Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Review: The Night Sister

Title: The Night Sister
Author: Jennifer McMahon
Page Count: 322
My Rating:  4 TURTLES: A great read, I definitely recommend.
*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review


Once the thriving attraction of rural Vermont, the Tower Motel now stands in disrepair, alive only in the memories of Amy, Piper, and Piper's kid sister, Margot. The three played there as girls until the day that their games uncovered something dark and twisted in the motel's past, something that ruined their friendship forever.

Now adult, Piper and Margot have tried to forget what they found that fateful summer, but their lives are upended when Piper receives a panicked midnight call from Margot, with news of a horrific crime for which Amy stands accused. Suddenly, Margot and Piper are forced to relive the time that they found the suitcase that once belonged to Silvie Slater, the aunt that Amy claimed had run away to Hollywood to live out her dream of becoming Hitchcock's next blonde bombshell leading lady. As Margot and Piper investigate, a cleverly woven plot unfolds—revealing the story of Sylvie and Rose, two other sisters who lived at the motel during its 1950s heyday. Each believed the other to be something truly monstrous, but only one carries the secret that would haunt the generations to come.

This was a bit of a departure from what I usually read (I don’t typically read many mysteries or thrillers) but I’m really glad I took the chance! Jennifer McMahon wrote an incredibly suspenseful mystery. I had to read the last sixty pages or so in one sitting because I had to find out what happened! I love how the story is told through different points of views in three set eras to trace the mystery over three generations. The pacing that new information about the mystery is revealed is perfectly timed. Slow enough that the suspense continues to mount, but quick enough to keep the story moving.

I also thought the characters were super compelling. Some likable and sympathetic, others less so, but the nature of the mystery always had me questioning whether or not some characters were who they were presented as being (some yes and some no). The casual queer representation in this book was also a big plus for me. I love it when characters’ queerness is a present part of their identity but it isn’t the most important thing about them. Don’t get me wrong, I love coming out type stories too, but getting to read characters who just happen to be queer is really exciting for me. The one character that felt a little flat to me was Jason. He was always there, but kind of pushed to the background and underdeveloped. I would have liked to have seen a bit more of who he was, because what was there was interesting.  

One things that seems incredibly difficult about writing mystery to me is coming up with the ending. How do you come up with a conclusion that lives up to the suspenseful build up? I think the book came up a bit short in this department. The suspense was so thrilling that even though the reveal at the end explained all the mysterious elements well and tied up all the loose threads, it did not feel as dramatic as everything that came before it.

Overall, though,  The Night Sister is an incredibly entertaining, enthralling, creepy novel and I would definitely recommend it.

Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Review: Aversion

Title: Aversion (The Mentalist Series #1)
Author: Kenechi Udogu
Page Count: 133
My Rating4 TURTLES: A great read, I definitely recommend.
*I received this book in exchange for an honest review

For Gemma Green’s first time, things should have been straightforward. Find your subject, hold their gaze and push a thought into their head to save them from future disaster – Aversion complete. A pretty simple process given that the subject was to have no recollection of the experience. But Russ Tanner doesn’t seem to want to forget. In fact the more she tries to avoid him, the more he pushes to get to know her. Gemma knows she has a problem but is she facing the side effects of a failed Aversion or has the school’s tennis champ really fallen for her?

I’ve seen other reviewers compare this book to The Adjustment Bureau, and I definitely have to agree. Crossing The Adjustment Bureau with a contemporary YA novel and adding a dash of I Am Number Four is the closest I can come to describing this book. The combination works really well and the book grabbed and held my attention from start to finish. 

It is fun to see the popular-guy-falls-for-not-so-popular-girl trope of contemporary YA appear side-by-side with Gemma discovering secrets about her parents and developing her powers. Although some aspects of the plot were familiar, these familiarities did not come off as trite. This is possibly because the plot was so unpredictable. Each new twist made sense within the context of the story, but I did not see it coming.

