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July 8, 2017

Terrific Romantic Suspense: Broken Bits by Kel O'Connor

by Donna Huber



Are you looking for a bit more intensity in your summer reading, but still want to the wonderful fun of a typical beach read? Then you will want to pick up Broken Bits by Kel O'Connor.

Amazon affiliate links are used in this post. A free ebook was provided for an honest review.


cover of Broken Bits by Kel O'Conner
September 2016; Kel O'Connor Books
978-0692772089; ebook, print (300 pages)
romantic suspense
I liked how the book sounded when the review pitch came in, but I didn't know how much I would end up loving. I loved the main characters of Kit and Mick. We get to know them pretty well while they hike 2 days out of the North Carolina mountains.

Kit has been in the mountains to try to gain some perspective and direction after her world was turned upside down by her mother embezzling money from the family charity. Mick is dropped out of a blacked out helicopter unconscious. Turns out Mick work for a secret agency and while civilization usually means safety, Kit and Mick possibly in even more danger once they reach the trailhead.

Broken Bits is one of the better romantic thrillers I've read in a while. As I'm more of a thriller reader than a romance reader, I would have liked a little more plot, more focus on what Mick is doing. I could have done without so much sex, especially since I felt that the sex scenes were put in there at the expense of plot.

While the danger made the story more intense it was still a fun romantic story, great for summer escapism reading. I read the book in two days and I'm looking forward to more books in the DAG Team series.

Buy Broken Bits at Amazon

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.



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July 7, 2017

Education vs. Entertainment: The Power of Fiction

by Chris



While most of us are preparing for the summer, making vacation plans and finishing off the leftover burgers and potato salad from this week’s barbecue, there are some of us who find it a little more difficult to enjoy the sun, warm weather and beaches. Not for lack of trying, you understand, but sometimes it’s hard to see the sun for the clouds.

I, like millions around the world, suffer from a mental illness. For me it’s a kind of depressive bipolar, which means I go through extended periods of severe depression, alternating with periods of happy, lightened moods.

I’m happy right now, which is a good thing, but that’s besides the point.

The point is, there are a lot of things going on in people’s lives, in their minds and in their spirits, and often the rest of the world seems to go on, oblivious. I can’t really blame anyone for this—it’s hard to pay attention to what you don’t know is there—but sometimes you can’t help wonder if there was a way to waker people up, get them to notice, and maybe, just maybe, help out.

Now, I speak specifically about mental illness because it’s something I’m familiar with, but the same could be said of poverty, sexuality, or racism. There are a lot of things wrong in the world, and it’s easy—in fact, desirable, most of the time—to turn a blind eye to it. It makes life a lot easier if you pretend problems don’t exist.

And human nature only has so much capacity for kindness; even with the most open of hearts, one person can only pay attention to so many things before they are overwhelmed, and shut down themselves.

But while one can’t reasonably expect people to care about everything equally, just like we can’t donate to every charity in the world, it is possible to ask that they open their eyes for a moment, let in the light (or darkness, as the case may be), and see if something sticks. Because knowledge is power, and education is the bringer of knowledge.

This is where things get a little fuzzy, though. Most adults, sadly, resent education; perhaps they have bad memories of school, or don’t want to feel inferior for not knowing something, but it’s very difficult to get an otherwise rational human being to change their mind or consider something from an outside perspective. But adults love entertainment. They love to be distracted, taken away from the mundane of the everyday, and spirited off to a fantasy world of ghosts and goblins, or even hitwomen and spies.

And there is a place here, in entertainment, to silently and subtly educate. It’s an interesting concept, because most people don’t tend to think of education and entertainment as compatible. Learning isn’t supposed to be fun, we’re taught from an early age; learning is boring, cramming for tests, and subsequently forgetting most of what we learned anyway.

But when something under the guise of entertainment reaches a deeper part of our soul, touches our heart and brings out tears or laughter, there’s a good chance that something will stick.

