Monday, January 26, 2015

Music Crush Monday!!!

Oh, how I miss the Walking Dead!!! February 8th feels like forever away. While we wait, here’s a song from the first half of Season Five – Bad Blood by Alison Mosshart and Eric Arjes. PS- I’m still broken up over the last scene with Beth. PSS – It’s okay, Daryl, I’ll console you! ;)

*sigh*

xoxo

SJ


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Book Review - Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Release Date: June 5th, 2012
Genre: Thriller and Suspense
My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


Here's the Summary:

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?



My Review:

I’ve struggled with how to approach this review, partly because it’s hard to know where to begin, and partly because I don’t want to give a single, solitary thing away. The reader needs to dive into it with zero clue as to what might happen. I say this because someone spilled a VERY important aspect of the book to me in passing, so before I cracked the book open, I already knew about a major plot point.

Yeah... you read that right: someone gave away part of the ******* book!!!! Ugh.




I’m glad to say, though, that it didn’t ruin it for me because there were so many other things I didn’t know, and of course I was dying to know how it ended. But for the sake of not disclosing anything that might possibly ruin the experience for others, I’ve decided to do what I feel is best: an interpretive .gif review to portray every emotion as I read. lol I’ve also included an EXCLUSIVE alternate ending at the bottom (that I completely dreamed up) to make me feel better about how it all concluded, so PLEASE DON’T READ PAST THE SPOILER ALERT BELOW unless you’ve already read the book!!! The only thing I will say about the plot line is the ending could have been better. It actually left me a little deflated and nauseous (after the irritation subsided, of course), otherwise it would have been a solid 5 instead of a 4.

Enjoy :)





Oh, this is a good start! Flawless writing. Multi-faceted characters. Love the wife. Starting to hate the husband... I think. Or maybe I like him? But... something's not right. Something is definitely not right.





Yep!!! Definitely hate the husband. Why you gotta go and get all cliche on me, Nick??




Okay, what the heck? Something isn't adding up here! Nick, just fess up, man. You did it, didn't you?!





OMG... that twist!!! So wrong. So so so wrong. That's a new level of crazy. You should have a mental disorder named after you.






Whew! Okay, good. I still dislike pretty much everyone in this novel - minus Margo and the cat - but maybe there's hope for a decent outcome. Me thinking about the antagonist finally getting what's coming to 'em:



But wait... what?! Are you SERIOUS?? That ending had me like:







And that concludes my review :) 



*******SPOILER ALERT*********

EXCLUSIVE ALTERNATE ENDING:

 In an ironic twist of fate, the Amazingly psychotic/ clever/ narcissistic sociopath that is Amy, died a very un-AMAZING death by choking on a chili Frito, leaving need-to-grow-a-pair-Nick free to publish his side of the story and live the rest of his days without needing to sleep with one eye open in fear that the psycho ***** will slit his throat.



THE END

About the Author:



Gillian Flynn is an American author and television critic for Entertainment Weekly. She has so far written three novels, Sharp Objects, for which she won the 2007 Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for the best thriller; Dark Places; and her best-selling third novel Gone Girl.

Her book has received wide praise, including from authors such as Stephen King. The dark plot revolves around a serial killer in a Missouri town, and the reporter who has returned from Chicago to cover the event. Themes include dysfunctional families,violence and self-harm.

In 2007 the novel was shortlisted for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar for Best First Novel by an American Writer, Crime Writers' Association Duncan Lawrie, CWA New Blood and Ian Fleming Steel Daggers, winning in the last two categories.

Flynn, who lives in Chicago, grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. She graduated at the University of Kansas, and qualified for a Master's degree from Northwestern University.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Author Spotlight, Excerpt and GIVEAWAY - Altered by Amy Stearman

Happy Monday, angels!!! I’m pleased to introduce another Paranormal Romance novel titled Altered by the talented Amy Stearman, and I’ll give you a moment to ogle the gorgeous cover below and take a WILD guess as to what it’s about. ;)

*Dramatic pause*

You got it! Vampires!!! And Ms. Stearman has been so gracious as to giveaway three copies for your bloodthirsty enjoyment! Take a moment to read her excerpt below and enter to win.

