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Monday, September 30, 2019

Spotlight: The Don of Siracusa by Sean Rea @smithpublicity @theseanrea

The Don of Siracusa
by Sean Rea

Bringing you a little Crime Fiction goodness today.
Go to my instagram page @wherethereadergrows for your chance to win a copy


It’s usually when you feel like you have it all that it all threatens to come crashing down. That’s what happens to Stefano Caruso when his steadfast morals and strict work ethic have earned him the top spot at the corporation his father and grandfather built. He is living the life you’d expect of a handsome and successful legacy magnate. Until the day an unexpected visitor delivers shocking news, and Caruso’s prized moral fiber is tested. 

In The Don of Siracusa [Friesen Press] by Sean Rea, Caruso is forced to decide if the Italian Mafia his family fled is his only ally against the corrupt business partners he’d always thought he could trust. The simple set of rules and morals that govern the Mafia’s philosophies and businesses have great appeal for Caruso, and he quickly becomes entangled in that world. When blood is spilled, the scrupulously honest Caruso finds himself at the center of a story of big business, violence, and betrayal. 

“My book attempts to capture the idea that we can’t just look at the world as black and white – some of the people we say are criminals may be the nicest people you’ll ever meet, and some of your best friends might be capable of true evil,” Rea says. “I want people to understand that humans are incredibly complex, and the concept of morality even more so. This is a significant aspect of the human condition, and my book tries to create realistic characters that react to the world and events around them the way you or I might.” 

Fraught with moral complexity, The Don of Siracusa is a fast-paced, exciting crime thriller that pits good against evil, righteousness versus deception, while asking whether good men should sometimes do bad things to punish evil.

Sean Rea studied at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, majoring in communications and minoring in management. He has travelled much of America and nearly all of Italy. Like his protagonist, Stefano Caruso, from a young age Sean was exposed to the world of big business through his father and nonno, and he drew on much of this in crafting the business aspects of Siracusa. Sean is a long-time fan of the crime-fiction genre and all things mafia-related. THE DON OF SIRACUSA is his first novel. 

The Don of Siracusa is available wherever books are sold.

Question: What made you want to write about the world of the mafia? 

Sean Rea: I have always been a huge fan of many mafia books, movies, and TV shows for as long as I can remember. It was largely inspired by my late grandfather’s infatuation with the Godfather movies and all of Mario Puzo's books. I have since read every single one of Puzo's acclaimed novels, and I can honestly say I've loved every single one of them. That being said, the reason I turned my novel towards a mafia / organized crime story was because I think the mafia is a fascinating organization to base a story like this around. I think it is a system that allows for some deep exploration of what makes a man (or woman). How do you define strength? When does showing patience and "being the better man" not actually play in your favor? Within the contexts of the legal system the punishment often doesn’t fit the crime. I want to confront the moral conundrum that can sometimes exist in the real world - are some people so 'evil' that the world is better off without them? Regardless, I think the answer can be summed up right here - the mafia as an organization is a system based on honor and trust. They have an unorthodox definition of morality, and a proclivity towards spectacle. When you consider those few things, they make a perfect counter to the business world (which is so often the opposite), and an even better setting for a book about exploring a man’s inner conflict and exterior battle against evil. 

Question: How did your family's business experience inform your writing of a character in this world? 

SR: My family’s businesses included years in the automotive industry, horse industry, forays into oil, tech, and more. This, as well as many discussions with family friends and former business partners, has given me an immense wealth of knowledge about just how these big deals come about: the structures of negotiations, the give and take, the importance of the dinner meeting or the golf meeting. How do disputes amongst business partners get settled? What happens when they don't get settled? It's so much more than that, but essentially my family's experience gave me insight and helped to make the business negotiations, the big deals, the daily going-ons of working in that world realistic and believable. 

Question: Why do you think stories of moral complexity are so important? 

