Bad Girls with Perfect Faces, by Lynn Weingarten ~ 3.5 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and Simon Pulse for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: Available Now

320 Pages

Synopsis: Bad girls get it done.

Sasha’s all-time favorite person is her best friend Xavier. He’s smart, funny, and strange. He’s not just nice but kind. He’s endlessly forgiving, even when maybe he shouldn’t be.

So when Xavier lets his ex, Ivy, slither her way back into his life, Sasha knows she needs to protect him. And not just because she can’t stop thinking about the night she and Xavier shared a rum-soaked kiss. No, it’s because Ivy is poisonous. The last time they were together, Ivy cheated on Xavier and he just barely survived.

Sasha has a plan: pose online as a guy to seduce Ivy, proving that cheaters never change. But she soon learns to be careful who you pretend to be—because you can never truly know the darkness inside of someone. Including yourself.

Bad Girls With Perfect Faces is a solid mystery/ thriller that I think will have wide appeal. It’s dark, gritty and compelling, and although I had some trouble connecting with the characters, the plot kept me reading .

The narrative is told from multiple POVs and jumps between first, second, and third person. Ivy is your stereotypical mean girl, who really has nothing that makes her stand out from similar characters in other YA books. Xavier is an affable guy, but rather bland and completely clueless. Sasha is the most interesting character and I appreciated her complexity. She’s impulsive and a bit obsessive when it comes to her feeling about Xavier, yet there’s no doubt that she genuinely cares about him and wants to protect him.

The plot itself is dark and twisty, and went places I did not expect it to go. There’s plenty of twists and turns and while there was some foreshadowing as to the big revelation, the journey getting to that point was still an intriguing one.

Bad Girls With Pretty Faces is the first book I’ve read by Lynn Weingarten, and while I wish the characters had been developed a little more, I thought the story itself was original and entertaining. I think this would appeal to a wide audience. I would however recommend it to older teens as this covers sexual situations, drugs, alcohol and self-harm. I’m definitely planning on checking out future books by this author.

 

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Blog Tour: Watching Glass Shatter, by James J. Cudney ~ 5.0 Stars

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Thanks to James Cudney for including me in this blog tour and providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Publisher: Creativia

Release Date: Available Now

278 Pages

Synopsis: The wealthy Glass family lost its patriarch, Benjamin Glass, sooner than expected. Benjamin’s widow, Olivia, and her 5 sons each react to his death in their own way while preparing for the reading of his will. Olivia receives an unexpected confession from her late husband about one of their sons that could shatter the whole family.

Prior to revealing the secret to her children, Olivia must figure out which boy Ben refers to in the confession he left her in his will. While the family attorney searches for the mysterious Rowena Hector whom Ben says holds all the answers, Olivia asks her sons to each spend spend a week with her as she isn’t ready to let go of the past. When Olivia visits her sons, she quickly learns that each one has been keeping his own secret from her. Olivia never expected her remaining years would be so complex and life-altering, but she will not rest until her family is reunited after Ben’s untimely death.

We all need family. We all want to fit in. We’re all a mix of quirky personalities. Will Olivia be able to fix them or will the whole family implode? What will she do when she discovers the son behind Ben’s secret? Check out this ensemble cast where each family member’s perspective is center stage, discovering along the way who might feel the biggest impact from all the secrets. Welcome to being an honorary member of the Glass family.

I think I’ve said before that I’m always a little anxious reviewing another blogger’s book because I hate even the idea of having to give a poor review to someone I’ve gotten to know through the WordPress community. But when Jay, one of my favorite bloggers, announced that his book Watching Glass Shatter, had been picked up by a publisher, I was thrilled and unhesitatingly asked if I could be part of the blog tour. I purposely waited to read it until a few days before I was due to write this post. Last Thursday night I picked it up thinking I’d read for a couple of hours before bed. Four hours and half a Kleenex box later I had finished it and my first thought was: “THIS is a debut?”

