Hidden Among the Stars by Melanie Dobson

Publication Date: September 4th, 2018

Rating: 4 ½ Stars

A beautiful historical romance reminiscent of Monuments Men and The Woman in Gold, telling the tale of tragedies faced during WWII and the lost treasures of those taken by the Nazi’s. Max, Callie, Luzia and Annika each provide narration in this time-slip novel as the reader is transported from present day, in Callie’s bookshop, to the horrors of the German invasion of Austria in 1938, and the persecution of Jews.

Love, loss, family and identity are all conveyed beautifully within this engaging and heart wrenching read. Author, Melanie Dobson, provides a unique take on love in war and the sacrifices families and love ones took to protect one another. While the horrors and representations of WWII were not unfamiliar, the way Dobson portrayed the relationships and so eloquently tied them back to present day, drew the reader further into this story. Hidden Among the Stars even had a few twists you won’t see coming.

As an added caveat, I loved that the story tied to the here and now through a book in Callie’s possession. It played stunningly in making this read come full circle. Very well done.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher, but all opinions are my own.

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Two Reviews: From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein & November Road by Lou Berney

From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein

Publication Date: July 10th, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Recently, the New York Times described this book as being “equal parts C-Span and Sex in the City,” and while I’ve been trying to put this review out of my head I can’t honestly think of a more fitting description for this book (I guess that’s why they get paid the big bucks to be NY Times writers). I picked up this book on a whim looking to inject some non-fiction in my recent reading streak and while I often describe myself as an unlucky person, luck was on my side the day I chose to read this one.

Author, Beck Dorey-Stein, begins this memoir as a 20-something D.C. graduate fighting to find a job in a sea of sharks. She effortlessly humors the readers as she describes the HORRID scene that is networking in D.C. Fast forward in her frantic search for jobs as she applies to a Craigslist Stenographer position that lands her in the Obama White House. As if this isn’t cool enough she spends the rest of this read describing her illicit tryst with a fellow staffer, White House travelling experiences and personal encounters with President Obama.

It is no surprise this book quickly climbed the ranks to bestseller. Obama fan or not this was an enthralling read. Although, in full transparency, while this is by no means a “political” read Dorey-Stein does fan-girl A LOT towards Obama & Co.

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review.


November Road by Lou Berney

Publication Date: October 9th, 2018

Rating: 2.45 Stars

Described as being “set against the assassination of JFK,” I was expecting more of a historical fiction within the pages of this book. However, I quickly discovered this was not the premise of November Road, but rather happens to be the period in which this book takes place.

Frank is a “gangster” tasked with parking a stolen car in a Dallas Parking Lot, after the assassination of JFK he quickly realizes his role and begins life on the run from his mob boss, Carlos Marcello. Charlotte is a wife and mother of two. One night, she decides to leave her alcoholic husband and hits the road. Frank and Charlotte cross paths as the story of love in unlikely places unfolds.

Had the stage not been set for a JFK assassination/mob type book I may have been more receptive to the budding romance within. But, the writing felt forced as Berney injected colorful characters in an attempt to continually remind the reader of the mob influence and foundation of Frank’s story. Conversely, despite Charlotte’s emotionally grabbing backstory, she failed to resonate with me and quickly became an unlikeable character creation.

Just be warned as you embark on reading this novel (should you chose to read it) that it is not a JFK assassination conspiracy, but rather an unexpected romance in the midst of escape.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Blog Tour: To Be Honest by Maggie Ann Martin

Published by: Swoon Reads

Publication date: August 21st 2018

Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult

Overview

Savannah is dreading being home alone with her overbearing mother after her sister goes off to college. But if she can just get through senior year, she’ll be able to escape to college, too. What she doesn’t count on is that her mother’s obsession with weight has only grown deeper since her appearance on an extreme weight-loss show, and now Savvy’s mom is pressuring her even harder to be constantly mindful of what she eats.

Between her mom’s diet-helicoptering, missing her sister, and worrying about her collegiate future, Savvy has enough to worry about. And then she meets George, the cute new kid at school who has insecurities of his own. As Savvy and George grow closer, they help each other discover how to live in the moment and enjoy the here and now before it disappears.


About the Author

Maggie Ann Martin hails from Des Moines, Iowa but moonlights as a New Yorker. She has a shiny new BA in English and Journalism from the University of Iowa, the most welcoming literary community in the world. When she is not writing, you can find her binge-watching TV shows or passionately fangirling over fictional characters on the Internet. The Big F is her debut novel.