One thing I wished had been different with this story, though, is that I wish it had been longer. Its short length does make it very past faced, with every scene moving the plot along. And, while I love it when books have a sense of urgency to them, I felt like there could have been some more scenes to flesh out the story more. I was thinking of other contemporary YA tropes and waiting for Gemma and Russ to go on a field trip together and bond or get to know each other better when they were assigned lab partners, but since everything was so lean there were not any of these extra scenes. I think if this book were longer it would have given me a better grasp of setting and character and made the conclusion more emotional. That said, I still really enjoyed this book and think it manages to do quite a lot in a short amount of time.

I would definitely recommend this book, especially to readers of YA. Also, if you read it and love it, books two and three are already out so there’s no agonizing wait for a sequel! 

Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Review: Second Nature

Title: Second Nature
Author: Lauren Kuzimski
Page Count: 408
My Rating: 3 TURTLES: An enjoyable read, but I suggest check out if you like the topic before adding it to your to-read list.
*I received this book in exchange for an honest review

Opposite elements, same side…

Long ago, the Esscas, a rogue group of elementals, had once dared to challenge the Queens, the self-proclaimed masters of the element realms. The resulting war had decimated the world and the very people. In the end though, the Queens had prevailed and banished the Esscas to the After for all eternity. 

Fae had shared no alliance with the Esscas, but had felt the ripples of their punishment nonetheless. For their actions, she would never be free. Born a fire elemental herself, Fae had spent every waking moment of her life training to be a guard for her Queen, with no choices in regards to her own fate. It was that or exile herself. 

Jace, on the other hand, had been born an earth elemental with every choice in the world, yet had been one of those that had taken part in the Esscas. His punishment… eternity in exile, swallowed in regrets…

When the Esscas escape, vengeful and angry, and threatening the world once more, Fae and Jace quickly find their fates intertwined. While Fae fights for the chance to taste her freedom, Jace finds a chance to atone for his past mistakes. 

Only by setting aside their differences, in both elements and loyalties, do they stand any chance to make a change and defeat Jace’s ex-team once more.

If only trust was that easy…

As much as I wanted to really like it, Second Nature wasn’t really my cup of tea. This book was hard for me to get into and stay invested in. I think part of the reason for me was that we are told about the conflict the Esscas have with the Queens, but not really shown the root of why the Esscas hate the Queens, at least not for a while, which makes it hard to feel emotionally invested. I can be told the Queens are tyrannical, but unless I see how their tyranny negatively impacts their subjects or the Esscas, it’s going to be hard for me to root for one team or another or feel emotionally conflicted about rooting for one team or another. 

Another thing that made it hard for me to get into the story was that there were a lot of details about the world building that were missing for me. It seemed to fall into the pitfall that some fantasy novels do where it focuses on the macro, it has an interesting and complex map of different realms divided by elements, but lacks the micro. The characters would stop in villages where everyone lived in “huts” and eat at bars, but the book did not give much more description than that. Where the huts white-washed? Covered with mud? Made out of timber? Did they have thatched rooves? Shingles? Maybe the rooves were made out of sod and covered with grass like the Viking settlement in Canada? The landscape and culture seemed roughly medieval European, but I would have loved more detail in order to picture it more clearly, maybe drawing off more specific cultures in the real world. For example, George R R Martin’s the North of Westeros has a lot of Scandinavian influence and J R R Tolkien’s Shire is clearly based on the English country side.

I did really enjoy learning about the different elementals’ powers. I was particularly interested in Jace’s ability to manipulate life matter and thought it was used really cleverly in the story. There were also some plot twists revealed towards the end of the story that I really liked and made different plot threads come together well. I’m also intrigued with Jace and his relationships with the other main characters. There is a lot of development and aspects about his feelings that are not completely clear yet, and I’m sure that will be something that is taken up in the next book.

While there were some parts of this story that I enjoyed and thought were intriguing, unfortunately I came away feeling really lukewarm about this book. If the description intrigued you, by all means check it out. There are a lot of elements in this story that fantasy fans especially might get a kick out of, but I don’t know that I’m invested enough to continue on with the series.

Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Genre is Helpful, But Don't Let it Constrain Your Reading and Writing

When I was in high school, I was fortunate enough for the late author Brian Doyle to come speak at my creative writing class.

While the most memorable thing he told us had nothing to do with writing (he once got into an argument with the Dalai Lama about whether soccer or basketball was the best sport in the world) he did give a piece of writing advice that I continue to think about today.