Alison wrote a few months ago about reading Thirteen Reasons Why with her daughter. I’ve written about it before, myself. It’s a book that has some teaching moments, certainly: educating people about suicide, bullying and the traumas that young people go through is vitally important, especially for parents. Yet it’s been heavily criticized for not delving into the psychology behind suicide, and the mental depression that invariably goes along with it.

Sometimes a book doesn’t have to be about a topic to have a learning moment; in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which is as much about childhood trauma as adolescence, there a significant homosexual relationship which is mainly accepted by the protagonist, though the book doesn’t strictly center around it. Yet there is a potential for a reader to question their own priorities, and reflect on the abuse they may have witnessed and never acted on themselves.

Ultimately, it becomes a question of why we write fiction at all. Is it for entertainment? Is it for education? Does every story need to have a learning point, or would that be too similar to an agenda?

Perhaps it can be a bit of all of that. While a Michael Crichton or Tom Clancy thriller might not have much to teach us in the ways humanity, it doesn’t necessarily make them any less valid as entertainment. And if Thirteen Reasons Why is meant to teach about social bullying and suicide, it doesn’t prevent it from being a thrilling recreation.

Undoubtedly, some people will walk away from these books without learning a thing. They will read it to distract, and to experience the emotions and feelings that come with powerful writing and difficult subjects, but they may not move on to act on it in any way. Some people might keep a wider eye out for something they had previously been oblivious to: I remember reading Her by Christa Parravani, and to this day I’m—perhaps subtly—more aware of the hidden sexual traumas that women must face every day.

And sometimes a book might just be powerful enough to cause a few people, or even one person, to change their mindset, the way they think, or even the way they behave. They might look at their coworker, their spouse or their children in a new light, and appreciate them just a little more than before. And herein lies the power of fiction: stories have the potential to change the world, one person at a time.

What is something you remember learning from a book, or a film? What’s the most impactful lesson that’s stayed with you, ever since?

Raised between the soaring peaks of the Swiss Alps and the dark industrialism of northern England, beauty and darkness have been twin influences on Chris's creativity since his youth. Throughout his life he has expressed this through music, art, and literature, delving deep into the darkest parts of human nature, and finding the elegance therein. These themes are central to his current literary project, The Redemption of Erâth. A dark epic fantasy, it is a tale of the bitter struggle against darkness and despair, and an acknowledgment that there are some things the mind cannot overcome. Written from a depth of personal experience, Chris' words are touching and powerful, the hallmark of someone who has walked alone through the night, and welcomes the final darkness of the soul. However, for now, he lives in New Jersey with his wife and eleven-year-old son. You can also find him at http://satiswrites.com.

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July 6, 2017

An Amazing Debut: The Witchfinder's Sister by Beth Underdown

by MK French

Matthew Hopkins is known in history as the Witchfinder General, as he had gone throughout Essex County hunting witches. His sister Alice returns home after five years in London and finds him different from the boy she remembers, harsher and colder, capable of cruelties in his search for witches. She loves him and fears him, and tries to find out the source of the coldness in him. At the same time, she's left in a precarious position as a widow without means, and the family history that she uncovers is not one that Matthew wants to hear.

Amazon affiliate links are used in this post. A free book was provided for an honest review.

The Witchfinder's Sister
April 2017; Ballantine Books; 978-0399179143
ebook, audio, print (336 pages)
historical, supernatural, thriller
Alice's hardships as a woman in 1640's England can be difficult to read at times. She's beholden to her younger brother, caught up in tangled emotions and memories, and is determined to do the right thing no matter what. It's difficult in the face of such superstition, hatred and poor understanding of mental illnesses.

The descriptions of the Hopkins family as well as the villagers point to anxiety, depression and psychosis, which were all believed to be the work of demons or witches at the time. In their ignorance and political/religious zeal (essentially one and the same at that time period), it became a firestorm of suspicion and doubt, where the helpless and poor widows of the county suffered.