Starting with the Glass family patriarch Ben, the story is then picked up by his widow Olivia and her four sons: Ethan, Caleb, Matt, Zachary, and Teddy. With such a large cast of characters and a relatively short length, the personalities of the Glass family very easily could have been under-developed and confusing, but instead they literally leapt off the page. I have to admit at the beginning I thoroughly disliked Olivia. She’s judgemental, interfering and self-involved, but as she spends time with each of her sons and discovers the secrets each of them hides, she realizes that her family isn’t as picture perfect as she thought and that she may have played a role in this. She’s a very complex character and while I still didn’t really like her at the end, I did appreciate her more as she evolved and became a little more kind and empathetic.

Ethan, Caleb and Olivia’s underappreciated yet loyal sister Diane, are without a doubt my favorite characters out of everyone, but interestingly, although I had some issues with Zachary, Teddy and Matt, I wound up having a lot of sympathy for them as well. They’re richly drawn and realistically written, and by the end of the book they’ve all recognized their shortcomings and have taken the first steps to correct them. 

Equal to the character development is the multi-layered plot. Beginning with the secret that Ben kept from Olivia, this theme is continued throughout the book. While each son’s story is unique, the parts of themselves that they’re hiding effect the rest of the family. At the end, while some are further along the road to self-enlightenment and recovery than others, the family unit as a whole is so much closer. While I already had guessed how the actual mystery stemming from Ben’s confession was going be concluded, when the revelation came near the end of the book I was so involved with this flawed family, I didn’t mind the lack of surprise. Indeed, it lent even more poignancy to this already compelling tale.

Watching Glass Shatter is a family drama filled with love, humor and tragedy. It elicited strong emotions in me and I found myself laughing and crying multiple times as I was reading. And, that to me is the true strength of this novel. There is so much emotional havoc, yet I never once felt it was over the top. Instead, all the drama drew me that much closer to the family, even with characters I didn’t care for in the beginning. I absolutely loved Jay’s debut from start to finish and I truly can’t recommend it highly enough. Jay writes with the talent of a seasoned author, so I’m excited to see what he comes out with next.  And, as I’m not ready to say goodbye to the Glass family, I’m thrilled that he’s planning to revisit them in the near future! 

There’s a Goodreads Giveaway until November 30th! Check it out at: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/263554-watching-glass-shatter 

Watching Glass Shatter is also available to purchase on Amazon. http://mybook.to/WGS

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About the Author:

James is my given name; most call me Jay. I grew up on Long Island and currently live in New York City, but I’ve traveled all across the US (and various part of the world). After college I spent 15 years working in technology and business operations in the sports, entertainment and media industries. Although I enjoyed my job, I left in 2016 to focus on my passion: telling stories and connecting people through words. My debut novel is “Watching Glass Shatter”, a contemporary family drama with elements of mystery, suspense, humor and romance. To see samples or receive news from my current and upcoming books please subscribe with your email address at my website: https://jamesjcudney.com

What do I do outside of writing: I’m an avid genealogist (discovered 2K family members going back about 250 years) and cook (I find it so hard to follow a recipe). I love to read; between Goodreads and my blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com I have over 500 book reviews which will give you a full flavor for my voice and style. On my blog I started the 365 day challenge, where I post a word each day that has some meaning to me, then converse with everyone about life. There is humor, tears, love, friendship, advice and bloopers. Lots of bloopers where I make fun of myself all the time. Even my dog has a weekly segment called “Ryder’s Rants” where he complains about me. All these things make up who I am; none of them very fancy or magnanimous, but they are real and show how I live every day.

A bit of humor: Everything as something else when you live in NYC. For me, it’s the dining room, my favorite space in the apartment, where more than my cooking is on display! As I look out the windows onto the 12th floor terrace, various parts of nature (trees, bushes, flowers, bogs & animals) inspire me to write. Ryder, my 10-year-old shiba inu, usually lays on my feet, growling when I shift position too many times or when I forget to share my food! And although he’s only 20 pounds, he’s quite strong and pushy. But how else do you pen the best story possible without these things by your side?