SR: I think all stories are important. But stories of moral complexity are at the heart of most great novels. It's a central tenet of most people's existence that they are always unsure of just who they really are. Even when someone is comfortable in their own skin, life has a way of serving you circumstances that are constantly redefining and remolding you. So I think it is important that people read stories of others struggling with their own senses of morality, and in a way their own sense of self. So much of who we are, or how others define us and we define ourselves, is shown in how we treat others. A story of moral complexity can also be called a story of identity, a struggle with one's identity. The other reason I think these stories are important is because morality is an incredibly obscure philosophical concept - what was once unconscionable might now be socially acceptable, and vice versa. These stories are one in many ways in which we all try to move morality towards something more idealistic and principled, rather than obscure. The simple act of reading something that causes you to relate to, or argue against, a character’s actions is worthwhile, in my opinion. 

Question: What is your writing process like? 

SR: My writing process was for many years unpredictable and scattered, mostly due to my pursuit of an undergraduate university degree - which I ended up accomplishing two years ago. That being said, the summers were when I would do most of my writing - usually up at my family's former cottage in Northern Ontario. My writing process is ideally, to wake up, drink a few cups of coffee, have some breakfast, and take a while to enjoy the morning and listen to some music - usually soft rock or acoustic music when I am trying to encourage a creative mindset out of myself. I would always like to start writing by 9 or 10 AM, and I would push myself to write until I got hungry for a small lunch. If I had a successful morning/afternoon of writing I'd often take the rest of the day off, but if I did not accomplish much I'd usually force myself to write again sometime after dinner to see if I could squeeze out a few paragraphs or chapters. I'm definitely a morning person (once I have a coffee) so I try to take advantage of that increased productivity. I do have a notebook for recording poetry, stray lines of dialogue, or even just interesting thoughts that cross my mind, and sometimes those notepad ramblings are refined and implemented into a characters monologue, or into a plot point.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

#ATBR2019 Review: The Institute by Stephen King @scribnerbooks @stephenking @jessmapreviews

The Institute 
by Stephen King

Publisher: Scribner
Publish Date: September 10, 2019

561 Pages
Genres: Horror, Fantasy

In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder Luke Ellis’s parents and load him into a black SUV. The operation takes less than two minutes. Luke will wake up at The Institute, in a room that looks just like his own, except there’s no window. And outside his door are other doors, behind which are other kids with special talents—telekinesis and telepathy—who got to this place the same way Luke did: Kalisha, Nick, George, Iris, and ten-year-old Avery Dixon. They are all in Front Half. Others, Luke learns, graduated to Back Half, “like the roach motel,” Kalisha says. “You check in, but you don’t check out.”

In this most sinister of institutions, the director, Mrs. Sigsby, and her staff are ruthlessly dedicated to extracting from these children the force of their extranormal gifts. There are no scruples here. If you go along, you get tokens for the vending machines. If you don’t, punishment is brutal. As each new victim disappears to Back Half, Luke becomes more and more desperate to get out and get help. But no one has ever escaped from the Institute.

My Review:

This is the first time I've read a King book so close to release date in I don't even know how long.  And another first, I read reviews and had conversations about different perspectives before I even cracked the book open.  I typically don't do this because I don't want it to influence my feelings about the book as I read in any way.  This is what I love best about books though - the different perspectives and how we process them.

One reader commented on the likes and dislikes of a child that age in this day and time and it didn't make sense and I didn't quite understand that until he made another valid point and then I kinda got it.  Weirdly, I didn't even think about it again until after I was finished reading the book and somehow didn't pick up on what he noticed AT ALL.  A lot of readers say this reminded them of Stranger Things and it did not, in any shape or form, do that for me.

While 561 pages is pretty much a short story for King, I do believe this could've been pared down just a bit and still made the same impact.  Certain parts felt long, while others felt a rushed with things happening extremely fast.  Though, to be fair, I always thought King could get a bit long winded and over detailed.  However, I do find more of an appreciation for it reading at 44, then when I was reading him at 8.

I know a lot of people have a tendency to complain about his endings, and it seems no less different for this one.  However, I disagree and really enjoyed the ending of this one.  It just felt *real* to me in the terms of the story and how things probably WOULD end up over all.

