This Is How It Always Is – Laurie Frankel

30809345.jpgClaude is five years old, the youngest of five brothers. He is smart, sweet and, most importantly, he wants to be a girl. His parents, Rosie and Penn, want nothing more than for Claude to be whoever Claude may be. The entire family support him in his transition to Poppy, the daughter Rosie has always wanted. But a little girl with a penis is a big secret for a family to keep, and that kind of secret never stays hidden forever.

This book is everything. It isn’t preachy, or opinionated. It is a work of fiction with, frankly, one of the best narrative voices I’ve ever come across. The subject matter isn’t made light of, but nor is it heavily judgemental of the many different views of transgender people. There is a large focus on family, and anyone who has ever been part of a family will be able to relate, regardless of whether they’ve ever actually been through similar experiences. This Is How Is Always Is is entertaining and moving, nothing short of a work of genius.

I didn’t find myself disagreeing with every decision made by the parents, as I so often do in ‘family’ books. Their thoughts and feelings are easy to understand, making their decisions comprehendible which, as a particularly judgemental reader, was a massive relief for me.

The other characters, mainly Claude’s brothers, are absolutely delightful. Ben is every teenage boy I’ve ever met, while the twins are hilarious and I loved Rigel’s knitting habit. They gave the book so much character to go alongside the story, which focusses mainly on Claude/Poppy, Rosie and Penn. In fact, the only character I wasn’t particularly keen on was Rosie, and she had a lot on her plate so can be forgiven. The balance between the humour and the seriousness of the story was perfect.

Five stars.

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The Doll Funeral – Kate Hamer

32195687Ruby was adopted. She knows nothing about her real parents, but she wants to find them. Her adoptive family, Barbara and Mick, don’t care for her properly. Mick hurts her and Barbara doesn’t stop him. But Ruby isn’t completely alone, she has Shadow, who visits her from the other side… Along with others.

Kate Hamer’s story-telling is magnificent. There is no denying that. Her descriptions create clear visuals of the story, without going too far, while the story is meaningful and intriguing. The pace is steady and pretty relaxed. There’s no fast-paced action or epic romance. Really, this book deals with some very serious issues, with undeveloped elements of paranormal activity. These two clashing themes make it difficult to define this book in any one genre.

I liked the use of ghosts and spirits in this story, although there was a layer of darkness about them that could have been expanded on. There were some parts of the story that I didn’t really understand, like Tom and Elizabeth living alone when their parents left them. How did no one notice that or do anything about it? And everyone in town knowing that Mick beat Ruby – if they all knew, why didn’t anyone report it or try to intervene. I didn’t like the idea that no one was willing to help.

I really enjoyed reading The Doll Funeral, but to be honest, it wasn’t as good as it could have been. There were areas that could have been developed more, and I would have actually liked this story to be more sinister.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Spotlight & Excerpt: Remnants by Carolyn Arnold

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Release date: 11th April 2017

Series: Brandon Fisher FBI

Synopsis:

All that remains are whispers of the past…

When multiple body parts are recovered from the Little Ogeechee River in Savannah, Georgia, local law enforcement calls in FBI agent and profiler Brandon Fisher and his team to investigate. But with the remains pointing to three separate victims, this isn’t proving to be an open-and-shut case.

With no quick means of identifying the victims, building a profile of this serial killer is proving more challenging than usual. How is the killer picking these victims? Why are their limbs being severed and bodies mutilated? And what is it about them that is triggering this killer to murder?

The questions compound as the body count continues to rise, and when a torso painted blue and missing its heart is found, the case takes an even darker turn. But this is only the beginning, and these new leads draw the FBI into a creepy psychological nightmare. One thing is clear, though: the killing isn’t going to stop until they figure it all out. And they are running out of time…

Buy Remnants

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Excerpt:

KILLING WAS THE BEST SEDATIVE. Just knowing that the time was coming had allowed him to fall asleep the second his head had hit the pillow last night, and now the clock on his nightstand told him it was almost noon.

He got out of bed and opened the curtains, letting the sun spill in and blanket him in its warm glow. Closing his eyes, he bathed in its splendour. His breath was calm and deep as he got down onto his knees and spread his arms heavenward, giving thanks for not just another day but for the blessing of life. Not his, but what would be the beginning of another offering.

He remained there in a meditative state, letting his consciousness drift to the other realm, a place far too few visited or were even aware of. But it was in this stillness that he found his true self, his identity, and his purpose, where he became centred and focused on the seriousness of his mission.

