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Blog Tour, Excerpt, Giveaway, and Review: Lost Girls

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Lost Girls, by Merrie Destefano
Publication Date: January 3, 2017
Publisher: Entangled Teen

Yesterday, Rachel went to sleep listening to Taylor Swift, curled up in her grammy’s quilt, worrying about geometry. Today, she woke up in a ditch, bloodied, bruised, and missing a year of her life.

She doesn’t recognize the person she’s become: she’s popular. She wears nothing but black.

Black to cover the blood.

And she can fight.

Tell no one.

She’s not the only girl to go missing within the last year…but she’s the only girl to come back. She desperately wants to unravel what happened to her, to try and recover the rest of the Lost Girls.

But the more she discovers, the more her memories return. And as much as her new life scares her, it calls to her. Seductively. The good girl gone bad, sex, drugs, and raves, and something darker…something she still craves—the rush of the fight, the thrill of the win—something she can’t resist, that might still get her killed…

The only rule is: There are no rules.

Purchase Links:
Amazon.com  | B&N iBooks | Kobo
Amazon.com.au Amazon.com/uk | Amazon.ca 

Excerpt:

Chapter One

I remember last night perfectly.

I know what we ate for dinner. I know my little brother didn’t do his homework. I know Dad drove me to my ballet lessons, then waited for me in the Starbucks across the street.

I know that, later in the evening, I fell asleep when I was supposed to be studying geometry, my earbuds in while I listened to Taylor Swift’s latest album.

That was my yesterday.

The problem is, everyone, from my parents to my teachers to the police, says that stuff didn’t happen yesterday.

It happened last year.

I went to sleep with music playing, curled up on my bed, and wrapped in the afghan Grams knitted for me when she was on chemo.

I woke up in a ditch, half-buried in a pile of leaves. I was shivering and wet, a soft rain falling, icy drops hitting me in the face and running down my neck. Trees towered overhead, black branches scratching the sky, wind howling, and from somewhere nearby came the muted sounds of traffic.

I sat up, confused and scared, grogginess giving way to an intense adrenaline rush.

Then I screamed, louder than I thought I could. The sound ripped out of my lungs and wouldn’t stop; it went on and on until I thought I would collapse because I knew I couldn’t breathe and scream at the same time. And then—when I was sure I would fall forward, bent over at the waist, my lungs empty and spots dancing before my eyes—then I found some way to yell

again. At first my shouts were primal and there were no words, just terror and pain and a black pit in my stomach that wouldn’t allow me to have conscious thoughts.

I began to cry the same thing, over and over.

“Help! Somebody help me!”

I tried to stand, but the gully was so slanted that I kept falling back to my knees, every stumble forcing me to become aware of another injury—the raw skin on my wrists and ankles, covered with dried blood and stinging with each drop of rain; the muscles in my legs sore and weak, like I’d been running for days; the soles of my feet aching, my tennis shoes ripped and stained with mud.

I stretched out my arms, latching onto tree roots to gain my balance, and I pulled myself up the incline, foot by foot. Fingers now coated with mud, I perched on the edge of a highway, nearly blinded by headlights whenever a car sped past.

There I stood, waving my arms and screaming again, not knowing that my hair was matted or that there was blood and dirt on my clothes or that my photo had been on the news for the past two weeks.

Lost girl. Disappeared on her way home from school. Anyone with information, please contact the Santa Madre police department.

Two cars drove past, headlights splashing me with brilliant light. I hadn’t realized until now that the sun tipped on the edge of the world, ready to disappear, or that twilight shadows were already stretching across the horizon. Great pockets of violet darkness yawned between each pair of lights that hurtled toward me, greedy fingers of darkness that wanted me to tumble back into that gully and remain hidden.

Please, somebody stop and help me.

I was screaming again and some sort of weird survival panic took over.

I walked into the middle of the two-lane southbound road and stood there.

Go ahead, run me over. I dare you.

Wait, what was I doing?

Several cars spun to a stop, skidding sideways, tires squealing, metal crashing metal and rubber burning. The old me, the girl who fell asleep listening to Taylor sing about a broken heart, never would have done this. What was wrong with me?

My heart thundered in my chest, but I refused to move, even when the wreckage screeched closer and closer, fenders crunching, bumpers twisting, windshields shattering. I stared all the passengers in the eye, glancing from one face to the next, coolly noting that none of them were hurt—nothing beyond a bump or a bruise.

You. Will. Stop. And. Help. Me.

