Friday, January 29, 2016

A cupcake Queen with a sketchy past makes for 4 star reading!

Lie In Plain Sight by Maggie Barbiei

She’s the cupcake queen with a sketchy past, a dramatic present and a future it’s quite ossible she’ll never see…Yep. That is Maeve Conlon’s life.

Lie in Plain Sight is the suspenseful mystery disappearance of Taylor Dvorak – a sketchy kid in her own right, abused by her peers, and obvious product of her environment.

And oh, what a tangled web she weaves. This author wound three mysterious story lines into points of connection that made me want a road map and scorecard. And that is NOT a bad thing.

I do feel as though I might have missed a few things by not reading the previous books in the series—I have a few questions—but nothing so pressing it detracted from this book and if anything, made me intrigued enough to add those to my TBR list.

As for the characters…

Maeve is complex and fearless—the hard-ass who finds her way into trouble. She navigates crime solving with analytical ease, but in her personal relationships she can’t seem to figure out how to stay afloat and not push away everyone she loves. She is the over-protective mother of two daughters (one an angel, the other difficult), the ex-wife of the town womanizer/cheat, and girlfriend of the too-sweet-for-his-job town sheriff…like I said, complex.

Trish Dvorak is the mother of the missing girl. She has her own complexities and secrets which scandalize her daughter and make college the ultimate get-away—if only they could afford it.

Chris is the aforementioned boyfriend and town detective. He has a big heart, but is in way over his head dealing with missing persons, dead bodies and all the things he’d never thought he would see in such a small town. He isn’t completely aware of the secrets and fibs Maeve is piling up, but he is willing to hang into a point.

Cal is Maeve’s ex-husband who simmers on the petulant child side of life as a retired lawyer who left Maeve for a former friend and proceeded to have a child – at his age! He loves Maeve in the passive aggressive way he knows how, and he continues to be an active (if active means check-writing) parent, but is quite happy to use the kids against Maeve at every turn of the screw.

Heather is the sixteen year-old daughter Maeve and Cal produced during their marriage. Sullen, moody, typical, she gets her spunk from her mom and that makes for a rocky relationship.

Poole is Maeve’s old friend /cop who knows her secrets and has first-hand knowledge of the danger she willingly steps into. He is quite happy to whisper pertinent info in her ear as she investigates the missing girl and most of her neighbors, quite to Poole’s amusement, behind her BFs back.

Each character (except for Trish, these are the main and probably recurring characters in the series) has a special role in Maeve’s life and in her super-sleuthing. This series is reminiscent of Stephanie Plum or Amanda Pepper (without the slap stick quirks and comedic tryings) and is one I will continue to enjoy.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

It's HERE!!!! Forever Eve is available NOW!

I could not be more excited. This is a book that will make you wish you could see into the past and live another life in another time and place!

Level-headed Izabel is a soon to be Psychiatrist who lives in Chicago with the love of her life and now husband Bo Carmichael. Her straight-as-an-arrow path in life was simple, or so she thought—school, then career, then the nuclear family. What could possibly happen to divert that plan? 

The burden she has chosen to keep a secret from her best friend eats away at her psyche daily. 

Natalie Spencer, the best friend, is a non-conformist artist/gallery owner and a loud and proud bisexual; the complete antithesis of Izabel. Natalie has always lived outside the box and is determined to get Izabel to color outside of her neatly drawn lines for once in her life. After a few glasses of wine, a convincing argument and a lot of badgering Natalie persuades Izabel to visit a Past Life Regression therapist with her. Izabel didn’t plan to travel back to a world that would irrevocably change the rest of her life forever.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Behind Her Smile by Olivia Luck -- 3 Stars

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I was enthralled by this book to the 75% point, but after, I felt like it lost some of its luster.  Let me explain...

