Category Archives: Book Review

Book Review: The Penguin Book of Witches and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow & Other Stores from Penguin Classics

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Penguin Classics has released two new bind-ups of some classic literature perfect for both the classroom, and the Halloween season. The Penguin Book of Witches edited by Katherine Howe features a collection of historical accounts and documentation of (alleged) witches in early America. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow & Other Stories features some of the finest work by American author Washington Irving, including his beloved Halloween tale about Ichabod Crane.

legend of sleepy hollowEach book would be perfectly suited to a school classroom — but offers readers plenty to enjoy on their own, as well. Anyone with an appreciation for macabre writing and imaginative stories will find plenty to feast their senses on in the bind-up of Irving’s stories.

For those familiar only with popular culture’s adaptations of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, it’s well worth the time to read Irving’s original story. Though it has few similarities to the FOX TV show “Sleepy Hollow” or the Johnny Depp movie of the same name, there are elements of the story that have survived in various modern-day adaptations. (Perhaps one of the most surprisingly faithful adaptations is the Disney short film found in The Adventures of Ichabod & Mr. Toad, with narration sung by Bing Crosby.)

Perhaps one of the story’s most iconic images — the shattered pumpkin found next to the bridge where Ichabod was last seen — comes straight from Irving’s text:

In one part of the road leading to the church, was found the saddle trampled in the dirt; the tracks of horses’ hoofs deeply dented in the road, and evidently at furious speed, were traced to the bridge, beyond which, on the bank of a broad part of the brook, where the water ran deep and black, was found the hate of the unfortunate Ichabod, and close beside it was a shattered pumpkin.

penguin book of witchesMeanwhile, the historical accounts compiled in The Penguin Book of Witches offer a chilling but factual account of alleged cases of witchcraft in the early United States, starting in the pre-Colonial 16th century and running through the early 19th century — with plenty of pages dedicated to the infamous Salem witch trials and associated cases.

Edited by Howe, the compilation does a good job of “translating” (per se) the older texts for ease of comprehension for modern readers, such as updating vocabulary and punctuation. It’s a kindness I wish had been paid to the text of such similar manuscripts that I studied when I was in school!

Check out both books now for some excellent classics perfect for Halloween — or any time of year you’re ready for some historical spookiness! They are both available now.

Book Review: Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle

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Imagine being plucked from obscurity, and cast in the hottest book adaptation. Imagine being cast alongside two of Hollywood’s hottest young male actors. Imagine filming in Hawaii. Imagine falling for both guys. Can you picture it? Because that’s what happens to Paige, the main character and narrator in Rebecca Serle’s new novel, Famous in Love.

famous in loveThe romantic story of a girl who gets plucked from obscurity to star in the next major feature film franchise based on a book and the ensuing love triangles she gets entangled in on—-and off screen.

Meet Paige Townsen, Rainer Devon, and Jordan Wilder…

When Paige Townsen, a young unknown, gets cast in the movie adaptation of a blockbuster book series, her life changes practically overnight. Within a month, Paige has traded the quiet streets of her hometown for a crowded movie set on the shores of Maui, and is spending quality time with her co-star Rainer Devon, one of People’s Sexiest Men Alive. But when troubled star Jordan Wilder lands the role of the other point in the movie’s famous love triangle, Paige’s crazy new life gets even crazier.

In this coming-of-age romance inspired by the kind of celeb hookups that get clever nicknames and a million page views, Paige must figure out who she is – and who she wants – while the whole world watches.

Serle brilliantly captures the essence of Hollywood today, and all the gossip that goes along with the latest and greatest YA book to movie adaptations. Echoing of entertainment headlines we’ve seen over the last several years, Serle examines the story from an insider’s perspective. Through Paige, the reader is able to put themselves in her shoes — because despite the character’s unique situation, she starts out in a very common place in the world, that readers can relate to easily.