King, as usual, builds this world that sucks you right in.  The  brutality of treating these kids as guinea pigs, the cruelty of the doctors and workers.  The shining moments of humanity.  The view through a genius kid's eyes as he tries to navigate through this brutal situation he was unexpectedly and quite rudely put into. I quite fell in love with Luke, Avery and the rest of the kids... and am ever thankful for Tim (and even Annie).

While I closed the book feeling fully satisfied, I wasn't completely wowed like I have been with some of his other works.  I'm grateful that as one of my favorite authors, he has been churning out books my entire life and I hope he continues to do so for many more years to come.


Jessica's Review:

This book got me out of my slump of nothing but 3 and 3.5 star reads for the month of September. When I saw that THE INSTITUTE was taking place in Minneapolis I got really excited - not many books are set in Minnesota so it's always fun reading about a familiar place. If there's something that King does well it's the coming of age stories and getting us to connect with the kids in the story. From the beginning you get so invested in their struggles and trying to fight along side them.

I know that it's still relatively early to be getting reviews out for this new book, so I don't want to get into too much detail and run the risk of spoilers, so I'll try to keep this short and sweet. This 500+ page door-stopper only took me 3 sittings to read (mainly because I made myself stop at 2am two of those times). King is always able to set the scene for the readers and transport you there instantly. Despite there being a lot of characters, everyone has their own distinct voice and they don't get lost in the shuffle of things. Even some of the more minor characters King was able to connect you to them.

I've seen some other reviewers make comparisons to X-Men and Stranger Things and I couldn't agree more! It's amazing what powerful kids are capable of and I think this would be a really good one for those new to King. This mammoth had me hooked from the first chapter until the final page and I have been reminded why I love King's books.

5 stars

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Review: The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott

The Secrets We Kept 
by Lara Prescott 

Thanks so much to Astoria Bookshop for this copy - this is also Reese's Bookclub choice and it's fantastic everyone!

Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
Publish Date: September 3, 2019
349 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

A thrilling tale of secretaries turned spies, of love and duty, and of sacrifice—inspired by the true story of the CIA plot to infiltrate the hearts and minds of Soviet Russia, not with propaganda, but with the greatest love story of the twentieth century: Doctor Zhivago.

At the height of the Cold War, two secretaries are pulled out of the typing pool at the CIA and given the assignment of a lifetime. Their mission: to smuggle Doctor Zhivago out of the USSR, where no one dare publish it, and help Pasternak's magnum opus make its way into print around the world. Glamorous and sophisticated Sally Forrester is a seasoned spy who has honed her gift for deceit all over the world--using her magnetism and charm to pry secrets out of powerful men. Irina is a complete novice, and under Sally's tutelage quickly learns how to blend in, make drops, and invisibly ferry classified documents.

The Secrets We Kept combines a legendary literary love story—the decades-long affair between Pasternak and his mistress and muse, Olga Ivinskaya, who was sent to the Gulag and inspired Zhivago's heroine, Lara—with a narrative about two women empowered to lead lives of extraordinary intrigue and risk. From Pasternak's country estate outside Moscow to the brutalities of the Gulag, from Washington, D.C. to Paris and Milan, The Secrets We Kept captures a watershed moment in the history of literature—told with soaring emotional intensity and captivating historical detail. And at the center of this unforgettable debut is the powerful belief that a piece of art can change the world.

My Review:

I know.  I know.  I'm supposed to love this book more than I do.  I've heard nothing but great things and have seen praises about this everywhere.  It's even a Reese's Book Club selection and Book Expo Book Pick.  The thing is, historical fiction is either a huge hit or a complete miss for me.  This one kind of fell in the middle.

I loved the way the chapter headings made it easy to follow whose POV we were now seeing.  The story of the typists, spies and the true story of Doctor Zhivago and how this banned book made it into the world is fascinating on their own.  However, there is an abundant amount of characters and while the romances were interesting enough... all of these things together felt a bit disjointed and my interest started to fade very quickly after the first 100 pages.

It could also be that *this* type of history, while I realize is pivotal in its own way as most historical events are, isn't particular to my taste of interest.  I have no desire to read Doctor Zhivago.  I think I expected a book about spies to contain more mystery and intrigue and less love story.  Instead, it fell flat, was a bit repetitive in nature and would've read better had the focus been more centered rather than all over the place.


Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Review: F*ck Love by Tarryn Fisher @darkmarktarryn

F*ck Love 
by Tarryn Fisher

Publish Date: December 31, 2015
Kindle Edition
257 Pages
Genre: Contemporary, Romance

Helena Conway has fallen in love.

Unwillingly. Unwittingly.
But not unprovoked.
Kit Isley is everything she’s not—unstructured, untethered,
and not even a little bit careful.
It could all be so beautiful … if he wasn’t dating her best friend.
Helena must defy her heart, do the right thing, and think of others.
Until she doesn’t.

My Review:

"Aside from the unbearable heart pain, feelings of inadequacy, sporadic tears, and hopelessness, I kind of like being single.  You're not responsible to tell anyone where you are or who you're with. It's freedom and loneliness, exhilaration and inner calm.  You don't have to shave.  It's the best high and the worst low.  The motherfucking pits."

Things I have in common with the main character: been cheated on, broke up with someone after many years into a relationship, moved to find myself, love of Harry Potter, absolutely awkward and get up and run when emotions get the best of me.

There's so many things I could've highlighted in here.  Fisher has this way of bringing all the emotions that every girl goes through when they fall in love, break up, try to find themselves. It's honest and raw and pretty powerful.

I love that she references Harry Potter a lot and that the whole banned book thing is a bit acknowledged from her interaction with a woman on the plane who suggests she reads the bible instead.  Her retort is snort worthy, y'all.

"You shouldn't have to convince anyone to choose you. There is no real choice in love."

With humor, real feelings and a touch of that romance all girls hope to find... this book travels the roads in relationships not only romantic, but friendships that also may have run their course.  Girls may always choose boys and those boys may always choose the wrong girls, but this is the circle of dysfunctional life that is all too true and one that we've all experienced.


BLOG TOUR & Review: No Judgments by Meg Cabot @tlcbooktours @wmmorrowbooks #atbr2019 @jessmapreviews

No Judgments 
by Meg Cabot

Thank you TLC Book Tours and William Morrow Books for this copy and stop on the blog tour.

Publisher: William Morrow Books
Publish Date: September 24, 2019
384 Pages
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Comedy, ChicLit


Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

The storm of the century is about to hit Little Bridge Island, Florida - and it's sending waves crashing through Sabrina "Bree" Beckham's love life...

When a massive hurricane severs all power and cell service to Little Bridge Island - as well as its connection to the mainland - twenty-five-year-old Bree Beckham isn't worried... at first.  She's already escaped one storm - her emotionally abusive ex - so a hurricane seems like it will be a piece of cake.

But animal-loving Bree does become alarmed when she realizes how many islanders have been cut off from their beloved pets. Now it's up to her to save as many of Little Bridge's cats and dogs as she can... but to do so, she's going to need help - help she has no choice but to accept from her boss's sexy nephew, Drew Hartwell, the Mermaid Cafe's most notorious heartbreaker.

But when Bree starts falling for Drew, just as Little Bridge's power is restored and her penitent ex shows up, she has to ask herself if her island fling was only a result of the stormy weather, or if it could last during clear skies too.

Meg Cabot was born in Bloomington, Indiana. In addition to her adult contemporary fiction, she is the author of the bestselling young adult fiction series, The Princess Diaries. Over 25 million copies of her novels for children and adults have sold worldwide. Meg lives in Key West, FL, with her husband.
Find out more about Meg at her website, follow her blog, and connect with her on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

My Review:

A cute, quick read. Nothing spectacular compared to other romcom/chiclit books I’ve read but entertaining nonetheless. Absolutely adored the love for animals in all of it, Gary the toothless cat and all the dogs named Bob 😂. 

The novel does touch on the important topic of sexual assault.  AND why people struggle to even say anything due to the reactions we see in this novel.  It's infuriating and an important topic.  While Bree's reaction upon confrontation in one scene was a bit out there, I was also all GO GIRL!  Sometimes we all just need to get away to a place where we know no one and just start again.  Just remember, your problems always follow you wherever you go.