You can also visit Jay at:

Goodreads ~ https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17128817.James_J_Cudney

Twitter ~ https://mobile.twitter.com/jamescudney4

Instagram ~ https://www.instagram.com/jamescudney4/

There’s also a wonderful interview with Jay on Artist First ~ 

http://www.artistfirst2.com/Authors-First_2017-11-14_James_Cudney.mp3

And finally, please check out some of these other fantastic bloggers who have participated in this blog tour. You’ll find more great reviews, interesting Q&As with Jay and even an awesome poll on who should play the characters if this gets optioned for film (which it totally should!)

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Disturbed, by Jennifer Jayne ~ 4.5 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer 

Release Date: Available Now

238 Pages

Synopsis: On Halloween night five years ago, Chelsea Dutton’s college roommates were viciously stabbed to death, and Chelsea was critically injured. She was found hiding in her apartment’s bathtub, barely clinging to life.

With only fragments of shattered memory, she’s been trying her best to move past the nightmares ever since. Now in Boston, she lives a somewhat reclusive life, working from home as a medical transcriptionist and binging on mindless television shows. 

She can’t shake the fear that her attacker is out there, waiting to finish what he started, and Elizabeth, a nurse she met after the murders, is the only person she can trust.

When someone from her past re-emerges, Chelsea starts receiving disturbing messages and worries that her every move is being watched. As the messages mount and her memories begin to return, she’s led to a terrifying and lonely place. But she needn’t be afraid. She won’t be there very long.

Jennifer Jaynes has established a well-respected reputation for writing creepy and chilling tales, and Disturbed is no different. It’s chock full of suspense and it kept me mesmerized right up until the very last page.

Chelsea is a complicated and unreliable character. Suffering from amnesia due to the traumatic events of that Halloween night five years ago, she’s moved to Boston and has carved out a fairly nice life for herself working from home as a medical transcriptionist. But she’s still haunted by her lost memories and occasional nightmarish flashbacks. Thankfully, she has her supportive best friend, Elizabeth, to lean on. After a chance meeting with someone from her past, makes it obvious that the murderer is not done with Chelsea, her life quickly begins to spiral out of control.

While Chelsea doesn’t always make the best decisions, I was sympathetic toward her right up until the end. Her fears that the killer isn’t finished with her are palpable and I was completely invested in her even during the couple of occasions I wanted to take her by the shoulders and shake her. 

There’s a huge twist near the end, but I had already grown suspicious toward the character it involved about halfway through the story. That said, I wasn’t entirely sure, so when the revelation came it was still a bit of an “aha!” moment. The story concludes with an open ending and to be honest a couple of days after finishing,  I’m still not sure if I loved it or hated it.

Disturbed certainly lives up to its title and fans of Jennifer Jaynes will not be disappointed by this latest book. If you’re new to her writing and love chilling psychological thrillers, filled with unreliable characters, then I highly recommend this. It’s a twisted tale that can easily be read in 1-2 sittings, and it’s one that will leave you at the edge of your seat!

Total of 9 Women Have Come Forth To Tell All About Judge Roy Moore

Thank you Gronda for another in depth, thoughtfully written post. What horrifies me even more than Roy Moore and his lawyers are his defenders who call themselves good Christians. One of the most nauseating response came from Alabama state auditor Jim Ziegler who said: “Take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became the parents of Jesus. There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.’ There is something seriously wrong when certain Evangelicals can’t unequivocally condemn pedophillia.

Gronda Morin

ROY MOORE AND HIS ATTORNEY PHILLIP L. JAUREQUI

We are on another insane roller coaster ride that is in the category of a nightmare a la President Trump. It started with the Washington Post’s exposé  of 4 women coming forward to accuse Judge Roy Moore (70 years old) of sexual misconduct while he’s in the middle of a campaign to become the next republican US senator from Alabama on December 12, 2017. These 4 accusers have told their detailed stories as to how Judge Moore behaved inappropriately in trying to obtain sexual favors from them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s.

