Sunday, January 31, 2016

Book Review, Interview & Giveaway: Siren Spirit by Elizabeth M. Hurst

About Elizabeth M. Hurst
 

Born in the North West of England, in a coastal fishing town near to the Lake District, Liz was a voracious reader from a very young age. She did well at school, excelling in most subjects but in languages in particular and kept a diary throughout most of her childhood and teenage years.She started writing in 2012 after a friend offered some encouragement and has never really
looked back. Liz writes at her home in Warwickshire, ably assisted by her dearly beloved cats.
 
Interview
 
1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Sure. I come from the North West of England, close to the Lake District, but I moved down to the Midlands when I left home to go to university, twenty years ago. I was always a voracious reader as a child, with a reading age years ahead of the rest of my class. I read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy before I was ten years old, for example.

I loved to write stories at school, but it wasn’t until I turned forty that I gave it any serious thought and the whole thing seems to have gathered way more momentum than I could possibly have dreamed. If you had told me five years ago that I would ever have a novel published, I might have laughed in your face!
 
2. I love your website and your blog. It looks so classy and peaceful. Did you set it all up yourself?

Thank you. Wordpress is fabulous for running a blog. With really very little knowledge at all, I managed to create my blog and I can maintain most of it myself too. There are hundreds of guides out there for getting started. My biggest problem is finding the time to write my posts!
 
3. Can you describe a typical day for you?

I have a day job as well as writing, although I am hoping to develop my writing such that I don’t need to do that soon. Therefore, during the week, I don’t sit down to write until I come home from work, feed the cats and sometimes do some yoga to calm the mind. Only then can I pick up my pen or my laptop and start.

I much prefer the weekends. I rise early, around 6am, then after about half an hour of ‘waking up’, I sit and write my To Do list for the day. I struggle with procrastination, so I have two lists – writing activities and non-writing activities – and I alternate between the two. After thirty minutes of writing I leave my desk and go and hang out some laundry for a break. Things like that make me much more productive.
 
4. You have your cat Lily in your book Siren Spirit. What more of yourself have you included in your stories?

Sadly, Lily passed away in November 2015. She had been ill for some time so it wasn’t a shock but upsetting nonetheless. I now have two crazy young kittens to entertain me and fill the empty void that Lily left behind. There’s a good chance they may crop up in future novels!

Apart from the animals, there are some aspects of the story where I have drawn upon my own experiences. Following my own divorce, I too felt somewhat lost and rudderless for a while. I wanted to write about how much divorce affects your life. Despite having no children, and a straightforward financial situation, it still created a profound sense of loss in my life, very much like a bereavement. I wanted to get across how much divorce causes you to question everything about yourself, hence Emma’s doubts about her sexuality.
 
5. What gave you the idea to write Siren Spirit?

Siren Spirit started life as an erotic short story, which I was going to publish under a pseudonym but after spending time with a friend at her retreat, it grew legs, and I decided to give it more depth. As I was rewriting it as a larger work, I grew to really love some of the characters, so I then chose to make the book part of a series.
 
6. You write about paranormal events. Have you ever experiencedsome yourself?

I haven’t, no, but I like to keep an open mind. I believe there is a lot about the physical world that we don’t yet understand and science will continue to try and investigate these things. However, I like the idea that there are some things we can’t explain. To resolve all of these things in this life would remove the mystery and I think that would be a great shame.
 
7. What did you write about in your diaries?

Diary-writing has always been quite intermittent for me, even as a teenager. Back then, I wrote about one thing only – love. I was only fourteen when I fell in love for the first time. I thought I would die without this boy. To some extent, my writing remains the same. I like to weave as much emotion as I can into my stories.
 
8. Could you tell us what your favorite book from 2015 is?

I joined my village book group in 2015, which is great because I am now reading a wider variety of books than I was previously. One of our books was Still Alice by Lisa Genova, which was a unanimous success among the group. Beautifully written story about such a wonderful lady and incredibly moving. I am planning to watch the film shortly, which I believe is a very good adaptation of the book.
 
9. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Just do it. Don’t worry about who sees your work, not to start with, just write. It’s the easiest and hardest thing, at the same time. Find yourself some space, both physically in your home, and in your head.

Joining a local writing group is useful. It’s important to learn your craft from others. There are an awful lot of moments where you will be transported out of your comfort zone - reading your work aloud in front of an audience for the first time is terrifying! But, once you overcome these barriers, you’ll find you have more confidence than ever and your writing will reflect that.

One day, you’ll wake up and realize you’re a writer. Your writer friends will have known it all along, of course, but until it dawns on you, it never feels quite the same. It may take some time, but until then, just keep plugging away. You’ll get there.
 
10. What can we expect from you in the future?

In Summer 2016, the follow-up to Siren Spirit, The Plain Truth will be available on Amazon. I’ve written about half of the novel so far and I’m busy doing some historical research into the story. Emma and Lewis are back, along with Meredith, and there’s another haunting from a different period in history. This story has some factual elements to it, so I’m keen to ensure I don’t make any glaring errors.

There will be a third book in the series too (and possibly more), but I’m trying my best to keep that particular idea to the back of my mind for now, until The Plain Truth is finished.
 
Book review

Amazon USA Amazon UK
By Anniek

Siren Spirit is a book that consists of two stories, Grace's and Emma's. Grace is living in the 18th century and Emma in the 21st. You can imagine how different their lives are.

Grace is living with her father. Ever since her mother died he is barely able to look at her since she is the spitting image of her. In the 18th century it is expected of a woman to find a husband and start a family, but for Grace this is not an option. She is in love with her best friend Suzanne. They both know that their love will always have to be hidden from the world. When the love of her life chooses another path Grace makes a heartbreaking decision.

