Guest Post: Author J.L. Mbewe

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Today’s post is a guest post written by the very lovely and talented author, J.L. Mbewe. J.L. is the writer of The Hidden Dagger trilogy, an exciting fantasy series set in a beautifully crafted and rich world. I am incredibly honored to have this chance to feature her on my blog and to work with her to promote her wonderful books! Please make sure to check out J.L. on her social medias which are listed down below. You can also find all the information about and links to the novels in this trilogy there as well. You can check out my spoiler-free review of the full trilogy here!

Thank you so much for having me!

Where to start, eh? I’ve been writing since I was eight years old. From little children’s stories to poetry to journaling. Writing has always been a way of processing things and expressing myself. I even attempted a few novels when I was a teenager, although, those will never see the light of day. I burnt them. Long story. But it wasn’t until 2003 that I decided to seriously sit down and write a novel. The Sorceress’s Curse. Printed out, the first draft could fit in a plastic folder with brads, which eventually grew into The Hidden Dagger Trilogy. Sixteen years later!

I had no clue what I was doing. Once I had finished that first draft, I started looking for the next step. I read magazines, books, and blogs on improving my writing and how to get published. I was told newbies should not begin with epic fantasy and a large host of characters. Oops. Too late! I broke every rule in the industry or what the experts would suggest. I learned a lot of stuff the hard way. It was like chasing unicorns. Actually, it still feels that way. Ha!

While I was rewriting and learning the ropes with my first book, I discovered National Novel Writing Month. *Cue angelic voices* Each year when NaNoWriMo rolled around, I would take a break and write something new. I’d figure out the basic plot aspects, the main characters, and sketch a map of the world ahead of time, and then I’d dive in. I was always a big proponent of write fast and fix it later. It helped get the basic idea of the story down for me, which led to several novels in various stages and drafts. But now I’m not so sure. My latest project has me world-building and outlining a whole lot more than my previous novels. Of course, this latest series is a different beast than The Hidden Dagger Trilogy and all my other unfinished novels. It’s a murder mystery fantasy, but we’ll see. I’m sure the fate of their world will hang in the balance eventually.

And that brings us up to current day, 2019. I’m not sure where I will go from here and I suspect that my writing process will continue to evolve and that no two book journeys are alike. My plan is to continue writing, learning, growing, and not just in writing, but in my other creative endeavors. I love creating, but I also want to encourage others. Writing can be such a lonely journey. The directions are muddled, the map is sketchy, and one’s journey is never quite the same as another. I have learned so much, yet I have so much more to learn. I hope to one day be able to help other writers through their own journey.

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Author Bio:

JL MbeweWriting as J. L. Mbewe, Jennette is an author, artist, mother, wife, but not always in that order. Born and raised in Minnesota, she now braves the heat of Texas, but pines for the Northern Lights and the lakes of home every autumn. She loves trying to capture the abstract and make it concrete. She is currently living her second childhood with her wonderful husband and two precious children who don’t seem to mind her eclectic collections of rocks, shells, and swords, among other things. Here, between reality and dreams, you will find her busily creating worlds inhabited by all sorts of fantasy creatures and characters, all questing about and discovering true love amid lots of peril.

Her debut novel, Secrets Kept, was nominated for the 2014 Clive Staples Award. Her second novel, Darkened Hope was a semi-finalist for the 2017 Alliance Award.

Website  Facebook  Instagram  Twitter  Goodreads — Pinterest

Book Details:

secretskeptSecrets Kept by J.L. Mbewe

Series: Hidden Dagger #1

Date Published: May 14th, 2015

Publisher: BrokenSeed Books

Pages: 400 pages

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis: With a curse, she will build an army. With the dagger, she will undo the last sacrifice. But first the sorceress must find the secret keeper. 

Torn from her homeland and thrust into a betrothal against her wishes, Ayianna learns her family has a deadly secret that now has her on the run. She joins forces with Kael, an embittered half-elf, and Saeed, an elderly High Guardian, to seek answers to her father’s death, the destruction of Dagmar, and the plains people’s bizarre behavior.

Ayianna discovers there is more at stake here than just her mother’s disappearance and her familial duty to her betrothed. The sorceress has cursed the plains people, and it is a race against time to release them before the sorceress resurrects an ancient evil.

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darkenedhopeDarkened Hope by J.L. Mbewe

Series: Hidden Dagger #2

Date Published: May 7th, 2016

Publisher: BrokenSeed Books

Pages: 392 pages

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis: The Secret Keeper is on the run, but does she know the secret she keeps? 