As Paige moves from small-town nobody to Hollywood’s hottest new It Girl, readers can follow in her footsteps and imagine what they would do in her situation. That makes the reading experience all the more enticing. And speaking of enticing, let’s talk about Paige’s costars — Rainer and Jordan, who add a lot of spice and tension to Paige’s precarious journey.

What Serle does so brilliantly with Famous in Love is focus on MORE than the love story; more than the love triangle. The book is a love story, so those elements are important — but a good deal of the book also examines Paige’s experience, going from small town life to a Hollywood movie set. We see how this affects her friendships and her family and her plans for the future. We see her struggle to learn the ropes of a movie set, and stretch her acting skills.

It’s because Serle balances the romance and the romantic tension with these other key elements that Famous in Love is so successful. It’s a balanced, well-rounded story that is deep — and goes beyond the surface of the tabloid stories that may have inspired it. Readers will feel for Paige and ache for the tough choices she is forced to make. I, for one, can’t wait to see where the story goes next. (Yes, there is a sequel in the works!)

Famous in Love is an epic love story meets coming of age, all wrapped up in a glamorous Hollywood package. Look for it in stores October 21st.

Book Review: Chasing Power by Sarah Beth Durst

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There’s no fedora, no whip, no irrational fear of snakes (why’d it have to be snakes?!), and no trumpeting theme song, but Chasing Power by Sarah Beth Durst is still basically an Indiana Jones-style adventure, featuring teens and their supernatural abilities.

chasing powerLies, secrets, and magic — three things that define Kayla’s life.

Sixteen-year-old Kayla plans to spend her summer hanging out on the beach in Santa Barbara and stealing whatever she wants, whenever she wants it. Born with the ability to move things with her mind — things like credit cards, diamond rings, and buttons on cash registers — she has become a master shoplifter. She steals to build up a safety net, enough money for her and her mom to be able to flee if her dad finds them again. Well, that, and the thrill of using her secret talents.

But her summer plans change when she’s caught stealing by a boy named Daniel — a boy who needs her help and is willing to blackmail her to get it. Daniel has a talent of his own. He can teleport, appearing anywhere in the world in an instant, but he lies as easily as he travels. Together, they embark on a quest to find and steal an ancient incantation, written on three indestructible stones and hidden millennia ago, all to rescue Daniel’s kidnapped mother. But Kayla has no idea that this rescue mission will lead back to her own family — and to betrayals that she may not be able to forgive… or survive.

There are layers upon layers of mysteries within the pages of Chasing Power, and Durst deftly reveals each one at precisely the right moment. But that’s just the icing on the cake — as her book is already compelling, with its magically-gifted characters and Indiana Jones-style adventure, full of archaeology, ancient antiquities, and exotic locales. (Perhaps the only thing missing is someone to repeatedly declare, “That belongs in a museum!”)

I am a huge fan of Durst’s work, and something I love about ALL her books — and which holds especially true with Chasing Power – is how lovingly she creates each character, her thoughtful plotting and pacing, and the unique magical spin she gives to each story. Each book she writes is so different and unique, but oh so good and enchanting to read. Chasing Power is no exception.

Chasing Power offers readers the thrill-a-minute adventure they’d expect from Indiana Jones, combined with the powerful storytelling Durst is best known for. Look for it in stores October 14th.

Book Review: Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot

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In the tradition of The Great Gatsby comes a new classic about the tragedy and excesses of the wealthy, though Chelsey Philpot’s Even in Paradise is far more hopeful than any green light at the end of the dock.

even in paradiseWhen Julia Buchanan enrolls at St. Anne’s at the beginning of junior year, Charlotte Ryder already knows all about the former senator’s daughter. Most people do… or think they do.

Charlotte certainly never expects she’ll be Julia’s friend. But almost immediately, she is drawn into the larger than-life-new girl’s world—a world of midnight rendezvous, dazzling parties, palatial vacation homes, and fizzy champagne cocktails. And then Charlotte meets, and begins falling for, Julia’s handsome older brother, Sebastian.