He told us never to be constricted by genre in our writing. To tell the story we want to tell, whether or not it fits neatly into one category.

I think part of why that stuck with me for so long was because that was the first time I looked at genre as something constructed. 

Although I had never articulated the thought, I had always assumed bookstores labelled shelves as “Fantasy” or “Science Fiction” because that’s what the books there clearly were and they were trying help fans of those genres find books they enjoyed quickly.

I still think that’s partly true, sellers want readers to find the types of books they like quickly, and publishers want their books to be found by readers quickly, but sometimes labels are more easily fixed than others.

For example, a book about time travel on the moon is clearly going to be labelled science fiction, but what about a story of a secret hacking group who pull off stunts no one in the real world has yet but that experts would say is technically possible? Is that science fiction or tech thriller? 

What if the plot of the time travel on the moon book is solely featured on the love story of two astronauts who for some reason have to travel through time in order to be together? What if the only science-y part of the book is when the author describes the logistics of doing the horizontal tango in lunar gravity? Is that still science fiction or would it shelved as romance?

I got firsthand experience of how hard labelling some books’ genres are through my internship at a small publishing company. 

There was one book that my boss and I went back and forth on for a long time, deciding whether it should be labelled supernatural, thriller or Christian fiction. 

There were elements of the book that could have made it anyone of these, but since the readers of these genres are looking for different things, we wanted to make sure that the label we decided on would put the book in the flight path of the people who would be most interested in reading it and most likely to enjoy it. No small task.

That experience really showed me the limitations of those categories. I wonder how many people did not read it because we decided on Christian fiction, but would have read it and enjoyed it if it had been labelled a supernatural thriller?

I don’t wish genre categories would disappear. I would be overwhelmed in a bookstore if I didn’t have at least some idea of what to expect from any of the books on any of the shelves, and there are some tropes formulas of genre fiction that I really enjoy. Brian Doyle’s advice has challenged me as a writer to not relay on or be limited to conventions of genre to tell my stories and encouraged me as a reader to not dismiss a book outright because the genre is not one I typically read.

I think this has made me a more well-rounded creator and consumer of literature, so I extend this challenge to you too. Don’t limit yourself to writing a story in just one genre for genre’s sake if you think blurring those lines would make your story stronger. And it’s great if you think of yourself as a fan of a certain genre, but don’t let that keep you from reading books in another. You never know what gems you’ll find that you never would have otherwise.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Blog Tour: The Fireproof Girl

The Fireproof Girl
Loretta Lost
(Sophie Shields, #1)
Publication date: September 29th 2016
Genres: Mystery, New Adult, Romance
Abandoned at birth, Sophie Shields grew up in abusive foster homes, escaping into books and computers for solace. When the constant danger became too much to bear, she ran away, thinking she could survive on her hacking skills alone.
That was until she met Cole Hunter. He became the only person she could trust: her family, her friend, her partner-in-crime. Her everything. After struggling through college and starting their lives together, she believed that nothing could ever tear them apart.
Until it did.
And she'll do everything in her power to fix what is broken. If it isn't too late…
When Cole was nine years old, he watched his whole family burn to death in a house fire. Fueled by years of obsession, he started one of the world's leading architectural firms, with a mission to design homes resistant to fire, earthquakes, floods, and every threat known to man.
Sophie was his secret weapon. She was his purpose. Since they were teenagers, he was determined to build a better life for her, so she could finally be safe, and they could be together.
But disaster has always followed Cole around, ripping away everything he loves. This time, if he isn't careful…
His enemies might just take him down.