Ayianna is a cursed half-elf betrothed to Desmond, but her heart belongs Kael. After discovering the cure for the Sorceress’s curse, she and her companions embark on a dangerous quest to retrieve the ingredients.

When dragons descend upon their party, Ayianna realizes the Sorceress is searching not just for the corrupted dagger, but a human sacrifice that will open a portal to the underworld. Battling deadly creatures and natural disasters, Ayianna is forced to confront her insecurities and conflicted heart. She must decide whether to be true to her family or true to herself.

As the nations rally for war, betrayal threatens to destroy them all, and it’s a race against time to return before the curse destroys the plains people.

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curseboundCurse Bound by J.L. Mbewe

Series: Hidden Dagger #3

Date Published: June 27th, 2019

Publisher: BrokenSeed Books

Pages: 326 pages

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis: Kael’s worse fears have come true. Betrayal has shaken the Guardian Circle, the High Guardian is dead, and Ayianna and Prince Vian are in the hands of the Sorceress, but he and his companions must finish their quest, before they can attempt a rescue mission. Unfortunately, Desmond’s parting gift left them stranded on the western cliffs of Nälu.

Jathil, once heir to the throne of Arashel, believes her father will aid them, but first she must face the crimes of her past. When she does, she could never believe the outcome, nor the rippling effect it would have on the nations. Meanwhile the Alliance braces for war, but division threatens to undermine their efforts. When Nerissa returns from Ganya with the dragon regiment, she discovers a bigger problem. The curse bound are waking up.

As the quest nears completion, Kael is forced to choose between his heart and duty, and neither choice bodes well with him. Either way, he will face the Sorceress and her armies sooner or later. The battle for Nälu has begun and there can be only one victor. 

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Recent TBR Additions #2

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Hi Everyone!

Since I’ve been crazy busy doing the N.E.W.T.s Readathon and finishing the end of term at school, I’ve been running quite a bit behind on writing up my reviews. I’ll have plenty of new reviews as well as a couple author guest posts I think you guys will enjoy coming very soon! But for today, I hope you don’t mind a bit of a shorter post. I’ve discovered and added a bunch of really interesting books to my TBR lately and I thought I would share the ones I’m most excited to read!

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Believe Me by J.P. Delaney

Pretty as a Picture by Elizabeth Little

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

The Deep by Alma Katsu

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The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu

Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore

The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller

Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim

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Agency by William Gibson

Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw

A Place Called Perfect by Helena Duggan

All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace

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Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

The Sol Majestic by Ferrett Steinmetz

Witchmark by C.L. Polk

What have you guys been reading lately? Have you made any recent TBR additions that you are particularly excited for? Let me know in the comments!

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Ziggy, Stardust and Me Blog Tour: Guest Post by Author James Brandon

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Today’s post is a guest post by author James Brandon. His debut novel, Ziggy, Stardust and Me, released on August 8th. Since music is a central theme in the novel, I’ve asked him to tell us what theme songs he would pick for each of his characters. Ziggy, Stardust and Me is an absolutely beautiful novel about self-discovery, love, acceptance, and finding the strength to stand up for what you believe in. It is a beautiful story and I cannot recommend it highly enough, so please make sure to check it out! 🙂

What theme song would you choose for each character and why?

Such a great question! For me, music is the key to unlocking closed doors within our soul, doors we may be too scared to open ourselves or are afraid to face. This is why music is a huge part of Jonathan’s world; it’s his form of escape, his way of coping with the awfulness that continues to assault him in “the real world.” In fact, while writing the first drafts of Ziggy and discovering Jonathan’s character, I found a musicality to his voice that I think really speaks to the inner workings of his mind, and hopefully adds a more intimate connection to his personal journey.

Music of the early seventies was revolutionary: from glam rock to Soul Train, every faction of marginalized society was finding its voice in new modes of musical expression. And I wanted Ziggy, Stardust & Me to be a soundtrack of the time, a nostalgic look back at some of the greatest music ever created. So even before the initial drafts, I had a theme song in mind for each character because I knew it would allow me a deeper connection to their being…

For Jonathan, the obvious album is Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. (Ziggy Stardust is his Messiah after all.) But his theme song is “Rock N’ Roll Suicide.” I quote a lyric from this track at the beginning of Part Three because this is the song Jonathan plays on repeat as he faces some horrific battles in his life. Bowie screams, “You’re not alone,” over and over again at the end of the song, and those three words became Jonathan’s only lifeline to what was left of his spirit.

