Friday 31 July 2015

Review: Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication date: August 11th 2015
My rating: 4.5 stars 
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
For fans of Laura Lippman and Gillian Flynn comes an electrifying novel of stunning psychological suspense.

I am the star of screaming headlines and campfire ghost stories.
I am one of the four Black-Eyed Susans.
The lucky one.

As a sixteen-year-old, Tessa Cartwright was found in a Texas field, barely alive amid a scattering of bones, with only fragments of memory as to how she got there. Ever since, the press has pursued her as the lone surviving “Black-Eyed Susan,” the nickname given to the murder victims because of the yellow carpet of wildflowers that flourished above their shared grave. Tessa’s testimony about those tragic hours put a man on death row.

Now, almost two decades later, Tessa is an artist and single mother. In the desolate cold of February, she is shocked to discover a freshly planted patch of black-eyed susans—a summertime bloom—just outside her bedroom window. Terrified at the implications—that she sent the wrong man to prison and the real killer remains at large—Tessa turns to the lawyers working to exonerate the man awaiting execution. But the flowers alone are not proof enough, and the forensic investigation of the still-unidentified bones is progressing too slowly. An innocent life hangs in the balance. The legal team appeals to Tessa to undergo hypnosis to retrieve lost memories—and to share the drawings she produced as part of an experimental therapy shortly after her rescue.

What they don’t know is that Tessa and the scared, fragile girl she was have built a  fortress of secrets. As the clock ticks toward the execution, Tessa fears for her sanity, but even more for the safety of her teenaged daughter. Is a serial killer still roaming free, taunting Tessa with a trail of clues? She has no choice but to confront old ghosts and lingering nightmares to finally discover what really happened that night.

Shocking, intense, and utterly original, Black-Eyed Susans is a dazzling psychological thriller, seamlessly weaving past and present in a searing tale of a young woman whose harrowing memories remain in a field of flowers—as a killer makes a chilling return to his garden.

My Thoughts:
Black-Eyed Susans is a suspenseful mystery that will keep you hooked and on the edge of your seat! I devoured this story in 24 hours.

At the age of sixteen Tessa was a miracle as the only survivor in the Black-Eyed Susan murders.  She didn’t remember much about her abduction or the ordeal, and for many years she welcomed the unknown.  Back then Tessa was struggling with her own mental survival, not really pondering whether the authorities had the right guy, Terrell Darcy Goodwin, on trial. Now eighteen years later strange happenings make her think maybe they were wrong.  When an anti-death penalty advocacy group contacts Tessa to help re-examine Terrell’s case, initially, even with the nagging doubts, she’s reluctant to participate. Getting involved opens Tessa and her teenage daughter up to public scrutiny and attention, and brings up memories she’d rather forget, but a man’s life is at stake.

Flashbacks from the past alternating with chapters in the present slowly reveal Tessa’s story. The time jumps were brilliant! The tension progressively ratcheted up with each morsel of truth dealt out.  I had suspicions about the killer’s identity, but then I’d be led in another direction or a little twist would pop up and muddle my conclusions.  I love it when an author can keep my guessing!  My feelings over the final reveal were a mixture of astonishment and horror, especially in regards to one character in particular!  The last chapters and journal entries were a chilling peek into twisted thoughts.

For any romance junkies who wonder (like me) there was a little bit of romance, but it’s a very minor part of the story. Still, I’m happy it was included.

Julia Heaberlin’s writing was wonderfully suspenseful, taut with tension, and just the right amount of twists and turns to keep me glued to the pages!

Connect with Julia Heaberlin:

Thursday 30 July 2015

Blog Tour: Most Likely to Succeed by Jennifer Echols

Hi all, today I'm thrilled to be taking in The Most Likely to Succeed Blog Tour hosted by The Fantastic Flying Book Club. I have become a fast fan of this series by Jennifer Echols so far, so was delighted to be with this fantastic set of characters once again. Before I share my review here's a bit about the book. 

