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Reflections on the #AtoZChallenge

by Donna Huber For the A to Z Challenge, I discussed different book genres/categories. Each day, I gave a few details about the genre/catego...

June 4, 2016

Are These New Releases in Your Beach Bag?

Summer is here and there are plenty of books coming out to keep your beach bag full with great reading entertainment.

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge
A sharp and funny urban fantasy for “new adults” about a secret society of bartenders who fight monsters with alcohol fueled magic.

College grad Bailey Chen has a few demons: no job, no parental support, and a rocky relationship with Zane, the only friend who’s around when she moves back home. But when Zane introduces Bailey to his cadre of monster-fighting bartenders, her demons get a lot more literal. Like, soul-sucking hell-beast literal. Soon, it’s up to Bailey and the ragtag band of magical mixologists to take on whatever—or whoever—is behind the mysterious rash of gruesome deaths in Chicago, and complete the lost recipes of an ancient tome of cocktail lore.

Available June 7
Buy Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge at Amazon

These drivers got #swag…

Racing is in her DNA.
Right alongside money and power.
When you’re the daughter of one of the most powerful men in the country,
you have to work harder for success.
Joey Gamble’s a girl on a male-dominated track.
With a daddy who can buy whatever she wants.
But she doesn’t want anything… except to EARN her reputation.

Racing is his passion.
Trouble follows him everywhere. Some even say he invites it.
When you’re nipping at the taillights of the best driver in the new NRR, you have to fight and claw for each and every success.
It’s never been easy for Lorhaven.
That’s why he doesn’t play by the rules.
He’s a man with a serious chip on his shoulder against the pro racing circuit.
We at GearShark want to know what’s up with that.

We’ve also been hearing rumblings…
of a pro who wants to go indie.

We’ve invited racing royalty and the driver from the wrong side of the tracks to sit down and talk to us about a possible crossover.
We expected sparks to fly when Joey and Lorhaven crossed paths.
Will those sparks ignite into a full-on inferno?

Available June 10
Buy #Swag at Amazon

Here's to Us
Three romantic rivals. One crowded house. Plenty of room for jealousy.

Laurel Thorpe, Belinda Rowe, and Scarlett Oliver share only two things; a love for the man they all married, Deacon Thorpe--a celebrity chef with an insatiable appetite for life--and a passionate dislike of one another. All three are remarkable, spirited women, but they couldn't be more different. Laurel: Deacon's high school sweetheart and an effortlessly beautiful social worker; Belinda: a high-maintenance Hollywood diva; and Scarlett: a sexy southern belle floating by on her family money and her fabulous looks. They've established a delicate understanding over the years--they avoid each other at all costs.

But their fragile detente threatens to come crashing down after Deacon's tragic death on his favorite place on earth: a ramshackle Nantucket summer cottage. Deacon's final wish was for his makeshift family to assemble on his beloved Nantucket to say good-bye. Begrudgingly, Laurel, Belinda, and Scarlett gather on the island as once again, as in each of their marriages, they're left to pick up Deacon's mess. Now they're trapped in the crowded cottage where they all made their own memories--a house that they now share in more ways than one--along with the children they raised with Deacon, and his best friend. Laurel, Belinda, and Scarlett each had an unbreakable bond with Deacon--and they all have secrets to hide.

Before the weekend is over, there are enough accusations, lies, tears, and drama to turn even the best of friends--let alone three women who married the same man--into adversaries. As his unlikely family says good-bye to the man who brought them together--for better or worse--will they be able to put aside their differences long enough to raise a glass in Deacon's honor?

Available June 14
Buy Here's to Us at Amazon

Field of Graves
All of Nashville is on edge with a serial killer on the loose. A madman is trying to create his own end-of-days apocalypse and the cops trying to catch him are almost as damaged as the killer. Field of Graves reveals the origins of some of J.T. Ellison's most famous creations: the haunted Lieutenant Taylor Jackson; her blunt, exceptional best friend, medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens; and troubled FBI profiler Dr. John Baldwin. Together, they race the clock and their own demons to find the killer before he claims yet another victim. This dark, thrilling and utterly compelling novel will have readers on the edge of their seats, and Ellison's fans will be delighted with the revelations about their favorite characters.

Available June 14
Buy Field of Graves at Amazon

Title Wave
Tricia and Angelica leave Booktown behind for a pleasure cruise, but they’re going to need their life jackets because a murderer has also booked passage—in Lorna Barrett’s New York Times bestselling series.

While her bookstore, Haven’t Got a Clue, is rebuilt following a devastating fire, Tricia Miles and her sister, Angelica, decide to book a cruise for some much needed R&R. Naturally they choose a Mystery Lovers cruise, where they can ponder whodunnit in Adirondack chairs while sipping colorful drinks and soaking up some rays.

But the fun is cut short when a fellow passenger is murdered for real. Is the killer a famous mystery author, one of his fans, or a member of the ship’s crew? As Tricia tries to find the killer before they reach port, she may be cruising for a bruising...

Available June 14
Buy Title Wave at Amazon

The Tumbling Turner Sisters
For fans of Orphan Train and Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, a compelling historical novel from “one of the best authors of women’s fiction” (Library Journal). Set against the turbulent backdrop of American Vaudeville, four sisters embark on an unexpected adventure—and a last-ditch effort to save their family.

