Special Guest Saturday: Meet Nicole!

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Nicole is a freelance writer and stay-at-home mom to her sons Ethan, 6, and Benson, 3. She has been married seven years and has lived in central Illinois all her life. Prior to having kids, she worked full-time as a newspaper reporter and hopes to write more once her kids are a little older. She has loved reading from a very young age (her mom read to her even when she was in utero), and hopes to pass that same love on to her boys!

Q: What caused you to create a bookstagram account?

A: I was inspired by my in-real-life friend Carrie (@just.another.chapter.and.tea) to create a bookstagram account. In 2018, I challenged myself to read 100 books and made it to 85. Carrie said with all the books I was reading, I should have an Instagram devoted to books and my reading journey, so I took her advice and am so glad I did!

Q: How long have you been using the account?

A: I’ve been using my bookstagram account since January 2019.

Q: Who was the first person you befriended once you joined?

A: Carrie was my first bookstagram friend, but shortly after joining, I also met Jen @gfbookcatlover and have been friends with her ever since! I have to give huge shout-outs to Gina, @readinggirlreviews, and Tiffany, @babygotbooks13, for being two of the best mentors ever. They helped me learn the ropes of bookstagram and I absolutely love them!

Q: What’s a book you recommend everyone to read?

A: I adore Little Women and Anne of Green Gables (my favorite childhood reads) and recommend them a lot, but one of my more recent recommendations is Beartown by Fredrik Backman. It’s such a poignant, multi-layered book, and his writing and characters are so powerful. He also has the most beautiful way of writing about emotion and life lessons.

Q: What’s your most anticipated read of 2020?

A: I’m really excited both for Well Played (the sequel to Well Met) by Jen DeLuca, and Majesty (the sequel to American Royals) by Katharine McGee. They both come out in September, and I can’t wait!

Q: What are three adjectives to describe you?

A: I think three adjectives to describe me are quiet, sensitive, and caring.

Feed Your Reader!

With COVID-19 causing several businesses to completely shutdown and individuals being asked to self-quarantine, book-lovers are finding the silver lining to this pandemic: more time to read!

The ladies of Goddess Fish Promotions has organized an event that will allow said book-lovers the opportunity to fill their e-readers with lots of new reads that can be obtained FREE of price, or just 99 CENTS!

These books vary in genre and length, but the ladies are sure readers will find at least one new read to binge! Click HERE to view the list!

GIVEAWAY-$25 AMAZON/B&N GIFTCARD!

This giveaway will give fellow bookworms the opportunity to obtain some extra spending money for those books being recently released without dipping into their savings during this difficult time. Click HERE to enter!

March 2020 Wrap-Up

I had a great month of reading for March; I winded up reading 43 books: 23 ebooks, 15 audiobooks, & 5 physical books!

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  • Tailspin by Sandra Brown
  • Blueberry Muffin Murder by Joanne Fluke
  • The Dystasters by PC Cast & Kristin Cast
  • Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark

Seduced Into Darkness by Carrie T. Ishee

Trigger Warning: This novel contains the following content that may be sensitive for some readers: attempts of suicide, drug use, emotional abuse, inappropriate relationship with person of authority, and manipulation.

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  • Publication date: August 1, 2020 by Terra Nova Books
  • Genre: Memoir
  • Edition: E-book
  • Pages: 286
  • Rating: 3.5 stars

This poignant memoir chronicles the traumatic psychological abduction and sexual exploitation of depressed college student Carrie Tansey at the hands of her psychiatrist, Dr. Anthony Romano―thirty-one years her senior. For three years, their secret “affair” was carefully calculated and controlled by Romano, as Carrie’s mental and emotional health continued to deteriorate, bringing her closer and closer to the edge.

Their dual-relationship―clinical and clandestine―finally came to light when Carrie’s suicide attempts landed her in a world-renowned psychiatric hospital. Gradually, she began to reclaim her power, reported Romano to the state licensing board, successfully sued him for malpractice, and testified before the state legislature to help pass a law aimed at curbing such abuses.

As Carrie tells her tale, it is a journey paralleling that of the mythical archetype Persephone, the naive innocent who was abducted into darkness, reemerged and regenerated herself, then fearlessly returned to the prison she had fled, this time to help free others. Today, Carrie Ishee is a widely respected art therapist and life coach as well as a teacher specializing in the issues of ethics and boundaries for mental health professionals.

For those of you who follow my blog, you are probably aware of the fact that memoirs are one of my favorite genres to read and review. With that being addressed, I was excited to be included in the tour for Ishee’s novel; this memoir is different from any other memoir I have read!

Throughout the novel, Ishee shares her own personal experience of being in an intimate relationship with her psychiatrist; as she documents the progression of their relationship from professional to unethical, the author draws on comparisons from the Greek mythology of Persephone. For those unfamiliar with the story, no worries as the author includes parts of the story prior to sharing her own personal connection to the tidbits shared.

Carrie is a twenty-one year old college student struggling with an immense amount of anxiety and depression when she is introduced to Dr. Tony Romano. The author’s only goal is to pinpoint what is causing her mental health issues to spiral out of control and for her mental health professional to be able to provide an effective method of treatment. To her relief, Dr. Romano does not think she requires medication. He suggests three years of psychotherapy and for her to take a break from her graduate studies despite the fact that she is only six months away from completion. Desperate for any possibility of feeling normal again, Carrie and her family are in support of Romano’s treatment plan.

Isolated from her friends, Dr. Romano gradually begins isolating Carrie from her parents as they begin to suggest that some of his activities with their daughter is overstepping boundaries. Ishee begins lying to her parents about her whereabouts, so that she is able to spend time alone with Dr. Romano who she now only calls by his first name: Tony. It is on these secret escapades that her psychiatrist begins supplying her with marijuana, coaxing her into nude photoshoots, and more. Carrie feels like these events are wrong, but through the manipulation of Tony she believes he has her best interest at heart.

This cycle continues on for a couple of years before the author is able to truly acknowledge her personal experience with Romano. When she “graduates” Tony’s course of counseling, she begins seeing a new therapist; it is during this time that she begins to understand how unethical her relationship with her former doctor was. She begins to slowly open up to her new counselor and finds the courage to seek justice for his wrongdoings.

I was able to binge this story in one sitting, it was that good! I personally feel like those individuals on the opposite end of a situation like this could view the author’s actions as unimaginable and as a position they would never wind up in, but Carrie is able to bring awareness to her readers that it is possible; like her, she had no intentions of falling for her mental health professional. However, over time the psychiatrist was able to use her weaknesses against her and would find that it would be years for her to process this experience for what it truly was.

This novel is empowering and eye-opening. If you enjoy memoirs, stories of female empowerment, or just wanting a new unique read then I encourage you to consider this one when it hits shelves!

*I’d like to thank Nicole Pyles from WOW, Women On Writing, for reaching out to me to participate in this blog tour. I was also provided a free copy of the book in exchange for posting my honest review.

Special Guest Saturday: Meet Nina!

Nina is a happily married wife of fifteen years and the mother of two daughters ages twelve and almost ten! She has a full-time job collecting insurance money for hospitals, but loves puzzles and painting wine glasses/mason jars for fun in her free time.

Q: What made you decide to start a bookstagram?

A: I started a bookstagram when my husband Allan mentioned I should find a way to keep track of what I have read. I bought two books (covers changed) that I had previously read. Since I had a personal IG account I figured I would make a book one. Who knew?

Q: How long have you had your account?

A: I have been on bookstagram for almost a year. I started sometime in early May.

Q: What genres interest you the most?

A: My favorite genre was always suspense/mystery/thrillers for both adult and YA, but I quickly fell in love with YA Fantasy when I joined this community.

Q: What has been your favorite books of 2020 so far?

A: My favorite books for 2020 have been A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, A Curse So Dark and Lonely, and No Exit.

Q: Do you have any auto-buy authors?

A: I have two auto-buy authors: Harlan Coben and Gilly Macmillan.

Q: What are three adjectives you would use to describe yourself?

A: Three words I would describe myself (and hope others would as well) would be friendly, generous, and caring.

Selah’s Stolen Dream by Susan Count

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  • Published: January 1, 2020 by Hastings Creations Group
  • Genre: Coming of Age, Fiction
  • Edition: Paperback
  • Pages: 262
  • Rating: 3 stars

One girl’s victory is another’s tragic defeat. Thirteen-year-old Selah’s perfect life unravels when her beloved horse is stolen.

Then ten-year-old Emma buys the dream of a lifetime at a horse auction. When she learns the horse was stolen, even removing her hearing aid won’t drown out the voice telling her to make it right.

But two girls can’t divide the horse they both adore. So will life surprise them with an answered prayer?

This is the final book in Susan Count’s Dream Horse Adventure series, although the books can also serve as standalones. Readers will follow Selah on one final journey and will delighted by the story’s outcome.

GIVEAWAY!

ENTER HERE.

*I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Finding Jackson by Anne Holster

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  • Published: October 29, 2019
  • Genre: Romance, Young Adult
  • Edition: Kindle
  • Pages: 481

It’s 1977 – Star Wars is breaking records at the box office, Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run tour is taking the country by storm, and born-and-bred Jersey girl Annalise Keller has fallen in love for the first and last time. Hot and charismatic with dreams of making it as a rock star, Keith “Ace” Foxx is everything a teenage girl dreams of. He falls as hard for Anna as she does for him and the two decide to run off to California in search of his big break. Fate has other plans though, and several years and three kids later, Ace has traded in his guitar for a job at the local post office, and Anna has become a symbol of all he has given up. Ace spends most nights at the local bar, trying to drink away his anger and resentment.

Flash forward a decade, and their youngest child, Jackson, is headed nowhere fast. In a life filled with meaningless jobs and too much partying, music is his only true escape from the pain of a childhood that abruptly ended one rainy night. The accident had destroyed his family and left him with a slew of unanswered questions.

Everything changes the night Jackson meets Leah. Shy and reserved, she doesn’t smoke and barely drinks; she certainly doesn’t put out. Not exactly the girl from the Bon Jovi videos he watched as a kid. Yet before he knows it, she has become his world.

Then, just when it looks like his dreams might come true, betrayal and loss once again threaten everything he holds dear. As Jackson struggles to keep his world from spinning out of control, he knows one thing for sure, the choices he makes now will either be the start of a whole new life, or it just might be the end of him.

As my followers know, romance is my least favorite genre and the only category with my least amount of reads. However, this one did not feel like the typical romance novel and I appreciated that very much.

It was hard enough acting like I was fine when I most definitely wasn’t. Inside I was a complete and utter basket-case and I didn’t need anyone else knowing it. I’d deal with it myself – my way – just like I’d done since I was a kid: tuck it away and try to forget.

Of course, forgetting was best achieved with large amounts of alcohol, which was convenient since most of our gigs were at local bars. It never occurred to me that my efforts would only bring everything to a head…and make me cross a line so deep I feared it would be nearly impossible to uncross.

As you can tell from the excerpt above, Holster gives the readers a story that goes beyond the stereotypes; there’s a lot of heart, struggle, and meaning behind this read and I think readers will find this one comforting to read during this social distancing period.

Anne Holster resides in Northern New Jersey with her husband and two children. When she’s not writing she enjoys spending time with her family, playing tennis and reading angsty romance novels. She is currently working on her fourth book.

Nights into Nightmares by Travis Conte

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  • Published: December 5, 2019
  • Genre: Paranormal Romance
  • Edition: Kindle
  • Pages: 57
  • Rating: 3 stars

Where Even Angels Fear to Tread

Seeking closure for the tragic death of her mortal lover, the angel called Rain journeys to the one place in the universe she hates most: the Underworld. The graveyard of the universe. Where all dead things go: creatures, objects, worlds, memories. A vast realm of decay that draws in the fallen and holds them forever. Only the mad or the desperate would ever dare venture its nightmarish depths…but that’s exactly where Rain must go for answers.

Every agonizing step is a struggle to move forward and confront the truth. Rain battles the unquiet dead, her own inner demons, and even more terrible things. The Underworld itself hungers for her light. Not even an angel is safe from its corrupting grasp. As her body withers and her mind begins to fail, can her poisoned spirit endure the horrors that seek to shatter it?

If Rain falters, the Underworld will also be her tomb.

In the beginning of this short story, the reader meets Rain; she is grieving the loss of her mortal lover Jessica. In order to obtain answers to her untimely death, Rain decides to venture into the place she is most afraid of: the Underworld. However, there is a cost that Rain will pay if she wanders too long: she will be trapped there.