Most Likely to Succeed (Superlatives #3) by Jennifer Echols
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: August 4th 2015. 
In this sexy conclusion to The Superlatives trilogy from Endless Summer author Jennifer Echols, Sawyer and Kaye might just be perfect for each other—if only they could admit it. As vice president of Student Council, Kaye knows the importance of keeping order. Not only in school, but in her personal life. Which is why she and her boyfriend, Aidan, already have their lives mapped out: attend Columbia University together, pursue banking careers, and eventually get married. Everything Kaye has accomplished in high school—student government, cheerleading, stellar grades—has been in preparation for that future. To his entire class, Sawyer is an irreverent bad boy. His antics on the field as school mascot and his love of partying have earned him total slacker status. But while he and Kaye appear to be opposites on every level, fate—and their friends—keep conspiring to throw them together. Perhaps the seniors see the simmering attraction Kaye and Sawyer are unwilling to acknowledge to themselves… As the year unfolds, Kaye begins to realize her ideal life is not what she thought. And Sawyer decides it’s finally time to let down the facade and show everyone who he really is. Is a relationship between them most likely to succeed—or will it be their favorite mistake?
Goodreads | Amazon Barnes & Noble

The Superlatives series by Echols is one of my favourite series yet, in the two previous books Echols has created endearing characters which have been hard not to fall for, I love how each book so far has focused on one couple, but still kept the secondary characters an integral part of the story. Sawyer was the class clown, always goofing off or getting on people’s nerves, but on occasion he was known to show a softer side and this was one side that I couldn’t wait to see more of in Most Likely to Succeed.

Sawyer had had his eyes on Kaye for the last two years, although he was found messing around with a different girl so often, it was clear to tell that around Kaye he was a totally different person, he could be sincere, considerate and most of all he was completely vulnerable. It was strange seeing him like this as before I’d never taken him seriously, but I loved how with this book we got to know the real Sawyer underneath the pelican costume a whole lot more.  Kaye like her friend Harper found herself in the situation where things weren’t really working out with her boyfriend and she was sort of getting conflicted feelings about somebody else. Like Harper’s ex Kennedy, Kaye’s boyfriend Aidan was a right piece of work, he liked to have control and dominate most situations as he was class president. It was awful how he felt he could say whatever he wanted to Kaye. Boyfriends are meant to be supportive, cheer you up when you’ve had a crap day and just be your pillar of support, Aidan was neither of these things and so I really couldn’t wait for Kaye to stand up to him and end things with him. Kaye could do so much better, and although she didn’t know where she stood with Sawyer, I wanted her to find out.

Sawyer and Kaye’s relationships wasn’t one of the easiest ones, there was a lot of hot and cold signs, parents getting involved when they didn’t need to and Sawyer of course was a totally different person when he was dressed as the mascot pelican and when he was being himself. I couldn’t understand how Sawyer and Kaye’s feelings were genuine for one another, but they were just scared about wrecking things. In some of the sweet scenes we got to see between them, it was obvious they were made for one another, I wish so much crap and miscommunication didn’t have to get in the way. Sawyer had so much of his own stuff to deal with in this book, and so I could understand why he was scared about getting his heart trampled on.

Family once again played a big part in this book and it was one aspect I truly appreciated. Kaye had such a great family, yes her mother could be a little over bearing at times, but she only wanted what was best for her daughter, she wanted to give her the best life possible, something which she really had to fight for when she was younger. I loved how Kaye’s parents always balanced each other out, how Kaye’s mum would get vexed in a instant and her dad would help her simmer down, even though there was a lot of tension whenever Kaye’s family popped up in a scene, you knew it would never be a dull moment!

Alongside the family aspect, I was grateful to be back again with the great set of characters that Echols had introduced to us in the previous books, especially my favourite Brody. All six characters: Sawyer, Kaye, Harper, Brody, Tia and Will had such great personalities that they were characters that could cheer you up in no time, they were certainly friends that I wish I had by my side when I was in high school, it actually makes me kind of sad that this will be the last that we will see of them! *cries* (just a hint Jennifer, I would totally read a book following these wonderful characters to college if you wanted to go there)

Most Likely to Succeed was another fantastic instalment for the amazing Superlative series. I loved the character growth that Echols showed in this series, but most of all the wonderful relationships amongst friends and family that Echols was able to explore. I never usually end up liking all the books in a series, but I have loved every single book in this series, so honestly I can’t recommend this series highly enough!


