Category Archives: books

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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SPOTLIGHT & GIVEAWAY: Torn by Laney McMann

J. Taylor Publishing are giving away FIVE ARCs of Torn by Laney McMann!

Check it out!

TORN by Laney McMann

Find Max.

That’s all Layla cares about. Not healing from the Fomore attack. Not finding answers to how she survived a fall that nearly killed her. Nothing will stop her. She will find him. She’ll even pair up with an overbearing Fallen Angel who’s hell bent on making everything harder than it needs to be if she has to.

Protect Layla.

For Max, nothing else matters. Not the bruises covering his body. Not the pain radiating from his broken bones. Not even his hands tied behind his back. He will find a way to save Layla, and the Fomore will pay if they’ve hurt her.

Every. Single. One of them.

In the second installment of The Fire Born trilogy, a new breed of villain looms—one Layla and Max will never suspect, and this killer has nothing to lose. Better yet, with Max and Layla’s deaths, victory is in the grip of the enemy.

Will Max and Layla find each other in time, or is it already too late for them both?

If young love worth fighting for keeps you up reading all night, you will love this second installment in the Fire Born trilogy.

And J. Taylor Publishing is giving away FIVE ARC copies.

To YOU!

You don’t even have to be a book blogger!

Nope, so long as you are willing to leave an honest review* by September 14th 2014, you are eligible to enter.

Interested?

Then just fill out the form and keep your fingers crossed.

You have until midnight of August 25th, 2014 to enter.

*A review should consist of your honest thoughts regarding a book, usually a few paragraphs long and around 150 – 500 (or more, if desired) words in length.

About Laney McMann:

 

Laney McMann

Laney McMann

With a passion for the supernatural and all things magical, Laney developed a voracious appetite for reading fantasy at a young age. A vivid imagination helped set the stage for creating her own worlds and placed her onto the writing path.

By the time she reached her teens, she’d accumulated notebooks full of poems, which led to short stories and finally novels. Young adult dark fantasy, paranormal romance, and mythology are among her favorite genres.

A former classical dancer and chef, she grew up in sultry Florida where she still resides with her family.

REVIEW: The Great American Slow Cooker Book by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough

Book Description

The ultimate in slow-cooker books–with 500 recipes, each adapted for three sizes of appliance. From breakfast to soups, mains to grains, vegetables to desserts, this guide is the only book you’ll ever need to master your slow cooker or crockpot.

Millions of people are turning to slow cookers for their weeknight meals yet often can’t find recipes that match their exact machine. Adapting recipes meant for a different-size cooker doesn’t work–getting the right level of spice in your Vietnamese soup or keeping pulled pork tender requires having ingredients in the right proportion. But now, Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough have decoded slow cookers, and each of their recipes includes ingredient proportions for 2-3 quart, 4-5 quart, and 6-8 quart machines, guaranteeing a perfect fit no matter what machine you own. Each recipe is labeled for its level of difficulty and nutritional value, and they cover every kind of dish imaginable: delicious breakfast oatmeals, slow-braised meats, succulent vegetables, sweet jams and savory sauces, decadent desserts. This is the slow cooker book to end them all.

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MY THOUGHTS: 4 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS

Before you even start looking up recipes in this book, it would benefit you greatly as a chef to read the introduction and tips in the beginning.  This book offers recipes for 3 common sizes of slow cookers, so you will need to know the size of your before you attempt any recipes.
Once you get to the recipes, you are greeted with a wide variety of dishes and ingredients, some common, some more obscure.  I like that this cookbook has slow cooker dessert and breakfast recipes, which for some reason are few and far between in most places.
The best part about this cookbook is that the reader knows that all the recipes contained within have been tried and found true.  At the end of each is a footnote that will help you achieve slow cooking success.  I’m glad to add this book to my collection and I know I will be referencing it often.

COVER REVEAL: Who We Were by Christy Sloat

Who We Were by Christy Sloat
Genre: YA, Contemporary Romance
Coming September 15th, 2014!

“Who we were had washed away with the summer. Who we are was yet to be seen.”

Summer school at Alcott High was only supposed to gain Sadie Peters extra credit, nothing more. Her goal wasn’t to make friends, or gain the attention of the most popular football player, yet she managed both. Her life was cruising along on course … until that summer.

Could a simple stint in a different school change her identity completely and introduce her to love for the first time? How would that affect her relationship with Lily, her best friend?

Hopefully their friendship was strong enough to make it through the tumultuous summer. Sadie learns that great things come with change, but sometimes memories of the past are hardest to part with.

 
About the Author

 

 

Christy Sloat is a SoCal born girl who resides in New Jersey currently with her husband, two daughters and Sophie her Chihuahua. Christy has embraced the love of reading and writing since her youth and was inspired by her grandmother’s loving support. Christy passes that love of reading, writing, and creativity to her daughters, family, and friends. When you do not find Christy within the pages of a book you can find her being mommy, wife, crafter, and dear friend. She loves adventurous journeys with her friends and can be known to get lost inside a bookstore. Be sure to venture into her Past Lives Series, The Visitor’s Series, and watch for many more exciting things to come.

 

 

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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.