Alice isn't left with many choices, and she doesn't interact with many of the accused witches. This leaves the book with a somewhat limited viewpoint, because Alice doesn't know much about what else is happening in the county or with the English Civil War, even though it was mentioned in the beginning. That gives the story a claustrophobic feel, intentional or not, mirroring the fact that Alice is writing the story while trapped in an attic room.

This is an amazing first novel, and I'm sure anything else that Beth Underdown writes will be just as wonderful to read.

Buy The Witchfinder's Sister at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

Get even more book news in your inbox, sign up today!. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

July 5, 2017

The Mango Orchard by Robin Bayley

by Donna Huber


The Mango Orchard is one man's journey to connect with the history of his family and along the way discovers more about himself and the man he never knew.

Amazon affiliate links are used in this post. A free book was provided for an honest review.


June 2012; Arrow Books; 9781848092242
ebook, print (303 pages); non-fiction
Now that my review copies are better organized I'm making a real effort to whittle it down. I recently pulled The Mango Orchard by Robin Bayley off the shelf. I was sent a copy by the publicist a few years back and at the time I couldn't get into, but this time I barely could put it down.

Perhaps it was because I had just finished East of Eden and The Mango Orchard is also about a family's journey. Perhaps it's because it's summer and the descriptions of Bayley's travel experience are so vivid that I felt like I was on the trip with him. Maybe it was just the perfect timing for me to read and love the story.

I've never particularly cared if I traveled to South America. I have friends in Argentina and I almost took a cruise that stopped in Belize so I wouldn't say no to a trip down south. Some of the descriptions made me want to go more (like his time in Guatemala) and others made me never want to step foot near there (such as the close call with paramilitary men). But the story had me eager to join Bayley on his journey.

Bayley set out to retrace his great-grandfather's journey from England to Mexico. The genealogy research and family stories were intriguing and made me feel like I was learning about my own family or at least family of friends. Layered with the discoveries Bayley made about his great-grandfather are the self-discoveries about who he is. Before Bayley set out on this trip, he had been laid off his job so there is a bit of aimless wandering as he learns about his family and decides what is next for him personally.

There are some pictures inserted in the middle of the book of his family and his travels. I wish the pictures had come later as they revealed a major secret, one that I was suspecting but I would have liked for the story to have revealed it rather than the pictures.

I haven't read much in the way of travel writing but as far as storytelling goes, Bayley has a knack for pulling the reader in and making them feel a part of the story rather than just a reader on the sidelines. If you can't travel this summer then you should definitely read The Mango Orchard.

Buy The Mango Orchard at Amazon

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.


Get even more book news in your inbox, sign up today! Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

July 4, 2017

Two Historical Stories Reveal Great Tragedies

by MK French



One of the things about reading historical stories is that things that may have been covered up or hidden while the event unfolded are now revealed. The human factor that was often forgotten now can have their full story told. Today, we have two historical stories, one is non-fiction and the other fictional, but both shed light on great tragedies of their time.

Amazon affiliate links are used in this post. Free books were provided for honest reviews.

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

The Radium Girls
April 2017; Sourcebooks; 978-1492649359
ebook, print (496 pages); historical non-fiction
When Marie Curie discovered radium, it was hailed as a miracle cure. Most of its properties weren't even well known, but it could be added in minute amounts to paint and make it luminous, which was then used for watch dials and military consoles. Young girls were employed in factories prior, during and after World War I painting the dials. The favored technique was to shape the brush, dip it in the bowl of paint, then paint the dials. At the time, it wasn't known what this could do to the girls, and as information gathered about the effects of radium paints, the companies involved actively hid it and lied to the girls.

Kate Moore did extensive research into the work records, health records, and court transcripts. She interviewed surviving family members, went to their hometowns, walked the paths that the ladies took. This kind of research shows, because the story unfolds and seems almost effortless while reading. The ladies in the workshops come to life and are slowly, painfully, suffering from the effects of radiation poisoning. All of the workplace regulations that we have now are because of their efforts to take the companies to task. The horrible pains, losses, and illnesses suffered are outlined, and it really brings home the difference a hundred years of knowledge can make. These ladies struggled to find justice and finally won that battle in court.

