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March 20, 2015

Review: The Land of Shadow by Lissa Bryan

by Donna Huber

The Land of Shadow
Justin put an arm around his wife's shoulders. "I told you she would by a perfect addition to our community."
Truthfully, he's never said anything of the type, but she'd known he was thinking it. Carly pushed her chair back. "Pearl, if you're going to stay - at least for a while until you see if it's what you're looking for - I'll take you to a house you can use."
Pearl opened her mouth to say something and Carly held up a hand. "Just for tonight. You don't have to decide right now if you're going to stay or not."
Pearl hesitated just a moment but nodded.
They stepped through the screen door out into the warm, humid night. Sam followed, his nails clicking on the sidewalk. His ears were erect, swiveling as he scanned the darkness for threats. Carly patted him to try to reassure him, but Sam was as paranoid as Justin these days.
"Let me ask you something," Pearl said. "Why do you want me to stay? I'm sure you don't have a shortage of people asking to come in."
Carly fell into an easy pave beside her. "We need good people. We don't need dependents. We need the dependable. We're trying to choose stones."
"To build a foundation." Carly looked up at the stars, peeping between the gathering cloud cover. "We want this community to last, so we need to choose good people to be the basis of it." page 56

The Review

If you haven't read book 1 The End of All Things (read my review) then I suggest proceeding with caution as this review will be a bit spoilerish.

The Land of Shadow picks up right where The End of All Things ended. As you can tell from the above excerpt from page 56, Carly and Justin are trying to establish a community. A community that they had practically wiped out by being carries of the Infection. But Carly dreams of re-establishing America, only making it better this time around. Justin is so smitten with Carly that he will do everything in his power to make her dream come true, though he doesn't believe that things can ever go back to the way they were.

If you read my review on Tuesday, you know how much I loved The End of All Things. I still loved Bryan's writing and storytelling, but I did not find this book as satisfying. It felt like it meandered a bit too much, like Bryan wasn't exactly sure what the plot was for this book. Perhaps it is because it was written to be a stand alone novel. But I think the story could have been tighter had she either focused on the community being built and the internal conflict that is inherit to birthing a community. Or focused on the the external factors that are threatening their community. I would have preferred the former.

Even with the "where is this book going" feeling, I still enjoyed it because I really liked the characters. Unlike the first book where it was mostly just Carly and Justin with the occasional encounters with individuals or small groups, The Land of Shadow has a number of characters living in a small fortified community. And I enjoyed the varied personalities and fully formed characters.

I did feel that parts of the story was missing. Such as how did they find the preacher and his wife? We learned in The End of All Things that they had found the fortified community before Carly and Justin arrived and had been turned away.

As a book as part of a series, it is well worth the read. It is also a quick read. I'm not sure if I would have picked it up had I already not been acquainted with Carly and Justin I would have picked up The Land of Shadow. As there is still a bit of a wait until the next book comes out then I recommend picking it up along with The End of All Things so that you will be ready for the release of Shadows Have Gone next week.

Buy The Land of Shadow at Amazon

Book info:
available formats: ebook and print (216 pages)
published: August 2014 by The Writer's Coffee Shop Publishing House
ISBN13: 9781612132648
genres: romance, post-apocalyptic
target audience: adult
source: Netgalley
read: March 2015 

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the above link. A free ebook was provided for this review.

March 19, 2015

New Faces on Girl Who Reads

by Donna Huber

Girl Who Reads has expanded again. That is great news for you as you will get more book reviews and news and not have to "hear" constantly from me! Girl Who Reads welcomes 3 new features writers and a new reviewer.

You have already met two of the new features writers, Chris and Ross. Yes, that's right Girl Who Reads has added two guys to the team. You will meet Kathleen next week, but here's a little more about all three of them.

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' 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 ErĂ¢th. A dark epic fantasy, it is a tale of the bitter struggle against darkness and despair, and an acknowledgement 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

Ross M Kitson
Ross is a doctor, occasional blogger, full time geek, and sporadic author of fantasy and YA sci-fi. Connect with Ross on Twitter.

Kathleen Barker
Kathleen was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. A graduate of Blessed Sacrament, the Institute of Notre Dame and Towson University, she spent twenty years as the much-traveled wife of a Navy pilot and has three children. While working for a Fortune 500 insurance company in New Orleans, she wrote feature and human interest articles for their magazine and received the Field Reporter of the Year award. After Hurricane Katrina, she returned to her beloved state of Maryland where she started work on "The Charm City Chronicles". All four volumes, "Ednor Scardens", "The Body War", "The Hurting Year", and "On Gabriel's Wings" are available in Amazon's Kindle store.

Chris's column will appear the first Friday of every month, Alison will continue on the second Wednesday, and Ross and Kathleen will alternate the fourth Wednesday. Heather will continue to introduce you to authors with her interviews on the third Mondays.