This was such a quick read; at less than sixty pages total, I was able to binge this one in a single sitting! Paranormal romance is a genre that I’m not well-read in, but Conte created a story that didn’t conform to the typical love story between a mortal and supernatural being. Conte allowed his plot to focus solely on the bond shared between his two female characters and how grief seemed to separate them, yet ultimately brought them together once more.

I recommend this one if you’re a fan of paranormal romance, if you’re a fan of short stories, or if you’re a fan of Kindle Unlimited books as this one is now available on their service!

*I was gifted a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Special Guest Saturday: Meet Brit!

Visit Brit’s Bookstagram

Brit is twenty-nine mother of four. She met her significant other when she was ten, but didn’t get together until she was twenty-six. Although she was born in Alaska, she moved to Oregon at the age of eight and has been living there since. When she is not sewing, she is doing the other thing that she loves: reading!

Q: What made you decide to start making booksleeves?

A: I decided to make booksleeves because my mom was making them for me but I needed them a bit more padded. Then I put them on Etsy to try and see if it’d go anywhere. It took a bit, but I feel like I’m doing well.

Q: How long have you been making them?

A: I have been making them since October 2018.

Q: How did you decide your shop’s name?

A: My son actually decided it one night while we were reading a book. He knew I was trying to think of a name to put on Etsy and he said, “how about book in a sweater?”

Q: To date, what’s been your favorite print?

A: Oh man, that’s a tough one. My favorite sleeve to date is probably my light purple floral with gold trims on the roses.

Q: On the book front, what’s your favorite genre?

A: My favorite genre is thrillers, but I’ll read anything. Especially something with a deep meaning and has you thinking about it long after.

Q: What’s three adjectives to describe you?

A: Three adjectives to describe me are generous, impulsive, & easy-going!

Want to check out Brit’s shop for yourself?

*I happen to be a rep for Brit’s shop. If you happen to check out her shop and find something you like, use my code: DOGEAR15 for a discount!

Rose Petals by Sara McCoy

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  • Published: April 27, 2019 by ShootingStar Publishing
  • Genre: Poetry
  • Edition: Kindle
  • Pages: 98
  • Rating: 3 stars

This transparent collection of poetry explores themes of grief and loss, the beauty of nature, self compassion, and the power of returning to your true self. With sensitivity and compassion, the author dares to express the heart’s deepest desire for relationship and love.

McCoy’s literary piece is broken into three categories: the loss, the longing, and the return. In each of these categories, there are numerous corresponding poems. As I was reading, I found myself connected to quite a few of the author’s poems and thought I’d share bits of each with you.

my grandma doesn’t remember my name

her memory unravels a little each year

like a faded tapestry

slowly fraying and coming undone at the seams

a poem titled “memories.”

This poem resonated with me because I have personally lost two grandparents who battled with Alzheimer’s disease.

autumn is a gentle friend

taking you by the hand to mend

your sorrows with a peaceful walk

through golden leaves with beauty dressed

and shows your heart the way to the rest

a poem titled “seasons.”

Autumn is my favorite season and reading the author’s portrayal for this particular season connected with me. It’s the time of change and can be difficult to do, but with change comes amazing opportunities.

when blended and swirled together

we create an entirely new shade

light and dark, strong and subtle

we are one, and yet entirely separate

a poem titled “two colors, one palette.”

It is always suggested to find a partner who shares your same interests as to avoid potential conflicts, but I have never been that type of girl. I’m a strong believer in opposites attract and this poem sums up how those relationships can work out for the better.

McCoy’s poetic piece is a quick read that readers everywhere will want to check out. If you end up loving this particular title, then you may want to look into other writings of hers from her website.

*I was given a free copy of this book via the author in exchange for an honest review.

Daughters of the Steppes by Brooks Carver

  • Published by Prairie Sky Press
  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • Edition: Paperback
  • Pages: 272
  • Rating: 3 stars

This book conveys the stories of some of the most talented, brave, and resourceful women of their generation, the only female air force to appear in combat. It is told through the journal of a young innocent girl from the Russian Steppes. They battled the deadly German Luftwaffe in the skies over Russia, so join them on their missions by night above the dangerous killing fields of that era. Many of them sacrificed their lives while becoming the highest decorated regiment in the Soviet Union.
They were legends in the making. The many young women who lost their lives during those years left behind a legacy that far outlived them. Even though the Russian officials hid their exploits for many years, the glasnost era of the 1980’s brought their story into the shining light of history. Even in death, the Night Witches skill and bravery immortalized their contribution to victory on the Eastern Front.

I must confess that prior to reading this book, I was unaware of women performing military duties. I had always learned in school history courses of the women being the ones overseeing the home-fronts while their male counterparts were away in combat, so I was surprised to discover there was a navigation school during those days for women! Carver does a magnificent job at exposing this unheard part of women’s history; the author is able to achieve this status by combining retellings from a female navigator’s diary and war photos.

During the introduction, the author addresses the fact that the story is being shared via the diary of a young woman named Mariya, whose diary was discovered by Diederich Brandt who went on to translate it from Russian to English. Brandt’s son falls into possession of this prized treasure after the death of his father and relays its contents to Carver’s readers.

Readers will get to know Mariya as they follow her piloting journey; they will learn about the staggering amount of night missions the regimen participates in, the blossoming friendships among the ladies of the team, and the leading women in this line of work. Along these stories are photos from World War II and helps puts into perspective the events being described.

This is a nonfiction read like no other and those who enjoy this genre will want to pick up this book!

The author runs his own publishing house, which you can find the address for below:

Prairie Sky Press

118 Poplar Street

Canton, IL, 61520

*I was given a free copy of this book via the author in exchange for an honest review.

I Know When You’re Going to Die by Michael J. Bowler

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  • Published: February 25, 2020
  • Genres: Mystery, Thriller
  • Edition: Kindle
  • Pages: 210

Leonardo Cantrell is a painfully shy sixteen-year-old who cannot look people in the eye. One night while he’s volunteering at a homeless shelter, an old man forces eye contact and gives Leo the power to see Death.

His best, and only, friend—J.C. Rivera—thinks this new power is cool until Leo accidentally looks into J.C.’s eyes and “sees” his murder, a murder that will occur in less than two weeks. Stunned and shaken, the two boys sift through clues in Leo’s “vision” in a desperate effort to find the killer and stop him before he can strike.

Aided by feisty new-girl-at-school, Laura, the boys uncover evidence suggesting the identity of the murderer. However, their plan to trap the would-be killer goes horribly awry and reveals a truth that could kill them all.

This is a thriller unlike any other and will not disappoint die-hard thrill-seekers! Despite the short page length, Bowler is able to create a real page-turner and really makes his unique main character shine in this novel.

Michael J. Bowler is an award-winning author who grew up in Northern California. He majored in English/Theatre at Santa Clara University, earned a master’s in film production from Loyola Marymount University, a teaching credential in English from LMU, and a master’s in Special Education from Cal State University Dominguez Hills.

Michael taught high school in Hawthorne, California, both in general education and to students with learning disabilities. When Michael is not writing, you can find him volunteering as a youth mentor with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and raising his newly adopted son. He is a passionate advocate for the fair treatment of children and teens in California, and hopes his books can show young people they are not alone in their struggles.

GIVEAWAY: $25 AMAZON/B&N GIFT CARD!!!!

Enter here!

February 2020 Wrap-Up

The month of February is officially in the books! I had a great month of reading; I finished 28 books: 7 physical books, 16 e-books, and 5 audiobooks.

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  • A Girl Named Zippy by: Haven Kimmel
  • STORI Telling by: Tori Spelling
  • The Regrets by: Amy Bonnaffons
  • Hocus Pocus and the All New Sequel by: A.W. Jantha
  • Dear Edward by: Ann Napolitano (3.5)
  • The Sun Is Also A Star by: Nicola Yoon (3.5)
  • 29 Seconds by: T. M. Logan
  • Five Weddings and a Wake by: Karen Ross
  • Practical Magic by: Alice Hoffman
  • Red Hail by: Jamie Killen
  • Oddball in 3G by: Marc Berlin
  • All The Missing Girls by: Megan Miranda (3.5)
  • The War Beneath by: S.R. Hughes (3.5)
  • Last Summer by: Kerry Lonsdale
  • Fruit of the Drunken Tree by: Ingrid Contreras
  • The Hardest (Working) Man in Showbiz by: Ron Jeremy
  • Divan of Shah by: Shah Rivzi
  • The Moonshiner’s Daughter by: Donna Everhart

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  • Born Standing Up by: Steve Martin

  • Revelation by: Jo Fenton

This month, I had the opportunity to review the Thrill-Seeker box for the book subscription service, Bookcase.Club! The two books I received were: Tailspin by: Sandra Brown and Last Seen Alive by: Claire Douglas.

Final Girls by Riley Sager

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  • Published: July 11, 2017 by Dutton
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Edition: Kindle
  • Pages: 352
  • Rating: 5 stars

Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls: Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.
 
Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.
 
That is until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit; and Sam, the second Final Girl, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.

This is the second novel that I have read by Sager, the first being Lock Every Door. I found myself to be in the minority for that title, but decided to give him another chance and this time around, he did not disappoint! Sager manages to throw all the elements into this thriller: a sole survivor of a massacre, an unexpected visitor, and jaw-dropping reveals!

Quincy and a group of her friends take a vacation to Pine Cottage, a location that is out in the wilderness with spotty cell signal. The group finds themselves throwing a party and inviting a guy named Joe Hannen; a guy that they have only recently been introduced to and who strikes Quincy as odd. Her reasons for being suspicious prove wise when Hannen decides to go on a killing spree later that night and murder all her friends, leaving her wounded but still alive.

Flash forward to ten years later, Quincy refuses to try recalling any memories about that night’s events as she does not want to be associated with the title “Final Girl.” She just wants to live her life outside of the public eye and has succeeded in doing so, but that changes when the first “Final Girl” Lisa is discovered dead from a suspected suicide and Quincy is paid an unexpected visit from the second one, Samantha shortly after. Samantha quickly wears out her welcome, but Quincy finds herself in a position where she is being blackmailed and Samantha is the one calling shots.

Quincy sets out on a mission to uncover some type of dirt in a bid to use against Samantha and remove her from life once and for all, but she ends up uncovering way more than information on her visitor. This thriller had me convinced that I knew the killer’s identity and I felt I was right until the end when things took a turn and left my mind blown!

I highly recommend this thriller for those who enjoyed AHS: 1984, as this read definitely gave me those vibes.

Five Wakes and a Wedding by Karen Ross

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Nina is your average 30-year-old with a steady job, a nice home – and dead bodies in her basement. As an undertaker, she often prefers the company of the dead to the living – they’re obliging, good listeners and take secrets to the grave.

Nina is on a one-woman mission to persuade her peers that passing on is just another part of life. But the residents of Primrose Hill are adamant that a funeral parlour is the last thing they need… and they will stop at nothing to close down her dearly beloved shop.

When Nina’s ‘big break’ funeral turns out to be a prank, it seems like it’s the final nail in the coffin for her new business. That is, until a (tall, dark and) mysterious investor shows up out of the blue, and she decides to take a leap of faith.

Because, after all, it’s her funeral…

Photo of author

As a former journalist, broadcaster and advertising copywriter, Karen Ross has followed a fairly traditional path into writing fiction. Five

Wakes and a Wedding is her fourth book, and like its predecessors, the novel has two common threads: the setting is London’s Primrose Hill – Karen’s own neighbourhood – and one of the characters is a dog . . . this time he’s called Chopper and he’s almost the same size as a Shetland Pony Karen has been self-employed for many years, and continues to work as a marketing consultant, in the absence of an offer to manage Tottenham Hotspur. By way of credentials, her other ‘job’ is trading profitably on the world’s first football stockmarket, a platform called Football Index, where you buy and sell players with real money.

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Until participating in this tour, I had not heard of this author nor read any of her works. I must also admit that I originally decided to partake in this tour because I was intrigued by the book’s title.

The main character, Nina, has recently found herself terminated from her job at a popular funeral home after making a decision that went against her boss’s wishes. Instead of wallowing in her own self-pity, she makes the decision to open her own funeral home; however, this move comes with its own set of problems. The neighborhood in which her business resides is known for lots of thing from spas to high-end restaurants, but businesses involving the dead it is not.

The chairman of the town’s association committee immediately marks her as an enemy and sets out to exterminate her services from the area. She begins to bring other civilians into her plots to ensure that Nina’s business does not succeed while Nina is just struggling to find a way to feel like she belongs.