Some sections seem to flow more like a play, and Ms. Moore's background in the theater is evident here. She obviously cares about this topic and the ladies she researched, and you learn a lot about all of the ladies and their families in this era. This is a hard read in places because of that, and I had to continually remind myself that we now have laws and regulations in place because of these very abuses of power. Still, I couldn't help but think about the ladies and the effort involved long after I finished the book.

Buy The Radium Girls at Amazon


Hooper's War by Peter van Buren

Hooper's War
May 2017; Luminis Books; 978-1941311127
ebook, print (256 pages); historical fiction
Nate Hooper fought in Japan in World War II, fighting on the ground and following the orders of his superiors. Along the way, he lost fellow combatants and his innocence, though superiors don't care much about the loss of spirit and hope. They care about orders followed, Japanese opponents fought, and painting a heroic picture for those left behind in the United States.

The story is told in reverse chronology; it opens in 2017 with Nate returning to Japan, then we go backward in sections to see the events referenced, interspersed with Nate's musings in 2017, First, we see the battle at Kyoto, then the "daring escape" his superiors talked about and changed the nature of in reports, the train station attack, the fields, etc. We keep going further and further back, seeing the origin of his disillusionment. Death is never pretty, but he sees it in various kinds of ways. It's vividly described, and brings home the horror of war on soldiers. We also get scenes from the perspective of Sergeant Eichi Nakagawa, and the horrors are the same for Japanese soldiers.

"...the opposite of fear out there isn't safety, it's love. And you do insane things for those you love, including die for them." (page 102)

War, as seen on the ground, is one that carves out humanity in pieces. Battles aren't grandiose, and the losses are glossed over for the media back home. It's an entirely different world, one where the casual cruelties are rewarded. Saving lives is actually punished if that goes against orders, further lessening the hope in the field.

"War isn’t a place that makes men better. Flawed men turn bad, then bad men turn evil. So the darkest secret of my war wasn’t the visceral knowledge that people can be filthy and horrible. It was the visceral knowledge that I could be filthy and horrible." (page 115)

The end of the book feels melancholy, and Van Buren adds commentary to explain the historical significance of the events he chose to portray in the novel. This is definitely a book that will haunt you long after you put it down.

Buy Hooper's War at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

Get even more book news in your inbox, sign up today!. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

July 3, 2017

Pure Escapism: The One That Got Away by Leigh Himes #MondayBlogs

by Susan Roberts

The One That Got Away
June 201; Hachette Books; 978-0316305709
ebook, audio, print (384 pages); women's fiction
Abbey Lahay is an overworked mother who feels like she is lacking in every area of her life. She struggles with her children, she and her husband fight about money, her house is a mess and her new boss at work is the person she hired as an intern. One day, to cheer herself up, she goes to Nordstrom and buys herself a designer handbag. When her husband finds out, he coldly demands that she return it immediately. While on the escalator at Nordstrom, she has a freak accident, hits her head and when she wakes up, she is married to Alex van Holt - a man who had asked her out on a date years before she was married, a man who is rich and doesn't mind spending money on her. A man who appears to be totally different than her husband who pampers her and cares about her feelings. She is totally freaked out by the change in her life and can't decide how to handle it.

Amazon affiliate links are used in this post. A free book was provided for an honest review.

Abbey is a great main character who is desperate to get a break in her life. She feels like money would solve all of her problems but soon learns that money doesn't equal happiness and love.

Even though this was a really light read and one that you had to just take a face value and not look for the flaws in the lifestyle changes in Abbey's life, I enjoyed reading it. It's a perfect book to take to the beach or the pool and read while you soak up the sun  This is pure escapism at it's best.

Buy The One That Got Away at Amazon


About the Book

Meet Abbey Lahey . . .