Joining Claire and me with handling reviews is Elisabeth. She's already working on her first reviews so you will read her posts soon. But here's a little about her.

Elisabeth Scherer
Elisabeth grew up in a very small town in Minnesota but now lives in the lovely Pacific Northwest where she spends most of her time raising her two young children. She and her husband have a large collection of books that takes a good space of their small condo. When she's not reading she has a variety of hobbies that include crocheting, drawing, baking, cooking, and movie watching. She is currently training to run her first half marathon later this year! You can also find her blogging at

I hope you will welcome them and enjoy reading their posts.

March 18, 2015

Q&A with B.J. Daniels (@bjdanielsauthor) author of WILD HORSES

Wild Horses
WILD HORSES is part of your Beartooth, Montana series and the first book featuring the six Hamilton sisters as the main characters. Have you wanted to write about the Hamilton sisters for a while now or was this a new idea?

I mentioned the Hamilton sisters in earlier books. They were the young women that local men wanted to date, but were reluctant given that the sisters’ father is Senator Buckmaster Hamilton. Not to mention that the young women themselves are…particular when it comes to their men.

What is the significance of the title, WILD HORSES?

I like to believe there is some wild horse in each of us. With the Hamilton sisters, who were raised with the run of the huge ranch, they are definitely free spirits. That’s why I knew it would take a special man to get any of them to settle down.

The family structure of the Hamiltons has all the classic elements of a fairytale (i.e. mother dies young and father remarries a difficult woman). Do you often find yourself revisiting classic fairytale themes in your books?

Not purposely, but I think those themes are so universal that all writers tend to find them in their work. Also, I don’t think that everyone is built to be a stepmother. Angelina Broadwater Hamilton definitely wasn’t.

Will Sarah Hamilton (their biological mother’s) story be explored at all?

The over-arcing mystery in all six books has to do with Sarah, the biological mother who’s been gone for the past twenty-two years. I’m fascinated with her character. She keeps surprising me, which is always good. So, yes, Sarah is in all six books.

Each sister has her own solid identity. Did you create a character sketch of each sister or was it a spur of the moment decision? 

Because I am one of those writes-by-the-seat-of-her-pants kind of writer, I get to know my characters as they show up on the page. It is great fun because the sisters are all different.

Livie Hamilton is the most headstrong of her sisters. Was there a particular reason why Livie Hamilton’s story “spoke to you” first before her other sisters?

The only reason Livie’s story is first is that I saw her driving along a narrow two-lane in the middle of nowhere in the middle of a blizzard. I’ve done that before so I know how scary it can be. You can’t see a dozen yards in front of your vehicle. You often can’t tell where the road is. And if there is no other vehicles around, that often means that the road has been closed to all but emergency traffic. That means if you go off the road, no one will be coming along to help you. I’ve also made rash spur-of-the-moment decisions that I have regretted. Haven’t we all. But this decision is about to cost her everything.

Cooper Barnett is the resident horse whisperer and a determined cowboy – what made you choose horse handling as Cooper’s profession?

I believe men who are good with horses are also good with gentling women.  Livie needs to be gentled. She’s headstrong. She doesn’t think she needs a man. But she wants Cooper, who is equally headstrong and independent to a fault. Obviously, they are going to have to work some things out before they can really get together.

What is the dynamic between the Hamilton sisters and their father, Senator Buckmaster Hamilton?

The sisters are very loving toward their father. He has given them free run of the ranch – and anything they’ve ever asked for. He realizes that was probably a mistake, but he only wants them to be happy. He feels bad that they’ve never had a real mother since their biological mother died and their stepmother wants little to do with them. But father and daughters are very close in these books. He’s like all of us parents who look back and wish we had done a few things differently.

The story centers around one small mistake and what it costs the main character. What inspired this theme?

Rash decisions can cost you. Especially if you get angry and take off to get caught in a blizzard on a lonely road in the middle of nowhere.

I’ve been on those roads, in those blizzards, and wished I hadn’t left home when I did. But there is no turning back often because the road behind you is possibly worse than the one you are on. You’re basically trapped because there are no towns to pull off in and often no ranch houses or anything else for miles. Also the snow is often deeper at the side of the road so you can’t even pull off and wait out the storm.

You just keep going and pray you don’t go in the ditch because you could be there for a very long time and if it is really cold out, you might not make it before someone comes along.

You can see why I love writing about Montana and what I know.

You dedicated this book to your father and his love for Montana. How did growing up there influence your writing?

My father was the major influence in my life. He always told me I could do whatever I wanted to do when I grew up. He encouraged me always and got to see me published before he died, something I am very thankful for.

But he also gave me Montana. We moved here when I was five. He loved it and he passed that love on to me. It will always be home.

