Category Archives: challenge
Any Other Night
by Anne Pfeffer
Any other night, Ryan Mills would have driven his best friend, Michael, to Emily’s sweet sixteen party at the Breakers Club. Instead, determined to win over the birthday girl, he goes to the party early and alone, setting off a chain of events that ends with a car accident in which Michael dies.
Ryan blames himself for what happened to Michael. As far as he’s concerned, he doesn’t deserve to have love or ever be happy again. Then he learns Michael left a secret behind. Ryan feels compelled to take on his friend’s unfinished business, and in the process, changes his life forever and becomes a man.
This book was published in October 2011 under the title Loving Emily. In May 2012, it was reissued with its content unchanged as Any Other Night. The book was named a Finalist in the 2012 Indie Reader Discovery Awards competition.
MY THOUGHTS: 4 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
Ryan Mills is pretty much like any other high school junior–in love with a beautiful, unattainable girl, best friends with guy who is like a brother, and no real clue about what he wants to do with his future. But one thing’s different–his dad is an Oscar winning director, and neither of his parents are ever home. Ryan therefore has a particularly difficult time dealing with the accidental death of his best friend, Michael.
Then Ryan learns that Michael had a few secrets…and one of them is something that will change Ryan’s life drastically. Ryan definitely did not dream of passing his junior year of high school in such a stressful way.
I must admit I was hooked on this book at the very beginning, as events moved quickly. But after Michael’s death, the plot rather dragged for me. However, events improves towards the end, and I ended up enjoying this novel a great deal.
Ryan is a truly great guy, especially for a sixteen year old. He does harbor some resentment towards his parents, but after his explanation of why, I don’t blame him. Even though his father is a world-famous director, Ryan is not a pretentious jerk. After Michael’s death, he blames himself and feels he has some sort of cosmic debt to pay. I have a feeling that even before his best friend’s death, he was still a nice kid, though.
I thought that Ryan and Emily’s relationship moved sort of fast, and in the end I was happy with how things were between them. It felt like real life. I think the author has a gift for that; the whole time I was reading, I had no problems believing I was in the head of a teenage boy…and all the things that entails!
I loved that the plot dealt with so many intense moments that the majority of teens have to go through: fighting with your parents, losing your virginity, trying drugs, and much more. There were lots of really intense moments, but there were also some funny ones. The book had a great balance.
This book was about so much more than dealing with the death of a lifelong friend. Ryan grew a great deal throughout the course of the book, and I am truly impressed with the man he was growing into. I have no doubt that he will go on to do great things, independently of his father’s name.
I commend the author for writing such a gripping novel, and I would be happy to read anything else released by her!
About the Author
Today Sweet Southern Home is excited to join the WinterHaven Sleigh Tour hosted by WinterHaven Books. This week, I am posting my choice of a Winter Book Review. To see who else is on the sleigh, go to WinterHaven Sleigh Tour for a list of participating blogs.
North Pole High: A Rebel Without a Claus
A Memoir by Candace Jane Kringle
Young Adult Christmas Fiction
MEET SIXTEEN-YEAR-OLD CANDYCANE CLAUS.
She’s the most popular girl at North Pole High. Her father is world-famous. And every day is Christmas. What more could any girl want?
BOYS! And the new boy, Rudy Tutti, is hot chocolate. But he hates anything to do with Christmas!
When Candy and Rudy are forced to work together on a school Christmas-tree project, her world is turned upside down: Her grades start to suffer, she loses her taste for ice cream, and now the two North-Star-cross’d teens must contend with her overprotective father — Santa Claus — before Christmas is ruined for EVERYONE!
MY THOUGHTS: 4.5 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
Everyone knows the story of Santa Claus, right? He lives in the North Pole and delivers toys on Christmas Eve. But did you know jolly old Kris Kringle has an entire family, with a wife and 2 kids? This is the story of Candycane Claus, AKA Candace Jane Kringle–who wants to let you know that life as Santa’s daughter isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Candycane is a junior at North Pole High, and dates the hottest half elf in town, Tinsel. But her life gets shaken up when the Scroogelike Rudy Tutti moves into town. Rudy and Candy are paired together for a school project, and when her dad finds them getting closer, he puts her on lockdown. But Santa is so concerned about what Candycane is doing, he doesn’t realize what’s going on in his own workshop. Will everything be alright by the time Christmas comes around?