Karolina is a smart character. She knows where she came from and she has a plan for where she's going until she meets the charming, enchanting, beautiful David Morgan. Then, suddenly, the reader is to believe that all the choices are taken out of her hands, that she is no longer capable of making decisions on her own because the longing for a family is so great that she can't see past it to see that her new man is pulling her puppet strings. And still... I couldn't put it down. Hey. I'm smart enough to know that I don't have to agree with every decision a character makes and I don't have to love every idea in their heads for them to be real people. I don't always agree with my sister, but I still love her, so I continued to read. I rooted for her through a troubled marriage, through a husband who all but abandoned her and through a friendship it didn't take Einstein to know was going to get her in trouble. Yep. Continued reading. I wanted her husband to get what he had coming to him.

When circumstances took a turn and the absolute blackness in his soul came to light and Karolina had no choice but to face the truth, I was still all in. And that is where I got lost a little bit. The climax of the book came 75% in and even though there were still many loose ends to be tied up, by 80% in, it was clear they would be.

It wasn't that I didn't care anymore. I just didn't care as much.  The saving grace in this book was the charismatic bad-boy Alec Christos (The aforementioned friend who you knew would cause some issues in the doomed marriage). Charm and hotness not withstanding, I would have preferred if he had a more active role in the big GOTCHA scene, but...sigh, his other scenes were pretty perfect and I was happy with the way his friendship brought Karolina back to life.

Overall, I'm giving this one three stars.

Just BETWEEN you and me...This is a good Book!!!!

Review: Between by Dora Hilburn

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Oh to have a ghost of my own...not really, but this book sure made it sound dreamy. Wyatt has haunted HIS house for more than a hundred years when Anna inherits it from an uncle. She isn't one to be run off by fear of the unknown. Instead, she invites her ghost to sit with her in the study and chat. And he does. OK. I'll admit. It's more complicated than that, but the gist is... this is a beautifully written love story about a girl and her ghost and the lengths he will go to keep her safe.

Not to be a downer, but I had really high hopes for this book--all the way through, but the ending fell a little flat for me. I liked it and would read it again because the beauty of the romance was almost perfectly poetic, but I will always long for a change in the dynamic at the end.

Not to say that the book was bad or disappointing, it was just that my romantic soul for something more for Anna. The beauty of this character was that while I didn't like her and knew in life we would never be besties, the story is written in such a way I wanted to be her friend. I wanted her to have what she wanted and I wanted a happy ending, even when she made me angry for the way she treated Eric. I didn't like that she fell back on her self-imposed isolation as a way to excuse how she treated others, but I did understand it and it made me feel something about her. I think feeling something about a character, like or dislike, is a sign that the character is well rounded enough to elicit an emotion and that is good stuff.

Four shining stars for a wonderful book.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A fun review for a fun book!

Always Kiss Me Goodnight by Megan Gaudino

As an eclectic reader, I choose books for various reasons - none that I can define - but hardly ever do I run in the same genre for very long. However, if every YA fantasy was written by Megan Gaudino, I wouldn't spend a minute on anything else--done deal!

Always Kiss me Goodnight is a (though I had no idea when I picked it up) the 1st in a series of Guardian books. Leo, a superhero Guardian of Fate with a pretty face, a hot motorcycle and a hotter body, is inexplicably drawn to Sophia, a  year old, normal by all accounts, private school girl. While it is fair to say most normal girls don't dream/have visions (the distinction seems important to the author) of their own deaths, Sophia does. And though this book is steeped in fantasy, it's attraction is the way the author made Leo and his very timely appearance seem magic, but acceptable.

Being a Guardian of Fate, Leo has responsibility...the other worldly kind... and his choices to protect Sophia cost him greatly, but this again, is written in such a way that the question becomes could this be a valid explanation for the way and life and death is treated in the real world.  Being a girl in the real world, Sophia finds herself caught in a love triangle with current boyfriend (not a great guy) Aiden and Leo. It’s all a part of being a teenager (well, except that one of the boys turns red hot to the touch and has the power to save her from death).

This author created a spectacular world inside the real one which blends seamless together into Sophia's reality. Though the fantasy in this book is played down, it is an enchanting look into real life and the possibilities of otherworldly almost humans.

This is a 5 star book and I cannot wait to see what else this author has in store for Leo and Sophia.

