Tag: netgalley

February 22, 2016

Review | The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows

Review | The Truth According to Us by Annie BarrowsThe Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows
Publisher: The Dial Press, June 2015
Pages: 486
Format: Ebook
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

In the summer of 1938, Layla Beck’s father, a United States senator, cuts off her allowance and demands that she find employment on the Federal Writers’ Project, a New Deal jobs program. Within days, Layla finds herself far from her accustomed social whirl, assigned to cover the history of the remote mill town of Macedonia, West Virginia, and destined, in her opinion, to go completely mad with boredom. But once she secures a room in the home of the unconventional Romeyn family, she is drawn into their complex world and soon discovers that the truth of the town is entangled in the thorny past of the Romeyn dynasty.
At the Romeyn house, twelve-year-old Willa is desperate to learn everything in her quest to acquire her favorite virtues of ferocity and devotion—a search that leads her into a thicket of mysteries, including the questionable business that occupies her charismatic father and the reason her adored aunt Jottie remains unmarried. Layla’s arrival strikes a match to the family veneer, bringing to light buried secrets that will tell a new tale about the Romeyns. As Willa peels back the layers of her family’s past, and Layla delves deeper into town legend, everyone involved is transformed—and their personal histories completely rewritten.

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Remember that old saying “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover”? Annie Barrows explores the truth hidden under the surface in a small town in 1938 West Virginia. When Layla Beck arrives in Macedonia under orders from her family to help the Federal Writers’s Project write the town’s history to stay with the Romeyn family, she has no idea what she’s about to uncover.

Barrows tells The Truth According to Us with multiple narratives, switching between 12-year-old Willa, her aunt Jottie, and Layla herself. It took me a while to get used to the multiple narrative, but once I did, it was incredible. Willa’s narrative was caught between the young girl desperate to win her dad’s attention and the developing young woman, a mix of innocence and attempt at worldliness that fascinated me. Jottie’s perspective was a little more intriguing – she tries to hold the family together by putting her own life on hold. The own disasters in her past have made it hard for her to move forward, and therefore creating one of the most sympathetic characters I’ve read in a long time.

Each character tries to hold onto their own sense of reality/truth. Jottie ignores her brother Felix’s actions, Felix in turn ignores the struggle he’s putting his own family through. The only one who can see what’s truly happening in the family and town itself is Emmett, Jottie and Felix’s brother. His journey from the mild-mannered minor character to major player in the plot is one of the most fascinating character journeys.

I loved how each plot point and event in The Truth brought the story closer to revealing what really happened to in Macedonia’s factory fire all those years ago. It felt like the more the Romeyns pushed it away, the more it came into the light.

There were portions of the story that slogged a bit. Some of the letters and history chapters didn’t have the same power as the character narratives. Although they set the tone for Layla’s work, they rarely moved the story forward.

The Truth According to Us is an intriguing historical fiction read, delving in to exactly what happens when we stop judging the book by its cover and look inside.

4 Stars

Posted February 22, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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January 15, 2016

Review | Spelled by Betsy Schow

Review | Spelled by Betsy SchowSpelled by Betsy Schow
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire, June 2015
Pages: 345
Format: Ebook
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Fairy Tale Survival Rule #32: If you find yourself at the mercy of a wicked witch, sing a romantic ballad and wait for your Prince Charming to save the day.
Yeah, no thanks. Dorthea is completely princed out. Sure being the crown princess of Emerald has its perks—like Glenda Original ball gowns and Hans Christian Louboutin heels. But a forced marriage to the brooding prince Kato is so not what Dorthea had in mind for her enchanted future.
Talk about unhappily ever after.
Trying to fix her prince problem by wishing on a (cursed) star royally backfires, leaving the kingdom in chaos and her parents stuck in some place called "Kansas." Now it's up to Dorthea and her pixed off prince to find the mysterious Wizard of Oz and undo the curse...before it releases the wickedest witch of all and spells The End for the world of Story.

What happens if you made a wish…and it came true? Princess Dorthea, crown princess of Emerald finds out, rather harshly, exactly what happens with careless wishing. She has the fairy tale life on the outside – gorgeous clothes, doting parents, even a godmother of sorts (although she’s a witch instead of a fairy) – with one exception. Due to a ages-old curse, she can’t go outside, lest she set the world on fire. 

