to go back and give it a second glance and maybe change up this review a bit.  I will say that I’m happy I read this series; as I stated before it’s one of my favorites from start to end.  I definitely recommend it to steampunk fans, zombie fans, romance fans, and anyone who loves to see the main characters grow and change throughout a series.  Very well done, Ms. Dennard.

 

About the Author

I am a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. I used to be a marine biologist, but now I write novels. And not novels about fish either, but novels about kick-butt heroines and swoon-worthy rogues (I reallylike swoon-worthy rogues).
I live in the Midwest with my husband and two dogs (Asimov and Princess Leia), and you can learn more about my crazy thoughts and crippling cookie-addiction on my blog or twitter.
My debut, SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY is now available from HarperTeen along with the prequel, A DAWN MOST WICKED, and the sequel A DARKNESS STRANGE & LOVELY.
Look for STRANGE & EVER AFTER in summer 2014 and TRUTHWITCH in fall 2015!
Note: I am on Goodreads to READ. So, if you want to discuss books and the joys of literature, add me as a friend!
BOOK LINKS:
DETAILS:
1 HB copy of Strange and Ever After (Us only)
1 E-book of Strange and Ever After (INT)
SPECIFICS:
- Must be 13 or older to enter
- Giveaway starts JULY  until JULY 14th to July 22nd
- All entries are double-checked and false entries will be disqualified
- Winner will be notified via email and needs to answer in 48 hours letting us know if he/she accepts the prize and send us his/her full name and address.
- Your personal information won’t be used or be seen unless you’re the winner of the giveaway. We won’t sell it nor use it in a bad way.
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SPOTLIGHT & GIVEAWAY: Maisy and the Missing Mice by Elizabeth Woodrum

Mother Daughter Book Reviews is pleased to be coordinating a Book Blast for the first book in The Maisy Files mystery chapter book series by Elizabeth Woodrum, “Maisy and the Missing Mice”. Book 2 in the series, “Maisy and the Money Marauder” is coming August, 2014. If you haven’t checked out Book 1, you can grab a copy for only 99 cents from Amazon!

 

About the Book

Maisy and the Missing MiceTitle: Maisy and the Missing Mice (The Maisy Files) | Author: Elizabeth Woodrum | Publication Date: September 24, 2013 | Publisher: Independent | Pages: 75 | Recommended Ages: 6 to 10

Summary: Maisy Sawyer is not your average fourth grade student. She is a detective with a special skill for solving mysteries. She loves black and white mystery movies, cherry lollipops, and her dog, Reesie. When a thief known as The Black Boot steals the school’s mascots and her lollipops, Maisy sets out to solve the case. Can she help return the mice to their home in the science lab? Will she ever see her beloved lollipops again? Find out in the first book in The Maisy Files series.

Book Video

 

PURCHASE FOR 99 CENTS

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The Buzz About the Book

Maisy and the Missing Mice is a fun chapter book featuring a smart and sassy tween girl as the title character; a solid and interesting plot featuring age-appropriate intrigue and suspense; and some terrific writing that carries the reader on a journey as a detective uncovering clues and solving the mystery of who stole the missing mice. I highly recommend this book as a read aloud book for children between the ages of 6 and 10 or for independent readers between the ages of 7 and 12 who love to read mysteries.” ~ Renee, Mother Daughter Book Reviews

“Woodrum certainly knows her target audience and does a very nice job with the character development of Maisy. This is an incredibly kid-friendly story that makes a great introduction to the genre of mystery for newly independent readers. It’s a quick page turning read that encourages kids to think outside of the box.” ~ The Children’s Book Review

“The delights from this book start with the cover art and continue with a fun story that is well-written.” ~ 5 Star Review, R. Johnson, Amazon

“My name is Kat. I am 9 years old. I would rate this a five because I like everything about it, the mystery the most. It was fun to read. My favorite part was the mystery and the end. I love this book so much. I think other kids would love it too because it has mystery and most kids would like mystery books. Most mystery books have a good mystery. I would love to read the whole series.” ~ 5 Star Review, Heather A., Amazon

“What an Amazing book. I totally love it. I admire the author dedication for writing an incredible book. While reading this book, it was very clear that author understand kids. I’ve always been an avid reader and this book is one of the best books I have read in 2014. This book grabs my attention from the very start of the book and couldn’t put it aside till I finish it.” ~ 5 Star Review, KristinT, Amazon

“I knew I would love this book simply because I knew it would remind me of the mystery books I read in my childhood. I really love how much trust the teachers and community as a whole put in Maisy. She is well deserving of their admiration as the way she finds clues and finds the mascot for the school is well thought out. This is a story any child would love to read. I hope Maisy continues to solve mysteries…” ~ 5 Star Review, Josh, Amazon

 

About the Author: Elizabeth Woodrum

Elizabeth Woodrum

Elizabeth Woodrum

Elizabeth Woodrum is an elementary teacher in Ohio. She came to love writing when she was in elementary school, but more recently began writing material for use in her classroom. From that writing, grew the desire to write books for the general population of children and adults alike. The Maisy Files, a children’s series, is the first series that she has published.

As a reader, Elizabeth prefers the fantasy genre, but she enjoys realistic fiction as well. Some of her favorite authors include JK Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, Rick Riordan, Veronica Roth, Suzanne Collins, and Nicholas Sparks. Originally from Indiana, Elizabeth currently resides near Dayton, Ohio with her two pets: a cat named Butterscotch and a dog named Reese Cup.

 

Book Website | Author Blog | Twitter

Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest

 

* $25 Book Blast Giveaway *

Amazon 25 gift card

Prize: $25 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice)

Contest ends: August 7, 11:59 pm, 2014

Open: Internationally

How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.

Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the author, Elizabeth Woodrum and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com.

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