This was a really fun, cute book and got me in the Christmas spirit! You need to have an open mind to get into some of the more fantastical parts, but if you can, it’s pretty funny.
Candycane is definitely a princess and Daddy’s little girl. Yet, she’s not really annoying or mean. She’s somewhat self centered, but I can definitely understand why. She’s popular, pretty, and has the best of everything. She’s also kind of whiny, but every 16 year old is.
What I loved most about this book was the world building. The North Pole is full of fun characters, from Chefy the penguin to Angry the Elf. Candy canes are trees, and dinner and dessert are hard to tell from each other. And also, something which I can’t decide is funny or disgusting: reindeer poop is a chocolaty delicacy.
The romance between Candy and Rudy was kind of predictable, but still fun to watch. They are so totally opposite, but each one changes a little for the other. I think that’s important in any relationship. There were a couple of little twists that made things interesting though.
This book had some laugh out loud moments. It also had some drama, and some action scenes. This was a lighthearted Christmas tale for anyone who wants a change from the old stories we love, but are kind of tired of hearing.
About the Author
As part of the festivities, WinterHaven Books is hosting an international give-away that will include a copy of Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares (Signed by Levithan and Cohn) and a copy of Let it Snow to four lucky winners. Good luck and happy holidays!
by Melissa Pearl
Beautiful, wild-child Nicole Tepper is hit by a car and left for dead. But when she wakes the next morning, Nicole finds herself in bed without a scratch. Perhaps she was more intoxicated than usual, as her mother is giving her the silent treatment and her friends are ignoring her as well.
Things take a turn for the weird when Nicole soon discovers she is actually hovering between life and death. Her body is lying in the forest while her spirit is searching for anyone who can hear her. Unfortunately the only person who can is Dale Finnigan, the guy she publicly humiliated with a sharp-tongued insult that has left him branded.
Desperate, Nicole has no choice but to haunt Dale and convince the freaked-out senior to help her. Will he find her body before it’s too late? Or will the guy who tried to kill her with his car, beat him there and finish her off before anyone finds out?
MY THOUGHTS: 3.5 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
Nicole has been hanging out with the wrong crowd for the past couple of years, giving herself a bad reputation. One night she is walking home when she is struck my a car and left on the side of the road to die. Unfortunately, because of who she is and the things she had done before, her friends and family think she has just run away for good.
While Nicole’s body lies in the forest, her consciousness can still move around, ghostlike. The only person that can hear her pleas for help is Dale Finnigan, the scarred boy she makes fun of. But she has to take help where she can get it, and so Dale begins to investigate just what happened to Nicole so he can try to find her. By working together, they discover that the ideas they had about each other before, couldn’t be further from the truth.
Almost as soon as I started reading this book, I noticed the plot was very similar to a movie that came out several years ago, The Invisible. But, that’s OK, right, since nothing is ever completely original anymore. Nevertheless, I tried to enjoy the story but had some problems with it.
Nicole has been on a self destructive path ever since the loss of her sister. She goes out, gets drunk, hooks up with guys, and hangs out with friends who really couldn’t care less about her. She’s also very mean and snarky to anyone who is not in her circle. So even though she knows Dale is a super sweet guy and they have a lot in common, she still insults him in front of her friends. I really didn’t like her too much, at least in the beginning.
Dale is really awesome and way more forgiving towards Nicole than I would have been. They both have had to deal with their share of grief, one thing that bonds them together strongly. Needless to say, it’s still rather awkward when the one guy that can save Nicole’s life is the one who she’s been vicious towards.
Now, I know this is a book, and I’ve never had to be in this unlikely situation. But if I were Nicole, I would be bothering Dale DAY AND NIGHT until he found me. No way in HELL I would have been sitting around watching him write his novel and eat dinner with his parents and such while I was slowly dying! (HIGHLIGHT FOR SLIGHT SPOILER) I think it took 2 days and 2 days of her laying in the cold forest until she was found? Good thing the story is set in California..anywhere else and she’d have died, quickly.