 

SPOTLIGHT: Coexist by Julia Crane

Coexist by Julia Crane

Book 1 – Keegan’s Chronicles

YA Fantasy

Sixteen-year-old Keegan is struggling to keep her huge secret from her friends–she’s an elf, descended from a long line of elves that live in secrecy alongside humans. 

In elfin society, mates are predetermined but not allowed to meet until they are eighteen. Against tradition, Keegan’s brother Thaddeus told her Rourk’s name because his visions warned him she’d need Rourk’s protection, especially since Keegan will play a key role in the coming war between the dark and light elves.

Rourk finds himself drawn to Keegan’s side every time she thinks his name. He wants to talk to her but remains in the shadows, silently guarding her every time she mentally beckons him. A twist of fate thrusts the two of them together when Rourk is forced to step up his protection and make his presence known.

An ancient prophecy deeply entwines Keegan’s family and the future of their society. Somehow they must find a way to thwart fate and win the battle…without losing Keegan. With war brewing, and dark forces aligning, will Keegan and Rourk ever have the life together that they both desire?

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Coexist is FREE on Kindle

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1yemf3u

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About Julia Crane

Julia crane is the author of the Keegan’s Chronicles, IFICS. She has a bachelors degree in criminal justice. Julia has believed in magical creatures since the day her grandmother first told her an Irish tale. Growing up her mother greatly encouraged reading and using your imagination.

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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.

Purchase Links

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SPOTLIGHT & GIVEAWAY: Skies Like These by Tess Hilmo

Skies Like These by Tess Hilmo

 

About the Book

Title: Skies Like These | Author: Tess Hilmo | Publication Date: July 15, 2014 | Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), sold by MacMillan | Pages: 240 | Recommended Age: 7 to 12

Summary: Twelve-year-old Jade’s perfect summers have always been spent reading and watching TV reruns, so she’s not happy when her parents send her off to Wyoming to her aunt’s house. She meets a boy who calls himself Roy Parker—just like the real name of the legendary rebel cowboy Butch Cassidy. Roy’s dad’s hardware store has closed because a chain store has opened up in town, and Roy thinks it is just like the big cattle barons in Butch’s day who put the local ranchers out of business. He wants Jade to be his Sundance Kid and help him pull some stunts worthy of Butch Cassidy. Sabotage the big store? Outsmart the store’s owner by doing reconnaissance on his ranch? Jade wants to be a good friend, but she’s not so sure about Roy’s schemes.

 

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The Buzz About the Book

“A robust cast of well-developed characters and a delightful, swiftly moving plot will leave readers wishing for Jade to extend her stay in Wyoming.” ~ School Library Journal, Amanda Struckmeyer, Middleton Public Library, Madison, WI

“Drawing on rich Western lore and creating characters as gritty as the earth itself, Hilmo paints a picture of a town where everyone is connected . . . A heartening, comforting story with enough tension to keep readers hooked.” – Kirkus Reviews

“A robust cast of well-developed characters and a delightful, swiftly moving plot will leave readers wishing for Jade to extend her stay in Wyoming.” ~ School Library Journal

“Writing with humor and heart, Hilmo gently reminds readers of the benefits of being shaken out of one’s routine, especially the sense of perspective gained by traveling to new places and trying new things.” ~ Publishers Weekly

“A fantastic story for the 7-12 age range it is full of lighthearted humor and goings on. The characters are fully developed and loads of fun, the dialogue is engaging and the scenery is captivating. Jade a spunky city girl and Roy a down to earth cowboy create an incredible chemistry that draws you deep into their adventures. Full of suspense, good nature, childhood problems, loyalty and friendship this is one you definitely want your children to read (and is fun for the adults too). I highly recommend it!” ~ 5-Star review, Ally M., Amazon

“Mystery, intrigue, friendship and the true essence of childhood all form the backbone of this astounding book that will surly become a classic. I felt Author Tess Hilmo’s character descriptions are perfect with a deep POV that had me walking alongside both Jade and Roy on there fun filed adventure. As mentioned this is perfect for a summer reading list and highly recommend to all. 5 Stars!!!” ~ 5-Star review, Michael B., Amazon

 

About The Author: Tess Hilmo

Tess Hilmo
Tess lives with her husband and three children in Highland, Utah. Her first book, With a Name Like Love, received three starred reviews and was a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year and an ABC New Voices title. Skies Like These is her second novel.

Website | Blog | Twitter

 

 

 

* Book Blast Giveaway *

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Prize: $75 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice)

Contest ends: September 3, 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. The 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 a 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, Tess Hilmo 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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AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Belinda Boring

Hey yall!  Today I’m happy to spotlight author Belinda Boring and some of her works.

About the Author

A homesick Aussie living amongst the cactus and mountains of Arizona, Belinda Boring is a self proclaimed addict of romance and all things swoon worthy. When she’s not devouring her latest read, you can find her celebrating her passion for books on her blog The Bookish Snob.

With all that excitement, it wasn’t long before she began writing, pouring her imagination and creativity into the stories she dreams. Whether urban fantasy, paranormal romance or romance in general, Belinda strives to share great plots with heart and characters that you can’t help but connect with. Of course, she wouldn’t be Belinda without adding heroes she hopes will curl your toes.

Surrounded by a supportive cast of family, friends and the man she gives her heart and soul to, Belinda is living the good life. Happy reading!

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Some of Belinda’s books include:

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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.

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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.

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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!

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