Website Goodreads Facebook Twitter


Review

Rating: 3 Stars

I was immediately drawn to this book when I saw author, Maggie Martin, is not only an Iowa native but also a graduate from the University of Iowa. Admittedly, I have not read her debut novel The Big F, however given the incredible talent Martin possesses for capturing the high school female emotions and fears in her newest novel, To Be Honest, I imagine her first is just as enjoyable.

To Be Honest covers some heavy ground, literally and figuratively. Savannah, or Savvy as her friends call her, is struggling with her body image obsessed mom, her parent’s divorce, her sister leaving home to start college, and a boy who may or may not like her. All of Savvy’s struggles are relatable in one way or another and perfectly portray fears we as readers have likely felt at some point.

While this book lacked the shocking plots, and twisted turns I am used to, it was steadily enjoyable, as evidenced by the fact I stayed up finishing it in one day. Its hook is the emotional connectedness you feel to the characters; the shyness of George, the steadfast determination of Savvy’s mom and even the tightrope her sister is forced to walk as she mends the peace at home while trying to fit into college. You may even feel a little better about your own body, your own fears and your own hesitations after reading this, I know I did.

Enter for a chance to win: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/d04251232590/

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by Xpresso Book Tours, in exchange for an honest review.

Two Reviews: Nobody Cares by Anne T. Donahue & An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

Nobody Cares by Anne T. Donahue

Publication Date: September 18th, 2018

Rating: 4 Stars

In this series of essays Anne T. Donahue entertains us with stories of work, school, failure, motivation and so much more. Immediately, her writing puts you at ease. Rather than reading this non-fiction curled up in bed, you are transported to a *bar* (or other such *fun* atmosphere) as you hysterically laugh at Donahue’s encounters, failures and attempts at “adulting.”

Canadian or not, Nobody Cares summarizes experiences we’ve all faced, but rather than looking back with bitterness, this work of art shows us the hilarity of growing up. One cannot help but connect with the struggles entangled in the essays within, similar in nature to that which Lincee Ray gives us in Why I Hate Green Beans.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by ECW Press, in exchange for an honest review.


An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

Publication Date: January 8th, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Jessica Farris finds herself entering a psychology study on ethics and morality conducted by Dr. Shields that promises generous compensation as a reward for participation. But, upon advancing beyond the INTENSE questionnaire portion she begins to wonder how far she is willing to go. Is the manipulative nature of her tasks too much? What are the ethical and moral issues Dr. Shields is working to uncover?

When a duo of authors such as Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen combine to create a book like the masterpiece that was The Wife Between Us one can’t help but assume “maybe it was a one hit wonder.” But then, you find yourself engrossed in their upcoming An Anonymous Girl and you can’t help but KNOW you may have stumbled upon a pair of super heroes better than even Batman and Robin. These two are clearly unstoppable as they create another sure hit in this one!

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Lakes of Mars by Merritt Graves

Publication Date: September 2018

Rating: 3 ¾ Stars

Merritt Graves is new to the book scene with this, Lakes of Mars, as his debut novel. However, this is not Graves’ first rodeo in writing as a longtime member of the band, Trapdoor Social. In fact, this novel is unique in that he’s created an accompanying sound track to complement the read, which can be found at https://soundcloud.com/trapdoorsocial/sets/the-lakes-of-mars-soundtrack.

Lakes of Mars is narrated by Aaron Sheridan. Aaron has just joined the Fleet in hopes of being placed in the most dangerous deployment zone, the Rim War. Instead, he is sent to the elite Corinth Station to train and enhance his flight skills. The ensuing story sets the stage for what promises to be an action-packed series.

This book is best described as an emotionally charged Ender’s Game as Graves equips us with more fight scenes, charged relationships and battle training on steroids. We are entertained with Aaron’s infatuation for Eve and his loveable “nerdy sidekick,” Sebastian. Buckle up as Graves seems to just be getting warmed up.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Two Reviews: Golden Hour by Chantel Guertin & A Daring Venture (Empire State #2) by Elizabeth Camden

Golden Hour by Chantel Guertin

Publication Date: May 22nd, 2018

Rating: 2 ½ Stars

Pippa is a senior in high school, passionate about photography with hopes of fulfilling her father’s legacy within Tisch’s photography program. But, has she inadvertently closed herself off to experiences as she charged toward this perceived plan? In this fourth and final installment of the Pippa Green Series the reader is reintroduced to the stressors of high school and dramatics of the college search.

