Category Archives: Book Review

Book Review: Deadly Delicious by K.L. Kincy

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One spunky heroine. A dash of romance. A sprinkle of magic. And one horde of cake-craving zombies. Those are the winning ingredients to K.L. Kincy’s charming and delightful new middle grade novel, Deadly Delicious.

Deadly Delicious - ebook coverTwelve-year-old Josephine DeLune can’t take the heat this sweltering summer of 1955, and she was out of the kitchen long ago.

An awful cook, she ruins recipes left and right, and she certainly can’t compete with her family’s reputation for extraordinary food. Her daddy’s parents ran one of the best restaurants in all of Paris, but Josephine lives in Paris, Missouri. On her mama’s side, she’s up against a long tradition of sinfully delicious soul food. Rumor has it, her Creole ancestors cooked up some voodoo to make tasty even tastier. Josephine knows the secret ingredient: she comes from a long line of conjure witches with spellbinding culinary skills.

Disenchanted, Josephine works as a carhop at Carl and Earl’s Drive-In. Just plain old hamburgers, hot dogs, and curly fries, nothing magical about them. She’s got bigger fish to fry, though, when a grease fire erupts into a devilish creature who hisses her name with desire. Turns out he’s the Ravenous One, the granddaddy of all voodoo spirits, and he’s hungry for her soul. Josephine thinks he’s got the wrong girl—she’s no witch—but a gorgeous, dangerous night-skinned lady named Shaula sets her straight. Josephine is one of the most powerful witches alive, so overflowing with conjure that her out-of-control cooking simply catches fire.

Josephine would love to laugh this off, but Shaula warns her that she must learn to master her magic before the Ravenous One devours her soul. Spurred into action, Josephine breaks out her grandma’s old conjure cookbook and starts cooking. Nothing grand, just the usual recipes for undying friendship and revenge. But soon Josephine can’t escape the consequences of her conjure. When the people of Paris start turning into zombies with a strange fondness for cake, Josephine looks pretty responsible for their undead reawakening…

I was charmed right away by Kincy’s voice in Deadly Delicious – with a slow drawl inside my head as I read the narrative of young Josephine. I was transported to the South — hearing the cadence and rhythm of people’s speech, feeling the clammy heat, and soaking up the atmosphere. Every time I picked up this book to continue reading, I found myself happily whisked away to Josephine’s world.

The whimsical storyline is also equally enchanting, and it’s fun to see how Kincy has crafted this particular brand of magic — using recipes to conjure spells. A colorful cast of supporting characters add to the magic of Deadly Delicious, and really bring Josephine’s story to life.

At first, I wasn’t 100% sure the romance was necessary to the story — and it certainly takes a backseat to the main plot, and Josephine’s growth as a character. But the blossoms of first love, as Kincy has so lovingly captured them here, add a nice finishing touch — like the frosting to the cake that is the rest of the story. And while younger readers may not connect to this aspect of the story, there’s nothing that will stop them from enjoying Deadly Delicious on the whole.

Deadly Delicious is available now.

Book Review: Dissonance by Erica O’Rourke

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Romance, intrigue and action combine in Dissonance by Erica O’Rourke, an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride through the multi-verse.

dissonanceDelancy Sullivan has always known there’s more to reality than what people see. Every time someone makes a choice, a new, parallel world branches off from the existing one. Eating breakfast or skipping it, turning left instead of right, sneaking out instead of staying in bed ~ all of these choices create an alternate universe in which an echo self takes the road not travelled and makes the opposite decision. As a Walker, someone who can navigate between these worlds, Del’s job is to keep all of the dimensions in harmony.

Normally, Del can hear the dissonant frequency that each world emits as clear as a bell. But when a training session in an off-key world goes horribly wrong, she is forbidden from Walking by the Council. But Del’s not big on following the rules and she secretly starts to investigate these other worlds. Something strange is connecting them and it’s not just her random encounters with echo versions of the guy she likes, Simon Lane.

But Del’s decisions have unimaginable consequences and, as she begins to fall for the Echo Simons in each world, she draws closer to a truth that the Council of Walkers is trying to hide ~ a secret that threatens the fate of the entire multiverse.