I loved the premise, but received a nasty shock when I started the book: Dorthea is a brat. She’s whiny, impatient, self-centered, and every other negative characteristic of a spoiled teenage girl. Although Schow indicates she’s in her late teens, her attitude reminded me more of a thirteen-year-old. 

I’ll admit, it was a battle to keep reading with such an unlikable character. It was hard to find sympathetic characteristics, and there were a few points where I had to take a break from her. 

Luckily, Dorthea’s journey from the bratty child to the slightly-more poised princess at the end of the story redeems her, but I couldn’t quite shake it off. I think Schow created her immaturity in the beginning to make a starting point from her character journey, but not quite as unlikable would have made a big difference. 

My only other issue with the story is the odd slang. To create Dorthea’s world, Schow created a slang, using words like “pixed” instead of “pissed”…you get the idea. Truly, I would have done better with the regular slang. 

On to the good parts: Schow does a wonderful job of pulling in different fairy tales. Beauty, her Beast, Cinderella and more make cameos in Spelled, pulling together the different pieces of popular fairy tales together well. (My favorite was the parts inspired by Oz.) Schow builds on the mythology of well-loved fairy tales and lets the characters play out their own fates. 

Spelled is truly a mixed bag. There are some fantastic fairy tale elements, but two other elements make falling in love with the story a little difficult.

3 Stars

Posted January 15, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 1 Comment
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May 1, 2015

Review | At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

Title: At the Water’s Edge
Author: Sara Gruen
Publication Date: March 2015
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Source & Format: Netgalley; ebook
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes  & Noble

After embarrassing themselves at the social event of the year in high society Philadelphia on New Year’s Eve of 1942, Maddie and Ellis Hyde are cut off financially by Ellis’s father, a former army Colonel who is already embarrassed by his son’s inability to serve in WWII due to his being colorblind. To Maddie’s horror, Ellis decides that the only way to regain his father’s favor is to succeed in a venture his father attempted and very publicly failed at: he will hunt the famous Loch Ness monster and when he finds it he will restore his father’s name and return to his father’s good graces (and pocketbook). Joined by their friend Hank, a wealthy socialite, the three make their way to Scotland in the midst of war. Each day the two men go off to hunt the monster, while another monster, Hitler, is devastating Europe. And Maddie, now alone in a foreign country, must begin to figure out who she is and what she wants. The novel tells of Maddie’s social awakening: to the harsh realities of life, to the beauties of nature, to a connection with forces larger than herself, to female friendship, and finally, to love. 

When I saw that Gruen’s book was blurbed as a “Scottish Downton Abbey,” I knew I had to read it. Everything about At the Water’s Edge called my name, from the book’s description to the gorgeous cover and typography title. 

I liked Maddie, but for the good first half of the novel, it was hard to identify with her, or any of the other characters, for that matter. They lived in a world so far removed from my own that the chasm between us felt impossible to cross. Even after Maddie and Ellis lose their home and leave to explore Scotland with Hank, there was an air of entitlement. Both men are rejected from the military for different reasons and live with a forced bravado, one they wear as a shield in the harsh environment in the first world war. Hank and Ellis lived as rich playboys, no thought or care in the world except their own.

Maddie had flashes of clarity, but for the most part, she went along with their hare-brained schemes. When she had a change of heart and finally opened her eyes, I found the heroine I had been searching for. She developed into her own person instead of the pretty shell she had been with Ellis and Hank. 

Although I didn’t immediately understand the initial opening scenes with Mairi, I loved how her story connected with Maddie’s. Although horribly heartbreaking, Mairi’s scenes not only set the tone for the story, but the metaphors and the story’s arc. Gruen’s work opens with great emotion and closes the same way. 

I expected Gruen’s work to be a romance, but she surprised me. Instead of focusing on the romance, At the Water’s Edge is the story of a woman coming into her own, finding herself, and learning how to stand up for herself. The romance was just the cherry on top.

Posted May 1, 2015 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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September 23, 2014

Review | Personal by Lee Child

Title: Personal
Author: Lee Child {website}
Publication Date: September 2014
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Series: Jack Reacher {Book 19} 
Source & Format: Netgalley; ebook
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Jack Reacher walks alone. Once a go-to hard man in the US military police, now he’s a drifter of no fixed abode. But the army tracks him down. Because someone has taken a long-range shot at the French president.