Anyway, the things I really did like about this book were the family dynamics. Nicole’s relationship with her mom and dad was forever changed by her sister’s death, and so was her parents’ marriage, for that matter. After Nicole is missing too, the whole family realizes the way they’ve been living and the need to change.
I believe a major theme of the novel is second chances…both giving them to others, and realizing you may need to give yourself one, as well.
About the Author
Melissa Pearl was born in Auckland, New Zealand, but has spent much of her life abroad, living in countries such as Jordan, Cyprus and Pakistan… not to mention a nine month road trip around North America with her husband. “Best. Year. Ever!!” She now lives in China with her husband and two sons. She is a trained elementary teacher, but writing is her passion. Since becoming a full time mother she has had the opportunity to pursue this dream and her debut novel hit the internet in November, 2011. Since then she has produced three more books with her fifth novel, Betwixt.
Links to find/buy book:
10 Ebooks, 1 signed copy, bookmarks (INT)
by Lori Culwell
Lucy Whitley cannot wait to get out of Palm Desert. It’s not a place for a frizzy-haired science nerd, particularly when her fashion-obsessed older sister Sloane is the head of a clique of pretty girls who rule the school—and practically the whole town.Fortunately, life is about to change forever. Lucy’s dad is getting re-married, and then she can transfer to a boarding school in Connecticut, escaping all the mean girls and the endless whispers about the Whitley family scandal. Everything is going to be perfect—as long as the wedding goes smoothly.
MY THOUGHTS: 3 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
Lucy Whitley is the only moderately normal one in a house full of otherwise crazy sisters. Sloane is the oldest, and queen of the popular girls at school, which makes her more than a little mean. Frankie is the youngest and a total adrenaline junkie…she’s kind of like the brother they never had. All three girls are being raised by their workaholic ex-NFL player dad, since their mother abandoned them and took their other sister, Megan, over nine years ago.
The girls are all ready to be in their dad’s wedding when something happens that brings it to a screeching halt. Even though the Whitleys’ lives are turned upside down, their dad is determined to make the most of it, and insists on uninterrupted family time during their Christmas break. The Whitley girls are forced to get along, and learn things about each other they never could have dreamed.
I’m starting to like contemporary YA a bit more, and it was refreshing to read a novel that centered around a family rather than a relationship. My feelings overall were very mixed, though.
All of the sisters have distinct personalities, but none of them are perfect. This makes for a very lively household, to say the least. Having a lack of parental supervision definitely adds to the craziness.
My biggest problem with this book was the end. Reading this book hit very close to my heart, because I am the oldest of 4 siblings, 3 of which are girls. My two sisters and I also have VERY different personalities, and we have been known to not get along a time or two. In spite of that, and no matter what any of us have done, we are always there for each other, and would never intentionally try to tear each other down. Unfortunately, the love between the Whitley sisters was just not there. I understand that Sloane had done some particularly nasty things, but getting back at her was not the way to go. I was disappointed in the way the book did not have the sisters make up at all towards the end, and we get the sense that basically Sloane’s whole persona, which she has worked on for her entire high school career, is ruined. No matter how evil she may be, you just don’t do that to your sister.
I did enjoy the author’s writing style, and it made for a very quick read. The book didn’t have many dull pauses or dragging moments. There were a few heartfelt moments that I liked a lot.
I liked the book, but I just think because of my particular history with my sisters, I wasn’t able to fully love it. I would recommend it for anyone who wants a fun, non-romance YA story.
About the Author
Lori Culwell is the author of five books, including Hollywood Car Wash, a novel that was originally self-published, then was acquired by Simon & Schuster and re-released. She is the owner of Get Creative, Inc, a consulting company specializing in search-engine friendly content, and of BookPromotion.com,dedicated to providing authors with user-friendly websites, social media education, and book blogger outreach.
Links to find/buy book:
5 Paperback US & 12 ebooks (INT)
by Emi Gayle
The 19th Year Trilogy, Book One
What eighteen year old Mac Thorne doesn’t know will probably kill her.
In exactly eight months, five days, three hours and thirteen minutes, Mac has to choose what she’ll be for the rest of her life.
