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Cover Reveal: Carry Me Home

 

Carry Me Home
Jessica Therrien
Published by: Acorn Publishing
Publication date: September 26th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Thriller, Young Adult

“A riveting page-turner… Jessica Therrien broke my heart into a million pieces — and then put it back together again. This book will haunt and uplift readers long after they turn the last page.”

-KAT ROSS, best-selling author of The Midnight Sea

CARRY ME HOME is a fictional novel inspired by the true story of a teenage girl’s involvement in several Mexican gangs in San Jose and Los Angeles. The members of her crew call her, Guera, Spanish for “white girl” and it doesn’t take long for her to get lost in their world of guns and drugs.

* * *

Lucy and Ruth are country girls from a broken home. When they move to the city with their mother, leaving behind their family ranch and dead-beat father, Lucy unravels.

They run to their grandparents’ place, a trailer park mobile home in the barrio of San Jose. Lucy’s barrio friends have changed since her last visit. They’ve joined a gang called VC. They teach her to fight, to shank, to beat a person unconscious and play with guns. When things get too heavy, and lives are at stake, the three girls head for LA seeking a better life.

But trouble always follows Lucy. She befriends the wrong people, members of another gang, and every bad choice she makes drags the family into her dangerous world.

Told from three points of view, the story follows Lucy down the rabbit hole, along with her mother and sister as they sacrifice dreams and happiness, friendships and futures. Love is waiting for all of them in LA, but pursuing a life without Lucy could mean losing her forever.

Ultimately it’s their bond with each other that holds them together, in a true test of love, loss and survival.

Add to Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

Jessica Therrien is the author of the young adult paranormal fiction series Children of the Gods. Book one in the series, Oppression, became a Barnes & Noble best-seller shortly after its release.

Aside from her Children of the Gods series, Jessica’s work can also be found in a published collection of flash fiction stories called Campaigner Challenges 2011. Out of over 350 submissions her story, The Soulless, won first place for people’s choice and fourth place in the judging round of Rachael Harrie’s Writing Campaign Challenge. Her story, Saved, is also available as part of the anthology.

Jessica spent most of her life in the small town of Chilcoot, California, high up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In this town of nearly 100 residents, with no street lights or grocery stores, there was little to do but find ways to be creative. Her mother, the local English teacher, inspired her to do all things artistic, and ultimately instilled in her a love for language.

In 2003, Jessica attended California State University Long Beach where her passion for language found her studying Chinese, and in 2005 she moved to Taiwan to study abroad. From 2005 to 2006 Jessica was fully immersed in the Chinese language as she attended National Taiwan University, and in 2008 she graduated from San Diego State University magna cum laude.

Jessica currently lives in Irvine with her husband and two sons. She is working on an adult novel and a children’s picture book.

Website / Goodreads / Facebok / Twitter

 

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Book Blitz, Excerpt, and Giveaway: Running Blind

 

Running Blind
by Lisette Kristensen
Publication date: May 17th 2017
Genres: Adult, Romance, Thriller

A murder mystery that is edgy, raw, and gritty. It’s packed full of danger with wild twist and turns

Baleigh Burgess was trapped. Her world spun out of control the night her partner/lover was gunned down. Facing prison on trumped up drug charges, she was forced to go undercover to find the killer. She wasn’t prepared to face her suspects, her old motorcycle gang, she once ran with back in the day.

Faced with her morals being comprised in proving her loyalty. Concealing her identity which if discovered was certain death. Baleigh lived on the edge and only grew darker when a man, a stone cold killer entered her life. Was he there to kill her or lover her?

Running Blind takes you on a taut, dark murder mystery, where everyone is a suspect and a thin line of betrayal looms at every turn.

Goodreads / Amazon

99¢ for a limited time only!

EXCERPT:

Turning to leave the room, Baleigh stopped dead in her tracks. Voices. A female voice and one she recognized right away… Jodie. Fuck. She could also hear footsteps and there were more than one set. Derrick? Baleigh was stuck at the door entrance. The voices came from the back of the house and it dawned her she did not lock the door. An inward groaned rang through her, they would know right off someone had broken in.

She clutched the revolver and knew she might have to shoot her way out. What seemed like a nice little tattle tale was turning into a shoot out. Baleigh’s whole inside were racked with fear. She had no idea which way to go, cringing she poked her head

out to see if she could make out where they were. Glancing down the hall towards the kitchen her eyes could not focus in the darkness.