 Emma was married and thought she would live the happily ever after. When her marriage falls apart she moves to a small village to find herself again. It turns out her new house isn't as empty as Emma thought it would be. Together with her handsome neighbor Lewis she is trying to put the
pieces together.

Liz Hurst has done a wonderful job putting two eras together in one story. I loved to find out more about Grace and liked that her story was alternated with Emma's who's researching her. Even though the stories are separate ones in the beginning they come together so naturally.

Siren Spirit was very exciting. You have everything you could possibly ask for in a book, a ghost haunting a house, a gorgeous neighbor, a search for the truth combined with something that feels like a treasure hunt and last but not least love. I read this story in one sitting and I can't wait until it's summer, so I can start reading the follow-up to Siren Spirit. I'd love to read more about Emma and Lewis and about their next quest.
 
Giveaway
 
Five very lucky readers of With Love for Books will get an amazing prize. Two winners will receive a signed copy of Siren Spirit and three winners will receive an eBook.
 
All of our giveaways are international

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Legacy of Greyladies by Anna Jacobs

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Review by Suze

It's 1915 and Olivia has lost her husband, he died in the war. She's now looking after the wife of her cousin who can't take care of herself. When her cousin returns unexpectedly because he's wounded Olivia has a problem. She doesn't like him very much and he doesn't treat her well, so she can't wait to leave. Fortunately her life isn't all bad as she has Babs who makes sure she has a social life. Babs introduces her to the Women's Institute and asks Olivia for her help. She also introduces her to a very nice man named Alex who is an antiques dealer. When Olivia arrives at Greyladies by coincidence a strange thing happens...
 
Phoebe is the current keeper of Greyladies. She has a feeling she won't be living there very long though which is strange as her stay has only just begun. There's going to be a new owner, she can feel it. The house is being used as a residence for German people, people who are doing their best to help the English government. It's never completely safe at the house because of this. There's someone who tries to get rid of the inhabitants. Greyladies is being attacked and Phoebe, Oliva and Alex have to do everything they can to save themselves and the house.
 
Legacy of Greyladies is the third Greyladies book. I loved this series and can't praise it enough. I immediately liked the idea of the remarkable house that's being passed on to women alone. It was great to read about the house itself, the inhabitants and the history behind it. I think Anna Jacobs has written fun and warm stories with special heroines. The three women who inherit Greyladies have things in common like red hair, common sense, kindness and a practical character, but they're also very different. I loved that aspect and enjoyed reading about all of them.
 
Anna Jacobs has a great writing style. It has a certain gentleness and her words flow easily. Her stories are feel-good, but they also have a serious side. They are so easy to love. The setting is wonderful, the main characters are fabulous and there's a lot of action. The Greyladies stories are fast-paced and enjoyable. I liked the strong and independent women a lot and the house itself is another admirable main character. These stories feel like a hug and I think they're absolutely fantastic.

Friday, January 29, 2016

My Sister's Secret by Tracy Buchanan

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Review by Anniek
 
Faith, Hope and Charity are 3 sisters who live in Busby-on-Sea. Together with their good friend Niall they spend a lot of their time on the beach, diving, exploring and just having a good time together. Faith dreams about submerged forests. She wants to find and visit them all and wants to travel the world. She even made a map including all of the places she wants to go to. When a tragic accident prevents her from living her dream the secrets start. Or have they even started before that?
 
Hope is the quiet one. She's always writing poems and she's looking out for everyone else. Just before tragedy happens she has her chance to maybe become a published poet, but Hope puts her own dreams aside so she can be the pillar that everybody needs.
 
Charity is the youngest of the three girls. She loves to dive and spend time with her sisters. Charity also has a secret crush on Niall. When he returns her feelings their young love grows. She leaves her home for studies and to find a job. Charity goes back to Busby-on-Sea when she is made redundant at work. She makes a vow that she will visit all the places on Faith's map.
 
The story of the three sisters takes place many years ago. It is there where the secrets start. It is up to Willow to unravel the story. Even when maybe some secrets are better left buried. Willow is Charity's daughter. She is devastated when she loses her parents at a young age. Willow lived with her aunt Hope until she was old enough to explore the world. She is a very skilled diver and helps to secure shipwrecks. One of the most challenging dives are up ahead when she will be helping to secure the sunken ship that once belonged to her parents. Her mother's handbag is found on the ship and inside Willow finds a silver necklace with the letters C and N. When she also gets an invitation to go to the Charity exposition from Niall she has no choice but to seek the truth.
 
My Sister's Secret had me hooked since the very first chapter. I could picture the three sisters perfectly in my mind. They're all so different, but are full of love for one another. Also being a diver myself I loved reading about their dives and about the submerged forests. I can imagine they must be quite a sight.
 
Tracy Buchanan has done an amazing job in keeping the story interesting. Giving just bits and pieces throughout the story instead of giving them all at the end. Every time I thought I figured it out she threw me off balance with some new information. Many times I thought oh please don't go there because some of the secrets were so sad. It really gave me heartaches many times. The ending was stunning. I was actually a bit sad that I finished this book. I must say that I can't imagine forgetting this story anytime soon. It really was that good.

Review by Suze

Willow is a diver. She loves being under water. She's lost both of her parents at a young age and has been raised by her aunt Hope. She has happy memories of her parents and they loved her very much. Hope is always a bit reserved and they've grown apart over the years. When she discovers that her aunt is keeping secrets from her about her childhood and her family Willow starts to investigate her past.