Dissonance completely swept me away, right from the start — and carried me anxiously through ever page, right up to the gut-wrenching cliff-hanger of an ending. (Because seriously, WHAT. THE. HELL. I need book 2 in this series STAT!!!!) I just couldn’t put this book down, and didn’t WANT to put it down even when I’d reached the conclusion.

Del is a delight for a narrator. She has her flaws, but as a teen she still has some growing to do. But her personality, spunk, and determination make her a charming character, and a wonderful tour guide through the world of Dissonance. Toss in her charming BFF Eliot, the multi-faceted Simon (and all his multi-verse counterparts), trouble-making grandpa, and a well-intentioned but oft-maligned older sister, and you have a winning cast.

There’s more than just world-hopping and romance, too. Del and her friends find themselves at the center of a mystery about what is really happening to the multi-verse, and the truth about the many worlds they visit could shatter their entire existence.

O’Rourke has established a fantastic universe and a charming cast of characters. Dissonance was a delight to read, and I am anxiously awaiting the next installment of this exhilarating new series.

Dissonance is in stores July 22nd.

Book Review: Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

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At the beginning, Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafon – already a cult favorite in the author’s native Spain — felt like something akin to a Neil Gaiman story. But as the story unfolded, Marina turned dark, sinister, and truly terrifying.

marinaIn May 1980, fifteen-year-old Oscar Drai suddenly vanishes from his barding school in Barcelona. For seven days and seven nights no one knows his whereabouts…

His story begins in an old quarter of the city, where he meets the strange Marina and her father, Germán Blau, a portrait painter. Marina takes Oscar to a cemetery to watch a macabre ritual that occurs on the last Sunday of each month. At exactly ten o’clock in the morning, a coach pulled by black horses appears. From it descends a woman, her face shrouded be a black velvet cloak. Holding a single rose, she walks to a gravestone that bears no name, only a mysterious emblem of a black butterfly with open wings.

When Oscar and Marina decide to follow her, they begin a journey that transports them to a forgotten, postwar Barcelona–a world of aristocrats and actresses, inventors and tycoons–and reveals a dark secret that lies waiting in the mysterious labyrinth beneath the city streets.

It’s been a long time since a book had me this on-edge. In fact, I often stayed up too-late reading Marina not necessarily because I had to know what happened next … but because what I’d just read was so horrifying, I couldn’t possibly have closed the book and gone to sleep. I had to read on to find some lightness between so much horror, just to be able to switch off the bedside lamp!

Zafon is already a master storyteller, and his skills shine through as the story of Marina unfolds. Because as the mystery behind the horror story unfolds … a quieter, much more human saga also plays out. One about sickness and mortality and loss and love. It’s this element that is really the heart of the story.

Marina is in stores July 22nd.

Book Review: Cocktails for Book Lovers by Tessa Smith McGovern

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This book should be enjoyed responsibly by readers ages 21 & over only. Oh, but enjoy it you will!

cocktails for book loversCleverly pairing up delicious cocktail recipes with beloved classic novels, Cocktails for Book Lovers by Tessa Smith McGovern is the perfect addition to any adult readers’ library. Or bar. Or … er, both.

McGovern has compiled 50 great novels — from old classics like Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen to new favorites like The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick — and paired them up perfectly with cocktail recipes. Much like the eclectic choice in authors and titles, the cocktail recipes range from well-known favorites to original concoctions.

Here are some highlights:

“Frankenstein’s Berry Punch” and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

One of Victor Frankenstien’s more successful experiments: Pimm’s No. 1, and lemon/lime soda over ice cubes into a tall glass with fruit and mint.

“Papi’s Rum Punch” and This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz

Papi and Miguel enjoy Bermúdez rum, and now it’s your turn. This refreshing summer cocktail combines light and aged rum, orange, mango, and pineapple juice.

“Heathcliff’s Crush” and Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Watch out Cathy Earnshaw! Heathcliff’s got a new love. Read this tumultuous romance with a tantalizing    Madeira, vodka, and Elderflower Presse cocktail in hand. Obsession guaranteed.

Not only do I love the cocktail combinations McGovern offers readers — but even more, I love what this book inspires. After reading it, I want to go to my own bookshelves, select my favorite tomes, and start mixing up drinks to compliment them. (And just think how much further you could take it, adding in food recipes, too!)