Girl Last Seen by Heather Anastasiu and Anne Greenwood Brown

Oh the twists and turns... A boy from the past, a best frenemy, and a disappearance that rocked the little town where Lauren and Kadence became internet superstars.  Though I kind of saw the ending coming, I wanted to hang in there so bad and see the ending as it happened and even then, I was wowed by this author's style. There are 21000000 reasons to read this book and every single one of them is Uh-Mazing!

Lauren and Kadence have been BFFs since 7th grade when Kady moved to town. Through 7 years and a million secrets later, they have made it viral on the internet with careers stretching before them like they could never have imagined. Then, the unthinkable happens and Lauren is sidelined leaving the spotlight shining solely on Kadence.  Enter Jude Williams, the boy Lauren ditched so many years ago for her new bestie. And boy, oh boy, is he ever mad. Mad enough to steal one of the girls? Murder her even? Something sinister that way comes and Kadence is suddenly missing and everyone she knew and loved (or pretended to love) is suspect, but most especially the girl she left behind as she sought stardom and the boy she obliterated to secure a friendship.

All I can say is WOW. The ending is climactic and the beginning and every word in between is riveting. I read this in about 3 hours non-stop as the children fought, fussed and made a war-zone reenactment in my living room. This author duo hit the mark and is definitely on my watchlist!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon (4 Stars)

I was given an ARC by Netgalley for an honest review.

Fifteen years is a long time to lay in a bed, unable to move or communicate, but that is the tragic existence of Amy Stevenson. An attack brought her fifteen year old world to a crashing halt, left her forgotten until a reporter stumbles onto her story while writing an article about her doctor. He has made striking progress with coma patients and Alex Dale, as a freelance reporter, thinks there is a story in his progress. What she doesn’t count on is the instant connection she feels with the girl who is about her age and a former resident of the town she’d grown up in. Alcoholic Alex enlists the help of Amy’s former boyfriend and her own ex-husband, a local policeman, to help her untangle the murky fifteen year old mystery surrounding Amy’s attack while battling her own demons.

Point by point – The structure of the story is complex and involves various character points of view. It alternates from one character to another as their importance to the story grows and also jumps from some past scenes to present. I wasn’t as enthralled by some of the backstory, but it wasn’t enough to pull me out of the story entirely. It was more I felt some of those chapters dragged.

The writing was stellar and the story compelling. There was a distinct clarity in each character’s subplot and a perfect connection of dots that completed the entire picture.

After a slow start (which is understandable in such a complex piece), the story picked up and held me captive until I finished.

A great read. Looking forward to more from this journalist turned novelist. Four stars!

Clipped Wings by Helena Hunting  (3 stars)

From the dark side takes on a new meaning with this tale of woe and heartache. There are great things in any book – a line that takes the reader’s breath away, or a scene so perfect it must be read twice. This book definitely has its finer qualities, but as I was reading, my like of the characters shifted dramatically. I knew it was dark and I knew it was twisty (this time it was the Buffy kind of angsty twist) and I wasn’t surprised by the not a happily ever after ending (as I have bought the second book and read the blurb). What did surprise me was the hero’s behavior. We all love the bad boy. Hundreds of thousands of books feature a hero who is defective and redeems himself in the end. 

With Hayden, this is not the case. Not at all. He is possessive to the point of creepy stalker. To show his possession of Tenley at a party he gives her a hickey. He shows up at her school and speaks to her professor. He takes great pains to make it clear to her and everyone else that he owns her. His growth throughout the relationship, in my opinion, was stunted to the point that it didn’t happen.

The heroine, Tenley, was also damaged beyond repair and showed moments of extreme courage followed almost immediately by moments of sheer mental instability. Despite that, she is more likable than the boy she falls for.

Despite my sheer dislike for the hero, I loved the dialogue between Tenley and Hayden when he was showing the Dr. Jekkyl part of his personality.