“Why?” she demands to know, jutting her chin out defiantly. “Why on earth shouldn’t I die? Give me a reason. Give me one good fucking reason.” 
Those eyes of hers. Heaven help me. My hand lifts from her elbow to rest on her cheek, and I hold my palm there for a second before letting my fingers drift down to get tangled up in her hair. I brush my thumb over her ear as I stare down into her angry, but innocent eyes. They pierce directly into me, seeking. They pull me closer. Her lips part slightly and soften, and my pulse quickens. My heart begins to pound so loudly that I can feel it in my ears. Every part of my body feels awake and alive and tingling with sensation. 
She wants me to kiss her. 
She is so close that our breath mingles. I can already taste her. She is challenging me, daring me, and asking me all at the same time. It’s impossible to refuse. 
Our lips barely brush, so barely that it might not even have happened. But I summon a bit of inhuman strength so that I can pull away. 
“Because,” I tell her through my heavy breathing. “Because things are going to get better now.”
“Cole,” she whispers brokenly, gripping a handful of my shirt to pull me closer. 
She arches her body a little to press against mine, and I groan at the sensation of her softness and warmth against me. My head falls a little, until our noses are touching. 
I need to kiss her. I nearly do. 
Her eyelids flutter closed halfway in anticipation, and I grow dizzy with how much I want this. I want to kiss her until she knows how I feel—how much I care. I want to wrap my arms around her body and hold her close, and promise her everything. I want to promise her the world. I want to promise her forever. 
But then I see it all going up in flames. I see the whirlwind romance. I see us making love, and I see how passionately and desperately we would cling to each other. I see me getting lost inside her. I see me growing addicted to her. I see her begging me for more, until I become her escape, and I become her death. 
She did not seem to care much for heroin, but no one is immune to the simultaneous opiate, narcotic, and stimulant that is love. 
I see us bleeding each other dry. I see us both sacrificing our goals for one more moment together. One more mind-numbing and soul-crushing moment of bliss. We will erase each other. We will blend into each other until we forget who we used to be. Who we could have been. 
I see how broken she is, how afraid and insecure, and I see me wanting to do anything to make her whole. I see my own brokenness, and the way I would use her body to try and forget my own pain and loss. I see me expecting her to nurture me enough to replace my mother and father; I see me endlessly asking her for more, and more, and more. I see me leaning on her a little too much every time it becomes difficult to stand on my own two feet and become a man out there in the real world. 
I see us drowning in a love of overwhelming power, and both of us unable to breathe or come up for air. I see us being consumed, and eventually incinerated.
This love is a dangerous one. I can feel it now, as I teeter on the edge of falling in. It is a flame that burns so white-hot it could only destroy everything it touches. It would destroy us. 
We’re not strong enough yet.
We are just two frightened kids who have nothing, and no one. If we had each other, we would tear each other to shreds. We would devour each other, looking for all the things that we’re missing, and all the things that we were supposed to find in ourselves first. 
I see it all so clearly, and it gives me the courage to pull away from her—even though it feels like I am ripping off my own flesh. It gives me the courage to stop before I can kiss her—because once I do, there’s no going back. 
“Scarlett,” I say as tenderly as I can. “No.”

Author Bio:
USA Today bestselling author Loretta Lost writes to experience all the love and excitement that can often be lacking from real life. She finds it therapeutic to explore her issues through the eyes of a different person. She hopes to have a family someday, but until then her characters will do nicely.
Follow @loretta.lost on Instagram for cute photos of her cat reading books. He refuses to cooperate unless they are really good books.
You can also subscribe to Loretta's mailing list for updates:
You will receive a FREE book as a gift for signing up!


Sunday, April 22, 2018

Cover Reveal: Ruthless Magic

Today Megan Crewe and Rockstar Book Tours are revealing the cover and an exclusive content for RUTHLESS MAGIC, her new YA Fantasy which releases May 30, 2018! Check out the awesome cover and enter the giveaway!

On to the reveal! 

Author: Megan Crewe
Pub. Date: May 30, 2018
Publisher: Megan Crewe
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Pages: ?
Find it: Goodreads, Pre-Order  

In the contest to keep their magic, the only options may be die... or kill.

Each year, the North American Confederation of Mages assesses every sixteen-year-old novice. Some will be chosen. The rest must undergo a procedure to destroy their magical ability unless they prove themselves in the mysterious and brutal Mages' Exam.

Disadvantaged by her parents' low standing, Rocío Lopez has dedicated herself to expanding her considerable talent to earn a place in the Confederation. Their rejection leaves her reeling-and determined to fight to keep her magic.

Long ashamed of his mediocre abilities, Finn Lockwood knows the Confederation accepted him only because of his prominent family. Declaring for the Exam instead means a chance to confirm his true worth.