Love to all xoxo



Release Date: December 11th, 2014
Genre: Paranormal Romance


Where to Buy:


Here's the Summary:

Unassuming law student Sadie Pratt leads a quiet life immersing herself in her books; outside of school, her only real form of excitement is researching the local flour mill and her link to its terrible history. That all changes one fateful night when her employer requests she meet with a mysterious client who will change her life in an unthinkable way.

Vincent Strickland has toured the country attempting to regain his holdings after serving a punishing sentence for his violent past. He is out for revenge when his path unexpectedly crosses Sadie's, who he believes is his former lover reborn. He will stop at nothing to possess her.

Fallen deity Thayer Aubade has dedicated his life to The Creed, a secret sect charged with protecting the innocent from monsters like Strickland. When his team is dispatched to rescue Strickland’s latest victim, the scene he discovers feels all too familiar and he vows he won't play by the rules this time.

Desire, possession, and treachery lead Sadie down a crooked path to redemption. She must rely on her intellect and inner strength for her survival... and for that of the man she loves.




Excerpt:


She felt Vince Strickland's icy stare upon her neck again as he ever so slowly reached his hand toward her. The pad of his thumb found its target at the hollow between her collar bones, and then slid its way up the column of her delicate throat. It was the first time their skin had ever touched. His fingertip was so cold it burned. Slowly, slowly his hand came to rest around her fragile neck, fingers fitted between the gentle rises of her vertebrae. The strange energy she’d come to associate with the mysterious Vince was now assaulting her senses in all the most terrible and wonderful ways.

Sadie watched, transfixed, as his features alternated between angular monster and magnificent Vince. In response, her survival instincts vacillated between sheer terror and feminine curiosity.

She had never felt so confused, so marvelously afraid, or so euphoric. Her body, she decided, was the worst kind of traitor.

Vince ever so slightly increased the pressure of his middle finger against the back of her neck, guiding her mouth closer to his own. She was helpless to fight it. The fingertips of his left hand came to rest against Sadie’s cheekbone then slid down her face, along her collarbone, and her arm, until he held her wrist in his chilly grasp.

“I was stunned, you know,” he murmured to her, eyes sweeping over her face, “That it was you who opened the door for me in this sleepy town.”

“That I …” Sadie swallowed, concentration fumbling. “That I did what?”

“It was fated, I know that now,” Vince continued unfazed. “That this was the final stop on my journey, and who should I find but you?” His gaze dipped to Sadie’s mouth. Unthinking, she wet her bottom lip with her tongue, and tried to focus.

“I don’t understand.”

“No. No, you wouldn’t. But I’m about to make you.” Vince’s grip on Sadie increased and her heart rate jumped in reaction. As though he was aware of the treacherous response her body was having to his nearness, he smiled, and it was sinful. Raw male power practically vibrated from him. Sadie could feel the dormant strength in those cold hands, tension coiled in every long muscle.

Eyes never wavering, Vince brought his mouth closer, closer to hers until she felt her breath reduce to shallow bursts. Light as a feather, he brushed his lips across Sadie’s, not quite a kiss, and then held her still with a deep inhalation.

Eyes closed and lips barely brushing hers, he murmured, “Answer me something, Sadie?” Then he inclined his head along with one brow. “Your Mr. McDonnell called you Sadie Jo.” He chuckled softly at her look of surprise. “Yes,” he all but purred, “I heard that private whisper even from across the room. Now tell me. What is your middle name?”

“My middle name?” Sadie was taken aback. Why would that matter?

“I already know, but I would like to hear it from your pretty lips.” With that, he brushed the pad of his thumb over her bottom lip, leaving a numbing sensation in its wake.