Win ALL three books in the Superlatives series by Jennifer Echols (Biggest Flirts, Perfect Couple and Most Likely To Succeed) [US Only]

Friday 24 July 2015

Short & Tweetish #6 & Giveaway: Mortal Danger by Ann Aguirre

I'm back again with a Short & Tweetish Review (There's no way I can keep it to 140 characters!).  This style of reviewing was introduced to me by Mary@The Book Swarm  and Karen's @For What It's Worth

Mortal Danger (Immortal Game #1) by Ann Aguirre
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication date: August 5th 2014
My rating:  4 stars 
Amazon | B&N | TBD | GRs
Revenge is a dish best served cold.

Edie Kramer has a score to settle with the beautiful people at Blackbriar Academy. Their cruelty drove her to the brink of despair, and four months ago, she couldn't imagine being strong enough to face her senior year. But thanks to a Faustian compact with the enigmatic Kian, she has the power to make the bullies pay. She's not supposed to think about Kian once the deal is done, but devastating pain burns behind his unearthly beauty, and he's impossible to forget.

In one short summer, her entire life changes, and she sweeps through Blackbriar, prepped to take the beautiful people down from the inside. A whisper here, a look there, and suddenly... bad things are happening. It's a heady rush, seeing her tormentors get what they deserve, but things that seem too good to be true usually are, and soon, the pranks and payback turns from delicious to deadly. Edie is alone in a world teeming with secrets and fiends lurking in the shadows. In this murky morass of devil's bargains, she isn't sure who—or what--she can trust. Not even her own mind...

My Thoughts:
Engrossing and disturbing, Mortal Danger combines revenge, horror, and the trials of high school. Edie was a sympathetic character, a victim of cruel school bullying. This pushes her to take a deal that ends up being too good to be true.  The consequences are ugly and terrifying and Edie is caught up in a deadly supernatural game.  While Edie’s back and forth with Kian was understandable, it was a little frustrating at times. Still, I was rooting for their romance because they had so much in common, pain and circumstance. Revenge stories can be tricky and very negative, so I was happy that Edie’s human compassion made her horrified by the actuality in spite of her past treatment.  

 I'm giving away my ARC copy of Mortal Danger by Ann Aguirre to one Readers Den follower.  The giveaway is restricted to US or Canadian residents only.  Fill out the rafflecopter below for a chance to win.

Wednesday 22 July 2015

Review: After the War by Jessica Scott

After the War by Jessica Scott
Publication date: May 5th 2015
My rating: 4 stars 
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

The second book in the emotional new Homefront series from USA Today Bestselling author Jessica Scott

A terrible loss…

Captain Sarah Anders lost her husband to the Iraq war and has nearly lost the career she loves. Sent to Fort Hood, she only wants to do her job and take care of the daughter she’s raising on her own. She never counted on running straight into a memory she’d tried to forget.

A love he never forgot...

Captain Sean Nichols never got over Sarah. He simply tried to forget her amidst the war and the chaos of combat. But when she’s assigned to investigate his unit, he comes face to face with the woman no war or any amount of time could make him forget.

A dark secret…

As Sarah gets closer to the truth, Sean must accept that actions he took during the war may end the tentative love building between them. And even if Sarah can forgive him, Sean may never be able to forgive himself.

My Thoughts:
Captain Sarah Anders never counted on being a single mother, but being in the Army she understood the risk when she married a soldier.  But before she married, there was another man in her life, one she’s tried and failed to forget, Captain Sean Nichols.  Now years later when an injury brings her back to the States, serving at Fort Hood, Sarah is face to face with the man that broke her heart. Can they put the past behind each other and work together peacefully or even better (IMO) have a second chance at love?