She has no choice but to pick. As a Changeling, it’s her birthright. To Mac, it’s a birthchore. Like going to school with humans, interacting with humans, and pretending to be human during the pesky daylight hours.
Once darkness descends, Mac can change into any supernatural form that exists — which makes her as happy as she can be. That is, until Winn Thomas, the biggest geek in her senior class figures out there’s more to what hides in the dark than most are willing to acknowledge.
In this first of the 19th Year Trilogy, Winn might know more about Mac than even she does, and that knowledge could end their lives, unless Mac ensures the powers-that-be have no choice but to keep him around.
MY THOUGHTS: 5 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
Mackenzie (Mac) Thorne is a changeling–a supernatural being that only comes around every hundred years, and has the ability to change form to ANY being in the supernatural world. Vampire, ghost, gnome, demon…Mac’s giving them all a try. She just has to choose which one she wants to be for the rest of her life by her next birthday. And that decision’s not getting any easier for her.
Mac tends to stay far away from humans, but unfortunately she has to go to school with them. So when a chance meeting makes her run into Winn Thomas, one of the smartest guys in school, she really wants to run the other way–until she sees he’s holding a book which may contain the answers to all the questions she’s ever had about her life. Mac and Winn reluctantly begin to work together, but some freaky things start happening every time they are together. Could someone from the paranormal world be trying to sabotage Mac’s future?
It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed a paranormal YA book this much. Between the sarcastic Mac, the cast of amazing supporting characters, and the romance between Mac and Winn, I flew through this book quickly!
God, I wish I could sufficiently express how much I LOVE Mac. Seriously–she is my bookish girl crush. She’s sarcastic, witty, funny, snarky, smart, and completely relatable. I adored her whole attitude and how she dealt with everything in her life. Winn was so perfect for her, because he is hard working and focused, while she is…not. He helped keep her head in the game instead of in the clouds.
I am also impressed by the way their relationship progressed. When Mac and Winn first “met” (I use this term loosely since they already knew each other from school), all she knew about him was that he was a nerd, and all he knew about her was that she was beautiful but rather anti-social. As they began working on their research project, Mac had an ulterior motive but soon found herself getting closer to Winn. He came to realize she was nothing at all like he thought. There was no insta-love here, and as they slowly fell for each other my heart melted. It was made all the better because Mac is such a tough girl.
After Dark was also unique because it involved so many varieties of supernatural creature, and they all had their own personalities. Suze, a demon, is friendly and weird, and Raven, an angel, is kind of a mean girl. All of them came together to give a huge dose of hilarity and heart to the story.
I cannot wait for the sequel to this book–I have no idea what form Mac will ultimately choose…but I know she will have fun trying to decide!
About the Author
The Adventures of Tilda Pinkerton: Crash Landing on Ooleeoo
by Angela Shelton
Tilda Pinkerton, Book One
Somewhere out in the Sombrero Galaxy, Tilda Pinkerton–mystical maker of mysterious, magnificent, magical hats–is being hunted by the Keeper of Darkness.
Yet Tilda simply does not recall, at all, after taking a tremendous fall.
No one on Ooleeoo, where Tilda crash-landed, knows she is from another planet. Only Star Jumper Randy can tell her—but he’s light years away, frantically searching for his missing love, desperate that without her, the entire galaxy soon may be lost.
Even in the middle of cosmic danger, Tilda loves to create hats, for which she has a rare and uncanny knack. All who receive them sparkle, in fact—and spark their innermost talent. With a Tilda hat, people can suddenly do whatever they dream of, causing brilliant ideas to grow madly.
With Gladys the toad, who thinks she’s a cat, and Frank the fish, who lives in her hat, Tilda must discover who she is and what her enemy wants from her so badly.
But the Mayor of Moodle has other plans, including a ban on all wearing of hats, everywhere on Ooleeoo. His dark and forbidding actions seem to coincide with something unworldly, threatening all with a nameless dread and slowly blacking out the sky. With Ooleeoo itself turning upside down, how can anyone survive?
In this first in a series of Tilda Pinkerton adventures, Tilda must fight the battle of her life and risk all—even the galaxy and stars—by revealing her most electrifying secret.