Will Nina be able to stand her ground and win, or will she accept defeat? You will have to read to find out! I found myself enjoying this book and recommend it best for those who enjoy women’s fiction, reads that are light and comical, and for those wanting to branch out into different authors.

I’d like to thank Rachel Gilbey for organizing this tour and allowing me to participate.

Oddball in 3G by Marc Berlin

Trigger Warnings: This novel discusses the following topics that may be difficult for some readers: mental health, physical abuse, profanity, violence.

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  • Published: September 19, 2019 by Black Rose Writing
  • Genre: Psychological Thriller
  • Edition: Kindle
  • Pages: 207
  • Rating: 3 stars

Robert Krieger’s life is quickly falling apart.

He’s been fired from his job, split with his sexy girlfriend, and has a controlling overbearing mother he feels obligated to call at least once a week. As a result, he’s developed a distressing anxiety disorder.

Robert lends money to an acquaintance across the hall in his building, a small-time drug dealer named Skids. When Skids is later assaulted by enforcers working for an inner-city drug gang, the Dragons, he hands Robert a package to hold for him until he either asks for it back, or dies.

Lonely but determined to find a new girlfriend, while jogging one morning Robert meets the beautiful and willowy Lindsay Marriott, whom he awkwardly begins to romance. Not long afterward, he finds himself in a bloody one-man war with the Dragons, who believe Robert possesses money Skids owes them.

Robert is soon juggling an increasing array of anxiety-heightening issues, which together conspire to wreak havoc on his fragile sanity.

I have read quite a few psychological thrillers where the author establishes some unreliable narrators, but Mr. Berlin’s character of Robert takes the cake! The author begins the story by introducing a quote from Norman Bates, which should have alerted me of the events that would soon unfold.

As the synopsis indicates, the main character struggles with his mental health; I, personally, struggle with anxiety and found Robert to be someone I quickly resonated with. Readers will constantly see him battling with his mental thoughts and trying to overcome them through weekly therapy sessions and daily medications.

As one might expect from someone who is anxious in nature, Robert is socially awkward and finds it hard to establish long-term relationships with other individuals. Readers will notice these complications when introduced to Skids, his next-door neighbor of several months who frequently borrows money from him despite having no other contact, and Lindsay, a woman he runs into by accident and quickly develops feelings for.

Until the halfway mark, this book is a very slow-burn which is not normally something I enjoy; I honestly felt like I would be rating this one as a solid two-stars, but events took a turn and was non-stop action until the end! As I do not give away spoilers in my reviews, it makes it hard to express why this book is worth the read but I urge you to give a chance because you won’t be disappointed.

*I’d like to thank the author for reaching out to me and gifting me a free copy in exchange for a honest review.

The War Beneath by S.R. Hughes

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  • Published: October 1, 2019 by Permuted Press
  • Genres: Paranormal, Suspense, Thriller
  • Edition: Hardcover
  • Pages: 320
  • Rating: 3.5 stars

“There is a war going on behind things, beneath them.”

Paul had been a forensic psychologist. But after his daughter’s funeral, he hit the rock bottom of a spiraling addiction. When the spirits of the dead started rasping their wishes in his ears, he fled New York for withering Oceanrest—a flat-broke city barnacled to Maine’s coast. There, he’s spent the last five years scraping by, trying to shake off the burdens of his past, pretending to be a man without context, without history, without the secret ability to speak with the dead. But soon, all of that will be taken away from him.

Deirdre’s spent the past fourteen years as a resident of Squatter City—the most distal and dilapidated of Oceanrest’s gangrenous appendages. Growing and harvesting a hydroponic farm of mystic flora and esoteric plantlife, she’s built a business as a drug dealer and apothecary. After years of relative peace, Deirdre’s life finally seems tenable. But when one of her regular clients double-crosses her, what little serenity she’s discovered quickly unravels.

Deirdre and Paul soon find themselves under attack from criminals and cultists, on the run from Quebecois mobsters, Aryan Nationalists, and a group of young men who seem dedicated to a cause of brutality and destruction on an apocalyptic scale.

S. R. Hughes inhabits the glittering darknesses between dreams but writes from Queens, NY. He’s been published in Sanitarium, the Wild Hunt eZine, and has had stories featured on several podcasts.

I must confess that I have not read many books that fall into the paranormal category, but have been slowly adding some titles from this genre into my reading and have discovered that I love it! This was my first time reading a title by this author, but after enjoying this one I will definitely be adding more of his work to my TBR.

Hughes finds a way to combine all sorts of elements into his plot without it confusing the readers or adding unnecessary substance. I started this book yesterday and found myself wrapping it up early this morning! I am a sucker for novels that are nonstop action and constantly throwing blows at you until the very end.

I highly suggest this one to readers who enjoy paranormal reads, who enjoy paranormal shows like Supernatural and Ghost Whisperer, and readers who enjoy fast-paced thrillers. I urge others to grab a copy of this book because I assure you that you will not regret it!

Purchase Links

Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Books-A-Million

*I would like to take a moment to thank Trish Collins from TLC Book Tours for reaching out to me about participating in this tour.

Red Hail by Jamie Killen

Trigger Warnings: This novel contains the following content that may be sensitive to certain readers: abortion, slight violence.

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  • Published: January 21, 2020 by Red Adept Publishing, LLC
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Edition: Kindle
  • Pages: 206
  • Rating: 3 stars

Professor Colin Ayres has spent years researching the strange story of Galina, Arizona, a sleepy border town ripped apart by violence and paranoia after the outbreak of a mysterious illness in 1960. Colin is certain the Galina Incident was simply a case of mass hysteria. But when his partner, Alonzo, starts exhibiting strange symptoms, Colin is shocked to realize they are the same as those that emerged in Galina decades ago.

As Alonzo’s condition worsens, Colin scrambles to piece together what really happened during that terrible summer in the past. He uncovers a story of murder, corruption, and fanaticism. The deeper he digs, the more he becomes convinced that what happened in Galina wasn’t mass hysteria after all.

When others start to develop the same eerie symptoms, Colin must confront the possibility that someone—or something—is driving the plague. Guided by rumors of a person who found a way to stop the plague in the sixties, Colin races to find answers before the disease destroys Alonzo and everyone else it touches.

Red Hail is a novel that is broken down into two timelines with two different set of main characters. In 1960, the readers are introduced to Anza, a sixteen year old girl; Dove, a former ward nurse; and Father Santiago, a priest. After a hail storm paints their town red, strange things begin to happen to almost all the citizens in their small town of Galina; with officials chalking it up to mass hysteria, these three set out on a mission to uncover the real reason behind the incidents.

Flash forward to present time in 2020, readers are introduced to Colin, a man who has done an extensive amount of research on Galina’s illnesses and until recently believed in the mass hysteria theory; Alonzo, his significant other who has family ties to Galina; and Sonia, a young mother who is experiencing the same symptoms as Alonzo. Together the three of them pursue leads to finally solve the decades long case and not only save themselves, but others in the future.

This novel is a quick read that will have you hooked until the very end; the author does a wonderful job at writing something scientific, but with enough dark mystery that it will be a hit for any reader that does not normally read from this genre. I will definitely be reading more of Killen’s work!

* I was given a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

January 2020 Wrap-Up

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The first month of the new year is officially in the books; I had a great month of reading, I managed to read a grand total of 26 books: 3 audiobooks, 9 physical copies, and 14 ebooks.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

  • Enchantee by: Gita Trelease
  • Unspeakable Things by: Jessica Lourey

⭐⭐⭐⭐

  • Hum If You Don’t Know the Words by: Bianca Marais
  • All the Silent Voices by: Elena Mikalsen
  • Dragon’s Burn by: Brooke Warren

⭐⭐⭐

  • I’m Done by: Gurpreet Kaur
  • Golden State by: Ben H. Winters
  • Happy & You Know It by: Laura Hankin (3.5)
  • Wild Game by: Adrienne Brodeur
  • The Ruby of the Sea by: Peggy Lampman
  • The God Game by: Danny Tobey
  • Blue Christmas by: Mary Kay Andrews
  • Secrets of my Life by: Caitlyn Jenner
  • The Giver by: Lois Lowry
  • My Sister, the Serial Killer by: Oyinkan Braithwaite
  • What Lies in Paradise by: Leah Cupps
  • Lost Girl by: Holly Kammier
  • Say You Still Love Me by: K.A. Tucker
  • Notes from the Upside Down by: Guy Adams

⭐⭐

  • Amber Hollow by: Edgar Swamp
  • Boy Erased by: Garrard Conley
  • The Haunting of Hill House by: Shirley Jackson
  • The Wedding Date by: Jasmine Guillory
  • Orange is the New Black by: Piper Kerman
  • I Feel Bad About My Neck by: Nora Ephron
  • Death in the Family by: Lanny Larcinese
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Lace & Lies by Melanie Munton

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  • Published: January 21, 2020
  • Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Jasmine Kingston should run from me. I mean, she should literally pick up her dress, toss away her heels, and haul ass in the complete opposite direction. Because for the last few months that she’s been in New York and taking the fashion world by storm, I’ve been watching her. From my ivory tower, from the shadows. Wherever she’s been, I’ve been only feet away, and she hasn’t even realized it.

Until now.

I can’t stay away and watch one more man take his shot with her. She needs to know what she’s doing to me. Especially since things are heating up with my family’s enemies. I just pray those enemies don’t discover my only weakness.
Maybe it was the wrong way to go. Maybe I should never have touched her. Never treated myself to her addictive taste. But I can’t alleviate this obsession I have with her any more than I can put a bullet between my own eyes.

She’s mine to protect now.
I’ll burn my entire fortune to the ground and take ten of those bullets before I let anything happen to her.

I just hope she doesn’t find out what I’ve done.

Photo of the author.

Traveler. Reader. Beach-goer. St. Louis Cardinals fan. Pasta-obsessed. North Carolina resident. Sarcastic. Bit of a nerd. 
Author of the Cruz Brothers, Possession and Politics, and Timid Souls series, Melanie loves all things romance, comedies and suspense in particular because it’s boring to only stick to one sub-genre! From light-hearted comedies to sexy thrillers, she likes to mix it up, but loves her some strong alpha males and sassy heroines.

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Death in the Family by Lanny Larcinese

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  • Published: January 1, 2020
  • Genre: Crime Thriller

Donny Lentini is a talented young man hungry for his mother’s love. To please her, he becomes guardian angel to his mob-wannabe father. When the father is murdered and found with his hands hacked off, Donny is dealt a set of cards in a game called vengeance. The pot is stacked high with chips; the ante, his soul and the lives of loved-ones. With the help of friends—ex-con, defrocked Jesuit Bill Conlon along with former high-school nemesis, Antwyne Claxton—he digs for whether the murder had anything to do with the mob’s lust for a real estate parcel owned by the family of Donny’s lover. He’s new at this game. He doesn’t cheat, but plays his cards well. And he gets what he wants.

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Lanny Larcinese’s short work has appeared in magazines and has won a handful of local
prizes. He lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He’s a native mid-westerner transplanted to the City of Brotherly Love where he has been writing fiction for seven years. When not writing, he lets his daughter, Amanda, charm him out of his socks, and works at impressing Jackie, his long-time companion who keeps him honest and laughing—in addition to being his first-line writing critic. He also spends more time than he should on Facebook but feels suitably guilty for it.

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What Lies in Paradise by Leah Cupps

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  • Published: January 10, 2020
  • Genres: Adult, Mystery, Thriller

She’s got 400,000 fans. One of them could be the killer.
 
Instagram Influencer Sydney Evans carefully curates her enviable public persona. Despite being freshly widowed, she’s eager to strike a pose at her best friend’s extravagant destination nuptials. But Sydney’s feed goes dark when she blacks out on the plane, awakening to discover another guest poisoned to death.
 
With the FBI keen to use Sydney as an insider, she takes the arm of a rookie undercover agent hoping to capture something incriminating. But a deadly run-in exposes a shocking criminal underbelly lurking beneath her own picture-perfect marriage. And if she doesn’t solve the case before her friends tie the knot, the culprit will make sure her next selfie is her last.
 
Can Sydney catch a murderer or will the wedding become a funeral?

You can find this author on: Facebook, Instagram, and Goodreads.

Leah Cupps is an entrepreneur and author. She has built and sold several businesses, and documented the process in her first book #MomLifeInc.

Leah lives in Indiana with her husband, three young children and two small dogs. When she isn’t losing sleep writing her next novel or scaling her next business, she enjoys running and spending time with her family.

