• ARC's,  Book Reviews,  Recommendations,  Writing

    Zapata: a book review

    Synopsis: When engineer Avery McAndrews is offered a last-minute assignment to the rough and tumble border town of Zapata, Texas, she doesn’t think twice. Used to pushing past stereotypes, she’s sure this project will earn the long-awaited promotion. 

    Instead, she’s thrown in the crossfire between warring drug cartels and soon discovers that her captor, Javier Ramos, is more than just a power hungry drug lord. He’s crazy. 

    As lead attorney for the cartel, it’s Alejandro DeLeon’s job to manage Javier. But this time, Javier’s cruelty reaches epic proportions, and Alejandro finds himself wanting to risk everything to save Avery.

    Running for their lives with Mexico’s underworld at their heels, Avery and Alejandro discover unintended and intensifying emotions, feelings neither sought and neither seem prepared to control… 

    Review: Drug cartels, drug lords, a kidnapping, and a romance – that’s I where expected the story to get weird. But it never did. Avery is tough and there was never an unlikely scene created by her making a silly decision just so he could rescue her.

    Living in Texas, I was intrigued by this book but also curious about how accurate it would be. The short answer: the author did her research and nailed it. The setting and characters were believable, as well as their relationships.

    This was a quick and immersive read. I enjoyed watching Alejandro and Avery’s relationship unfold in a realistic manner.

    I am a bit of an El Chapo, Pablo Escobar, Narcos, etc junkie and this book filled the paperback void I have had. There was plenty of action but none of it was too disturbing or over the top – just real.

    I asked on Instagram if you’ve ever wanted to make up a new genre. This book is one of those and I would classify it as “realistic romance.” If that’s already a thing, please let me know because I would love to read more books where kisses are not shared while bullets are flying and bombs are exploding.

    The one thing I wished more for was more character development. But apparently this book is the first in a series (yay!) so I understand why an author would hold back and some details.

    Thank you to TLC Book Tours for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review and promotion!

  • ARC's,  Book Reviews

    The Dead Girls Club: Blog Tour

    Red Lady, Red Lady, show us your face…

    In 1991, Heather Cole and her friends were members of the Dead Girls Club. Obsessed with the macabre, the girls exchanged stories about serial killers and imaginary monsters, like the Red Lady, the spirit of a vengeful witch killed centuries before. Heather knew the stories were just that, until her best friend Becca began insisting the Red Lady was real–and she could prove it.

    That belief got Becca killed.

    It’s been nearly thirty years, but Heather has never told anyone what really happened that night–that Becca was right and the Red Lady was real. She’s done her best to put that fateful summer, Becca, and the Red Lady, behind her. Until a familiar necklace arrives in the mail, a necklace Heather hasn’t seen since the night Becca died.

    The night Heather killed her.

    Now, someone else knows what she did…and they’re determined to make Heather pay.

    Welcome to my stop on The Dead Girls blog tour!

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was the perfect mix of creepy, scary, and with a supernatural twist – all without being gory or check all your doors three times scary.

    It felt like a trip down memory lane – slumber parties with friends full of scary stories that we tried to make each other believe were real. Fortunately for us, none of the stories came true and no one ended up dead.

    Told in a shifting timeline, it was an interesting way to unfold the story and the characters. I read this book in a day because I had to know what was next and what really happened to Becca.

    The writing was done well. The author wrote a suspenseful story without trying to add too many twists or leaving the reader confused with extra characters. The four main characters were as well developed as you would expect for a mystery. The only possible drawback would be the campy feel of the book. But if you knew that going into the story, it probably won’t be that big of an issue.

    All in all, this was a well-written thriller that was fun to read on a dreary fall afternoon.

    This book by Damien Angelica Walters is for sale on 12/10/19. Look for it in your local bookstores then!

    Thank you to Crooked Lane Books for a free advance readers copy in exchange for my honest opinion. 

  • ARC's,  Book Reviews

    The Painted Castle: a blog tour & review

     

    Synopsis:

    A lost painting of Queen Victoria. A library bricked off from the world. Three women, separated by time, whose lives are irrevocably changed.

