Thursday, April 27, 2017

Book Review: The Perfect Stranger

Title The Perfect Stranger
Author Megan Miranda
Release Date April 11, 2017

Confronted by a restraining order and the threat of a lawsuit, failed journalist Leah Stevens needs to get out of Boston when she runs into an old friend, Emmy Grey, who has just left a troubled relationship. Emmy proposes they move to rural Pennsylvania, where Leah can get a teaching position and both women can start again. But their new start is threatened when a woman with an eerie resemblance to Leah is assaulted by the lake, and Emmy disappears days later.

Determined to find Emmy, Leah cooperates with Kyle Donovan, a handsome young police officer on the case. As they investigate her friend’s life for clues, Leah begins to wonder: did she ever really know Emmy at all? With no friends, family, or a digital footprint, the police begin to suspect that there is no Emmy Grey. Soon Leah’s credibility is at stake, and she is forced to revisit her past: the article that ruined her career. To save herself, Leah must uncover the truth about Emmy Grey—and along the way, confront her old demons, find out who she can really trust, and clear her own name.

Everyone in this rural Pennsylvanian town has something to hide—including Leah herself. How do you uncover the truth when you are busy hiding your own?

Megan Miranda seemed to be everywhere last year with her bestselling novel, All the Missing Girls. While it originally didn't strike me as something I was too interested in reading, I picked it up to test the waters of Megan Miranda's writing. I gave All the Missing Girls four stars and I thoroughly enjoyed the story being told in reserve. While she pulled that off rather flawlessly, I was curious as to how she'd handle a story told "normally."

The Perfect Stranger was slightly better than All the Missing Girls. I feel like it was easier to fall into the story. It was suspenseful and kept me engaged the whole time. Just when I thought I had it all figured out, I'd be hit with something new and thrown for a loop.

Megan Miranda is adept at writing suspense. I can't wait to read another novel from her in the future.


5 out of 5 stars

* This book was received from Simon & Schuster via Netalley in exchange for an honest review. *

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Book Review: Seeds of Iniquity

Title Seeds of Iniquity
Series In the Company of Killers, book 4
Author J. A. Redmerski
Release Date September 29, 2014

Victor Faust’s new Order is growing. Business is good as there is no rest for the wicked in an underground world of hardcore criminals and contract killing. Relationships among the operatives have changed little over the past year—but things are about to change now, and all six high-ranking members of the new Order will be blindsided by an unlikely enemy.

Loved ones whose only ties to Victor’s organization are their relationships with its members, are abducted. The price to get them back safely—the six must confess their deepest, darkest secret to this mysterious young woman named Nora, who is as deadly as she is beautiful, and who seems to know more about each of them than they know about each other. And although no one has any clue about who Nora really is, it becomes clear that she also isn’t who she appears to be.

So much more is at stake than secrets and the lives of innocent loved ones; with each member that Nora forces to confess, the truth about their dark pasts and their present objectives will cast suspicion, pit some against each other, and may tear others apart.

Before the game is over everyone will know who this woman is and why she is here, but the damage she will leave in her wake could be the beginning of the new Order’s destruction.

Whose dark secret will be the darkest of all? And can Victor’s Order survive any of them?

Reviews for previous books: Killing Sarai, Reviving Izabel, and The Swan and the Jackal

I'm so disappointed in myself. It's been over two and a half years since I read The Swan and the Jackal. How did I let so much time pass between that book and this one? I've really enjoyed this series and I can't believe I waited so long to read Seeds of Iniquity. I'm definitely not letting that much time pass before I read The Black Wolf. Moving along...

After reading the last couple of chapters of The Swan and the Jackal again for a bit of a refresher, I dove right into book number four. Instantly I was back into the story as if no time at all had passed since the last book. I love that I was so easily sucked back into the story.

Thanks to the author's skillful writing, it's so easy to imagine the book playing out like a movie in my head. The story is so vivid and detailed. I was certainly reminded of my love for this series.