He wrapped himself in a black robe and shuffled downstairs and out the back door. He stood on the patio facing the riverbank with his eyes closed.

As the sun warmed his eyelids, he imagined himself being carried up toward the sky, merging with the flames, the source of life, and shedding his human form. He knew that he belonged somewhere else—a different plane of existence—but the physical required roots. So for now, he was grounded.

He remained standing there until the sun ducked behind a cloud, the shadows casting over him. He opened his eyes and knew. It was time.

His stride was full of purpose as he returned inside to where he kept the man in a dimly lit room. He closed the door behind him and headed for the preparation room.

The man was standing, restrained at the wrists and ankles, and held up by a clasp around his neck. His arms and legs were stretched out like rays of sunshine. The offering was free to talk, but his spirit had become broken with the passage of time and he rarely whispered a word.

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About the author…

carolyn-arnold-author-photo-hi-resCAROLYN ARNOLD is an international best-selling and award-winning author, as well as a speaker, teacher, and inspirational mentor. She has four continuing fiction series—Detective Madison Knight, Brandon Fisher FBI, McKinley Mysteries, and Matthew Connor Adventures—and has written nearly thirty books. Her genre diversity offers her readers everything from cozy to hard-boiled mysteries, and thrillers to action adventures. Both her female detective and FBI profiler series have been praised by those in law enforcement as being accurate and entertaining, leading her to adopt the trademark: POLICE PROCEDURALS RESPECTED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT™.

Carolyn was born in a small town and enjoys spending time outdoors, but she also loves the lights of a big city. Grounded by her roots and lifted by her dreams, her overactive imagination insists that she tell her stories. Her intention is to touch the hearts of millions with her books, to entertain, inspire, and empower. She currently lives just west of Toronto with her husband and beagle and is a member of Crime Writers of Canada.

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The One That Got Away – Melissa Pimentel

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Travelling to England for her sister’s wedding, Ruby is about to see her ex, Ethan, for the first time in ten years. Seeing him again stirs up unresolved feelings and Ruby begins to question whether she made the right decision a decade ago, though she’s certain that Ethan doesn’t feel the same way.

Although this is 100% a romance novel, the love story is not always the top focus, which gives the story more body. We follow Ruby’s family through preparations for the wedding, internal family struggles, and Ruby and Ethan’s past in a very smooth and realistic way. The characters and their stories are completely believable, you could be reading about real people.

Melissa Pimentel’s writing style is very good and easy to follow. I loved the English countryside setting vs the madness of New York (I’ve experienced both so can attest to the accuracy). To be honest, not that much actually happens in the book but I still found myself staying up until 3am reading it. It’s just a really nice love story.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Birds Art Life Death – Kyo Maclear

birdsartlifedeath.pngThis intriguing memoir explores Kyo Maclear’s year spent following a musician friend on his birding excursions. Searching for a way to manage her grief over her father’s terminal illness, she discovers the beauty and importance of birds. She questions how our passions shape us, and the significance of knowledge.

I really liked this book. It doesn’t follow a particular storyline, instead it is made up of chapters based on different aspects of Maclear’s self-exploration. Because of this structure, the book does not ‘flow’ and is quite a slow read considering its length (only around 250 pages), but it is still well-written and enjoyable.

I personally do not have any particular interest in birds. I appreciate their beauty and like to see them around, but am not a bird watcher by any stretch of the imagination. I probably don’t fit into the target audience for this book, but it did not hinder my reading experience at all. Maclear’s thoughts are insightful and intriguing, and I really enjoyed learning a bit more about birds and birding in general.

I especially loved the images and sketches included in the book. I wish that I had read a physical copy rather than an ebook because I do think that the reading experience of this book didn’t live up to its full potential on a kindle (not something I think about many books).

I recommend this book even to those who are not especially interested in birds or memoirs. It is approachable, easy to understand and really quite thought-provoking.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Release Blitz & Excerpt: Rock Stars Are a Trope by Kelly D. Smith

Rock Stars Are a Trope by Kelly D. Smith

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Release date: 14th February 2017

Series: Hooch in Hades #4

Synopsis

Gabby Denis, a struggling fashion designer, is not stupid. There is something off about Nate Cooper. She just doesn’t know what it is. Not many men are willing to take a girl out shopping and pay for her new clothes. She’s also never been out with a man who seems to have women recognize him. Or one with friends that need a formal dress made. Of course, she doesn’t turn down the chance to make it!

Gabby likes Nate for who he is, not because he lends her a car and pays for some of her things. For the first time in ages, she meets someone who supports her, and she genuinely enjoys his company. But he never tells her what he does for a living…until she sees him on the front page of the news.

