Friday, July 31, 2015

review: one step too far by tina seskis

One day Emily walks out on her life. Conveniently she’s always gone by her middle name and has used her husband’s last name since marrying, but her passport is under her legal birth name. This makes it far easier for her to get on a train and start over. The family drama makes for an interesting read, but One Step Too Far presents that there is a big mystery surrounding the why of Emily’s departure. This is where the novel fails. Tina Seskis does well at rotating the perspective of the chapters to keep up the mystery, but the reveal was a huge disappointment that was fairly easily guessed (which made me dismiss it as the big mystery since it seemed there should be something more). The actual writing was engaging and compelling enough to keep the pages turning, but One Step Too Far didn’t pay off in the end.
2/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

review: rise again by ben tripp

It should have been a typical Fourth of July. Sheriff Danielle Adelman had some holiday duties like judging the chili contest held by her small California hometown, but it all should have gone smoothly. Instead, Danny discovers her younger sister has stolen her beloved classic Mustang and an officer from out of town arrives to tell her some sort of mass hysteria is taking place around the world. Shortly thereafter, a body is found and the hysteria starts there too. Danny does her best to organize, but even her military training couldn’t have prepared her for what happens next—the dead begin to rise again.

The primary focus on the zombie uprising was spot on with Danny and her ragtag team battling the zombies and the interference of a private military contractor team, but the subplot involving Danny’s search for her sister was merely a distraction. It seemed to be there to humanize Danny, but was simply unnecessary.
3/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Gallery Books.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

review: a small indiscretion by jan ellison

A Small Indiscretion is written as a letter to the narrator’s son, who has been in a terrible car accident. As one guesses, Annie is not quite sure who the father of her now adult son is. The father could be the man she married who raised the boy along with the two other children they had, he could be Annie’s married boss, or he could be the lodger her married boss had who also happened to have an affair with the boss’s wife. Yeah, it’s kind of complicated, but Annie has long since moved on from those days in London. A photograph in the mail brings it all back though and her son’s car accident prompts Annie to share the story. Although the letter-style narrative allowed Annie to share details that otherwise wouldn’t have been easily incorporated, it also lacked emotion and action.
3/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

review: the key by sara b. elfgren & mats strandberg

The final installment in the Engelsfors trilogy finds the remaining members of The Circle trying to save the world from demonic forces while also dealing with their normal high school issues as they head toward graduation. Meanwhile the Chosen Ones who died over the last two novels are stuck in the Borderland desperate to help. The world-building by the authors has been fantastic over the course of the trilogy, but by the time The Key was reached, the story had been excruciatingly stretched out. With much of the first half of The Key spent rehashing plot points from the first two books, the action of The Key comes far too late.
3/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Overlook.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

review: those girls by lauren saft

Alex and Mollie were an inseparable childhood duo who added a third friend when Veronica began attending their all-girls school. Now juniors in high school, the three have somewhat grown apart as they party and engage in various romantic endeavors. They’re actually quite awful to each other in stereotypical mean, private school girl ways. The only kind character in the entire novel is Alex’s younger brother who has a desperate crush on Mollie despite her continued involvement with a clichéd jerk/jock senior. While Those Girls is a lively read, Lauren Saft relies heavily on stereotypes and doesn’t include any thought-provoking elements or push the characters forward despite the opportunity to do so.
3/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

review: getting over mr. right by chrissie manby

Getting Over Mr. Right pulls the reader in two directions. Ashleigh is at times incredibly sad in her desperation to get back with Michael, but the extremes she goes to can also be downright hilarious. Ashleigh is generally a likable character even as she alienates friends in her quest to be with a man wholly undeserving of her. It’s frustrating that Ashleigh can’t see reason and essentially hits bottom before making her way back, but Chrissie Manby creates an interesting journey for Ashleigh nonetheless. The end was a bit of an easy way out, but the story does entertain.
4/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

feature: allison leotta

On May 20, Allison Leotta visited The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, AZ for an afternoon tea promoting the latest in her series about prosecutor Anna Curtis. The event began with a more formal question and answer session from the bookstore before Leotta took questions from the audience and then signed copies of A Good Killing (and her previous novels, of course). For those wondering where the title of the new book came from, Leotta reported that it’s from a case where, in reference to the murdered man, people told the cops that he “need[ed] a good killing.”

Given that Leotta shares a profession with her protagonist, readers often wonder how much the author is like her character. Leotta now wishes she had given Anna Curtis red hair to distinguish her a bit more because although they have similar professional lives (she takes the most interesting bits from her own cases), they are different in their personal lives. And in that vein, it took Leotta a while to figure out how the romance world would work for Anna. She also said she’d grown tired of Anna’s love interest from the previous books, so now Anna has met someone new.

Leotta also shared the process of her first book (additional information can be found in my previous interview with her), Law of Attraction. She started writing to help her process the details of the cases she was handling because it was cheaper than therapy. She got the Writing Fiction For Dummies book and spent a year writing followed by another year rewriting after the agent who accepted her query suggested revisions. The agent sold the manuscript to Simon and Schuster, but the Department of Justice had to review it because of Leotta’s job as a federal prosecutor. Fortunately it all worked out and Law of Attraction came out a year later.