It was pitch black, no shadows of light which was odd to her. Then with a sudden force something hard smashed to her face. Baleigh had no idea what hit her, she crumbled to the ground as the haunting silence captured her.

 

Author Bio:

Lisette grew up surrounded with stories of intrigue, crime and sordid plots. This led her to become fascinated with film noir and pulp fiction. Studying criminal justice in college she developed an interest with the lurid unsolved cases of Hollywood.

Running Blind is her first venture into the mystery genre, it based on her experiences working for the LAPD Gang Intelligence. Coming soon will be a series of books focused on those cold cases from the glory days of Hollywood.

The Dark Desire Series is four books (including a box set) that follows the path of a troubled woman into the dark depths of erotic hedonism, love and conflict. The series is explicit and with strong sexual conten.

You can sign up for Sins Fatal Desire Newsletter at https://www.facebook.com/midnightdream2016/app/100265896690345/

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

 

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Blog Tour and Review: When I Wake Up

When I Wake Up - blog tour banner.png

When I Wake Up coverWhen I Wake Up
by Jessica Jarlvi
Mystery / Thriller / Suspense
272 Pages
Aria / Head of Zeus Publishing
Publication Date:  June 1st, 2017
Get a copy:
Amazon  |  iBooks  |  Kobo  |  Google Play

BLURB:

A breathtaking, heart-pounding, dark debut, sure to delight fans of The Girl on the Train and Before I Go To Sleep. When Anna, a much-loved teacher and mother of two, is left savagely beaten and in a coma, a police investigation is launched. News of the attack sends shock waves through her family and their small Swedish community. Anna seems to have had no enemies, so who wanted her dead?

As loved-ones wait anxiously by her bedside, her husband Erik is determined to get to the bottom of the attack, and soon begins uncovering his wife’s secret life, and a small town riven with desire, betrayal and jealousy.

As the list of suspects grows longer, it soon becomes clear that only one person can reveal the truth, and she’s lying silent in a hospital bed…

addtogoodreads

 

Jessica Jarlvi photoAuthor Bio

Born in Sweden, Jessica moved to London at the age of 18 to obtain a BSc Hons degree in Publishing and Business. She worked in publishing in the UK for a number of years before heading to Chicago where she edited a magazine for expats. Back in Sweden, she completed a Masters in Creative Writing. Since 2010, Jessica has taught journalism and media at a local university, and has spent the last five years as the marketing and PR manager for a British firm. Last year, she was one of the winners in the Montegrappa Prize for First Fiction at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. Jessica is married with three spirited children, and although she’s known for her positivity, her writing tends to be rather dark!

Follow Jessica–

Facebook: @JessicaJarlvi
Twitter: @JessicaJarlvi
Website: http://www.jessicajarlvi.com

 


bookreview

4Penguins
Quick Reasons: there are some super creeptastic scenes, with a SUPER creeptastic POV; these characters are vibrant, well-written, and so individualized; I’m not so sure I like the epilogue chapter, I feel it cheapened the rest of the book somehow; this was a wild, unexpected journey–and I adored it

HUGE thanks to Jessica Jarlvi, Aria Publishing, and Netgalley for sending me a free egalley of this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

WIW Quote1

There is something to be said about an author who, seemingly effortlessly, can weave their readers into the heart of a mystery…and keep them enthralled there throughout. Jessica Jarlvi promised a tapestry of drama, intrigue, and fear in the blurb of this book–and then delivered beautifully on those promises! I was sucked in from the very beginning, and taken through a whirling journey spanning the past and present.

These characters are SO defined–super vibrant, complex in their emotions and reactions. Each character was individualized and believable, while still maintaining a sense of “suspicion” that kept me wavering between who might have done it. In fact, I was SO focused on hoping that Jessica Jarlvi wouldn’t go for the obvious, wouldn’t take the scapegoat she provides early on, that I *might* have missed some of the hidden foreshadows….and was caught completely off guard when the answer was finally revealed! This was brilliantly written, honestly–the leaps back and forth between past and present, with the alternating POVs, only helped to confuse and meander my mind from the truth!

WIW Quote2.png

I’m not entirely sure I like the epilogue chapter of this book, though I feel this is mostly a personal opinion than anything inherently wrong with the writing. I just felt, after such heavy buildup and tension, that the ending sort of cheapened the read a bit–probably because it ends on a bit of a “and they all lived happily ever after” note, which I just can’t wrap my head around I guess. I wish we had been given a DIFFERENT perspective for the ending, honestly–in fact, there was at the end one character I wish we’d been shown the TRUTH of. I went so far as to imagine how that closing scene could be written, even–though I’d bet Jessica Jarlvi would do much more justice with it than I. Regardless, the rest of the plot was fast-paced and filled with disturbing tension, and I adored the read overall.

