Scarlett Undercover

Finished Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A voice-driven mystery perfect for fans of Veronica Mars.

Meet Scarlett, a smart, sarcastic, kick-butt, Muslim American heroine, ready to take on crime in her hometown of Las Almas. When a new case finds the private eye caught up in a centuries-old battle of evil genies and ancient curses, Scarlett discovers that her own family secrets may have more to do with the situation than she thinks — and that cracking the case could lead to solving her father’s murder.

Jennifer Latham delivers a compelling story and a character to remember in this one-of-a-kind debut novel.”

I absolutely loved this novel.  As the synopsis says, it’s perfect for fans of Veronica Mars, and that is definitely me.

Scarlett is the kind of character I love: smart, loyal, brave.  She doesn’t give up, ever.

I don’t read that much paranormal fiction these days, but the presence of genies and curses didn’t deter me at all.  It made the story a little more interesting and unusual but it also made sense in the context of the story.

Also—in the “We need diverse books” realm—Scarlett is Muslim and that’s not a big deal.  I love that so much!

Jennifer Latham is now a must-buy for me; I can’t wait for her next book.

Highly recommended.

Bone Deep Release Day Blitz

Bone Deep Cover

Title: Bone Deep

Author: Kim O’Brien

Release Date: May 19, 2015

Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary

Synopsis: When Paige Patterson travels to Arizona to spend the summer with her archeologist father, she expects answers. Why did her parents divorce? Why did her father choose his career over family? She doesn’t expect to be reunited with her best friend Emily Linton, a girl she has always admired and secretly wanted to emulate, or to find herself falling for the project manager’s son, Jalen Yazzi.

But the summer takes a terrible turn when Emily vanishes. As the police struggle for answers, Paige sets out to find the truth.

The search takes Paige from the Cliffside ruins of prehistoric Native Americans to the Navajo Nation to the horrifying possibility that the answer is much closer to home. Emily, it turns out, was not the only one good at hiding things.

Her father has no alibi for the night Emily disappeared. An intern with the motive insists he’s innocent. And Jalen has some secrets of his own.

Old bones might not be the only things buried in the ruins. As Paige digs deeper into Emily’s disappearance, she realizes that uncovering the truth may cost her everything—even her life.

Kim’s comments:

I chose this passage because it’s kind of creepy and I love the idea that people who have passed can come to us in dreams, communicating through our subconscious. When I was about twelve, my best friend’s mother had a brain aneurism and was taken to the hospital. I was very shy, very quiet around adults. So my friend’s mom and I looked at each other more than we talked. A couple of days after she’d gone to the hospital, I woke up and in the middle of the night and saw her face floating in the corner of my bedroom, near the ceiling. It was just her head, nothing else, and it glowed as if it were lit from within. The next morning, I found out she had died the night before. I never saw her image again.

 

 

Excerpt:

 

 

In my bed, I lie with the covers pulled high looking up at the ceiling. Although I’ve been trying for hours, I can’t sleep. The room feels cold, much colder than usual— as if the thermostat is set to about fifty degrees.

I flip over. It’s just after two o’clock in the morning. I’m so tired my hands tingle, but I can’t sleep, not when Emily’s missing. I wonder if the police have Jeremy in custody. If they’ve found Emily. Another chill goes through me, and I tuck the quilt more tightly around my shoulders.

I’m thinking of getting up and putting on a pair of sweats when my door creaks and Emily walks into the room.

In the moonlight, her hair looks disheveled. Half her face is in shadow, but as she nears, I see it’s not the lack of light, but dust coating her left cheekbone.

“Oh my God! Emily!” I sit up straight. “You’re okay!”

“Paige!” She hurries to the edge of my bed. Her long pale hair falls forward as she leans over me. “I’ve been trying to get in touch with you.”

“Where were you?” I study every inch of her. She’s very pale, and there are small chunks of something plaster-like dangling in the strands of her hair.