Written for children but adults enjoy it too!
MY THOUGHTS: 4.5 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
Intergalactic traveler and explorer Tilda Pinkerton has just crash landed on the planet of Ooleeoo. Unfortunately she does not remember much more than her name–and certainly not the fact the the sinister Keeper of Darkness is after her and her magnificent powers.
The people of Moodle immediately take to sweet, smart Tilda and her ability to make magical hats. But, there are those in the town that would like to see Tilda gone. With her friendly French goldfish and toad who believes she is a cat, Tilda begins to harness her Light Throwing powers…and hopefully can remember who she is before it is too late!
This was a really fun and unique read! It’s kind of in between young adult and middle grade…I’d say it’s for kids around 11-14.
Tilda was an all around amazing person, and impossible to dislike. Though she landed in a strange place that could have been dangerous for her, she never treated anyone with anything but respect–even those she knew did not approve of the things she did. The fact that she could communicate with all sorts of creatures, from bees to bunnies, made her even cooler.
One thing that I loved so much about this book is that all the names of characters actually described either their profession or what their personality was like. There was Belinda Balletomania, who is charming and loves to dance, and also Ragamuffin Ragmatical, who is a rather ill-behaved twin. The book also does readers the favor of not only introducing new vocabulary, but defining unfamiliar words in the footnotes at the bottom of the page. I may be 27 years old, but even I learned several new vocabulary words as I read this book.
The beginning of the book was the best part. The middle dragged a bit, and the end went very quickly. There was also a huge cliffhanger that I know will drive other readers crazy!
The only things that bothered me are that sometimes I felt it was a little hard to follow what exactly was going on; this may have been because there were so many characters, but also at times the prose just moved very quickly. I would have to go back and reread to see if I missed something. Also, this one huge thing bothered me: (highlight to see spoiler) Tilda’s animals made the trip with her and knew not only what happened to her, but everything about her past, and exactly who she was. Why didn’t they tell her anything? It was not mentioned that they had amnesia too…
I would recommend this book to readers of any age who want a fun, original magical story with a little bit of everything.
View all my reviews
About the Author
Angela Shelton is an author, actor, blogger and public speaker. She has been writing since she was eight years old. Her first novel was adapted into the movie Tumbleweeds. Angela won a regional Emmy award for her portrayal of Safe Side Superchick in The Safe Side video series created by Baby Einstein’s Julie Clark and America’s Most Wanted’s John Walsh. After living in Los Angeles for over a decade, Angela left the big city for a one-light country town to marry her first love and fulfill her dream of writing books in a barn house.
Find out how Angela has incorporated the character of Tilda Pinkerton into an entire line of book projects, each geared towards a different age group at www.MagicHatShop.com
Follow the Tour:
So Many Precious Books Oct 30 Review, Giveaway, and Feature
Two Kids & a Migraine Nov 1 Review
Two Kids & a Migraine Nov 2 Author Guest Post
Two Kids & a Migraine Nov 2 Giveaway
Sweeps4Bloggers Nov 5 Review & Giveaway
JoyStory Nov 7 Review
A Word’s Worth Nov 8 Review
A Word’s Worth Nov 9 Giveaway & Author Guest Post
Thoughts in Progress Nov 9 Review
Alternate Readality Nov 12 Review
Book Lover’s Library Nov 13 Review
Book Lover’s Library Nonv 13 Giveaway
Book Lover’s Library Nov 14 Author Guest Post
Books & More Books Nov 14 Review
From L.A. to LA Nov 15 Review
So Many Precious Books Nov 15 Guest Post
Older Mommy Still Yummy Nov 16 Review & Giveaway
My Not So Vacant Shelf Nov 20 Review & Giveaway
Earth’s BookNook Nov 20 Author Guest Post
The Top Shelf Nov 20 Review (Postponed)
Kayla’s Reads & Reviews Nov 21 Review
Turning the Pages Nov 22 Review
Turning the Pages Nov 23Interview & Giveaway
Book Lover Stop Nov 23 Review
Haunting of Orchid Forsythia Nov 26 Review
Haunting of Orchid Forsythia Nov 27 Author Guest Post
Sweet Southern Home Nov 27 Review
Book & Movie Dimension Nov 28 Review & Giveaway
Mystic Thoughts Nov 29 Review
Mystic Thoughts Nov 30 Giveaway & Interview
One Pink Line
by Dina Silver
Contemporary Women’s Fiction
Can the love of a lifetime be forever changed by one pink line? Dina Silver’s tender, absorbing novel, One Pink Line, is the warmhearted, wry story of love, loss and family, as seen through the prism of one singular, spirited young couple who find themselves in a predicament that changes the course of their lives, and those closest to them. With heart, humor and compassion, this debut work of women’s fiction is certain to stir anyone who relishes a good laugh, can stand a good cry, and, above all believes in the redemptive power of love.