This was a SUPER creepy read filled with some unique, sometimes creeptastic, characters. The action was tension-heavy and fast-paced, though I felt as if the ending didn’t quite live up to the rest of the read. I cannot WAIT to see what Jessica Jarlvi will deliver next, as I had a ton of fun stepping out of my head and into these characters’ for a while! I recommend this to lovers of mysteries, alternate POV journeys, and slightly unhinged characters. The coma’s over, penguins; can you figure out who-dun-it before the big reveal?!

Follow Aria Publishing–

Website: http://www.ariafiction.com
Facebook: @ariafiction
Twitter: @aria_fiction
Instagram: @ariafiction
NetGalley: http://bit.ly/2lkKB0e

Sign up to the Aria newsletter: http://bit.ly/2jQxVtV

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Book Blitz, Teasers, and Giveaway: Lux and Lies

 

Lux and Lies
(Whitebird, #1)

by Meg Collett
Publication date: May 2nd 2017
Genres: Science Fiction, Thriller, Young Adult

Mr. Robot meets UnReal in a story of celebrities and anarchists, reality shows and evil corporations, romance and self-discovery.

Nineteen-year-old Wren Iver is nothing more than a dying girl with cancer, but when megastar Sloan Lux dies right before filming starts on the year’s most anticipated reality show, producers scramble to secretly replace her—with Wren. She’s swept into Hollywood and promised a cure by VidaCorp, the nation’s richest bioengineering corporation, for simply replacing Lux. It’s a deal Wren can’t refuse.

The decision could get her killed, because she isn’t the only cast member with ulterior motives

The Whitebirds, a social anarchist group, has infiltrated the show, and they’ll stop at nothing to use Sloane Lux’s fame to derail VidaCorp’s efforts to legalize their controversial, life-changing drug—a drug that might kill more people than it saves. Caught in the middle of a game between a powerful corporation and ruthless anarchist group, Wren will do anything to survive.

Will Wren secure the drug she needs to survive, or will she become another casualty in the anarchists’ fight against VidaCorp?

Goodreads / Amazon

Are you a book reviewer?

Request a review copy here!

 

Author Bio:

Meg Collett is from the hills of Tennessee where the cell phone service is a blessing and functioning internet is a myth of epic proportions. She and her husband live in a tiny house with three dogs and not enough couches. She’s the author of the bestselling Fear University series, the End of Days trilogy, and the Canaan Island novels. Find out more at her website http://www.megcollett.com.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

 

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Cover Reveal: Lux and Lies

 

Lux and Lies
(Whitebird, #1)

by Meg Collett
Publication date: May 2017
Genres: Science Fiction, Thriller, Young Adult

Mr. Robot meets UnReal in a story of celebrities and anarchists, reality shows and evil corporations, romance and self-discovery.

Nineteen-year-old Wren Iver is nothing more than a dying girl with cancer, but when megastar Sloan Lux dies right before filming starts on the year’s most anticipated reality show, producers scramble to secretly replace her—with Wren. She’s swept into Hollywood and promised a cure by VidaCorp, the nation’s richest bioengineering corporation, for simply replacing Lux. It’s a deal Wren can’t refuse.

The decision could get her killed, because she isn’t the only cast member with ulterior motives

The Whitebirds, a social anarchist group, has infiltrated the show, and they’ll stop at nothing to use Sloane Lux’s fame to derail VidaCorp’s efforts to legalize their controversial, life-changing drug—a drug that might kill more people than it saves. Caught in the middle of a game between a powerful corporation and ruthless anarchist group, Wren will do anything to survive.

Will Wren secure the drug she needs to survive, or will she become another casualty in the anarchists’ fight against VidaCorp?