“I got lost,” she states, a little sadly. “I’ve been walking for a while.” She looks down at her feet. “I lost my sneakers. Isn’t that funny, Paige? They disappeared when I was sleeping. I just woke up, and they were gone. Have you seen them?”

The question is odd, but I’m so happy to see her I don’t care. “No.”

Her shoulders sag. “Oh.”

“They’re not important,” I assure her. “What matters is that you’re back and you’re okay. What happened to you?”

Her face wrinkles. “I don’t know.” Her eyes move to the top left corner of their sockets, as if she’s thinking really hard. After a moment, she shakes her head. “I can’t remember.”

“Were you in a car accident?”

“I don’t think so.” She feels the back of her head with her hands and then grimaces. “God, my head hurts.”

Throwing my covers off, I swing my legs over the side of the bed. Emily stands very still as I throw my arms around her. “Stop trying to remember. It doesn’t matter what happened. I’m just so happy to see you.”

She smells strongly of roses, as if she has doused herself in perfume. It’s so unlike her that it takes my mind a second to register that her body is stone-cold in my arms and her skin feels hard and smooth as polished marble.

Stunned, I pull back far enough to look into her face. Only instead of Emily, she morphs into my mother, who leans over me, the strap of her silk nightgown slipping from her pale shoulder, her eyes black and angry.

“You didn’t see him, Paige,” she says. “You were dreaming.”

My alarm goes off, and I jolt upright. Heart pounding, I fumble for the off button and switch on the lamp. The room is empty, and it’s 2:13 in the morning. I pick up the clock to reset the alarm and discover it’s already at set for six—my usual time. So why did it go off? The dream was about Emily. So why then did my mother say, you didn’t see him?

Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22757321-bone-deep?from_search=true

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/bone-deep-kim-obrien/1120338167?ean=9781633920026

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Bone-Deep-Kim-OBrien/dp/163392002X/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1431277035&sr=8-2&keywords=Kim+O%27Brien

The Book Depository: http://www.bookdepository.com/Bone-Deep-Kim-OBrien/9781633920026

IndieBound: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781633920026

Kobo: http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/bone-deep-9/book-ec4CBI6sVk2CsW5TXelP4w/page1.html

Author Bio and social media links:

Author Bio:

Kim_Obrien_Author Photo

Kim O’Brien grew up in an old Victorian house in Bronxville, NY. Her mother loved telling her bedtime stories, especially ones about the ghost in their attic. Kim not only believed the house was haunted but also fell in love with books and the art of storytelling.

At Emory University in Atlanta, Kim earned a B.A. in psychology. She then attained a M.F.A in writing from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY. She worked for many years as a writer, editor, and speechwriter for IBM before becoming a full time fiction writer. She lives in Texas with her husband, daughters, and four-legged friend Daisy.

Kim is the author of eight inspirational romances and seven non-fiction children’s books. She loves to hear from her readers and can be found at www.kimobrienbooks.com/, Facebook, and Twitter (kimobri).

Author Social Media Links:

 

Website: http://www.kimobrienbooks.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kimobri

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kim-OBrien/210477652325110

 

The Royal We

Finished The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“I might be Cinderella today, but I dread who they’ll think I am tomorrow. I guess it depends on what I do next.”

American Rebecca Porter was never one for fairy tales. Her twin sister, Lacey, has always been the romantic who fantasized about glamour and royalty, fame and fortune. Yet it’s Bex who seeks adventure at Oxford and finds herself living down the hall from Prince Nicholas, Great Britain’s future king. And when Bex can’t resist falling for Nick, the person behind the prince, it propels her into a world she did not expect to inhabit, under a spotlight she is not prepared to face.

Dating Nick immerses Bex in ritzy society, dazzling ski trips, and dinners at Kensington Palace with him and his charming, troublesome brother, Freddie. But the relationship also comes with unimaginable baggage: hysterical tabloids, Nick’s sparkling and far more suitable ex-girlfriends, and a royal family whose private life is much thornier and more tragic than anyone on the outside knows. The pressures are almost too much to bear, as Bex struggles to reconcile the man she loves with the monarch he’s fated to become.

