READING CHALLENGES 2013

Joining the RIP VIII Challenge!

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I am officially joining the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VIII challenge 🙂

For whatever reason, I have never joined up with this one … which is silly, since this is definitely a challenge right up my alley!!

I’m choosing this level:

rip8peril1stSo I’m committing to reading at least four books between September 1 and October 31.

I’ve got a ton of mystery/thriller books on my shelves … that’s practically all I read. But, I did pick out a stack that I will be choosing from for this challenge.

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I’m sooo ready :):)

 

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Miscellaneous Ramblings

Slumping…

Ugh … boy am I in a slump. I hate slumps. They suck.

I gobbled up the first four books I read this month … and then … just stopped.

It’s not necessarily the book I am reading (a review book that I’m scheduled for a tour at the end of the month), I just have hit a wall.

*Sigh*

On a better note – Garrett started walking this weekend 🙂 He’s been “able” to walk for some time, he just never did. But now he’s discovered it and is much more sturdy on his feet. Oh boy, the fun is just starting!

I’ve also been cooking a lot more … hopefully pretty soon I will have a few new recipes to share with all of you! I’ve also been trying to get my recipes better organized. I’ve started a new binder … nothing exciting, just your standard recipe binder.

Just wanted to pop in and say hello. I’ve already been quiet for a week here, didn’t want it to get any worse. 🙂

4.5/5, AUTHOR, Author Debut, Book Review, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2013, X-Y-Z

2013.36 REVIEW – The Never List by Koethi Zan

The Never List
by Koethi Zan

Copyright: 2013
Pages: 303
Rating: 4.5/5
Read: Aug.13-17, 2013
Challenge: No challenge
Yearly count: 36
Format: Print
Source: Library

The Never ListBlurb: For years, best friends Sarah and Jennifer kept what they called the Never List: a list of actions to be avoided, for safety’s sake, at all costs. But one night, against their best instincts, they accept a cab ride with grave, everlasting consequences. For the next three years, they are held captive with two other girls in a dungeon-like cellar by a connoisseur of sadism.

Ten years later, at thirty-one, Sarah is still struggling to resume a normal life, unable to come to grips with the fact that Jennifer didn’t make it out of that cellar. Now, her abductor is up for parole and Sarah can no longer ignore the twisted letters he sends from jail.

Finally, Sarah decides to confront her phobias – and the other survivors, who hold their own deep grudges against her. When she goes on a cross-country chase that takes her into the perverse world of BDSM, secret cults, and the arcane study of torture, Sarah begins unraveling a mystery more horrifying than even she could have imagined.


Review: When I first saw this book mentioned somewhere (darn it, why can I never remember to jot that down?!), I was immediately intrigued. You can imagine my delight when I saw that my library had two copies on order and that there were only two people on the waiting list!

When I began reading it, I was immediately hooked. I took to Sarah’s character right away. I couldn’t help but pity her and Jennifer after surviving that horrific car crash that claimed the life of Jennifer’s mother. You really couldn’t blame them for starting the “Never List.” They took every precaution … even going so far as to hiring a car service while they were in college so that they would never have to get into a cab with a strange driver. Unfortunately, one night they did indeed let their guard down. And that was the night they were abducted.

I must state that this book coming out so close to the time of those women in Ohio being rescued from that man’s house … just, wow. Just the parallels between the two stories, especially since Sarah and Jennifer were at Ohio State! Very strange, indeed.

I have to give big props to the author, though. This book could have been extremely gruesome based on the abduction and the characters’ time in that cellar. Somehow, Ms. Zan managed to keep the descriptions of their time in the cellar to a minimum, and when it was mentioned, it was done tastefully in my opinion. I know that sounds hard to believe, but it really is how I felt about it. And the language is actually rather clean, with just a few F-bombs scattered throughout. Nothing gratuitous, in my opinion.

I do have one slight issue with this book, though. Sarah’s character bothered me a little bit. First of all, I want to know how you can have someone so afraid of just going outside, manage to leave her apartment, fly across the country, drive at night and investigate something that has haunted her for years? It seemed very much at odds with everything I as a reader knew about Sarah. I mean, she wouldn’t even shake the hand of the FBI agent in charge of her case! How was she able to overcome all of that and go on that journey? It just didn’t really seem plausible that she would be able to cope with so much so quickly.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I felt like it was a roller-coaster, thrill-a-minute ride from page one. I prefer to keep my comments here relatively clean, but I can’t help but tell you that when I finished this book, the first thing that came to my mind was “what a total mind-f*ck.” It’s the best psychological thriller I’ve read in some time.