Here’s a cover art question. Which do you prefer: an illustration of a cowboy or the real thing?

As long as the cover conveys the feeling of the book, I would be happy either way. I have been very lucky to get some wonderful covers. The WILD HORSES cover is beautiful and it has that feel of being away from it all.

Without giving away too much, what is your favorite suspense scene in the book?

I would have to say the opening. What is worse than going off the road in a blizzard in the middle of nowhere, thinking you will freeze to death before morning, and then you see headlights through the falling snow. Someone is coming. But are they really going to save you?

Was this story inspired by any films you’ve watched or books you’ve read?

I don’t think so. As writers everything we see, hear, touch or smell – let alone imagine – can end up in our books and we have no idea where it came from.But my father loved old murder mystery movies and westerns so I’ve watched a lot of them. And I love Hitchcock.

Who would play Livie and Cooper in a movie?

I have to admit I’m not up on the younger actors. So I’d have to leave that up to my readers to decide. I watch a lot of old movies.

What is the steamiest romance scene in the book?

Now if I told you, I’d have to kill you. No, seriously, you’d want to flip to that part of the book. Sorry, no spoilers.

How was the writing process different for this book than for past books you’ve written?

They all seem like they are going to be easy when I start a book. I’m excited and hopeful. But there is always a point where I think I will never finish the book. I swear it is like trying to walk through quicksand at times. I write and write, but the book doesn’t seem to get longer. This one was tough because it’s the first one. Once it is in print, there is no changing any of the setting, characters, past events. So especially with the other sisters, you have to be sure you didn’t say anything you will regret.

How do you deal with the pressure of deadlines?

I treat writing like a real job. Except without weekends. I write every day. It keeps me in the story and makes it so much easier to pick up where I left off the day before. I also write myself little notes when I can see the next scene or two. Sometimes the deadlines get to me when a book is being difficult. But I’m pretty good at meeting them. I think the latest I’ve ever been is two weeks – and that’s after more than 70 books.

What is Flat Cowboy up to these days?

 Flat cowboys are the bookmarks to my Cardwell Ranch series for Harlequin Intrigue. One of the lovely editors at Harlequin saw a bookmark and thought I should have a cowboy one like it. That started something. A reader began calling the bookmarks Flat Cowboys and another reader began to take photographs of each Flat Cowboy wherever she went. The first reader put up a site for other readers to post where they’d been with their Flat Cowboys (The Adventures of Flat Cowboy on Facebook)

So yes it took off and it’s been a whole lot of fun!

When can we expect the next Montana Hamiltons story to come out?

LONE RIDER will be out the end of June followed by LUCKY SHOT the end of September. The next three, still untitled, will be out the end of February, June and September in 2016.

What are you working on next?

Right now I am finishing up LUCKY SHOT. I am having great fun with the characters. As I said, the over-arcing mystery deals with Sarah Hamilton, the biological mother of the sisters who vanished from their lives twenty-two years ago. Is she the loving mother she pretends to be? And where has she been the past twenty-two years?

It is all great fun.

Buy Wild Horses at Amazon

About the Author:

B.J. DANIELS, a USA Today and New York Times bestselling author, wrote her first book after a career as an award-winning newspaper journalist and author of 37 published short stories. That first book, Odd Man Out, received a four and a half star review from Romantic Times magazine and went on to be nominated for Best Intrigue for that year. Since then she has won numerous awards including a career achievement award for romantic suspense and numerous nominations and awards for best book. Daniels lives in Montana with her husband, Parker, and two springer spaniels, Spot and Jem. When she isn’t writing, she snowboards, camps, boats and plays tennis. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Thriller Writers, Kiss of Death and Romance Writers of America.
Goodreads  *  Twitter  *  website

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the above link. The views, opinions, and beliefs expressed by guests are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of Girl Who Reads.

March 17, 2015

Review: The End of All Things by Lissa Bryan

by Donna Huber

The End of All Things
"He's still out there."
Sam wagged his tail.
"What do you think he wants?" Carly asked Sam as she let the curtains fall closed. "Never mind. I'm not sure I want to know the answer to that question because it's probably nothing good."
It had been a week since Bike Guy appeared and set up camp on the sidewalk across the street from her apartment building. He was the first healthy person she's seen in weeks. At first she wasn't sure. His behavior was odd enough to make her think he was one of the Infected. Why would he set up a tent across from her apartment building when there was a motel right down the street? It made no sense. He would wave at her and smile cheerfully whenever Carly peeked through the curtains. He would be reading, cleaning a gun, or cooking over the fire he had built on the sidewalk, but as soon as she looked out the window, his head would snap up and he would stare right at her, as if he has some sort of weird sixth sense about when she was looking.