Which is how she gets into trouble.

Now, on the eve of the wedding of the century, Bex is faced with whether everything she’s sacrificed for love-her career, her home, her family, maybe even herself-will have been for nothing.”

I absolutely adored this book.  I am a huge fan of the real royal couple—I was the person who DVRed their wedding and waited anxiously for both of the royal births.  So I am absolutely this book’s target audience.

While Nicholas and Bex aren’t exactly William and Kate (Bex is American, for one), there are definitely parallels (hello Ginger Prince Brother!).

This book is just a fun read, although there are also a lot of emotional depths here.  It’s a perfect vacation read, but at the same time, it’s not so shallow that you’ll feel guilty for reading it.

I’m hoping that there will be a sequel.  (There HAS TO BE, right?)  I’m also holding out hope for companion novels and, if so, the first one should be on Prince Freddie.

Highly recommended.

Gracefully Grayson

Finished Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky (it may be spelled Amy; cover says Ami and Twitter says Amy).  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Alone at home, twelve-year-old Grayson Sender glows, immersed in beautiful thoughts and dreams. But at school, Grayson grasps at shadows, determined to fly under the radar. Because Grayson has been holding onto a secret for what seems like forever: “he” is a girl on the inside, stuck in the wrong gender’s body.

The weight of this secret is crushing, but leaving it behind would mean facing ridicule, scorn, and rejection. Despite these dangers, Grayson’s true self itches to break free. Strengthened by an unexpected friendship and a caring teacher who gives her a chance to step into the spotlight, Grayson might finally have the tools to let her inner light shine.

Debut author Ami Polonsky’s moving, beautifully-written novel shines with the strength of a young person’s spirit and the enduring power of acceptance.”

I loved this book!  It’s incredibly important (in the wake of Leelah Alcorn’s suicide) but it never feels preachy.  It just shows what it’s like for Grayson, who is biologically a boy but who identifies as female.  I feel like this book is so timely but, as I said, it never feels like it’s an afterschool special.  (Do they even have those anymore?)

There’s a part at the end where Grayson is told that most people are good and that, if she pays attention (person says “you,” but I am saying “she” because that’s how Grayson identifies), she’ll see that people are reaching out.  I love this; it’s good advice for everyone.

This book is perfect for fans of Wonder and for anyone who wants to understand transgender people a little better.

Highly recommended.

Bone Deep

Bone Deep Cover

Title: Bone Deep

Author: Kim O’Brien

Release Date: May 19, 2015

Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary

Click here for a chance to win Bone Deep!

Synopsis: When Paige Patterson travels to Arizona to spend the summer with her archeologist father, she expects answers. Why did her parents divorce? Why did her father choose his career over family? She doesn’t expect to be reunited with her best friend Emily Linton, a girl she has always admired and secretly wanted to emulate, or to find herself falling for the project manager’s son, Jalen Yazzi.

But the summer takes a terrible turn when Emily vanishes. As the police struggle for answers, Paige sets out to find the truth.

The search takes Paige from the Cliffside ruins of prehistoric Native Americans to the Navajo Nation to the horrifying possibility that the answer is much closer to home. Emily, it turns out, was not the only one good at hiding things.

Her father has no alibi for the night Emily disappeared. An intern with the motive insists he’s innocent. And Jalen has some secrets of his own.

Old bones might not be the only things buried in the ruins. As Paige digs deeper into Emily’s disappearance, she realizes that uncovering the truth may cost her everything—even her life.

Kim’s comment:

In Bone Deep, I tried to use the scenery as another character. I wanted to capture some of the mysteriousness as well as convey a vague sense of danger. Originally I thought this book would be a ghost story, but the more I thought about it, what really interested me about the ruins of prehistoric Native Americans was the idea of people vanishing, which became the central idea in Bone Deep. What would happen if a girl vanished in a national park? I thought the ancient cliff dwellings reeked of abandonment, of timelessness, of mystery – They were the perfect setting to explore Paige’s own devastation and confusion as a result of her parent’s divorce.