Charity, Willow's mother, doesn't marry her childhood sweetheart and true love Niall, but they always remain close. He is a diver as well and he's made quite a career out of it. They are both interested in submerged forests because of Charity's sister Faith. She wanted to visit all of them. They're using the map she made and keep running into each other when they want to dive. Because of Niall's involvement in a tragic accident that killed Faith they can't be together any longer. Charity and Hope are the two remaining sisters and Hope can't bear to be around Niall. That makes it difficult for Charity to still see him. There are some things that are better left a secret and Charity doesn't tell the truth about Niall to her sister. A tragic accident eventually ends her life and Hope never wants to talk about her sister again. Will she open up so Willow can discover the truth?

My Sister's Secret is a fantastic book about sisters, diving and secrets. I love books about sisters and this is definitely a good one. There's so much mystery and I couldn't wait to find out more about both the past and the present. I didn't want to stop reading and just had to know more. This story is a real page-turner. It's fast-paced and there's a lot going on. Everything comes together very well and the ending is surprising.

I love Tracy Buchanan's writing style. She's very good at tension building and writing cliffhangers. It makes her stories both gripping and moving. I love how she writes about traveling. It's great to see different places of the world through her eyes. I wanted to pack my bags and go to each of the places she describes straight away. I found the variety of settings and the underwater forest aspect fascinating. I also really liked the alternation between past and present. There are scenes that made me hold my breath. I love it when I feel so much while I'm reading a story. My Sister's Secret has many great aspects and everything about this story is exactly right, the timing is perfect, the plot is really good and the main characters are interesting. I think it's an amazing, thrilling read.

The Secrets of Happiness by Lucy Diamond

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Review by Suze
 
Rachel and Becca are stepsisters. They each live their lives and aren't very close. Rachel is successful, she has a great career and a perfect family. Becca is single and she hasn't been able to find the job that's right for her yet. Rachel doesn't like Becca very much and keeps her distance. That changes when something happens and Rachel doesn't come home one night. Becca gets a call and she tries to be there for Rachel's kids as well as she can until her sister comes back. Then she discovers that Rachel's life isn't as easy as it seems. What will happen when Rachel finally comes back, will they have a chance to make things right again?
 
The Secret of Happiness is a fabulous story about two sisters who don't have much in common. They're very different and when their parents got married it didn't mean they would become close. Rachel and Becca are both wonderful women and I immediately liked them. I enjoyed reading about both of them equally. I loved reading about the personal growth, about their jobs and their love lives. Reading about Rachel's children put a smile on my face, they're really sweet.
 
I like Lucy Diamon's writing style. I always feel like I'm watching the scenes as they've been described so vividly. Every detail is exactly right. I like how much attention she pays to both the big and the little things in life. For me that makes her stories complete. I like how the best and worst personality traits of her main characters define them in an equal manner. It makes them human and I often find them endearing. I love Lucy Diamond's stories, they're all heartwarming. The Secrets of Happiness is a great book and I highly recommend it.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Birthday That Changed Everything by Debbie Johnson

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Review by Suze
 
Sally's husband leaves her for a 19-year-old Latvian lap dancer shortly before her fortieth birthday. Because she wants to do something nice for herself Sally books a holiday. Together with her two teenage children she's going to enjoy the sun in Turkey. Blue Bay resort is a wonderful place with even better company. Soon Sally has a bunch of new friends. She's now part of a group of people who are meeting each other every year. One of them is James, he's gorgeous and he's single. They have a connection, only it might be too soon for Sally to start seeing someone... And what will her next birthday bring, and the next?
 
The Birthday That Changed Everything is another great Debbie Johnson story. I laughed out loud several times. Sally manages to get herself into the most hilarious situations. She's absolutely fantastic. She stumbles through life and doesn't see how great she actually is which makes her endearing. She's a sweet person and she's easy to love. I liked the other main characters very much as well. They've all got their own quirks which makes them fabulous. Sally's foul-mouthed daughter is hilarious and there are several interesting couples. Each character has a story and Debbie Johnson is good at making them come to life. They're detailed and the descriptions are vivid.
 
Debbie Johnson is a great story teller and I like her sense of humor. I like her honest way of writing and her crude jokes. I loved this book from the start. The setting is amazing. I could picture the beautiful resort very well and loved the idea of a group of friends who are meeting each other there every year. It creates a strong bond between the main characters. It's all about the holidays, several years in a row. I got attached to these people very quickly and couldn't wait to find out what would happen to them. There's of course some sadness in the story, the balance is actually pretty good, but the funny scenes stood out for me. The Birthday That Changed Everything definitely cheered me up. If you're looking for a fantastic fun summer story, get this book. You will love it.

Fire in Frost by Alicia Rades

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Review by Anniek
 
Crystal is just an ordinary teenager, at least that is what she thinks. When she sees a girl standing in the hallway at school she can't believe her eyes. This girl is dead, so there is no way Crystal should see her. Crystal tries to convince herself she is just imagining things. Although she did have an 'imaginary' friend when she was younger. Crystal thought it would be best to keep these things to herself, never thinking more about it than she had to. But she has to admit that she always knows who's calling or where missing things can be found.
 
When Crystal accidently walks in on her mother at her supernatural shop she has no choice but to tell her her what she has been seeing. It turns out Crystal isn't so ordinary as she always believed. She is a psychic and a very good one too. Olivia, the girl who died, needs her help before she can move on. Crystal will do anything she can together with her two best friends Emma and Derek to make sure Olivia can cross over. If she can find the evidence which is needed she will also be able to save another girl.
 