This book is perfect for anyone wanting to mix up a little libations while reading over a long weekend — or for book clubs, looking to spice up the refreshments at their next meetings.

Cocktails for Book Lovers is in stores now. Here is more about the book & author from the publisher:

The perfect pairing for anyone with a literary thirst: cocktails inspired by your favorite authors!

From Jane Austen’s little-known fondness for wine to Hemingway’s beloved mojitos, literature and libations have always gone hand in hand. Cocktails for Book Lovers blends these in a delectable book that will delight both readers and cocktail enthusiasts alike.

Perfect for book clubs and bon vivants, this irresistible collection features 50 original and classic cocktail recipes based on works of famous authors from Virginia Woolf to Junot Diaz and popular drinks of their eras, including Orange Champagne Punch, Salted Caramel and Bourbon Milkshakes, and even Zombie Cola. So dip in, pick your favorite author or book, and take a sip, or start at the beginning and work your way through. Cheers!

Tessa Smith-McGovern is an award-winning writer, and founder, host, and executive producer of BookGirlTV, a popular online video series for book clubs. She teaches Writing for Digital Media at Sarah Lawrence College in New York.

Book Review: Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

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Creeptastic is probably the best word to describe Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods, a collection of eerie short stories in graphic form. through the woodsNot to be outdone – Carroll’s own illustrations are just as spooky (if not more so) than her stories!

A fantastically dark and timeless graphic debut, for fans of Grimm Tales, The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and the works of Neil Gaiman

‘It came from the woods. Most strange things do.’

Five mysterious, spine-tingling stories follow journeys into (and out of?) the eerie abyss.

These chilling tales spring from the macabre imagination of acclaimed and award-winning comic creator Emily Carroll.

Come take a walk in the woods and see what awaits you there…

The tone of the stories almost remind me of the utter terror I felt as a child when I read the story “The Green Ribbon” in In a Dark, Dark Room scary stories anthology. Each story is unearthly and unsettling on so many levels, heightened by the moody illustrations.

I read Through the Woods in a single, terrifying sitting –luckily in the middle of the day, as I’m not sure how I would have handled these stories in the dark of night. I remember shuddering after I finished the last one.

The stories and illustrations are so lovely in their craft — but so creepy and disturbing in their content!

Through the Woodsis in stores tomorrow.


Book Review & Blog Tour Giveaway: Idols by Margaret Stohl

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Today’s book review is part of the official blog tour for Idols by Margaret Stohl, the second book in her Icons series. Be sure to keep reading for your chance to win a copy of Idols and check out links to the rest of the blog tour!

idols final book coverThe Icons came from the sky. They belong to an inhuman enemy. They ended our civilization, and they can kill us.

Most of us.

Dol, Ro, Tima, and Lucas are the four Icon Children, the only humans immune to the Icon’s power to stop a human heart. Now that Los Angeles has been saved, things are more complicated – and not just because Dol has to choose between Lucas and Ro, the two great loves of her life. As she flees to a resistance outpost hidden beneath a mountain, Dol makes contact with a fifth Icon Child, if only through her visions. When Dol and the others escape to Southeast Asia in search of this missing child, Dol’s dreams, feelings and fears collide in an epic showdown that will change more than just four lives — and stop one heart forever.

In this riveting sequel to Icons, filled with nonstop action and compelling romance, bestselling author Margaret Stohl explores what it means to be human and how our greatest weakness can be humanity’s strongest chance at survival.

I confess, as much as I enjoyed Icons, I wasn’t 100% sure I wanted to commit to the rest of the series. But after reading Idols, I’m all-in. This sequel had me hooked — and in many ways, I think it far surpasses the first book.

In Idols, Stohl takes readers on a globe-trotting adventure, as the four teens search for a way to save their planet and their lives. New faces, surprising twists, and unexpected revelations about within the pages, making for a delightful, edge-of-your-seat reading experience.

The stakes are higher than ever, as the Icon Children race to find answers, all while struggling with their own relationships, their pasts, and their unknowable futures. Iconsis in stores now.