“It’s Josephine,” she whispered.

His smile was arrogant. “Named so after a relation of yours, no?”

“My great-grandmother,” she answered quietly, suspiciously.

“And do you happen to know what became of your great-grandmother?”

Dread pitted itself firmly in her middle and she began to tremble in earnest. “She was murdered.”

“Yes.”

“On Strickland property.”

“Yes."

Sadie’s voice shook, she couldn’t help it. “By a Strickland?”

Vince’s smile was wicked, enraptured. “Yes.”

The Giveaway:

       About the Author:

           

Amy Stearman is an avid reader and writer of stories, hailing from the Midwest. She lives in the liberal mecca of Kansas with her husband, young son, and ornery Sheltie. 

Amy holds her bachelors degrees in Human Services and Victim Studies, and a Masters degree in Social Work. That might sound pretty cool, but she accidentally ended up in marketing.

When she's not chasing her three year old or attempting DIY home improvement, she's jotting down story ideas and dreaming big.




Friday, January 16, 2015

Book Review and GIVEAWAY - Nine Lives of Adam Blake by Ryan Gladney



Publication Date: February 22nd, 2014
Genre: Science Fiction
My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Where to Buy:

Here's the Summary:

What would you do differently if you could live life over again? 

Adam Blake has lived an unexceptional life. Once a vibrant, adventurous child with big dreams for his future, Adam now looks back and wonders where it all went wrong. He has blundered into a career that bores him, severed ties with his parents, and been so unlucky in love he can no longer talk to women without the goading of friends and encouragement of too many drinks. When he dies in a traffic accident on a cold winter night halfway through his thirtieth year, his life flashes before his eyes, nothing skipped or overlooked, and Adam is faced with a long, painful procession of regrets. 

Thankfully for Adam, death is nothing but a second chance at life... 

Adam wakes to an unexpected version of the afterlife: It is his own life, lived over and over again. As Adam journeys through one life to the next, he is free to right past wrongs, avoid past mistakes, pursue any interest, and chase any dream. He can make amends with the woman he once loved—the electric, unpredictable Tamar Núñez—and build upon the relationship that ended in heartbreak the first time around. But as Adam's march of life after life continues on and on, he begins to wonder if there is even more to his strange predicament than meets the eye. He must know: What is the true nature of his seemingly endless parade of lives? What is its cause? How will it end? And what awaits him on the other side of death when death comes for the final time? 

NINE LIVES OF ADAM BLAKE is a thought-provoking, heart-warming journey into the nature of life, the meaning of true love, and the pursuit of happiness that lasts a lifetime—and beyond.


My Review:

This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Where to begin with a story like this? It’s so uniquely crafted and worlds apart from anything I’m used to reading. When I accepted this book for review, I knew I was stepping out of my typical reading comfort zone, but man… am I glad I did. This part fantasy, part sci-fi, part paranormal, part contemporary novel (okay, I know all those things sound like my typical reads, but I assure you, this book is not lol) does more than entertain, it wakens the part of your psyche that often lies dormant – the part that rises above the day to day motions and grasps for a bigger meaning to our lives. It challenges you to think twice about the decisions you make and how that can affect not only your life, but others’ lives around you. And that, my lovelies, is the mark of a fantastic story: entertaining, yet thought provoking.

Here’s the skinny:

The Good:

All of it. The writing, the character development, the premise, the message… all of it! You can tell from the get-go that Mr. Gladney took his time developing and fine tuning and fleshing out every little detail, down to when he reveals the answer to the big question: why in the world is Adam reliving his life over and over in a Groundhog Day type way? And let me tell you, everything you think you might know, or can come up with as an explanation (if you can even come up with anything at all) is wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. And even though the explanation leaves you as deflated as the character in a reeling, holy crap, kind of way, you come to realize (like him) that the utter bleakness of it all is actually the beauty of it. Because, at the end of the day, your purpose is found in not some groundbreaking revelation, it’s in the way you live your life and what you do with what’s handed to you. And in Adam’s case, an infinite number of times. One of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Perhaps we are better off living every moment—every action, idea, choice, and word—as if it were the very reason we were born. How much more beauty and meaning would you find in everyday things if that were your approach? Imagine a life in which each day is engaged with sacredness and honor, as if it were the most important in the world...”