Excerpt:

My feet pound the bed of gravel lining the path in the cactus garden and then carry me down the concrete path snaking around the sand-colored walls of the cliffs. The ruins sit in their niche, their broken walls smoothed by the distance, and black, empty windows gaze back at me as if they’ve seen every bad thing in the world.

I keep moving, even though my father is going to kill me for not waiting for him. I run until my lungs burn and my legs turn to rubber. And then I push myself farther. But what am I running from? Jeremy? My father? Myself?

The sweat streams over my body when finally I stumble to a stop. Breathing hard, I look around. I’m past Tacoma Well, basically the middle of nowhere. Around me the barren landscape seems huge and as foreign as the surface of the moon. The posed cacti, scrubby, hunched-over trees and stubble of browned-out grass look like the sole survivors in a war the sun has long won.

I wipe my hot, sweat-slick face, take a deep breath of burning air. I should go back; I’m going to have to eventually. But I press forward, daring whatever happened to Emily to happen to me. Stupidly, I want to prove to myself that my father wasn’t involved. Even if it means I get killed, it’s worth it. The thought is irrational, but nothing, I’m discovering, is really very simple. You can love someone and hate them at the same time. You can think you know someone and then suddenly they seem like a total stranger. You can look in the mirror and not see the truth about yourself.

I randomly follow the trail of trampled grass along an irrigation ditch. What really happened to Emily? What is it that I’m not seeing?

Close, close, a voice inside me whispers. I keep going, not understanding how far I intend to go. The heat increases. The sweat pours off me, reminding me how stupid I’ve been to walk into the desert without water. I should turn around, but I don’t. I don’t know why.

I walk until I come to a cornfield. The plants aren’t quite as tall as me, but they’re lush, packed together tightly, and utterly motionless. My mind flashes back to another time, another field. I hear Emily’s childhood voice in my head. There’s this special place I know…

All at once goose bumps break out on my arms and the back of my neck prickles. I stare at the field, picturing Emily, not as a teenager, but as a ten-year-old in a frayed pair of denim shorts and an oversized pink T-shirt knotted at her waist. She smiles, the gap between her front teeth giving her a slightly mischievous, slightly sinister look. She beckons me forward.

Somewhere deep inside the cornfield, a cricket begins to buzz. The single rattle quickly swells into a loud and insistent chorus as if thousands of crickets are buzzing. It’s almost like the insects are calling me, daring me to walk into the tangle of corn leaves.

Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22757321-bone-deep?from_search=true

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/bone-deep-kim-obrien/1120338167?ean=9781633920026

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Bone-Deep-Kim-OBrien/dp/163392002X/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1431277035&sr=8-2&keywords=Kim+O%27Brien

The Book Depository: http://www.bookdepository.com/Bone-Deep-Kim-OBrien/9781633920026

IndieBound: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781633920026

Kobo: http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/bone-deep-9/book-ec4CBI6sVk2CsW5TXelP4w/page1.html

Author Bio:

Kim_Obrien_Author Photo

Kim O’Brien grew up in an old Victorian house in Bronxville, NY. Her mother loved telling her bedtime stories, especially ones about the ghost in their attic. Kim not only believed the house was haunted but also fell in love with books and the art of storytelling.

At Emory University in Atlanta, Kim earned a B.A. in psychology. She then attained a M.F.A in writing from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY. She worked for many years as a writer, editor, and speechwriter for IBM before becoming a full time fiction writer. She lives in Texas with her husband, daughters, and four-legged friend Daisy.

Kim is the author of eight inspirational romances and seven non-fiction children’s books. She loves to hear from her readers and can be found at www.kimobrienbooks.com/, Facebook, and Twitter (kimobri).

Author Social Media Links:

Website: http://www.kimobrienbooks.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kimobri

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kim-OBrien/210477652325110

 

Dead to Me

Finished Dead to Me by Mary McCoy.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

LA Confidential for the YA audience. This alluring noir YA mystery with a Golden Age Hollywood backdrop will keep you guessing until the last page.