Highly recommended.

4/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Fiction, M, RATING, Read in 2013, Review Book

2013.35 REVIEW – The Widows of Braxton County by Jess McConkey

The Widows of Braxton County
by Jess McConkey

Copyright: 2013
Pages: 355
Rating: 4/5
Read: Aug. 6-11, 2013
Challenge: No challenge
Yearly count: 35
Format: Print
Source: Publicist for review

The Widows of Braxton CountyBlurb: Kate is ready to put her nomadic, city-dwelling past behind her when she married Joe Krause and moves with him to the Iowa farm that has been in his family for more than 140 years. But life on the farm isn’t quite as idyllic as she’d hoped. It’s filled with chores, judgmental neighbors, and her mother-in-law, who – unbeknownst to Kate until after the wedding – will be living with them.

As Kate struggles to find her place in the small farming community, she begins to realize that her husband and his family are not who she thought they were. According to town gossip, the Krause family harbors a long-kept secret about a mysterious death that haunts Kate as a dangerous, unexplainable chain of events begins.


Review: I was provided a copy of this book by Megan Swartz at HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.

This is one of those books that I had to “sit on” after finishing it for a bit before I was able to really gather my thoughts on it. It’s such a complicated, yet simple, book. I have to say that when I was first pitched this book, I was really intrigued by the family secret aspect. That really got my attention. And what secrets they truly are!

The basic premise of this book is a city-girl who escapes her demanding grandmother for a man she met on the internet. She’s then thrown onto a farm with a mother-in-law who does not hide the fact that she resents her new daughter-in-law. Then you have some town gossips, a miscarriage, a death that happened in the 1800s that no one will talk about, some spousal abuse, another murder and friends in the unlikeliest of places. It all makes for a pretty interesting book.

I really liked how the storyline really switched between Kate’s time on the farm in 2012 and Hannah’s experiences in 1890 on the same farm. I couldn’t help but compare what those two were going through. Sure, there were over 100 years separating them, but they were almost like kindred spirits, really. It was very interesting I thought. But the majority of the story was really Kate’s. And while I originally felt sorry for her, then I was angry at her, I eventually came to admire just how strong of a woman she really was. She was stuck on that farm in an abusive atmosphere, and she was able to escape it. But then again, she suffered a great many losses as well in the short time period she was there. And Hannah … well, I obviously can’t give away the ending to her side of the story, but I can say that she was:

A voice not silenced. (p.355)

I felt like the storyline was fresh and exciting, it was well executed as well, and the characters were well-developed. Overall I thought that this book was a highly enjoyable read. I think this book would appeal to a wide variety of people, mystery lovers will enjoy it, as well as women’s/literary fiction readers too.

Highly recommended.

Book Blitz, Pump Up Your Book

Blog Tour: Angel Killer by P.J. Nunn

Angel Killer banner

ABOUT THE BOOK – Angel Killer by P.J. Nunn

Angel KillerThe death of a child is every mother’s nightmare.  But what if the child has no mother?  What if their little bodies are discarded like garbage and no one even seems to care that they’re gone?

Shari Markham, psychologist for the Dallas Police Department, knows what it feels like to be unclaimed and unwanted. She can’t turn away, even if it means demons dancing in her dreams at night.  But when her relentless pursuit of information to help apprehend this madman gets a little too close, he turns the tables, warning her that his next scheduled victim will be her own three-year-old granddaughter, Angel!

Purchase your copy at AMAZON

Title: Angel Killer
Author: PJ Nunn
Paperback: 286 pp.
Publisher: Dark Oak Mysteries
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1610090799
ISBN-13: 978-1610090797


About the Author

PJ NunnAs with most things, PJ Nunn’s career started out as something else entirely. She started out in retail then moved to property management. That led to teaching high school, then serving as a counselor and liaison to the local police youth services division. She also spent five years as chairperson of the Coryell County Child Welfare Board and spent years counseling abuse victims and serving law enforcement as a trauma counselor and consultant (something she still does today). When she moved to Dallas, a family illness caused her to leave a job teaching psychology at Dallas County Community College District to become a freelance writer, but found that a few favors she was doing for friends—writing press releases and setting up book signings—was better suited to her talents and her drives.