So let’s talk a little about the actual storyline, shall we? At the end of every life, Adam wakes up at twelve-years-old in a hospital bed, only to relive his fairly ordinary life in an extraordinary way – with memories of his past lives still vivid in his mind. So basically, when he’s reliving his younger years again and again, he’s an old soul trapped in a young man’s body. He experiences the same traumas (out of his realm of influence), but learns how to make the best of them each time around. He meets Tamar, his (quite literally) endless love, whom he gets to meet, court, fall in love with and marry over and over again (after he finally gets it right). To some, that might sound boring, but as Adam comes to realize, it truly is a gift. Our lives are already (and should be) shadowed with a we only get one chance, so we need to make it count way of thinking, but what if you got multiple chances? Infinite chances? Were able to right some wrongs? Do things differently? Do everything differently? It blew my mind, to be honest.

And here is the part where I make my point regarding Ryan Gladley’s storytelling ability: if your story revolves around a character experiencing the same thing over and over, yet you still successfully engage the reader (not one time was I bored) and leave them wanting to buy the book in print (which I did!) so you can read it over and over again to infinity and beyond (pun intended) then you know you have chops. And you, Mr. Gladney, have chops. :)


The Bad:

Nothing to say in this category.


The Ugly:

Nothing to say in this category.


In conclusion, if you read anything at all this year, it needs to be this compelling, thought-provoking story of life, love and how the decisions we make can greatly alter both of them. Unlike Adam, we don’t get an infinite number of chances, so let’s make the most of the ones we have now.


Favorite Quote:

"Do not dwell in the past, or dream of the future, but concentrate on the present moment... It is only when the past is forgotten, and the future released from our worried grasp, that life may be lived as truly intended: as a joyful, steady procession of everlasting nows.


About the Author:


Ryan was born in St. Louis, and has lived in Boston, Orange Country, Ann Arbor, Los Angeles, and Minnesota. He attended college at the University of Michigan. When not writing (or working), Ryan spends most of his time with his wife, son, and cats. He’s an active book-clubber, kickballer, bike-rider, brunch-eater, and live music aficionado. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


The Giveaway:

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Book Review and GIVEAWAY - Gathering Water by Regan Claire



Publication Date: January 25th, 2014
Genre: YA Fantasy/ Paranormal
My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


Where to Buy:


Here's the Summary:

Della Doe Deare isn't like most people. Most people begin their life on the day they enter the world; the day they're born. Della, well, hers began on the day she turned eighteen. After all, it was the day she first heard her real name, and that of her mothers. With nothing but a couple of duffel bags and a folder full of questions, she travels home to coastal North Carolina to claim the house she inherited from a grandmother she never knew. She has two goals: discover why her mother ran away from home all those years ago, and avoid the family that had left her to rot in an inept foster care system. Hard to do when the family she's been trying to avoid is dragging her into an unimaginable world... a world on the brink of war, and both sides want her dead. All Della ever wanted was to know who she was, but the journey to self-discovery might just lead to her destruction.

My Review:

PLEASE NOTE: This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review… and I honestly loved it. :) Here are the details:


The Good:

The POV character – Della Doe Deare. First, love the name! She had always been a “Doe” from growing up in the foster system, her birth mother being a Jane Doe and no father in sight, then when she learned her real last name was Deare, she kept both even though it’s an alliteration people were sure to make fun of (and of course they do lol). But honestly, the name suits her – by keeping “Doe,” she’s honoring her past because it’s a part of her and has made her who she is, and by adding “Deare,” she’s embracing new beginnings and learning about her heritage. Her name might sound silly, but it’s a perfect reflection of her story. However, this character is so much more than her quirky, fitting name; she’s so well-written, I honestly feel like I know her.