But behind her self-assured smiles and toasts to the future, Charlotte soon realizes that Julia is still suffering from a tragedy. A tragedy that the Buchanan family has kept hidden … until now.

A story so lush, the descriptions so vivid, that each scene comes to life. Philpot’s writing transports readers to the elite New England boarding school where Charlotte meets the enigmatic and charming Julia Buchanan – of the Great Buchanans; to the family’s stately Nantucket Island summer home; to Charlotte’s far more modest home in the mountains near a ski resort.

Philpot has brilliantly captured the essence of excess and tragedy that made The Great Gatsby an American classic. But unlike Fitzgerald, Philpot expertly injects her tragic story with a much-needed (and desired) dose of hope. Though Even in Paradise is a story rich with sadness and loss, it ultimately ends on an uplifting note — giving readers a reason to celebrate and cheer, just as her characters have a reason to celebrate and cheer.

I was enraptured by Philpot’s characters, enchanted by her writing, and — like Charlotte — swept away by Julia’s world. Sure to become another American classic, Even in Paradise is in stores October 14th.

Book Review: Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

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There’s a reason Ann M. Martin is in a class to herself when it comes to writing some of the best middle grade fiction of the last few decades. It’s because she is simply that good, and nowhere is that more clear than in her newest book, Rain Reign.

rain reignRose Howard has OCD, Asperger’s syndrome, and an obsession with homonyms (even her name is a homonym). She gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms (Reign, Rein), which, according to Rose’s rules of homonyms, is very special. Rain was a lost dog Rose’s father brought home. Rose and Rain are practically inseparable. And they are often home alone, as Rose’s father spends most evenings at a bar, and doesn’t have much patience for his special-needs daughter.

Just as a storm hits town, Rain goes missing. Rose’s father shouldn’t have let Rain out. Now Rose has to find her dog, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places to search. Rose will find Rain, but so will Rain’s original owners.

Hearts will break and spirits will soar for this powerful story, brilliantly told from Rose’s point of view.

Martin has beautifully captured the thoughts and struggles of a young girl on the Autism Spectrum. Through Martin’s diligent work and thoughtful writing, readers glimpse Rose’s struggles and worries and thoughts. Martin allows us to see the world through her eyes.

The story itself is a simple one, yet the power of Rain Reign is in Martin’s masterful storytelling. Through Rose’s story, she captures readers’ hearts and gives them a reason to emotionally invest in the outcome. We need to know what happens; we need to see Rose through this struggle.

Filled with heartache and heart, Rain Reign is a captivating story of soaring brilliance. It reminded me, once again, of why Martin’s books were such a huge part of my childhood, and why they have stuck with me as an adult. Rain Reign is in stores today.

Book Review + Blog Tour Giveaway: Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios

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Today’s review is part of the official blog tour for Exquisite Captive — see the full blog tour schedule here, and be sure to scroll down for your chance to win a copy of the book!

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Dark and seductive, Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios will have you rethinking wishes — and every genie story you’ve ever heard, whether it’s that lovable blue guy in Aladdin or Barbara Eden in “I Dream of Jeannie.”

Exquisite CaptiveForced to obey her master.
Compelled to help her enemy.
Determined to free herself.

Nalia is a jinni of tremendous ancient power, the only survivor of a coup that killed nearly everyone she loved. Stuffed into a bottle and sold by a slave trader, she’s now in hiding on the dark caravan, the lucrative jinni slave trade between Arjinna and Earth, where jinn are forced to grant wishes and obey their human masters’ every command. She’d give almost anything to be free of the golden shackles that bind her to Malek, her handsome, cruel master, and his lavish Hollywood lifestyle.