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Lost Girl by Holly Kammier

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  • Published: January 5, 2020 by Acorn Publishing
  • Genres: Romance, Suspense, Young Adult
  • Edition: Kindle
  • Pages: 292
  • Rating: 3 stars

AN APPALLING ACT OF VIOLENCE AND AN UNSOLVED DOUBLE MURDER.

SMALL-TOWN INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, SHELBY DAY, IS DETERMINED TO HUNT A KILLER. 

As her search draws closer to uncovering the twisted truth, she begins receiving ominous warnings to stay quiet and drop the story. The young journalist is in danger. Her cameraman and best friend, a person with his own secret past, says he wants to protect her. But Shelby is headstrong and dodging anything that could lead to love. She can’t allow anyone to distract her as she fights for the two women who deserve justice. 

She never expects along the way she’ll have to stop and save herself.

Ticktock… If Shelby doesn’t solve the crime soon, she’ll become the killer’s next victim. 

This is my first book by this author and it will certainly not be my last! I sat down with this book and only planned to get a few chapters knocked out, but ended up binge-reading it in one sitting! This book has a little bit of everything: an unsolved double murder, a budding romance, and unexpected reveals!

When this book opens, readers are quickly introduced to the main character: Shelby Day. The protagonist’s career is in reporting and she is currently tasked with interviewing individuals close to the two murdered victims whose killer still hasn’t been caught.

Day’s character is very career driven and feels like she does not have time for a committed relationship while opting for casual flings instead. However, things get complicated when she starts acknowledging her deeper feelings for a longtime male friend.

The mixture of suspense and feelings of love continue to build as this novel goes on, which leads to one killer ending. You see what I did there?

I hope those who read this enjoy my review and are encouraged to pick this one up! I’d also like to take a moment and thank Giselle from Xpresso Book Tours for allowing me a spot on this tour.

Amber Hollow by Edgar Swamp

Trigger Warnings: This novel contains the following topics that may be upsetting to readers: gore, mass murders, sexual assault, and suicide.

  • Published: October 10, 2019 by Swampland Enterprises
  • Genre: Horror, Mystery, Suspense
  • Edition: Kindle
  • Pages: 471
  • Rating: 2 stars

On July 14, 1991, an isolated village in Northern Wisconsin is ground zero for an unprecedented, fiery tragedy. Of the community’s 600 residents, there are only five survivors. Detailed accounts by the victims contradict one another; the only link they have in common is a man named Anthony Guntram, who they allege is the primary suspect. Because he is presumably dead, this claim can’t be verified. Further inquiries expose a culture enshrouded in mystery. What are the survivors are hiding? Only the villagers know the secret of Amber Hollow, a place where sanity is checked at the town line, and the parameters of reality become blurred. An unconventional horror story by design, Edgar Swamp delivers an action-driven page-turner that will keep readers guessing until the calamitous ending.

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I must confess that the book’s cover and synopsis is what initially drew me to sign up for this tour. Once I started reading, I quickly became hooked; the readers are introduced to two detectives: Sadie and Jeremy, who are working a case about a suspicious fire set in the community known as “Amber Hollow.” The duo begin questioning their limited survivors, but soon realize that their stories aren’t lining up, but can’t seem to figure out why…yet. Unfortunately, it is shortly after these events that the book begins to lose my interest. I felt like this book had the potential to be a great horror read, but the author’s mentions of known serial killers and a climactic buildup that fizzled out by the end really put a damper on this one for me.

Throughout the novel, the author makes references to well-known serial killers such as: Jeffrey Dahmer, Jim Jones, and Ed Gein. I can understand his reasoning for including them as the case the detectives are working on involves elements drawn from these three in particular, but I felt it took away from the story a tadbit for me personally.

Throughout this novel, Swamp is slowly rewarding the readers with the pieces needed to complete the overall investigation puzzle. Readers are gaining insight from survivors’ testimonies, exploring the isolated community, and more with each new chapter. However, by the time the “big reveal” occurs, it came across as rushed and did not pack the punch it could have for me.

Overall, I found this book to be an okay read that was a fast read; I’d still recommend others to check it out. Perhaps, this one would be best for those readers that enjoy slow-burners.

Thank you, Goddess Fish Promotions for allowing me a spot on this tour and providing me a copy of this one in exchange for an honest review.

Dragon’s Burn by Brooke Warren

Trigger Warning: This book is intended for readers over the age of 18 due to adult language and content.

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  • Published: December 27, 2019
  • Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Reverse Harem, Romance

High school is over which means summer vacation has officially begun. I just spent the last four years busting my butt making sure I secured a one way ticket out of hicksville and the suffocating small-town life.

To celebrate my impending freedom I attend an end of year party with the same people I can’t wait to escape from. Except this party is different from the rest, there’s someone new.

What starts as a summer fling quickly turns into more. My carefully guarded heart is split wide open. Meeting him sends my life on a detour and threatens to destroy all my future life plans.

He’s not supposed to happen, he’s not part of my plan. He spins my world out of control, like a drug addiction I can’t seem to kick.

Can he escape his obligations with Legion’s Fallen MC or will our love destroy everything I’ve worked so hard to achieve?

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Glass Half Full by Katia Rose

  • Publication date: January 8, 2020
  • Genre: Romantic Comedy
  • Edition: Kindle
  • Rating: 3 stars

You win some, you lose some.

Back at home with half a college degree after the fiasco of the century sent her packing, it’s safe to say that Renee Nyobé is losing some. She’s a hot mess, and not the cute kind. No, if hot messes had categories, hers would be ‘littering the stairs of the metro station with your sweaty underwear because you were too busy rushing to the job interview you’re already late for to zip up your yoga bag.’

A job—any job—is just what she needs to get her life back on track, and it might as well be at Montreal’s most famous dive bar, Taverne Toulouse.

Dylan Trottard is winning some. As Taverne Toulouse’s new manager, he’s got one rule for himself: don’t screw up. Following that rule gets a lot harder when the woman he’s spent the past three years trying to forget starts working behind the bar.
They were never supposed to want each other, and they sure as hell aren’t supposed to want each other now. She’s the girl that got away before he even had her, and he’s the guy she didn’t think would ever give her a second glance.

Now they can’t keep their eyes off one another, and the stakes are even higher than before. There’s a lot to lose, but as the pull between them gets harder and harder to ignore, Renee and Dylan start asking how much winning is worth.

Those who follow my blog are probably aware of the fact that romance is the least likely genre to find me reading, but I have been making more of an effort to embrace more titles in this particular category. Although this book is the second in a series by the author, each book can be read as a standalone. I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly I became invested in the budding relationship between the two main characters: Dylan and Renee; both individuals have flaws that readers can relate to and keep them rooting for a happy ending for the duo.

Renee is a twenty-one year old woman who finds herself back at home after her overseas education was cut short due to her suffering a mental breakdown. Even though it has been months since her incident, her family still feels the need to treat her like a fragile human-being. While trying to adjust to living life with anxiety and a different outcome of the life she had pictured for herself, Renee decides to apply for a job at a local dive bar. Unbeknownst to her, the newly promoted manager is someone from her past.

Dylan is a twenty-something year old who readers find has been recently promoted to manager at the dive bar that he has been working at for quite some time. When Renee comes walking through the doors, he cannot help but be taken on a journey through the past when he was crushing on her in their poetry group. Even though this is a second chance at being an item, he feels conflicted to pursue anything as he is hiding a secret that he seems unable to truly forgive himself for.

Over the course of the novel, readers see the characters work through their own personal struggles and find themselves drawn closer to one another. I read this book rather quickly and already wish it was time for the release of book three! Trust me, you will want to go ahead and preorder this one!

I was provided an advanced reader’s copy of this book via the author in exchange for an honest review.

With the Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo

  • Published: May 7, 2019 by HarperTeen
  • Genre: Young Adult
  • Edition: E-book
  • Pages: 395
  • Rating: 5 stars

Ever since she got pregnant freshman year, Emoni Santiago’s life has been about making the tough decisions—doing what has to be done for her daughter and her abuela. The one place she can let all that go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness.

Even though she dreams of working as a chef after she graduates, Emoni knows that it’s not worth her time to pursue the impossible. Yet despite the rules she thinks she has to play by, once Emoni starts cooking, her only choice is to let her talent break free.

With 2019 quickly coming to an end and not having a five star read since September, I was worried that I would not be able to discover another one in time. I was delighted when my library hold came in for this title as I had heard great things about this book and I can happily report that it did not disappoint! The author does a wonderful job at demonstrating how one can overcome obstacles, pursue dreams, and take time for things that matter.

Emoni, the story’s strong female lead, is a teenager who has had the odds stacked against her since she became pregnant during her freshmen year of high school. With a child of her own while still a child herself, she fought hard to stay at her current school instead of being placed in an alternative one intended for other expectant mothers; she also made the decision to attend summer school to catch up on her missing credits and obtained a job to help cover the expenses of raising her child.

Emoni has always loved cooking and enjoys adding her own personal twist to every dish she prepares; it is one of the things I loved about her character while reading this book. She aspires to become a chef who owns her own restaurant one day, so it is no surprise that she quickly hops on the opportunity to attend a culinary arts course when it becomes available at her school. She struggles to accept her decision to join the class as she knows that it will cut into her studying and job hours, but is soon reassured by her loved ones that this is a great decision on her end.

Towards the end of the novel, the readers start to see the female character take control of her life and really start focusing on things that matter; she starts applying to several colleges, she starts trusting her baby’s father with more responsibilities that in return helps lighten her load, and she plans a trip to visit her relatives over the summer.

I highly recommend others to read this book when given the chance; I can almost guarantee that you won’t be disappointed! Despite finishing this book a couple days ago, I’m still thinking about the plot and wanting more of Emoni’s story!

The Bridge of Little Jeremy by Indrajit GARAI

  • Published: March 17, 2019
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Edition: Kindle
  • Pages: 278
  • Rating: 3 stars

Jeremy’s mother is about to go to prison for their debt to the State. He is trying everything within his means to save her, but his options are running out fast.

Then Jeremy discovers a treasure under Paris.

This discovery may save his mother, but it doesn’t come for free. And he has to ride over several obstacles for his plan to work.

Meanwhile, something else is limiting his time…

The Bridge of Little Jeremy starts out with the readers being introduced to the narrator: Little Jeremy himself, who is a twelve year old boy suffering from a medical condition that readers will quickly be informed about. He lives with his mother and his beloved pet dog in the city of Paris, but finances are particularly tight at the moment. From medical bills to the newly discovered inheritance tax, his mother’s nursing home salary is not enough to cover all the expenses; this is when Little Jeremy starts using his art skills to secretly sell his paintings to help ease the burden for his mother. This venture sets the stage for the journey the narrator takes through the European city, where he uncovers a valuable artifact, uncovers knowledge about his heritage, and uncovers the importance of love.

The protagonist of this story is quite adventurous and is often left to roam freely around the city, which may be unimaginable to some of those who decide to pick up this book. On one of these explorations, he finds himself in the presence of a valuable Vittorio painting; he decides to take it upon himself to restore the painting and collect a profit that will eliminate any financial stress that his family is currently battling. In his process of restoring the painting, Little Jeremy becomes engrossed in his work and begins seeking out any tidbit of information that can be given pertaining to the piece of art.

When the narrator is not at work on the painting, readers will find him wandering about Paris following leads that may gain him some knowledge about his valuable find. One of these trips finds Little Jeremy making the acquaintance of someone who purchased property from his great-grandfather; on the site of the property, the boy spots a portrait of a woman holding a child that sparks his curiosity. He is sure that he recognizes that face, but cannot seem to recall who or were he may have saw the woman. He begins chatting with the landowner and learns that he has ancestral ties to the painting he has been working on, but that his mother must not know of its existence!

The restoration mission comes to an end and not a moment too soon! Little Jeremy’s mother has received notice that they must leave their flat and she is facing a few years behind bars due to the impending debts she has accumulated. The protagonist comes clean to his mother about the painting; she is shocked to learn of her son’s unknown trips and hobbies, but appreciates him trying to help. She agrees to sign the authorization allowing him to sell the painting, so the family can be released from their economical stress. As it is starting to seem like the family is receiving their happy ending, things take a turn for the worse fast; I cannot say much without giving the resolution away, but I will say that I did not expect it and it has stayed with me even after finishing the book.

I truly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to those that enjoy books with character-driven plots, in particular.

* I was gifted a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

My 2019 Five Star Reads

The Silent Patient by: Alex Michaelides

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This was Goodreads 2019 Mystery & Thriller winner! I reviewed this one on my blog earlier this year, which you can check out here.