These characters come to life on each and every page. Nora is an interesting new character. I'm excited to see more of her in the future. Oh and that ending with Fredrik! I am definitely intrigued. Of course, he's one of my favorites, so I'm very curious to see how that story will turn out. I will admit, after this book, Niklas has piqued my interest. I think I want more of him, please.

I'm so glad I picked this book up when I did. I definitely needed something to get me out of my reading slump and this was it.


5 out of 5 stars

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Thursday Quotables (#3)

Thursday Quotables is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week. Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, you’re invited to join in! This weekly feature is hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

A Psalm for Lost Girls
Katie Bayerl
After the first round of prayers, my energy begins to lift. By the third round, my headache is gone and as we all murmur amen, I hear the voice for the first time in days: LOVE, it tells me. IN THE END IS LOVE.
I know somehow that this message isn’t for Mrs. Khoury or the others. This one’s for me. And I think I know what it means too: The voice is telling me not to be afraid, reminding me that even in the worst moments, when nothing makes sense and doubt and worry make everything bleak, there is still love in my life. Right here with this small group of believers. And inside with Callie and Ma.
I ask Mrs. Khoury & Co to give me their blessings before they go. Because today, the tables have turned. Today, their faith has healed me.

What were your favorite lines this week? Share your Thursday Quotables in the comments below and I'll be sure to stop by!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday (#25)

"Waiting on Wednesday" is a weekly event that's hosted by Breaking the Spine. It spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week, I'm waiting on...

Title Aftercare Instructions
Author Bonnie Pipkin
Release Date June 27, 2017

In the tradition of Jandy Nelson and Rainbow Rowell, a big-hearted journey of furious friendship, crazy love, and unexpected hope after a teen's decision to end an unwanted pregnancy

“Troubled.” That’s seventeen-year-old Genesis according to her small New Jersey town. She finds refuge and stability in her relationship with her boyfriend, Peter—until he abandons her at a Planned Parenthood clinic during their appointment to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. The betrayal causes Gen to question everything.

As Gen pushes herself forward to find her new identity without Peter, she must also confront her most painful memories. Through the lens of an ongoing four act play within the novel, the fantasy of their undying love unravels line by line, scene by scene. Digging deeper into her past while exploring the underground theater world of New York City, she rediscovers a long-forgotten dream. But it’s when Gen lets go of her history, the one she thinks she knows, that she’s finally able to embrace the complicated, chaotic true story of her life, and take center stage.

This powerfully immersive and format-crushing debut follows Gen from dorm rooms to diners to house parties to auditions—and ultimately, right into readers’ hearts.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday? Share your links in the comments below and I'll be sure to drop by!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Spotlight/Giveaway: The Dead Inside

Title The Dead Inside
Author Cyndy Etler
Release Date April 4, 2017
ISBN 9781492635734
Publishers Sourcebooks Fire

For readers of Girl Interrupted and Tweak, Cyndy Etler's gripping memoir gives readers a glimpse into the harrowing reality of her sixteen months in the notorious "tough love" program the ACLU called "a concentration camp for throwaway kids."

I never was a badass. Or a slut, a junkie, a stoner, like they told me I was. I was just a kid looking for something good, something that felt like love. I was a wannabe in a Levi's jean jacket. Anybody could see that. Except my mother. And the professionals at Straight.

From the outside, Straight Inc. was a drug rehab. But on the inside it was...well, it was something else.

All Cyndy wanted was to be loved and accepted. By age fourteen, she had escaped from her violent home, only to be reported as a runaway and sent to a "drug rehabilitation" facility that changed her world.

To the public, Straight Inc. was a place of recovery. But behind closed doors, the program used bizarre and intimidating methods to "treat" its patients. In her raw and fearless memoir, Cyndy Etler recounts her sixteen months in the living nightmare that Straight Inc. considered "healing."