Enter Raif, the enigmatic leader of Arjinna’s revolution and Nalia’s sworn enemy. He promises to free Nalia from her master so that she can return to her ravaged homeland and free her imprisoned brother—all for an unbearably high price. Nalia’s not sure she can trust him, but Raif’s her only hope of escape. With her enemies on the hunt, Earth has become more perilous than ever for Nalia. There’s just one catch: for Raif’s unbinding magic to work, Nalia must gain possession of her bottle…and convince the dangerously persuasive Malek that she truly loves him. Battling a dark past and harboring a terrible secret, Nalia soon realizes her freedom may come at a price too terrible to pay: but how far is she willing to go for it?

Inspired by Arabian Nights, EXQUISITE CAPTIVE brings to life a deliciously seductive world where a wish can be a curse and shadows are sometimes safer than the light.

Exquisite Captive is fascinating, multi-layered story — with a sinister undertone to each new facet, and a mystery that continues to grow — even as new information comes to light. It’s an enticing mix that makes for a compelling, hard-to-put-down book.

Demetrios has woven a lush and darkly sexy mythology, placing her characters in very dangerous, very precarious situations. A lot is at stake for each of them, and the tension only builds as the story unfolds. Exquisite Captive makes for a mesmerizing read — one that captures readers much in the same way Nalia was captured by the jinni slave traders. Consider yourself a captive of Demetrios’ magical writing.

Exquisite Captive is in stores October 7th.

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Exquisite Captive
Dark Caravan Cycle #1
Author: Heather Demetrios
Release Date: October 7th, 2014
Publisher: Balzer+Bray

Goodreads | B&N | Amazon

Demetrios Author PhotoABOUT THE AUTHOR:

When she’s not traipsing around the world or spending time in imaginary places, Heather Demetrios lives with her husband in New York City. Originally from Los Angeles, she now calls the East Coast home. Heather is a recipient of the PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award for her debut novel, Something Real, which Publisher’s Weekly calls “[An] addictive yet thoughtful debut” about reality TV stardom. She is the author of the upcoming EXQUISITE CAPTIVE, a smoldering fantasy about jinn in Los Angeles and what Kirkus called in its starred review “an intoxicating, richly realized realm of magic, politics, spirituality and history” (#1 in the DARK CARAVAN CYCLE). She is also the author of the upcoming I’ll Meet You There (Winter 2015). I’ll Meet You There is a love story about a young combat veteran and a girl trapped in their small town, both struggling to escape the war at home. Heather is the founder of Live Your What, an organization dedicated to fostering passion in people of all ages and creating writing opportunities for youth of limited economic means. She is proud to have an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. You can always find her on Twitter (@HDemetrios), ogling the military dogs she wants to adopt (but can’t because her NYC apartment is way too small). Find out more about Heather and her other books at www.heatherdemetrios.comand



Must be 13+ To Enter | Ships to US only.

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Book Review: Unmarked by Kami Garcia

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Kami Garcia has masterfully continued her Legion series with a second book that stands up to – perhaps even surpasses – the first book, with Unmarked. The stakes are higher, the dangers increased, and emotions more intense then ever.

unmarkedThe heart-pounding sequel to the instant New York Times bestseller, Unbreakable, by New York Times bestselling Beautiful Creatures co-author Kami Garcia.

He is here… and he could be anyone.

Kennedy Waters lives in a world where vengeance spirits kill, ghosts keep secrets, and a demon walks among us–a demon she accidentally set free.

Now Kennedy and the other Legion members–Alara, Priest, Lukas, and Jared–have to hunt him down. As they learn more about the history of the Legion and the Illuminati, Kennedy realizes that the greatest mystery of all does not belong to any secret order, but to her own family. With the clock ticking and the life of someone she loves hanging in the balance, Kennedy has to ask the question she fears most: what is it about her past that has left her Unmarked?

Kennedy and the other members of the Legion find themselves facing demons on all fronts — both their biggest, most evil foe yet, and their own inner demons. Unmarked sees the teens facing the unexpected and dangerous consequences of the events that took place in Unbreakable. As they race to stop the end of the world — and stop a potentially unbeatable foe — the Legion finds itself struggling to stay strong, with plenty of inner turmoil taking its toll as much as outside forces.