The One by: John Marrs

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Amazon is having a deal on the Kindle version of this novel at the time of posting.

This book took me for one heck of a roller coaster ride! Each chapter revealed a plot twist that I didn’t see coming and kept me hooked till the very end! To see my review, click here.

A Stranger on the Beach by: Michele Campbell

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I ended up reading this book in one sitting! The author alternates between two points of view: Caroline and Aidan. The readers are left wondering whose side to defend through the entire course of events, but will have them questioning their own judgments when the ending is revealed. My full review can be found by clicking here.

Horns by: Joe Hill

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Amazon is having a deal on the paperback version at the time of posting.

This was my first read by Joe Hill, the son of Stephen King, and it has become one of my favorites of all time. I can’t put into words how much I loved this book!

We’re Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union

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This is the only celebrity memoir that I have read this year to receive a five star rating by me. Union’s style of writing makes readers feel like they are sitting across the table from her the entire course of the book!

After the Eclipse by Sarah Perry

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Amazon is having a deal on the paperback and Kindle versions of this novel at the time of posting.

Readers follow Sarah Perry on her journey of finding out the events surrounding her mother’s death and who the suspect was. The author provides a thorough breakdown of what she uncovers and fans of true crime will want this one on their TBR!

A Mother’s Reckoning by: Sue Klebold

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Sue Klebold is the mother of Dylan Klebold, one half of the Columbine shooting duo. The author tells her story of events leading up to and after the shooting with the help of diary entries. This is one readers won’t want to miss out on; I reviewed this one on my blog earlier this year, which can be found here.

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This was the last five star read of 2019 for me and it happened as the year was wrapping up. You can read my full thoughts on this one by reading my review.

Christmas With You by Nan Reinhardt

  • Published: November 21, 2019 by Tule Publishing
  • Genre: Contemporary Romance

She’s loved him all her life… but will he be there when she needs him the most?

Disheartened and adrift after being written out of a hit TV show, actor Aidan Flaherty returns to his family’s historic winery, where he’s invested some of the fortune he’s made. As the holidays approach, Aidan becomes intrigued with the old showboat that’s dry-docked just east of town… and even more intrigued with the daughter of his former mentor, who now owns it. He decides to buy the boat and restore it to its former glory.

Single mom Holly Santos is back in River’s Edge after her divorce and she is over men in general and actors in particular. If she could only get rid of her father’s old showboat, a source of fascination for her son, Mateo. She never expects her old crush to walk into her tea shop or the fireworks that happen every time they’re in the same room. Can Aidan convince her that he is determined to restore their shared heritage on the showboat and that he’s home to stay?

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The author will be awarding six handmade wine charms along with a $10 Starbucks gift card to FIVE lucky winners!

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Beneath London’s Fog by Iona Caldwell

  • Published: October 30, 2019 by FyreSyde Publishing
  • Genres: British Literature, Ghost Story, Occult Fiction

Jonathan is the immortal master of Raven Hollow Manor – a decrepit mansion riddled with superstition, murder and restless ghosts. Beneath it lies a restless malice.

Its previous owner driven mad, violently kills his guests with a rusted ax, creating the perfect venue for Jonathan to seclude himself in a prison of his own device.

When the streets of London begin to run red with blood; the bodies exhibiting disturbing signs and baffling wounds, the identity of the killer remains elusive to police.

The bodies are just the beginning of Jonathan’s troubles. A mysterious letter accusing Jonathan of committing the murders appear, raising suspicion in the police. Hidden beneath the mangled bodies, Jonathan soon realizes he is being forced to face demons he thought died in a forlorn past he attempted to escape. 

One thing Jonathan knows for certain: He must deal with the demons of his past if he is to survive his future. Not only him but those he has come to love as well.

INTERNATIONAL GIVEWAY FOR $25 AMAZON GIFTCARD AND PRINT COPY OF BOOK!

Enter here.

Heist by Kezzy Sparks

  • Published: October 31, 2019
  • Genres: Adult, Paranormal, Thriller
  • Edition: Kindle
  • Pages: 364
  • Rating: 3 stars

In this debut instalment, a dark mage acting on behalf of a vengeful ex has magically removed the genitals of a man and vanished, leaving him wiped clean down there. And unfortunately for the victim, he is set to wed…now imagine saying ‘I do’ while in that deprived state. 

No wonder when a shell-shocked and heartbroken Casey walks into Melanie’s office to report the incident, the witch hunter immediately goes on a chase, risking her own life as she encounters dark creatures and malevolent spirits in the city’s darkest corners.

The pressure is indeed on Mel: the wedding is fast approaching and leads remain few. Will she be able to corner the mage, recover the taken goods and save a doomed marriage, while bringing the conspirators to justice?

I must confess that once I read the synopsis on this one, I knew I had to read it! I love thrillers, but I haven’t read many with paranormal elements involved; however, this one did not disappoint! This title has a little bit of everything: a man looking forward to marrying his beloved, a mage hired to extract revenge, and a woman tasked with hunting down said mage.

The readers are introduced to Casey grabbing drinks at a bar before his upcoming wedding. He is looking forward to married life despite the feedback from his buddies. It is here that Casey encounters the mage, but her appearance has been altered by one of her spells; to Casey, she appears as this attractive, young woman that he can’t seem to resist. Her spell works and she manages to isolate him and perform her removal.

Alone with the victim, the mage performs the operation while he is in a drunken stupor. Upon awaking the next morning, he quickly spots the violation and begins seeking out solutions for his situation. While looking for answers, he is pointed in the direction of Melanie; she’s a witch hunter and agrees to help him out.

Melanie definitely has her work cut out for her, but remains optimistic that she can help restore Casey’s manhood. The wedding is days away, the mage has to be found, the stolen goods have to be returned…will justice prevail? You’ll have to read to find out!

* I’d like to thank Giselle from Xpresso Book Tours for allowing me a spot on this tour and for providing me with a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review.

Once Upon a Time Bitches by Branden Lanette

Trigger Warning: This book contains topics that may be difficult for some readers: foster parenting and profanity.

  • Published: October 5, 2019 by Success in 100 Pages
  • Genre: Self-Help
  • Edition: Paperback
  • Pages: 112
  • Rating: 3 stars

Once upon a time I realized we all have a story, we all have a struggle and happiness is relative. I am not cynical or hardened, I am just stating the facts. Here’s the deal:

  • Prince Charming doesn’t exist. 
  • Fairy Godmother is drunk.
  • Glass slippers don’t come 2 Day Prime Shipping from Amazon.

There is no magic fairytale, but if YOU work at it enough you can come pretty close creating your version with a happy ending. The best part is, in life you can continue to make edits until that sh*t reads exactly how you want it to. 
You may not agree with everything I say in this book but the most important takeaway is that YOU have to be your own f-ing hero. No more damsel locked in a tower, bullsh*t. That ends now. Join me as I take you through my 7 Magical Maxims for creating a fairytale life. (I know what you are thinking: Branden, no one gets a fairytale life.) Can you stop being so damn cynical for two seconds and just go with this? 

Is it possible to design a fairytale life? Control your destiny? Be the hero in your story? I believe you can and that’s why I wrote this book. I am going to make you a little uncomfortable. Back out now if you aren’t ready. 
Sh*t is about to get real bitches…

Personally, I have not read many books pertaining to the self-help category; the most recent one that I read was Girl, Wash Your Face. Surprisingly, I found there were quite a few similarities between Hollis and Lanette; both authors dealt with challenges when it came to intimate relationships and foster parenting, but what made Lanette stand out was her confidence and no filter writing style. The author addresses the judgments she has faced, addresses the hardships she has dealt with, and addresses the work she put into turning her life around and shares those tips with her readers.

Branden Lanette acknowledges that she has a boy’s name, but does not feel ashamed about it and instead owns it. The author is the mother of six children and has no problem admitting that she has a “mom bod,” but would not trade it for anything. She may have several tattoos, but does not apologize for expressing herself the way she chooses. The list of things the author has been judged on is endless, but she does not let it prevent her from living the life she wants for her family and herself.

Sometimes, life can be overwhelming and it can appear as if dreams could not be further from reach; Lanette understands this a little too well. The author grew up with an uninvolved mother, which resulted in her emancipation and finding herself in a toxic relationship with a man that she would end up marrying TWICE. These difficulties that she faced made her continue to ignore the whispers inside her that said she should write her own book until one day something within her changed her mind.

Branden’s life has been far from a happily ever after; Lanette has made several mistakes along her journey, but has learned from them all and ends up providing the readers with her seven steps to living a fairy-tale life like the one she now does. These tips are ones that the readers will find fairly easy to achieve and will want to keep with them as they navigate obstacles in life.

I personally enjoyed this book, so much so that I finished it in one sitting! The page total is fairly short and Branden’s writing style will have you laughing throughout the book’s entirety. I highly recommend others to give this book a read as it provides for an uplifting and enjoyable read.

* l was provided a copy of this book via the author as part of Lola’s Blog Tours and in exchange for an honest review.

Grimworld by Avery Moray

  • Publication date: November 1, 2019 by Our Street Books
  • Genres: Fantasy, Mystery
  • Edition: Paperback
  • Pages: 160
  • Rating: 3 stars

Every day, thirteen year old Henry Bats has his usual bowl of Sugar Slugs, helps tend Cobalt Sidewinders at Frank’s Peculiar Pets, and keeps to himself with his comic book collection. Just your typical day in Grimworld, where the sky is always dark and shadows lurk in the streets. What’s not typical is a suspicious Nightspook luring Henry into a cemetery in the middle of the night with the promise of a prized comic book. The Nightspook steals part of Henry’s lifespan with a pocket watch, which begins counting down to his death. Henry is running out of time, and the pocket watch won’t stop ticking…

Following a nightly experience of being tricked by what he believed to be a Nightspook, Henry Bats awakes to find that there is a pocket watch permanently clasped to his neck; the pocket watch’s arrow is pointing to a number that he later discovers predicts how many years he has left to live. Filled with questions and desperate for a cure, he sets out on a quest that leads him to befriending a boy who shares his predicament, strengthening the relationship he has with his sister, and saving his world from darkness.

During his walk home from school, Bats crosses paths with a boy that seems to be wearing the same sort of pocket watch around his neck as him. He approaches the boy and has his suspicions confirmed, but is shocked to discover the boy’s situation is far more dire than his. Realizing that in order to find a way out, they decide to work together; however, they run into some problems that will require outside help from unlikely sources.

Henry has never really had anything in common with his sister; she’s always been into her dolls and he’s always been into comic books. Through the course of this book’s plot, we see their relationship start to change as Henry requires help from his sister when it comes to gathering ingredients for a spell that will supposedly remove the necklaces and spare their short lifespans.

Everything that occurs throughout the book sets the reader up for one highly anticipated climax in the form of a showdown between Henry Bats and his trickster. Can he defeat his foe and claim victory, or is he at a loss and must accept that his life will remain short-lived? You’ll have to read it for yourself in order to find out!

Grimworld is a middle grades story, but can be enjoyed by all ages. This book is short in length, but packed with action all the way to the end and will provide an adequate amount of Halloween vibes. I definitely recommend this one to parents of children who enjoy reading and to readers looking for something to fitting for the season.

* I was provided an advanced reader’s copy of this book as part of Lola’s Blog Tours and in exchange for an honest review.

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

Trigger Warnings: This title contains the following topics that might be difficult for some readers such as: cheating, profanity, sexual assault.

  • Published: August 16, 2016 by Simon & Schuster Audio
  • Genre: Memoir
  • Edition: Audiobook
  • Time length: 8 hours
  • Rating: 3.5 stars

The Emmy Award-winning comedian, actress, writer, and star of Inside Amy Schumer and the acclaimed film Trainwreck has taken the entertainment world by storm with her winning blend of smart, satirical humor. Now, Amy Schumer has written a refreshingly candid and uproariously funny collection of (extremely) personal and observational essays.

In The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, Amy mines her past for stories about her teenage years, her family, relationships, and sex and shares the experiences that have shaped who she is-a woman with the courage to bare her soul to stand up for what she believes in, all while making us laugh.

Ranging from the raucous to the romantic, the heartfelt to the harrowing, this highly entertaining and universally appealing collection is the literary equivalent of a night out with your best friend-an unforgettable and fun adventure that you wish could last forever. Whether she’s experiencing lust-at-first-sight while in the airport security line, sharing her own views on love and marriage, admitting to being an introvert, or discovering her cross-fit instructor’s secret bad habit, Amy Schumer proves to be a bighearted, brave, and thoughtful storyteller that will leave you nodding your head in recognition, laughing out loud, and sobbing uncontrollably-but only because it’s over.