Add to Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

Meg Collett is from the hills of Tennessee where the cell phone service is a blessing and functioning internet is a myth of epic proportions. She and her husband live in a tiny

house with three dogs and not enough couches. She’s the author of the bestselling Fear University series, the End of Days trilogy, and the Canaan Island novels. Find out more at her website http://www.megcollett.com.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

 

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Cover Reveal: Captivated by Crimson

 

Captivated by Crimson
Brynn Myers
Publication date: August 22nd 2017
Genres: Adult, Paranormal, Thriller

She is the fated one I have been waiting for…

The crimson in her veins will restore me…

* * *

My desire for her burns like no other…

I must possess her…

Dare to touch her and you will be the one to suffer…

* * *

Nola Blair is a free-spirited photographer sent to cover the party of the century in Elizabeth Bathory’s ruined castle. It was an assignment she’d declined––twice, but when she was offered a hefty sum to indulge the wealthy eccentric, she finally gave in. Little did she know that the guests at this party were centuries old and their desires reached far beyond those of a normal partygoer.

One captivating night will change her life and the two vampires vying for her will fight to the death to get what they want. One wants her to be his and the other wants her blood.

Who will decide Nola’s fate?

Add to Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

Brynn Myers is an urban fantasy/paranormal romance author. After considering writing a hobby for years, she finally turned her passion and talent into a career. She came into the paranormal genre later than most but has always loved fairy-tales and all things magical. Using that love, she creates charmed worlds by writing stories involving passionate, strong willed characters with something to discover.

Brynn lives with her family in the Brevard County, Florida area.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

 

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Book Blitz, Excerpt, Teasers, and Giveaway: Untapped

 

Untapped
by Weston Parker
Publication date: March 28th 2017
Genres: Adult, Romance, Thriller

Some desires are better left uncovered…

Erik Bertinelli is the son of the vilest mob boss in all of New York’s underbelly. He’s the enforcer, the hitman for the syndicate, and the type of guy who doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty. His hideaway is as unconventional as they come… the New York Public Library.

With a thirst for knowledge and a grand getaway at his fingertips, he loses himself daily in the dusty tales of old. Life is too f*cked up most days of the week. Peace would be beyond welcomed.

Grace Adams desires more than anything to live fully alive, and yet, she’s doing just the opposite of that. She’s a librarian at the New York Public Library and spends her days wishing like hell that she could disappear into one of the romance novels she reads.

With an imagination that would shock her family and friends, she keeps to herself and lives in the colorful parts of her mind – alone. Untapped.

When the same deliciously dangerous alpha male keeps showing up between the bookshelves, her daydreams quickly dive into passion that feels too good to be true. The kind that could burn anyone involved. The kind she would do anything for. Maybe even kill…

Goodreads / Amazon

UNTAPPED4UNTAPPEDteaser

EXCERPT:

Grace

“It’s finally starting to get cold.” Thomas glanced over at me and smiled as we jogged side by side. His freckles were fading now that summer was gone, but a faint splattering of them was still there.

“This isn’t cold.” I snorted and reached up to tug at my ponytail as we ran past the University. The library rose up in the distance, and I felt a sense of belonging. I’d been working there for a while, and even though I had some difficulty with some of the staff, most of the people there liked me. And it was where I could find Erik.

“Hey. Did I lose you?” My brother reached over and tugged on my sleeve.

“Oh yeah, sorry. There’s this new guy at the library, and I think I’m going to ask him out.” I turned the corner and slowed for a minute as my lungs screamed for air.

“A new guy, hm?” He didn’t look too thrilled. “I don’t like it.”

“You’re my older brother, dimwit.” I stopped by a cement bench and dropped down to fix one of my tennis shoes. “You’re not supposed to like it.”

“When do I get to meet him?” Thomas ran in place as he scanned the lawn in front of us. His smile widened as he lifted his hand and waved. “Kara. Nancy. Hey girls. Looking good.”

“Oh brother.” I stood up and reached up to adjust my hair again as I turned to see who he was waving at. Cheerleaders. Had to be. Their shorts looked more like panties, and they were wearing sports bras. “There should be a dress code out here. That’s just offensive.”

He laughed. “Just because you dress like a Granny doesn’t mean you have the right to be ugly about other girls dressing their age.”

“Oh yeah?” I lifted my eyebrow and ran my hands down my long-sleeve t-shirt. “And you’d be okay with me wearing what they have on?”

“What?” His brow pulled tight. “Hell no. That’s not happening.”

“Right.” I rolled my eyes and started to jog away from him. “What did you want to talk about that we couldn’t talk at home where it was warm and cozy?”

“Mom and Dad were there, Grace.”

“You could have come by my apartment.” I glanced over at him, noticing the dark circles under his eyes now that I was really looking. He’d been a little on edge lately, but he was nearing his last senior semester at NYU. I assumed it had everything to do with that. What other stress could he have in his life? He was president of the largest fraternity on campus and everyone worshiped the ground he walked on.