In 1998, she founded BreakThrough Promotions, now a national public relations firm helping authors, mostly of mystery novels, publicize themselves and their work. The business is thriving and PJ is excited about the release of her first novel, Angel Killer. PJ lives with her husband some of their five children near Dallas, TX.

Learn more about PJ and her work at www.pjnunn.com.

Connect & Socialize with PJ!

TWITTER | FACEBOOK


Excerpt:

Fog swirled around her, transforming everything into vague shapes and blurs. A small sigh escaped her as Shari parked her mocha Taurus next to the Grand Prairie squad car and got out. The sudden loss of heat prompted her to pull the front of her jacket closed against the damp air. Texas was never this cold in November. Sleep had been elusive. She’d just settled in when the jangling of the phone chased away warm, fuzzy dreams and replaced them with harsh, cold reality. Now the distant sound of thunder matched her mood and didn’t bode well for the crime scene. The sky, a creepy morning shadow with no delineation, met the ground while a fine mist settled on her without a single, discernible drop. Shari slammed the door and walked across the grass toward the officer securing the scene.

After more than a year as criminal profiler for the Dallas Police Department, she wondered if the time would ever come when she’d accept these early morning wakeup calls as typical rather than feeling as if she’d been thrown into a tornado. Emotional autopilot would kick in any minute though, separating her from the horrors to come and allowing her to function within the safe realm of clinical objectivity. At least that’s how it worked in theory.

“Morning,” she greeted the uniformed officer as he walked toward her, headed back to his squad car. He didn’t look any more cheerful than she felt. Nobody liked to work crimes against children.


I hope you will take the time to visit the other stops on the tour:

Monday, August 5 – Book Featured at Laurie’s Thoughts and Reviews

Tuesday, August 6 – Book Review at Miki’s Hope

Wednesday, August 7 – Character Guest Post at Moonlight Lace & Mayhem

Wednesday, August 7 – Book Review at The Self-Taught Cook

Thursday, August 8 – Guest Blogging at Inside BJ’s Head

Friday, August 9 – Guest Blogging & Book Giveaway at Darlene’s Book Nook

Friday, August 9 – Book Feature at Tales of a Book Addict

Monday, August 12 – Book Review at Mary’s Cup of Tea

Thursday, August 15 – Book Review at My Cozie Corner

Friday, August 16 – Character Guest Post at Books R Us

Monday, August 19 – Book Featured at Books R Us

Wednesday, August 21 – Book Featured at Confessions of a Reader

Thursday, August 22 – Guest Blogging at Lori’s Reading Corner

Friday, August 23 – Book Review at Literary Winner

Wednesday, August 28 – Book Review & Guest Blogging at Jersey Girl Book Reviews

Thursday, August 29 – Book Review at A Room Without Books is Empty

Friday, August 30 – Book Review, Interview & Character Guest Post at Melina’s Book Blog

Friday, August 30 – Guest Blogging at Read 2 Review

 

5/5, AUTHOR, Author Debut, Book Review, Fiction, M, RATING, Read in 2013, READING CHALLENGES 2013

2013.34 REVIEW – Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

Reconstructing Amelia 
by Kimberly McCreight

Copyright: 2013
Pages: 380
Rating: 5/5
Read: Aug. 2-6, 2013
Challenge: What’s in a Name 6 Challenge
Yearly count: 34
Format: Print
Source: Library

Reconstructing AmeliaBlurb: When Kate, single mother and law firm partner, gets an urgent phone call summoning her to her daughter’s exclusive private school, she’s shocked. Amelia has been suspended for cheating, something that would be completely out of character for her over-acheiving, well-behaved daughter.

Kate rushes to Grace Hall, but what she finds when she finally arrives is beyond her comprehension.

Her daughter Amelia is dead. 

Despondent over having been caught cheating, Amelia has jumped from the school’s roof in an act of impulsive suicide. At least that’s the story Grace Hall and the police tell Kate. In a state of shock and overcome by grief, Kate tries to come to grips with this life-shattering news. Then she gets an anonymous text:

Amelia didn’t jump. 

The moment she sees that message, Kate knows in her heart it’s true. Clearly Amelia had secrets, and a life Kate knew nothing about. Wracked by guilt, Kate is determined to find out what those secrets were and who could have hate her daughter enough to kill. She searches through Amelia’s e-mails, texts, and Facebook updates, piecing together the last troubled days of her daughter’s life.