This year, I have taken it upon myself to read more memoirs, specifically celebrity memoirs. I had originally made the decision to skip this one; I love Amy Schumer, don’t get me wrong, but I just didn’t think that she would write about any topics I would consider important. I can now admit that I couldn’t have been more wrong! Schumer’s writing style reminds me of Gabrielle Union in her memoir: We’re Going to Need More Wine. The author openly discusses her struggles with her readers, openly throws out profanity, and openly gives readers a glimpse into her personality aside from the humor we have grown to adore.

To the outside world, it is easy to picture Amy Schumer as having the perfect life, but that wasn’t always the case for the comedienne. Schumer does not shy away from providing her readers with background information about her rough upbringing; she writes about how her mother’s cheating had consequences beyond her family, about how her family wasn’t wealthy and she had to work several jobs throughout her adolescence in order to cover expenses, about how her father was diagnosed with an illness that made it difficult for them to spend time with one another more often, and more that you won’t want to miss out on.

I don’t know if I’m the only one that feels this way, but I often feel as if celebrities avoid opening themselves up to their readers and connecting on a deeper level; unfortunately, this results in a book filled with content that is already public knowledge and a disappointing read. However, I’m happy to announce that Amy’s book was the opposite; I know that profanity may not be every reader’s cup of tea, but it happens to be mine. I felt like the author’s use of vulgar language made her more relatable and provided me with many opportunities to laugh.

Readers are probably well aware of Schumer’s comedic acts and generally associate her with being funny, but in this book she shines a light on some other important traits she exhibits: authenticity, honesty, empathy, kindness…the list goes on and on, but I’ll let you read the book to discover the rest! The author makes you feel as if you are sharing a table with her and engaging in meaningful conversations; she doesn’t once try to sugarcoat things to make herself appear in a better light. There’s a particular chapter in which she discusses how she gave her bonus from one performance to those that work for her and by donating it to a charity that supported veterans; this made me admire her a little bit more because I feel like more celebrities should make an effort in supporting the less fortunate.

This is a book that I feel will stay with me for many more months to come and I highly recommend this book for those that love listening to audiobooks, for those that love learning more about certain celebrities, or for those that love having a quick, light read.

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

Trigger Warning: This book contains the following topics that might be difficult for certain readers: bullying, death, physical abuse, suicide, violence.

  • Publication date: October 8, 2019 by Wednesday Books
  • Genres: Dystopian, Suspense, Young Adult
  • Edition: Kindle
  • Page length: 407
  • Rating: 4 stars

No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden.

In Garner County, girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, to drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.

Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for a chance to grab one of the girls in order to make a fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.

This novel just recently began circulating around on social media sites, but I originally discovered this one from seeing an Instagram review from @itsahardbacklife4me. I was hesitant to give it a read because it was being marketed as a young adult dystopian novel, which is a genre that I have not given much attention to. However, I’m so happy that I stepped out of my comfort zone because this one has become one of my top favorites for the year!

In Garner County, the time for another grace year has arrived; a punishment for girls aged sixteen due to the town’s belief that they possess magic that creates temptations for the male inhabitants. This year, Tierney James is the next girl in her household to receive this suffering. She will be one of thirty-three girls sent into the woods to begin working on expelling her magic, battling the harsh elements, and avoiding death at the hands of poachers.

Once the girls arrive to their destination, one girl in particular seems to demand control over the others: Kiersten Jenkins. She begins making claims that her magic has already came in and sets out to release the magical abilities for others in the encampment. Tierney, however, does not feel like she possesses any type of magic and quickly becomes an enemy of Kiersten’s when she expresses that she is not interested in her offer.

It’s the beginning of autumn when the girls arrive at their encampment. They start assessing their surroundings and conclude that the confinement lacks clean drinking water, adequate food supply, and the resources to stay warm during the upcoming winter. Tierney’s father, the county’s healer, taught his daughter basic survival skills that prove to be beneficial; she builds rain barrels that will collect rainwater that is safer for the group to drink, she uses seeds her sister provided to grow produce, and chops down some trees to use as firewood. However, all her efforts go unappreciated by the other girls as they begin separating themselves from her and continue to obey the instructions of Kiersten.

As if the elements of nature wasn’t enough to worry about, the bigger threat remains in poachers. The poachers hide outside of the encampment waiting for a grace girl to venture outside the boundaries; the poachers hunt down grace year girls and offer up their corpses in exchange for payment.

At the end of their trial, only fifteen girls managed to survive. The events of the year have caused the remaining girls to be forever changed and they decide to join forces and leave the encampment in better conditions than previous years. If you haven’t read this one yet, be sure to preorder now from Target, Amazon, or any other place you shop for books. If you love dystopian novels, the Handmaid’s Tale series, or want an empowering read on your TBR, then be sure to give this one a read!

* I was given an advanced reader’s copy of this book via NetGalley and MacMillan in exchange for an honest review.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

  • Published: February 5, 2019 by Celadon Books
  • Genre: Psychological Thriller
  • Edition: Kindle
  • Pages: 297
  • Rating: 5 stars

Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.

Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him….

When I first joined “bookstagram” in April of this year, this book was all the rage. I immediately placed a hold for a copy at my local library fairly soon after seeing all the publicity the book was receiving; after waiting around four months for my hold to come through, I finally had the chance to sit down and read this thriller. I’ll be honest, halfway through this book it was looking to be a solid three star read for me; however, towards the end it took a turn and pulled out all kinds of twists that blew my mind.

The story starts out with Alicia being committed to a mental facility due to the murder of her husband, where she begins a vow of silence. Theo, a psychotherapist, has been waiting for an opportunity to meet Alicia and be the one to get her to speak again; when a position opens up at the facility housing her, Theo hops on it and ends up filling the role. Throughout the course of their therapy sessions, both individuals begin to uncover the events surrounding the murder. The answers they uncover will not only leave them in shock, but the readers as well!

There is so much that I want to spill about this book and its contents, but it’s impossible to do so without revealing any spoilers. I want to take a moment and state, though, that if you have not read this one yet: grab a copy today and get to reading! This book is the perfect cure for those facing the dreaded reading slump or those facing a tough choice on what book would make the ultimate creepy read for Halloween.

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

  • Published: August 6, 2019 by Delacorte Press
  • Genres: Fantasy, Teen, Young Adult
  • Edition: Hardcover
  • Pages: 416
  • Rating: 3 stars

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor with her sisters and their father and stepmother. Once there were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls’ lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last–the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge–and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that her sister’s deaths were no accidents. The girls have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn’t sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who–or what–are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh’s involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it’s a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family–before it claims her next. House of Salt and Sorrows is a spellbinding novel filled with magic and the rustle of gossamer skirts down long, dark hallways. Get ready to be swept away.

Book of the Month YA made this book one of their five picks for the month of August. I chose this book initially due to the stunning cover, but when I began reading this one as part of a buddy read with @happygolovelysleeves and @literarypengwyns I quickly found myself devouring it. The author combines family with a combination of magic and mystery; it ultimately makes the novel a fast-paced read that can’t be put down for long.

The Thaumas family has endured a lot of death and mourning within their household lately, so much so that everyone is convinced they are cursed; the introduction has the readers attending the funeral of Eulalie, who is the fourth sister out of twelve to die. Ava died after battling the plague; Octavia fell from a ladder; Elizabeth drowned in her own bathtub; Eulalie, last but not least, fell to her death from a cliff. However, it is the last death that has Annaleigh questioning whether her death was an accident, or if it could possibly have been a murder.

There is so much that this plot unveils to the readers that it is difficult to give a spoilers-free review, but I will do my best. Annaleigh, who is second in line to the throne next to sister Camille, begins investigating the circumstances surrounding Eulalie’s death; the others may be convinced that it was an accident, but she cannot seem to shake off the feeling that it was anything but. The journey is an exciting one: a secret is exposed, an old crush returns home, another family death, attending magical balls, a family member having peculiar visions…this book contains a little bit of everything!

Craig’s writing is wonderful and her characters are well-thought out, but my only issues with the book occur towards the end of the storyline. Towards the end, the author throws out some unfamiliar characters and that led to some confusion for me; she also uses one character in particular as part of the ending, which also confused me a bit. I feel like if Craig had provided more insight onto the history of the gods and developed some of the prominent characters she included in the ending, then I may have felt less confused and as if she had rushed the ending. However, this book is still worth reading and I’d recommend it for those that love fantasy, for those that are familiar with the Twelve Dancing Princesses, or those that want to read something different for them.

Josh & Hazel’s Guide To Not Dating by Christina Lauren

  • Published: September 4, 2018 by Gallery Books
  • Genre: Comedy, Romance
  • Edition: E-book
  • Pages: 320
  • Rating: 3.5 stars

Hazel Camille Bradford knows she’s a lot to take—and frankly, most men aren’t up to the challenge. If her army of pets and thrill for the absurd don’t send them running, her lack of filter means she’ll say exactly the wrong thing in a delicate moment. Their loss. She’s a good soul in search of honest fun.

Josh Im has known Hazel since college, where her zany playfulness proved completely incompatible with his mellow restraint. From the first night they met—when she gracelessly threw up on his shoes—to when she sent him an unintelligible email while in a post-surgical haze, Josh has always thought of Hazel more as a spectacle than a peer. But now, ten years later, after a cheating girlfriend has turned his life upside down, going out with Hazel is a breath of fresh air.

Not that Josh and Hazel date. At least, not each other. Because setting each other up on progressively terrible double blind dates means there’s nothing between them…right?

I must confess that I am one of the few readers that is not a fan of romantic comedies; I find the genre too cheesy and predictable. After reading The Unhoneymooners by this writing duo earlier this year and surprisingly enjoying it, I knew I wanted to read another of their works. I couldn’t pass this one up, as it was everywhere on my social media feed; I’m glad I didn’t pass this one up because it has a little bit of something for everyone: endearing friendships, humor, and the right amount of steamy scenes.

There were two prominent friendships that I fell in love with while reading this book. The first would be the bond between Hazel and her best friend, Emily. From the very beginning, the readers understand that Hazel is a person that has her quirks and that she can be on the wild side. This information doesn’t affect Emily’s views on her; she always looks out for Hazel and keeps her in check without preventing her from staying authentic. The second relationship would be that between Hazel and her mother. Hazel’s mother is eccentric in her own right and she is the reason that Hazel has managed to stay true to herself despite it hindering her in the dating world; they share an open line of communication and she always seems to know what Hazel needs, even if she is trying to convince herself it isn’t.

I absolutely adored Hazel’s character; she reminds me of myself: funny with no filter involved. This trait of Hazel’s provides for some lighthearted reading with ample amounts of laughter. For example, there’s a scene where she sends an email to her TA while being heavily sedated on pain killers after an oral surgery; another scene involves playing bingo for a prize that will have you laughing too. Basically, each chapter will have you laughing and it’s always nice to have a read like that to pull you out of a slump or serve as a refreshment after a heavy read.

A title that includes the word dating, it is a no-brainer to expect some level of sexual content to be involved. I think this duo knows how to provide sexy content, without overdoing it. It keeps the storyline in check and prevents any cringing from occurring. I would definitely recommend this book for those that love rom-coms, those that have read works by this pair, or those that enjoy quick, lighthearted reads.

Unanswered Verses by Tajammul Kothari

Photo taken from Goodreads
  • Published August 1, 2018 by Amazon
  • Genre: Poetry
  • Edition: E-Pub
  • Pages: 51
  • Rating: 3 stars

Unanswered Verses is a collection of poems that strives to capture the varied emotions of life in its rawest form. It aims to indulge the reader in asking questions pertaining to the three entities that govern our lives. Namely the mind, the heart and the soul. Written in a simple and lucid manner, the book is divided into three chapters related to the attainment of peaceful bliss, love and worldly freedom.

I have not read many poetry-based books, but I found myself pleasantly surprised to have enjoyed this one. This book contains several poems that cover a wide variety of topics: bullying, cheating, addiction, anger, etc. My top favorite poems were titled: Prelude, Harassed, Addiction, Unrequited, and The Affair.

Every individual has questioned the meaning of life at some point in their lifetime; in the poem titled Prelude, which serves as the book’s introduction, the person feels like no matter where he/she turns, whether religiously or to others, the answer to life’s meaning is still nowhere in sight.