An Excerpt

You’re not going to believe this. Seriously, nobody does. But this stuff happened, right here in America. In the warehouse down the street.
The warehouse had a name: Straight, Incorporated. Straight called itself a drug rehab for kids, but most of us had barely even smoked weed. Take me, for example. In September, at age thirteen, I smoked it for the first time. I tried smoking again in October. In November, I got locked up in Straight—for sixteen months. The second we entered the building, we all stopped being kids. We stopped being humans. Instead, we were Straightlings.
Other than my father and me, each person you read about here has a fake name. Many of the Straightlings are smooshed-together versions of different people, but everything happened exactly how I describe it. If you want proof, hit the epilogue. There you’ll find court records, canceled checks, newspaper reportage, and Straight, Inc. internal documents. Want more proof? Go online and read all of the survivor stories that are just like mine.
And to my fellow Straightlings? Put your armor on. You’re going back on front row.

Something weird is going on. Something even weirder than the regular daily freak show. I can feel it. I can hear it. I just can’t see it yet.
Other than Amanda showing up, it’s been a normal day—people singing stupid songs; kids sharing about their druggie pasts; the teen staff strutting to the barstools like they’re on the red carpet. But then the side doors open, and all these kids I’ve never seen before come flooding in. They stand around the edges of group, wedged tight at the shoulder in a human fortress. It’s creepy and just…wrong.
A half hour later, on some invisible cue, they swarm around us, claw us up from our seats, and carry us across the group room. The door goons are gone, so they march us right through the back doors and into this empty room. The walls are bare brick and the carpet is new-jeans blue. We’re tugged into rows, because with no talking allowed and no chairs, how do we know where we’re supposed to sit? We should know, though. I can tell by the way my carrier is yanking me around. She practically tears my belt loop off.
Once we’re all positioned and sitting cross-legged—with the boys’ side so close, if I whistled, I’d ruffle their bangs—the bad guys show up: Matt King and the mean blond smiler.
“Family rap!” Matt yells.
The people around me start motivating and I do it too, because I don’t want a fucking demon at my back. Without anyone telling me, I put my arms up and shake them around. And that’s what gets Matt’s attention. He’s scanning the tightly packed room, and his eyes sear into me. They look even darker than yesterday.
“Cyyyyndy,” he goes.
The blond staff snaps her head my way. Her smile blinks to life.
“Oh! Y-yeah?” I say back.
My fists are still up by my ears. This isn’t what I was motivating for. I didn’t actually want to be called on.
“Stand up!” he says, fake friendly.
Everyone’s palms do the upward air shove.
My rubbery legs make it hard to stand. It’s silent except for the rustle of my clothes.
“So…?” Matt says from his barstool.
“What?” I say back. But I say it confused, not snotty.
What? What. What is that this is family rap. You need to tell us about an incident from your past, an incident involving your family.”
Four hundred eyes and chins are leveled at me. They make it hard to think.
“Were you a good girl in your past, Cyndy? Were you nice and sweet to your family?”
“Well, they—”
“I’m not asking about them. Were you nice and sweet to your family?”
“Um, no?”
“That’s right, Cyndy! You’re doing great. Now tell us about an incident with your family where you acted like your druggie self.”
I just stand there. I don’t have a family. I have a mother and a sister and a stepthing who’s the devil, plus his kids. And “an incident”? I have no idea what I’m supposed to say.
My whole name. He says my whole name. Like he has some…ownership of me.
“We’re waiting!”
“I—I don’t know.”
I might be starting to cry a little.
He’s still staring at me, his eyebrows pointed into sharp little horns.
“I thought I’d give you another chance, Cyndy. But you’ve wasted enough of this group’s time. Have a seat.”
I can’t sit down fast enough, so I fall instead. My hand catches a girl’s shoulder, but she jerks it off like she hates me. I feel it, like a heat.
The group starts to yell a “Love ya—” at me, but Matt cuts them off. “No!”
Next the girl who hates me stands up, to share how she made her father beat her. “I remember, this one time?” she starts out.
That’s Straight code for, Here’s why my parents hate me enough to leave me here.
“I remember saying to my dad, ‘Maybe if you didn’t drink so much, Mom wouldn’t need therapy.’ I said that to my dad. I ended up in the hospital with a broken arm after that sweet nothing. And I deserved it, one hundred percent. He fed me and clothed me and kept a roof over my head, and that’s the thanks I give him? I can’t believe he’ll even still look at me.”