I wasn’t a foster kid, and I’ve never been close to anyone who is, so discovering a little of what it’s like to bounce from place to place and never have a real sense of “home,” made my heart ache for her. Then, when she’s thrown into a new family – her real family, who’d been lied to about her existence until now – with a sweet but overbearing cousin (Cash), her caring Aunt and Uncle (Ellis and Conner), a helpful great uncle in Luke, and a swoon-worthy family friend (Dove. I’ll get to him later!) she’s so overwhelmed by every emotion imaginable it’s hard to compartmentalize, so a good portion of the beginning is discovering who they are and how she fits into the picture, therefore discovering parts of herself along the way. I also found it realistic that she was hesitant about them at first:

“I may have been wrong about their abandoning me, at least about Ellis and Connor, but I was still hesitant to rely on family just because of blood ties; I’ve met a lot of kids in the system who were taken from their family and knew that a blood relation doesn’t automatically mean a good relation.”

There’s definitely a coming of age element there – figuring out how she fits into the picture and if she even wants to, as well as trying to make a new home for herself in an unfamiliar place. But even though a good bit of this book explores all these things, it doesn’t weigh it down. It actually ads authenticity and charm.
Speaking of “discovering parts of herself,” now let’s discuss the Fantasy elements of this novel. I LOVE me some teenage kids discovering their abilities. It’s such a weird time in one’s life anyway – you’re not a kid anymore, but you’re also trying to find your place as a new adult. Especially at eighteen and fresh out of high school. So along with the whole discovering-her-place-in-a-new-family thing, add a newfound supernatural ability, and you have one heck of an interesting plotline. I won’t give away what the abilities are since it’s much more fun to discover them as you’re reading, but I will say they’re original and beyond imaginative. Not only that, but Ms. Claire’s descriptions of said abilities were incredibly well fleshed out. Della’s powers also have something to do with her bloodline and why her existence was kept a secret, but that’s as far as I’ll go with that, as well. :)

Another big plus to this book is how the author answers a little bit along the way instead of pulling an M. Night Shyamalan a la The Village and giving everything away too soon. There’s so much to find out – why Della has these abilities; why her existence was kept a secret from her family; who her father is; why did her mother run away with her when she was pregnant? Ms. Claire’s flawless execution in answering these questions at just the right time keeps the reader intrigued without making us frustrated. Nothing aggravates me more than presenting a ton of questions, then proceeding to not answer them over the course of several books, OR dumping it all into the last chapter. So kudos to Ms. Claire for having the balancing act down. *Golf clap* Of course, there are still some things we want to know after the novel ends, since it’s Book One of a series, but most of the questions are answered.

On to the next good thing about this novel.

Della’s relationship with Dove. *Sigh* Dove… Dove, Dove, Dove. How I love thee. He’s gorgeous, and best of all, he’s not cocky about it. I HATE cocky male love interests. Probably because I don’t like cocky guys in real life. Self-assured and confident are fine. Sexy even. Cocky is bad. And not only is he gorgeous, he’s not overly clingy or tries to rush into a relationship. He gives Della space, and as a result, their romance progresses slowly, but nicely. Realistically. And that last scene with them in the car… have mercy. *Fans self*

Della’s wit – another plus. Thankfully, the writer didn’t saturate the story with witty remarks every other paragraph, as some writers tend to do. This is a balancing act Ms. Claire also has down pat. Her writing has a perfect blending of tear, rage and chuckle-inducing moments.