Combining a one book per year schedule with family life (she’s a mom of two) means Leotta no longer practices law, but she has maintained her license. With that schedule in mind, Leotta has already turned in book five which has to do with sexual assault on a college campus. She also has an idea for a standalone novel.

review: a good killing by allison leotta

Until the release of A Good Killing, Anna Curtis has been that friend you meet as an adult and know who she is now, but not really how she got there. With the fourth in the series finding Anna back in her hometown, more of her past is revealed. After ending her engagement in Speak of the Devil, Anna has no hesitation about dropping everything when she learns her sister is wanted for questioning in the death of the beloved high school football coach. Anna immediately signs on as her sister’s defense attorney. The reversal of Anna’s role, the focus on her family life, and the introduction of a new love interest provide a refreshing jolt for the series while staying true to everything that’s been established about Anna previously.

As usual, Allison Leotta tackles some tough subject matter here, but does so with the respect one would expect from someone who herself worked as a sex-crimes prosecutor. Most importantly, A Good Killing addresses the massive backlog of untested rape kits and how that allows predators to continue getting away with their crimes. To learn more, visit .
5/5
I purchased this book.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

review: maybe in another life by taylor jenkins reid

Reminiscent of Sarah Mlynowski’s Me Vs. Me and the Gwyneth Paltrow movie Sliding Doors, Maybe in Another Life explores the two paths Hannah Martin’s life could take. After returning to her hometown of Los Angeles, Hannah joins a group of friends at a bar. In one life, Hannah goes home with her boyfriend from high school while she goes home with her best friend in another. There are some things that stay the same regardless of that decision, but other aspects of Hannah’s life hinge on the decision she makes that night. Taylor Jenkins Reid tells the parallel stories in alternating chapters that end at just the right moment so that there’s never a point where the reader thinks, “I can stop here for the night.”
5/5
Review copy provided by the publicist, BookSparks PR.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

review: feral by holly schindler

After exposing a drug ring at her high school, Claire was brutally beaten. She’s haunted by nightmares of the attack, so she readily agrees when her professor father proposes spending a semester in another state. As soon as they arrive though, Claire learns a girl who would’ve been her classmate is missing. As it turns out Claire and the missing girl have a common interest in journalism, which causes Claire to be interested in Serena’s life. When Claire discovers Serena’s body in the woods, she is compelled even more to investigate what happened despite the inept sheriff saying it was an accident.

If that was all there was to Feral, it would likely be a fantastic mystery with a spunky teenage protagonist à la Veronica Mars. Holly Schindler instead chooses to make a supernatural turn that is a bit unclear. Is Serena really inhabiting the body of a feral cat or was discovering Serena’s body one trauma too many for Claire? And if Serena really is inside the cat, why would she target Claire? The supernatural elements confused the plot and created too many loose ends.
3/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

review: love you to death by shannon k. butcher

When she doesn’t hear from her sister, Elise knows something’s wrong because they spoke regularly despite Elise’s job constantly taking her out of the country. Elise immediately catches a flight and finds Ashley’s house is deserted. While Elise checks out the house, Ashley’s handsome neighbor who just happens to be a former cop notices the unusual activity. With both Elise and Trent believing the other to be an intruder, their meeting is dramatic and kicks off their antagonist relationship. But the two have the same goal—saving Ashley from a serial killer—and that goal brings them together on multiple levels.

Love You to Death is drama-filled with an appropriate balance of romance (Elise and Trent may find each other attractive, but they’re not going to let their lust make them forget Ashley) to the suspense. There are some disturbing scenes involving the killer that seemed a bit unnecessary as the killer’s motivation was never completely explained other than to say it had to do with his deceased wife. Love You to Death could’ve been stronger had Shannon K. Butcher focused on Elise and Trent since she decided not to reveal much about the killer despite including scenes with him.
4/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Forever.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

review: it's you by jane porter

After her fiancé killed himself last year, Ali’s mother passed as well causing Ali to start merely existing rather than truly living. She wishes her father would leave Napa to live near her, but he refuses, so when he hurts himself, Ali heads to Napa to help. In this touching and thought-provoking story, Ali meets an array of people, including some from Jane Porter’s previous novels. Most significantly she meets Craig Hallahan and his great-aunt Edie, who lives at Ali’s father’s retirement home. While a romance begins to spark between Ali and Craig, Ali finds Edie somewhat difficult until she learns more of Edie’s story. It’s You shifts perspective a few times so that Edie’s story comes out too. She’s an American who studied in Germany during World War II and married a man who was publicly a Nazi, but privately taking part in the German Resistance. The incorporation of this storyline gives It’s You a different feeling than Porter’s usual women’s fiction novels, but the heart of her writing still shines through.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publicist, BookSparks PR.