Overall, I don’t regret buying the book, but I probably wouldn’t read it a second time.  And if you are a fan of genital piercing, tattoos, casual drug use and heartache, this is the book for you.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Title: Buried
Author: CJ Carmichael

Normally I don’t knowingly take on cliff hangers. I got sucked into that with Mortal Instruments and had to wait an entire year for the conclusion of the series. UGH. However, I found the premise of Buried to be so compelling, I was hooked from the first word. I wasn’t reading a stand-alone novel and, for once, that was okay. With writing this good and a story so well crafted, there was no way I could have cared. I just had to keep going.

This twisted tale of murder leads the reader through a decades old friendship, a marriage that seems perfect on the surface, a new relationship no one could expect and of course, a mystery that will keep you turning page after page after page and begging for more when you reach the end.
Dougal Lachlan swore he would never return to Twisted Cedars, Oregon. Nothing but impoverished memories wait for him there. He’d already lost his mother to cancer (even though he failed to attend her funeral) and had no reason, other than the sister who was mad at him, to return. Until the emails started showing up. Crime writer he is, he was drawn to the hometown where the mystery began.
I know, right? Here’s what I can tell you… Wade, the good one, Kyle the wealthy, too-cool-for-school athlete, and Dougal, the boy from the wrong side of the trailer park, were BFFs growing up in Twisted Cedars. Time, distance, and buried secrets forced a rift that only Dougal seemed to understand. Before the ink was dry on his diploma he got the heck of there and headed off for New York City to become a best-selling true-crime writer. Drawn back to Twisted Cedars—partially to explore the story supplied by a mystery emailer and partly to talk his sister out of marrying Kyle—Dougal becomes romantically involved with a quiet librarian and decides to stay a bit longer. After all, the man has to solve a mystery of 4 librarians killed in the space of four years in the 1970s.
There are so many complex details in this one—Dougal’s ex-con murderer father, the emailer who is hell bent on getting this story out, Kyle’s run-away ex-wife, and Charlotte, the librarian love interest who is torn between two men. But these details are presented with such natural flow and as intricate little gems woven into the fabric of the story, that the reader is left with an overwhelming sense to know more. More. MORE.
The characters are crafted with multiple dimensions, bringing life to their joys and struggles. The mystery is formed in stages that allow the reader to absorb the story that bring them right to the heart of the drama.
In short, this is a 5 star read. I highly recommend this book and am so glad there was much more to come with Forgotten.

Forgotten by CJ Carmichael

CJ Carmichael has done it again. I signed up to read this book through Lola's blog tours and my only regret is that I have to wait a month for the conclusion of the series.

The second installment in the Twisted Cedars series, Forgotten follows Dougal Lachlan as he is drawn into the powerful mystery surrounding his hometown. This time, a new comer is thrown into the mix and Dougal is on a path he would rather not head down. Refusing to give the emailer feeding him information the power to force a story out of him, Dougal stays in his cottage, but decides to derail his non-fiction by proposing to his agent to write something a little less true and (in his mind) a lot more compelling. But, as he ventures away from his true calling, things in Twisted Cedars begin to go awry and Sheriff Wade MacKay is left with more work than he knows what to do with.

Then comes the pretty, but banged up Jane Doe to town and the course is set for the perfect amount of mayhem to draw Dougal back into the world of investigative writing. With the details piling up against his former friend and brother-in-law Kyle Quinpool, Dougal develops a theory, one he prays is wrong and leaves him with no choice but to reestablish a relationship with the sister he barely tolerated as a child.

I can't say more without ruining the end, but OMG, the plot twists, the subtle turns, the added layers of mystery with the turn of every gripping page... AMAZING! Again, this is a cliff-hanger, but I find myself excited about the month before the release of Exposed. I want to mull this story over a bit and re-read it again in a few days (YEP. IT'S THAT GOOD) just to catch the things I know CJ Carmichael stuck in that I might have missed.

This is one for the read many times shelf. I cannot say enough how I enjoyed this book and cannot wait for Exposed! This is a true 5 star read as it is a well-crafted mystery that will leave you wanting more!

Thank you, Lola's Blog Tours for providing the ARCs of these two WONDERFUL books for review!