Matt doesn’t just let the group tell her Love ya, he leads it. Before she even sits, he’s all, “Love ya, Sammie!” so loud it rattles the doorknobs.
At the end of family rap, Lucy tells us what song she wants to hear—one of those ones from Sunday school. It goes, “They will know we are Straightlings by our love, by our love. They will knoooow we are Straightlings by our love.”
The next slap of weird comes when they push us back into the never-ending beige of the group room. The linked chairs are still in rows, but they’ve been turned around to face an ocean of gray folding chairs. There’s enough seats for all of Communist China. It’s like a chair warehouse, which, ding! That’s what this place is! It’s a warehouse, literally. It’s a giant storage locker where, for a fee, parents can disappear their fuckups and rejects.
That’s another reason I’ll be outta here tomorrow. No way does my mother have the money for this place, when she can barely put five dollars of gas in her car. Twenty-four hours, and I’ll be on my way back to Jo’s; forty-eight and I’m in Steve’s room. How could their parents not let me stay with them, when they hear what I’ve been through?
I can feel my Levi’s on my thighs, my denim on my back. Just thinking about Levi’s feels so good, I barely notice that I’m picking up a dinner tray and getting pushed back to the chairs. In my mind I’m like, one hundred percent in Levi’s…until the hand in my pants lets go while I’m still standing.
“Uh?” I kind of grunt, turning my head to the demon behind me.
“Go down the row,” she says. “Sit in that first open seat.”
Feeling like the balloon some little kid let go of, I look down the row, and oh my God! It’s not the front row! I’m out of the bull’s-eye!
“Thanks,” I say.
I get a mean Shhh! for a reply, but it’s drowned out by this earsplitting SCREECH. Since I’m standing, I can see what’s going on. But, God. I wish I couldn’t.
It’s Amanda. She’s surrounded by demons, and she’s fighting them all at once. Crouched at her back is the biggest guy you’ve ever seen. He loops his arms around her from behind, linking his hands in a hate hug. But even worse is what they’re doing to her arms. Two guys are gripping her wrists, Jacque style. Matt King style. They’re spreading them like airplane wings, out and down and fast. Tomorrow she’ll have handcuff bruises. She’s telling them she hates them with animal sounds, not words. I don’t know if I’m more scared for her or for them.
A fist hits my spine, so I move down the row. I’m trying not to hear it all: the screams, the thwap of flesh on flesh, the shriek of metal as a kicked chair scrapes across the floor. When I get down to my seat, I can’t help it. I look back at Amanda right as the big guy snaps his hand over her mouth. He’s—he’s gagging her. Her face is red, and it’s getting redder. Her eyes bulge out, and she slams her head forward, then back.
There’s a χραχκ as her skull hits his, and a shree! as Amanda throws opens her throat. She head-cracked the gagger. She got his hand off her mouth.
“Gimme my fucking Doc!” she screams.
She rips her bare foot away from the guy who was pinning it; he lunges and tackles her shin. Other guys are running at her. That’s when I sit down. I sit and pray for somewhere to put my tray, so I can plug my ears. Amanda’s noises are shredding me. It’s like she knows what she’s doing, fighting off all these guys. This is why she needs armor clothes. I don’t want to see or hear or know that it’s happening again.
“Intake room! Sit on ’er!”
It’s our hero, Matt King. He’s striding across the room. He’s calm, he’s casual. He’s happy.
There’s more fleshy struggle sounds, more running feet.
“Group. Look,” Matt says, in a voice you don’t ignore. “This could be you, if you try to run.”
We spin around to watch Amanda, who’s being carried across the room by six guys. She’s a human casket. She’s got one boot on, and her body’s rippling, trying to shake the boys off her. And she’s howling.
“Gimme my Doc Marten, you cock-fucking bastards! I’ll kill you! I’ll—”
Another guy runs over and jams a hand over her mouth. His teeth glint through his smile.
In English class, one of Mrs. Skinner’s vocab words was “maxim,” which is a wise little phrase about life. She gave us this example they use in Japan, to make sure everybody acts the same as everybody else: “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.” Amanda is the sticking-up nail. But she’s not smooth and straight, like a regular nail. She’s all knotted up. They can’t hammer her flat, so they’re killing her instead.
The funeral procession ends as the boys carry Amanda through a door to the left of the kitchen. It’s a beige door, painted to match the walls, like they don’t want anyone to know it’s there. The door slams; the group room’s silent. It sounds like the end of the world.