Only one man could have done it. And Reacher is the one man who can find him.

This new heartstopping, nailbiting book in Lee Child’s number-one bestselling series takes Reacher across the Atlantic to Paris – and then to London. The stakes have never been higher – because this time, it’s personal.

I had really high hopes for Lee Child’s Personal. One of my coworkers has been telling me for years to try the Jack Reacher series, so when I saw the newest available on Netgalley, I jumped. I expect heart-pounding action, thrilling fight sequences a la The Bourne Identity, and some snappy dialogue.

There was none of that. 

Thinking it over now, maybe it was a mistake for me to just jump in the series without trying to start at the beginning. I hoped that the Jack Reacher series would be a lot of like the J.D. Robb In Death series (I didn’t start at the beginning there) and I could read out of order. However, Child builds off of previous character development and events without going into much detail, leaving me feeling a little bereft and missing out on a lot of the character’s development. 

I never connected with Reacher. His first person narration didn’t provide any insight into his mind, his emotions; he felt almost robotic. At times, I forgot who was talking because he (and others) so rarely referred to himself. Looking at his stats, he felt like he should be an interesting character, but when it came down to the execution of it, he was as flat as the page. 

The story’s premise and execution of the plot fell along the same lines as its main character. It sounded interesting, it had promise, but in the midst of it all, I got bored. There was no tension, nothing to grab on to in order to keep me engaged. I stopped reading today to go run a few errands and, standing in line at the grocery store, I couldn’t remember what was happening. Personal felt the opposite of personal; flat and uninspired. 

What really did it for me was the writing. Child had Reacher tell us, instead of show us. Instead of describing the action as it happened, it had to filter through Reacher’s thoughts, a process that dramatically slowed down what could have been some pretty cool scenes. Instead, they were dull and full of sentences starting with “I said…”, “I did…”, “I”, “I”, “I”. 

Child’s first Reacher novel, Killing Floor, is on my bookshelf, waiting to be read. There was enough promise here for me to still be curious enough to read it. Maybe that book is what I need to bring Personal into perspective.


Posted September 23, 2014 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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September 8, 2014

Review | All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes by Betsy St. Amant

Title: All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes
Author: Betsy St. Amant {website}
Publication Date: September 2014
Publisher: Zondervan Books
Source & Format: Netgalley; ebook
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Kat inspected rows of the same old cupcakes. They seemed to blink back at her, as if they knew she was capable of so much more.

Kat Varland has had enough of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.

At twenty-six years old, Kat is still living in the shadows of her family in Bayou Bend, Louisiana. Still working shifts at her Aunt Maggie s bakery. Still wondering what to do with her passion for baking and her business degree. And still single.

But when Lucas Brannen, Kats best friend, signs her up for a reality TV bake-off on Cupcake Combat, everything Kat ever wanted is suddenly dangled in front of her: creative license as a baker, recognition as a visionary . . . and a job at a famous bakery in New York.

As the competition heats up, Lucas realizes he might have made a huge mistake. As much as he wants the best for Kat, the only thing he wants for himself her is suddenly in danger of slipping away.

The bright lights of reality cooking wars and the chance at a successful career dazzle Kats senses and Lucas is faced with a difficult choice: help his friend achieve her dreams . . . or sabotage her chances to keep her in Louisiana.

I rarely read Christian/religious books, especially the romances. I don’t have anything against the subgenre, but it throws me off when the characters start quoting the Bible. (Again, I have nothing against quoting the Bible, but it just don’t work for me, personally, in novels.) When I requested St. Amant’s All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes, I had no idea I was requesting a Christian romance novel. I will admit there was a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when I read the first pages and found the cited Bible verses. 

I’m so glad I decided to read on. 

This is a Christian romance like none I’ve ever read before. I tend to feel a little uncomfortable with Bible verses in romances, but St. Amant wove the characters so seamlessly that their religious references made perfect sense. It was practical use of Bible quotes and Christian teachings, instead of the hidden sermons within the text that make me feel awkward. 