Garcia has masterfully upped the ante for her characters, and revealed new mysteries and challenges for the Legion — all the while giving readers startling new revelations and shocking twists that will keep them on the edge of their seats as they read each heart-stopping page.

Unmarked proves, once again, that Garcia is a New York Times bestselling author for a good reason. Masterful storytelling, compelling characters, and topsy-turvy plot twists abound within the book’s pages.

Much like ever-popular TV shows “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Supernatural,” Garcia shows a true gift for combining snark and sass with original paranormal mythology, and agonizing drama.

Unmarked is in stores now.

Blog Tour Book Review & Contest: The Fall by Bethany Griffin

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Today, I am pleased to be hosting an official stop on the blog tour for The Fall by Bethany Griffin. Below you’ll find our review, then keep reading for your chance to win a pretty fantastic prize pack, plus check out other stops on the blog tour.

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fall, theThe Fall by Bethany Griffin is a chilling re-imagining of an Edgar Allan Poe classic, “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Chronicling the isolated life of Madeline Usher, The Fall shows her unavoidable spiral into madness — haunted as she is by the eerie presence within her family home. The same presence that has haunted the Usher family for generations.

This is not Griffin’s first time drawing inspiration from Poe, and her expertise shines through her mastery of the Gothic horror genre. The Fall is a truly terrifying story; Griffin’s prose oozes with horror and spine-tingling chills. (It’s truly a perfect read as we approach Halloween). Reading the book at night made every creak and other innocent nocturnal sound seem suspect, even with my husband snoring in bed beside me!

But this is not simply horror for horror’s sake. The strong literary influence of Poe’s work shines through as Griffin weaves her own inspired tale of the house of Usher. Though the book is packed with creep factor, the story illustrates a story of madness, and Madeline’s determination to escape her family curse. It’s a truly captivating struggle, and the psychological aspect of her story is what sets this above your typical horror story.

At times both chilling and seductive, The Fall is a story that Poe himself would be proud to see published. Look for it in stores October 7th.

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Bethany Griffin
Pub. Date: October 7, 2014
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Pages: 432
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Find it: AmazonBarnes & NobleGoodreads

Madeline Usher is doomed.

She has spent her life fighting fate, and she thought she was succeeding. Until she woke up in a coffin.

Ushers die young. Ushers are cursed. Ushers can never leave their house, a house that haunts and is haunted, a house that almost seems to have a mind of its own. Madeline’s life—revealed through short bursts of memory—has hinged around her desperate plan to escape, to save herself and her brother. Her only chance lies in destroying the house.

In the end, can Madeline keep her own sanity and bring the house down? The Fall is a literary psychological thriller, reimagining Edgar Allan Poe’s classic The Fall of the House of Usher.

BethanyAbout Bethany:

Bethany Griffin is a high school English teacher who prides herself on attracting creative misfits to elective classes like Young Adult Literature, Creative Writing, and Speculative Literature. She is the author of HANDCUFFS, MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, DANCE OF THE RED DEATH, GLITTER AND DOOM, and THE FALL. She lives with her family in Kentucky.


Giveaway Details

1 Grand Prize- A Poe Prize Pack with a Raven Scarf, Necklace, Candle, and a signed hardcover of THE FALL and a signed bookmark! (US Only)

3 Signed Hardcovers of THE FALL and signed bookmarks (International)

Enter by filling out the Rafflecopter form HERE!

The Fall Blog Tour Tour Schedule:

Book Review: Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick

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A seductive thriller packed with unexpected twists, engaging characters, and a deadly but beautiful landscape — that’s what you’ll find within the pages of Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick.

black iceSometimes danger is hard to see… until it’s too late.