About the Author

Cyndy Etler was homeless at fourteen, summa cum laude at thirty. In her current work as a teacher and teen life coach, Etler happily teaches teens that books work better than drugs. She lives with her husband and dogs in North Carolina. Find her at

Author Twitter


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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Book Review: Perfect

Title Perfect
Series Flawed, book 2
Author Cecelia Ahern
Release Date April 4, 2017

Celestine North lives in a society that demands perfection. After she was branded Flawed by a morality court, Celestine's life has completely fractured--all her freedoms gone.

Since Judge Crevan has declared her the number one threat to the public, she has been a ghost, on the run with Carrick--the only person she can trust.

But Celestine has a secret--one that could bring the entire Flawed system crumbling to the ground. A secret that has already caused countless people to go missing.

Judge Crevan is gaining the upper hand, and time is running out for Celestine. With tensions building, Celestine must make a choice: save just herself or to risk her life to save all Flawed people.

And, most important of all, can she prove that to be human in itself is to be Flawed?

My review of the first book, Flawed, can be found here.

I thoroughly enjoyed Flawed, but Perfect left something to be desired. It just felt like, for much of the book, not a whole lot happened. It almost seems like it could have been one book instead of two. Just gut the majority of Perfect and attach it to the end of Flawed and it would have been a single strong book instead of a decent book followed up by a mediocre book.

I'm not sure that I enjoyed the relationship between Carrick and Celestine. It just didn't feel legitimate. I think there was too much insta-love between them with no real foundation for how far they'd go for one another.

Perfect wasn't a bad book. It just wasn't as good as Flawed. It did end the series rather well, wrapping everything up nicely.


3 out of 5 stars

* This book was received from Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. *

Monday, April 3, 2017

Cover Real: Crazy Little Spring Called Love

Eight Magical Stories of Fantasy Romance
Stars and Stone Books

Featuring: Heather
Bythesea, Elsa Carruthers, M.T. DeSantis, Traci Douglass, L.J. Longo, Cara
McKinnon, Sheri Queen, and Mary Rogers

Spring 07 Ebook Final 01

One night. Two star-crossed immortals. Will their vibrant connection
survive beyond sunrise?

A story of courage and sacrifice--and finding love where you never
thought to look.

Sometimes mortals need a little push from a god and goddess to fall in

Can a djinn and a clueless guy beat the clock, avoid the curse, and
maybe even find true love?

A mermaid: hundreds of miles from her home on the ice, on a ship with a
troll, a goblin wizard, and a pack of wolves. What else can go wrong? Oh,
right. A flippin’ sea monster.

A druid’s bargain gives Carson revenge against his former lover
Carrie–at the price of her memories of them together. But did she truly steal
his magic all those years ago? Or was the real theft his heart?