I enjoyed both Kat and Lucas and loved how St. Amant used the dual narration to show each character’s full personality. Using a dual first person limited narration can backfire in a romance, but I loved how it built up the tension between the two of them. It helped me learn their passions, their motives…them. 

All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes isn’t only a romantic journey; it’s a personal one, especially for Kat. She’s stuck in that post-grad zone, with big dreams but no idea how to make them happen. Her predicament struck a chord with me personally, and I felt all the more invested in her. 

The plot itself was good, but didn’t provide enough to keep the pacing up. When Lucas and Kat are in L.A., too often the pages were logged down with their thoughts and inner monologues, which slowed down the novel’s pace dramatically. I would have liked some more of the show to be featured, or maybe Kat’s recipes…a call from home…something to break up the inner monologue between the two torn lovers. 

I’m a goner for a good romance, and All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes is created on one. I loved the friends-turned-more aspect of the novel, and especially the cupcakes. Who doesn’t love cupcakes?


Posted September 8, 2014 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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August 28, 2014

Review | Salt & Storm by Kendall Krulper

Title: Salt & Storm
Author: Kendall Kulper {website}
Publication Date: September 2014
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Source & Format: Netgalley; ebook
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island’s whalers safe at sea, but her mother has forced her into a magic-free world of proper manners and respectability. When Avery dreams she’s to be murdered, she knows time is running out to unlock her magic and save herself.

Avery finds an unexpected ally in a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane–a sailor with magic of his own, who moves Avery in ways she never expected. Becoming a witch might stop her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers her magic requires a sacrifice she never prepared for.

I will probably never be tired of books about witches, magic or small towns. Growing up a romantic in a small town in Texas has made these books my favorites. When all three are combined together as they are in Kulper’s Salt & Storm, I’m in heaven. 

Avery herself was a fascinating character. Her memories and heartfelt desire to be the next Roe witch of Prince Island created a memorable motivation within her character. Her every thought and movement was connected back to the dream of succeeding her grandmother in the role of the sea witch, a trait that could have easily been overdone. Instead, it reminded me of youthful innocence and determination to reach dreams. Her determination to escape her mother’s household and return to her grandmother’s little grey cottage on the sea built the basis for Salt & Storm‘s plot. 

I loved the character-driven plot: the relationship between Avery and her mother, the town’s relationship with the Roe witches, and Avery’s own determination made for a fantastic story. The only downfall? The romance didn’t do anything for me. 

Althought Tane’s story was heart-breaking in it’s own right, I never felt connected to him like I was to Avery. His entire story was filtered through Avery’s narration, a characteristic that typically doesn’t bother me, but I couldn’t hear him over Avery’s thoughts. When the two characters fell in love, I felt like I’d missed an entire section of the book. The romance them bloomed into something without life and verve; there was no passion to make it memorable.

The problem really lies with Avery’s first person narration. As a character, she’s fascinating. As a narrator, she overwhelms all of the other characters. Avery is so focused on her own dreams that she becomes an almost unreliable narrator; there are so few descriptions of the other characters in the book (beside her mother, but she is only defined by her scar and her black hair) that it was hard to imagine the story in my mind. Avery’s narration also told me as a reader what had happened, how I should be feeling, instead of showing me what happened, making me feel that way. I didn’t become truly invested in the novel until the 70% mark when Avery’s personal thoughts take a backseat to the action. 


– Strong female character! Loved the depths.
– Magic, ocean, and youthful dreams. What more could you want?
– Narration overpowered the story to where the other characters were drowned out.
– Flat romance

Posted August 28, 2014 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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July 14, 2014

Review | The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant by Joanna Wiebe

Title: The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant
Author: Joanna Wiebe {website}
Publication Date: January 2014
Publisher: BenBella Books
Series: The V Trilogy {Book 1}
Source & Format: Netgalley; ebook
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

So many secrets for such a small island. From the moment Anne Merchant arrives at Cania Christy, a boarding school for the world’s wealthiest teens, the hushed truths of this strange, unfamiliar land begin calling to her—sometimes as lulling drumbeats in the night, sometimes as piercing shrieks.

One by one, unanswered questions rise. No one will tell her why a line is painted across the island or why she is forbidden to cross it. Her every move—even her performance at the school dance—is graded as part of a competition to become valedictorian, a title that brings rewards no one will talk about. And Anne discovers that the parents of her peers surrender million-dollar possessions to enroll their kids in Cania Christy, leaving her to wonder what her lowly funeral director father could have paid to get her in… and why.