In 1919, the Turner sisters and their parents are barely scraping by. Their father is a low-paid boot-stitcher in Johnson City, New York, and the family is always one paycheck away from eviction. When their father’s hand is crushed and he can no longer work, their irrepressible mother decides that the vaudeville stage is their best—and only—chance for survival.

Traveling by train from town to town, teenagers Gert, Winnie, and Kit, and recent widow Nell soon find a new kind of freedom in the company of performers who are as diverse as their acts. There is a seamier side to the business, however, and the young women face dangers and turns of fate they never could have anticipated. Heartwarming and surprising, The Tumbling Turner Sisters is ultimately a story of awakening—to unexpected possibilities, to love and heartbreak, and to the dawn of a new American era.

Available June 14
Buy The Tumbling Turner Sisters at Amazon

Tell Us Something True
Seventeen-year-old River doesn’t know what to do with himself when Penny, the girl he adores, breaks up with him. He lives in LA, where nobody walks anywhere, and Penny was his ride; he never bothered getting a license. He’s stuck. He’s desperate. Okay . . . he’s got to learn to drive.

But first, he does the unthinkable—he starts walking. He stumbles upon a support group for teens with various addictions. He fakes his way into the meetings, and begins to connect with the other kids, especially an amazing girl. River wants to tell the truth, but he can’t stop lying, and his tangle of deception may unravel before he learns how to handle the most potent drug of all: true love.

Available June 14
Buy Tells Us Something True at Amazon

Duty and Honor
Even though he’s on forced leave from the clandestine intelligence group known as The Campus, Jack Ryan, Jr., still finds himself caught in the crosshairs after an attempt on his life is thwarted when he turns the tables on his would-be dispatcher. Convinced that the attack is linked to his recent covert actions with the convalescing Iranian national Ysabel Kashini, Jack sets out to find out who wants him dead, and why.

Using clues found on the now dead assassin, Jack pursues the investigation, following a growing trail of corpses to the European Union’s premier private security firm, Rostock Security Group, and its founder, Jürgen Rostock—a former general in the German Special Forces Command. Rostock is world-renowned as a philanthropist and human rights advocate. But Jack knows him from a Campus mission revolving around a company linked to RSG—a mission that has put him on Rostock’s lethal radar.

Without any Campus resources, Jack launches his own shadow campaign to uncover the truth about Rostock and a long-running false-flag war of terror that has claimed thousands of lives. Yet all of that bloodshed is but a precursor to a coming catastrophic event that will solidify Rostock’s place among the global powers. An event that Jack must stop at any cost.

Available June 14
Buy Duty and Honor at Amazon

Code Warriors
A sweeping history of the NSA and its codebreaking from its roots in World War II through the end of the Cold War.

The National Security Agency grew out of the legendary codebreaking programs of World War II that turned the tide of Allied victory by cracking the famed Enigma machine and other seemingly impenetrable German and Japanese codes. But things became murky in the postwar years, when our intelligence community found itself targeting not battlefield enemies, but suspected spies, foreign leaders, and even American citizens. Now Stephen Budiansky--a longtime expert in cryptology--tells the fascinating story of how the NSA came to be, and of its central, often fraught and controversial role in the major events of the Cold War, from the Korean War to the Cuban Missile Crisis to Vietnam and beyond. He also guides us through the fascinating challenges faced by cryptanalysts, and how they broke some of the most complicated codes of the twentieth century. A riveting, essential history of the underbelly of the Cold War.

Available June 14
Buy Code Warriors at Amazon

The Pursuit
Janet Evanovich, author of the blockbuster Stephanie Plum novels, and Lee Goldberg, writer for the Monk television show, team up once again for the fifth book in their rollicking, New York Times bestselling Fox and O’Hare series!

Nicolas Fox, international con man, thief, and one of the top ten fugitives on the FBI’s most-wanted list, has been kidnapped from a beachfront retreat in Hawaii. What the kidnapper doesn’t know is that Nick Fox has been secretly working for the FBI. It isn’t long before Nick’s covert partner, Special Agent Kate O’Hare, is in hot pursuit of the crook who stole her con man.

The trail leads to Belgium, France, and Italy, and pits Nick and Kate against their deadliest adversary yet: Dragan Kovic, an ex–Serbian military officer. He’s plotting a crime that will net him billions . . . and cost thousands of American lives.

Nick and Kate have to mount the most daring, risky, and audacious con they’ve ever attempted to save a major U.S. city from a catastrophe of epic proportions. Luckily they have the help of an eccentric out-of-work actor, a bandit who does his best work in the sewers, and Kate’s dad, Jake. The pressure’s on for Nick and Kate to make this work—even if they have to lay their lives on the line.

Available June 21
Buy The Pursuit at Amazon

Ramping Up
The world of extreme sports just got a little steamier! Zoe Dawson’s pulse-pounding, emotional series follows the wily young female agents of Mavrick Allstars as they chase their dreams—and meet the chiseled athletes who make them come true.

Helena “Lena” Mavrick is ready to prove that she can play with the big boys. Working at her father’s internationally renowned agency, Mavrick Allstars, Lena sets her sights on one of the most coveted phenoms out there: a twenty-four-year-old surfer caught ripping it in a viral skateboarding video. Signing him would be a huge win—and his marketing appeal isn’t the only thing that makes Lena’s heart skip a beat. Trouble is, fraternizing with the client is against company policy.

Professional surfer Gunner Smith lives under the absolute control of his coach—until he takes the ultimate risk and starts over as a skateboarder. Gunner swore he wouldn’t give up his freedom again, but Lena’s out-of-the-blue offer makes him think long and hard. She’s smart, she’s bold, she’s got sponsors lined up around the corner—plus she’s drop-dead gorgeous. He’s just not sure his coach will let him get away that easily, because he’s not just Gunner’s coach, he’s also his father.

Gunner is used to hiding his tortured past. But when his steamy affair with Lena threatens their future, he must decide whether he will sacrifice everything for the woman who’s stolen his heart.

Available June 21
Buy Ramping Up at Amazon

Shopping for a CEO's Fiancee

Shannon and Declan’s chaos-filled wedding is over — but best man Andrew and maid of honor Amanda wake up the next morning with a whole new set of craziness of their own…

Available June 22
Buy Shopping for a CEO's Fiancee at Amazon

Up in Flames
The villain of Rosemary Beach finally gets her own happy ending in the long-awaited final novel of the #1 New York Times bestselling new adult romance series by Abbi Glines.

The blockbuster #1 New York Times bestselling Rosemary Beach series ends with a bang when the troubled character readers love to hate gets her very own happily ever after in this eagerly anticipated and overwhelmingly requested story. Known for causing problems for everyone in Rosemary Beach, Nan has been growing up lately, and she’s finally taking center stage—and finding love with the man she least expected.

Available June 28
Buy Up in Flames at Amazon

Spirits, Rock Stars and a Midnight Chocolate Bar

Pyper Rayne is back in book two of this popular spin off of the Jade Calhoun series. Join her and the rest of the gang as they battle ghosts on a cruise liner to the Caribbean.

Available June 28
Buy Spirits, Rock Stars and a Midnight Chocolate Bar at Amazon

The Laughter of the Sphinx
Michael Palmer’s new book—a collection in two parts, “The Laughter of the Sphinx” and “Still (a cantata—or nada—for Sister Satan)”—contains 52 poems.

The title poem begins “The laughter of the Sphinx / caused my eyes to bleed” and haunts us with the ruin we are making of our world, even as Palmer revels in its incredible beauty. Such central tensions in The Laughter of the Sphinx—between beauty and loss, love and death, motion and rest, knowledge and ignorance—glow in Palmer’s lyrical play of light and entirely hypnotize the reader. The stakes, as always with Palmer, are very high, essentially life and death: “Please favor us with a reply / regarding our one-time offer / which will soon expire.”

Available June 28
Buy The Laughter of the Sphinx at Amazon

Paper Butterflies
June's life at home with her stepmother and stepsister is a dark one – and a secret one. She is trapped like a butterfly in a net.

But then June meets Blister, a boy in the woods. In him she recognises the tiniest glimmer of hope that perhaps she can find a way to fly far, far away from her home and be free. Because every creature in this world deserves their freedom . . . But at what price?

Paper Butterflies is an unforgettable read, perfect for fans of Jennifer Niven, Jandy Nelson, Sarah Crossan and Louise O'Neill.

Available June 30
Buy Paper Butterflies at Amazon

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June 3, 2016

Endings: Good, Bad, Never-ending and Unfinished

by Chris

I spent last weekend camping with friends in Big Sur, California. Beautiful views, spectacular weather, campfire tales … it really was a wonderful holiday. It took an awfully long time to get there (almost five hours from San Jose—normally a two-hour drive), presumably because we weren’t the only ones with the idea, but it was supremely worth it.

When we arrived at the campsite we discovered we would be sharing a fire pit with our camping neighbors. We bought some extra wood, just in case, and after dinner settled in around the fire. The marshmallows had gone sticky in the bag (I can still feel them on my fingertips), but the company was excellent. It wasn’t long before our neighbors showed up, and naturally we invited them to join us by the fire.

There’s something exceptionally pleasant about getting to know people over a couple of beers around a camp fire, and the talk went on long into the evening (well past the campsite’s ‘curfew’). It turns out our neighbors were from L.A., worked in IT, and were exceptionally well-read. Before long the conversation turned to literature, discussing favorites books, where authors went wrong, and what on earth Marvel was thinking making Captain America a bad guy.

At some point someone brought up Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, and how there is now a movie in the works to try and capture some of the hideously epic story on film. This ultimately led to a somewhat heated debate over the ending of said series, some claiming it was the epitome of Stephen King’s writing, others feeling that it was a cop-out of the highest degree.

Spoiler alert: endings are about to be discussed.

What Makes a Good Ending?

Great Expectations
It’s no secret that one of my favorite novels of all time is Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I’ve even written here before about the ending of that book, and how Dickens originally intended something quite different for the fates of Pip and Estella. In many ways, I’m glad Dickens settled for the ending he did, because it’s one of my favorite parts of the whole story. After literally decades of torture, Pip—whose love for Estella never faded or waned—is finally reunited with her, and we are left with the magical words: … "I saw no shadow of another parting from her". Ostensibly happy, I personally find the phrase ambiguous; is Dickens arguing that Pip and Estella were henceforth together forever, or that when she did leave, there was no shadow for him—no final despair? Either way, the ending for me is bittersweet, and that’s my personal favorite type.

One of the first books that introduced me to the bittersweet ending was Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia. As a child I remember enjoying the rollicking tale of a boy and a girl who quickly become best friends, learning about literature and life, and then … it happens. Completely out of nowhere. What the hell, Katherine Paterson? What were you thinking? And as I slowly recovered from the reeling shock, I came to learn that it could have been no other way. And when Jesse starts to teach his sister about the incredible world of fantasy, I realized that it was—as outraged as I was—a perfect ending.

There are countless other endings in literature and film that I find special, and most of them involve some form of tragedy, major or minor. I remember being taken aback at the end of How to Train Your Dragon (the film, that is to say) when Hiccup loses a leg. I wasn’t expecting permanent physical trauma in a kid’s film. But it made for an incredibly touching moment where Hiccup’s father finds it in himself to forgive a dragon, even though in saving his son it also mutilated him. This is echoed brilliantly in the sequel, whose ending I still don’t want to talk about.

This isn’t to say that the only good ending is a sad one, and think this is part of the cause for debate; the extend to which a person might enjoy a book—ending and all—is entirely a matter of personal preference. For me, I rather enjoy the sad and dismal. For others, the fairytale ending may be the ideal one. But it leads to the question, of course, of what makes a bad ending (personal preference notwithstanding).

The Unending Ending

I think one of the things that frustrates readers more than anything is when an author takes an exorbitant length of time to address the ending of a series, favoring other projects or simply giving up. I think this is second only to the author choosing to die before finishing it (Robert Jordan, I’m looking at you).

However, it can be equally irksome when an author can’t leave well enough alone, and chooses to continue a series well past its originally-intended ending. Perhaps the most recent (contentious) example of this is J.K. Rowling’s extensions of the Harry Potter universe, through a play (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child), the release of said play as a script, and the upcoming film, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. This isn’t to say that sequels and prequels don’t have their place, but sometimes a series ends so perfectly that it really doesn’t need any further tinkering. Am I looking forward to Fantastic Beasts … ? Of course. Did I need it? No.

Sometimes, of course, the author intended an ending, but the successors refuse to let go. This is where a beloved series turns into a franchise, and franchises often have a way of cheapening the original material. Frank Herbert’s Dune is one of my favorite science-fiction novels of all time, and I enjoyed his own sequels almost as much. But after his death in 1986, it seems, his son couldn’t quite let it rest. Not only did he turn a few scraps of notes into not one but two further successive novels, but expanded the Dune universe into over a dozen other stories, none of which were in Frank Herbert’s original thoughts (presumably).

This is the unending ending: when a story just can’t be let go, either by the authors themselves or their followers. The franchise phenomenon is particularly difficult when it gets passed on to other authors and writers, only to be reclaimed by the original author at a later point. Star Wars is a fine example of this: in 1983, we knew how Star Wars ended. The empire was defeated, the Jedi had returned, and all was right with the universe. Then, in 1991, George Lucas allowed Timothy Zahn to continue to story—and thus was born the Star Wars extended universe. This isn’t to say that Timothy Zahn’s books were bad; in fact, in many ways they surpassed the original three movies in their scope, depth and character development. But the books that followed, written by numerous other authors, were nowhere near as sophisticated. And then, of course, Lucas decided to revisit his beloved series, release three prequels, sell out to Disney, and all of a sudden everything that was published between 1991 and 2015 was suddenly and utterly invalidated. Star Wars Legends, indeed!

The Dark Tower

The Gunslinger
So how does this relate to Stephen King’s Dark Tower series? For those of you who are unfamiliar, The Dark Tower series of novels is essentially King’s Lord of the Rings; set (at least for the first book) in a fictional world called Mid-World, it follows a growing group of dysfunctional people on a quest to first find the ‘man in black’, and eventually to attain the Dark Tower. The first book, The Gunslinger, was published in 1982, followed by The Drawing of the Three in 1987 and The Waste Lands in 1991. Wizard and Glass followed in 1997, and then of course Stephen King had his accident.

After being struck by a car in 1999, Stephen King nearly retired. As outraged as his fans were by the thought that The Dark Tower would never be finished, I personally can’t help feeling that King let his own thoughts of mortality overly influence the direction of the series. He returned to the series in 2003, releasing the last three books over the course of eleven months. Collectively totaling nearly 2,000 pages of text, this is an enormous amount of writing for even Stephen King, and I believe the story suffered as a result.

To put it plainly, what started as a delightful, if dark, fantasy that inspirationally blended the real world with the fictional one turned into a vehicle for King to exorcise his fears about death and mortality. And while at first it seems novel, it quickly becomes tiresome. Perhaps he had planned it from the very beginning, but it seems unlikely that he would have considered the dark tower itself (literally, a big black tower) to be emblematic of himself as the author of the series. I’m not kidding: Stephen King wrote himself into the novel, literally to the point where his accident directly influences the plot and direction of the story. Try to conceptualize that for a moment: the author of the book, named in the story as the author of the story, ends up being rescued, essentially, by his own characters. Beyond meta, it’s like Deadpool on steroids.

Of course, this in itself is one thing, but it’s the final ending that seemed to frustrate our campfire guests. Having hunted down the Dark Tower and finally arrived, to the loss of every one of his companions, the gunslinger climbs the tower, arrives at a door, opens the door … and literally starts the whole thing over again. To the extent that the last words of the final book are the first words of the first.

Weird stuff.

For me, this wasn’t necessarily a bad ending—certainly unexpected—but I can see that for some, it felt like Stephen King took one of their most beloved series and turned it into a kind of self-help therapy. And of course, this begs the question: should he have left well enough alone? Are some series better left unfinished, rather than finished poorly?

When Should It Be Left Unfinished?

As a former musician and composer, I often liken literature to music: the process of writing and publishing both are remarkably similar. Beethoven is the Tolkien of the classical era, taking past influences and using them to create a whole new genre. Mozart is like Stephen King: churning out enormous quantities of music, some of which is spectacular (and some of which is less so). Brahms is like George Lucas: he couldn’t resist tinkering with his music, often revisiting existing works decades later and rewriting them entirely. To make matters worse, he would often burn the old manuscripts, so there was almost no record of the original. Try finding yourself a non-special-edition of A New Hope.

And sometimes, I think of musicians who left their last works unfinished—sometimes because they gave up, but more often because they died. Mozart is a fine example: he died before completing his requiem. Listening to it in completion (it was later completed by a student of his), it’s evident that Mozart wasn’t the person to finish it—the final few movements recycle old material from earlier on in the work, rather than expanding into new territories. I’d even suspect Mozart of combining multiple themes at the final ending, à la Jupiter symphony. But the ending is still satisfactory, and works.

Then there’s Schubert, who left his eighth symphony unfinished as well, though he didn’t die for another six years. In some ways, the two-part symphony stands as a work in its own right, and although part of a third movement exists, it’s almost never performed as anything but the first two. There have been competitions to complete the symphony, but none have entered canon.

Who’s to say what’s best? Should Stephen King have left the Dark Tower alone, or completed it as he did? Should David Lagercrantz have continued Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series? As frustrating as it is to not know how something was intended to end, perhaps it’s better to have something half-finished and wonderful, than to have something subpar but compete.

What do you think? Should an artist be obligated to complete a project they start on for the sake of their audience, or is it acceptable to leave things incomplete—by force or by choice? And if they do choose to write to the end, does that make the ending better, or worse?

Let me know in the comments!

Chris, features writer. 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 Erâth. 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

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June 2, 2016

Cozy Mysteries with Female PIs

by Elisa Hordon

Private Eye cozy mysteries: We're reading you, reading your every move.

I love a good cozy mystery with a female private investigator as the lead character. Some of my favourite series include Lexi Graves by Camilla Chafer, Addison Holmes by Liliana Hart, Barb Jackson by Anna Snow, Jamie Bond by Gemma Halliday and Jennifer Fischetto, Maggie P.I by Rose Pressey.

What I love most about all of these books is the positive message that woman can do anything they want, even be a Private Investigator which, let's face it, can be extra tough at times especially for a woman but these woman have strength, sass and never say die attitudes.

Lexi Graves Mysteries by Camilla Chafer

Armed and Fabulous
Camilla published her first Lexi Graves Mystery on Amazon in 2013, today she has 8 books in the series so far. I have enjoyed every book in this series and I am eagerly awaiting more. Lexi Graves starts out wowing us in Armed and Fabulous. Lexi is stuck in a boring temp job but that soon changes when millions of dollars goes missing from work and the chief suspect is dead, plus Lexi's new boss is not what he seems. This first book was so good I couldn't wait to read more. Lexi grounds herself as a strong investigator in this story with a unique way of getting the job done and even though Lexi is not yet a P.I she has the right killer instincts for the job. This is a great series with strong characters who can also laugh and cry with the best of them. Lexi comes from a tight knit family who just love to stick their noses into each other's lives in a lovable sometimes hilarious way.

Buy Armed and Fabulous at Amazon

Addison Holmes Mysteries by Liliana Hart

Whiskey Rebellion
Liliana Hart is one of my all-time favourite authors. I have read everything she has written and I seriously hang out for new releases from her.

Addison Holmes is sassy, sweet when she wants to be, sarcastic and a southern gal, through and through. Her mother drives a replica of the 'General Lee' from the Dukes of Hazard and her sister loves recreational drugs. So to say she is from a colourful family would really sum it up and just wait until you meet her Aunt Scarlet.

Buy Whiskey Rebellion at Amazon
(It's FREE)

Barb Jackson Mysteries by Anna Snow

Bubblegum Blonde
Barb is a new girl on the block with one awesome story ready to read titled Bubblegum Blonde plus a great Christmas short titled 'A Blonde Before Christmas'  and another short in Killer Beach Reads compilation titled 'Blonde's Night Out'. Short book #2 is on its way and I just know it will be worth the wait.

Bubblegum Blonde is our first real look at Barb Jackson in her first full length story. Barb is a Private Investigator, her motto is 'expect the unexpected' and this should be every reader's motto while reading this great cozy mystery.

Anna Snow is a brilliant writer. She knows how to add just enough suspense to keep me guessing, just enough romance to wet my appetite, just enough humour to keep me laughing and wanting more.

I am really looking forward to more from Barb Jackson and Anna Snow.

Buy Bubblegum Blonde at Amazon

Maggie PI series by Rose Pressey
Crime Wave (book 1), Murder is a Beach (book 2)

Crime Wave
Maggie Thomas is a PI, well sort of. Maggie's uncle left her his PI business in his will but the thing is Maggie has no idea how to be a PI and the app on her phone is not much help. Yes you read that right Maggie uses a 'how to' app on her phone to learn the PI I know just reading that tidbit has you curious doesn’t it?

It gets even better when Maggie crosses paths with police detective Jake Jackson. Jake is smitten from their first meeting but he thinks Maggie should leave the police work to the professionals!!!! Wrong move Jake, you just waved a red flag in Maggie's face with your chauvinistic attitude.

Maggie stumbled across the body so really she has a vested interest in seeing it through to the end right? Well of course she does no matter what Jake says. Maggie teams up with Dorothy Raye her geriatric assistant to solve the murder with some hilarious results.

I am a big Rose Pressey fan I love all of her books she has a unique way of writing that keeps me coming back for more.

Buy Crime Wave at Amazon

Jamie Bond Series by Gemma Halliday and Jennifer Fischetto

Unbreakable Bond
I love it when authors team up and bring us double the awesomeness.

Her Name is BOND Jamie Bond and trouble, danger and murder have a way of finding her no matter how careful she is.

Jamie Bond was a runway supermodel and a very successful one. Now she runs a Private Investigator firm that she took over for her father Derek Bond. He is retired now or at least he is meant to, Derek didn't want to retire but he did for health reasons. It never stops him sticking his nose into Jamie's cases though, but hey what are meddling fathers for :-)

Jamie and her friends Caleigh Presley, Samantha Cross and Maya Alexander make up the Bond Agency in Los Angeles. These girls get the job done any way necessary.

Jamie's best friend Danny Price is a famous photographer who Jamie met a long, long time ago. Also, he helps out with surveillance work when Jamie and the girls needs him. Danny is the big brother Jamie never had but Danny has never wanted to be Jamie's big brother: he wants so much more.

Unbreakable Bond - murder, lies and scandal shake Jamie's world in book 1. Can she figure it all out before it's too late?

Secret Bond - book 2 is more secrets, lies and a cold case that could tear apart multiple marriages. Jamie and the girls are back on the case and ready to get their man once and for all.

"Bond Bombshell" (short story) - When your past comes back to bite you. Maya Alexander is the Bond Agencies Admin girl. Maya gets it all done and keeps everyone organised, but now they need her to step out into the field on a new case that involves her ex-fiancée. Can Maya keep her work and personal feelings separated for the good of the case or will her worlds collide into one big mess?

Lethal Bond - Corruption, intrigue and romance, they all go together right? Another puzzle for the Bond Agency that involves the DA's office. Is Jamie's on again off again boyfriend ADA Aiden Prince involved? Can Jamie keep her personal and professional lives separate and stay out of trouble when multiple cases have her chasing her tail?

Dangerous Bond - Jamie is used to chasing cheating husbands but normally they are cheating on their wives not their diets. Can this case get any Of course it can. This is Jamie and all I can say is what happens on a girls trip to Vegas stays in Vegas but you will love every page of this story.

Buy Unbreakable Bond at Amazon

Elisa Hordon, reviewerElisa lives on the Southern Highlands of NSW, Australia were she spends her days reading, journaling, painting, cooking and home schooling her daughter. She has always been an avid reader, Elisa loves reading many genres of books except horror; her favourite genres would be mystery, romance and paranormal. Elisa also loves pursuing many creative outlets if she is not relaxing with a book she can be found writing, sketching, painting or cooking. Elisa loves to share her obsession with books especially with her family and friends. Reading and reviewing books is a favourite pastime of Elisa’s.

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: 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.

June 1, 2016

Review: Firestorm by Katie Robison #FirestormWS3

by Donna Huber

I cannot believe how long I have been waiting for this book, the third and final book in Katie Robison's Windstorm series. It has been 6 years since I was blown away with the first book, Downburst (read my review), where I likened Kit to Katniss Everdeen. And while Kit does whatever it takes to protect her family, Robison has created an entirely unique character all of her own.

Robison is a fantastic story-teller; one who gradually draws you into the story until you are fully immersed into the setting and bonded with the characters. In a time when many books are claiming to be the next Hunger Games or Divergent, Robison takes the themes of these popular YA novels and adds her own twist.

The biggest twist is one that is sorely missing in the publishing industry - diversity. The main characters in the series are part of tribal nations, ones that can trace their history back to the First People. I loved how Robison wove traditional mythos from ancestral groups into her stories. The parts often started off with a bit these legends.

The Vila are female warriors in Slavic mythology who control the wind and create powerful storms with their songs. When they do battle, the earth shakes.
But if a Vila's skin is touched by fire, she will die.
Another twist - the story isn't set in the US or even really North America or the northern hemisphere, though in the first two books there are trips to Canada and Mexico. Most of the story takes place in or around New Zealand. I don't know about you, but I haven't read too many books set in New Zealand.

Robison really tries to give you an all sensory experience, but I thought there was an overabundance of adjectives in the opening chapters of Firestorm. It made the reading heavy in a way which made it difficult to really get into the story. I think partly it is sensory overload. You are trying to take in all the descriptions, which on their own are lovely, while at the same time recalling what has happened in the first two books.

The last time I went two years between book releases in a series was when Harry Potter was coming out and before each release I re-read the previous books. Robison does provide some backstory in a not too recapping fashion, but it still made for a bit of a rough start. I knew I would eventually get sucked into the story and I couldn't wait for that moment, but I'm glad the story didn't jump right into the action. It gave me a chance to reconnect with the characters, which is important for some of the things that happen later.

Fortunately, that is my only complaint. And if you haven't started this series yet it is the perfect time to since you can read through all 3 books back to back (be sure to enter the giveaway below!). And if you have been waiting like me for the final book to come out, I highly recommend taking the time to re-read Downburst and Coiled Snake (read my review).

I think it would make awesome summer reading for teens and adults a like. I'm thinking of buying the series for my niece to read this summer. It is a great adventure series that sneaks in some terrific life lessons about loyalty, friendship, love, and family.

I don't know if I felt this way after the first two books, but towards the end of Firestorm I really started thinking how cool it would be to windwalk.

Robison did a good job of wrapping up the story in this final book, but I have to wonder if it is the last we will see of the world she has created. The ending was satisfying in its conclusion, but there is definitely room for future novellas (if not full novels) or perhaps a spin-off series. I for one would really like to see at least a novella of a few years into the future.

The books are young adult, but outside of the ages of the main character, it didn't really read like a young adult novel. It is a clean read and even though there is a lot of death, its not overly gory.

On a side note, I have to say how impressed I am that Robison was able to publish 3 books while completing her Ph.D. and raising a family. Hats off to you, Katie!

Buy Firestorm at Amazon

Enter the giveaway:
Katie is offering an awesome prize pack to one Girl Who Reads's US reader (for international readers, please visit Katie's website to enter her giveaway of ebooks). The prize pack includes signed PAPERBACKS of all three books, a necklace with a Chinese dragon, bookmark and leather journal.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Check out the other blogs participating in the blog tour to learn more about Katie Robison and the Windstorm Trilogy (each giveaway is a different prize pack)

May 31            It’s a Bookish Thing 13: Review and Giveaway
June 1              Girl Who Reads: Review and Giveaway
June 2              Nerdi Girl Books: Review and Giveaway
June 3              Bookhounds YA: Q&A and Giveaway

June 6              It Starts at Midnight: Top Ten Magical Experiences and Giveaway
June 7              Once Upon a Twilight: Giveaway
June 8              Such Stuff: Interview and Giveaway
June 9              Read Sleep Fangirl: Giveaway
June 10            Ana Loves: Guest Post and Giveaway

June 13            Mundie Moms: Giveaway
June 14            Bookworm Everlasting: Review
June 15            Crime of Rhyme: Review and Giveaway
June 16            Princessica of Books: Guest Post and Giveaway
June 17            Lloyd Reads: Firestorm Aesthetics and Giveaway  

Donna Huber, founder & publisher. Donna 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. She reads most genres, but her favorite books are psychological thrillers and stories that highlight the survival of the human spirit against unbelievable circumstances.

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: A free ebook was provided by the author for this review. 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.

May 31, 2016

Review: When We Were Sisters by Emilie Richards

by Susan Roberts 

When We Were Sisters
Cecilia and Robin were children in foster care together.  Now years later, though their lives are completely different, they still consider themselves sisters.  Robin is married with two children - a 10 year old daughter and 13 year old son.  Cecilia is a superstar singer songwriter who enjoys all of the luxuries of her fame.  When Cecilia decides to do a documentary film on foster care, she asks Robin, who was once a successful photo-journalist, to assist with the film, both in the role as a photographer and to help her relive some of their painful past.  This is the story of confronting their past and learning how it made them the women that they have become.

Emilie did a fantastic job in discussing the foster care system and in showing that there are many ways to create a family other than being born into one.  This is a story of love and family and pain and heartbreak but most of all its the story of creating a family out of the ashes of pain.

Buy When We Were Sisters at Amazon

Susan Roberts, reviewer. Susan grew up in the Detroit area but after deciding that city life wasn't for her she moved to North Carolina after college. She and her husband have several acres of land and they enjoy gardening and canning vegetables in the summer. They travel extensively. Susan 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 Susan on Facebook or Twitter.

Book info:
available formats: ebook and print (496 pages)
published: May 2016 by Mira/Harlequin
ISBN13: 978-0778318910
genres: women's fiction
source: author

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: A free book was provided by the author for this review. 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.

May 30, 2016

Review: The Passion of Jazz and Other Short Stories by Nicholas Bridgman #MondayBlogs

by Claire Rees

The Passion of Jazz and Other Short Stories
What a wonderful collection of short stories. Each of them different from the last.

In "The Passion of Jazz", two students meet at music school and like each other but don't act on it. Only to meet years later when they are both married and it is too late for them. They still share their passion for Jazz.

"No One There to Listen" is about a family going camping. The parents are arguing all the time and the children feel that their father never pays attention to them or listens to them. He, of course, doesn't realize that this is true until it is too late to start paying attention.

In "Grandfather’s Gift" we are in the future where the deceased can carry on giving guests to their loved ones long after they have died. But what if the loved ones don't see it as a gift but rather as a constant reminder that their loved one is no longer with them. That's what happens to this family and it ends up in tragedy.

In "Lost in the Woods", a couple of students who don't really get along get lost in the woods whilst returning from a group holiday. They manage to return home safely but has their relationship changed?

In "Sleep", the last of the stories, the character is plagued by Demons that he believes are after him and burns down a church. The story tells of his court case and his stay at jail and a hospital, where they try to determine his guilt.

Each of the short stories were extremely well written and I enjoyed each one as much as the one before.

I think because of the difference in the stories that anyone could find at least one story that they love.

Buy The Passion of Jazz and Other Short Stories at Amazon

Claire Rees, reviewer. Claire lives in a small village in the South Wales Valleys, UK with her husband, two kids and five snakes. She has always loved reading books. Her favorite genres are horror, mystery and fantasy, although if the story line is good she'll read anything. Connect with Claire on Facebook.

Book info:
available formats: ebook (43 pages)
published: February 2016
genres: short stories, anthology
source: author

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: A free ebook was provided by the author for this review. 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.

May 29, 2016

Review: Rescued by Stephanie St. Klaire

by Elisa Hordon


So I had been looking for a new romance to sink my teeth into and nothing had really grabbed me lately, I mean I've read some good romances but I was searching for AWESOME, book boyfriend worthy, swoon worthy romance and something a little different as well would be good.

So with my wish list in mind, I was surfing Amazon as I do most days, but I still didn't find anything that grabbed my eye, but then I got a friend request through from a Stephanie St. Klaire, I noticed she was an author and friends with other author friends of mine so I clicked on confirm friend request and OMG I am so glad I did because this is where I found my next new LOVE, yes that’s right LOVE and I'm not just talking about the gorgeous Dawson who stars in Rescued.

I am totally fan girling about Stephanie, seriously what a writer and this one is only her first book now I am just hanging out for book 2. I figure it can only get better from here, but back to the book, Rescued.

Dawson Tayler, EMT, superhero, sparkly fairy and all round gorgeous hunk, you will so get the sparkly fairy reference when you read the book and I highly recommend you go get the book NOW.

Sam Taylor, nurse, mum, best friend, super sweet and super cute with a gentle sassyness about her that comes from a hard upbringing and being fiercely independent.

Neither Dawson nor Sam do relationships, or so they keep telling themselves. Everyone around them in the small town of McKenzie Ridge can see they are perfect for each other, but Sam and Dawson prefer their little world of denial and friendship. So they just keep hanging out together and breakfast after their shifts turns into breakfast every morning, which turns into lunch which then turns into one hot steamy kiss at the park which is all around town in a flash and everyone is still waiting for Sam and Dawson to bite the bullet and admit they are in a relationship.

McKenzie Ridge is a small town where everyone knows everyone's business and when tragedy strikes it hits the whole town hard. With Sam being a nurse and Dawson an EMT they are both on the front line when anything bad happens. But what if one night you were called out and it was someone you loved in a mangled mess of a car, what would you do? How would you handle it? And what if it turns out that the accident wasn't really an accident at all? What if something more sinister was happening and this was only a small part of the puzzle? But no way; this is McKenzie Ridge, small town USA, nothing sinister ever happens, that’s just all for tv and movies, isn't it?

This is one story you need to really read to pick up the subtle hints to something more going on. Stephanie St.Klaire, is such an awesome writer, the way she describes the small town atmosphere and comradery make you want to move right in, The way she describes the people and their feelings makes you feel everything right along with them and when it comes to creating memorable characters who will stay with you long after you have finished reading, well let's just say Stephanie writes exceptional characters, believable characters and characters who feel more like family, you just want to keep reading.

Dawson and Sam's romance is one for the books, I told Stephanie it needed a warning label 'Frequent Cold Showers Required While Reading' and I was not kidding Sam and Dawson sizzle on the pages in a sexy, sweet and endearing way, that just makes you want their happily ever after to come true but will outside forces set to cause harm stop Sam and Dawson's happiness........

Keep an eye out for book 2 in the McKenzie Ridge series out soon.

Buy Rescued at Amazon

Elisa Hordon, reviewerElisa lives on the Southern Highlands of NSW, Australia were she spends her days reading, journaling, painting, cooking and home schooling her daughter. She has always been an avid reader, Elisa loves reading many genres of books except horror; her favourite genres would be mystery, romance and paranormal. Elisa also loves pursuing many creative outlets if she is not relaxing with a book she can be found writing, sketching, painting or cooking. Elisa loves to share her obsession with books especially with her family and friends. Reading and reviewing books is a favourite pastime of Elisa’s.

Book info:
available formats: ebook and print (274 pages)
published: March 2016
ISBN13: 9781530461400
genres: romance, suspense
source: author

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: A free ebook was provided by the author. 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.