    When art historian Keira Foley is hired to authenticate a painting at a centuries-old East Suffolk manor, she hopes this is just the thing to get her career and life back on track. But from the time she arrives at Parham Hill Estate and begins working alongside rumored art thief Emory Scott, she’s left with far more questions than answers. Could this lost painting of Queen Victoria be a duplicate of the original Winterhalter masterpiece, and if so, who is the artist?

    As Keira begins to unravel the mystery behind the portrait of the queen, two women emerge from the estate’s forgotten past. In Victorian England, talented sketch artist Elizabeth Meade is engaged to Viscount Huxley, then owner of Parham Hill. While there, master portrait artist Franz Winterhalter takes her under his wing, but Elizabeth’s real motive for being at Parham Hill has nothing to do with art. She’s determined to avenge her father’s brutal murder—even if it means feigning an engagement to the very man she believes committed the crime.

    A century later, Amelia Woods—a WWII widow who has turned Parham Hill Estate and its beloved library into a boarding school for refugee children—receives military orders to house a troop of American pilots. She is determined that the children in her care remain untouched by the war, but it’s proving difficult with officers taking up every square inch of their world… and one in particular vying for a space in her long shut up heart.

    Set in three time periods—the rapid change of Victorian England, the peak of England’s home front tensions at the end of World War II, and modern day—The Painted Castle unfolds a story of heartache and hope and unlocks secrets lost for generations, just waiting to be found.

    The Painted Castle is a sweet romance, the third in the Lost Castle series. It can be read as a stand-alone but is better if read with The Lost Castle and Castle on the Rise.

    My Thoughts:

    I thoroughly enjoyed the writing, the character development, and the scenery descriptions. I have not read the other two books in the series but it didn’t hurt my experience reading The Painted Castle. I think that says a lot about an author’s writing when a book in a series can stand alone.

    I loved that the story spanned centuries. Time-shifting stories are some of my favorites. And three heroines to root for? This added an extra layer of engagement for me. It’s not often that you are captivated by three strong female characters written so well.

    I read this book in one sitting and the other two books are already ordered and on their way. I can’t wait to read more by this talented author, Kristy Cambron.

    Purchase at your local bookstore or visit one of these online stores!

    Thomas Nelson | Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

    Connect with Kristy

    Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

    Thanks to TLC Book Tours, Thomas Nelson, and Kristy Cambron for a copy of this beautiful book in exchange for my honest opinion.

     

  • ARC's,  Book Reviews

    Devotion: a book review

     ✂️✂️✂️✂️/5

    Devotion by Madeline Stevens

    Ella is young, broke, and trying to make it in New York City. Originally from a small town in Oregon, she finds herself out of her element when she is hired by a wealthy family as a nanny for their baby, William.

    Lonnie, William’s mother, is a writer and is 26 – the same age as Ella. James is her successful and handsome husband and on the surface they appear to have the perfect life.

    Lonnie crosses all the boundaries of the employer/employee relationship and the two become friends. Ella is captivated by Lonnie, her talent, old family wealth, and the social circles she moves in. What starts as a fascination, slowly moves into an obsession as Ella meticulously documents Lonnie’s possessions, writings, and relationships – ultimately becoming so enmeshed that it may be impossible to remove herself without serious consequences.

    I’ve seen this book billed as a thriller and for me, it was a slow burn. Told from the perspective of an unreliable narrator, I could not tell where the book was headed. I wasn’t trying to anticipate the twist in the traditional way that thrillers like to hook the reader.

    I wanted to know what happened next and that is what made this a page turner for me.

    An unreliable narrator written well is difficult to do and Madeline Stevens did this brilliantly. All the characters were well developed and while each had questionable motives, they were all likable at some point in the book. For me, that is usually the downfall of a book like this – I end up hating everyone and rooting for no one. But by the end of Devotion, I was still pulling for one character which is a sign of a good plot in my opinion.

    So while I wouldn’t call this a heart pounding summer thriller, it’s a smoldering story that will keep you guessing to the end. I read this debut novel in less than 24 hours and I am looking forward to the author’s next book!

    If you enjoy books like The Talented Mr. Ripley, A Ladder to The Sky, or The End of The Affair, you will enjoy Devotion. Look for it in your bookstore on August 13th.