As a beautiful senior struggles to help Anne make sense of this cloak-and-dagger world without breaking the rules that bind him, she must summon the courage to face the impossible truth—and change it—before she and everyone she loves is destroyed by it.

There’s something about that creepy, gothic atmosphere that always gets to me. The mystery, the mystic, of a secret calls to me from the beginning of such a book, and then, well, I’ve GOT to read it. The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant by Joanna Wiebe called to me from my Netgalley screen. 

Anne Merchant is the type of heroine I adore. She doesn’t take anything for granted, refusing to accept the easy answer when her intuition tells her there’s another one, hidden deeper. Her artistic nature forces her to question what her eyes see, making for a very analytical heroine to explore the strangest school I’ve ever heard of. 

Anne is somewhat of a sympathetic character right off the bat: she’s in an unfamiliar place with pieces of her memory missing, trying to regain her ground after her mother’s suicide. I did feel a connection with her as the book began, but as the story unfolded, it started to fluctuate. 

Why did it fluctuate? Ah, good question. Everyone at Cania Christy fell into a bit of a stereotype. There were the requisite “mean girls” (Harper and company). The “nice girl,” “the joker” (Pilot), the “emo kid” (there are two, actually), the “older, good-looking guy” (Ben), and the “evil master” (Villicus). Simply, I got a too little distracted by the characterizations to focus on Anne herself. 

The world-building in Cania Christy, however, was fantastic. I loved that creepy feeling that crept along my spine as I followed Anne through Cania Christy. The reactions of the villagers, the strange red line, and the role of Anne’s Guardian, Teddy all contributed to one of the most interesting fantasy/contemporary worlds I’ve read this year

I have a bit of gripe with the plot. First, I adored the crazy scenes in the end (I don’t think I’ve ever pressed “Next Page” on my Kindle so quickly), but the early scenes in the school drove me a little batty. Anne was the kid who wasn’t in on the secret and the constant aloof hints and strange references drove me (and her) a little batty. For a while, this attitude contributed to the uncanny motif that ran throughout The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant, but when it continued past the halfway point, it felt like overkill. 

Past the halfway point, I loved the revelation of the secrets, the characters’ revelations of their true natures, the strange journey Anne takes, and the major plot twists. The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant was an original novel and one that I liked. I hope the second installment makes me fall in love. 


– good heroine
– loved the world-building
– pacing was off in a few places
– characterizations were a little too stereotypical

YA fantasy and paranormal lovers

Posted July 14, 2014 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 1 Comment
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May 12, 2014

Did Not Finish | Blossom Street Brides by Debbie Macomber

Title: Blossom Street Brides
Author: Debbie Macomber
Publication Date: March 2014
Publisher: Ballatine Books
Source & Format: Netgalley; ebook
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Lauren Elliott has waited years for her long-term boyfriend, Todd, to propose, yet he seems more focused on his career than their relationship. When Lauren learns that her younger sister is pregnant before she herself even has an engagement ring, she feels overjoyed yet disheartened. Knowing she can’t put her future on hold, Lauren prepares to make a bold choice—one that leads her to a man she never dreamed she’d meet.
Newly married to her second husband, Max, Bethanne Scranton is blissfully in love. But with Max’s job in California and Bethanne’s in Seattle, their long-distance marriage is becoming difficult to maintain. To complicate matters, Bethanne’s cunning ex will do anything to win her back.
Lydia Goetz, too, is wonderfully happy with her husband, Brad, though lately she worries about the future of A Good Yarn. As she considers how to bring in business, she discovers that someone has beaten her to the punch. Baskets of yarn are mysteriously popping up all over town, with instructions to knit a scarf for charity and bring it into Lydia’s store. Never before has her shop received so much attention, but who hatched this brilliant plan?
As three women’s lives intersect in unexpected ways, Lydia, Lauren, and Bethanne realize that love heals every heart, and the best surprises still lay ahead.

I haven’t marked a book DNF in over a year.

This is a bit terrifying. 