This unique, contemporary story gives readers a dual perspective. Sydney Shephard, a sweet-tempered, strong-natured college senior is young, in love with an exceptional man, and unexpectedly pregnant. Faced with a child she never planned for, she is forced to relay this news to her neurotic mother, relinquish her youth, and risk losing the love of her life. Then there’s Grace, a daughter, who believed she was a product of this great love, grows to realize her existence is not what she assumed, and is left with profound and puzzling questions about who she really is.
Spanning generations and every imaginable emotion, One Pink Line reveals how two points of view can be dramatically at odds, and perhaps ultimately reconciled. Simultaneously deeply felt and lighthearted, One Pink Line deftly mines how the choices we make are able to alter so many lives, and how doing the right thing and living honestly can bring unexpected, hard-won happiness. It’s a must-read for anyone who relishes a great love story, absorbing characters, and plenty of laughs along the way.
MY THOUGHTS: 4 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
Sydney Shephard is finishing up her senior year at Purdue when she realizes that she’s pregnant. And the baby is not for her longtime boyfriend Ethan; it’s the result of a drunken night with a friend named Kevin. Just when Sidney thinks her life can’t get worse, Kevin declares that he wants absolutely nothing to do with Sydney or her child. Her parents don’t have the nicest reaction to her news, either. Sydney must toughen up and face adulthood to make a life for herself and her daughter.
I really liked this book, even though it was a bit predictable. The story is told in alternating chapters from the points of view of Sydney and her daughter, Grace. I appreciated the fact that it goes from the past, to present day, allowing us to get inside the minds of both characters.
Sydney was OK. She is a take-charge kind of girl, although she does have some moments where she feels sorry for herself (never in front of others, though). But Ethan is the one that really gave this book heart for me. He is an unbelievably amazing guy, and just what Sydney needed in her life–though she sometimes didn’t appreciate it. There were a few moments towards the end of the book where his actions made me tear up–he’s just that sweet.
This is not to say that I approved of the way his and Sydney’s relationship progressed. Obviously, they could both tell that while Sydney was in college, they were growing apart. Why not just break up? If they were meant to be, of course destiny would bring them back together. I think that by giving each other some space from the relationship, they could have saved each other a lot of grief and guilty feelings. I know it is hard to let go of something that’s been in your life for so long, though.
While I’m glad everything worked out nicely for Sydney, I have to say I was taken a little aback by the way some people (her parents, mainly) freaked about her getting pregnant. Yes, is was accidental and maybe disappointing, but Sydney was basically done with college and was 22 years old. She may have been a single mother, but she was an adult. I guess what bothered me most about this story was that I felt it really wasn’t a big deal for her to get pregnant at that point in her life. It could have happened when she was a teenager, still in high school, for God’s sake. As I said, I’m happy things worked out well for her, but it definitely does not for so many other young moms.
This book was an entertaining piece of chick lit, and I would recommend it for young moms.
About the Author
A graduate of Purdue University, Dina Silver has spent the past fifteen years feeding her red wine habit by working as a copywriter in the advertising industry. In addition to writing ad copy, she formed Dinas Ideas (dinasideas.com), a greeting card company, in 2003. Dina serves as the sole writer and designer for the business and has penned over 300 greeting cards since its inception.
The author is giving away 3 eBook copies and 3 paperback copies of ONE PINK LINE, as well as 3 copies of her other novel, Kat Fight. Open International.
In the After
by Ashley Mackler-Paternostro
There is a reason fairy tales end when they do … because happily ever after is just the beginning of real life.