Reconstructing Amelia is a stunning debut page-turner that brilliantly explores the secret world of teenagers, their clandestine first loves, hidden friendships, and the dangerous cruelty that can spill over into acts of terrible betrayal.


Review: What. A. Book. Undoubtedly this book will make it on my Top Reads list at the end of the year. It’s just one of those books that really sucks you in and spits you back out when you finish the last page. There’s just so much to talk about this book, I don’t really know where to start.

I will try to keep spoilers at a minimum, but definitely read this review with caution.

First, I guess I should talk about my experience as a teenager in high school. To a certain extent, during my junior year, I was bullied. For whatever reason there was this one girl who was absolutely out to get me. Looking back on it, I still try to figure out what on earth I ever did to her, and the only thing I can think of is that she was just plain jealous of me (why, I will never know, but whatever). However, it hurt deeply at the time. Luckily it started and stopped pretty much with this one girl, but for about 4 months it was non-stop. Then one day it stopped as quickly as it started. I never cracked under her pressure. I put on a brave face at school and pushed through it. But I was absolutely aching inside. I still had a lot of good friends behind me, but she sure did manage to wreak havoc. Having said all that, I know it could have been worse. I was in high school before the huge Facebook/Twitter/Texting explosion happened. We had cell phones (we all had those Nokia’s that had the changeable faceplates!) and MSN instant messenger. And yeah, things got around … but not in the instant that it can now. So for that, I was lucky. But I can definitely feel for those teenagers (or tweens) who are being bullied today. It hurts, no matter how it’s happening to you.

So for this reason, I take books about bullying a little differently than some might. I can definitely connect to the character being bullied more than other readers might. And it’s for this reason that I really loved Amelia’s character. When we first meet her she doesn’t care about what others think. She has her best friend, Sylvia, and a mother who, while somewhat absent, definitely loves her, and that’s all she needs. Oh and it doesn’t hurt that she’s super smart and on the field hockey team, too. She’s carved out a nice place for herself in her school. But all that changes when she gets tapped for a club. And as someone who wanted to be accepted and popular in high school more than anything, I can understand why she was curious about joining. But I felt bad for Amelia too when she got tapped. She knew something was off, she knew she had no business being there … she could have walked away, but she didn’t. And that was the beginning of her downfall. I felt like I was watching a really good girl change into someone she wasn’t as I continued to read the book. She started lying to everyone. She started doing things out of character. And then it all backfired on her.

I guess I should mention now that the book is told in alternating views between Amelia and her mother, Kate. And I felt really bad for Kate’s character. She got pregnant unexpectedly in law school. She chose to keep the baby. But something about her irritated me. I guess it was because she was so absent in her daughter’s life. I mean, I know she tried, and I know she loved Amelia … but you don’t become partner at a NYC law firm easily. She was putting in some major hours and I felt like her relationship with her daughter definitely suffered. You could tell that she felt guilty about it, and Amelia was too headstrong to ask her mom for help. Personally I don’t have an important career. Yes, I have a job outside of the home … but I work for my dad and my son comes first and that’s just how it’s going to be. I don’t really know what it would be like to try to juggle a demanding career and a family, but I can imagine that if you were a single parent, it would probably go the way it did for Kate and Amelia.

The remaining adult characters in this book. Just … wow. You would expect adults to act like adults and children to act like children. But it seems a lot of times those roles were reversed in this book. And as the book started to come to a close and things were finally revealed, it was absolutely shocking at times. I finished this book on Monday and I’m still reeling from some of the revelations.

Overall I highly recommend this book. I think it’s a really good read. But I must warn you, it’s not a sugar-coated, G-rated book. So take that into account if you have issues with reading foul language and sexual situations.

But I think that this is a book that all parents should read at some point. It’s definitely eye-opening, and while I’m still 14 years away from any situations like the ones in this book, it is truly something that we as parents need to be aware of so that we can hopefully guide our children in the right direction.

Mailbox Monday, Meme

Mailbox Monday, August 5, 2013

Mailbox Monday’s August host is The Reading Fever.

When will I learn to not request review books? Answer … never. *Sigh* But I got some goodies all the same!

From Atria’s Galley Alley:

The Ophelia CutMoses McGuire has good reason to be concerned about his beautiful twenty-three-year-old daughter, Brittany. She moves quickly from one boyfriend to the next, and always seems to prefer a new and mysterious stranger to a man she knows something about. But her most recent ex, Rick Jessup, isn’t willing to let her go, culminating in a terrible night when Brittany is raped.

