She Reads July Book Club of the Month: That Night by Chevy Stevens

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Click here to win a copy of this fantastic book!

Publication Date: June 17, 2014
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Pages: 384
Genre:  Mystery, Thriller

Synopsis:

They said she was a murderer.

They said she killed her sister.

But they lied.

As a teenager, Toni Murphy had a life full of typical adolescent complications: a boyfriend she adored, a younger sister she couldn’t relate to, a strained relationship with her parents, and classmates who seemed hell-bent on making her life miserable. Things weren’t easy, but Toni could never have predicted how horrific they would become until her younger sister was brutally murdered one summer night.

Toni and her boyfriend, Ryan, were convicted of the murder and sent to prison.

Now thirty-four, Toni is out on parole and back in her hometown, struggling to adjust to a new life on the outside. Prison changed her, hardened her, and she’s doing everything in her power to avoid violating her parole and going back. This means having absolutely no contact with Ryan, avoiding fellow parolees looking to pick fights, and steering clear of trouble in all its forms. But nothing is making that easy—not Ryan, who is convinced he can figure out the truth; not her mother, who doubts Toni’s innocence; and certainly not the group of women who made Toni’s life hell in high school and may have darker secrets than anyone realizes. No matter how hard she tries, ignoring her old life to start a new one is impossible. Before Toni can truly move on, she must risk everything to find out what really happened that night.

But the truth might be the most terrifying thing of all.

my book thoughts

Have you ever read a book that was from a genre you don’t typically read, and when you do, it’s the book that busts wide open your interest in that genre??  Well, this book absolutely did!  I do read Mystery Thriller books, but it’s not often, so I was amazingly surprised at how incredible this book was.  Chevy Stevens delivers a brilliant book to readers, who will be on the edge of their seat the whole time!
The storyline is real, raw, and the character development is detailed.  While each character is developed, the action and drama is what drives this book home.  It’s a book that will definitely deals with complex issues of: family, parenting, perfect child vs. troublemaker, mean girls, social injustice, abuse of power, sexual abuse, and murder.

Tori is the “troublemaker” daughter, who has been recently released from prison.  She and her boyfriend, charged with the murder of her younger sister, and is shunned by her community and family.  While Toni just wants to move on with her life and forget about the past, Ryan wants to know who framed them and why.  The secrets that are unveiled are unexpected, sad, horrific, and in the end…the readers are left with a little hope.

Brilliantly written, it’s a book that deserves to be a “Summer Must Read!” I would love to share more about Tori’s family, but doing so, would give too much away to the storyline.  This is the book your book club needs to read, because the discussions will be endless!!!

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*A huge thanks to the publisher and She Reads for allowing me the opportunity review this book!

 

Chevy Stevens. Photo Credit Poppy Photography

CHEVY STEVENS grew up on a ranch on Vancouver Island and still calls the island home. For most of her adult life she worked in sales, first as a rep for a giftware company and then as a Realtor. While holding an open house one afternoon, she had a terrifying idea that became the inspiration for Still Missing.Chevy eventually sold her house and left real estate so she could finish the book. Still Missing went on to become a New York Times bestseller and win the International Thriller Writers Award for Best First Novel.  Chevy’s books have been optioned for movies and are published in more than thirty countries.

Chevy enjoys writing thrillers that allow her to blend her interest in family dynamics with her love of the west coast lifestyle. When she’s not working on her next book, she’s camping and canoeing with her husband and daughter in the local mountains.

 

 

TLC Book Tour Review: Last Night at the Blue Angel by Rebecca Rotert

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Reading this novel, I could imagine break out female actresses and singers, who are single moms and travel with their child(ren).  This story details the struggles and daily challenges Naomi faces to become a star, even at the expense of her daughter, Sophia.

Sophia is not your average little girl.  Of course, she is also living on the road, living with different people, and has a different perspective on life.  She is an observer, and journals words/thoughts/ideas in her two little notebooks.  While she doesn’t have a father in her life, Jim (Naomi’s manager) assumes that role and becomes a father figure to Sophia-who she looks to for support.

During a time of racism, sexual revolution, and the challenges of being a single mom, Naomi’s life is revealed through the eyes of her daughter, Sophia.  There are some lesbian moments in the book, although it is not explicit.  Nor does the author go into much detail about that part of Naomi’s life.  It’s an interesting tale and a cautionary one, because sometimes to gain fame, it means to lose those you love most.

 

great cupcake rating 4

 

About Rebecca Rotert:

Rebecca Rotert received an M.A. in Literature from Hollins College, where she was the recipient of the Academy of American Poets prize. Her poetry and essays have appeared in a range of magazines and journals. She’s an experienced singer and songwriter, who has performed with several bands, and a teacher with the Nebraska Writers Collective. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska. This is her first novel.