Although, for Gabby, rock stars are a trope from movies and romance novels, she’s going to have to decide if she’s willing to give a real life one a shot at loving.

Buy Rock Stars Are a Trope

Excerpt

“How’s work?” she asked, trying not to give away that she was prying.
“It’s been slow, but that’s not always a bad thing.” He eyed her carefully.
The elevator dinged, and the doors opened. Both Gabby and Nate stepped off the elevator and fell into pace together, but she made sure that he was leading the way because she had not fucking clue where she was going.
It didn’t take long to get to a door that Nate unlocked and opened. He set Gabby’s suitcase down by the window.
“Wow.”
Gabby stared out the window, her eyes widening at the scene in front of her. The lights lit up enough for her to see almost everything, but the dark made it prettier. I can’t believe I’m in England.
“Why did you do this?”
“What?”
“Why did you do this for me?” Gabby turned to look at him, waiting for an answer.
“I didn’t do it for you.”
Her heart dropped. Gabby stared at him, trying not to show her hurt.
“The truth is I missed you. I wanted to see you. I wanted to make an impression and give you a reason to want to see me again.”
Gabby was left speechless for a couple of seconds. “You really think I don’t have my own reasons for wanting to see you again? I promise you. Me wanting to see you again has nothing to do with you flying me here, as much as it means to me. I want to see you again because I miss you.”
He stared at her, slightly taken aback based on the look that crossed his face. He looked away quickly.
“Thank you.”
He said it so softly she hardly heard it. Gabby crossed over to him and touched his back softly. He stepped toward her, still facing away from her. Gabby didn’t say anything. She just stood there, her hand against his back. She tried to figure out if she should say something or not, but she couldn’t think of anything worth saying, so she just kept her trap shut. A few seconds passed but not long until Nate turned and gave her a smile.
“I’ve got to admit I don’t have a lot of time to hang out with you, but I figured I could at least bring you out here, and we could spend some time together, and then Paige and Kenda would love to hang out, I’m sure. If you don’t mind hanging out with them.”
“No, not at all.” It wasn’t quite a lie. She wanted to hang out with Paige and Kenda. She was just nervous to do it. From what she could tell, Paige and Kenda were best friends. Although Paige had been really nice to her when it was just the two of them, she wasn’t sure she would be with a friend around.
Don’t worry so much. Paige doesn’t seem like that kinda girl.
Trying to shove the thought out of her mind she padded over to the bed and sat.
“Does that mean I won’t get to spend much time with you?”
“Sorry, but no. I’ve got a lot of work to get done.”
Gabby bit her lower lip. She nodded, not liking his answer but understanding it.
“I’d try to get out of it, but I know I can’t.”
“No, I don’t want you to put off work because of me. I don’t want to be that kind of girl.”
A smirk spread over his lips. “See this is one of the reasons I love you.”
His words shocked her. Gabby snapped her head up, and she stared at him with wide eyes. Had she just heard that right?
Nate’s eyes were wide as he stared at her. “I mean…” He struggled to find words, looking scared.
“I know. I mean you don’t mean you love me.” She cut him off. Of course he didn’t love her. “That’s way too soon.”
“Yes. Yes, right. Still too early for love. I just meant—”
“I know.”
“Yes. Good.”
Nate ran his fingers through his hair with a sigh. He refused to meet her gaze. She wasn’t sure what to say next. Just play it cool. Pretend it didn’t even happen. She cleared her throat.
“So, you’re not going to take me sightseeing.”
“Sorry, no. I can get the girls to, though, if you’d like.”
“I’d love that.” Maybe a little girl time would be good for her.

About the author…

Kelly D. Smith

Kelly D. Smith is a 21 year old romance writer from Canada. After being home-schooled all her life she got her GED and has been pursuing her passion- writing- with the hopes of turning it into a full time career.

Smith is a personal improvement junky and loves excelling at challenges. She is a country girl at heart and loves spending the day outside with her 3 dogs and the cat!

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Writing Contest

Hi guys, today I’m here to let you know about Inkitt’s writing contest. The contest is free to enter and the winner will be offered a publishing deal.

Inkitt is a new boutique publishing house. They’ve published eight books since their first was launched in mid 2016, seven of which became Amazon Bestsellers in their categories and ranked Top 100 among the four million books on Amazon.