For Web, Jonathan’s love interest, his first obsession is Pink Floyd’s album Dark Side of the Moon. And for good reason: the album is frigging genius and, when listened to carefully, can take you on a roller coaster ride to the depths of your soul. It’s confident, fearless and unapologetic, just like Web. But I’d also attach “I Feel the Earth Move” by Carole King to his character; it balances his feminine side while also directly speaking to his inner journey.

For Starla, Jonathan’s best friend, the song she’s currently playing on repeat is “Killing Me Softly” by Roberta Flack. It’s soulful and powerful, spiritual and strong—all traits I think Starla possesses. I’d also add, “I am Woman, Hear Me Roar” as her theme song; Starla’s a budding activist, a true believer in making your voice heard to effectively create change. And as she steps more confidently into this part of her being, she begins to discover her own inner power.

For Jonathan’s dad, his personal soundtrack is Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” or “Dream On” by Aerosmith. (Both of which you’ll find him singing in the narrative.) For lack of a better description, there’s a nostalgic aggressiveness to these songs I love for him. Jonathan’s father longs for lost memories, clings desperately to them, and is so lost in the past he won’t allow himself to see the love that’s right in front of him.

There’s a theme song for every character in the story, but you’ll have to read the book to find out what they are. 🙂 And if you want to enjoy any of the songs mentioned in the novel to fully immerse yourself in Jonathan’s world, I created a Spotify playlist to take you deeper on the journey: 

https://open.spotify.com/user/1261155990/playlist/477lx4RRdyv3Qse0laMLte?si=8_H0w_4HTRGaZBXlqBLEfQ&nd=1

Book Info:

ziggystardustandmeZiggy, Stardust and Me by James Brandon

Date Published: August 6th, 2019

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Pages: 368 pages

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Penguin Random House

The year is 1973. The Watergate hearings are in full swing. The Vietnam War is still raging. And homosexuality is still officially considered a mental illness. In the midst of these trying times is sixteen-year-old Jonathan Collins, a bullied, anxious, asthmatic kid, who aside from an alcoholic father and his sympathetic neighbor and friend Starla, is completely alone. To cope, Jonathan escapes to the safe haven of his imagination, where his hero David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and dead relatives, including his mother, guide him through the rough terrain of his life. In his alternate reality, Jonathan can be anything: a superhero, an astronaut, Ziggy Stardust, himself, or completely “normal” and not a boy who likes other boys. When he completes his treatments, he will be normal—at least he hopes. But before that can happen, Web stumbles into his life. Web is everything Jonathan wishes he could be: fearless, fearsome and, most importantly, not ashamed of being gay.

Jonathan doesn’t want to like brooding Web, who has secrets all his own. Jonathan wants nothing more than to be “fixed” once and for all. But he’s drawn to Web anyway. Web is the first person in the real world to see Jonathan completely and think he’s perfect. Web is a kind of escape Jonathan has never known. For the first time in his life, he may finally feel free enough to love and accept himself as he is.

A poignant coming-of-age tale, Ziggy, Stardust and Me heralds the arrival of a stunning and important new voice in YA.

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Author Bio:

18089438James Brandon produced and played the central role of Joshua in the international tour of Terrence McNally’s Corpus Christi for a decade, and is codirector of the documentary film based on their journey, Corpus Christi: Playing with Redemption. He’s the cofounder of the I AM Love Campaign, an arts-based initiative bridging the faith-based and LGBTQ2+ communities, and serves on the Powwow Steering Committee for Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits (BAAITS) in San Francisco. Brandon is a contributing writer for Huffington PostBelieve Out Loud, and Spirituality and Health MagazineZiggy, Stardust and Me is his first novel. You can visit James Brandon at justbejb.com

Blogger Campaign Schedule:

Week One: Ziggy, Stardust and Me

August 5 – The Book Bratz – Covers inspired by favorite singers

August 6 – Goblet of Fiction – Creative Instagram Picture

August 7 – The Quirky Book Nerd – Author Guest Post: What theme song would you choose for each character and why?

August 8 – Confessions of a YA Reader – Playlist

August 9 – Velarisreads – Inspired by the Book: Makeup

Week Two

August 12 – Liv The Book Nerd – Review + Playlist

August 13 – The Nerdy Girl Express – Review

August 14 – Rants and Raves of a Bibliophile – Raves and Craves

August 15 – LGBT YA Catalog – Author Guest Post

August 16 – @booksandbrandy – Creative Instagram Picture

 

Week One: As Many Nows As I Can Get

August 19 – Just Add a Word – Review + Playlist

August 20 – Evil Queen Books – Moodboard + Review

August 21 – NovelKnight Book Reviews – Author Guest Post: What are the benefits and struggles of creating a character-reader connection with a non-linear timeline? In other words, what is the process of writing characters that readers can become invested in while also alternating through the past and present?

August 22 – So She Tries – Creative Instagram Picture

August 23 – Thrifty Bibliophile – Playlist

Week Two

August 26 – The Geeky Yogi – Creative Instagram Picture + Review

August 27 – Two Points of Interest – Review

August 28 – Wishful Endings – Moodboard + Instagram Picture

August 29 – Swoony Boys Podcast – Author Interview

August 30 – High Lit Books – Review

 

Week One: We Speak in Storms

September 2 – Book Princess Reviews – Books that Blend Magic and Real Life

September 3 – A Court of Coffee and Books – Moodboard + Review

September 4 – Emma Reads – Review + Inspired by the Book

September 5 – Fiction No Chaser – Review

September 6 – The Bookish Chick – Playlist + Review

Week Two

September 9 – BW Reviews – Review

September 10 – Books and Wildflowers – Listicle: 10 Things to Keep You Occupied During a Storm

September 11 – Musings of a (Book) Girl – Listicle: Items you should pack for a Tornado

September 12 – ELA Everyday – Creative Instagram Picture + Review

September 13 – Book Fidelity – Review

 

Week One: The Stars and The Blackness Between Them

September 16 – Forever and Everly – Moodboard + Review

September 17 – The Paige-Turner – Creative Instagram Picture

September 18 – The Library Voice – Author Guest Post

September 19 – Books and Blends – Review + Creative Instagram Picture

Week Two

September 23 – GladiatorGlory – Inspired by the Book: Makeup

September 24 – The Heart of a Book Blogger – Moodboard

September 25 – The Baroness of Books – Favorite Quote Graphics + Review

September 26 – Fictionally Sam – Review

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N.E.W.T.s Magical Readathon 2019 TBR

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I’ve been seeing these readathons going around a lot lately and I figured I should give one a try! I missed the O.W.L.s Magical Readathon, but I thought I would just jump in with this one anyway. These readathons were created by the incredible G over at Book Roast. For this readathon, you need to choose a profession, then complete the N.E.W.T.s prompts to receive the grades required for your chosen career. It was insanely difficult to choose a career as there are so many amazing ones! But I decided—since I’m a psychology major—to choose the Mind Medic profession.

Mind Medic

O in Charms

A: Read a book that you think has a gorgeous cover

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House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

E: Read a comic/graphic novel/manga (or book under 150 pages)

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Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker

O: Spongeify (softening charm) – Read a paperback book

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Your Heart Is The Sea by Nikita Gill

O in Defense Against the Dark Arts

A: Book that’s black under the dust jacket

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Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

E: Gilderoy’s memory charm – first book that you remembered just now from your TBR

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The Very, Very Far North by Dan Bar-el

O: Cornish Pixie! Swat it away with a book written by an English author or set in England

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The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal

E in Muggle Studies

A: Cover that includes an actual photo element (person, item, place, etc.)

theperfectwife

The Perfect Wife by J.P. Delaney

E: Book set in our real world

wespeakinstorms

We Speak in Storms by Natalie Lund

O: Book written by a person of color

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The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus

E in Potions

A: Polyjuice Potion – Read your friend’s favorite book

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Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

E: House ingredient – book with a cover in your Hogwarts house color (Ravenclaw)

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Doctor Who: Myths and Legends by Richard Dinnick

O: Book that starts with a prologue

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The Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett

E in Transfiguration

A: Read a book with LGBTQA+ representation

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Ziggy, Stardust and Me by James Brandon

E: Read a book that’s not a first in the series

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The Girl the Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young

O: McGonagall does not mess around! Read a book over 500 pages

royalassassin

Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb

Restricted Section: Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell

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Let me know if you are participating in the readathon too!

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Review: One Little Secret by Cate Holahan

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onelittlesecretOne Little Secret by Cate Holahan

My Rating: 2.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: July 9th, 2019

Publisher: Crooked Lane Books

Pages: 320 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Everyone has a secret. For some, it’s worth dying to protect. For others, it’s worth killing.

The glass beach house was supposed to be the getaway that Susan needed. Eager to help her transplanted family set down roots in their new town – and desperate for some kid-free conversation – she invites her new neighbors to join in on a week-long sublet with her and her workaholic husband.

Over the course of the first evening, liquor loosens inhibitions and lips. The three couples begin picking up on the others’ marital tensions and work frustrations, as well as revealing their own. But someone says too much. And the next morning one of the women is discovered dead on the private beach.

Town detective Gabby Watkins must figure out who permanently silenced the deceased. As she investigates, she learns that everyone in the glass house was hiding something that could tie them to the murder, and that the biggest secrets of all are often in plain sight for anyone willing to look.

A taut, locked room mystery with an unforgettable cast of characters, One Little Secret promises to keep readers eyes glued to the pages and debating the blinders that we all put on in the service of politeness.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

Going in, this book seemed like it would be right up my alley in terms of the types of mystery/thriller novels I enjoy. So I am disappointed to say that I came out with rather mixed feelings about it—it was just a bit underwhelming for me. On the one hand, this story is packed with a few too many clichés and there are a number of elements of the plot that could have been executed better. On the other hand, it is a fast and fairly entertaining read that still completely held my attention all the way through. All this being said, I have come to the conclusion that the majority of my issues with the narrative are simply connected to my personal taste.

The characters that make up the intriguing cast of this story are definitely not particularly likable people. The tension in the house is incredibly palpable with the constant stilted interactions, nasty thoughts, and full-blown arguments. And they will immediately have you questioning why in the world they would ever agree to go on vacation together for a week in the first place. Despite this, there are still redeemable qualities in some of them and not everyone is quite as bad as they seem in the beginning.

Though my mixed feelings really apply to every aspect of this novel, I thought the characterization was decent. I found most of the characters to be realistic and thought they had a good amount of dimension. The majority of them evolved—along with my opinion of them—as the story progressed and as more of their backgrounds were revealed. Many of them are dislikable, but in a very purposeful way—you are meant to be suspicious of them for a while, and almost all of them do end up acting poorly at some point. I did feel like this only added to their believability. There are a couple characters—only one main one—who are quite one dimensional and somewhat unrealistic, but this is avoided for the most part.

Quite honestly, this novel is absolutely full of adult mystery novel clichés. Now, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Commonly used elements can still make for a great story and I do not think that this is an entirely negative thing when it comes to this one. I do think it is a bit overdone. The topics used to create drama between the couples and in the plot of the novel overall are well written for what they are. There are scenes of domestic abuse that are so realistically portrayed they are quite intense and hard to read. The themes of betrayal are very vivid and the moments of insecurity are extremely relatable. All in all, Holahan truly brings every theme dealt with in this novel to life in a multi-dimensional way.

The issue here—and it is certainly more related to personal preference than an actual problem with the story—is that these commonly used plot points became too overwhelming. Trying to crowd all of them in caused the originality of the narrative to take a significant hit. Every unique moment is overshadowed by tropes like infidelity, abuse, alcoholism, and petty arguments. Though these topics are common in many novels and add a good deal of tension and drama, there needs to be more substance. In this novel, it felt like one was being piled onto the next just for the sake of raising more issues for the couples rather than actually building or progressing the plot.

The most major element of the novel that I feel could have been executed better is the creation of suspicion in the reader’s mind. A mystery novel should allow the reader to form their own thoughts about and distrust in the possible culprits by subtly directing their attention to potential motives. While Holahan does do that in some ways, it lacks a lot of that subtlety and ends up coming across as a bit forced. Though every person in the house is clearly going to be a suspect, there are constant and far too obvious reminders of why they could be guilty. It becomes very over-the-top and detracts from the suspense of the plot.

I definitely think Holahan could have left a little room for the reader to come to their own conclusions about each of the characters’ potential for being the killer. Developing them more naturally and relying solely on laying out personalities and backstories with the progression of the plot would have allowed for this. It is easy to get a clear picture of each character and form one’s own opinion based on the way she does these things over the course of the novel. However, too often the narrative strays toward a less delicate way of weaving in distrust of the characters, instead, pointing the finger quite plainly from one person to the next.

Another element of the novel I feel could have been executed better is the narrowing down of suspects over the course of the story. As the narrative progresses, each of the potential killers is cleared one by one until there are only two left in the end. This approach, for me, sort of killed the suspense. It would have kept me more on the edge of my seat if Holahan had left a few more options in there. This, though, is undeniably something that did not work for me personally and could easily be perfectly fine for a different reader. As it stands, I found the ending to be extremely predictable and it fell rather flat. I have to say, the choice of the killer upset me a bit for a number of reasons as well.

The writing itself is a strong point in this book. I really like Holahan’s writing style—it flows very naturally and is easy to get into. Her descriptions are very vivid and help to pull the reader into the story. She sets the scene for all the mystery and deception well, forming an environment that reflects the tone and emotion of each scene. The narrative never lacks realism, helping to immerse the reader and connect them with the setting and characters.

Now, after all that I have said, it may seem like this reading experience was a primarily negative one, but that is not entirely true. There were a lot of issues I personally had with it but, as I said before, I doubt they would apply to everyone. Personal taste was a big factor here. Also, I was very engaged in the story. I did not absolutely love it but it held my attention from beginning to end and I was truly interested in finding out how everything would resolve. Despite the predictability of many plot points, there were still enough surprises to keep me guessing. Overall, this is a novel that I would recommend giving a try. I know it is something that plenty of readers will find enjoyment in.

2.5 TARDISes

Author Bio:

13482092Cate Holahan is the USA Today Bestselling author of The Widower’s Wife, Lies She Told, and Dark Turns, all published by Crooked Lane Books. The Widower’s Wife was named to Kirkus’ best books of 2016. An award-winning journalist and former television producer, she has written for BusinessWeek, The Boston Globe, and The Record newspaper. Her short fiction won first place in the 19th annual Calliope competition, a magazine published by the writer’s group of American Mensa. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, two daughters, ages 7 and 5, and dog Westley. She graduated from Princeton University in 2002.

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Mini Review: Pillow Thoughts III by Courtney Peppernell

pillowthoughtsIIIPillow Thoughts III by Courtney Peppernell

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: Pillow Thoughts #3

Date Published: August 6th, 2019

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Pages: 224 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: In a voice that is inclusive and open to all, Courtney Peppernell presents a tribute to her readers in the third installment of her bestselling Pillow Thoughts series.

A beautifully raw and poignant collection of poetry and prose, Pillow Thoughts III continues the series from poet Courtney Peppernell. Fix yourself a warm drink and settle into Peppernell’s words as she pens a tribute to her readers who are bravely continuing their journey from hurt to healing.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

It is difficult to find the words to describe how much I loved this poetry collection. I discovered Courtney Peppernell’s work a couple of years ago when I reviewed the first book in the Pillow Thoughts series and she quickly became one of my favorite authors. Her writing is absolutely beautiful and speaks to me on so many levels, and this collection was no different. Her poetry addresses topics that are highly relatable and always timely, which makes them very easy to connect with.

You can feel all the raw emotion in every word Peppernell writes and the pure passion she puts into creating her poems. This collection is split into five parts, each one dealing with a particular theme. And as a whole, each section ties seamlessly into the next, coming together in a perfect blend that warms the heart and soul. Her poems are a series of meticulously crafted vignettes that comfort, heal, and encourage readers. With vivid imagery, Peppernell takes us on a journey that allows us to better understand, accept, and care for ourselves.

One of the best parts of this collection—as well as Peppernell’s other works—is that it is written in a truly unique voice. It stands out among a sea of modern poetry dealing with similar topics and makes for a very captivating and refreshing read. The heartfelt and genuine nature of these poems is easily recognizable. They are seemingly simple but truthfully so profound and intricate. Peppernell’s words consistently empower the reader and contain a level of sincerity that turns this work into a brilliant gem of a book.

On a more personal note, this collection is something that entered my life at a particularly fitting time. I have experienced a great deal of loss over the past year that has left me feeling very emotionally drained. My mind desperately needed the mending that these words do. I was touched very deeply while reading this book—it helped me to confront many thoughts I was struggling to face. This was a very cathartic and uplifting journey that filled me with the positivity that I have been lacking for a while.

These poems are moving, expressive, inspiring, and utterly beautiful. I know that Peppernell’s words will stick with me for the rest of my life and I will regularly return to her collections. Works like this one are what greatly motivate me in my own writing and remind me why I am so passionate about the written word. I would love to touch one person’s life through my writing in the way she has touched mine with hers—provide someone with that bit of comfort and encouragement at a time where it is so vital. I cannot recommend this collection highly enough.

5.0 TARDISes

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July 2019 Book Haul

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Hi everyone!

I haven’t done a book haul in ages and I figured this would be a good time to do one! My birthday was last week and I went on a bit of a shopping spree at the bookstore that day. Then, as if that weren’t enough, I went back to the bookstore with my best friend just yesterday (I’ll blame her for that one!). So, over this last week, I have gathered quite a few books that I’m extremely excited to read!

The Bone Charmer by Breeana Shields

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In Saskia’s world, bones are the source of all power. They tell the future, reveal the past, and expose secrets in the present. Each village has a designated seer who performs readings for the townsfolk, and in Midwood, the Bone Charmer is Saskia’s mother.
On the day of her kenning—a special bone reading that determines the apprenticeships of all seventeen-year-olds—Saskia’s worst fears come true. She receives an assignment to train as a Bone Charmer, like her mother, and even worse, a match-making reading that pairs her with Bram—a boy who has suspicious tattoos that hint of violence.
Saskia knows her mother saw multiple paths for her, yet chose one she knew Saskia wouldn’t want. Their argument leads to a fracture in one of the bones. Broken bones are always bad luck, but this particular set of bones have been infused with extra magic, and so the break has devastating consequences—Saskia’s future has split as well. Now she will live her two potential paths simultaneously. Only one future can survive. And Saskia’s life is in danger in both.

Come Find Me by Megan Miranda

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After surviving an infamous family tragedy, sixteen-year-old Kennedy Jones has made it her mission to keep her brother’s search through the cosmos alive. But then something disturbs the frequency on his radio telescope–a pattern registering where no signal should transmit.
In a neighboring county, seventeen-year-old Nolan Chandler is determined to find out what really happened to his brother, who disappeared the day after Nolan had an eerie premonition. There hasn’t been a single lead for two years, until Nolan picks up an odd signal–a pattern coming from his brother’s bedroom.
Drawn together by these strange signals–and their family tragedies–Kennedy and Nolan search for the origin of the mysterious frequency. But the more they uncover, the more they believe that everything’s connected–even their pasts–as it appears the signal is meant for them alone, sharing a message that only they can understand. Is something coming for them? Or is the frequency warning them about something that’s already here?

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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The Mayan god of death sends a young woman on a harrowing, life-changing journey in this dark, one-of-a-kind fairy tale inspired by Mexican folklore.
The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.
Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.
In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.

The Haunted by Danielle Vega

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From Danielle Vega, YA’s answer to Stephen King, comes a new paranormal novel about dark family secrets, deep-seated vengeance, and the horrifying truth that evil often lurks in the unlikeliest of places.
Hendricks Becker-O’Malley is new in town, and she’s bringing baggage with her. With a dark and wild past, Hendricks doesn’t think the small town her parents moved her to has much to offer her in terms of excitement. She plans on laying low, but when she’s suddenly welcomed into the popular crowd at school, things don’t go as expected.
Hendricks learns from her new friends that the fixer-upper her parents are so excited about is notorious in town. Local legend says it’s haunted. Hendricks doesn’t believe it. Until she’s forced to. Blood-curdling screams erupt from the basement, her little brother wakes up covered in scratches, and something, or someone pushes her dad down the stairs. With help from the mysterious boy next door, Hendricks makes it her mission to take down the ghosts . . . if they don’t take her first.

Last Tango in Cyberspace by Steven Kotler

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Hard to say when the human species fractured exactly. Harder to say when this new talent arrived. But Lion Zorn is the first of his kind–an empathy tracker, an emotional soothsayer, with a felt sense for the future of the we. In simpler terms, he can spot cultural shifts and trends before they happen.
It’s a useful skill for a certain kind of company.
Arctic Pharmaceuticals is that kind of company. But when a routine em-tracking job leads to the discovery of a gruesome murder, Lion finds himself neck-deep in a world of eco-assassins, soul hackers and consciousness terrorists. But what the man really needs is a nap.
A unique blend of cutting-edge technology and traditional cyberpunk, Last Tango in Cyberspace explores hot topics like psychology, neuroscience, technology, as well as ecological and animal rights issues. The world created in Last Tango is based very closely on our world about five years from now, and all technology in the book either exists in labs or is rumored to exist. With its electrifying sentences, subtle humor, and an intriguing main character, readers are sure to find something that resonates with them in this groundbreaking cyberpunk science fiction thriller.

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

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The Near Witch’ is only an old story told to frighten children. If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company. There are no strangers in the town of Near. These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life. But when an actual stranger, a boy who seems to fade like smoke, appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true. The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.

Nocturna by Maya Motayne

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The first in a sweeping and epic own voices debut fantasy trilogy—set in a stunning Latinx-inspired world—about a face-changing thief and a risk-taking prince who must team up to defeat a powerful evil they accidentally unleashed. Perfect for fans of Tomi Adeyemi, Leigh Bardugo, and V. E. Schwab.
To Finn Voy, magic is two things: a knife to hold under the chin of anyone who crosses her…and a disguise she shrugs on as easily as others pull on cloaks.
As a talented faceshifter, it’s been years since Finn has seen her own face, and that’s exactly how she likes it. But when Finn gets caught by a powerful mobster, she’s forced into an impossible mission: steal a legendary treasure from Castallan’s royal palace or be stripped of her magic forever.
After the murder of his older brother, Prince Alfehr is first in line for the Castallan throne. But Alfie can’t help but feel that he will never live up to his brother’s legacy. Riddled with grief, Alfie is obsessed with finding a way to bring his brother back, even if it means dabbling in forbidden magic.
But when Finn and Alfie’s fates collide, they accidentally unlock a terrible, ancient power—which, if not contained, will devour the world. And with Castallan’s fate in their hands, Alfie and Finn must race to vanquish what they have unleashed, even if it means facing the deepest darkness in their pasts.

The Obsoletes by Simeon Mills

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Fraternal twin brothers Darryl and Kanga are just like any other teenagers trying to make it through high school. They have to deal with peer pressure, awkwardness, and family drama. But there’s one closely guarded secret that sets them apart: they are robots. So long as they keep their heads down, their robophobic neighbors won’t discover the truth about them and they just might make it through to graduation.
But when Kanga becomes the star of the basketball team, there’s more at stake than typical sibling rivalry. Darryl—the worrywart of the pair—now has to work a million times harder to keep them both out of the spotlight. Though they look, sound, and act perfectly human, if anyone in their small, depressed Michigan town were to find out what they truly are, they’d likely be disassembled by an angry mob in the middle of their school gym.

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

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In this sparkling prequel we meet sisters Frances and Jet and Vincent, their brother. From the beginning their mother Susanna knew they were unique: Franny with her skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, who could commune with birds; Jet as shy as she is beautiful, who knows what others are thinking, and Vincent so charismatic that he was built for trouble. Susanna needed to set some rules of magic: no walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles and certainly, absolutely, no books about magic…
But the Owens siblings are desperate to uncover who they really are. Each heads down a life-altering course, filled with secrets and truths, devastation and joy, and magic and love. Despite the warning handed down through the family for centuries – Know that for our family, love is a curse – they will all strive to break the rules and find true love.

The Shadow of What Was Lost by James Islington

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As destiny calls, a journey begins.

It has been twenty years since the god-like Augurs were overthrown and killed. Now, those who once served them – the Gifted – are spared only because they have accepted the rebellion’s Four Tenets, vastly limiting their powers.
As a Gifted, Davian suffers the consequences of a war lost before he was even born. He and others like him are despised. But when Davian discovers he wields the forbidden power of the Augurs, he sets into motion a chain of events that will change everything.
To the west, a young man whose fate is intertwined with Davian’s wakes up in the forest, covered in blood and with no memory of who he is…
And in the far north, an ancient enemy long thought defeated begins to stir.

Teeth in the Mist by Dawn Kurtagich

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Before the birth of time, a monk uncovers the Devil’s Tongue and dares to speak it. The repercussions will be felt for generations…
Sixteen-year-old photography enthusiast Zoey has been fascinated by the haunted, burnt-out ruins of Medwyn Mill House for as long as she can remember–so she and her best friend, Poulton, run away from home to explore them. But are they really alone in the house? And who will know if something goes wrong?
In 1851, seventeen-year-old Roan arrives at the Mill House as a ward–one of three, all with something to hide from their new guardian. When Roan learns that she is connected to an ancient secret, she must escape the house before she is trapped forever.
1583. Hermione, a new young bride, accompanies her husband to the wilds of North Wales where he plans to build the largest water mill and mansion in the area. But rumors of unholy rituals lead to a tragic occurrence and she will need all her strength to defeat it.
Three women, centuries apart, drawn together by one Unholy Pact. A pact made by a man who, more than a thousand years later, may still be watching…

Have you guys read any of these books? What are some of your recent bookish purchases? Let me know in the comments!

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