Still the wreckage surged forward. I merely lifted one hand, palm up, signaling for them to stop. Like I was a traffic cop or something.

Everything finally slid to a stop, a few feet away from me.

Tears coursed down my cheeks and I began to shake uncontrollably. I sank to my knees, truly myself again. Frightened and alone and lost.

“Help me,” I begged, then buried my face in my hands.

Car doors opened: a strange cacophony of voices tumbled out, some yelling, some speaking in hushed tones.

“What’s going on?”

“Is that the missing girl from the news?”

“9-1-1, we have an emergency here—”

“Honey, you’re gonna be okay, don’t worry—”

An elderly woman with white hair and bright, pink lipstick pulled me close and draped her coat over me. When I glanced up I saw blood on her forehead, but she didn’t seem worried about herself. She smiled down at me, her face a map of connected wrinkles.

“We’re gonna get you home to your parents,” she said. “Do you want to call them?” She handed me her cell phone, but my fingers were shaking too much to dial. I told her the number and she punched it in, waiting while it rang. When a voice answered on the other end, the white-haired woman said, “I have someone who wants to talk to you.” Then she handed me the phone.

“Hello? Who is this?” It was my mom, a frantic tone in her voice that brought fresh tears to my eyes.

My words came out shaky, with long pauses between.

“Mom?”

Neither one of us could talk, not for a long time, because we were both crying. Then she finally whispered my name, like it was a magical word that could change the world.

“Rachel? Rachel, baby, where are you?”

I looked around. “I don’t know.”

“You’re on the 39, just north of Azusa,” the white-haired woman told me.

Flashing lights spun in the distance and sirens blared. An ambulance and a fire truck and two police cars were headed toward us. I blinked at the brightness, shielding my eyes with one hand.

“Rachel? Are you still there?” It was my father’s voice now, calling me back to the cell phone.

I pressed it against my ear. “Daddy?”

“Honey, when the ambulance gets there, you get inside and you stay there. Do you hear me? Don’t get in a car with anyone else!”

“I will—I mean, I won’t. I’ll go with the paramedics.” My teeth were chattering and I was shivering so much I could hardly hold the phone. I think I may have started talking gibberish, half-sentences with little meaning. I remember saying something about my geometry test and worrying that I wouldn’t make it to class tomorrow and I may have mentioned something about my biology class, too, because Dad interrupted me.

“Rachel, are you talking about the class you took with Miss Wallace?”

“Yeah. She always gives exams on Wednesday.”

There was a long silence. I wondered if we had gotten cut off. Meanwhile, the ambulance doors opened and someone wheeled a stretcher toward me.

“Honey, you had geometry with Miss Wallace last year. When you were a sophomore.”

I frowned. “But I’m a sophomore now.”

“Baby girl, you’re a junior. Don’t worry about it. All this will get straightened out when you get home—”

I dropped the phone. My hands were shaking too much to hold it. I glanced down at my hands, at the chipped red nail polish. But I hadn’t been wearing nail polish last night and I never use this color. I turned my hands over and discovered a tattoo on my inner wrist.

A tattoo?

Always and forever. That’s what it said. But there was no redness or swelling. I didn’t get this tattoo anytime recently.

The paramedics helped me onto the stretcher, and then the world was rushing past me, rain falling on my face, people staring down at me as the stretcher wheeled by, the air thick with the smell of oil and gasoline and burned rubber. Then another smell came suddenly and violently—a memory.

A thick, cloying scent of pine and cedar.

My stomach lurched and I couldn’t stop.

I started screaming again.

Check out the TOUR SCHEDULE here!

Giveaway Information:

Blog Tour: All prizes listed below will be given to one prize winner.
Prizes listed are for a US winner only; if an International winner is chosen, the prize will be a $50 Amazon gift card.
• 1 – Kindle Fire Tablet, black: 7″ Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB, 1.3 GHz quad-core processor, with the Alexa cloud-based voice
service—just press and ask.
• 1 – digital Kindle copy of LOST GIRLS
• 1 – Pack of 14 vintage-style Swan Lake postcards
• 1 – pr. Black Swan earrings, handmade by author
• 1 – “Always” temporary tattoo

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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About the Author:

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CURRENTLY A FULL-TIME NOVELIST and magazine editor, Merrie Destefano’s next novel, LOST GIRLS, releases on January 3, 2017. Her other novels include AFTERLIFE and FEAST, both published by HarperCollins, and FATHOM, which was self-published. The editor of Victorian Homes magazine, she has also been the editor of American Farmhouse Style, Vintage Gardens, and Zombies magazine, and was the founding editor of Cottages & Bungalows magazine.

With 20 years experience in publishing, she worked for a variety of publishing/broadcasting companies that include Focus on the Family, The Word For Today, and PJS Publications (now Primedia). Besides editing and writing, her background includes print buying, writing/producing radio promos, directing photo shoots, developing new products, writing jacket copy for books, creating sales media packets and organizing direct mail campaigns.

Born in the Midwest, she currently lives in Southern California with her husband, two German shepherds, a Siamese cat and the occasional wandering possum. Her favorite hobbies are reading speculative fiction and watching old Star Trek episodes, and her incurable addiction is writing. She loves to camp in the mountains, walk on the beach, watch old movies, listen to alternative music—although rarely all at the same time.

Website |Twitter |Facebook | Tumblr | Instagram | Pinterest | Blog


5Penguins
Quick Reasons: life ruiner alert!; this book swept me up in a tidal wave of emotion, and refused to let go; awesome use of unreliable narrator; the mystery and intrigue was so beautifully-written and complex; this is a race head-first toward an explosive ending, and I adored every second of it; I need more of Merrie Destefano’s writing in my life

Huge thanks to Merrie Destefano, Entangled: Teen, Netgalley, and the crew at Chapter by Chapter for granting me free access to a digital ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

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After TWO MONTHS of no 5 Penguin reads…I’m closing out 2016 with a very high note. It’s New Years Eve for another hour, penguins (or at least, it is for another hour where I’m living now), and I’ve just closed the page on this read…and let me tell you, it was QUITE the whirlwind journey. I started this read this afternoon, thinking I’d get partway through it as this review goes live next week on my blog…and found myself instead finishing it off in one sitting. And OH, my heartstrings. This book? This book is life-ruiner material, and it RUINED me.

 

So let’s talk nitty gritty, yes? I promise, I’m going to do my VERY VERY best to stray away from the icky spoilers territory…hopefully I can manage to convey how much I enjoyed this book, and the reasons why, without dropping some huge spoiler bomb or other. Hopefully. So…characters first, yes? Rachel is possibly one of the BEST, most effectively-written characters suffering from memory loss I’ve encountered in books in recent years. While I know this is a bit of a cliche trope…Merrie Destefano handles it so beautifully and makes it SO realistic, you’ll find yourself racing toward the answers instead of feeling bogged down by what little you actually know.

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The focus on relationships throughout is also astounding and deliciously done. There’s a thin line between trust and paranoia that gets played on throughout this read, especially in Rachel’s case. She is, for all intents and purposes, the perfect unreliable narrator–and that makes it so easy for readers to both be enthralled by her, while also side-eyeing her. I give HUGE kudos to Merrie Destefano for managing this so beautifully; humans are complex and confusing creatures even on our best days, so adding in memory loss and internal conflicts only heightened such vast emotions.

 

I was blown away by the complexity of this read, penguins. Rachel–and her relationships with those around her–goes through so many shifts and changes, so many trials and tribulations, you’ll find yourself biting your nails, sitting on the edge of your seat, needing the answers as much as being scared of them. And the ending! The ending was just… I have to admit, I didn’t see where the plot was going until we were already on the downhill track and racing fast to the crashing point. This book surprised me–immensely. That’s not such an easy thing to do, in my world.

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I am just… Speechless, might be the closest way to explain how this book left me after the close. Merrie Destefano explored some heavy-handed, important subjects (which I won’t get into, because SPOOOOOILERS, people) and wrote a complex, beautifully engaging whirlwind of emotions and life-ruination. I definitely recommend this to lovers of contemporary novels with huge bite, strong-willed characters who know how to keep fighting, and life-ruining reads that will leave them thinking, “woah.” THIS is one book you don’t want to miss out on in 2017; pick it up, and let the fight for survival begin!

 

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The Sacrifice: Emotionally-Driven, Poignant Reads

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The Sacrifice

In this collection, meet:

Guillaume, who gives up everything to protect his child; young Matthew, who stakes his life to save his home; and François, who makes the biggest sacrifice to rescue his grandson.

addtogoodreads

Short Stories/Contemporary
219 Pages
Publication Date: August 25th, 2016
Get a copy here!

3.75Penguins
Quick Reasons: thought-provoking, emotionally-driven reads; each short story explores and imparts a spine-chilling message; the prose is smooth and effective overall; some of the plot lines seemed a bit forced/too tidy

Huge thanks to Estelle (the muse!) for reaching out to me for a review and sending me a free copy of Indrajit Garai’s short story collection in exchange for my honest opinions! This in no way altered my read of or thoughts on this title.

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This collection of short stories is both haunting and emotional. Each plot introduces a complex, thought-provoking moral implication or message, and carefully crafts the story around it to the most heart-wrenching or powerful end. Indrajit Garai plays on his readers emotions throughout this series, leaving them breathless, angry, or hurting in turn. Each story manipulates the heart of readers in a beautifully engaging way, and is bound to leave people thinking long after closing the final page of the book.

I did, however, find a few of the plot points to feel a BIT awkward or forced. It seemed in several places, things happened in a weird or unnecessary order strictly to keep the plot moving and the story rolling, dragging out a situation or event. While this isn’t a bad thing necessarily–several times, these moments led to the more profound and poignant revelations–there were moments I found myself wondering over the realism of said events or situations. Some of them felt, I suppose, a bit fake or unbelievable in the end.

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The prose, however, is smooth and easy to follow, and the characters find their place within these pages. In fact, each character felt uniquely individualized and wholly separate from the rest, and while there were some interactions or reactions that I found myself doubting, they helped to draw me in more fully and immerse me in their stories. I believe the last story, especially, stands out as a favorite in my mind–the trials and tribulations faced and suffered by the characters, the climax and resolution of the plot, all came together in an emotionally powerful and deeply profound way.

While I don’t read many short story collections, I would definitely recommend this to lovers of contemporary fiction, powerful characters, and stories with punch. These emotionally-driven, heart-wrenching reads are bound to open readers up to a variety of different settings and characters…and, hopefully, impart some powerful, poignant messages in the process. Picking this book up isn’t a sacrifice, penguins–maybe you should consider it next time you’re seeking a turbulent read.

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Check it Out, Penguins!

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So… I was browsing Amazon, as all awesome book addicted penguins do, and I stumbled across some AWESOME book deals I thought you might all want to know about!

Remember, ALWAYS double check the price before clicking “buy”–these sales could end at any time!

Click the cover to go to amazon!

The Unexpected Everything by [Matson, Morgan]

Darkfever: Fever Series Book 1 by [Moning, Karen Marie]

The Call by [O'Guilin, Peadar]

I mean… I dunno about you all, but I was pretty stoked when I discovered these!  I hope this helps some of you out!

Until next time, happy book-ing!

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Magical Stories: Cute Stories, Cliche Resolutions

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Magical Stories: A Collection of Short Stories for Children Aged 3-103

A child’s imagination is something that seems to fade away as we age, but this book will keep that fire alive! You and your children will enjoy exploring the depths of pure imagination, fun, and excitement by reading this book. Not only will you enjoy these aspects, but you will also enjoy a priceless bonding experience, as your minds run wild from the stories that are told in this collection!

In this book you will enjoy:

• Letting your imagination run wild
• Large, bright, artistic and colorful chapter pictures
• 10 easy-to-read stories that you will love to share aloud
• A bonding experience that teaches, educates and exercises the mind
• Stories that your children will absolutely love!

Magical Stories is a book that is full of fairy-tales, which are geared for children, age’s four to twelve, but for absolutely everyone to enjoy nonetheless! As society advances with technology, the simplicity of downloading this eBook makes reading easier, and much more relaxing.

You and your child will love reading this collection over and over again, whether it is breakfast time, or bed time. As things like Television and Tablets are consuming family time at a rapid rate, there is no better investment than sharing a priceless collection of stories with each other.

Fun for the whole family!

This is an excellent storybook primarily aimed for children aged 4 – 12 years. Early readers will enjoy the stories read aloud to them. Kids and children can practice their reading skills or have a parent/teacher read it aloud. These special stories include lessons and morals about building confidence, self-esteem, caring, sharing and love.

Story List:
• Dali the Different Little Dragon
• Finding a Fairy
• The Puppet Show
• Tilly the Polka-Dotted Tiger
• Lilly and the Fairy Land
• Timmy the Elf
• Daisy the Dragon
• Thomas and the Mermaid
• Laura the Leprechaun
• The Adventures of William Scott

Fantasy/Paranormal/Children’s Literature
109 Pages
Publication Date:  November 17th, 2016
Get a copy here!

3Penguins
Quick Reasons: large array of intriguing characters; some well-handled moral implications; the plots seemed overly simplified and, in a lot of instances, rushed at the end; not much action or adventure; I felt a bit bored overall

Huge thanks to Píaras Ó Cionnaoith for sending me a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

Let’s start with the small things first, yes? There are SO MANY different characters to be found in these stories. I found myself constantly wondering (as I don’t read story titles ahead of time often) what creatures I’d be reading about next, and what sorts of lives they were bound to live. There is a cute sense of “happily ever after” to the resolution of every story, and the prose is whimsical and poetic enough to entrance even the most finicky of young listeners/readers.

Píaras Ó Cionnaoith revisited some of the characters from his collection of poetry, that I reviewed in the last few months of last year. This was both surprising, for me, and delightful–it enabled me to more fully “see” those characters, and better grasp their stories and troubles. I was especially happy to realize I recognized such characters–while a few I wasn’t so sure about, several I knew immediately from their names. It was nice, being able to revisit and rediscover them in this collection.

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There were, however, some things that I wasn’t so impressed with. There was, for instance, a lot of repetition–the narrator would explain something once, only to follow it up with different word choices two or three more times before moving on. The plot also seemed a bit off-pace; the beginnings seemed to take FAR longer than the resolutions, and the resolutions seemed to be in some instances forced or too easily patched up. There was a sense of off-balance throughout, I suppose, and many of the “struggles” faced by the characters were almost too easily resolved or looked beyond. I found myself, due to this, feeling pretty bored with the read overall.

There were also a lot of instances of awkward or weird phrasing. Several times, I found myself struggling to comprehend just what was being said, or needing to add in or substitute words within sentences to understand. While this isn’t a bad thing–these mistakes were minor enough they didn’t hinder my read TOO much–it was a bit confusing, and interrupted the flow of my reading for several seconds at a time.

All told, this probably wasn’t the best fit for me personally. While these are cute, well-written children’s stories that do a great job at subtly promoting lessons like kindness, friendship, and acceptance…I found the pace of the plot to be a bit off-balance, and the resolutions to be almost too easily reached. It was fun, though, to revisit some characters I discovered in Píaras Ó Cionnaoith’s magical poetry collection. I would recommend this to those with young children, lovers of mythical creatures, and happily-ever-after seekers.

25

Top Ten Tuesday (#48)

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HOSTED BY: The Broke and The Bookish
DESCRIPTION:  Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish in June 2010. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We’d love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

Find their latest post here!

HAPPY NEW YEAR to all my lovely, loyal book penguins!  I hope this year brings you all the epical awesome you could ever possibly want–remember, YOU make your life what it is.  So go out there and make it awesome, because I said so! (and because if you do, there’s bound to be a mound of pebbles and tuna awaiting you)

So, since it’s the new year and new years are meant to be all about “remaking” yourself….this penguin decided to do a sort of bookish resolutions post to start 2017 off right.  Except I don’t like resolutions, necessarily…so…let’s just call this my

Top 6 Bookish Desires

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I will ACTIVELY participate!

because I have this naughty habit of signing up for ALL THE CHALLENGES….but never actually actively participating in them.  This year, I hope to change that.  I want to do the blog hopping, the friend-making, the book raving and the plot ranting.  I want to DO the thing, and do it correctly.  So I’m going to do my best to do just that.

I will lower my “want to read” number…at least a little.

And by lower, I mean…until the next time I go on a book adding binge, when it will inevitably go back up.  Because who am I kidding?  I’ll ALWAYS be adding books.  What I really mean is, I will try to read MORE of the books I already own.  Hopefully that works.

I will catch up on my read-to-review pile.

Because honestly, we ALL know I’m going to be adding more to it very very soon.  So…hopefully, by the end of this month, I’ll at least be caught up with the read-to-review books I already have sitting around.  Hopefully.  Keep your fingers crossed for me?

I will blog hop MOAR.

I started doing more of this in the last few months of last year, and really had fun doing it.  So I WILL, theoretically, keep this up and blog hop even more in the coming future.  Because FUN!

I will post as much as I can.

And by this, I mean consistently as well.  I have a ton of fun putting posts together, and have been trying to work on prescheduling as much as possible the last few months–admittedly, this has helped IMMENSELY.  So I will continue trying to schedule posts ahead of time, which leaves me free to add in any other posts that come up along the way.  It’s a good system.  I recommend it.

I will keep working with authors/publishers.

Because I might sometimes feel a little bit over my head with blog posts and review reads, but I LOVE working with all of you guys, and will continue doing my best to do exactly that.  Seriously, working with authors and publishers–and all of you lovely penguins, too!–has brought some of the greatest joy to my life so far, so…it’s only right that I keep that going, right?!  I think so!

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What are some of YOUR bookish desires or resolutions for the new year?  How about non-bookish ones?

Feel free to share your thoughts with me in the comments, or link me to your own Top Ten Tuesday!

Until next time, happy book-ing!

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5

Update #2–Winter Bookish Bingo

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I signed up for the AWESOME that is Bookish Bingo (Winter 2016-2017) ; if you want to know more about the game or how to play, go see Pretty Deadly Reviews’ post (just click on the “BOOKISH BINGO” right there above) !!!

My current board:

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Spaces Daubed (please note, titles will take you to my review of each book!):

Set Abroad– The Last Valentine , by Felix Alexander

Romance– The Red Pearl, by C.K. Brooke

Science Fiction– Smoke Sky, by Amy Braun

Dec/Jan/Feb Release– The Alchemists of Loom, by Elise Kova

LGBT– Four Real, by Alyssa Turner

Nature on Cover– The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman, by Brady Stefani

Not YA– Full Tilt (Full Tilt #1), by Emma Scott

Sequel– November Snow (Bad Bloods #2),  by Shannon A. Thompson

Currently Working On Daubing (please note, titles will take you to goodreads!):

Urban Fantasy– The Kiss that Saved Me (The Tidal Kiss #2), by Kristy Nicolle

Unreliable Narrator– Lost Girls, by Merrie Destefano

Are you participating in the Book Bingo this season?  How are your boards coming along, if so?  Link me below if you’d like!

Until next time, happy book-ing!

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6

The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman: Flighty Plot, Much?

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The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman

Fifteen year old Courtney wants to be normal like her friends. But there’s something frighteningly different about her—and it’s not just the mysterious tattoo her conspiracy-obsessed grandfather marked her with before he disappeared. She’s being visited in her bedroom at night by aliens claiming to have shared an alliance with her grandfather. And imaginary or not, they’re starting to to take over her mind. “Mental illness is a slippery slope,” her mother warns her.

The last thing Courtney wants to do is end up crazy and dead like her grandfather did. But what about the tattoo? And the aliens trying to recruit her? With her new alien-savvy friend Agatha and her apocalyptic visions, Courtney begins connecting the dots between the past, present and future—of her bloodline, and the ancient history that surrounds it. Is she going insane, like her family claims her grandfather did, or is she actually a “chosen one” with ancestral connections to another world? Either way, Courtney has a mission: untangle her past, discover the truth, and stop the apocalypse before it’s too late for everyone.

addtogoodreads

Science Fiction/Fantasy/YA
282 Pages
SparkPress Publishing
Publication Date: June 7th, 2016
Get a copy here!

3Penguins
Quick Reasons: confusing, chaotic plot progression; unbelievable character interactions/reactions; tons of action, but I didn’t feel invested in the characters; this felt a bit like watching a horror movie with the sound turned off; complex characters and relationships; very little romance

Huge thanks to Brady Stefani, SparkPress Publishing, and BookTasters for sending me a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

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I feel like, after a year of pretty awesome reads, I’ve hit a bit of a slump at the end of December. Perhaps this is to be expected–I mean, I’d be surprised if I continued on such a high streak of exciting, enthralling books! Sadly, this particular title just didn’t speak to me the way I was hoping it might. Which sounds worse than I mean it to, because honestly, at the beginning of this journey, I was SUPER stoked. There was a hint of mystery and intrigue laced throughout the pages, I was super curious about what happened to Courtney in her childhood–and what was happening to her in present day. I was excited for this book, but somewhere along the way, that excited sense of longing fizzled out and disappeared.

To be honest, I think there was almost TOO much happening in this book–and this led to a fair amount of confusion for me as a reader. Instead of stopping now and again to focus on the little things–character development, dialogue, interactions and reactions–I feel Brady Stefani rushed through those aspects of writing in order to keep the plot moving and push things along. But this effort, while commendable, still fell flat; I wasn’t able to connect or empathize with the characters much at all, and instead found myself scoffing at their interactions, or wondering over the realistic implications. Courtney, while snarky and dramatic, came off as flighty and wishy-washy to me. I didn’t understand half of her reactions to the situation around her…and found I didn’t try to comprehend the other half. Her family, as well, felt a bit stiff and awkward–more cardboard cutouts instead of actual, complex people.

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While there were several entertaining moments of high snark and sass, I overall felt as if the dialogue was half-heartedly written and meant more to spur the action on than to reveal anything important to the story. The plot is FULL of action and adventure…but I felt as if there was too much trying to be done in a very short amount of time. I wasn’t, as a reader, given the chance to acclimate myself to the changes happening before yet another weird change was thrown at me. While it’s not always necessary to let your readers wrap their heads around your plot, it’s sometimes a good idea–especially in books such as this, where genres are being blended and a character’s mental state is called into question. Where at the beginning, I was super confused and LOVING it because I felt I was getting a great glimpse into Courtney’s head…by the end I was confused because the plot seemed to bounce from one idea to the next without a coherent plan or shape.

Yet again, I guess this just wasn’t quite the right fit for me personally. I am not giving up on books about aliens, penguins–I WILL! one day! find a book with aliens or alien characters that I actually enjoy, I promise. Today just isn’t that day, unfortunately. For this book, I couldn’t connect with the main character; I struggled with my sense of disbelief; and I was super annoyed at how dramatic and flighty the plot seemed. I would still recommend to readers seeking unique titles, alien visitors, and dysfunctional family dynamics. Even though this book failed to beam me out of MY bedroom, it might not fail for you–so give it a shot!

5

Need/Want to Read (January 2017)

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January 2017

Because how ELSE are you guys going to keep track of me and keep me on track, unless I give you a sort of “to do” list for the month?!

(Okay, okay, FINE–I admit it, my beak’s become a little bit full and I might need this reminder to keep MYSELF in check.  Don’t sue me, okay?!  I’m only a penguin after all!)

readforreviews

Lost Girls

Capturing The Captain (American Pirate Romances Book 1)

Swords & Stilettos (Enlighten Series, Book One)

Worth The Risk (Infinity Series, #1)

Chameleon Assassin

Living in the Shallows (UK Crush #1)

Frost (Midnight Ice Book One)

Grimm Woods

I’m not even going to TRY to come up with books I WANT to read, because….DUHDUHDUUUUUUH, I’m moving (AGAIN!  Into a bigger place because YAY more space!)!  But if you guys see any books above you want to buddy with me, PLEASE feel free to let me know–I love buddy reads, they help hold me accountable and keep me on track.  So…let’s do it?!

What books are YOU hoping to read in January?! Let me know, or link me to your TBRs below!

Until next time, happy book-ing!

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11

Stacking the Shelves (#49)

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Stacking the Shelves
Hosted by:  Tynga’s Reviews
Description: Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

Find their latest post here!

HELLOOOOOOOO, from your favorite penguin!  I am OFFICIALLY in Indianapolis, Indiana–and I am SO super stoked about it!  I’ve been working on getting job applications sent around, and acclimating to the new place (although this is silly really, as we’ll be moving into a bigger place in mid-January).

My blood sugars have been a bit rocky the last few days; I’m hoping it’s just left-over stress from the move and all the traveling.  I might also be trying to catch a cold, so there’s that as well–that NEVER helps with blood sugars, and I don’t catch colds often, so… eh!

Keith bought me a HUGE stuffed penguin for Christmas.  Seriously, it comes up to my hip.  I had TWO huge boxes from him “under” the tree Christmas morning, actually, and was so super confused about what they were.  So, one was Bonekah–aptly named by Keith’s adorable son, whom I spent most of Christmas Eve and Christmas morning hanging out with.  The other was a gorgeous photograph of a sunset over some of the Colorado mountains, which he purchased at the art gallery in his home town.  Of course, I got other things as well–Santa came to visit for the kids, and left us all stuffed stockings.  Overall, it was a ton of fun, and I was sort of sad to see it end–though only a little, as I was ready for the next half of my adventure to begin.

One of my half-sisters, who I haven’t seen in something like ten or eleven years, has begun planning a trip out this way to meet up with me.  She lives something like four hours from here, and is wanting to get this way before she goes back to school.  I’m pretty excited about that–the last time I saw her, I was still in high school!  Hopefully it’ll be fun.

I’m trying to get back into a reading routine, as I sort of lost my old one when the traveling and family-time ensued.  Hopefully I’ll find a job fairly quickly and can incorporate my entire new routine together at once.  Hopefully.  But we’ll see what happens.

Other than that, it’s life as usual at the igloo!  How have you guys been?!  Have you missed me?!?!?!

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from publishers/authors/edelweiss/netgalley
(for blog tours)

Frost (Midnight Ice Book One)

Grimm Woods

from publishers/authors/edelweiss/netgalley
(for review)

Circle Z

recentlydownloaded

from instafreebie

Watched

free on kindle

Destiny Blues (Hand of Fate, #1)

Darcy's Christmas Wish

When In Rome...Lose Control

My Viking Vampire (Sanctuary, Texas #1)

recentpurchased

hardcovers

Scythe (Arc of a Scythe, #1)

ebooks

The Cure Hotel

The Benighted (The Benighted Saga, #1)

My Dragon Masters (Sanctuary, Texas, #2)

Serafina and the Twisted Staff (Serafina #2)

Kill the Boy Band

Three Dark Crowns

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What are some of the books YOU picked up/added to your shelves (either real or virtual?)  Let me know below, or link me to your own Stacking the Shelves!

Until next time, happy book-ing!

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11

Pumpkintown Perils: For a Magical Town, There isn’t Much Magic

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Pumpkintown Perils: A Witch Mystery Collection (Wild Wild Witch Mystery Bundle Book 1)

Deep in the Jagged Wood enchanted forest, wild witch Wanda Tempest owns a magic supply shop, practices witchcraft, drinks too much, dances, and struggles with a weakness for attractive men. She also happens to be a promising, if only part-time, Private Investigator. She’s talented, beautiful, and has earned the respect and admiration of the equally talented, though far less striking, Police Inspector Sam Shamrock, an overweight leprechaun. He’s crazy about her… she’s crazy about her cat-food-refusing whiskered companion, Jinxy.

Join this formidable, if mismatched, crime-solving duo, as they tackle mysteries ranging from the scandalous to the outright strange. Talking trees, evil gnomes, murderous wood trolls, and homicidal humans will keep Wanda and Sam fighting for justice, and their very lives.

Troublesome twin sisters, a crazy great-aunt, a kiss that shouldn’t have happened, and a spoiled Siberian cat with a smart mouth all guarantee that Wanda’s life remains full of surprises. As long as Sam doesn’t drink too many Irish Coffees everything usually works out.

Wild Wild Witch Mystery Bundle (Book 1)
Humor/Mystery/Paranormal
260 Pages
Publication Date: August 4th, 2016
Get a FREE copy here!

3Penguins
Quick Reasons: fairly annoying, arrogant main character; none of the characters really came to life for me; weird moments of crude humor; very fast, unbelievable plots; easy-to-spot endings; the internal monologue happening throughout this read was chaotic and often confusing; a lot of repetition and awkward sentences

Huge thanks to Aubrey Law and the crew at BookTasters for sending me a copy of this title free in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

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I’m going to be honest, penguins–this book didn’t work for me, personally, for several different reasons. When I picked this book up, I was really looking forward to diving into my first actual mystery read–as you might know, I don’t usually pick up mystery books, and I’ve been hoping to change that as I feel some of them sound like a ton of fun. This one, for instance, seemed to be right up my alley–and I really DID enjoy the quirky setting and the element of magic/fantasy that was woven throughout the story. The characters, for the most part, sounded like a ton of fun–who wouldn’t want to follow a witch and her talking cat around, after all? Or meet up with leprechauns? Or solve magical mysteries?

Unfortunately, that’s not quite what I got from this book. Don’t get me wrong, the four stories included in this read do all have an element of mystery/whodunit….but the plot was so quick, the stories so concise to fit all four into one go, I don’t feel like we really got the best side of Aubrey Law’s writing. Instead, I felt like we got a high level of crude humor and arrogant confidence in the form of our main character…mixed with some quickly-written and chaotic stories. Instead of being able to dive into the world of this town, I found myself plodding along listening to the main character make snap judgments about everybody and talk about herself as if she’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.

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The writing is also pretty spotty throughout the read. There are some awkward transitions, some poorly-chosen descriptive images, and a LOT of repetition. The main character often thinks to herself before opening her mouth…which leads to readers already knowing what she’s going to say, and then having to follow along after while she actually carries on the conversation. I think Wanda could be a sassy, snarky, strongly independent character…if she were written in a slightly different way. In this book, however, she comes off as arrogant and prideful, and I found myself rolling my own eyes more than once throughout the read at her antics or thoughts.

Overall, this perhaps wasn’t the best fit for me personally. The characters and world fell a bit flat, I was annoyed with how arrogant Wanda seemed, and I didn’t really connect with anyone or anything I read about. The spotty writing and unbelievably quick plots also didn’t help to make this book more entertaining. I will, hopefully, be picking up more mysteries in the future…perhaps I’ll find that this genre just doesn’t work for me. I’d recommend this to lovers of crude humor, magical mysteries, and quirky characters. Just because I wasn’t caught up in the race, doesn’t mean you can’t be!