Then there have been those who have shared  their recollections about how Judge Moore had been frequently kicked out of the Gadsden Mall by security because he had a habit of stalking teenage girls during the late 1970s through early 1980s.

Related image GADSDEN MALL

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Haven, by Mary Lindsay ~ 5.0 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Publishing for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: Available Now 

371 Pages

Synopsis: “We all hold a beast inside. The only difference is what form it takes when freed.”

Rain Ryland has never belonged anywhere. He’s used to people judging him for his rough background, his intimidating size, and now, his orphan status. He’s always been on the outside, looking, in, and he’s fine with that. Until he moves to New Wurzburg and meets Friederike Burkhart.

Freddie isn’t like normal teen girls, though. And someone wants her dead for it. Freddie warns he’d better stay far away if he wants to stay alive, but Rain’s never been good at running from trouble. For the first time, Rain has something worth fighting for, worth living for. Worth dying for.

Haven is definitely going down as one of my favorite YA novels of 2017! It’s a unique and refreshing take on werewolf, witches and vampire lore, that hands down, beats anything else out there. I was hooked from the very first page and while I finished it in one sitting, I was sad when the ending came.

The relationship between Rain and Freddie is so gorgeously written. They’re strong personalities that both have dark pasts, and watching them learn to trust each other and then fall in love is both beautiful and heartbreaking. Their courtship is not a smooth one as they have many things stacked against them, but there is no doubt that these two are destined to be together.

There is a large cast of secondary characters and they’re all just as fantastically written as Rain and Freddie. There’s two in particular that I loved. Rain’s Aunt Ruby, who lovingly welcomes him into her home after his mother died, and Petra, a Weaver and so-called “freak” who is quirky and surprisingly strong given the way she’s treated by the rest of the community and her own family. 

The world-building and backstories of the Weavers (magic users) and Watchers ( werewolves) is dark, dense and gritty, and it amazed me how much the author was able to pack in a book that was slightly less than 400 pages. The whole story plays out as almost a Grimm’s fairytale only it’s set in a small Texas town. 

Honestly, I could keep gushing about Haven all day, but I’m going to sum it up in two words: sheer perfection. This is one of the best YA paranormal romance/urban fantasies I’ve come across and in my humble opinion it even eclipses Stephenie Meyers Twilight. I do have one word of caution. There are some fairly graphic sexual scenes as well as some gory ones, so I’d recommend this for ages 16 and up. I’m hoping this is only the first book in a future series, because I want MORE! 

Artemis, by Andy Weir ~ 3.0 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and Crown Publishing Group for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: November 14th, 2017

384 Pages

Synopsis: Jazz Bashara is a criminal.

Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first, and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.

Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward to lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she’s stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—-and that now, her only chance for survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.

I have a confession to make. I think I am one of the few on the planet who haven’t read Andy Weir’s debut bestseller, The Martian.  I know! I know! I haven’t even gotten around to seeing the movie yet. This is so embarrassing. When I saw Artemis offered on NetGalley I immediately pounced, barely even skimming the premise. The good news about not having read the hugely successful previous book, is that I didn’t have such high expectations as some other readers. However, it still wound up being just a “meh” read for me.

I liked that Jazz was of Saudi Arabian descent, although she’s lived on the moon since childhood. I also appreciated  how her snarky personality and her independence mixed with occasional moments of emotional vulnerability. Jazz would have been a fantastic character for me if this was a YA novel. But it’s not. And Jazz isn’t a teenager, but a twenty-six-year-old woman. Her impulsive behavior and at times juvenile dialogue, is more in keeping with someone ten years younger. Many reviewers have complained that she’s written more like a male, and I have to agree. For me though, it was more her repeated immature actions which not only put her own life in danger, but others as well, that made her not entirely believable.