The Bad:

The ONLY thing I can criticize isn’t really bad, per se, but in some places the descriptions needed to be better. For instance, when Della goes to the Elfennol’s compound, the runes and doorways and the bridge were described well, but then later, we finally get to the insides and inner workings of the place, but…. we don’t get much except for there are “buildings” as they make their way through. The arena is pretty well painted for the reader, and so are Della’s living quarters (I want to sleep in a bed like that!), but there are definitely some holes along the way that could be filled in to show us what she’s seeing. If some of these holes had been filled in, the book would have gotten 5 stars. There are also some other places in the novel when characters were introduced, and I still have no idea what they look like.


The Ugly:

Nothing to say in this category.


In conclusion, Gathering Water is well fleshed-out with believable, likable characters, real moments that make you laugh, cry and swoon, and is a MUST READ for YA Fantasy lovers everywhere.


Favorite Quote:

This quote was about Della wishing she knew her mother and came on the heels of a memorial service her new family threw for her. This goes to show how incredibly authentic the author’s writing was when it came to being foster kid and never knowing your parent. I teared up!!! “Every story that I heard, every joke and memory that was shared made me miss her. It made me wish she were the one sharing these things with me, made me really think about all the things that I’d never had with her, and never would.”



About the Author:

A Tidewater girl born and bred, my first friend and love was the Atlantic. Growing up being told the legends about Pirates and American Natives common in coastal VA and NC, coupled with being an only child, did wonders for my imagination; I've had one foot in fantasy-land ever since, a trait my dear husband heroically endures (and one I secretly hope my daughters have inherited). We moved inland to Nashville while I was entering tweenhood and not a day goes by that I don't miss my childhood playmate and her crashing waves. Nashville has her perks though, namely the love of my life and our two sweet girls. Our insane mutt-dog and the stray cat that refuses to leave our porch aren't too bad either. I love fairy tales A LOT, teen movies (preferably with dancing or singing), read entirely too much, and am constantly late.




The Giveaway:

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Email Subscription Services – a GREAT way to find FREE and discounted eBooks!!!

 
I’m fully aware that the title of this post sounds like someone paid me to write it lol, but I assure you no one did. I happen to love reading and not paying out the nose for it, that’s all. And I love sharing things I love with my readers. :) As a side note, as many readers as I know in my personal life, about 90% of them had NO IDEA these websites/ email blasts even existed. That floored me! More people need to know!!!

As an author, I stumbled across the sites I mention below because I was looking for ways to promote my work, and one of the advertising opportunities happened to be email blasts for readers who've willingly signed up for said emails. Seemed like advertising gold to me! So I submitted my work, paid the invoices, anxiously awaited the day they agreed to feature my work, and voila… eBook downloads galore!

As a reader, I decided to try the subscription services for myself. Most if not all the sites simply need your email and genre preferences, and once a day you’ll get an email blast listing the discounted (sometimes deeply) books for the day. And let me tell you… I’ve been extremely pleased. I’ve seen popular, traditionally published works, indie novels, some even have useful app download promos, and I’ve never seen anything over $2.99. For example, I’ve recently snagged some books I’ve been wanting to buy but didn’t want to pay full price for:
Gone Girl, These Broken Stars, Alice in Zombie Land, Abandon. I’ve seen Nora Robert’s work on there, James Patterson’s, Charlaine Harris', Nicholas Sparks’, John Green’s, Veronica Roth’s... I could go on and on and on. BUT I’ve also come across some killer Indie novels I never knew existed!!! All because I signed up for free email subscriptions. I have a happy little (growing) stack of eBooks, and my wallet isn’t screaming at me in the meantime. All is well in the universe.

So that brings me to sharing the sites with you. Click on each image below to visit their site and sign-up!!! You’re welcome. :)

 
 
BookBub:
 
https://www.bookbub.com/home/
 

Book Gorilla:

http://www.bookgorilla.com/
 
 
 BookSends:

http://booksends.com/
 
 
Kindle Books and Tips:

http://fkbt.com/


The Fussy Librarian:

http://www.thefussylibrarian.com/