Captain Sean Nichols has never loved another woman since Sarah, but she chose the Army over him, or at least that’s what he thought so many years ago. It’s funny what growing up can do to your perspective and Sean realizes now what an idiot he was to let Sarah get away back then. When he comes face to face with her again, pain overrides his sensibilities and Sean lashes out, but an investigation forces them to put the past behind them and work together.  Realizing the amazing opportunity he has before him again, Sean sets out to right the wrongs of the past and win the woman he never forgot.

Life in the Army is no walk in the park. Navigating the politics and personalities is difficult. Dealing with the demons these soldiers dragged home from war complicates things further.  Sean’s team has two men fighting in what seems like a cut and dry situation until Sarah is called in to investigate.  It’s tricky and heartbreaking trying to do right by these men who’ve given up so much for their country.  Sean struggles to balance what’s right with loyalty to a man that had his back in battle years ago. My heart went out to all involved. 

After the War was a touching second chance romance, and I found myself tearing up over Sean and Sarah’s story.  Jessica Scott writes beautiful, emotional romances, and I think her background in the military makes the stories feel authentic and relatable. The troubles and growing pains Sean and Sarah went through felt realistic, and I could easily understand how they bungled things up when they were young, even though they were so passionately in love.  Of course, I was thrilled that these two would have a second chance at happiness.  

Connect with Jessica Scott:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads 

Friday 17 July 2015

Author Event Recap with Sarah Alderson

Last weekend I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Sarah Alderson Event hosted at Birmingham New Street. I'd met Sarah last year at a blogger's event, but I couldn't wait to catch up with her again and see other fans of her work too. 

Sarah is one of the nicest people I have ever met, I've absolutely loved her work, and I tend to get super nervous about meeting and chatting with authors who I am huge fans of. Of course I got to the event early, so I ended up sitting in the front row. Sarah kicked off with a reading of her latest YA release Conspiracy Girl.

And then went straight into questions from the audience.

Sarah said that she sort of stumbled into writing, she hadn't planned to be a writer from a very young age.

Very exciting things are happening with the Hunting Lila film, they've narrowed the casting of Lila down to six actresses. Sarah wouldn't reveal anything about who these actresses could be. They're looking to cast Alex next week, they're going to film a scene with Alex and each of the Lila's and then decide on the chemistry between the actors. Sarah has asked to be able to be in the room when this scene took place, but it doesn't look like this will happen :(  Rachel has already been cast.

I was able to put my hand up and squeak out a question, which was who was Sarah's favourite male character from her books, her answer was Demos. I was sort of surprised that she chose him, but Sarah explained that there's so much more to Demos than you expect. And if you have read Sarah's Lila series you would understand what she means, as Demos is rather more complex than expected. 

Sarah's inspiration for her books came from travelling, which she's loved that she's been able to do.

Sarah was asked which of her characters she finds herself most like and her reply was Lila.

Sarah's favourite charcters from books she has read are Buffy and Katniss. She likes her kick ass females.

On whether there will be an upcoming third book in the Lila series, Sarah's response was that she was hoping to get to it once the screenplay for Hunting Lila kicked in. (I was super excited when I heard this!!)

Sarah's favourite cover from her own books is The Sound.

Sarah found that most readers chose Alex as their favourite male character from her books, she's written seven books and still can't top him. 

I had an amazing time at this event with Sarah, thank you to Birmingham New Street for having such an amazing author like Sarah do an event for us and Sarah for taking the time out for your fans (she was really great in chatting with all the readers who queued up to get their books signed). 


Tuesday 14 July 2015

Review: The Yellow Rose Beauty Shop by Carolyn Brown

The Yellow Rose Beauty Shop (Cadillac, Texas #3) by Carolyn Brown
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Publication date: July 14th 2015
My rating: 4 stars 
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Stella’s mama never should’ve put Stella on the church prayer list. With Stella’s twenty-seventh birthday coming up fast, Nancy desperately wants to see her daughter married and giving her grandbabies. Petitioning heaven seems like a surefire way to get it done. But in Cadillac, Texas, where the gossip’s hotter than the city’s famous jalapeño peppers, it isn’t long before all hell breaks loose.