I feel a bit bad…but I couldn’t stand it anymore. Blossom Street Brides was one of the most irritatingly dull books I’ve read in recent history. I made it to 54%, wondering when on earth it would be over

I’m going to skip a more traditional review of this book because I simply want to tear this page out of my review notebook and pretend I never saw this book in my life. In short:

The characters, obviously from a series, were bland, irritating and predictable. The opening scene details Lauren, one of the heroines, stewing jealously over the fact her sister is having a baby before her. Seriously? I’m supposed to cheer for a woman who can’t be happy for her sister? No. The constant reminders of Lauren’s job at the jeweler’s drove me nuts. Bethanne’s relationships were just a mess. A long-distance marriage? Who saw trouble coming there? (Raises hand.) Lydia was the only one that was somewhat likable, but her character simply sank into the background. I forgot her name on more than one occasion. Blossom Street Brides was frustratingly predictable; to me, there’s a difference between following a series (like the Stephanie Plum or In Death series, both which I love) which has a tendency to be predictable and…this. There was no emotion or love from the author into the characters; they never came alive. The plot was overloaded, overworked, and simply boring. Instead of using her characters to show us their feelings and emotions, the narration reverts to the author’s worst nightmare: telling instead of showing. The  writing was flat, cardboard, and listless. The romance was dull and flat.

I hate to say I’m done with an author, but I will not be reading any more of Debbie Macomber’s work. I did enjoy her Starry Night novel late last year, but Blossom Street Brides just left a bad taste.  

Posted May 12, 2014 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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May 5, 2014

Review | The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. Carleson

Title: The Tyrant’s Daughter
Author: J.C. Carleson
Publication Date: February 2014
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Source & Format: Netgalley; ebook
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble 

From a former CIA officer comes the riveting account of a royal Middle Eastern family exiled to the American suburbs

When her father is killed in a coup, 15-year-old Laila flees from the war-torn middle east to a life of exile and anonymity in the U.S. Gradually she adjusts to a new school, new friends, and a new culture, but while Laila sees opportunity in her new life, her mother is focused on the past. She’s conspiring with CIA operatives and rebel factions to regain the throne their family lost. Laila can’t bear to stand still as an international crisis takes shape around her, but how can one girl stop a conflict that spans generations? 

J.C. Carleson delivers a fascinating account of a girl—and a country—on the brink, and a rare glimpse at the personal side of international politics.


I made a friend my freshman year in high school who had just arrived from Lebanon. We immediately bonded; she has this bright, vibrant personalty that draws people to her like a magnet. As I read Laila’s transition to the American world of suburban dramas and high school, I remembered describing American slang and translating some of the more unusual phrases.

Laila was a pleasant surprise; her past has forced her to grow quickly beyond her teenage years in many ways. Laila’s journey from the somewhat sheltered girl in her country to new girl in the American high school was at once endearing and eye-opening. Her determination to see the truth in her new peers constantly fascinated me; she didn’t try to see the best in them, but simply who they were at heart. Watching the war within herself – keep true to the ways of her country or adopt the culture of her new home – was fascinating, especially when it formed into the characters of Amir and Ian. 


Laila’s personal journey was the plot element that grabbed my attention the most: it was a situation I have rarely considered, and to see the world I know so well from her perspective made me think

My only complaint: I found it rather strange that Laila’s father’s death didn’t affect her more. Her memories show a close relationship with her father, but the story focuses on her relationship with her mother (intriguing in its own right), and her adaption to American culture; her father’s death made little impact on her. 

I loved the political side of the plot. It elevated this YA story above and beyond my expectations and kept all the characters busy with their own motives within the political realm. This particular plot element wove with Laila’s journey, making her (and me) realize that she isn’t quite as worldly as we both originally thought.


The Tyrant’s Daughter is told from a vibrant, first person narrative. Carleson made sure that we knew the others’ characters motives as often as possible, painting a whole picture of the plot (which can be tricky with a first person POV). The writing was vibrant and engaging – I read the book in one night. 


 A must read. I loved Carleson’s The Tyrant’s Daughter. It’s an unusual YA book, but tops my list of must reads for young adults because of its message of finding oneself and Laila’s story is one for all. 