I have always been attracted to the paranormal. I love to read books about this subject. Alicia Rades made her story very believable. Crystal is a sweet young girl and her journey to understand her gift and to use it for good has been described really well. The cover is amazing too and that alone pulled me in before I even knew what the story was about.
 
Crystal and Emma wrote down predictions for the future. I am curious to see if some of them will come out in the next book. Fire in Frost has a great flow and I read it in one sitting because I didn't want to put it down. I highly recommend this book to all fans of the genre.  
 

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Year We Fell Apart by Emily Martin

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Review by Suze
 
Harper makes mistakes, she keeps screwing up. She has quite a reputation because of her behavior at parties and her drinking and she doesn't do anything to change people's minds while a lot of the rumors about her aren't actually true. Harper is hurting though. Her mother has cancer and the person she needs the most is the one person who doesn't want to talk to her. Declan and Harper used to be close, but after some stupid decisions made by Harper they're no longer together. Now that he's back from boarding school Harper wants nothing more than to be with him. Only is that also what Declan wants or has she screwed up so badly that she's lost him forever?
 
The Year We Fell Apart is an interesting love story. There's so much feeling in it. I immediately liked Harper. Even though she makes terrible choices sometimes she's good where it counts. She's someone who doesn't leave the reader unmoved. She can't cope with her emotions, they're overwhelming her. She wants to run away from them and that is when things start going wrong. Fortunately she has some great friends who are always there for her. I liked the meaningfulness of the friendships in this story a lot.
 
The Year We Fell Apart is a book about loss, pain, grief and also love and second chances. It isn't a cheerful story, but it is hopeful. I liked Emily Martin's writing style. It's easy to read and she writes in an open and honest way. The story is fast-paced. There's a lot going on, but everything that happens always remains realistic. I think that's what made me feel involved. It's easy to feel what Harper's feeling and that makes the story strong. I read it in one sitting and couldn't put it down. I think this moving story is a great read. 

The Light Who Shines by Lilo Abernathy

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Review by Anniek
 
Bluebell Kildare is a homicide detective at the Supernatural Investigations Unit. She is gifted and uses her gift to solve her cases and get the murderers behind bars. Her friends call her Blue. When a call comes in about a young man who was the victim of a hit-and-run Blue discovers that there is something more to this case. This teenager was kidnapped and tortured before he found his death. Blue is outraged about the wounds the victim has and swears she will bring down the person who did this to him.
 
Using her magic on the scene Blue finds an old amulet which turns out to be part of a key. If this amulet would be complete it holds the power to unlock a very dangerous book, a book that shouldn't fall into the wrong hands. When her investigation brings her closer to the truth it turns out that Blue might be a target herself. A mysterious wolf shows up and seems to protect her with every chance he gets. Her boss Jack is also not willing to let her out of his sight.
 
Jack is a very old and powerful vampire. He once found Blue when she was just a young child. Her parents were killed which made her an orphan. With no other family willing to take her in Jack brought her to an orphanage, hoping she would have a happy childhood. He is torn with guilt when Blue tells him about her past and about all the hate from the other children.
 
Gambino is a human detective. He has solved many cases with Blue and is very fond of her. The moment he sees Blue being kidnapped he has only one goal and that is to find her as soon as possible. But will he be on time?
 
I absolutely loved this book. Blue is so strong. She is so loving and warm even when people don't deserve it she always tries to find the good in people. My heart went out to her when I read about all the torture she had to go through. Lilo Abernathy really had me guessing throughout the story. Every time I thought I knew what was happening another twist got me thinking again. The Light Who Shines has so many layers. All of the characters, good or bad, are so well created that I wished that some of them were real. This book really is brilliant and I can't wait to read more about Blue and her extended family.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Good on Paper by Rachel Cantor

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Review by Suze
 
Shira is working as a temp, but while she has excellent translating and literary skills she goes from job to job and is now stuffing envelopes. She loves her daughter Andi very much. They're living with Ahmad, who's Shira's gay friend. He isn't Andi's real father, but he's her dad in any other way. They're a family. When Shira gets a request to translate a manuscript for the famous poet Romei she decides to take the job. It's difficult and Shira doesn't know if the work can really be translated. The harder she works the more her private life seems to be falling apart. She might have found love, but she can't act on it. The translation is giving her sleepless nights and Ahmad and Andi are ganging up on her. Will she be able to finish the manuscript and get her life back on track?
 
Good on Paper is a wonderful book, a story that I will remember for a very long time. I loved the Dante references. Shira's opinions about his work are fantastic. Romei is fascinating and I loved his character, the famous poet who received a Nobel prize and who's never actually present at all, but plays a crucial part in the story. Shira is intelligent and talented, but emotionally she's a bit of a mess. She's funny and I love the way Rachel Cantor portrayed her. Reading about her put a smile on my face over and over again.
 
If you've studied literature or are a translator you will especially love this book. There are so many great references, interesting remarks and clever thoughts in this story. I enjoyed it so much. Shira has a messy life and her inner thoughts plus the way she phrases things when she talks are brilliant. I can't praise this novel enough. It's one of those fantastic treasures that you only come across every now and then. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Revenge Artist: Guest Post, Book Review & Giveaway

 
About Philip Hoy
 

Philip Hoy is a high school English teacher by day and a short-story author, novelist, and poet by night. When he is not creating lesson plans or grading essays, he is writing. He lives in Southern California with his wife Magdalena, also a teacher.




Guest Post

Meet Evelyn Hernandez, Protagonist of The Revenge Artist

By Philip Hoy

Evelyn Hernandez is a beautiful sixteen year-old Latina with large brown eyes and dark brown hair that is medium to long in length and mostly straight, with bangs. She wears a variety of vintage dresses to school, mainly A-line, pin-up, or rockabilly style. Her parents gave her a sewing machine for Christmas last year, and after much trial and error, she has begun to make her own dresses; although, she quietly lets her friends believe she orders them from vintage-clothing websites. The dresses are definitely her thing; but besides that, she is kind of nerdy and is never without her backpack in which she keeps a large black sketch-journal of
her daily life.

Evelyn has an eclectic taste in music, movies, and books. Right now, she’s listening to Reina del Cid. She discovered one of her songs, “Sweet Annie,” a catchy love song with disturbingly dark lyrics, through a free public-radio podcast and she immediately bought the entire album: The Cooling. Her new favorite song on it is “Morse Code.” Now she can’t stop listening to it and has memorized all the words. Recently, her friend Karen had her check out a song by the group Chicano Batman, and she’s thinking of downloading some of their music.   

Last weekend she had her other friend Denise over and they stayed up all night watching silent movies with the soundtracks replaced, pairing up classic horror films like Nosferatu with Black Sabbath and the sci-fi original Metropolis with Daft Punk. Evelyn is also a voracious reader. She will occasionally let slip a line from an Emily Dickenson poem or a Shakespeare play, not really caring if anyone gets them or not. The paperback currently in her backpack is The Dead Fathers Club by Matt Haig.

Evelyn is talented and intelligent and she has people in her life that love and care about her. She wants to fit in and feel normal, but at the same time she doesn’t want to be like everyone else. She wants to follow her own style and follow her own heart. Sometimes this gets her into trouble, shakes her self-confidence, and causes her to doubt herself. But mostly, Evelyn Hernandez is just … herself, still finding her voice, still discovering her powers, and still learning how to use them.

That is until a new seating arrangement in her English class pairs her up with the school’s handsome varsity quarterback, Garvey Valenzuela, and she finds herself falling for her polar opposite on the school’s social scale.
 
 Book review
 
Amazon USA Amazon UK Evernight Teen
 
Review by Suze
 
Evelyn Hernandez isn't popular at school. She's isn't like everyone else in her class, she stands out. Evelyn draws and she sews her own dresses. She has two very loyal best friends, but she also has a lot of enemies. She always has to be careful, but she can manage. Things are about to get worse though. She's sitting next to Garvey and he seems to like her. He even asks her to go to a party with him. Only nothing is as he made it seem and Evelyn wants revenge. She finds a way to do so by accident, her drawings can make things happen. What will be the consequences if Evelyn makes sure bad things will happen to her enemies?
 
The Revenge Artist is an original story about a girl whose drawings are special. I liked that idea very much. Evelyn is a lovely girl, she's kind and she's not afraid to dress differently. I love that she has such a great distinct personality. Evelyn is a high school junior and a lot of the scenes in the book are set at her school. Philip Hoy describes them in such a fantastic way. It's like the reader is in the classroom with her, which makes the story realistic and it really comes to life. There's one absolutely awful scene and I felt so bad for Evelyn that I had tears in my eyes.
 
There's magic in The Revenge Artist and still the story feels like it could have actually happened. That made this book interesting to read for me. Fortunately Evelyn has friends she can trust and she isn't completely on her own. Her conscience struggles with good versus evil. Philip Hoy describes that in a detailed and genuine way. I loved the book talk and that there's a story he uses as a reference. The Revenge Artist is a fabulous, intriguing read. I can't wait to read the next Evelyn Hernandez book.
 
Giveaway
 
One lucky reader will receive a $10 Evernight Teen GC!
 
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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Ashes of Life by Erica Lucke Dean with Laura M. Kolar

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Review by Suze
 
Alex marriage to David ended abruptly after three months because he died in a car accident together with his ex-wife. Alex is pregnant, she has just lost her husband and she also discovers that David has chosen her as the person who will take care of Maddie. Only Maddie doesn't like Alex, not at all. Maddie wanted her parents to get back together. She was already lashing out, but now that she has lost them both she's even angrier and Alex is the one she blames. Only, Alex is also the only one left to take care of Maddie. Will they be able to find a way to make things work or will things escalate until they aren't repairable any longer?
 
Ashes of Life is a beautiful story about loss, family, love and friendship. Maddie is sixteen years old and Alex is just over a decade older. I liked that they both have a voice. It's unusual to combine the points of view of a teenager and an adult. It worked very well for me. It was clear that they're both in a lot of pain, but they don't understand each other too well. They're struggling, while they need to find a way to keep going. They've lost so much and I felt bad for them. Even though there's more trouble ahead of Alex and Maddie the story never becomes too heavy. While there's a lot going on, there's hope and there's love.
 
Ashes of Life is fast-paced and the writing is really good. I read this book in one sitting because I couldn't put it down. The relationship between Maddie and Alex is interesting and I couldn't wait to find out what would happen to both of them. They have a lot of issues and there's plenty they need to talk about. There's a big cliffhanger, one that came as a surprise for me. I enjoyed that and I really liked the ending. I loved this amazing story and highly recommend it.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine

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Review by Suze
 
Because of some bad luck Sophie has to find a job and that means her childhood is over all of a sudden. Fortunately she finds a position at Sinclair's, a department store. She wants to do well and she's pretty, so not every girl she's working with is friendly to her. When someone steals a precious artefact from the store Sophie has to find out what happened. It will be very important for her future. Fortunately she has friends she can count on who are helping her to find out more.
 