A fluff of a read but sometimes that’s just what I need and today was perfect for it.


Jessica's Review: 

This was my introduction to Meg Cabot, and I have heard nothing but incredible things, so I was excited to finally pick up one of her books. While I liked the premise there were some elements that didn't entirely work for me. Don't get me wrong, this was a quick read and I finished it in a couple sittings, but some things fell a little flat.

NO JUDGMENTS is about two unlikely people coming together because of their love for animals. Both wanting to rescue dogs and cats from the hurricane that has hit their area, Bree and Drew start to fall for each other. The chemistry wasn't entirely there for me, but I know there are others that absolutely loved this book. So I'm guessing it's more a me thing - which can boil down to simply the mood while I was reading or little things for me as a reader.

This book does deal with sexual assault and Bree facing this head-on in the novel. She initially flees to make a new life for herself and start over, but of course, your past always comes back to haunt you. Sometimes, you just need to grab the bull by the horns and face it. Despite this one not hitting the mark completely for me, there was still a lot I enjoyed. I will definitely pick up more from Cabot next time I come across a title at the bookstore.

3 stars

Monday, September 23, 2019

BLOG TOUR & Review: One By One by D.W. Gillespie @flametreepress

One By One
by D.W. Gillespie

Thank you Anne Cater and Flame Tree Press for this copy and stop on the blog tour.

Publisher: Flame Tree Press
Publish Date: September 26, 2019
Genre: Horror

The Easton family has just moved into their new fixer-upper, a beautiful old house that they bought at a steal, and Alice, the youngest of the family, is excited to explore the strange, new place. Her excitement turns to growing dread as she discovers a picture hidden under the old wallpaper, a child’s drawing of a family just like hers.

Soon after, members of the family begin to disappear, each victim marked on the child’s drawing with a dark black X. It’s up to her to unlock the grim mystery of the house before she becomes the next victim.

A fan of all things dark and horrific, D.W. Gillespie has been writing horror, sci-fi, and fantasy for longer than he would like to admit. After years of daydreaming, he started taking it seriously in college after a creative writing class helped spark his motivation. After winning a local writing award, he realized that his path forward was clear.

In the years since, he’s been featured in many publications, both online and in print. He’s the author of more than a dozen novels, including The Toy Thief, Still Dark, and Handmade Monsters. For One by One, Gillespie was influenced by his experience of moving houses often when growing up. One particular house was supposedly haunted (according to previous tenants)and became specially inspirational, and he knew he wanted it to feature in one of his books as a character in the story.

A lifelong native of Middle Tennessee, he still lives there today with his wife
and two children.

My Review:

An old house with a sordid history that you can get as the best deal EVER?  NO THANK YOU.  Why do people continue to move into these houses that are in the middle of nowhere, especially knowing about all the death and despair that surrounds it?

Ok, ok.. I know people sometimes LIVE for these kinds of things.  And there's a certain appeal to living away from the swarms of people in the city.  But when strange things start to happen... um, GTFO! Haha.

What starts out as a standard creepy haunted house type of read, turns into a twisty family conclusion.  While very intrigued with the storyline and spooky feel, it lost some of the spook during the last half of the story.  I'm not quite sure what I think about the ending and how it all came together but I am sure that I was enjoying the feel.  The voices of the characters tended to get lost a little bit through the pages in my opinion and Alice felt much older than her age. (But I know some kids actually are like this).

I think I expected more creep factor from this, which waned from beginning to end.  However, it definitely gives you that tingly gothic vibe and certainly is keeping me a city girl.


Thursday, September 19, 2019

REVIEW: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens #deliaowens @putnambooks #bookclub

Where the Crawdads Sing 
by Delia Owens

Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publish Date: August 14, 2018
370 Pages
Genres: Mystery, Historical Fiction

A novel about a young woman determined to make her way in the wilds of North Carolina, and the two men that will break her isolation open.

For years, rumors of the "Marsh Girl" have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. She's barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark.

But Kya is not what they say. Abandoned at age ten, she has survived on her own in the marsh that she calls home. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life lessons from the land, learning from the false signals of fireflies the real way of this world. But while she could have lived in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world--until the unthinkable happens.

My Review:

OH my poor heart.  I knew within the first 50 pages that I was going to absolutely love this story.  While it's not my usual type of read, this one vastly reminded me of Where the Red Fern Grows (my favorite book ever) in the vein of country, history, the hard work of a child and seeing them through their toughest times.  But unlike WTRFG, this one spans Kya's entire life time and just WOW.  When a member of my bookclub suggested this for our read this month I was DELIGHTED.

In discussions with people who had already read this book, I found that some readers didn't like the cadence/speech and found it jarring.  I personally enjoyed it and didn't think it was too much - it lent a feeling of more authenticity to my experience.  The base of the novel, in the prejudicing, not only with race during this time period, but with just someone different, is something that unfortunately will resonate with any era.  Why is it that we are so afraid of what we don't know?

I found the pacing of this read to be beautiful and well done.  Not a word wasted and while I could've done without the poems - at the end, I found that they were necessary as well.  The last couple of chapters I read with a chill through my skin and my hand placed over my heart.  It has probably been since I was a child with my favorite book that I felt so connected - or so emotional. 

What else can I say really? If you haven't read this book, I implore you to do so. And please, marry the Tates of this world and forget the Chase. *wink*


Wednesday, September 18, 2019

#ATBR2019 Review: Frightfully Ever After by Nick DeWolf @Nick_DeWolf @jessmapreviews

Frightfully Ever After
by Nick DeWolf

Thanks so much to the author for these copies!

Publisher: Vintage City Publishing
Publish Date: December 26, 2017
Kindle Edition
251 Pages
Genre: Fantasy

"Do you know what the difference is between a fairy godmother and a witch?"


"Not a goddamn thing."

Fairies and dragons are real, and live alongside giants, goblins and trolls. Fairy godmothers exist. The woodsman, that one from the story books? Yeah, he’s real too. They’re all out there, living in the world, right under your nose.

But they’re not alone. There’s another side to the coin. Witches are real. Monsters are real. Things that slither through shadows and bite at your skin are real.

The big bad wolf is very real.

And poor Anastasia – she was born with magical royal blood. She should have been a princess, but grew up under the thumb of a vicious crime boss. She’s lived a life of pain, fear, and violence. In a desperate attempt to get away, she will find herself surrounded by all those things she thought never existed.

Good, bad, and evil.

FRIGHTFULLY EVER AFTER is a slow burn urban fantasy with guns, horror, sex, and monsters. People get hurt. People get killed. People get eaten. And only the toughest get to live Happily Ever After.

My Review:

I have always loved fairy tales.  Usually these are the first stories we learn as children.  As I've grown older, the darker they are, the more I like them.  After all, the real Grimm stories are pretty dang dark! Enter Anastasis and her fairy godmothers, Mary and Gayl.  

This is a bit of a modern day, gang related, fairy tale that gets darker as you read it.  However, there is a ton of humor thrown in for levity and you can tell the author has to be fun to be around.  The banter back and forth between Mary and Gayl are probably my favorite parts.  At certain times, they actually remind me of the Grey Sister (but they don't need to share an eye).

I enjoyed the background brought to us with how Mary and Gayl got to where they are and love that not all intentions are pure.  While I used to want a fairy godmother as a little girl, I think this book has persuaded me that maybe it isn't such a great idea. Haha. 

Honestly, I could've done without the sex scenes though relating orgasms to bringing someone to their zenith is certainly a new catch phrase for me and one I won't forget, that's for sure!  Descriptions were overdone and unnecessary here and there - something about bangs hanging like an antique picture frame?  I did, however, giggle at some of these kinds of descriptives because they were something I'd never read before... but I also liked some at the same time. 

As a whole, this book was highly entertaining and I found myself having a good time following Anastasia on her crazy adventures.  I didn't like her as a character because wow, she didn't seem to appreciate a damn thing!  Luckily, I like to hate on characters. ;)  Language, Dearie. ;)


Jessica's Review:

I've said it many times before, and I'll continue to say it, I love the fairy tale stories with a twist. I mean, when you get older that's when you realized the Grimm Fairy Tales were exactly that, grim and dark and nothing like the ones we grew up hearing (happily ever after isn't always a thing). FRIGHTFULLY EVER AFTER by Nick DeWolf definitely adds in the blood, horror, sex, and plenty of darkness to this fantasy world.

Anastasia and her fairy godmothers, Mary and Gayl are the center of our story. The banter and dynamic between the fairy godmothers reminded me a little bit of the three from Sleeping Beauty. Obviously in this tale things were much darker and their intentions aren't always the purest (I mean, that would ruin the fun, right?). Anastasia is trying to escape her life under a crime boss and once she gets away, she begins to realize all the evil things you thought were only in stories, are actually very real and very dangerous.

Despite the horror feel, the author does include some good dark humor throughout the book. Bring in some funny moments to break up the dark. I will tell you now, there are some very detailed and descriptive sex scenes in the book. I could have done with less of these, but that's just me. Overall, this was a fun adventure read with some memorable characters. If you like the more evil fairy tales then this will definitely be one you want to pick up.

3.5 stars 

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Blog Tour & Review: The Stranger Inside by Lisa Unger @jessmapreviews #ATBR2019

The Stranger Inside 
by Lisa Unger

Happy Publishing Day!

Publisher: Park Row Books
Publish Date: September 17, 2019
384 Pages
Genres: Thriller, Suspense

Even good people are drawn to do evil things…

Twelve-year-old Rain Winter narrowly escaped an abduction while walking to a friend’s house. Her two best friends, Tess and Hank, were not as lucky. Tess never came home, and Hank was held in captivity before managing to escape. Their abductor was sent to prison but years later was released. Then someone delivered real justice—and killed him in cold blood.

Now Rain is living the perfect suburban life, her dark childhood buried deep. She spends her days as a stay-at-home mom, having put aside her career as a hard-hitting journalist to care for her infant daughter. But when another brutal murderer who escaped justice is found dead, Rain is unexpectedly drawn into the case. Eerie similarities to the murder of her friends’ abductor force Rain to revisit memories she’s worked hard to leave behind. Is there a vigilante at work? Who is the next target? Why can’t Rain just let it go?

Introducing one of the most compelling and original killers in crime fiction today, Lisa Unger takes readers deep inside the minds of both perpetrator and victim, blurring the lines between right and wrong, crime and justice, and showing that sometimes people deserve what comes to them. 

My Review:

I am definitely a big fan of Unger and have found that her books have always ranged from 3-5 stars for me. My favorite being The Red Hunter so far. Unfortunately The Stranger Inside didn't quite work for me as her other books have.

I loved the opening and was really intrigued for the first 70 pages or so and then I felt my interest start to wane as I continued on. I felt some things got a bit repetitive and the voice within the voice was a bit jarring at times as for some reason I just couldn't wrap my head around the inconsistent consistency of it - if that makes ANY sense.

I appreciate what the author was trying to do and I love the feel of how certain things really affected these characters as children and how they've reacted separately as they've gotten older. The relationship between the main character and her husband (husband of the year y'all), the psychology of everything. All of these things I love. Somehow though, it just didn't keep me engaged. Maybe it was my mood. Maybe it was the book? I dunno.

What I do know is that I do love her writing style. I appreciate where her stories take us as readers and I adore these crazy stories she comes up with. I absolutely look forward to her next work and would definitely recommend her to thriller lovers. 


Jessica's Review:

This is my third book by Lisa Unger, the others having been THE RED HUNTER and UNDER MY SKIN. I love the consistency Unger has when it comes to pulling you in from the beginning. THE STRANGER INSIDE had my attention immediately! The author really knows how to set up a story and give the readers one hell of a ride. I enjoy her writing style and how she creates the characters and weaves everything together for us. 

This is one that's difficult to talk about without spoiling things. I think the synopsis gives the right amount of information you need before starting. I completely agree with other reviewers comparing some parts to Dexter - I mean, horrible killers are released from prison and they're getting murdered? Definite Dexter vibes. There were some good twists throughout, I know some avid thriller fans will probably see some coming, but it won't take away from the reading experience!

My main drawback with this one was that there was a lull for me. It felt like the book had some repetition that could have been eliminated to tighten things up in the story. That could definitely be a me thing, because I know there are tons of other reviewers out there that disagree. Don't get me wrong, I was captivated from start to finish, but it didn't have that binge read feeling for me. No matter what, I still enjoyed the book and will continue to pick up more from Unger in the future!

3 stars

Friday, September 13, 2019

BLOG TOUR & Review: A Girl Named Anna by Lizzy Barber @harlequinbooks @jessmapreviews #atbr2019

A Girl Named Anna 
by Lizzy Barber

Publisher: MIRA
Publish Date: September 3, 2019
336 Pages
Genre: Psychological Suspense

If your whole life is a lie, who can you trust?

Raised in a quiet rural community, Anna has always been taught that her Mamma's rules are the only path to follow. But, on her eighteenth birthday, she defies her Mamma for the first time in her life, and goes to Astroland. She’s never been allowed to visit Florida’s biggest theme park, so why, when she arrives, does everything about it seem so familiar? And is there a connection to the mysterious letter she receives that same day—a letter addressing her by a different name?

Rosie has grown up in the shadow of the missing sister she barely remembers, her family fractured by years of searching without leads. Now, on the fifteenth anniversary of her sister’s disappearance, the media circus resumes as the funds dedicated to the search dry up, and Rosie vows to uncover the truth herself. But can she find the answer before it tears her family apart?

My Review:

If you like psychological suspense, then this debut novel by Lizzy Barber is the book for you.  I rarely reread the synopsis before I got into a new read - I figure if I have it, there was some reason I wanted it so I just go in blind.  For some reason, I decided to reread the synopsis on this one (I think because I have about 3 different books on my TBR with the name Anna in the title) and I'm glad that I did because knowing this is suspense fiction definitely made a difference rather than expecting the typical faster paced thriller.

From the synopsis we pretty much see we are going to be getting Rosie and Anna's stories and the chapters vary back and forth between their POVs.  You already know where the book is going, it's the journey to why these things have happened that will keep you riveted.  

Admittedly, this book burns slooooowly. It wasn't until around the halfway point that I was feeling slightly hooked.  It's pretty obvious where this book is going but I have to say - Barber does a fantastic job in really making you feel for these girls.  Rosie, who is always in the shadow of her sister Emily, who has been missing for 15 years.  Anna, whose mother is overly protective, is extremely sheltered and has a weird feeling about her past, something her mother hates to talk about. A plot line gets in, which is similar to ones we've seen before (you'll have to read this to know what I'm talking about), but it is always one that fascinates me.

Ultimately, as an avid suspense/thriller reader, there's nothing really new here.  HOWEVER, Barber writes exceptionally well and I applaud how well she pulled these all together and I did feel my heart strings pulled a few times at that ending.


Jessica's Review:

I really enjoyed this story and the premise, I just think this book fell victim to being mismarketed. When you go into a book expecting a thriller and it turns out to be a slower burn suspense, then that kind of takes away from the reading experience. That doesn’t mean that the writing wasn’t great and that the story wasn’t intriguing! I was expecting more of the sinister cult elements, but we don’t get into that until closer to the end. As a warning, there is some content that involves abuse.

Make sure to go into this book knowing its more of a mystery at its core than it is a thriller. If I had anticipated a slower burn then I feel like I would have enjoyed it more, but in this case it felt like it was dragging in some places. We alternate between the perspectives of Rosie and Anna – two girls that are somehow connected despite being thousands of miles apart. How will their stories converge?

I thought the characters were well-developed and you really got a feel for the girls and the lives that they lead. One living in the shadow of her long-missing sister and the other sheltered by her religiously fanatic mother. I always love the alternating perspectives in mystery novels, but I think this kind of gave away some of the suspense and the reveal.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this to those looking for a slower burn mystery. It was a binge-worthy read and while you’ll probably see the twist coming, it was still very enjoyable! I will be keeping my eyes peeled for more from Baker in the future.

3 stars