In full transparency, I did not read the first three books within this series. Regardless, I did not feel “lost” as I read Golden Hour, but rather sensed I was missing some significant backstory on many of the underlying characters. Author, Chantel Guertin, did a fantastic job creating her characters as I immediately felt comfortable with Dace and Pippa, despite jumping into their friendship at the finale. However, the plot and drama within felt mundane and overplayed. There was nothing that stood out from this book and the MANY other books that cover these same themes.

*Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, ECW Press, in exchange for an honest review.


A Daring Venture (Empire State #2) by Elizabeth Camden

Publication Date: June 5th, 2018

Rating: 2 ½ Stars

Rosalind Werner is a female, doctorate level trained, biochemist in early 1900’s New Jersey. She is working diligently to convince the state to allow chlorine dilution in the water supply to reduce water-borne diseases, a system we continue to utilize today. Nick Drake is a wealthy-by-chance, newly appointed Commissioner of Water in New York who begins to fall for Rosalind despite his skepticism toward “poisoning” the people’s water supply. The ensuing story is one of historical romance.

Rosalind’s intelligence and education are continually mentioned within A Daring Venture. Nick is self-conscious someone of Rosalind’s level would be attracted or interested in a plumber, such as himself. As a well-educated woman myself, this continued dynamic was EXTREMELY off putting. I loved that author, Elizabeth Camden, gave us a strong female lead, but these efforts were contradicted by the male’s insecurities.

Additionally, while this book reads as a standalone within the series, the plot kept rehashing an event that occurred in Germany, prior to Rosalind’s upheaval to America. This specific plot was written in a way that made it seem as if the reader should have previous knowledge of what occurred. This, as well as the Doctor Clean plot line, made for an unpleasantly confusing read.

*Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Bethany House Publishers, in exchange for an honest review.

Two Reviews: The Crescent Stone (The Sunlit Lands #1) by Matt Mikalatos & Shift Your Thinking for Success: 77 Ways to Win at Work and in Life by Dean Del Sesto

The Crescent Stone (The Sunlit Lands #1) by Matt Mikalatos

Publication Date: August 7th, 2018

Rating: 3 ½ Stars

My comfort zone typically resides FAR outside of the fantasy realm, however the gripping cover design and terminally ill character within The Crescent Stone caused me to pick this one up, and I am so glad that I did. As the first book of The Sunlit Lands series we are introduced to a teenager, Madeline, as she battles the final months of lung disease. Madeline, and her comically relieving side kick Jason, exchange a year of service in the Sunlit Lands for her health and the promise of a pudding cup every morning. The encounters, battles, friendships and lesson gained from the Elenil society hit critical elements humans can certainly stand to be reminded of.

Author, Matt Mikalatos, delivers an exceptional young adult fantasy that pairs humor and death in this provocative read. Madeline and Jason provide us a unique education on many key lessons in how we treat one another, the lengths we’ll take to save ourselves and the importance of not judging a book by its cover. All lessons our parents likely tried to teach us, framed in a more exciting way by Mikalatos. A strong series opener, promising an exciting, young, fantastical storyline while instilling important takeaways.

*Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Shift Your Thinking for Success: 77 Ways to Win at Work and in Life by Dean Del Sesto

Publication Date: July 17th, 2018

Rating: 2 ¼ Stars

Business minded, non-fiction books are often quickly passed over by readers as they can be perceived as dull, un-engaging or lacking in actionable substance. However, as a young professional that LOVES to read I am continually pushing myself to diversify my choices to include a mix of fiction and non-fiction. Given my role in the business environment, I try to pepper my mix with business and self-improvement focused books. For this reason, I was excited to have the opportunity to read Shift Your Thinking for Success.

Author, Dean Del Sesto, is a successful brand and marketing guru. He is described as a “brander of 800 plus companies” and certainly seems to boast a successful business career. I was hoping his successes, failures and experiences would be well articulated and sprinkled among the topics discussed within, but was disappointed to see this was infrequently the case. In fact, not ONE study with actionable data was cited in this book. This may be a first for me, a business minded book lacking scattered personal experiences and analytical data, I was disappointed to say the least. I am often careful to recommend self-improvement books to readers for fear of turning them off to this genre permanently and while I’ve come across several five-star business reads, this is certainly NOT one of them.

*Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Revell, in exchange for an honest review.

Actress to Author: Any Man by Amber Tamblyn

Publication Date: June 26th, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

I recently had the opportunity to see Amber Tamblyn read from her debut novel Any Man. While this was an incredible experience, even more amazing was the dialogue and questions it sparked amongst those in attendance. The topic covered by this book, male sexual assault victims, is rarely discussed. In Tamblyn’s recent interview with NPR she quotes “[This book] aims to degender the conversation around sexual assault and sexual violence. While also, I think, re-sensitizing us as a culture to what…rape culture actually is and what is means and how it manifests.” Although, beyond this, the light this novel shines on the media is raw, real and necessary. Tweets like “Katy Perry debuts new colorful haircut at concert benefiting trans victims of sexual assault” portrayed in the book, may not have occurred in real life but are certainly not unbelievable.

To back up a bit, author Amber Tamblyn may not be an unfamiliar name. Famous for her acting career in both television and film, in roles such as Martha M. Masters in House and Tibby in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Tamblyn has also written works of poetry, Dark Sparkler and Bang Ditto. Recently, she co-wrote and directed Paint It Black now on Netflix and is even credited as one of the founders of the Time’s Up movement.

Any Man is not a long book by any means, at less than 275 pages it is frankly one of the shorter books I’ve read in quite some time, in fact it took me mere hours to read. I mention this because while it may be short in length, it packs a heavy subject, one that sparks an important conversation and forces us to take a hard look at the media, bullying and how numb we’ve become as Americans. Maude is a female. Maude is a serial rapist. Maude targets men. And, as unfortunate as it may seem, the experiences the men in this book face are common place for many women. That is what is so powerful and so painful, Any Man starts a new discussion, a discussion for EVERYONE, it provides a realm of empathy for men to understand the female experience that has unfortunately rocked too many. While not EVERY female has experienced sexual assault first hand, many can name at least one close friend that has, or even detail an experience where they’ve been utterly terrified both walking home alone at night or at a party full of people.

On a lighter subject, this book incorporates the proven talent of Tamblyn’s writing, in parts written in prose as it flips between the men subjected to Maude’s horrific acts. From the tweets, newscasts and internal dialogue inserted into the pages of this timely read, Tamblyn nails it on all fronts!

Sadie by Courtney Summers

Publication Date: September 4th, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Just WOW! Embedded in this book is a young woman, Sadie, who suffers from a speech impediment. As if this doesn’t provide enough frustration on a daily basis, Sadie is also responsible for raising her younger sister Mattie in their junkie mother’s absence. When Mattie is found murdered, Sadie disappears. This book alternates between Sadie’s experience and a podcast program covering Sadie’s story.

Sadie is in a league of its own, never have I read such a gripping suspense that injects podcast transcripts to aid the non-linear timeline within. Sadie, despite her hardships, is a relatable character and while author, Courtney Summers, gave Sadie a heavy childhood, she also used this book as a platform to enlighten the reader on the internal struggles of those suffering from speech impediments. This may seem trivial to the naked eye, but had a significant effect on Sadie’s interactions and internal dialogue.

This book transports the reader between podcast listener to white knuckler, as the veil is slowly pulled from our eyes and Sadie’s “plan” comes to fruition. Disturbingly well done, a gripping read that will be sure to catch you, coming this September!

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Edge of Over There by Shawn Smucker

Publication Date: July 3rd, 2018

Rating: 4 ½ Stars

This book took me out of my comfort zone as I entered the fantasy worlds created within The Edge of Over There. Abra Miller may be young, but she’s been chosen to carry the sword. So, when another Tree of Life appears she must enter the gateway between her world and Over There to destroy it. But who can she trust? And will she destroy it in time?

The Edge of Over There is book two of The Day the Angels Fell series so I was worried I would be lost jumping right into the middle of the series, especially given the fantastical nature of this read, but I was pleasantly surprised by how easily I was drawn into Abra’s orbit as she balances the mysterious characters that enter her life with her responsibilities to destroy the life-giving trees.

Author, Shawn Smucker has incredible eye for detail as he creates a purgatory-type world, full of characters, conflict and separation. The world Smucker has created may be fiction, but his style of writing makes it feel so real, the landscape, magic sword and angelic characters blended seamlessly into the story making it feel like a suspenseful read in the heart of fantasy.

*Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.