Heather, the bossy leader of the church’s Prayer Angels, thinks a summer ball will get Stella and the town’s other single gals paired off. But nobody can tell redheaded spitfire Stella what to do—not her mama, not Heather, and not even the sexy beau Stella’s been seeing in secret. Together, Stella, her best friends Charlotte and Piper, and the loyal customers of the Yellow Rose Beauty Shop hatch a good old-fashioned scheme to sabotage the ball. But will it wreck Stella’s relationship with her mama forever? And what will the church folk think when Stella reveals the identity of her mystery man?

My Thoughts:
The Yellow Rose Beauty Shop was hilarious, and so much fun to read. But sweet romances, strong female friendships and family bonds make this more than just a humorous read.

Twenty-six year old Stella has been put on the Prayer Angels’ list by her mother, Nancy. Nancy wants a grandchild and she thinks Stella needs a husband first to make that happen. Nancy doesn’t know her daughter already has a man because Stella’s been keeping him under wraps for a good reason. Unfortunately, the leader of the prayer group, Heather, has a grudge against Stella, and so she takes the opportunity to humiliate her by putting up a sign for the whole town to see: “Pray for My Daughter. She Needs a Husband.”  With Cadillac, Texas being a small town the gossip spreads like wildfire and speculation about why Stella would need a husband set tongues a wagging.

Heather’s machinations know no bounds, but she’s come against the wrong girl, because Stella is a redhead by birth and temperament, and she has an arsenal of loyal friends at her back. The hilarity that ensues had me laughing my ass off for much of this story!

While Stella is the center of the story, her best friends, Piper and Charlotte take up a good portion as well. Their loves and lives in this story reminds me a lot of the movie Steel Magnolias; laughing during the good times and crying together during the bad. The movie also just happens to be one of their favorites (mine, too!).  

Stella’s romance is hidden, but very solid. Still, when she finds out about the sign Stella’s a little afraid of her man’s reaction. He’s a complete sweetheart so of course she gets nothing, but support from him.  As a reader you find out early on who she’s involved with and why Stella’s keeps it hush, hush. I understood why she kept the relationship under the covers so I didn’t find it frustrating.  The gossip was so out of control I really couldn’t blame her.

Piper is a single mom with two twin boys, getting by on her own after her ex-husband, Gene, decided he wanted date other women and didn’t want to bother with kids.  Gene is pretty much a dirt bag, and gives Piper grief, but she has Stella and Charlotte at her back.  Stella’s parents were also very sweet and supportive, and I loved the example they set as a married couple.  Piper is gun shy about dating, but that doesn’t stop a hunky cowboy from taking notice. Charlotte is engaged to her high school sweetheart, Boone, and while they seem very devoted, Charlotte needs her girls to help her sort out a dilemma, too.

I loved the female relationships in this book, there was pretty much only one mean girl, Heather, and she just added entertainment so it was all good. I must mention Agnes Flynn, the eighty-year old spitfire of this novel:

If anyone in town could put things to rights, it was Agnes. She was eighty years old and ornery as a rattlesnake, and there wasn’t a person in town who messes with Agnes.

Thankfully, Agnes is on Stella’s side in this whole mess!  Seriously, that lady had me cracking up so many times in this story:

"And FYSA, I was plenty spicy enough to chase down men prettier than Rhett Monroe twenty years ago."—“It's FYI. The initials mean 'for your information,'" Charlotte said.
"I don't like your alphabet soup world, but maybe I meant for your stupid ass when I said FYSA," Agnes smarted off.

“I’m not telling you jack shit about my snitch. The FBI or the NASA would come haul my skinny ass off to jail if they knew who I had in my pocket.”
“NASA is the place that sends spaceships to the moon and Mars.” Trixie laughed.

I can’t help but narrate these stories in my head with a Southern accent and have to stop myself from saying ‘y’all’ when I finish.

I’ve enjoyed each and every story by Carolyn Brown. You can tell she writes from a well of life experience.  Her small town, Southern romances are filled with humor, heart and sass!

Connect with Carolyn Brown:

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