Britt Pfeiffer has trained to backpack the Teton Range, but she isn’t prepared when her ex-boyfriend, who still haunts her every thought, wants to join her. Before Britt can explore her feelings for Calvin, an unexpected blizzard forces her to seek shelter in a remote cabin, accepting the hospitality of its two very handsome occupants—but these men are fugitives, and they take her hostage.

In exchange for her life, Britt agrees to guide the men off the mountain. As they set off, Britt knows she must stay alive long enough for Calvin to find her. The task is made even more complicated when Britt finds chilling evidence of a series of murders that have taken place there… and in uncovering this, she may become the killer’s next target.

But nothing is as it seems in the mountains, and everyone is keeping secrets, including Mason, one of her kidnappers. His kindness is confusing Britt. Is he an enemy? Or an ally?

BLACK ICE is New York Times bestselling author Becca Fitzpatrick’s riveting romantic thriller set against the treacherous backdrop of the mountains of Wyoming. Falling in love should never be this dangerous…

After her paranormal romance series, The Hush, Hush Saga, I didn’t fully know what to expect from Black Ice – but Fitzpatrick doesn’t fail to impress. I was instantly pulled into the story by her charming characters, and as the drama unfolded, I was eager to see what would happen next. Truth be told, I stayed up until about 2am to finish reading this book in a single sitting — because I just couldn’t rest until I found out what happened.

With her writing, Fitzpatrick transports readers into the snowy Grand Tetons of Wyoming. You get a sense of the cold and the eerie silence that falls when it snows out; I could easily imagine the crunch of feet on packed snow, the soft shushing of gently falling flakes, and the bright glow of moonlight on freshly-fallen snow. It was lovely and beautiful, but equally terrifying within the context of the book, as Britt seeks to escape her captors.

And though I was wary of the relationship developing between Britt and Mason (one of her kidnappers), Fitzpatrick ultimately proved I had nothing to worry about. No cheesy cop-outs needed; she’s crafted a legitimate, believable thriller and populated it with well-rounded, fully-developed characters.

Black Ice is in stores October 7th.

Book Review: Kiss Kill Vanish by Jessica Martinez

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Romance, mystery, and murder collide in Jessica Martinez’s Kiss Kill Vanish, a seductive thriller that will keep readers on their toes at every turn.

kiss kill vanishValentina Cruz no longer exists.

One moment, she was wrapped in Emilio’s arms, melting into his kiss. The next, she was witnessing the unthinkable: a murder in cold blood, ordered by her father and carried out by her boyfriend. When Emilio pulled the trigger, Valentina disappeared. She made a split-second decision to shed her identity and flee her life of privilege, leaving the glittering parties and sultry nightlife of Miami far behind.

She doesn’t know how to explain to herself what she saw. All she knows now is that nothing she believed about her family, her heart, or Emilio’s love, was real.

She can change her name and deny her past, but Valentina can’t run from the truth. The lines between right and wrong, and trust and betrayal, will be blurred beyond recognition as she untangles the deceptions of the two men she once loved and races to find her own truth.

This is, perhaps, Martinez’s edgiest book to date — and my favorite of all her books. She masterfully captures so many elements within the 400-some pages, and successfully keeps you guessing as more layers of the book’s mystery unfold. Every time you think you know where the book is going, Martinez surprises you with genuinely unexpected twists.

Kiss Kill Vanish captured my imagination from the beginning — starting with the intriguing premise described in the flap copy, to the first page, wherein our heroine has already made her escape. Her characters pulled me in, and wondering where the story would go next — and how things would be resolved — kept me eagerly reading page after page.

Of course, Martinez’s writing is lovely as always — and she so beautifully captures each moment with the perfect turn of phrase. Her descriptions of the book’s different settings are particularly lovely and inviting.

Kiss Kill Vanish is an edge-of-your-seat page-turner, whose characters and surprises will stay with you long after you finish the last sentence. Look for it in stores October 7th.