The secondary characters were interesting, but I think they could have definitely used more development. Especially Svoboda, Jazz’s awkward scientist friend. Their relationship could have been so much more, but instead it left me a bit frustrated. 

Although Weir uses a lot of scientific and technical terms, which slowed the pace down for me at times, I was captivated by Artemis and life on the moon. Naturally there were major differences between living there and living on earth, but there were certain similarities especially socio-economic norms. Everything is well detailed, and by the time I was halfway through the story, I felt as though I was there. 

The plot itself was basically your average heist mystery, only set on the moon. I definitely wouldn’t call it a thriller, but it did keep my attention. There weren’t any huge plot twists, but the story moved steadily along until the satisfactory conclusion.

Overall, I found Artemis to be an okay read, but definitely not in the blockbuster category. I’m glad I read it, and I still want to read The Martian, as well as try the next book Weir comes out with. If you’re a fan of Andy Weir and science fiction, I recommend you give this a try. It may not be an instant science fiction classic, but it’s still an entertaining blend of suspense, science and humor.

Autonomous, by Andy Marino ~ 1.0 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and Disney-Hyperion for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: April 3rd, 2018

368 Pages

Synopsis: William Mackler is about to go on the road trip of a lifetime. After winning a contest—and nearly dying in the process—he becomes the proud owner of Autonomous, a driverless car that knows where you want to go before you do. #Worthit! To sweeten the deal he gets to pick three friends to go with him on a cross-country trip to see their favorite band. For William, a reckless adrenaline junkie, this is the perfect last hurrah before he and his friends go their separate ways after graduation. But Autonomous is more than just a car without a steering wheel. It’s capable of downloading all of the passengers’ digital history—from the good, to the bad, to the humiliating. The information is customized into an itinerary that will expose a few well-kept secrets, but it will also force William to face some inner demons of his own. Think you know Autonomous? The real question is, how much does Autonomous know about you?

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The real question is, how much does Autonomous know about you?” Noooo. The real question is, how do I get back the seven hours I wasted on this? I was expecting snarky teenage humor with maybe a lighter shade of Stephen King’s Christine mixed in. Instead, Autonomous is a red hot mess that doesn’t seem to know what exactly it wants to be.

Disney is marketing this to 14-year-olds and up, and I absolutely disagree with them on this. Even if I had liked this, there is no way I’d recommend this to anyone under the age of sixteen for the following reasons:

1. There is so much swearing in this that it doesn’t even come across as realistic. Almost every sentence has some sort of curse word in it and this made the dialogue extremely awkward.

2. Sexual scenes which include one, where two of the characters decide they want to lose their virginity to each other. Granted these teens have graduated from high school, but there is no way I’d want anyone under the age of sixteen reading this.

3. Drinking and drug use is prevalent throughout the story. There are drinking games like “Never Have I Ever”, and one drunken scene involving a water tower which had me horrified. The character who’s addicted to cocaine defends himself by saying Sherlock Holmes used it. Just…ugh. There’s also a little side trip to a meth lab because of the bad decisions of a different character, which I just did not understand at all.

4. The contemplation of suicide, and self-harm are brought up but never discussed in a responsible way, and worse, there’s no resolution.

The only thing I liked in this book was the car, “Otto”, who I felt actually felt sorry for in the end. There are too many social issues thrown in together during this road trip and then adding in a cautionary tale of social media and our over-reliance on it, is a bridge too far.

When I first requested Autonomous the release date was set for 11/14/17. It’s now been moved up to April 2018, for reasons unknown. I’m hoping it’s so the author can do some much needed editing and rewriting. While I liked the premise, this book in the end, was a huge letdown. This is where I usually say, make sure you check out other reviews, but to be honest, there are very few positive ones out there. It’ll be interesting to see now that the book has a new publishing date, if once it’s released, the reviews improve. As of right now though, I would not recommend this to anyone, especially teens.