Once upon a time in the quaint, forgotten coastal town of Joyce, Washington Emmy Burns existed in the middle of an inconsequential life that resembled a small-town fairy tale; days filled with caring for her daughter Avery, running her small but thriving pottery store, married to the only man she had ever loved. But all of that changed when the fog rolled out one beautiful morning, leaving emptiness where Emmy had stood only the day before. She had seemingly and without a sound vanished into the thick misty air of the Pacific Northwest, taking with her a lifetime of secrets.
In the aftermath Stephen Burns is content telling the police his wife must have simply chosen to walk away from him and their daughter. But Sidney Ruth, Emmy’s closest friend, knows the truth. Sidney is the one person who had watched as the vines grew around the dark forest that was the Burn’s marriage trapping Emmy inside and keeping everyone who loved her out.
Years of abuse has to lead to this moment. As the days unfurl so do the secrets Emmy kept walled away, leaving the people of Joyce wondering: What really happened to Emmy Burns in her happily ever after?
MY THOUGHTS: 4 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
Emmy Burns and Sidney Ruth have been friends their entire lives. That’s why, when a detective calls Sidney asking if she has heard from Emmy in the past 48 hours, Sidney knows something is very wrong. She also knows Emmy would never disappear and leave her 7 year old daughter behind. And what she believes, above all else, is that Emmy’s abusive husband Stephen is the one behind the disappearance.
Sidney makes the decision to go to the tiny town where Emmy lives and try to unravel the mystery of her vanishing. As she goes about getting media attention for the case, she also reminisces on all the moments that made their friendship so special. The end reveals a shocking secret that will make you think about the way you view love, motherhood, and friendship.
Just like Mrs. Mackler-Paternostro’s debut book, The Milestone Tapes, this novel hit me right in the feels. I am writing this review right after finishing the book, but I know I will be thinking about the events that occurred for a while to come.
The story starts with the disappearance of Emmy, but the heart of things for me, was the evolution of Emmy and Sidney’s friendship, told through flashbacks. Although they have been lifelong friends, Emmy and Sidney are definitely different. Emmy is artistic, quiet, and loving. Sidney is outspoken and doesn’t take anything lying down. Though their lives didn’t go the way they planned, they always swore nothing would get in the way of their friendship….until Emmy married the controlling, demeaning Stephen.
Emmy was lovable but extremely frustrating. I don’t understand how someone could ignore all the warning signs, all the concerns from friends and family, and be in a relationship with someone that clearly doesn’t love them. I am very lucky to say I have never had to experience being in this position. We all like to say we’d never be that woman, we’d never stick around with an abusive spouse. But God, as hard as it is to admit…you can’t say what you’d do, if you’re not the one that’s being put in that impossible predicament. This is of course, made all the worse when a child is in the picture.
This is not to say that Sidney was perfect, not at all. She did come off as being sort of a know-it-all sometimes, and I guess I could understand where Emmy would feel she was being bossed around by her. But no friendship is perfect, and I believe in my heart that Sidney was always doing things with Emmy’s best interests at heart.
The tale unfolded quite slowly, until the punch of an ending, which I NEVER saw coming. But I liked it this way…years of friendship can’t be retold in just a few chapters. And as I said, the book wasn’t really about Emmy’s disappearance, or the abuse. This book is a heartbreaking but hopeful tale of a beautiful relationship that had its’ ups and downs. The author has done a terrific job in writing another book that deals with some of life’s most difficult moments, and I applaud her.
About the Author
Donation made in your honor to the domestic violence organization of your choosing
Signed print copy of In The After
Digital Copy of In The After for your Kindle
30 minute phone call from Ashley to discuss In The After and answer any of your questions about the novel, it’s characters, or themes
by Kirsty McKay
Undead, Book One
Out of sight, out of their minds: It’s a school-trip splatter fest and completely not cool when the other kids in her class go all braindead on new girl Bobby.
The day of the ski trip, when the bus comes to a stop at a roadside restaurant, everyone gets off and heads in for lunch. Everyone, that is, except Bobby, the new girl, who stays behind with rebel-without-a-clue Smitty.
