Friday, September 30, 2016

Book Review: Born Mobster

Title Born Mobster
Author Paige Dearth
Release Date September 29, 2016

Seven-year-old Tony Bruno is an outcast among his peers. Bullied by his classmates and rejected by his father, Tony is lonely and desperate. Tired of being bullied, Tony strikes back. In one act of blind courage, he shifts the balance of power.

When Tony becomes a teenager, a new kid named Salvatore Morano transfers to his school and becomes the object of ridicule. Tony feels compelled to help the new kid. He has no idea who Salvatore is and what it means to be his friend.

Soon Tony is sought out by Salvatore’s father, Johnny Morano, the godfather of the Philadelphia Mafia, to help protect his son. Tony, who has admired the Italian mob from a distance, has always been fascinated by the Mafia’s power. He quickly learns that with power comes sacrifice. Tony will be forced to draw upon strength from deep within to survive his new, unwanted life. From the dark corners of his new world, Tony is driven to emerge from the fires of hell to find happiness.

Born Mobster is a haunting story of one bullied child who is deprived of love and taunted by corrupt individuals along his journey. Follow Tony through his rite of passage and experience the brutalities, murders, love, and honor that finally force Tony to become the man he was born to be.

I have to admit that I almost decided against this book because of the cover. Honestly, it kind of creeps me out. Maybe it's the dead eyes or something. I don't know. Anyway, I pushed past the creepy cover and gave Born Mobster a chance since it sounded like something I'd enjoy.

Before I go any further, I want to throw out a warning. This book has some pretty disturbing elements. It was definitely more raw than I was prepared for. Abuse, both physical and sexual, play a strong role throughout the book. While it was hard to read at times, it felt necessary to tell Tony's story.

That being said, I really loved this book. While I might have questioned whether some parts were a bit too over the top, nothing was so unbelievable that the story was ruined for me. It was a strong, powerful story that will stick with me.

Don't let the creepy cover throw you off. This is an outstanding book with quality writing that keeps you turning the page until the very end.


5 out of 5 stars

* This book was received from Fiction with Meaning, LLC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. *

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Book Review: As I Descended

Title As I Descended
Author Robin Talley
Release Date September 6, 2016

Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple—even if no one knows it but them.

Only one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey.

Golden child Delilah is a legend at the exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize. She runs the school, and if she chose, she could blow up Maria and Lily’s whole world with a pointed look, or a carefully placed word.

But what Delilah doesn’t know is that Lily and Maria are willing to do anything—absolutely anything—to make their dreams come true. And the first step is unseating Delilah for the Kingsley Prize. The full scholarship, awarded to Maria, will lock in her attendance at Stanford―and four more years in a shared dorm room with Lily.

Maria and Lily will stop at nothing to ensure their victory—including harnessing the dark power long rumored to be present on the former plantation that houses their school.

But when feuds turn to fatalities, and madness begins to blur the distinction between what’s real and what is imagined, the girls must decide where they draw the line.

From acclaimed author Robin Talley comes a Shakespeare-inspired story of revenge and redemption, where fair is foul, and foul is fair.

I wasn't sure that I wanted to write a review on As I Descended. I always have a harder time writing about books I like. I'd much rather just shove the book in your hands and say, "Here, read this! You'll understand why afterwards." Not a very effective way to spread the book love.

As I Descended is a modern day re-telling of Macbeth. It was queer. It was diverse. It was creepy. It was awesome. Robin Talley totally nailed it. This was seriously everything I wanted in a book that I didn't know I was missing.

So that's my totally not a real review for this book. Read it. It's worth it!


5 out of 5 stars

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Spotlight/Giveaway: One Was Lost

Title One Was Lost
Author Natalie D. Richards
Release Date October 4, 2016
ISBN 9781492615743
Publishers Sourcebooks Fire

Damaged. Deceptive. Dangerous. Darling. Are they labels or a warning? The answer could cost Sera everything.