Everyone but Jenna. I forced myself not to chuckle. My poor brother had been after my best friend for years, and Jenna was oblivious to it. Now he was too late. She was dating a hottie bad boy from the coffee shop where she worked.

“I hate going to your apartment.” He shook his head. “It’s embarrassing enough getting caught in a movie that has a sex scene with your little sister, but to go to her apartment and hear the perverts next door bonking every fifteen minutes is sick. No fucking way. Count me out.”

“They’re in love, Thomas. It’s cute.”

“Fucking all the time is cute?” He lifted his hand as he paled a little. “You know what? Don’t answer that. We’re good just talking out here.”

“Alright. Spill then.” I laughed as he gave me a ‘watch it’ look. My brother was a bit of a prude from what I knew, but we never really talked too much about our love lives. That was gross.

Love life. What a fucking joke. I’d never been tongue kissed by a guy, much less anything else. After my mother had Thomas when she was sixteen, she used a scare tactic to keep me a virgin, and it worked well.

I’d never been around anyone that left me wanting to defy her and my father and spread my legs anyways. Not until Erik Bertinelli. The thought of him left my heart racing, my body tightening. The things I wanted him to do to me were over the top, horrible, embarrassing.

UNTAPPEDteaser3redo

 

Author Bio:

Romance is a genre that is oftentimes written by women, but my novels give you the chance to see through the eyes of some of the men that perhaps you fantasize about, and the opportunity to read about passion from the other side for a change. Stories told about real relationships, legit problems and past experiences… unless you’re an ex, in which case any resemblance to women living or dead is merely a coincidence. 😉

My name is Weston. I’m a full time firefighter during the day, but I’m not here to put out any fires. I’m here to start them. Hope you enjoy my stories and feel free to reach out at any time. I love to flirt.

Website / Facebook / Twitter

Weston Parker Facebook Cover Art

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Everything You Want Me to Be: Deliciously Dramatic!

arcreview

Everything You Want Me to Be

Mystery/Thriller/Contemporary
352 Pages
Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Publication Date:  January 3rd, 2017
Get a copy here!

Full of twists and turns, Everything You Want Me to Be reconstructs a year in the life of a dangerously mesmerizing young woman, during which a small town’s darkest secrets come to the forefront…and she inches closer and closer to her death.

High school senior Hattie Hoffman has spent her whole life playing many parts: the good student, the good daughter, the good citizen. When she’s found brutally stabbed to death on the opening night of her high school play, the tragedy rips through the fabric of her small town community. Local sheriff Del Goodman, a family friend of the Hoffmans, vows to find her killer, but trying to solve her murder yields more questions than answers. It seems that Hattie’s acting talents ran far beyond the stage. Told from three points of view—Del, Hattie, and the new English teacher whose marriage is crumbling—Everything You Want Me to Be weaves the story of Hattie’s last school year and the events that drew her ever closer to her death.

Evocative and razor-sharp, Everything You Want Me to Be challenges you to test the lines between innocence and culpability, identity and deception. Does love lead to self-discovery—or destruction?

 

4.5Penguins
Quick Reasons: this is a haunting merry-go-round of mystery; I LOVELOVELOVE all the different viewpoints we’re treated to; the plot is deliciously dramatic and angsty; I honestly didn’t see that ending coming; this was a treat of a read!

Huge thanks to Mindy Mejia, Atria/Emily Bestler Books, and Netgalley for granting me free digital access to this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

 

eyw-quote1

This was SUCH a delicious dramatic, angsty treat to read, penguins! So let’s start with that–the plot. The plot for this is action-packed, laced through with tension, and unbelievably mysterious all at once. For someone who often figures out the ending long before the halfway mark….this book caught me up in a whirlwind of visceral emotions and total surprise. From page one, I was drawn in–to Hattie’s story, to the wonderful lure of the unknown. This book was an exciting, captivating journey!

 

The characters are wholly realistic, believably flawed, and so complex you’ll feel as if they’re in the same room with you instead of written down on a page. I really enjoyed that we were given several different viewpoints to fight through and learn from–and that the plot is not necessarily linear, but written in a series of present times and back-flashes. This helped to both bring the entire story together, and keep the mystery at a high par. I also really enjoyed how Mindy Mejia handled each of these perspectives; it’s clear, from the beginning, that she knew where she wanted this story to take readers…and she knew EXACTLY how to get us there without giving the important details away too soon.

EYW Quote2.png

This is the type of book you pick up expecting to read only a few chapters of at a time…and instead find yourself devouring. The pacing was spot-on, the tension was high and heart-pounding, and the characters all played their roles and brought readers closer to the answer without actually spoiling the journey. There were several moments I thought I knew EXACTLY where this story was headed…only to turn around and be proven totally wrong, and I love books (and authors) who manage to do that.

 

Overall, this was a treat to read from start to finish! The characters and plot were believable, the action was full of drama and angst, and I absolutely adored the multiple perspectives we were given insight to. I recommend this to lovers of murder mysteries, star-crossed lovers, and flawed but endearing personalities. If you like gritty stories with a ton of twists, you should pick this one up! As for me, I cannot WAIT to see what Mindy Mejia writes next!

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Book Blitz and Review: The Masterminds

olivia-wildenstein-the-mastermind-1-review-blitz

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
NA/Mystery

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
weeks).
Wildenstein lives with her husband and three
children in Geneva, Switzerland, where she’s an active member of the writing
community.
Author Links:

Buy Links:

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

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

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THE MASTERMINDS – CHAPTER
1
Brook
2 MONTHS PRIOR TO THE
SHOW
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.
“No.”
“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.
“What?”
“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.
“Tonight?”
“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.
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 Penguin2.3

3Penguins
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.

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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.

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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!

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7

Dark Water: Darkly Atmospheric, Hugely Satisfying

Penguin2.3

Dark Water

224 Pages
Mystery/Psychological Thriller
Nightingale Editions Publishing
Expected Publication Date: October 3rd, 2016
Get a copy here!

Friendship doesn’t die, it waits…

A haunting and lyrical novel, Dark Water is a psychologically intense portrait of adolescent yearning and obsession.

When Helena returns to her childhood home in Orkney, she is forced to face memories that she has spent half a lifetime running from. Her best friend, the charismatic Anastasia, disappeared after a swimming incident. But what really happened that night by the wrecks?

4.5Penguins
Quick Reasons: that ending changed literally everything!; unreliable 1st person narrator; interesting flip flop/use of 1st, 2nd, AND 3rd POV narrations; love the “Now and Then” feel this has; dark and atmospheric prose; realistic, flawed characters

First: HUGE thanks to Sara Bailey and Nightingale Editions Publishers for granting me early 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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Now, I’m going to do something just a little weird and work my way backwards in this review. Why? Because mystery, intrigue, all things chaotic! No, no, I kid. BUT THAT ENDING! The ending of this book literally changed everything. Don’t get all worked up–I promise to keep things spoiler-free, as always! I will, however, warn you: the first person POV? 100% unreliable. There are hints dropped early on that you won’t realize were even hints until you hit the last few paragraphs. Helena, our main character, will make you question her, will make you doubt her…and then will somehow, someway, sneak her way beneath your skin and force you to trust her at her word. The pieces come together, but they do so in a way you won’t be expecting.

 

That being said, this book is both weird and awesome in its use of perspective. 1st, 2nd, AND 3rd person POV are all used brilliantly. Seriously, I bow down to this author for putting it off and making it gorgeous at the same time–that is SUCH a challenging feat, and Sara Bailey made it seamless. The first few chapters were a bit confusing–it takes a moment to get used to the formatting and the perspective shifts. I also wasn’t entirely sure who the third person POV was until the very end, though this, of course, was the entire POINT of this POV. It all comes down to perspective, and the puzzle pieces dropped in these sections were meant to be jagged, to not all fit together, to throw readers off the trail.

 

The plot is, overall, a bit slower than I was expecting. There’s a sense of “Now and Then” (this is a movie, for those who don’t know it–it’s one of my favorites, go look it up!) in the way the plot jumps from present to past. It is in no way a linear progression, so if you aren’t a fan of cyclical or nonlinear prose, keep this in mind when considering picking this book up–it jumps around. A lot. For this particular book, it worked REALLY well for me personally–it always came back to that one defining moment. It always came back to the instant that changed everything for these characters.

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I am super happy to have been approached with the opportunity to read and review this title! Helena is the PERFECT example of an unreliable narrator, though she manages to fool even the readers through most of this journey. The shifts in perspective are both gorgeously done and, in some instances, unsettling in an enthralling, exciting way. I definitely recommend this to lovers of darkly atmospheric prose, characters with defining secrets, and mysteries that are a little slow in plot but hugely satisfying in answers. I will be keeping my eye out for Sara Bailey in the future. If this is a debut novel from her, I can’t wait to see what she does next!