“Don’t believe anything they say.”

Those were the last words that Annie spoke to Alice before turning her back on their family and vanishing without a trace. Alice spent four years waiting and wondering when the impossibly glamorous sister she idolized would return to her–and what their Hollywood-insider parents had done to drive her away.

When Annie does turn up, the blond, broken stranger lying in a coma has no answers for her. But Alice isn’t a kid anymore, and this time she won’t let anything stand between her and the truth, no matter how ugly. The search for those who beat Annie and left her for dead leads Alice into a treacherous world of tough-talking private eyes, psychopathic movie stars, and troubled starlets–and onto the trail of a young runaway who is the sole witness to an unspeakable crime. What this girl knows could shut down a criminal syndicate and put Annie’s attacker behind bars–if Alice can find her first. And she isn’t the only one looking

Evoking classic film noir, debut novelist Mary McCoy brings the dangerous glamour of Hollywood’s Golden Age to life, where the most decadent parties can be the deadliest, and no drive into the sunset can erase the crimes of past.”

I was incredibly excited to read this book for two reasons: 1) it’s set in Holllywood’s Golden Age and 2) it’s noir.  I absolutely loved the idea of YA noir, and this book was definitely fun to read.

I wish this book had been a little longer, though.  I didn’t get a grasp on who Alice was, and the pacing felt a little rushed.  I still enjoyed the book, but I didn’t get as much out of it as I was expecting to.

Still, Alice is an incredible heroine.  She’s as sardonic as any private eye from the 30s, and in the best noir tradition, forces she can’t even fathom are working against her.

This is a fun novel and I will keep an eye out for future books from Mary McCoy.

Revenge, Ice Cream and Other Things Best Served Cold

Finished Revenge, Ice Cream and Other Things Best Served Cold by Katie Finn. I received a copy for review from the publisher.

Summary (from Amazon):

“After the humiliating events on the 4th of July, Gemma’s trying to grapple with the fact that Hallie knew her true identity all summer, and that she was the one who stole Teddy from her.

Gemma vows revenge, but things immediately get more complicated than she planned. Her dad forces her to get a job, and the only one she can find involves scooping ice cream all day. Ford, Gemma’s longtime crush, has arrived in the Hamptons, and is cuter than ever. Josh is refusing to speak to her after finding out she lied to him. And to top it all off, Teddy is back in the picture, and closer to home than Gemma would like.

Gemma and Hallie find themselves locked in an escalating revenge cycle involving everything from strawberry syrup to stolen identities. But just when Gemma thinks she has the upper hand, the biggest bombshell of all is dropped. And it’s one that threatens to change her life forever.”

I am so in love with this series, I can’t even tell you.  This is the second book in a trilogy and I am both desperate to know what comes next and very sad at the thought that there’s only one more.

At the end of the first book, we received a bit of game-changing information, and that completely changed the way this book went. I love books that can completely change everything but in retrospect, you’re like, “OF COURSE!”  That happens a few times in this one, too.

The best part is the fact that in the first book, I was completely rooting for Gemma and Josh.  In this book, we meet Ford.  (And, like Gemma, I am now much more interested in Ford than I was in Josh.)

This is the kind of book that is just perfect for vacation reading or on days when you wish you were on vacation.

Highly recommended.

Blessed Are Those Who Weep

Finished Blessed Are Those Who Weep by Kristi Belcamino.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“San Francisco Bay Area reporter Gabriella Giovanni stumbles onto a horrific crime scene with only one survivor—a baby girl found crawling between the dead bodies of her family members. Reeling from the slaughter, Gabriella clings to the infant. When Social Services pries the little girl from her arms, the enormity of the tragedy hits home. Diving deep into a case that brings her buried past to the forefront, Gabriella is determined to hunt down the killer who left this helpless baby an orphan.

But one by one the clues all lead to a dead end, and Gabriella’s obsession with finding justice pulls her into a dark, tortuous spiral that is set to destroy everything she loves …”

A lot of my friends are into mysteries, and all of a sudden, it seemed like everyone was talking about this book.  When that happens, I tend to pay attention.