While on a mandatory senior field trip, a flash flood cuts off Sera and three classmates from their group with no way to call for help. But they’re not as alone as they thought…

Someone is stalking them through the woods. Someone who drugged them, stole their supplies, and wrote on their skin. Is it a judgement? A warning? If Sera doesn’t uncover the truth, it’s only a matter of time before the hunter finds her.

After years as a professional paper-pusher, NATALIE D. RICHARDS decided to trade in reality for a life writing YA fiction. She lives in Ohio (Go Bucks!) with her husband, three children, and a ridiculously furry dog named Yeti. This is her third novel. Visit her on Twitter @natdrichards or at

An Excerpt

No one said anything about rain in the brochures. Not that there were brochures. There was a handwritten sign-up sheet in the cafeteria, followed by permission slips recycled from ghosts of field trips past. I’m not really sure why I was expecting a world-class production. Must be the director in me. I stumble under the weight of my pack, sloshing through a puddle. Cold water oozes through my boots and socks. So much for Mr. Walker’s plastic ponchos keeping us dry. I guess after six straight hours of rain, dry is relative anyway. “I hope you packed your dirty clothes in the plastic bags I handed out last night,” Mr. Walker booms from the front of the line. “They might stink, but they’ll be dry.” The other girls cringe a little at the idea—all except Ms. Brighton, our younger, cooler teacher guide. She’s very Zen about these things, nodding along in her crystal earrings and mud-dyed Gaia Mother T-shirt. I’m in the last half of the group, behind Jude with his ever-present earbuds and imperious gaze. Since I’m five-two, the back of his poncho is about all I can see, but it’s better than looking at Lucas. Anything’s better than looking at Lucas.

Even behind me, I can feel him. Looming. Everyone’s tall measured against me, but Lucas is ridiculous. He towers. If there were actually a sun to be found in this Appalachian monsoon, his shoulders would cast a shadow you could hide two of me in. I have no idea what you have to eat to grow like that. Corn? Eggs? Small children?

I trudge onward, slowing to shift my backpack. The right strap is digging a painful trench into my shoulder, and I can’t find a way to move it. My poncho slips with the effort, and a river of icy water slithers down my back.

“Holy crap!” I say, arching in a futile effort to escape.

“Keep moving, Spielberg,” Lucas says behind me.

I grit my teeth and walk on. If I respond, I might have to look at him, and I’ve worked very hard not to do that. I’ve not looked for sixty-two days. It’s a pretty good track record. I’m not going to wreck it just because he ended up on my Senior Life Experience Mission. At the last possible minute, no less.

“Is this really top speed for you?” he asks, sounding like he’s on the verge of a laugh.

I stare at the line of backpacks and ponchos ahead of me, resist­ing the urge to snap back at him. I need to be the bigger person here. It’s not like I don’t know why he’s picking at me.

“Still sticking with the silent treatment?” he asks. “Gotta give it to you, you’re committed. Slow-moving as shit but committed.”

OK, I’m bigger personed out.

I whirl around. I shouldn’t—I know I shouldn’t—but the words blurt out. “Newsflash, Lucas! I’m moving as fast as I can. Not all of us are loping around with giraffe legs like you, so if you’re in such a rush, feel free to move ahead.”

He steps closer, and it happens. I see him. Really see him.

Fricking crap.

He tilts his head until his face is visible inside his plastic hood. How does he do it? He’s just as wet and miserable as the rest of us, but somehow, he’s owning the hell out of a poncho that makes me look like I need a zip tie and a trip to the curb.

I should walk away, at least look away. Lucas is all sharp lines and hooded eyes, and I should have learned my lesson. Because standing here brings me right back to that night on the porch. My ears go buzzy with the memory of crickets singing and the backdrop of the cast party inside. My face tingles because I remember other things too—his scratchy jaw and soft mouth and my heart beating faster than it ever should.

My gaze drifts to his smirk and lead pools in my stomach. That’s what I’m really mad about. It’s not his teasing or the rain or anything else. It’s the fact that he turns me into the same flut­tery mess I was all summer. He still turns me into my mother, and I hate it.

I try to move away, but he catches the edge of my poncho— keeps me facing him. “Huh.”

I cross my arms. “Huh, what?”

“Look who suddenly remembers me,” he says softly.


“I won’t,” he says, though his grin needs a parental advisory label. “I didn’t then, did—”

Lightning flashes, bright enough that we both jerk.

One Mississippi.
Two Mississ—

The sound that follows is like the sky being torn in two. It ends with a bone-deep rumble that rattles the ground and bunches my spine. I close my eyes and take a breath, yoga-slow. It doesn’t cleanse anything, so I try another.

Across from me, Lucas is searching the sky. I take the oppor­tunity to turn and bolt ahead on the trail. Not that there’s anywhere to go. Away from him is good enough.

I plow into Jude’s back in my eagerness to escape. He spares me one millisecond of irritation, and then he’s back to pretending we’re all part of the scenery.

The trail widens here, or maybe the forest is less dense. Who knows? It gives me enough room to move past Jude until I’m next to Emily, my tent mate for the last two nights.

Emily looks back at me—a sparkle of dark eyes under her poncho—and her mouth twitches. Is she smiling at me? That’s new.

“Some trip, right?” I ask.

She ducks her head. And that’s as close to a conversation as we’ve gotten. I sigh. We have three more days of awkwardness in the woods. Three. More. Days.

“Hold up.” Mr. Walker is ultra-alert. “Everybody stay right here. Don’t move.”

Pre-Order Links

Letter from Natalie Richards

Dear Reader,

It’s hard to believe One Was Lost is finally here. It feels weird to admit that I’ve been desperately looking forward to scaring you all and keeping you up way past your bedtimes, but it’s the truth. And now that it’s finally out in the world, I just can’t wait to hear what you all think! I mean, after you get some sleep of course. I’m not that impatient.

As a writer with my fourth book hitting the shelves, I can say each new release has its own special brand of excitement. Each story has elements that you cherish and characters you love. But One Was Lost wasn’t like any of my other books. Writing this book was a whole new ball game.

The truth behind One Was Lost is that my father died a few months before I started writing it. He was my inspiration for writing as a child and easily one of my closest friends throughout my life. Losing him was like having my foundation knocked sideways. My grief felt oceans deep and I was lost in the roll of every wave. It was brutally difficult.

For anyone who’s met me and knows what a class clown I am, I’ll confess 2015 was one of the least funny years of my life. Still, when I sat down to write One Was Lost, I knew I had something special. These characters were speaking to me like characters never had. This story was at a roiling boil in my head—but, could I really write it?

Doubt plagued me in those first days. Could I still remember how to get lost in a story? Could I get it right when I was still struggling so much? Most importantly, could I still be the writer I used to be?

The answer was quick and a little terrifying. No.

I couldn’t go back to the writer I was before. Losing someone incredibly important to you changes you. There is a new normal you must adjust to, and that new normal doesn’t fade away after the funeral is done and over.

My new normal proved to be a very powerful force in my writing life. One Was Lost forced me to face fears I might have danced around in other books. I had no choice but to dive more deeply than ever before. My new perspective had me spend more time than usual learning about these new characters. Trying to understand them. Hurting with them and fearing with them.

I didn’t just lose myself in One Was Lost, I drowned in it. I fell so deeply into this book that at times it was difficult to resurface to do normal, mundane not-lost-and-terrified-in-the-forest things. I’m not sure I’ve ever been more in love with characters in any of my stories, and I’m absolutely sure I’ve never been happier with the way a book has turned out.

It is my dearest hope that you’ll all get a little lost in this book too. Sometimes even the scariest things can bring out strength and goodness we never believed possible. And it is just that reason that One Was Lost is a book I’m so particularly proud of and excited to share with you.

Happy Reading!

About the Author

After years as a professional paper-pusher, NATALIE D. RICHARDS decided to trade in reality for a life writing YA fiction. She lives in Ohio (Go Bucks!) with her husband, three children, and a ridiculously furry dog named Yeti. This is her third novel. Visit her on Twitter @natdrichards or at

Author Links



Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Book Review: Shelter from the Storm

Title Shelter from the Storm
Series Ikana College, book 2
Author J. D. Brick
Release Date April 19, 2016

The epic love story that began in Tangled Up in Blue (Ikana College #1) continues in Shelter from the Storm:

​​College students Keegan and Blue find themselves at the center of a storm of their own making.​ Blue ​is called to account for his actions ​when he w​as a soldier in Afghanistan. He tries to do the right thing. But almost overnight​, he is enveloped in a raging controversy that threatens the well-being of everyone close to him, especially the girl he so desperately loves.

As their relationship is put to a thunderous test, Keegan and Blue take comfort in each other. Every choice they make, though, comes at a cost. Lies are exposed. Vengeance is taken. But the demands of justice and the merciless machinations of fate seem to offer no escape.

I enjoyed this book more than Tangled Up in Blue. It was certainly a satisfying conclusion to Keegan and Blue's story.

This time around Keegan and Blue's story felt less sickly sweet, instalove-like. It felt like an improvement to me. Things still felt intense between them and they felt very much in love, but it felt more solid and realistic than before.

I really enjoyed seeing everything come to a head in Shelter from the Storm.


3.5 out of 5 stars

Friday, September 16, 2016

Book Review: Tangled Up in Blue

Title Tangled Up in Blue
Series Ikana College, book 1
Author J. D. Brick
Release Date March 14, 2015

A red-hot boy named Blue. A heart-wrenching love story...

Keegan Crenshaw needs a hero. She's a straight-A student from a famous Oklahoma family and the youngest-ever editor of her college newspaper. She's got a lot to prove. But she's got enemies. Someone's out to get her. Someone's got her running scared. And she runs right into the arms of a red-hot boy named Blue.

Deep down, Blue is still the brave soldier who risked his life for others in Afghanistan. He's still a hero, even if he no longer believes it. All he wants now, though, is to make music and bury the secret that could destroy his future. Blue tries hard to be a good guy. But he's wrestling with demons he can barely control. And when Keegan moves into his house and very quickly into his heart, his hard-fought control begins to slip away.

Keegan and Blue can't stay away from each other, can't stop thinking about each other. They have a connection--body, mind and soul--they cannot resist. But it will cost them dearly. Secrets have a way of exploding into the light. Sometimes it's hard to know who's a hero and who'll turn out to be a heartbreaker.

Is Blue the love of Keegan's life, her knight in shining armor? Or will he become an agonizing mistake?

Searing and sexy, Tangled Up in Blue explores the consequences of deception, the meaning of courage and the redeeming value of sacrificial love. It contains strong language and adult situations, and it ends in a cliffhanger. Book 2, Shelter from the Storm, continues and concludes the story of Keegan and Blue.

Tangled Up in Blue was a decent enough read. It felt a bit like a new adult romance cliche in a lot of ways, but it kept my attention and I didn't roll my eyes too much (I could have done without reading the word "loins" so many times). I can definitely see how many people will love this book, even if I felt more lukewarm towards it.

The biggest downfall of Tangled Up in Blue for me was the insta-love. I'm just not a fan of it in any book. What I found comical was that Keegan even says their relationship had turned into some sort of insta-love that she despises. I agree, Keegan, I despise it, too. I like my relationships to have some depth and emotional connection. It just seems that Blue has white knight syndrome and wants to save Keegan (and have sex with her).

Though this book ends in a cliffhanger, I'm interested enough in the story to read the second book, Shelter from the Storm. Hopefully it will have a satisfying ending (though, I'd like to point out that satisfying doesn't necessarily mean HEA for me).


3 out of 5 stars

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Book Review: Labyrinth Lost

Title Labyrinth Lost
Author Zoraida Córdova
Release Date September 6, 2016

Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

I really liked this book. It's different than most of what I've read lately and that's always a huge plus in my book.

There's so many good things to say about Labyrinth Lost. The writing was lovely. I loved the world building we see in Los Lagos. It's so unique. The main characters, as well as the secondary characters, were really interesting. Loved that the main character is bisexual. I really appreciate it wasn't made into some big deal, but treated normally. I loved that the author took from different Latin American religions and cultures. The diversity of this book was awesome.

Again, there's so much to enjoy about this book. I'm so happy that I got the chance to read it. I'm really looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Be sure to head over to this post to see the book trailer for Labyrinth Lost and enter to win a copy and a signed bookmark.


5 out of 5 stars

* This book was received from Sourcebooks Fire via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. *

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Spotlight/Giveaway: Labyrinth Lost

Title Labyrinth Lost
Author Zoraida Córdova
Release Date September 6, 2016
Publisher Sourcebooks Fire
ISBN 9781492620945

Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

An Excerpt


Follow our voices, sister.
Tell us the secret of your death.
-- Resurrection Canto,
Book of Cantos

The second time I saw my dead aunt Rosaria, she was dancing.

Earlier that day, my mom had warned me, pressing a long, red fingernail on the tip of my nose, “Alejandra, don’t go downstairs when the Circle arrives.”

But I was seven and asked too many questions. Every Sunday, cars piled up in our driveway, down the street, and around the corner of our old, narrow house in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Mom’s Circle usually brought cellophane--wrapped dishes and jars of dirt and tubs of brackish water that made the Hudson River look clean. This time, they carried something more.

When my sisters started snoring, I threw off my covers and crept down the stairs. The floorboards were uneven and creaky, but I was good at not being seen. Fuzzy, yellow streetlight shone through our attic window and followed me down every flight until I reached the basement.

A soft hum made its way through the thin walls. I remember thinking I should listen to my mom’s warning and go back upstairs. But our house had been restless all week, and Lula, Rose, and I were shoved into the attic, out of the way while the grown--ups prepared the funeral. I wanted out. I wanted to see.

The night was moonless and cold one week after the Witch’s New Year, when Aunt Rosaria died of a sickness that made her skin yellow like hundred--year--old paper and her nails turn black as coal. We tried to make her beautiful again. My sisters and I spent all day weaving good luck charms from peonies, corn husks, and string—-one loop over, under, two loops over, under. Not even the morticians, the Magos de Muerte, could fix her once--lovely face.

Aunt Rosaria was dead. I was there when we mourned her. I was there when we buried her. Then, I watched my father and two others shoulder a dirty cloth bundle into the house, and I knew I couldn’t stay in bed, no matter what my mother said.

So I opened the basement door.

Red light bathed the steep stairs. I leaned my head toward the light, toward the beating sound of drums and sharp plucks of fat, nylon guitar strings.

A soft mew followed by whiskers against my arm made my heart jump to the back of my rib cage. I bit my tongue to stop the scream. It was just my cat, Miluna. She stared at me with her white, glowing eyes and hissed a warning, as if telling me to turn back. But Aunt Rosaria was my godmother, my family, my friend. And I wanted to see her again.

“Sh!” I brushed the cat’s head back.

Miluna nudged my leg, then ran away as the singing started.

I took my first step down, into the warm, red light. Raspy voices called out to our gods, the Deos, asking for blessings beyond the veil of our worlds. Their melody pulled me step by step until I was crouched at the bottom of the landing.

They were dancing.

Brujas and brujos were dressed in mourning white, their faces painted in the aspects of the dead, white clay and black coal to trace the bones. They danced in two circles—-the outer ring going clockwise, the inner counterclockwise—hands clasped tight, voices vibrating to the pulsing drums.

And in the middle was Aunt Rosaria.

Her body jerked upward. Her black hair pooled in the air like she was suspended in water. There was still dirt on her skin. The white skirt we buried her in billowed around her slender legs. Black smoke slithered out of her open mouth. It weaved in and out of the circle—-one loop over, under, two loops over, under. It tugged Aunt Rosaria higher and higher, matching the rhythm of the canto.

Then, the black smoke perked up and changed its target. It could smell me. I tried to backpedal, but the tiles were slick, and I slid toward the circle. My head smacked the tiles. Pain splintered my skull, and a broken scream lodged in my throat.

The music stopped. Heavy, tired breaths filled the silence of the pulsing red dark. The enchantment was broken. Aunt Rosaria’s reanimated corpse turned to me. Her body purged black smoke, lowering her back to the ground. Her ankles cracked where the bone was brittle, but still she took a step. Her dead eyes gaped at me. Her wrinkled mouth growled my name: Alejandra.

She took another step. Her ankle turned and broke at the joint, sending her flying forward. She landed on top of me. The rot of her skin filled my nose, and grave dirt fell into my eyes.

Tongues clucked against crooked teeth. The voices of the circle hissed, “What’s the girl doing out of bed?”

There was the scent of extinguished candles and melting wax. Decay and perfume oil smothered me until they pulled the body away.

My mother jerked me up by the ear, pulling me up two flights of stairs until I was back in my bed, the scream stuck in my throat like a stone.

“Never,” she said. “You hear me, Alejandra? Never break a Circle.”

I lay still. So still that after a while, she brushed my hair, thinking I had fallen asleep.

I wasn’t. How could I ever sleep again? Blood and rot and smoke and whispers filled my head.

“One day you’ll learn,” she whispered.

Then she went back down the street--lit stairs, down into the warm red light and to Aunt Rosaria’s body. My mother clapped her hands, drums beat, strings plucked, and she said, “Again.”

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Praise for Labryinth Lost

“This work is a magical journey from start to finish... A compelling must-have for teens
School Library Journal, STARRED review

“Córdova’s (the Vicious Deep series) magic-infused, delightfully dark story introduces readers to an engrossing, Latin American–inspired fantasy setting and an irresistible heroine”
Publishers Weekly

A brilliant brown-girl-in-Brooklyn update on Alice in Wonderland and Dante’s Inferno. Very creepy, very magical, very necessary.”
Daniel José Older, New York Times bestselling author of Shadowshaper

“Labyrinth Lost is more like reading Paradise Found. Zoraida Córdova brings us a new generation of witches, enchanting and complex. And every page is filled with magic.”
Danielle Page, New York Times bestselling author of Dorothy Must Die

“Córdova’s world will leave you breathless, and her magic will ignite an envy so green you’ll wish you were born a bruja. Delightfully dark and enchanting. An un-putdownable book.”
Dhonielle Clayton, author of The Belles and Shiny Broken Pieces

“Córdova’s rich exploration of Latin American culture, her healthy portrayal of bisexuality and her unique voice allow this novel to stand out among its many peers.”
RT Book Reviews

“Cordova draws inspiration from Ecuadorian, Spanish, African, Mexican, and Caribbean folklore and mythology to craft a page-turning tale about a young bruja unsure of her place in the world.”

“Córdova pulls elements from Greek mythology and Spanish and Latin American legends to craft a memorable world in Los Lagos, a supernatural realm that is as fascinating as it is threatening. The history and customs of Alex’s family’s type of witchery are also carefully constructed, giving readers a complete world to sink into with satisfaction and wonder.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“This succeeds with its lush use of Latin American mythologies, an unexpected love story, and, above all, in Alex’s complicated relationship with her family. Alex is a necessary heroine, and this dark fantasy nicely”

Book Trailer

About the Author

Zoraida Córdova was born in Ecuador and raised in Queens, New York. She is the author of the Vicious Deep trilogy, the On the Verge series, and the Brooklyn Brujas series. She loves black coffee, snark, and still believes in magic. Send her a tweet @Zlikeinzorro or visit her at


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