Book Blitz and Review: The Masterminds


The Masterminds

From prisons and reality TV to mansions and safe houses, THE MASTERMINDS revisits THE MASTERPIECERS and closes the twins’ story. It is a tale of imperfect love and imperfect people.

The only downside to Joshua Cooper’s investigation of a mob runner is not being able to discuss it with his two best friends, nineteen-year-old twins, Aster and Ivy Redd. However, when Ivy sells one of her quilts to the mob runner, and Aster hits him with her car in a motel parking lot, they become entangled in his investigation. The FBI even believes the twins could knowingly be involved with the mob. Joshua will do everything he can to disprove their suspicion and nail the true criminal.

Brook Jackson is a judge on the Masterpiecers’s art competition. That is his official job; his unofficial job is running questionable errands against easy cash. But a ripped quilt and the girl who sewed it will make Brook’s life and heart spiral out of control.

Accused of money laundering, Brook becomes the fall guy. After three weeks of imprisonment, he cuts a deal with Joshua: his freedom for the real felons and a meeting with Ivy. Although eager to clear his name, Brook wants to win Ivy’s forgiveness—and if she’s willing to give it to him—her love.

Masterful #2

280 Pages
Publication Date: October 12th, 2016
Get a copy here!

 About the Author:
oliviaOlivia Wildenstein grew up in New York City, the daughter of a French
father with a great sense of humor, and a Swedish mother whom she speaks to at least three times a
day. She chose Brown University to complete her undergraduate studies and earned a bachelor’s in
comparative literature. After designing jewelry for a few years, Wildenstein traded in her tools for a
laptop computer and a very comfortable chair. This line of work made more sense, considering her
college degree.
When she’s not writing, she’s psychoanalyzing
everyone she meets (Yes. Everyone), eavesdropping on conversations to gather material for her next
book, baking up a storm (that she actually eats), going to the gym (because she eats), and attempting
not to be late at her children’s school (like she is 4 out of 5 mornings, on good
Wildenstein lives with her husband and three
children in Geneva, Switzerland, where she’s an active member of the writing
Author Links:

Buy Links:

The Masterpiecers: http://amzn.to/2emk7nF

 The Masterminds: http://amzn.to/2agsfEn


A girl who stitches quilts.
This is the first thing I learn about Ivy Redd.
After skimming through her Masterpiecers application, I toss it aside because quilt making is not really art. I admire people who stitch stuff. My grandmother was one of them. Up until the day she died, she was part of a quilting club who met each week. They’d cut and sew squares of gaudy-patterned cotton with such fervor that it had seemed as though their lives would fall apart if they didn’t truss them up with their needles.
Dominic, the president and founder of the Masterpiecers School, picks up the application and thumbs through it.
“Don’t bother. It’s quilts,” I say, grabbing the next file.
He studies the picture stapled to the last page. “You are too rash in judging this girl. She has something. What do you think, Josephine?”
He hands it over to the vice-president of the school.
“Pas mal. But we only have one more slot.  And I found the perfect candidat.”
“Really?” Dominic asks, leaning back against the silk upholstery of his wooden chair. It was carved by one of the school’s graduates, Christos Natter.  One side is curved and smooth, while the other looks windblown, stretching irregularly toward Dominic’s bulky chestnut bookcase. “Who struck your fancy?”
Josephine flings a file onto the eighteenthcentury French desk next to the industrial steel lamp. Dominic picks up the file, takes one look at it, and dumps it back on the table.
“Pourquoi pas?” Josephine asks.
Dominic flaps his hand in the air. “He’s a former soldier, not an artist.”
She folds one leg over the other and rests her hands on her bony white knee. “That is not a reason, Dom. He’s skilled. Look at that rope he wove while he was on tour.”
“Come on, Jo. It’s a rope,” Dom says.
“And this”—she nods toward Ivy Redd’s file— “is a quilt. Why does quilt trump rope?”
“Because!” I can tell from the way he looks away from Josephine that there’s more to his staunch refusal than the medium of the pieces.
“You both have a special person,” she says, “whom you did not pick on merit. I am certain Chase is a talented boy, Brook, and I am certain that Maria—actually, I’m not certain Maria has anything to offer besides her body, Dom—but I accepted. Now consent to my choice.”
Dominic reddens at the mention of his exgirlfriend, a former beauty queen and ham-fisted artist whose claim-to-fame are crude renditions of overly made-up pageant contestants. What I heard was that he impregnated her and the only way to get rid of the baby was accepting her onto the show.
Josephine rises, and her tailored pearl-gray dress slips right into place over her skeletal body. “I will alert Mr. Kevin Martin that he has been selected. Oh, wait. That’s why we have Brook now, n’est-ce pas? To do all the menial jobs.”
I glare at her, although she’s right. That is why I’m here, to do the jobs no one else cares to do. “I’ll notify the contestants this afternoon.”
She gives me a crooked smile before stepping out of Dominic’s office.
“She hates me,” I tell Dom some time after she shuts the door.
“She hates everyone.”
“Except her fiancé.”
“I doubt she even likes him.”
As I straighten out the files of the applicants who didn’t make the cut, Dominic tut-tuts.
“The girl who sews quilts; keep her application aside. We’ll be needing it.”
I slip it out of the pile and put it on top. “Why?”
“Because.” He shifts his eyes toward his cell phone. Dominic is certain we are being listened to. “She’s a sound runner-up.” As he talks, he grabs a piece of paper embossed with his name and scribbles something.
I scratch the stubble on my cheek as I read it. When my jaw unhinges, Dominic picks up his message and shreds it into dozens of tiny pieces that he drops into his leather bin. They flutter down like confetti, settling in the dusky emptiness. I doubt anyone will collect them and glue them back together, but just in case, I crouch down, swipe some into my palm, and stick them inside my blazer pocket.
I have as much to lose as Dominic. No, that’s a lie. I have more to lose because it’s my name that’s being used, not his. Mine.
“It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?” he says, all cheery again. “I love spring. Don’t you?”
I’m tongue-tied.
“I’m heading out for lunch. I’ll see you tonight,” he says.
“Didn’t your father tell you? We’re having dinner all together at his house. To celebrate the sale. It went well, didn’t it?”
I make a jerky head movement that’s supposed to be a nod.
“Did it pay off the bills?” he asks.
“Not all of them.”
He pats my shoulder. “I’m sure they’ll get paid soon. I have an idea.” His fingers clamp down around my shoulder like a metal claw.
I’m starting not to like his ideas.
“I’ll tell you later.” He squeezes once, then lets go and walks out, whistling a tune that sounds like something from a Broadway show.
Clutching the pile of applications against me, I stop by my office, which is more of a glass cubicle than an office. I don’t even have screens or blinds. As I heave the folders onto my desk, I notice one of the secretaries fanning a leaflet in front of a young boy’s face. It throws me back in time. Four years to be exact. I was standing at his exact spot, overwhelmingly excited at the prospect of starting at the Masterpiecers. Four years ago, when everything was still so peachy. When my family was still rich. When my little brother didn’t despise me for having usurped “his life.”
The school has strict laws forbidding siblings from attending. Supposedly, it’s to discourage family feuds. Didn’t discourage Chase from hating my guts.
Movement behind the secretary catches my attention. Josephine stands next to her triangular-shaped desk, where a lone potted orchid holds court over an ultra-skinny computer screen and a pencil cup made of cerulean blue clay. It looks as though it was crafted by a kindergartener, when in fact it was fashioned by an alumni from this school.
Josephine sees me staring. There’s something unsettling about the way she gazes back, eyes sort of slanted. My shirt collar suddenly feels too tight so I pop the top button open. She smiles that glacial smile of hers, then gapes down at my jacket pocket. I stick my hand inside protectively, before reassuring myself that Josephine Raynoir does not have X-ray vision. I rub the pieces between the pads of my fingers, feeling the raised edges in the vellum where Dominic inked his command: Find out who Kevin Martin really is.
Josephine flicks a switch and her glass walls blur, and I am left with the shadow of her body moving about like the giant stick insect I won at a fair when I was twelve. I kept it in a murky aquarium, which I couldn’t be bothered to clean. Our housekeeper, Carmelina, was too frightened of the bug to touch the thing, so it became filthier and filthier until my mother got so sick of it, she seized the aquarium and dumped it on the curb for some other little boy, or some garbage collector, to find.
I eye my trashcan, but decide against putting anything inside. It’s lunchtime, and even though I’m not hungry, I walk out of Delancey Hall, a two-story building with glossy green ivy scuttling over the brick walls. It was named after Dominic’s favorite adviser, Robert Delancey. A few years back, when I was starting on college applications, The New York Times dedicated its entire art section to the man. It was titled The Monocled Star-Maker. My father read it out loud to us over breakfast.
“Art is Chase’s dream, Dad. Not mine,” I remember telling him, mostly to get him off my case.
Chase looked up from his big bowl of cornflakes, milk dribbling down his chin. He was fourteen then. It was the year his upper lip finally grew some fuzz.
“I wasn’t given a choice,” Dad said.
“Well I’d like a choice,” my seventeen-year old self demanded.
“And you’ll get one,” Mom chimed in, clicking into the dining room for her usual breakfast of sliced papaya, raw oatmeal, and strong coffee. She dropped a kiss on my forehead, and then tried to peck Chase’s, but he ducked away from her. “Right, Henry? We always said we would let the kids choose.”
In the end, after two years spent at Duke University, I asked to transfer into the art school to my father’s delight. It was the same year Chase sent in his college applications. His top choice was the Masterpiecers, but I beat him to it, something he never forgave me for. Just like he never forgave me for consoling his ex after their awful breakup.
As I walk toward Riverside Drive, I spot a trashcan. I grab the slivers of paper from my pocket and drop them inside. I open a search window on my phone’s browser and type in Kevin Martin’s name. There are several pages of results. I add the words ‘retired sergeant.’
There is only one result.
Dominic was right…Josephine is investigating him.


Quick Reasons: I just couldn’t get into this one; these characters felt a bit stiff; the action/adventure fell a bit flat; I appreciated seeing these characters from different perspectives; this took the original story and flipped it to show the OTHER side; the epilogue with Ivy’s POV was awesome

HUGE thanks to Olivia Wildenstein for sending me a copy of this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.


It’s safe to say I didn’t enjoy this companion novel nearly as much as I enjoyed the original. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this book–I really appreciated that we were given the opportunity to step out of Ivy and Aster’s minds and INTO the other side of the story. I LOVE that we were given the chance to see what was happening in Josh and Brook’s lives while Ivy and Aster were struggling to stay alive. But… there was something I found lacking about this read.

I think it comes down to the characters, in the end. While I appreciate being granted an insight into these two minds, I didn’t feel nearly as connected to them as a reader. I felt like a lot of their interactions/reactions in this book were forced to fit the story line, instead of being allowed to flow naturally. They came off a bit like cardboard cutouts, to me personally–I just couldn’t FEEL them, or believe them, as characters in this story.


The action/adventure also fell a bit flat for me, as these two characters weren’t nearly as involved or as in danger as Ivy and Aster in the first book. It felt like these two were always the ones running to SAVE the girls instead of facing their own struggles and danger. Even Josh’s relationship took a backseat; instead of being part of the story that could connect me to him better, he spent the majority of the book running away from/standing up his girlfriend. And I understand why–his job, and the girls, came first–but that was a HUGE part of the story that could have helped cement him as a realistic character in my mind, that seemed to be overlooked.

In the end, this companion novel just wasn’t for me I guess. It wasn’t bad, necessarily–I just feel like I got all I really needed to from the original novel. Save the last few chapters, which weren’t included in the original story, I don’t feel I walked away from this read with any new information. I’d still recommend this to lovers of crime novels, action/adventure scenes, and flawed but redeemable characters. And of course, I can’t wait to see what Olivia Wildenstein does next!



This is Me: The Robot RoMESS I’ve Been Waiting For


This is Me.

Goodreads Rating: 4.41 Stars
310 Pages
Live and Love the Fantasy Publications
Publication Date: August 11th, 2016
Also available on Kindle Unlimited

Get a copy here!

Anthropomorphic Sentient Individualized Servile uniT

Rogan is a robot. More specifically, he is an Asist – a personalized humanoid servant that provides protection, assistance, and companionship for a lonely young woman living on her own in the city. Chloe is trying to get her big break, singing at bars and clubs all over the city at night while she pays the bills as a substitute teacher during the day. Ever since she activated him many months ago, Rogan has been her beautiful, dependable, obedient, dead-eyed security blanket.

One morning she is shocked when he disobeys a direct command in an attempt to please her and his dull artificial eyes flash a hint of something new. Is this the result of the adaptive Asist servility programming or is Rogan actually thinking? Can a robot think? Can a robot feel?

As Chloe struggles with these thoughts she is blindsided by the singular Niven Adams, a handsome, confident man with the voice of an angel who is everything she’s ever wanted in a boyfriend. He’s the perfect guy for her, except for one problem. Niven doesn’t approve of Asists and takes an immediate dislike to Rogan. As Niven charms his way deeper and deeper into Chloe’s heart, Rogan tries to convince her that he is more than a mass-produced disposable servant.

With Rogan doing everything in his power to prove that his thoughts and feelings are real and Niven trying to persuade her to abandon her robot and have a normal human relationship, Chloe is trapped between the two things that mean the most to her. Does she embrace her relationship with the blond newcomer, or face that her Asist’s feelings may be more than features of his programming?

What really makes a person a person?
Is it a ticking muscle inside their chest, or is it something more?

Quick Reasons: creative idea; well-considered closing morals; REALLY annoying love triangle; some unexplained world-building; fair-weather friendships?; an interesting, thought-provoking look at prejudice/the “us against them” argument

A huge thank you to C.E. Wilson for sending me a 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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So, I have to preface this review with just one thing: C.E. Wilson is one of the most creative, imaginative writers I’ve so far had the privilege to work with. Seriously, penguins–her ideas are fresh and unique. Her stories, on top of that, also always leave me reconsidering the world–and my own opinions on certain heavy topics.


This book? Definitely didn’t disappoint me. The moral-scope was hard-hitting and thought-provoking while maintaining enough distance from “reality” to keep it unique. There is a poignant, well-considered perspective on prejudice–and the ways prejudice touches/effects everybody–woven into every page of this read. The characters are written in such dynamic ways, and with such vastly differing opinions on the happenings of this world, that readers are given a complex and insightful glimpse into not only this book, but themselves. Yes, the subject of the plot is robots…but this read reaches much further than that, and is SO important in my opinion.

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I was not, however, real impressed by the love triangle. I understand why it exists–I know the purpose behind including it, and wouldn’t, therefore, go so far as to say it’s unnecessary. In terms of the plot, it is actually very crucial. But. BUT. I might suggest it needs a bit of reworking. I think it boils down to execution for me–there were two men of completely opposing opinions vying for the same woman’s affections… but it was super obvious, from the get-go, who SHE preferred. The reason she didn’t just go for the one she actually wanted? Society. Society’s opinions, beliefs, pressure… Which, don’t get me wrong, I totally understand. I just think the love triangle may have been more satisfying for me if there actually WAS a competition there, and not just the woman giving in to what the “world” thought right.


The character interactions and growths were believable, though several seemed to stagnate about halfway through. Monica, for instance– Chloe’s supposed “friend” at the beginning of this book–drops off entirely in the last 40% or so. While a fairly minor character, she plays a HUGE role in the development of certain situations/relationships, and seemed (at first?) to be a pretty large influence on Chloe’s decision-making. So for her to just up and disappear made this feel a bit…incomplete? Maybe this was the point, though–sometimes, people just drop out of our lives. Sometimes there IS no real resolution.

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Overall, this was a complex, hard-hitting read–with just enough distance from “reality” to both make a statement and keep it unique. I cannot WAIT to see what lies ahead for C.E. Wilson; her novels are always so creative and fun, I’m sure it’s bound to be just as awesome! If you enjoy robots, complicated love triangles, and a major dose of roMESS, I definitely recommend this read! Trust me–this book makes a statement. You should give it a chance!


This Old Heart of Mine: Is a Bumbling, Babbling Band of Baboons


This Old Heart of Mine

Goodreads Rating: 4.90 Stars
340 Pages
Expected Publication Date:  May 24th, 2016
Get a copy here!

Ava Malone knows all about being broken-hearted.

Born with a severe heart defect, she’s spent her whole life in and out of hospital desperately needing a transplant.

Just days from death, her weak prayers are finally answered, and she receives a new heart; one that not only saves her life, but changes it forever.

Now fit and healthy, Ava is able to do things she only dreamed of, like get a job and some independence, fall in love, and finally live life to the fullest.

But her journey of self-discovery takes her to places she never expected. Along the way, Ava doesn’t just find the woman she was always meant to be, but she also finds out more about the woman who no longer is. The one who gave her this new life because she lost hers.

Faced with a devastating dilemma, Ava must decide whether the heart that’s pumping inside her body now belongs to her, or is still beating for someone else.

Quick Reasons: oh my goodness, my poor heart!; this..this book…I am a babbling, incoherent idiot right now; this book needs to be read; the emotions, the challenging subject matter; I want to be friends with these characters, they could teach me so much; I can’t even compute what I just read; this book is GORGEOUS, guys; I feel a book hangover coming on

First and foremost, huge thanks go out to A.J. Compton and Xpresso Book Tours for granting me access to 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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And oh, PENGUINS, guys—this book was nothing like what I expected going in. Yes, I caught on to the “plot twist” pretty early on in the book. Yes, some of the prose and dialogue is awkward and confusing. But the heart of this story? Devastating. The subject matter? Approached with sensitivity and maturity. The things this book TAUGHT me? Absolutely priceless.

You laugh because I sound like a Kodak camera commercial, but I’m not lying. This book is the definition of a life-ruiner, in my world. This book challenged me, pushed me out of my comfort zone…and made me stop to really think about things in a different way. The sheer number of pulse-stopping moments, the ones that make you step back and catch your breath? I can’t even try to guess how many there were in this read. More than that, though—I closed this read with a heart both heavy, and at the same time, light. I don’t even know if that makes sense, but…it’s the best way I can explain it.

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These characters are vibrant. They leech from the pages, they slip the claws of their personalities beneath your skin—they linger, even when the book is closed. I found myself longing to be friends with them, even just for a moment; I feel they could teach me, and the world, a lot about what it means to actually live. The romance is believable and steamy in all the right ways; the heart butterflies were strongly aflutter, just the way I like them.

And the story. THE. STORY. I just… I cannot, simply cannot, get over the vast amount of growth these characters go through. We get a short, and (in my opinion) much-needed, perspective shift around the 75% mark which just…really helped to tie the world, and these characters, together for me. The voices are strong, the prose is melodic and atmospheric… I just cannot stress how much I adored this read, start to finish.

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I am beyond honored to have been granted access to this title; it was, and IS, a life-changer. A life-ruiner. This is one book that will stick with me, rubber cement on the heart, for quite possibly the rest of my life. I recommend to lovers of hard-hitting contemporary, strong characters who overcome the hardest obstacles, and unexpectedly emotional journeys. The subject matter is SO heavy…but so, so needed. You guys NEED to read this—please, pick it up. Let it change you.