The Review

 You know when you are hungry but nothing is quite satisfying until you find the thing you crave and then it is sooo good? Well I was having a craving for a certain kind of book. I wanted a story of survival, but not another dystopian novel nor anything young adult. I wasn't sure if I wanted something apocolytpic since these days that is almost always a zombie novel or dystopian with an oppressive government. A lot of times when I want this survival story I read historical fiction, particularly those set during the Holocaust. But I wanted something modern day. Then I took a look at Netgalley and I noticed that The End of All Things was again available. It was a book that I was interested in before, but never got around to reading. So I jumped as this chance.

And the story didn't disappoint. It was so satisfying. The End of All Things was exactly what I was looking for.

There has been a world-wide pandemic and only a few did not contract it. Of those that did, no one survived. Carly has been camped out in her apartment since her parents died. She believes the world will soon return to normal, but for now she is running out of the food and she has a growing puppy. But the appearance of 'Biker Guy' has unnerved her. Men in desperate times take desperate measures. But Biker Guy, or Justin, means her no harm. Actually he saves her when she finally does venture out to the store and is attacked by an Infected.

Justin knows the world will not right itself anytime soon and Juneau is not a place to be with winter coming. But after finding the sole remaining survivor, he can't leave her behind. She will not survive on her own. So he must find a way to win her trust, which probably wouldn't have been easy before the Infection and now possibly impossible. But he can't leave her.

Eventually Carly must face reality and with it comes trusting Justin. With their new alliance firmly in place they make plans to head south. Thankfully Justin is more than special forces, he was trained in a shadow Unit. Because Carly has no survival skills, except for hope and optimism, both of which Justin lacks. She also is a strong woman and fast learner.

I really liked the relationship between Carly and Justin. They were both relatable characters that reacted as real people in their situation. Most of the book is it just the two of them and the animals Carly manages to collect - Sam the wolf and Shadowfax the horse. Most mammals it appears to have been affected by the virus as well. The character building is great since it is mostly just the two of them on a long bike ride through Canada and northern US. You would have thought this was boring, and with flatter characters it would have been. But Bryan has created rich characters.

And the plot is plausible. A weaponized virus has been unleashed. One so wide spread and deadly makes me wonder who would have released it, but larger world politics is not the focus of the story. Though Carly has her theories and wants answers to why her pleasant little world has been turned upside down.

In most romance novels, the "last man and woman" (they aren't really the only people to survive) would fall madly in love for the get go. Thankfully, Bryan doesn't rush the relationship. There's caution from both Carly and Justin. She's not sure what to think of Justin and Justin is afraid Carly will only want him out of desperation or because of the trauma of her world falling apart.

The best part of the story is the strong human spirit. One of the reasons I love reading about oppressive societies, damaged teens, and stories of survival is because of the human spirit that arises when their "back is against the wall". But it wasn't over the top, and we encounter characters that are desperate, depressed, and in denial. There are also those that prey upon the weak. The whole gamut of personality types are on display.

I loved The End of All Things and was so happy that I could go right to the second book, The Land of Shadow. I had trouble putting down this series and read it very quickly. If you are looking for a well written, character driven story of survival, then look no further than The End of All Things by Lissa Bryan.

Buy The End of All Things at Amazon

Book info:
available formats: ebook and paperback (251 pages)
published: January 2013 by The Writer's Coffee Shop Publishing House
ISBN13: 9781612131412
genres: romance, post-apocalyptic
target audience: adult
source: Netgalley
read: February 2015

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the above link. A free egalley was provided for this review.

March 16, 2015

Interview: Mark Mackey (@MarkM1974) author of Abducted: The Frightening Tale of Megan Ridgeman

by Heather Kirchhoff

Abducted: The Frightening Tale of Megan Ridgeman
What made you decide to start writing? Was this something you always thought you’d do? 

Actually, I first started out wanting to be a screenwriter.

How do you come up with your characters or story ideas? 

The ideas just do, and as for characters, the past couple years, I’ve been frequently looking at name lists.

What do you do while having writers block?

Miraculously, I never get that, I’m constantly coming up with new ideas.

What kind of stories do you write? 

Dark and scary, young adult, horror.

Who’s your favorite author? 

Cassandra Clare.

How long have you been writing? 

Too long.

What are your other stories about? 

Vampires, zombies, ghostly hitchhikers, a girl who suffers from an eating disorder.

What are you currently working on? 

Various at the moment.

What do you do when not writing? 

Read, sleep, watch the news, and walk.

Buy Abducted: The Frightening Tale of Megan Ridgeman at Amazon

About the author:

Mark Mackey lives in Chicago, he's won two screenplay awards, have had four of his short stories published in four separate anthologies, Without Title, Christmas Lites, All the Lovely Creatures, and the Perfect Christmas Stuffing.

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the above link. The views, opinions, and beliefs expressed by guests are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of Girl Who Reads.