Within twenty-four hours, Rick Jessup is dead, Moses McGuire is the prime suspect in the investigation, and Dismas Hardy has been hired to defend his brother-in-law. Making things even more complicated, McGuire has fallen off the wagon, and his stay in prison could bring to light old secrets that would destroy Hardy and his closest colleagues’ careers.

As the overwhelming evidence against McGuire piles up, Dismas Hardy focuses on planting doubt in the minds of the jurors – until, in a feat of legal ingenuity that is staggering in both its implications and its simplicity, Hardy sees a new way forward that might just save them all. But at what price?


For review from Megan, publicist at William Morrow:

The Widows of Braxton CountyKate is ready to put her nomadic, city-dwelling past behind her when she married Joe Krause and moves with him to the Iowa farm that has been in his family for more than 140 years. But life on the farm isn’t quite as idyllic as she’d hoped. It’s filled with chores, judgmental neighbors, and her mother-in-law, who – unbeknownst to Kate until after the wedding – will be living with them.

As Kate struggles to find her place in the small farming community, she begins to realize that her husband and his family are not who she thought they were. According to town gossip, the Krause family harbors a long-kept secret about a mysterious death that haunts Kate as a dangerous, unexplainable chain of events begins.

 

 

 


A win from Shelf Awareness:

Night FilmOn a damp October night, beautiful young Ashley Cordova is found dead in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Though her death is ruled a suicide, veteran investigative journalist Scott McGrath suspects otherwise. As he probes the strange circumstances surrounding Ashley’s life and death, McGrath comes face-to-face with the legacy of her father: the legendary, reclusive cult-horror-film director Stanislas Cordova—a man who hasn’t been seen in public for more than thirty years.

For McGrath, another death connected to this seemingly cursed family dynasty seems more than just a coincidence. Though much has been written about Cordova’s dark and unsettling films, very little is known about the man himself.

Driven by revenge, curiosity, and a need for the truth, McGrath, with the aid of two strangers, is drawn deeper and deeper into Cordova’s eerie, hypnotic world.

The last time he got close to exposing the director, McGrath lost his marriage and his career. This time he might lose even more.

4/5, AUTHOR, B, Book Review, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2013, READING CHALLENGES 2013, Sean King & Michelle Maxwell, SERIES

2013.33 REVIEW – Hour Game by David Baldacci

Hour Game
by David Baldacci

Copyright: 2004
Pages: 590
Rating: 4/5
Read: July 24 – Aug. 2, 2013
Challenge: Off the Shelf 2013; Sequel Challenge 2013
Yearly count: 33
Format: Print
Source: Personal copy

Hour GameBlurb: A woman is found murdered in the woods. It seems like a simple case but it soon escalates into a terrible nightmare. Someone is replicating the killing styles of the most infamous murderers of all time. No one knows this criminal’s motives … or who will die next.

Two ex-Secret Service agents, Sean King and Michelle Maxwell, have been hired to defend a man’s innocence in a burglary involving an aristocratic, dysfunctional family. Then a series of secrets leads the partners right into the frantic hunt that is confounding even the FBI. Now King and Maxwell are playing the Hour Game, uncovering one horrifying revelation after another and putting their lives in danger. For the closer they get to the truth, the closer they get to the most shocking surprise of all.


Review: Wow, talk about a crazy roller coaster ride! Yes, this book is nearly 600 pages long, but trust me when I tell you that the pages fly by!

I read the first book in this series, Split Second, last year and enjoyed it. I’m not entirely sure why I waited so long to get to the second book, but I’m glad that I did read it. Better late than never 🙂

This book was full of twists and turns. I was constantly trying to figure out the “who-dun-it” part, and while I had it halfway figured out, there was one twist that I never saw coming … one that definitely threw me for a loop to be completely honest.

I really liked the characters in this installment. Of course Sean and Michelle were enjoyable, but the supporting cast were something else! The Battle family … just, wow. I can’t help but laugh at just how dysfunctional that family really was. Mr. Baldacci sure did create a crazy family in that one! Ha!

The storyline was interesting. There were multiple murders throughout the book and Sean and Michelle had to figure out which ones were connected to the others and which ones were separate. It definitely made for some thrilling moments. I really liked the copycat serial killers aspect, I thought that was an interesting way to take things.

Overall I would definitely recommend this book. I must say that while I always recommend reading a series in order, I don’t think you would necessarily miss anything if you read this one before Split Second.