Posted May 5, 2014 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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March 29, 2014

Review: Four Seconds to Lose by K.A. Tucker

Title: Four Seconds to Lose 
Author: K.A. Tucker {website}
Publication Date: November 2013
Publisher: Atria Books
Series: Ten Tiny Breaths {Book 3} 
Source & Format: Netgalley; ebook
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

When a gorgeous young dancer walks through his door, a strip club owner must decide whether to follow his rules or his heart in the third novel by the author of One Tiny Lie and Ten Tiny Breaths.

Owning a strip club isn’t the fantasy most guys expect it to be. With long hours, a staff with enough issues to keep a psych ward in business, and the police regularly on his case, twenty-nine-year-old Cain is starting to second guess his unspoken mission to save the women he employs. And then blond, brown-eyed Charlie Rourke walks through his door, and things get really complicated. Cain abides by a strict “no sleeping with the staff” rule. But being around Charlie challenges Cain’s self-control…and it’s been a long time since any woman has done that. 

Twenty-two-year-old Charlie Rourke needs a lot of money, really fast, in order to vanish before it’s too late. Taking her clothes off for men makes her stomach curl but Charlie tells herself that at least she’s putting her acting and dancing skills to good use. And though her fellow dancers seem eager to nab their sexy, sophisticated, and genuinely caring boss, she’s not interested. After all, Charlie Rourke doesn’t really exist—and the girl pretending to be her can’t get distracted by romance.

Unfortunately, Charlie soon discovers that developing feelings for Cain is inevitable, and that those feelings may not be unrequited—but losing him when he finds out what she’s involved with will be more painful than any other sentence awaiting her.


I fell in love with Tucker’s work in Ten Tiny Breaths and One Tiny Lie. Four Seconds to Lose goes above and beyond the bar set by these amazing earlier novels. From the characters to the plot to the romance…I stayed up all night to finish this book.


Charlie is extraordinarily observant, a talent that has kept her alive in many situations in her past. She had the qualities of a fairy-tale princess: gorgeous, strong, and in love and in trouble. I loved Charlie’s character because she became the damsel-in-distress that saved herself. Instead of discovering the trouble on her doorstep and struggling to discover how to fix it, we meet Charlie and immediately learn about the danger she faces. Instead of waiting for someone to save her (the white knight), Charlie is devising a plan to save herself.

Cain is the epitome of the self-made man. His character is a combination of confidence and weakness that is irresistible. I loved the many layers of this man: can’t let himself forget the past, supports his own employees like another would his family, and is trying to not fall madly in love with Charlie. His history might have made him, but his presence defines him. That mysterious quality kept me coming back for more. 


The plot of Four Seconds to Lose is heavily character-driven, like the rest of the Ten Tiny Breaths series. The entire story balances on Cain, Charlie, and the many emotions the two of them carry between them. With so much resting on these two characters, the plot could have been a disaster, but it was incredible. The constant romantic tension between Cain and Charlie supported the entire story, bringing in the side plots to play a part as well. 

Both of the main characters faced off with an outside force of sorts, but Charlie’s was the most terrifying. I won’t include too much here because I don’t want any spoilers. Let’s just say that Charlie’s battle against her foe kept me on the edge of my seat. This particular battle forced Charlie to grow in ways that she might not have been able to otherwise; without it, she would have been an interesting character still, but the depth wouldn’t have been there.

In the entire Ten Tiny Breaths series, Tucker focuses on the importance of family. Sure, the romance is amazing, breathtaking, gorgeous (pick a word), but the themes of family are what keeps me coming back each time. All of the characters in their own stories are lost in some way, needing a support system. As each book progresses, they’ve created a family to love and support each other.

I can’t leave this section without talking about the romance. Oh my, the feels in this book were astonishing. Having read two of Tucker’s work previously, I didn’t think she could surprise me, but the romance between Charlie and Cain knocked my socks off. 


I enjoyed the dual narration between Charlie and Cain. Being able to see the story through each character’s perception made the story and the tension more intense. The dual narration let the character’s individual motives and emotions become fleshed out even more, letting me as a reader get to know the characters.


I’m in love. At the end of the day, I am in love with Four Seconds to Lose. It’s a great book for romantics, readers looking to move away from YA romance to something a little more intense, and the contemporary reader. Tucker’s writing style is fresh and engaging, her characters vibrant and memorable, and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.  

Posted March 29, 2014 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 1 Comment
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