Every night I cry silently

Hoping that tomorrow they won’t bother me

In the poem, Harassed, the author talks about a child being afraid to attend school due to being bullied. This one tugged at my heartstrings; the author makes you feel like you’re the child and as if the pranks and torture this child feels from his/her bullies is your own.

How I wish I could turn back the clock

Then I would have ignored and looked away

And my life would have been different than what it has become today

Addiction was a poem that spoke to me from the title alone; I’ve never personally suffered from addiction, but have several family members battling the disease. In this particular piece, the author details the how easy it is to pick up a new drug due to peer pressure, not thinking about the long-term consequences. The reader learns that the individual gets hooked from the very first use and is fast forwarded to ten years later with the person still struggling to end the cycle of addiction, but with no avail.

The poem titled “Unrequited” tells the story of a love story with a heartbreaking ending. A guy ends up falling in love with a woman, whom he has established a long-term friendship with. One day, the contact between the two comes to a screeching halt and he drops everything to fly out to see what is the matter; however, once he arrives he is informed that she has recently gotten married.

I closed my eyes for a few moments

Hoping this was just a dream

I felt her warm body embracing me

Opened my eyes and saw no one was there

I rejoiced thinking I had hallucinated

Yet I could smell the dirty stink of betrayal

Last, but not least, The Affair is pretty self-explanatory. A man and his wife have not had much time together in awhile and he decides to try doing something romantic for her, but comes home to see that she has had a romantic evening with someone else. Later, he wakes up next to her and believes he has dreamed of her betrayal; however, the smell of the encounter still lingers in the air.

I want to take a moment and thank Kajammul Kothari for reaching out to me and providing me with a copy of his book in exchange for a honest review.

Sweet Poisons by Natalie Bennett

  • June 18, 2019
  • Genres: New Adult, Romance
  • Edition: Kindle
  • Pages: 236
  • Rating: 3 stars

Rhett Sullivan.

Mysterious boy painted in shades of red.

Nova Markov
Eccentric girl dripping in sunshine.

He was the type mother’s warned their little girls about—a cocky, rich asshole with a pretty smile, unapologetically insane and wild.

I was the type guys like him usually ignored—a free spirit who hid my crazy beneath an odd good girl facade, and the art hanging on my studio walls.

We were opposites in every way but one, and we collided like two runaway trains that never had a chance of stopping.

What blossomed between us, our ‘relationship’, was maniacal.

We got stuck in a cycle of madness.

Rhett Sullivan became a bittersweet poison I couldn’t get enough of.

In the end, that’s what destroyed me.

Because in the end?
Our love was nothing but a lie.

Author note: I said I was done slapping warning labels on my book babies this year, but since I have never written full on NA yet, I’m going to give a tiny one now. This will be the only label this duet will have. If you are not a fan of twisted stories that deal with dark themes, rich assholes, and lots of filthy sex, this will not appeal to you. This couple is not unicorns and rainbows and neither is their story

I must confess that the main reason I decided to checkout this book was because of its cover; the cover oozes darkness, but with an adequate amount of sensuality. After reading the book’s synopsis, however, I knew this was one I had to read; boy, must I say, it didn’t disappoint! From the beginning of this book, I was hooked and ended up finishing it in one sitting.

Honestly, I’ve never been a fan of romantic novels; I find those reads to be redundant and predictable. If you think this book is going to be another one of those reads, then you are mistaken and are best to leave this one behind. Yes, this book follows a budding romance between Nova and Rhett, but it is far from a “match made in heaven” or having a “fairy-tale ending.”

Nova is a twenty-two year old who has recently experienced the loss of her parents while Rhett is the mysterious new guy around town. As best as Nova tries to keep her distance from Rhett, their paths continue to cross and she finds herself no longer trying to push him away. However, the newfound relationship is in jeopardy of being destroyed before it even has a chance to evolve into something long-lasting; Rhett has a secret he’s hiding and when Nova begins to uncover the truth, the outcome will be unexpected for both of them.

I would recommend this book to those that enjoy romance novels that have a darker storyline. This book contains expletive language, sex, and violence; if mentions of these topics are triggering for you, then I highly suggest you steering clear of this book altogether.

Last, but not least, I want to thank Giselle for having me be a part of this Xpresso Book Tours event.

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

  • Published: July 2, 2019 by Penguin Random House Audio
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Edition: Audiobook
  • Time length: 10 hours
  • Rating: 2 stars

No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen’s new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most high-profile and mysterious buildings.

Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind. As she gets to know the residents and staff of the Bartholomew, Jules finds herself drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who comfortingly reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. When Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her, Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story…until the next day, when Ingrid disappears.

Searching for the truth about Ingrid’s disappearance, Jules digs deeper into the Bartholomew’s sordid past and into the secrets kept within its walls. What she discovers pits Jules against the clock as she races to unmask a killer, expose the building’s hidden past, and escape the Bartholomew before her temporary status becomes permanent.

At the start of this book, the readers are introduced to Jules Larson. Her life has not been an easy one; her sister, Jane, went missing at the age of seventeen has yet to be found and her parents died when she was nineteen. She has recently broken up with her boyfriend and is currently crashing at her best friend’s house until she can find a job that will allow her to have her own living space. This makes it easier to understand why Jules acts quickly when she sees an ad seeking an “apartment sitter” for the luxury building named the Bartholomew. The protagonist meets the employer for an interview and is offered the position; she will stay in the apartment for three months and receive twelve thousand dollars after the entirety of her stay. However, the position comes with certain rules that must not be broken; at the beginning, the rules do not seem to be an issue until her next door neighbor, Ingrid, goes missing.

Ingrid and Jules had made plans to meet up at a nearby park when Ingrid turns out to be a no-show. After several texts go unanswered, Jules confronts the employer on her whereabouts. The employer of the building provides little explanation to her sudden disappearance, but does tell Jules that Ingrid left in the middle of the night and the apartment was left the way she found it. Jules, unable to accept this news, decides to start an investigation and questions the other residents hoping to uncover clues that will aid in finding her neighbor. Sadly, the other inhabitants provide little to no information that is helpful; this leaves Jules on her own to uncover the truth and it lands her in the fight for her life.

It is at this point in the book that the plot falls flat for me. I do not want to give too much away, so I will just state that the “twist” the author introduces as an explanation to the disappearance(s) comes out of nowhere. Sager does not lay down any sort of foundation that serves as a build-up to this development, which made it hard to follow and leaves quite a bit of loose-ends that I feel needed tied-up. I also found it frustrating that the author provided no resolution for Jane’s disappearance as it seems she was prominent in the protagonist’s character development. This is the first book that I have read by this author and even though it was not the book for me, I will look into reading other works by him.

*I listened this book on Scribd. If you would like to have ONE FREE MONTH of this book subscription service then click this link: https://www.scribd.com/g/7ovkvo

The Whisper Man by Alex North

  • Published: August 20, 2019 by Celadon Books
  • Genres: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Edition: Kindle
  • Pages: 368
  • Rating: 3 stars

After the sudden death of his wife, Tom Kennedy believes a fresh start will help him and his young son Jake heal. A new beginning, a new house, a new town. Featherbank.

But the town has a dark past. Twenty years ago, a serial killer abducted and murdered five residents. Until Frank Carter was finally caught, he was nicknamed “The Whisper Man,” for he would lure his victims out by whispering at their windows at night.

Just as Tom and Jake settle into their new home, a young boy vanishes. His disappearance bears an unnerving resemblance to Frank Carter’s crimes, reigniting old rumors that he preyed with an accomplice. Now, detectives Amanda Beck and Pete Willis must find the boy before it is too late, even if that means Pete has to revisit his great foe in prison: The Whisper Man.

And then Jake begins acting strangely. He hears a whispering at his window…

Everyday, I would log onto my “bookstagram” and see several fellow readers currently reading this book, or giving it a five star review. The hype made me eager to get my hands on a copy of this book; I tried NetGalley and Edelweiss+ to no avail. I finally obtained a Kindle copy once the book was released and sadly, it missed the mark for me.

From other reviews, this book was supposedly creepy and not the type of read for late nights; however, I found it not creepy at all. Maybe I have a higher threshold hold for all things creepy since I love the works of Stephen King and other authors of horror? Aside from that, I found myself having a hard time getting into the story. The author throws in a lot of subplots without a clear explanation; for example: Jake’s ghost friend, or Pete’s connection to Jake and Tom.

Even though this book wasn’t a five star read for me like it was for many others, I would still recommend this book to those who enjoy reading books in this category because it’s still a quick and enjoyable read. Who knows? You may find that your opinion is different from mine! That’s the beauty of reading; everyone reacts differently to what they read.

*I read this book via a buddy read hosted by the lovely Hannah, a.k.a. @girlsturnpages. She’s such a sweetheart and her account features several beautiful bookish posts. Go give her a follow at: https://www.instagram.com/girlsturnpages/

Down the Rabbit Hole by Holly Madison

  • Published: June 23, 2015 by Dey Street Books
  • Edition: E-book
  • Page length: 355
  • Rating: 3 stars

The shocking, never-before-told story of the bizarre world inside the legendary Playboy Mansion—and, finally, the secret truth about the man who holds the key—from one of the few people who truly knows: Hef’s former #1 girlfriend and star of The Girls Next Door

A spontaneous decision at age twenty-one transformed small-town Oregon girl Holly Sue Cullen into Holly Madison, Hugh Hefner’s #1 girlfriend. But like Alice’s journey into Wonderland, after Holly plunged down the rabbit hole, what seemed like a fairytale life inside the Playboy Mansion—including A-list celebrity parties and her own #1-rated television show for four years—quickly devolved into an oppressive routine of strict rules, manipulation, and battles with ambitious, backstabbing bunnies. Life inside the notorious Mansion wasn’t a dream at all—and quickly became her nightmare. After losing her identity, her sense of self-worth, and her hope for the future, Holly found herself sitting alone in a bathtub contemplating suicide.

But instead of ending her life, Holly chose to take charge of it.

In this shockingly candid and surprisingly moving memoir, this thoughtful and introspective woman opens up about life inside the Mansion, the drugs, the sex, the abuse, the infamous parties, and her real behind-the-scenes life with Bridget, Kendra, and, of course, Mr. Playboy himself.

With great courage, Holly shares the details of her subsequent troubled relationship, landing her own successful television series, and the hard work of healing, including her turn on Dancing with the Stars. A cautionary tale and a celebration of personal empowerment, Down the Rabbit Hole reminds us of the importance of fighting for our dreams—and finding the life we deserve.

Holly Madison is mainly known as being number one girlfriend to Hugh Hefner, but in this book the readers get to see her in a different light. Madison gives inside scoop on the feuds going on with the other females she was living with, her battle with depression, and how she ultimately overcame it and found a new life.

When Holly Madison was given the invitation to live in the Playboy Mansion, she didn’t hesitate to accept; it felt like a dream come true for her, but that quickly changed. Madison describes the rivalry she faced with the other females and how they all seemed to stick around long enough to become the centerfold before deciding to up and run. Luckily, she did befriend one woman: Bridget Marquardt; Marquardt remains one of her closest friends till this day.

If the hostility with the housemates wasn’t enough to deal with when Hef started limited Madison’s independence, she knew she couldn’t stay around that atmosphere for much longer. The decision didn’t come easily to Holly; Hef had taken her under his wing when she was struggling to make it on her own and he had blessed her with some of the greatest luxuries life could provide. When she took all those things into consideration, her thoughts of leaving seemed like the ultimate betrayal; however, she knew that her happiness and well-being was what mattered most and that was confirmation for her to leave.

After she managed to leave Hef and everything with him behind, she found herself in a new relationship with Criss Angel. At first the pair was happy, but Holly quickly noticed Angel to be jealous and possessive over her; it didn’t take long until the couple were fighting constantly and the toll of the relationship caused her to spin into a deep depression. Madison ended up being put on an antidepressant called Effexor, which causes a high dependency rate, and she struggled for years to wean herself off the drug completely after ended the relationship with Criss.

Through all the craziness that was thrown the author’s way, there was light at the end of the tunnel when she found her husband. The two now share a daughter together, Rainbow Aurora.

I’d recommend this book to those that would like to know more about Holly’s life during the Playboy years or those that enjoy celebrity memoirs.

A Serial Killer’s Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love, and Overcoming by Kerri Rawson

  • Published: January 29, 2019 by Thomas Nelson Audio
  • Edition: Audiobook
  • Time length: 9 hours
  • Rating: 2 stars

What is it like to learn that your ordinary, loving father is a serial killer? Kerri Rawson, the daughter of the notorious serial killer known as BTK (Bind, Torture, Kill), tells the nightmarish story of that discovery and of her long journey of faith and healing.