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The full prize for this competition is outrageous:

  • Minimum $6,000 Investment in Your Book Marketing
  • A Marketing Campaign to get you into the Top 100 on Amazon
  • A Dedicated Marketing Team
  • Professional Editing & Cover Design
  • 25% Royalties

All you have to do is enter the competition with a fiction work of at least 20k words. (No fanfiction or short-story collections) All genres are welcome!

To enter, follow this link www.inkitt.com/novelcontest?utm_source=affiliate739 and submit your novel to their site. Good luck!

Eye of the Storm – Frank Cavallo

31363558.jpgWhen on a research mission to record the existence of Neanderthals in a remote area of the world, Eric Slade, Anna Fayne and their team are caught in a mysterious storm. Having survived a crash landing, they find themselves stranded in a lost world on the other side of a rift in time. Desperate to find a way home, Slade and Anna have no choice but to team up with a warrior queen and a dark wizard in order to find a magical treasure with the power to open a gateway between worlds.

The story starts out very King-Kong-esk: researchers travelling to a previously unknown place filled with dinosaurs and other unusual creatures (which is okay because I do actually like King-Kong). It becomes its own story when the focus shifts away from the creatures and onto the more intelligent inhabitants of this world.

Eye of the Storm is set in a beautiful and detailed world. There is a huge amount of description which makes the setting very easy to picture, but it doesn’t feel like the unnecessary detail that I find in many fantasy novels. However, the large amounts of scenery description does mean that the story is quite slow, in the kind of way that would probably work better in a book series rather than a stand-alone story. It also spans over quite a long time-range which isn’t always clear, and it took a distressingly long time for Slade and Anna to be reunited after they’d been split up.

One good point to the plot is that, until towards the end, it isn’t never fully clear who the bad guys actually are. Tarquin is presented as a villain for most of the book but actually seems like quite a chill guy; Kerr seems to see-saw between good and bad, and his ultimate aims are unclear; Azreth is the only one who comes across as obviously bad but his reasons seem to just be that he’s power crazed? I liked the unpredictability that this brought to the story.

Overall I would say that this book has some issues with pacing and is unnecessarily long, but contains fantastic world building and an intriguing storyline.

I received a copy of this book from Book Publicity Services in exchange for an honest review.

 

The Food of Love – Amanda Prowse

30333119.jpgFreya and Lockie live a charmed life: 19 years of happy marriage and two lovely teenage daughters, Charlotte and Lexi. They are the perfect family, until Lexi develops severe anorexia and everything falls apart.

The Food of Love has good point and bad points. Freya is annoying I didn’t like her. She seemed to be far more concerned with not upsetting her daughter than with helping her get better. And everything is about her, about what she’s done wrong as a mother, rather than about her daughter who is ill, or her poor other daughter who she is neglecting. And she won’t let her husband help which is stupid because they’re his children too. Basically, I disagree with everything Freya does, which stopped me from loving the book because it’s written from her perspective. The turmoil the family are put through is quite moving, but the story is repetitive and I didn’t find Lexi very relatable, which made it hard to understand or sympathise with her.

FORTUNATELY the story is pretty engaging despite Freya’s narrative voice being so annoying. I don’t know much about eating disorders and it is a very interesting read. It is clear that the author did a great deal of research for this book, which I respect. It’s a hard book to judge because I wouldn’t say I particularly liked or enjoyed the story, and yet I couldn’t put it down. Something to be said for the quality of writing: it’s quite a feat to engage your reader so much into a story they don’t really like.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Just One Damned Thing After Another – Jodi Taylor

29661618St Mary’s is a unique establishment, involved in “investigating major historical events in contemporary time” (also known as… time-travel). The team at St Mary’s are eccentric and disaster-prone, and one false move can have dire consequences. Just One Damned Thing After Another follows St Mary’s catastrophic historians as they venture through time, from World War 1 to the Cretaceous Period, where all manner of madness ensues.

Our heroine, Max, is brilliant. Her narrative voice is witty, smart, dense and bold all at the same time. She’s not a damsel-in-distress but also not unrealistically feisty. The whole host of characters at St Mary’s are loveable and very entertaining. The characters and writing style were definitely my favourite aspects of this book, but the story is pretty strong too. A hell of a lot happens (there’s so much plot, I can’t even explain); the book covers a time frame of around six years so it’s pretty fast-paced but the transitions across time and events are smooth and easy to follow.

There really was so much more to this book than I expected, considering its size (not very big). An amazing amount of detail is well and truly crammed into a fairly short story, topped with humour, romance, action and pure madness, as well as some serious moments. It met my tastes perfectly.

There are a tonne of books in this series and I’m so excited to keep going.