Thrown into the testing with little preparation, Rocío and Finn find themselves becoming unlikely allies-and possibly more. But the Exam holds secrets more horrifying than either could have imagined. What are the examiners really testing them for? And as the trials become increasingly vicious, how much are they willing to sacrifice to win?

The start of a new series by USA Today bestselling author Megan Crewe, Ruthless Magic combines the magic of Harry Potter with the ferocity of The Hunger Games alongside a poignant romance. Fans of Cassandra Clare and Holly Black, look no further for your next urban fantasy fix!

 Grab the prequel MAGIC UNMASKED for FREE!

Exclusive Excerpt!

Hail pelted us, and the wind lashed at us from all sides. I could hardly breathe. The only solid thing was Finn. I curled my fingers into the damp fabric of his shirt and sang into the stiller space between us. "Como veían que resistía."

Magic hummed from the vicious air into me. An image swam up of the grate I'd come across in the courtyard, between the buildings. A grate that led to something below.

I knelt down, pulling Finn with me, and pressed my free hand to the spongy ground. The wind tried to steal my next lyrics from my lips, but the magic raced through me all the same-through me and down, down, into an open space I sensed below us like a gasp of fresh air.

I did gasp then, and forced out a verse. I'd never magically transported another person with me before, but I had to. I had to.

The magic rushed up around us with the thrust of my words. I clung to Finn, singing the energy around him as tightly as I could. Then I propelled us downward with a lurch.

We surged through rough blackness that rasped over my skin and landed with a feet-jarring thump. I exhaled in a rush, dizzy in the sudden quiet. My eardrums ached from the pounding of the storm we'd escaped and the effort of the conjuring.

We crouched in total darkness. The surface beneath me felt like concrete. Cold dank air hovered around us with a faintly salty flavor that reminded me of the ocean.

My fingers were tangled in Finn's shirt. His arm was still around me. In the dark, I was abruptly aware of the rise and fall of his rasping breath, the warmth of his chest, and the answering warmth it sent through me.

He was alive-we were alive-and in that moment, it felt like a miracle.

About Megan: 
Photo credit: Chris Blanchenot
Like many authors, Megan Crewe finds writing about herself much more difficult than making things up. A few definite facts: she lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband and son (and does on occasion say "eh"), she's always planning some new trip around the world, and she's spent the last six years studying kung fu, so you should probably be nice to her. She has been making up stories about magic and spirits and other what ifs since before she knew how to write words on paper. These days the stories are just a lot longer.

Megan's first novel, Give Up the Ghost, was shortlisted for the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. The Way We Fall was nominated for the White Pine Award and made the International Literacy Association Young Adults' Choices List, and Earth & Sky was an OLA Best Bet for 2015. She is also the author of the rest of the Fallen World series (The Lives We Lost, The Worlds We Make, and Those Who Lived), the rest of the Earth & Sky trilogy (The Clouded Sky and A Sky Unbroken), and the standalone contemporary fantasy A Mortal Song.
Giveaway Details:
One lucky winner will receive a $10 Amazon gift card and a pack of Ruthless Magic swag featuring the cover and character art.

Ruthless Magic cover reveal giveaway

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Spotlight: The Book of Songs

About the Book:
Anne has led a privileged life: she is a weaver, a magic user, in a world ruled by the extraordinary.
Yet one day it all changes. She is deemed too powerful by the aristocracy and is sent to a monastery for life. To avoid this fate she embarks on a journey, driven by a prophecy she doesn’t want to fulfill. But will she have any choice in the end?

The Book of Songs is the first stand-alone novel in The Weaver Trilogy. Written by Louice Svedin, it's a story about friendship and sacrifice, and how who we are often is shaped by those we meet.

About the Author:
Louice is a 23 year old psychology student who lives in Sundsvall, Sweden. She started writing The Book of Songs when she was 13 years old and in the year 2014 it was released in Swedish by Mörkersdottir förlag.
In her spare time Louice practices aikido, a Japanese martial arts (or budo as it's also called) in which she has a black belt.

Check out The Book of Songs on Amazon
Visit the Author's Website

Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases.