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Friday, November 15, 2019

REVIEW: She Died Famous by Kyle Rutkin @kmrutkin

She Died Famous
by Kyle Rutkin

Publisher: Greater Path LLC
Publish Date: July 30, 2019

328 Pages
Genre: Thriller

A gripping psychological thriller about iconic superstar, Kelly Trozzo, and her suspected killer, the author she commissioned to pen her shocking Hollywood memoir.

A Star is Born meets Gone Girl, in this dark and twisted love story with an unforgettable conclusion.

The headline read: “Hollywood Superstar Kelly Trozzo Found Dead.”

With no suspect in custody, authorities turn their attention to best-selling author Kaleb Reed, whose obsessive relationship with the star has been followed by social media and tabloids alike.

In his online confession, Reed claims that his relationship with Trozzo began with a tweet, an unexpected endorsement from the pop star herself. Almost overnight, Reed’s novel garners national attention, and the reclusive writer is thrust into the spotlight. But according to Reed, the endorsement came with a price.

In the days that follow, Reed is invited to Trozzo’s Los Angeles mansion, where he is solicited to write her memoir. Lured by her physical appeal and charisma, Reed delves further and further into Trozzo’s fantasy world, ensnared by a twisted story of betrayal and vengeance.

On the night of Trozzo’s death, Reed finally discovers his true role in this story, as well as the pop star’s alternative ending to his famous novel—one that leads to his arrest.

Set in Hollywood, She Died Famous is an innovative thriller that exposes the dark side of fame and obsession in today’s digital landscape. The story’s shocking twists and unreliable narrator will have every reader asking: Who killed Kelly Trozzo?

My Review:

I am legitimately torn in what I think on this read.  I liked the unique format in which this book was written.  We have Kaleb, the author, number one suspect in Kelly's murder, telling his side through blog posts.  Interviews and press releases for the rest.  Is Kaleb insane?  Because the drugs are DEFINITELY getting the best of him so as a reader I was utterly confused on what was happening with him throughout the entire ride.  Kelly manipulates, but as a young star - who really are her friends and when she can get away with anything, why not GET AWAY WITH ANYTHING.  

There seemed to be a bit of repetition throughout the read and I felt I was going through the highs and lows of all the drug abuse along with these vapid characters. I will say that the repetitive nature did escalate showing how little by little they were getting in deeper - trying to find whatever it is that they were *really* focused on, while wearing their masks.  I'm also a bit confused with the ending.  And maybe that's the whole point.  A crazy journey culminating in a less than crystal clear finish?

I'm left wondering if I somehow got a contact buzz from Kaleb, Kelly and all her friends.  Something definitely seeped into my skin.  I'm equally impressed with this debut but also thinking maybe this might not be *quite* the read for me... yet, I can't exactly pinpoint exactly why.  

Suspense lovers should definitely give this book a whirl and fans of books like Night Film I think will appreciate the format.  


Thursday, November 14, 2019

REVIEW: Fitness Junkie by Lucy Sykes, Jo Piazza #bravethebacklist

Fitness Junkie 
by Lucy Sykes, Jo Piazza

Publisher: Doubleday
Publish Date: July 11, 2017
Kindle Edition
304 Pages
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Chick Lit

When Janey Sweet, CEO of a couture wedding dress company, is photographed in the front row of a fashion show eating a bruffin--the delicious lovechild of a brioche and a muffin--her best friend and business partner, Beau, gives her an ultimatum: Lose thirty pounds or lose your job. Sure, Janey has gained some weight since her divorce, and no, her beautifully cut trousers don't fit like they used to, so Janey throws herself headlong into the world of the fitness revolution, signing up for a shockingly expensive workout pass, baring it all for Free the Nipple yoga, sweating through boot camp classes run by Sri Lankan militants and spinning to the screams of a Lycra-clad instructor with rage issues. At a juice shop she meets Jacob, a cute young guy who takes her dumpster-diving outside Whole Foods on their first date. At a shaman's tea ceremony she meets Hugh, a silver fox who holds her hand through an ayahuasca hallucination And at a secret exercise studio Janey meets Sara Strong, the wildly popular workout guru whose special dance routine has starlets and wealthy women flocking to her for results that seem too good to be true. As Janey eschews delicious carbs, pays thousands of dollars to charlatans, and is harassed by her very own fitness bracelet, she can't help but wonder: Did she really need to lose weight in the first place? A hilarious send-up of the health and wellness industry, Fitness Junkie is a glorious romp through the absurd landscape of our weight-obsessed culture.

My Review:

Have you ever been a part of any fitness craze?  I learned after trying different things that I'm just not the kind of person who is going to find her inner light and that I need active, really physical classes to get me moving... it's where I take out all my pent up emotions.  Kickboxing is the perfect outlet.  And recently I found indoor rowing which is way better for my back.  But to meditate, ohm or let the universe decide my fate isn't the person I am.  I don't begrudge the person it DOES work for - everyone has their own path in life.  You do you.  I'll do me.  

It's satirical, it's satirical, it's satirical.  I kept this mantra in my head as I read it because if I didn't I think I would've dislocated an eye - that's how many time I kept rolling them as I was reading this damn book.  There are definitely some cute moments but mostly it felt like one big body shaming, cultish, anti-feminist read.  SATIRICAL.  I kept reading because Janey is a character I ended up quite liking a lot. She tries the new things and has this inner turmoil of is she/isn't she that I can relate to.  But so many times I just wanted to be like WAKE UP JANEY SWEET!  I had to find out how this was all going to end.   I knew the direction it was going to go in, but I had to finish out the adventure.  Unfortunately it just didn't work for me. 

Not my cup of green juice.  Nope.  NEXT!


Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Review: Anything For You by Saul Black @stmartinspress #saulblack @netgalley

Anything For You 
by Saul Black

Thank you NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for this copy!

Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publish Date: November 5, 2019
Kindle Edition
352 Pages
Series: Valerie Hart #3

On a hot summer night, a watchful neighbor locks eyes with an intruder and unwittingly alerts the police to a vicious crime scene next door: a lavish master bedroom where a man lies dead. Next to him, his wife is bleeding out onto the hardwood floor, clinging to life.
The victim, Adam Grant, was a well-known San Francisco prosecutor—a man whose connection to Homicide detective Valerie Hart brings her face-to-face with a life she’s long since left behind. Adam’s career made him an easy target, and forensic evidence points towards an ex-con he put behind bars years ago. But while Adam’s wife and daughter grapple with their tragic loss, Valerie uncovers devastating clues that point in a more ominous direction. Lurking in the shadows of the Grants’ pristine life is a mysterious blonde who holds the key to a very different—and much darker—story.
As Valerie struggles to forge a new path for herself, the investigation forces her to confront the question: can we ever really leave our pasts behind?
Sophisticated and stunning, Anything for You is an unforgettable thriller that will grip readers long after turning the last page.
My Review:
I read the first book in this series, The Killing Lessons back in 2015 and really loved it - I wish I had written actual reviews then so I could remember exactly WHY but I do remember thinking Black was an author to watch.  I somehow missed out on book 2 of this series but here I am with book 3 - Anything For You.  It took a while but as I continued reading, I started remembering Valerie and why I loved her so much in book one.
To be honest, I almost DNF'd this one around the 37% mark... but I'm so glad that I didn't.  I have a feeling a lot of readers are going to take issue with this book - it's graphic, sexual and a bit much at times.  Personally, it didn't bother me in the slightest but I'm my own special breed of person.  I could've done without the repetitive reminder that OMG, Valerie ALMOST slept with the victim.  I get it - I don't need this repeated over and over again. Nor do I think readers need to see that Valerie is always thinking about sex.  HOWEVER, this is just who she is.  A human person, a cop who has been through the gauntlet herself, became a sex addict, still found love and is now dealing with yet another change in her life.  As a matter of fact, all the women in this book have issues and it gets a bit insane.

Once we get into the background of the Grants, the book starts to soar.  I was captivated and disturbed and very curious about how it would all play out.  Especially as Valerie, while an excellent detective, follows the beat of her own drum most of the time. 

While I had some small issues with the book overall, I really enjoyed the grittiness and visceral journey Black took us on.  This is going to be a love/hate type of read - for those who actually finish it.  I can see the comments now.  For me, give me more Saul Black.


Saturday, November 9, 2019

Review: The Silhouette Girl by V.C. Andrews #vcandrews #bravethebacklist

The Silhouette Girl 
by V.C. Andrews

Thank you Gallery Books for this free copy!

Publisher: Gallery Books
Publish Date: January 29, 2019
360 Pages
Genre: Mystery

Pru Dunning has everything she ever wanted: a successful boyfriend, a thriving nursing career, and a truly comfortable life. But then the strange voice mails start, left by a woman named Scarletta.

She seems to know Pru, although Pru neither knows nor knew any Scarletta, nor does she recognize the glamorous voice leaving her poisonous messages.

Is this the work of jealous revenge from someone at the hospital? An old enemy she has forgotten about? Pru first tries to ignore these lewd, threatening messages, although she is shocked hearing details about her life that no stranger could possibly know, and anyone who heard them might suspect that she is something other than an innocent victim. Each unknown woman she encounters feels like a threat. She especially wants to keep this secret from her boyfriend. But when she suddenly becomes a person of interest in a murder case, she can keep her stalker and the things her stalker says secret no longer. And that could prove fatal! 

My Review:

As a HUGE V.C. Andrews fan, I am always delighted and happy to be all grabby hands on any book with her name on it.  Yes, she's not writing them anymore (though it wouldn't surprise me if she ever found a way to do it from the grave in pure crazy style).  I'm not sure anyone could live up to her writing and unfortunately her ghost writer (Niederman) is getting slammed left and right by reviewers.  It's a tough position to be in, so kudos to him for giving it a go and still churning out books that while might not be Andrews, is still a little twisty read.

Now, take away from the fact that this isn't Andrews (because yes people, we ALL KNOW THIS) and let's just talk about the book itself.  Without any comparisons and just taking it on its own... well, I wish there were more great things to say.  It's not a terrible read but nothing really happens until around the 100 page mark and then it doesn't really capture my interest until the last few chapters.  No, I didn't see it coming until it started being laid out a bit, but by the time it got there.... eep.  I feel bad that I didn't like this more.  I love the idea behind it and it's a quick read with big spacing and large font.  I also know that these types of books typically go all twisty sideways and that's what I was waiting for.  Unfortunately, by the time it got there, it didn't make up for the other 200+ pages that was supposed to be the build up.

Not gonna lie though, if the name V.C. Andrews is on the cover, I'm probably to very likely going to read it regardless.  And a couple bad apples don't make the entire bunch so I'm thinking there are some good sweet bites still out there and I'm willing to eat a few worms to get there.


Friday, November 8, 2019

Review: Hot Mess by Emily Belden @GraydonHouse @harlequinbooks #emilybelden #bravethebacklist

Hot Mess 
by Emily Belden

Publisher: Graydon House
Publish Date: March 20, 2018
412 Pages
Genres: Contemporary, Romance

Twenty-something Allie Simon never imagined she’d fall for a recovering drug addict—but that was before she met Benji Zane, Chicago’s hottest up-and-coming chef, who’s known as much for his hard partying ways as for his unparalleled culinary skills. Six months into their relationship, the food and chemistry are out of this world, but the reality of living with a cooking wunderkind hasn’t exactly been all hearts and flowers.

Still, Allie’s convinced that her love is the key to fixing this talented man’s broken soul—so when Benji is offered his dream job as chef de cuisine for a new restaurant opening on Randolph Street, Chicago’s foodie hot spot, Allie agrees to invest her life savings in his future. But less than a month after she goes all in, Allie learns a heartbreaking lesson: addicts lie. Benji cracks under the pressure, relapses and disappears, bagging out not only on the restaurant, but on her, too.

Left with nothing but a massive withdrawal slip and a restaurant that absolutely must open in a matter of weeks, Allie finds herself thrust into a world of luxury and greed, cutthroat business and sensory delight. Lost in the mess of it all, she can either crumble completely or fight like hell for the life she wants and the love she deserves.