Kerri Rawson was living a happy, normal life until one day when the cops showed up at her front door with news that would destroy the image that she had painted of her father over the years. It would be unveiled that Kerri’s father, Dennis Rader, was the serial killer dubbed BTK, which stood for bind, torture, kill. The news stunned Rawson and in this book, she shares the side of her father that his victims did not get to see while also sharing with readers what the conviction meant for her and her family and how they coped with the aftermath.

The book’s opening begins during the time that Kerri is informed her father is a serial killer and all emotions that immediately hit her: denial, shock, and other emotions appropriate for the occasion. Rawson goes through the book sharing memories that she had created with her father while growing up: a hiking trip she took with him and her brother, a father’s concern when she was doing poorly in college, and other moments meant to bond families together.

However, the more the author uncovers about the crimes committed by her father she starts to connect dots to the timeline of the murders and that of her childhood. Kerri makes no excuses for her father; she openly expresses sadness for the victims and guilt for not realizing that danger was so close to home the entire time. With her dad’s crimes exposed, Rawson and her family had to be there for one another and help pick up the pieces of the mess left behind. Most people would believe they would “cut all ties” with a loved one if they found out they committed such horrid crimes, but the author is only human and at the end of the day Rader is her father. As she felt her way through her emotions, which was difficult to say the least, she begins the process of forgiving her father and slowly begins re-establishing a connection with him while he is behind bars.

Originally, I was excited to finally read this book, as I’m a huge fan of true crime shows and books. However, this book just could not hold my interest for too long and did not leave me with any lingering feelings after I finished it. I would still recommend this book, though, for lovers of crime shows/books and memoirs; it may not have been the book for me, but it could be for you!

*I read this book on Scribd. If you would be interested in ONE FREE MONTH of this book subscription service, be sure to click this link: https://www.scribd.com/g/7ovkvo

Stronger: Forty Days of Metal and Spirituality by Brian “Head” Welch

  • Published: November 30, 2010 by HarperCollins
  • Edition: E-book
  • Pages: 208
  • Rating: 2 stars

This 40-Day devotional from Brian “Head” Welch, former lead guitarist of Korn and the New York Times bestselling author of Save Me From Myself, is an intimate tour through the Bible passages that have meant the most to him on his trying journey from substance abuse to salvation. Save Me From Myself, Welch’s self-effacing story his against addiction and his reawakening to divine love, has made the metal band icon into a hero of Christian rock. Uncompromisingly honest about his demons, and equally fervent about his faith, Head and his impassioned devotional offer a uniquely voiced guiding light perfect for young Christians and rock music fans everywhere.

Brian “Head” Welch co-founded the highly successful metal band named Korn and had everything he could have asked for: nice vehicles and houses, loads of cash, and let’s not forget the most important, fame. It came as a huge shock to everyone when in 2005, the musician made the decision to give his life over to Christ and walk away from his band and all the luxuries attached to it. In this book, Welch carries his readers into spiritual discussions for the span of forty days that he will compare this journey to that of the biblical Moses. Each day, the author shares a few biblical verses that have meaning to him and shares stories of times throughout his relationship with Christ that he needed to apply those specific ones.

This book is not my typical read; I am not familiar with many scriptures of the Bible and don’t practice the religion frequently, so it made it hard to connect with the book. It is for that reason that I decided to rate this one a two star read for me. Although in his defense, I did find that Welch breaks down the verses he shares in a way that is easy to understand. This book is the perfect read for those seeking spiritual guidance, those who love hearing more on Welch’s life after seeking Christ, or those that are looking for a light, uplifting read.

A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard

  • Published: July 12, 2011 by Simon & Schuster
  • Genre: Memoir, True Crime
  • Edition: E-book
  • Pages: 304
  • Rating: 3 stars

Jaycee Dugard was a normal eleven year old girl from a rural town in California when the course of her life took an unexpected turn. As Jaycee was walking up the street to catch the morning bus, a couple by the names of Phillip and Nancy Garrido drove up beside her, stunned her, and placed her in the backseat of their vehicle before speeding off. The world would not know the status of her life or the horrors she would ultimately survive for the next eighteen years.

In this memoir, Dugard provides a detailed retelling of her eighteen years in captivity. She documents the first day that Phillip took her into the bathroom inside his home and groomed her private area to his liking before sexually assaulting her for the first time. She documents the moment that she found out she was pregnant with both of her daughters and shares the stories of their births without having proper medical care. Dugard talks about how she established a school system for her daughters despite the fact that she herself only held a fifth grade education. Last, but not least she talks about the moment that she was properly identified as the missing girl from 1991 and how difficult it was to break free from the years of manipulation from her abductors in order to truly be free.

For those that followed Jaycee’s story on the news, this is the perfect read for you. I’d also recommend this book to those that would like to educate themselves more about Dugard’s story or those that love reading about true crime.

This book was the winner of Goodreads Choice Award for Memoir/Autobiography in 2011.

Save Me From Myself by Brian “Head” Welch

Description:

The amazing true story of an out-of-control rock star, his devastating addiction to drugs, and his miraculous redemption through Jesus Christ.

In February 2005, more than ten thousand people in Bakersfield, California, watched as Brian “Head” Welch—the former lead guitarist of the controversial rock band Korn—was saved by Jesus Christ. The event set off a media frenzy as observers from around the world sought to understand what led this rock star out of the darkness and into the light.

Now, in this courageous memoir, Head talks for the first time about his shocking embrace of God and the tumultuous decade that led him into the arms of Jesus Christ. Offering a backstage pass to his time with Korn, Head tells the inside story of his years in the band and explains how his rock star lifestyle resulted in an all-consuming addiction to methamphetamines. Writing openly about the tour bus mayhem of Ozzfest and The Family Values tour, he provides a candid look at how the routine of recording, traveling, and partying placed him in a cycle of addiction that he could not break on his own.

Speaking honestly about his addiction, Head details his struggles with the drug that ultimately led him to seek a higher power. Despite his numerous attempts to free himself from meth, nothing—not even the birth of his daughter—could spur him to kick it for good. Here Head addresses how, with the help of God, he emerged from his dangerous lifestyle and found a path that was not only right for his daughter, it was right for him.

Discussing the chaotic end to his time in Korn and how his newfound faith has influenced his relationship with his daughter, his life, and his music, Head describes the challenging but rewarding events of the last two years, exposing the truth about how his moments of doubt and his hardships have only deepened his faith.

The readers are taken on a journey with the author in Welch’s debut memoir. Welch’s success with Korn did not happen overnight like most would believe. Before the stardom, Brian “Head” Welch was just an ordinary teenager in Bakersfield, California trying to make his dreams of being a musician a reality. He spent hours practicing his guitar skills and starting up several bands that ended after one live show. It seemed like no matter what he did, the dream was not any closer to being within his reach.

Then one night after having recently established a new band that was in need of a lead singer, Welch and another member decided to scout local clubs in hopes of finding the right person for the position. The night was not looking hopeful and they were in the middle of calling it a night when the last band took the stage and the band’s lead singer had not even sung a single note yet and the duo already knew this guy was the man they were looking for. Who would that be you ask? Jonathan Davis.

With their band formed, they started creating beats and writing lyrics. It was not too long afterwards that Korn was deemed the band’s name despite reluctance from their manager about the name not being ideal on landing them a record deal. Welch’s dreams had finally came true, but unknown to him at the time it was to be the beginning of some dark and troubling times.

Welch is very honest with his readers about his addiction to meth, pills, and alcohol. He talks about using drugs with fellow members and while writing, recording, and touring. He tried quitting on his own and with the help of rehab, but to no avail. His last option was to trying placing the situation in God’s hands.

The world was shocked when “Head” announced that he was leaving Korn and had been saved. The decision was a tough one, but ultimately saved his life. With the help of Christ, he was able to become a better father, friend, and son. By finding Christ, he was able to finally ditch the drugs and become sober for good. The decision to walk away from everything was not one made lightly, but Welch is making the most of it and taking it one day at a time.

This memoir is a must read for those that enjoy the band’s music, want insight on why “Head” turned to Christ and has pursued the journey to walk beside Him, or for anyone like me that enjoys a memoir that is personal, honest, and unbiased. I give this book 3 stars.

Conquering Chaos by Catelynn Lowell & Tyler Baltierra

Millions of people around the world will recognize these two from their Teen Mom franchise, but through their memoir you’ll get to know a side of the couple that does not end up on your television screen.

It’s not a secret that Catelynn and Tyler are one of the most beloved cast members of Teen Mom and appear to be the “goody two shoes” type, but in their book they are quick to educate you on their mischievous past and previous drug use. I know what you’re thinking…but it is true! The duo were picking up some risky habits and exhibiting behaviors that could have landed them in some serious trouble, but once Catelynn found out she was pregnant it all started to change.

Catelynn knew from a young age that she wanted to become a mother one day; she describes herself as very maternal and caring, which is easy to pick up on if you watch the show. However, her home life at the time of the pregnancy was anything but stable. Ultimately, she and her boyfriend decided it would be in their child’s best interest to be placed for adoption. This news did not go over well with their parents, which is captured on the television show.

“Less than one percent of women choose adoption for their babies. Ninety-nine percent of women who parent choose to get pregnant or have an abortion. That’s why it’s so ironic and amazing that Catelynn chose adoption, because for someone who had dreamed about parenthood for so long and had such a strong maternal instinct, it was the ultimate sacrifice. She’s in that one percent of women who made that decision.”

-Tyler commenting on Catelynn’s decision to place their first born child up for adoption.

It was no doubt the toughest decision the couple had faced up to that point in their relationship, but they do not regret it one bit. They now advocate for adoption and keep in touch with their firstborn’s adoptive parents through their counselor, Dawn.

Rating: 3 stars. I hope this review encourages you to add this book to your TBR.

The Dead Don’t Sleep by Steven Max Russo

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  • Published: November 18, 2019 by Down & Out Books
  • Genres: Crime, Suspense, Thriller
  • Edition: Kindle
  • Pages: 292
  • Rating: 3 stars

Frank Thompson, a recent widower and aging Vietnam veteran is down from Maine visiting his nephew, Bill, and his family in New Jersey.

While at a trap range, he and his nephew have a chance encounter with a strange man who claims to remember Frank from the war.

That night, the windows in Bill’s home are shattered along with the quiet peaceful lives the two men had been living.

Three veterans from a special combat unit directed by the CIA during the Vietnam War have gathered to discuss what they are going to do about a man they claim killed one of their own over forty years ago.

Jasper, Birdie and Pogo were part of a team that called themselves the National League All Stars. They were a squad of psychopathic killers trained by Special Forces to cause death and mayhem during the war. Now, they have banded together to hunt down and kill the professional soldier who led them all those years ago.

Drawing on his military training and a resurgent bloodlust from his tortured past, Frank prepares for a final, violent reckoning that will bring him full circle with the war that never left him.

This book’s synopsis does a good job of summarizing the entirety of this novel, so I will spare you all my usual recapping storyline paragraphs. I found this title to be a quick, engaging read; Frank’s character is struggling to overcome the events of his military background and adjust to a life of solitude after his wife’s recent death. The author does a wonderful job at gauging Frank’s reactions to certain events based on the emotions of a man in his position.

If you are a fan of thrillers, a fan of books with military references/plots, or just a fan of books that you can knockout in a day or two then you will want to add this one to your TBR! I am sure you will be pleased by this decision.

*I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Chloe Rose and the Enchanted Maze by Veronica Elle Butler

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  • Publication date: March 25, 2020
  • Genre: Fantasy

Twelve-year-old Chloe Rose lives a quiet, happy life in her hometown Wilmoton, but she’s haunted by the same nightmare night after night—one with guns and swords and lost fathers. When another brewing battle has her town preparing for war, Chloe’s fears are made into a reality. Promises are left unfulfilled, her family is torn apart, and she must leave her comfy life in Wilmoton behind when she and her mother move into the King’s palace. Living in a castle seems like a dream come true, like the new beginning they need, but Chloe’s not convinced. After a series of altercations, Chloe Rose is kicked out, more desperate for hope than ever. To restore what she’s lost, Chloe travels to an enchanted maze where wishes come true and fairies rule. But with evil forces working against her and her new friends, can Chloe complete the trials of the maze or will her heart’s desires be left unfulfilled?

Veronica Elle Butler is a Middle-Grade author as well as a military wife and mother to twin daughters. They were her inspiration for this book and she hopes other children will love it as much as they have.