About the Book:
Published by: Little Brown
To Be Released on: July 8, 2014
Series: Icons #2
Add it to GoodReads
Purchase it From: Find A Retailer/Book Store near you!
About The Author:
Margaret Stohl is a lifelong science fiction fan, former video game designer, coauthor of the New York Times bestselling Beautiful Creatures series, and author of Icons. She lives in Los Angeles, California, with her family.
Find Margie via: her Website TwitterFacebook | Tumblr | Goodreads
The Giveaway:

Thank you to Margaret Stohl and Little Brown, fans will have a chance to enter to win a copy of IDOLS at each stop during the blog tour (1 winner per book). Please be sure to fill out the form HERE to enter to win!  Please be sure to read the giveaway rules listed at the bottom of the form before entering.
*US residents only
Good luck!

Book Review: The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

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Get swept away in a fantasy adventure rich with romance, betrayal, and magic at every turn, with The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson.

kiss of deceptionIn this timeless new trilogy about love and sacrifice, a princess must find her place in a reborn world.

In a society steeped in tradition, Princess Lia’s life follows a preordained course. As First Daughter, she is expected to have the revered gift of sight—but she doesn’t—and she knows her parents are perpetrating a sham when they arrange her marriage to secure an alliance with a neighboring kingdom—to a prince she has never met.

On the morning of her wedding, Lia flees to a distant village. She settles into a new life, hopeful when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deception abounds, and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—even as she finds herself falling in love.

Oh, Kiss of Deception, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways …

1. I love your dreamy romance. With two potential suitors and all the markings of a love triangle, Kiss of Deception is not your typical love story. You’ve got hidden identities, well-intentioned villains, and surprise heroes. Plus, two swoon-worthy guys? Yes, please!

2. I love your heroine, a master of strength and resiliency, yet also in touch with her feminine side. Lia proves you can still be girly while kicking butt. She wants true love, she likes pretty things, but she can also take care of herself and isn’t afraid to speak her mind. She’s a character I can truly admire and relate to you.

3. I love your setting. The fantasy world of Morrighan is truly the epitome of a fairy tale’s “far far away.” Pearson has imagined a world rich with magic and tradition and history. It’s a place I loved visiting in my mind, and I can’t wait to escape there again.

4. I love how you kept me on my toes. I could not put this book down. Pearson keeps you guessing at every turn — about characters’ true identities, about genuine intentions, about where this wild ride will go next. I couldn’t help myself, racing through the pages of Kiss of Deceptionand then bemoaning the agony of such a teasing, tantalizing cliffhanger ending! I want more, more, MORE! It’s going to be a long wait for book 2 in this already delightful series.

The Kiss of Deceptionis the perfect fantasy to escape to this summer. Destiny, romance, adventure abound within it’s pages.

It is in stores today.

Book Review: Brazen by Katherine Longshore

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Lush historical drama abounds within the pages of Brazen by Katherine Longshore, in which a forbidden romance in the court of Henry VIII comes to life in vivid detail.

brazenMary Howard has always lived in the shadow of her powerful family. But when she’s married off to Henry Fitzroy, King Henry VIII’s illegitimate son, she rockets into the Tudor court’s inner circle. Mary and “Fitz” join a tight clique of rebels who test the boundaries of court’s strict rules with their games, dares, and flirtations. The more Mary gets to know Fitz, the harder she falls for him, but is forbidden from seeing him alone. The rules of court were made to be pushed…but pushing them too far means certain death. Is true love worth dying for?

Longshore brilliantly imagines the agony Mary Howard feels, as she falls more in love with the young husband she’s forbidden from having — and as her family, and the royal family, crumbles around her. Brazen paints a portrait of a strong young woman in a time when strong young women were not encouraged (and sometimes found themselves beheaded). Mary is not your typical heroine, and yet history proves her resiliency; Longshore simply brings her story to life in lush, imagined detail.

Whether you know your Tudor history or not, Brazen brilliantly brings to life the tension thrumming throughout Henry VIII’s court — the threats, the terror, the betrayal … and the romance and scandal this period in history has been associated with. Fans of The Tudors and Reign will adore the drama and romance that abounds within the pages of Brazen, yet there is plenty enticing for all readers to enjoy.

Brazen is a sweeping saga of strength and love, filled with scandal and turmoil that history has laid out for us. Longshore’s writing brings the past to life in tantalizing detail, making Brazen a hold-your-breath page-turner that just can’t be put down.