The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow is such a wonderful book. I couldn't put it down. I loved the old fashioned atmosphere and the main characters are all fantastic. Sophie is sweet and she's brave. The same goes for Billy, who's lovely. I kept having a big smile on my face when I was reading about his actions. The setting is fantastic. I could picture every department of the shop. Katherine Woodfine makes everything come to life really well. It's great that she pays attention to every little detail, which makes the story absolutely perfect.
 
There are some beautiful drawings in the book. Because of them it's even more easy for the reader to feel the atmosphere. It was like I was in Sinclair's. I could almost touch the items in the shop. I really liked the mystery aspect of the story and was curious to see how things would develop. I couldn't stop reading and read this story in one sitting. I absolutely loved the ending, it's amazing. I think this book is very special.

Broken Dolls by Tyrolin Puxty

Amazon USA Amazon UK
 
Review by Suze
 
Ella is a doll, a living one. She loves to dance and she has a beautiful room. Someone called the professor is taking care of her. She doesn't know who she is and where she comes from, but she's content. That changes when the professor gives her a companion. Lisa is a goth girl and she isn't happy being a doll. She wants to harm Ella and she manipulates her. Fortunately the professor also introduces her to someone nice to play with, his granddaughter Gabby. Gabby likes Ella and she's looking out for her. Only Gabby is sick, very sick. The professor wants to turn her into a doll as well, but is that really such a good plan?
 
Broken Dolls is a unique story about a man who can create living dolls. They can't eat and they can't breathe, but they can talk, they can feel and they can think. I liked that idea very much. Not all of the dolls are happy and obedient like Ella though. Lisa is a challenge. She doesn't want to be a doll and she's trying to resist it with all her might. It was interesting to find out the truth behind the professor's actions. I couldn't wait to discover what it was.
 
Broken Dolls is a quick and wonderful read. I enjoyed reading about Ella's life and was surprised when I found out what happened. I liked that a lot. I think this novel is suitable for both adults and young adults. The writing is good, the story is entertaining and gripping and the ending is great. I really loved this unusual read.


Friday, January 22, 2016

Stealing the Moon & Stars and Stealing the Golden Dream Blog Tour & Giveaway

 
 
Sally J. Smith & Jean Steffens

Sally J. Smith and Jean Steffens, are partners in crime—crime writing, that is. They live in the Valley of the Sun in Arizona, awesome for eight months out of the year, an inferno the other four. They write bloody murder, flirty romance, and wicked humor all in one package.




Steffens/406147242823342?fref=ts


Stealing the Moon & Stars Youtube:


Stealing the Golden Dream Youtube:

 
The Books
 
Amazon

Jordan Welsh and Eddie Marino, Scottsdale private eyes, are hired to find out who’s stealing from the Moon & Stars Children’s Foundation. Foundation employees are suspected, but just as the pieces start falling into place, Jordan discovers a hidden agenda that puts her in the crosshairs of a crime lord. Who can she trust? Everyone has a dangerous secret, and the bodies are piling up. Even her partner, Eddie Marino, has a dark and mysterious past. Does she dare act on their attraction? Will it destroy their partnership? The two have landed in a hornets’ nest. Nothing to do now but stir it up. Book 1 in a new romantic suspense series featuring Jordan Welsh and Eddie Marino.
 
Amazon

Scottsdale PIs Jordan Welsh and Eddie Marino of Shea Investigations are hired by the Arizona Heritage Museum to guard the multimillion-dollar Dahlonega Golden Dream Coin Collection. When the collection is stolen out from under them and a loved and trusted colleague is murdered, it’s a strike at the very heart of the agency. Eddie has been set up to take the fall for both crimes, so their first order of business is to clear his name. Not only is Eddie’s freedom at stake, but their business is on the line. In fact their very lives, as well as those of their loved ones, are in deadly peril. It soon becomes clear that Eddie has been targeted because of his former association with the mob. How far over to the dark side is Jordan Welsh, society girl, willing to go to save her lover Eddie from the echoes of his criminal past? Stealing the Golden Dream is the second book in the Jordan Welsh & Eddie Marino series, which began with Stealing the Moon & Stars. 
 
About the authors

Jean and Sally live in Scottsdale with their families and can now say they are full-time, professional writers. Yay! They work 3 days a week together, side-by-side, word-by-word, pounding it out, each bringing unique skills to the table and melding them into (they like to think) a hard-working, efficient writing team who have found a rhythm and working compatibility that surprised even them. We’re really good together, for partners in crime, that is.

Stealing the Moon & Stars and Stealing the Golden Dream are books 1 and 2 in the Jordan Welsh and Eddie Marino Novels.

Mystic Mayhem, the first in the Mystic Isle Mysteries, was released in September.

They’re fine-tuning Kangaroo Dreaming, the first novel in the Digby Sloan Mystery series and doing edits on Passion, Poison, & Puppy Dogs, the first Pet Sitter novel in the Danger Cove Mystery series from Gemma Halliday Publishing, scheduled for an April release.
 
Giveaway

One very lucky winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift card. 
 


To celebrate the New Year and the Camel Press promotion of STEALING THE MOON & STARS,
Jean and Sally's January giveaway is an Arizona gift basket containing Sonoran Desert Honey, an adorable flour-sack tea towel with Arizona quail & cactus design, two yummy flavors of tea bags to brew in your bright & shiny ceramic Scottsdale mug. Sign up for drawing before the end of January! Visit smithandsteffens.com and use the form on the Giveaway page!