Overworked mom. Underappreciated publicist. Frazzled wife of an out-of-work landscaper. A woman desperately in need of a vacation from life--and who is about to get one, thanks to an unexpected tumble down a Nordstrom escalator.

Meet Abbey van Holt . . .

The woman whose life Abbey suddenly finds herself inhabiting when she wakes up. Married to handsome congressional candidate Alex van Holt. Living in a lavish penthouse. Wearing ball gowns and being feted by the crème of Philadelphia society. Luxuriating in the kind of fourteen-karat lifestyle she's only read about in the pages of Town & Country.

The woman Abbey might have been . . . if she had said yes to a date with Alex van Holt all those years ago.

About the Author 

Author Leigh Himes has spent fourteen years working in the public relations field. Born and raised in Greensboro, North Carolina, she now lives just outside of Philadelphia with her husband and their two children. This is her first book.


Also available at Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound





Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling. She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their family and friends. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with her on Facebook.


Get even more book news in your inbox, sign up today!. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

July 2, 2017

Putting the Readers Back in Charge of Publishing

by Sarah White



Imagine a YA publishing process without gatekeepers. One where editors and agents read the manuscripts that readers love, not vice versa. One where anyone with a knack for writing, a passion to succeed, and a little flair for self-promotion, has a fair shot at being published.

Aamzon affiliate links are used in this post.

All too frequently, this isn’t the case. Books often get rejected for reasons beyond authors’ control. One editor turned down an ultimately successful book by saying, “The girl doesn't, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the 'curiosity' level.” The book in question? The Diary of Anne Frank. Furthermore, according to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, only about 10% of all YA books accepted for publication feature “multi-cultural content.” Clearly, there are some blind spots that need addressing in the publishing industry.

It’s with this vision in mind that Publishizer is launching its YA book proposal contest called Plot Without a Cause. Publishizer is a startup seeking to fill a hole in the publishing industry through crowdfunding. It works like this:

You write the book proposal. 

You know the book proposal I’m talking about. The one you’ve been daydreaming about for years. The one that just popped into your head last week and you haven’t stopped thinking about since. The one for the manuscript that’s been dearly loved by you but maybe not so much yet by the publishing industry. That one. Then you register (for free!) on Publishizer’s website and post your proposal in the Plot Without a Cause section (again—for free!).

Now, this is when you’ll have to start hustling.

Crowdfunding runs on pre-orders, so you had better start promoting that proposal. Reach out over social media, post on your blog, email your old roommates—whatever it takes to start building buzz. If you get the most preorders by the time the contest ends, you’ll win $1000 dollars. And if you don’t have the highest number of preorders, don’t worry—you’ll still be queried to major publishers who fit your proposal.

Previous Publishizer contest participants have gotten interest and landed deals with a variety of traditional publishing companies, including Harvard Square Books, She Writes Press, and Weiser. Publishizer takes a small commission on pre-orders when you choose a publisher at the end.

Every year, thousands of books are rejected by the publishing world for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the book—they’re too mainstream or not mainstream enough, too similar to books already being published or too different from books already being published. Or the literary agent just doesn’t stand to make much money on the deal so they pass on a perfectly good book! Imagine how many brilliant YA manuscripts go unpublished every year thanks to frustrating rejections. Imagine how many hugely talented authors quietly give up on their dreams, just because the gate to a traditional publishing path isn’t open to them.

With their new YA book proposal contest, Plot Without a Cause, Publishizer is seeking to level the playing field. Publishing decisions shouldn’t be based solely on a literary agent’s judgment or how many friends you have in the industry. They should be based on the quality of writing and how many readers the book attracts.

Great books get overlooked all the time, and this is an opportunity to show acquiring editors that yours is worth paying attention to. Not to mention the readership and funds you could gain in the process. Crowdfunding (or crowd-publishing, in this case) is growing in popularity and brings a personal touch back to book sales—for readers and publishers.  Are you in?



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