My Review:

YES TO THIS BOOK! One, the title speaks to me because this basically sums up my life as a whole.  Two, as someone who has worked in the restaurant industry from hostess to server to bartender to bar manager to FOH manager, I related SO much to this and understood the jargon, the hard work and the industry as a whole.  Three, as someone who typically drowns herself in toxic relationships, I understood Allie's want to make something this dysfunctional just WORK.  Nothing wrong with believing in someone but sometimes you have to know when to say NO.

Allie is a realistic, fun and very human character.  The ups and downs, her relationship with her parents and her best friends - I get it girl... I get it! (Also, I'm going to try that trick with the whole chicken - WIN!)  Like with most rom-com type reads, again, we already know where this is probably going to go and how it's going to end.  What I really enjoyed was feeling like I was right there.  It just spoke to me on so many levels and felt all the more real because I've been in very similar situations.

Zane is the bad boy you can't help but want, but you know is NOT GOOD FOR YOU.  Jared is the man you've been waiting for but can't seem to quite pull the trigger on.  Every one needs an Angela in their life and if Here actually existed, I would totally fly to Chicago just to eat there... or Here.

I'm just a sucker these days for these cutesie romance novels. 


Thursday, November 7, 2019

Review: The Possession of Natalie Glasgow by Hailey Piper #nightwormsreviews @HaileyPiperSays

The Possession of Natalie Glasgow 
by Hailey Piper

Publish Date: October 2, 2018
Kindle Edition
66 Pages
Genre: Horror

Margaret Willow has never met an eleven-year-old as dangerous as Natalie Glasgow. Natalie spends her days comatose, but at night she prowls her mother’s home, unnaturally strong and insatiably carnivorous. With doctors baffled, Natalie’s mother reaches out to Margaret, an expert in the supernatural. But even Margaret is mystified and terrified by Natalie’s condition. She’s dying, and before she dies, she might kill someone. Has a demon clawed its way inside an eleven-year-old girl? Or does the source of this nightmare lie with Natalie’s dead father?

A tight, tense novella, THE POSSESSION OF NATALIE GLASGOW twists the exorcism tale at every turn down to its final grave confrontation.

My Review:

Finally a possession book I really liked!!! Don't get me wrong, I've read possession books and liked them but have found some a bit tedious or boring.  Don't ask me why. I have no answer for you.  But give me one in 66 pages that is unique in story telling and something different from the norm and you have my full attention.  

The only bad thing about novellas and short stories is sometimes the lack of character and potential story development.  However, I think that's what almost loses my interest at times in stories such as these.  Glasgow goes right into the creepy, gritty parts and I am here for every raw, sinewy piece of it. And to be quite honest, I absolutely love the *twist* to it and was rooting for Natalie AND what possesses her.  Weird? Probably. True? Absolutely.

One little thing, I wish there was a different cover for this read and if you read this story, I think you'll know why.  Overall this one does give you a little bit of that creep factor. I may be eating my meat a little less on the rare side for a few days after this and there is nothing creepier than a kid of whatever age skulking about giving you the dead eyes.  Definitely would recommend.


Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Review: F*ck Marriage by Tarryn Fisher @darkmarktarryn #bravethebacklist

F*ck Marriage 
by Tarryn Fisher

Publish Date: May 15, 2019
Kindle Edition
307 Pages
Genres: Romance, Contemporary

Two years ago, Billie Tarrow's husband left her for another woman. Shamed and divorced, Billie retreated to her family home in Port Townsend, far from her old life in New York. After a near-death encounter, Billie decides to return to the city that took everything from her.

But sometimes in the midst of heartache, hope suffocates the pain.

Satcher Gable has carried a torch for Billie for ten years. When she suddenly returns to New York a single woman, he can't believe his good fortune. But convincing her to walk away from her heartache is proving more difficult than Satcher anticipated. A changed woman, Billie's only goal is revenge.

My Review:

I don't know if I'm just a sucker for romance these days or if because I tend to read them fairly sparingly that they just kinda drop kick my heart.  Maybe it's because I pick amazing authors who don't put a lot of erotica in it but do put a lot of humor for levity that I thoroughly enjoy.  

After reading F*ck Love by Fisher, I knew I had to up F*ck Marriage up on my TBR list and here we are.  As always, these are fairly predictable but dangit - I do so enjoy how they get there.  This one went sideways in a couple of parts that I didn't see so that was also a nice surprise.

Relationships are hard.  Marrying someone when you're not entirely sure is hard.  Not marrying someone because you're not entirely sure is hard.  Walking away from a past that seems to still be a huge part of you is HARD.  I've been the person to call off the wedding.  I've been the person who has repeatedly gone back to the ex.  "Sometimes God brings an ex back into your life to see if you're still stupid."  Well, I'm almost always stupid.  Or big hearted? Or just prefer the known to the unknown? Who knows but Billie was certainly relatable on a thousand points and I adored her.

Her relationships with Woods and Satcher (these names though....) were fun to read about.  Every person in this felt extremely human and dangit - it makes me want that fairy tale.  Even though this ISN'T about the fairy tale - it rings true to a point of wanting that person who just loves you for you.  But how do you know who YOU really are? Aren't we all ever evolving?

ARGH. Ok - let me stop babbling.  There are definitely some issues with this book - there are way too many coincidences and things that spill together that make this world they're in (albeit NYC) extremely small.  I did kind of roll my eyes when once again here's another thing that seemed to be a bit too convenient for the sake of the story line.  BUT this is also what I pretty much expect from these types of reads - and also why I go back to them.  Like Billie, I like to know what I'm expecting.  I'm a bit unsure how I feel about seeing the different perspectives as it was unexpected and a bit of a slap.... buuuuuuut, I still couldn't help but feel all the feels.

Would this be a normal 4 star read had it been in a genre I typically read all the time? I don't honestly know.  What I do know is that regardless of any issues, I felt my heart strings pulled, I laughed at the comedic parts, I felt for Billie because I get her childish but human actions and reactions. So yeah, I liked it. There. 

I'm gonna go drink a lemon drop and I promise not to forget the ice.


Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Review: Savages by Greg F. Gifune

by Greg F. Gifune

Publisher: Sinister Grin Press
Publish Date: September 15, 2016
Kindle Edition
275 Pages
Genres: Horror, Supernatural

It began as a vacation to the Cook Islands. But when seven friends are lost in the South Pacific after their boat goes down in a storm, they must survive at sea for several days in a small raft. Blown miles off course from their original position, and deep into open waters, they eventually encounter a small uncharted island.

Grateful to be alive, they begin their quest for survival, hopeful they’ll be rescued sooner than later. But the island is not the paradise it appears to be. Instead, it is a place of horror, death, torture and evil, of terrible secrets thought long buried and forgotten.

And they are not alone.

Something guards those horrible secrets, something evil and relentlessly violent, an ancient horror born of rage and vengeance, a blood-crazed predator that lives to kill and will stop at nothing to protect the island from those intruding upon its dark legacy.

The savage is loose, and there is no escape.

My Review:

Well that escalated quickly! And I want more!

This was a fun little romp into the crash victims left on a deserted (or is it) island.  This quickly becomes something of a pumped up Lost: the know-it-all cock fighting for position with another male, the married couple and the bimbo girl (the skipper, too! *insert music*).  As we know from any read with this type of plot, things start to spiral as people grow a bit more insane with each passing day.  Throw in something killing them off and then BOOM - we have some tense, horrifically gorgeous bloody moments!

I needed just a tad more character development with this story.  Here's the thing - I love to hate characters and I pretty much didn't like any of them except for Quinn... and maybe Dallas, which I'm fine with but if you're going to give me survivors to savages, I need more on the characters.  I did enjoy some of the character arcs but mostly I felt a little wanting.  And there were a couple of things I wanted to know more of (but not from Herm or Gino for goodness sakes - though they seemed to know EVERYTHING with abundance).  I loved little inklings thrown in such as the magazine - but then... nothing. I felt like this was leading to some other kind of explanation that got lost in the blood and gore.