The Stargazer's Sister by Carrie Brown

Amazon USA Amazon UK
 
Review by Suze
 
Lina's life in Germany is horrible. Her mother treats her badly and she's scared of her oldest brother. The only one who brightens up her days is her brother William. When he leaves home to live in England his letters are what keeps her going. Fortunately William rescues her and he gives Lina the chance to start a new life. William is a charismatic man, people instantly love him. He's a musician and an astronomer. Living with him and being able to share his exciting existence is what makes Lina happy. She has to work very hard, but she doesn't mind that at all. The stars are William's passion and Lina learns more about them than she could have ever imagined. Being his assistant means she has to become an astronomer too. When something suddenly changes the nature of their relationship they have to find a new balance. What will Lina do when she's no longer in the center of William's world any longer?
 
Lina is an intelligent woman. She's scarred for life and she doesn't think anyone will want to marry her. Which is fine as she wants to learn, she loves to study. I liked that a lot about her. She adores her brother and he's her whole world, he means everything to her. She sacrifices a lot for him and I thought she went too far sometimes, but there's also a reward. Lina's able to do her own work. She might not think she's as brilliant as her brother, but she's really smart. I loved that she also made her own discoveries. She definitely deserved a lot of credit.
 
The Stargazer's Sister is a book about two great minds. William and Lina are both gifted. It was interesting to read about these fabulous siblings. I loved the story and think it's a wonderful thing to mix fiction with history. It always makes me curious to find out more about a topic. I enjoyed reading about the telescopes and William's inventions. His household is unusual, but fascinating. The Stargazer's Sister is such a gripping story. Carrie Brown is a very good writer and I loved this book from beginning to end. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

All the Colours by Lo-Arna Green

Amazon USA Amazon UK Amazon Au
 
Review by Anniek
 
Jazz has a fairly easy life until her sister goes missing. From that moment on everything falls apart. Her mother has never really been there for them, but Jazz always had her twin to lean on. When her mother disappears as well Jazz finds herself all alone in an empty house. The only thing Jazz can think of is to call her aunt who lives many miles away. Her aunt takes her in and so her new life begins.
 
Jazz has to start fresh and new with everything. She needs a new job, will go to a new school and hopefully will make new friends. It turns out that some new beginnings have more bumps in the road than others. When she finds out that her mother's returned home Jazz goes back to her old world hoping to find out once and for all what happened to her twin-sister.
 
Jazz is a young girl with all the insecurities that go with that age. I really felt for her when her luck was still depending on her past so much. This story takes you with her on her journey to find peace, happiness and forgiveness. She thinks about people in colors. I found that very refreshing and it made me look at people in a different way.

Lo-Arna Green has done amazing job creating this unusual and wonderful story. The ending shocked me. I did not see that one coming. If you are looking for a fast-paced story with love, drama and a unique way of looking at situations then this is absolutely the story for you. The twists will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last sentence.

1K Twitter Follower Giveaway

 
 
Anniek has 1000 twitter followers and we're celebrating that with a lovely giveaway. One lucky winner will receive six books and a Decodelire bag. Good luck!
 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
All of our giveaways are international.

Festive Reads

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Review by Suze
 
Cat is organizing a Christmas party. She's feeling at home at Primrose Terrace. Now that Polly has finished her studies they have the chance to spend more time together. Cat finds out something more about both Joe's and Mark's past. Two very big surprises... Things are changing and not always in the direction she wants them to. Will she have a good Christmas this year?
 
I loved this last part of the Primrose Terrace series. Cat is funny and sweet. I like how she does so much for other people. She sometimes forgets herself in all of it though. I was hoping she'd get her happy ending. I couldn't wait to find out what would happen to her and loved the finale.
 
I enjoyed every page of this series. The dogs are fabulous, the main characters are fantastic and Primrose Terrace is an amazing place to live. This is one of those rare perfect witty, warm and wonderful stories that will brighten up everyone's dark winter nights.
 
Amazon USA Amazon UK

Review by Suze
 
Nessie and Sam inherit a village pub from their father. It needs a bit of modernizing, but they're determined to make it a nice place again and to open before the end of the year. It's a big change, celebrating the holidays in a new place with new people...
 
Holly Hepburn created a lovely atmosphere. Little Monkham, the small village, is great. I loved the descriptions of the pub, the rest of the village and the inhabitants. The story is fun and there's also an air of mystery, because everyone has their own secrets. The festive atmosphere makes things warm and cozy. I really liked this great winter story.
 
Nessie and Sam are sisters, but they're very different. I think it's wonderful that they each have their own distinctive character. Sam is bold and tough and Nessie is friendlier and a bit more shy. I liked their connection and their way of communicating. Of course there are some handsome men in the village who keep them company. Nothing is decided though and I'm curious to see what will happen to the sisters in the next part of the series.
 
Amazon USA Amazon UK
 
Review by Suze
 
Bea is the owner of The Honey Pot, a café that's doing really well. It will be her first Christmas with her son and she's going to try to make it a good one. At work she meets a lot of people, but she is closest to Sam, her neighbor. He's a good friend and great company. She meets Olivia because of a small accident and they are getting along well. The same can't be said for Chloe who isn't very kind to them. She's also having a relationship with a married man and Bea doesn't approve of it at all. The three women each have their difficulties at the most festive time of the year and their Christmases might not turn out to be what they expected them to be...
 
Bea is kind and she's a dedicated mother, but she has a past. She has done things she isn't proud of. The same goes for Chloe and Olivia. They find strength with each other eventually, but it takes a while for them to get a connection. I liked how they formed a bond. It wasn't immediate and it wasn't forced. The three women each have their own story. I liked the different points of view. It made me curious and eager to read more. I loved that this book is about friendship and love.
 