Brazen is in stores now.

The Wig in the Window Review

middle gradeI’m so excited about the release of The Wig in the Window by Kristen Kittscher. When I find an adventure that has great action, believable characters (no stereotypes) and page-turning mystery, I’m hooked.

Official synopsis:

Best friends and seventh graders Sophie Young and Grace Yang have made a wig in the windowgame out of spying on their neighbors. On one of their midnight stakeouts, they witness a terrifying, bloody scene at the home of their bizarre middle-school counselor, Dr. Charlotte Agford (aka Dr. Awkward).

At least, they think they do. The truth is that Dr. Agford was only making her famous pickled beets! But when Dr. Agford begins acting even weirder than usual, Sophie and Grace become convinced that she’s hiding something—and they’re determined to find out what it is.

Soon the girls are breaking secret codes, being followed by a strange blue car, and tailing strangers with unibrows and Texas accents. But as their investigation heats up, Sophie and Grace start to crack under the pressure. They might solve their case, but will their friendship survive?

Perfect for fans of The Mysterious Benedict Society, The Wig in the Window is a smart, funny middle-grade mystery with a REAR WINDOW twist.”

Perhaps my biggest pet peeve with Middle Grade mystery is the simplicity of the plots. When my 12 year old niece is insulted by an easily solvable story-line, it’s hard for me to get on board. But this is not the the case with The Wig in the Window. Kristen Kittscher takes her time with her characters, building an unforgettable friendship, with character flaws and motivations that weave complication in an adventure that takes the reader on a ride of hilarity, danger, and ultimately a test of loyalty.

Middle graders will love it, and any adult who loves mystery should pick it up too.


Book Review: Conversion by Katherine Howe

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The frenzy of the Salem witch trials meets modern-day mean girls and prep school pressure cookers in Conversion by Katherine Howe, a ripped-from-the-headlines thriller about a mysterious illness plaguing a Catholic high school.

conversionIt’s senior year at St. Joan’s Academy, and school is a pressure cooker. College applications, the battle for valedictorian, deciphering boys’ texts: Through it all, Colleen Rowley and her friends are expected to keep it together. Until they can’t.

First it’s the school’s queen bee, Clara Rutherford, who suddenly falls into uncontrollable tics in the middle of class. Her mystery illness quickly spreads to her closest clique of friends, then more students and symptoms follow: seizures, hair loss, violent coughing fits. St. Joan’s buzzes with rumor; rumor blossoms into full-blown panic.

Soon the media descends on Danvers, Massachusetts, as everyone scrambles to find something, or someone, to blame. Pollution? Stress? Or are the girls faking? Only Colleen—who’s been reading The Crucible for extra credit—comes to realize what nobody else has: Danvers was once Salem Village, where another group of girls suffered from a similarly bizarre epidemic three centuries ago . . .

Inspired by true events—from seventeenth-century colonial life to the halls of a modern-day high school—Conversion casts a spell. With her signature wit and passion, New York Times bestselling author Katherine Howe delivers an exciting and suspenseful novel, a chilling mystery that raises the question, what’s really happening to the girls at St. Joan’s?

Juxtaposed with the 18th century confession of one of the girls behind the Salem witch trials, Conversion is a slowly-unfolded drama about the pressures facing a group of students at an all girls school, in the second term of their senior year. Howe paints an interesting portrait of the ensuing saga, with richly imagined characters and multiple facets to the storyline.

Though compelling, Conversionis not without its faults. My primary complaint is that the synopsis — that only Colleen has made the connection between what’s happening in Danvers and the Salem witch trials — is a bit misleading. It’s not until nearly the end that Colleen finally makes the connection, but as a reader it’s been made clear from the beginning — and Colleen’s slow catch-up is very frustrating to read. In many cases, it bogs down the pace of the book.

That said, I was still eager to get to the real root of the mystery: WAS it magic? Was it poisoning? Were all the girls faking, and if so, how had they all coordinated it? What was really behind the illnesses? And those questions kept me turning the pages.

Ultimately, the book is a social examination. Conversion looks at the pressures teens face: from themselves, from their parents, from school, and from society — and what those pressures can do, when pushed to extremes.

Conversion is in stores July 1st.