This is the third book in a series, but it functions really well as a standalone.  (I do want to go back and read the first two books, though; the first one especially tends to ricochet all through the events of this one—it didn’t make me enjoy this any less, but it made me very curious to read it.)

I tend to really like books with journalists and this was no exception.  I’m not sure how long Gabriella would really last in the news business (she became part of the story in this book, and that tends to not work out so well in terms of keeping your job) but it was also obvious that she really loved her job and was good at it.

The mystery in this is incredibly well done and I can guarantee you that you won’t want to stop reading until you know exactly what’s going on.

Recommended.

Just Like in the Movies

Finished Just Like in the Movies by Kelly Fiore.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Pretty and popular track star Marijke Monti is confident about almost everything – she’s got great friends, a great family, and she’s on her way to the State Track Championship. In fact, the only thing Marijke isn’t confident about is her relationship with Tommy Lawson.

Lily Spencer has spent her entire high school career preparing for the future – she’s participated in every extracurricular activity and volunteer committee she could. But, at home, she watches her mother go on date after date with dud-dudes, still searching for “the one.” Lily realizes that she’s about to graduate and still hasn’t even had a boyfriend.

While they live on each other’s periphery at school, Lily and Marijke never seemed to have much in common; but, after a coincidental meeting at the movie theater, Lily gets an idea – why can’t life be like a movie? Why can’t they set up their perfect romantic situations, just in time for their senior prom, using movie techniques?

Once the girls come up with the perfect plans, they commit themselves to being secret cohorts and, just like in the movies, drama ensues.”

You know how after you watch a really good romantic comedy, you just kind of smile and sigh? That was my exact reaction after I finished this.

I really liked Kelly Fiore’s debut novel, Taste Test, and the second I heard about this one, I knew it was likely to become a favorite of mine.

I love movies and am a huge fan of romantic comedies and things that are based around them (like this book and also The Mindy Project).

The best part of this is the developing friendship between Lily and Marijke.  They weren’t even acquaintances before, but by the end of the book they’re actual best friends.  I love stories about friendship and while the focus of this is ostensibly on romantic relationships, the real prize is the friendship there.

Another fun aspect is all the references to really famous romantic comedies!  They have the classics from my childhood (Sixteen Candles, Say Anything) and some newer ones (Easy A) and a lot more that I’m leaving as surprises for you.  (Sadly, there is not a Teen Witch reference, which made me sad.)

Even so, highly recommended.

 

Better than Perfect

Finished Better Than Perfect by Melissa Kantor.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Juliet Newman has it all. A picture-perfect family; a handsome, loving boyfriend; and a foolproof life plan: ace her SATs, get accepted into Harvard early decision, and live happily ever after.

But when her dad moves out and her mom loses it, Juliet begins questioning the rules she’s always lived by. And to make everything even more complicated there’s Declan, the gorgeous boy who makes her feel alive and spontaneous—and who’s totally off-limits. Torn between the life she always thought she wanted and one she never knew was possible, Juliet begins to wonder: What if perfect isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?

Melissa Kantor once again delivers a tale that is equal parts surprising, humorous, heartbreaking, and romantic. Powerful and honest, Juliet’s story brilliantly portrays the highs and lows of life in high school and will resonate with any reader who has experienced either.”

Anyone who has ever been a senior in high school can relate to this story.  It’s a time of so much pressure: homework and probably a job and extracurriculars and SATs and, of course, getting into college.  Junior and senior year is the first time where you can really see that everything you do can have a major impact on your future.

That’s definitely the case for Juliet.  She’s been working her whole life to get into Harvard, and now that the finish line is in sight, she should be relieved—except her entire life is falling apart and she is definitely feeling the strain of all of it.

I love books that make you wonder if what you think you want is what you actually want.  Walking away from everything is definitely scary but sometimes there’s no choice, right?

This book is fun but there’s a surprising depth to it.