I will say though that whether it was the author's intention or not, I loved the back story of the island how it kind of paralleled the survivor's experiences albeit an unplanned experiment of its own. *wink*


Monday, November 4, 2019

Review: Paper Children by James Fahy @endeavour_media @j_r_fahy_tweets

Paper Children 
by James Fahy

Publisher: Endeavour Venture
Publish Date: October 11, 2019
Kindle Edition
502 Pages
Series: Phoebe Harkness #3
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror

My name is Phoebe Harkness.

When I’m not trying to cure the disease that killed the world, I’m roped into an unwilling role as ambassador between the humans of New Oxford, and the Genetic Others, all those things that go bump and grind in the night. I don’t get paid enough.

It’s been six months since the Duke of Sanctum, the infuriating vampire named Allesandro, upped and disappeared. Right in the middle of the Tribal crisis too. I’m still mad about it. But a new power rises at Sanctum, and the boy who would be king is bringing his carnival to our Halloween streets. A vampire pride march in a city fuelled by prejudice and intolerance: what could possibly go wrong?

Indeed, somebody, or something, clearly wants to cancel the festivities, and is picking off the vampires one at a time, and in messy ways. CSI hasn’t needed body bags, they’ve needed mops.

What kind of monster hunts monsters?

My Review:

Just when you thought it was safe to... do anything.. the weird just gets weirder! 

Have you started this series yet? If not, what are you waiting for? Full of Genetic Others, a missing hot AF vampire, the sassy Phoebe and the ultra snarky Cloves - we are back into this highly entertaining and hilariously giggle inducing novel.  Oh you don't think werewolves, bonewalkers, vampires and more aren't funny? Well you will.  And now there's something different in New Oxford - and right when Fangfest is about to come into full swing. What the actual fuck is happening in this city?!

I highly suggest you start with book one so you get a full on view of these fantastic and sarcastic characters.  I love that this book just takes off from book two.  Fahy does a fantastic job of weaving in bits to keep you updated without having to summarize the first two books.  It's fun to see how these characters are evolving and as with most horror/paranormal reads, there are deaths a plenty and a few surprises along the way.

But James.. really... with that one... did you have to and are you really? UFF, I hate that now it'll be a while before book 4 comes out to tell me what's going to happen next.  But isn't that the sign of a great read?  Highly entertaining and full of sarcasm and wittiness, this is one wild and fun ride. 


Friday, November 1, 2019

Audiobook Spotlight! Stripper by Tom Burns @3Mdetective

by Tom Burns

Come find out more about Tom Burns's Stripper - a Natalie McMasters Novel! 
Audiobook available NOW!

Natalie McMasters is a detective for the new millennium. She's twenty, short and blonde (OK, it’s bleached!), way cute, and a pre-law student at State. She's also straight, or at least she thinks so. To put herself through school, she's moonlighting as a private detective trainee at her uncle Amos Murdoch's 3M Detective Agency, where the most exciting thing she does is sit in a car. After she directly confronts a subject on a stakeout, Amos fires her for taking too many chances. Then she meets another student who bears an uncanny resemblance to her, and everything in her life changes. When her new best friend is brutally murdered and Amos is critically injured, Nattie immerses herself in the seamy world of web cams and strip clubs to hunt the killer. Her investigation forces her to reassess many of the ideas that she’s lived by her whole life and do things she’s never considered before – strip on a stage, question her sexuality, and rediscover the meaning of love itself. Nattie eventually exposes a drug ring, police corruption, and an assassin-for-hire online. Then she stumbles upon the true face of evil, and her encounter does not leave her unscathed…


As a kid, Tom started reading mysteries with the Hardy Boys, Ken Holt and Rick Brant, and graduated to the classic stories by authors such as A. Conan Doyle, John Dickson Carr, Erle Stanley Gardner and Rex Stout, to name a few. Tom has written fiction as a hobby all of his life, starting in marble-backed copybooks in grade school. He built a career as a writer doing technical writing, science writing and editing for nearly thirty years in industry and government. Now that he's truly on his own as a freelance science writer and editor, he's excited to publish his own mystery series as well.