All I want for Christmas has a wonderful festive vibe. It's a realistic story about people who don't have ideal holidays. I liked that about this book. It was refreshing and hopeful. I really enjoyed reading this story and definitely recommend it to people who are looking for a good, romantic Christmas read.
 
Amazon USA Amazon UK
 
Review by Anniek
 
This Christmas novel brings you back to Martha's Vineyard and to your favorite 'wolf pack'. If you have read one of the other books from Mika Jolie about Martha's Way then you know what I'm talking about.
 
Minka and Jason are new parents and they have twins. Jason is away a lot because of his work and Minka feels overwhelmed taking care of both the twins and the house. It's difficult for her to come to terms with her feelings, but she has a loving group of family and friends and of course Jason.
 
With Christmas only days away Minka has to open up to her loved ones and find the help that she needs. Her loving husband Jason is supportive and willing to do whatever it takes to help her through this.
 
Being a mom myself I know how stressful and overwhelming it is with a newborn and I only have one. Having twins must be double fun, but also double stress. I could understand very well how Minka was feeling. Even though I know she is not a real person I felt proud when she opened up and was honest about her feelings. She is strong willed and willing to do whatever it takes. I loved that about her.
 
This beautiful story shows you that whatever struggles come your way you don't have to stand alone. When you have your own 'wolf pack' you will come out stronger every time with the help of your loved ones.
 
Mika Jolie is truly amazing at creating characters that will stay with you. I will never get tired reading about this family she has come up with. Wrapped in Red is a magical Christmas story with lots of love and probably also a lot of recognition for a lot of you.
 
Amazon USA Amazon UK
 
Review by Anniek
 
In this Christmas novella you'll find magic all over again. Harper is a young girl who is now living in a small town and is working at the post office. She hasn't had an easy life. She became an orphan when her parents died at a young age. Because of that she lived with several foster families but never experienced a Christmas with loved ones.
 
Fin moved back to town to help his brother with the care of his twin girls after his wife died. He meets Harper when he is on his way to post his letter to Santa. Fin invites Harper to have pizza at his
house and when a snowstorm hits the town Harper has no choice but to stay at the farm with Fin
and his family.
 
Krista Ames has written a wonderful story. Christmas is my favorite time of the year and I love the magic that surrounds it. The magical things that happen in this story warmed my heart and made me believe all over again. I was hoping for Harper to find a family for herself so she could start living her life instead of just being.
 
This book proved to me that when people believe in magic the most beautiful things will happen. Harper's Wish is perfect for all of you Christmas lovers. This beautiful short story will leave you dreaming long after you have finished it.

Our Song by Dani Atkins

Amazon USA Amazon UK
 
Review by Suze
 
Ally and Charlotte once both loved the same man and their last meeting wasn't a pleasant one. Several years later they're destined to meet again. This time in exceptionally difficult circumstances. Coincidentally they are at the ICU where their husbands are fighting for their lives. In 24 hours everything will be very different and their futures will be as linked as their pasts...
 
Our Song is a beautiful story about two admirable women. Ally and Charlotte are both brave and strong. Unfortunately love can be complicated which is why they aren't good friends. When they were students Ally and Charlotte loved the same man. This brought them both a lot of sadness. Dani Atkins tells this story with a lot of compassion. I didn't feel like I had to like one of them better or that I had to choose sides. I think that was cleverly done. Opening my heart for both was necessary to completely understand the story. Love in many different forms is the heart of it and it's a strong one.
 
 While I was reading Our Song I constantly had tears in my eyes. The subject is a sad one, but it's also very beautiful. People who are in an ICU waiting room are going through so much. They're anxious to hear news, there's hope, but there's also loss. Dani Atkins describes that in such a realistic way. She knows how to bring an emotional story, the balance between bearable sadness and being overwhelmed is just right. Our Song is a story about life, about death, but also about living. I had to cry and sometimes felt like my heart was going to explode, but I could still keep on reading. If you're looking for a fantastic moving story that will make you feel many different kinds of emotions, read Our Song. It's really impressive.
 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Cold Feet by Amy Fitzhenry

Amazon USA Amazon UK
 
Review by Suze
 
Emma's about to get married to Sam. She doesn't have much family and her mother lets her know she won't come to the rehearsal dinner because of work. Emma isn't sure she's happily ever after material and keeps having doubts about her wedding. When her best friend Liv arrives to go on a pre-wedding holiday together they decide to go looking for Emma's father instead. Unfortunately during this trip Emma will find out the truth about quite a lot of things that have been kept from her. Emma would love to run away, but what is she supposed to do?
 
Cold Feet is a really good story about a woman who has a lot of insecurities, but is also very strong at the same time. I liked that about Emma. She's brave and she's smart. She doesn't have much family and the family she does have doesn't really seem to care about her very much. Fortunately she has Liv, her best friend is always there for her. Their strong bond is such a great part of the story, I liked it a lot. Together they're trying to find the truth about Emma's father and during their search two other big secrets are being revealed as well. I felt bad for Emma sometimes and wanted someone to give her a hug as she could definitely use a lot of them.
 
I love the cover of Cold Feet, it's really pretty. Fortunately this book can be judged by its cover as the story is lovely as well. Emma and Liv have a strong connection. They're both clever women who can make up their own minds. I liked that about them. Emma's journey is quite an emotional one and it was wonderful to see her grow. She hasn't got a strong family basis and she always felt like she was missing something. It's important for her to know her roots before getting married. I liked that topic and think Amy Fitzhenry has turned it into a great story.