     

  • ARC's,  Book Reviews,  mental health,  parenting,  Writing

    I’m Saying NO!

     

    This is the post no mother ever wants to write. But here I am.

    At the height of the #METOO movement, our daughter had her own encounter with sexual assault. She had just turned 14 and the perpetrator was 14. She was also not his only victim.

    We talk often in our home about telling our own story and her story is not mine to tell. But I do have a mother’s perspective to give on empowering our daughters and encouraging our sons to find their voices and speak out against sexual harassment, assault, and pressure.

    The #METOO and #TIMESUP movements have done a tremendous amount of good but we can still do better.

    The post I was writing to share yesterday changed drastically as I received this series of frantic texts from my now 15-year-old daughter. I shut my laptop and spent the rest of the afternoon on the phone with the school, emailing administrators, and checking in with my daughter. With her permission here is what happened:

    Her: Mom I need you to call the counselors office and have them ask to have me sent to see them.

    Me: You have a counseling pass. Give it to the teacher and leave. (this is part of her 504)

    Her: I can’t. I’ll explain when I get to the office. Please call them now. I’m going to have a flashback.

    Me: I called and left a message. JUST LEAVE.

    Her: I can’t.

    I then called the front office and told them that I didn’t know what was going on, that she has a counselor’s pass, but for some reason, she’s not able to use it. The front office said they would take care of it immediately.

    I sat and waited. She wasn’t answering my texts.

    Finally, the counselor called with my daughter and I learned what was going on.

    Why wasn’t she able to use her pass?

    Because she was scared to ask the teacher.

    Because it was the male teacher causing her distress.

    In a discussion completely unrelated to the class, this teacher was going into detail about the juries he has served on. One of which was a 14-year-old boy sexually assaulting an 8-year-old girl.

    This teacher went into graphic detail about the girl’s video interview, the “doll” used in her interview, and the things said.

    My daughter has been in counseling and was able to recognize the situation she was in and was resourceful enough to get herself out of the situation. She has come a long way in a little over a year.

    Since this was just yesterday afternoon, this is obviously still being addressed with the teacher. I have full confidence that the administration will handle this appropriately. I emphasized with them that while my daughter was impacted, this would have upset me as an adult and statistically my daughter was not the only one in that class being impacted by his words.

    We can do better.

    When a grown man feels that a discussion like this is appropriate – in mixed company, to discuss a graphic sexual assault in detail, with no applicability to the class. WE CAN DO BETTER.

    If we are still at the point where educators do not understand the power their words and actions can have over former victims, books like I’m Saying NO! are still desperately needed. Not just for the education of those who love, support, and teach former victims but also for the former victims themselves.

    I was honored to be selected to be a part of the #IMSAYINGNO campaign and it could not have been more timely. And maybe even a little too timely in our own home. Because while time has passed and she has learned ways to manage her anxiety and PTSD, things like this are setbacks.

    I’m Saying NO! does an excellent job of helping former victims find their unique voice. Many, many times it’s far more complicated than just telling someone to say NO. For someone who has already been harmed, healing has to occur to get to that place and this book provides sounds steps and exercises towards saying NO.

    There are also valuable tools for parents and advocates discussed in this book. I have had to learn to advocate for my daughter in a way that makes a mama bear look tame. And the more I have understood about where she was coming from the more effective I have become. What took me a year to learn, is in this book.

    An aside about advocating: you have to be passionate enough to show you mean business but calm enough to keep from being disregarded because you’re emotional – sadly, that’s an actual thing.

    But a few words about that – this book is not a substitute for therapy. The therapists who have helped our family through this past year have been invaluable. There are also parts of this book that could be very upsetting for former victims without the assistance of a therapist. There are plenty of warnings throughout the book that warn of triggers which I appreciated.

    As yesterday reminded me, there is still work to be done and I am grateful for a book that recognized the need and went beyond the initial movements.

    If you are a parent, this book is a great place to start. We need to be talking with our kids much younger than we probably think – I know this was my experience.

    If you are an educator, you are on the front line and the more you understand about what your students are facing, the more compassionate and empowering you will be.

    And finally, if you are a former victim, with support this book can be a great aid in your healing and recovery of your voice.

    Thank you to She Writes Press and BookSparks for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

     

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