Then hours pass. Snow piles up. Sun goes down. Bobby and Smitty start to flirt. Start to stress. Till finally they see the other kids stumbling back.
But they’ve changed. And not in a good way. Straight up, they’re zombies. So the wheels on the bus better go round and round freakin’ fast, because that’s the only thing keeping Bobby and Smitty from becoming their classmates’ next meal. It’s kill or be killed in these hunger games, heads are gonna roll, and homework is most definitely gonna be late.
MY THOUGHTS: 3 OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
Bobby is a British girl who moved to America, and is now back in Britain for high school. She doesn’t think she really fits in, so she’s less than thrilled when she must go with her class on a ski trip. But when the bus stops at a roadside diner, everyone who went inside suddenly becomes zombified. Bobby, prissy Alice, nerdy Pete, and loner Smitty are the only kids left unaffected. The four must try to outrun and outwit the zombies…all while dealing with ridiculous situations that pop up along the way.
Of course I am all about zombie everything, so I was stoked to read this book. Too bad it left me with a mostly meh feeling.
The characters are all pretty big stereotypes, classically thrown together in their time of distress. Since this is more or less supposed to me an action/horror novel, characterization is expected to be on the lesser side, but I felt like we learned NOTHING about any of the four kids during the course of this book.
Bobby is likable enough, though I don’t get her whole idea that she’s an outsider. If anything, I’d think her peers would be interested in her and wanting to ask her a ton of questions about America. As the book went on, Bobby got a bit more daring and kick-ass, which was great.
The main thing I missed in this book was zombie killing! There are a couple of scenes where zombies are killed, and that’s it. The rest of the time is spent running and hiding. I understand that they’re just kids, but at one point in the book they all had weapons…and never used them, even when surrounded.
One saving point of Undead is that it was pretty funny. All the characters are sarcastic and they trade some hilarious remarks. The story is told in first person through Bobby’s point of view, and the way the thinks is funny and relatable.
The end was weird for me, and I basically thought it was a cop-out. Also, I was pretty sure this was supposed to be a stand-alone book…but I guess not.
by Cylin Busby
West is a high school senior who has everything going for him until an accident leaves him paralyzed. Strapped down in his hospital bed, slipping in and out of consciousness, West is terrified and alone. Until he meets Olivia. She’s the girl next door-sort of. A patient in the room next to his, only Olivia can tell what West is thinking, and only Olivia seems to know that the terrible dreams he’s been having are not just a result of his medication. Yet as West comes to rely on Olivia-to love her, even-certain questions pull at him: Why has Olivia been in the hospital for so long? And what does it mean that she is at the center of his nightmares? But the biggest question of all comes when West begins to recover and learns that the mysterious girl he’s fallen in love with has a secret he could never have seen coming.
MY THOUGHTS: 3.75 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
West is stuck in a hospital, completely paralyzed after a biking accident. Though his body is not working, his mind is in overdrive. The only thing making his extended stay more bearable is the daily visits he gets from fellow patient, Olivia.
West and Olivia become very close even though the only way they can communicate is through blinking. But West is often plagued by violent nightmares, and he and Olivia try to find out the cause. Though he soon comes to find out, dreams and reality are sometimes difficult to separate.
I liked this book a lot until I found out the huge twist at the end. After that, the book left me a little perplexed.
This book was almost like two separate stories. It would have been a cool contemporary YA book with just the storyline of West and Olivia meeting in the hospital, and West slowly struggling to get better. The other, less important part was the supernatural thread, and it was something I could have done without.
Though West is immobile, he narrates the story. It’s fascinating to have a story told from the point of view of a person that cannot respond to his world. We see West’s true feelings about everything–his parents, his friends, his life before the accident…and we really get to know him well.
Olivia was likable for the most part, but I found her getting pretty needy and clingy as the book progressed. It was annoying to me that it seemed she didn’t want West to get better. But I can’t be too hard on her, after I found out the twist.
It’s hard for me to review the story, because as I said, there is a huge twist that I don’t want to spoil, which kind of threw the whole book out of whack for me. I’ll just say that I was looking for an explanation, and I didn’t really get one. The ending was very bittersweet.
This was a very good read though, and uniquely told story.