Follow Rebecca on Twitter: @RebeccaRotert.

Rebecca’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, July 1st: Drey’s Library

Thursday, July 3rd: Kritters Ramblings

Friday, July 4th: Sweet Southern Home

Monday, July 7th: Book-alicious Mama

Tuesday, July 8th: Books in the Burbs

Thursday, July 10th: Books à la Mode

Monday, July 14th: Becca Rowan

Tuesday, July 15th: BookNAround

Wednesday, July 16th: Olduvai Reads

Thursday, July 17th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views

TBD: The Written World

 

 

 

 

 

Review & Book Giveaway: A Good Year for the Roses by Gil McNeil

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Molly is a recently divorced mom, who finds herself with the challenge of taking on a huge project that also includes taking care of her Uncle Bertie and his crazy bird-Betty.  The storyline is told primarily through dialogue, from Molly’s perspective, that is humorous, snarky, and at times a little tongue and cheek.  While dealing with her divorce, from Pete (who now goes by Peter), Molly also has to deal with underlying family issues that threaten to tear apart her family (mom, dad, and brother).

Molly is a mom to 3 boys, who are quite rambunctious and Harrington Hall (manor) is the place for them to explore, have some crazy experiences, and learn to be a family that includes some eccentric characters.

What I loved most about the storyline was Ivy and her estranged son.  Ivy is the one who does it all.  She cleans, keeps things tidy, is a huge help to Molly and Uncle Bertie, as well as helping with the bed and breakfast.  I would have loved to learn more about Ivy, the relationship between Uncle Bertie, Aunt Helena, and Molly’s parents, as well as had more opportunities to read about what happened before Molly and Pete divorced.  Molly faces her challenges through humor and quick wit, which certainly helps with all the challenges she faces.

I love the preface before each chapter, that has a lot of interesting information about roses and the different types of roses.  I loved the reason why Aunt Helena doesn’t like red roses, which I have to agree with her on that, too!

Overall, this is a quick, light read, with a good storyline!

 

Book Giveaway Details:

Question: What is your favorite kind of rose?

Include your email and name in the comments section below.

US entries only.

Giveaway ends July 30, 2014.

Review: The Execution of Noa P. Singleton

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This is a book that I’ve had on my TBR list for a year now.  After reading quite a few books for tours, I decided it was time to take this one out to read.  Before reading the book, it is hard for anyone to pick this book up and not already have an opinion about the death penalty and the inmates on death row.  However, regardless of a reader’s stance on the prison system, the judicial system, and crimes/punishments, this book is about the story of one woman: a woman who could really be anyone that grew up in a single parent home, with a promiscuous lifestyle, who has a father that has been in and out of prison all his of life.  Her life could have turned out so much differently, being the salutatorian for her high school class, being accepted into Yale, and trying to make a life for herself.  However, her past is always haunting her and she is never fully able to forgive herself and move on.

Noa is only 10 months old when she has her first experience with lies and the judicial system.  Her first experience is that of her mother, who is a struggling actress that makes a rash judgement to protect herself from the possibility of jail or child services.  This stays with Noa.  Honestly, I don’t have any recollection before the age of 4, but this seems to be ingrained in Noa (or not), as she says that her memory is foggy and it’s hard to separate fact from fantasy.  However, I somehow believe her because it starts the cycle of loss, feeling less than, isolation, and hopelessness.

While the story is told through Noa’s viewpoint, the reader will get glimpses inside Marlene’s head, through her letters to her daughter (Sarah), who is murdered.  While Noa’s life is that of someone who is tragically put in the line of fire due to circumstances by her parents, it is Marlene’s story that most interested me.

Marlene is a woman of influence, with a lot of money, who realizes early on that she really has no control over her daughter-her only child.  Paying off someone to follow her daughter and then threatening both that person and the boyfriend, doesn’t end there.  Marlene decides to mask her way back into Noa’s life, under the guise of MAD (Mothers Against Death), to find out what happened to her daughter’s last moments of life.  In some ways, Noa vindicates herself because she doesn’t give Marlene those last moments, although I don’t Marlene truly wanted to know.  I think Marlene has loads of guilt, hidden under her callousness towards others and her brashness, and she somehow wants to know that Noa doesn’t blame her for the events that happened leading up to Sarah’s death.  In some ways, if Noa doesn’t place any blame on Marlene, then Marlene can feel justified in her own role with Sarah’s death.

In the end, everyone wants something from Noa: her compliance, her silence, her devotion-and when they get that-they leave.  In the end, the judicial system only hears what attorneys want the jurors to hear, rich people get passes, poor people get passed the buck, and our system is truly screwed.

But there is hope.  There is hope, everyday, with the choices people make as humans, as parents, as children, as a society.

This is a book that is very character driven, with not a lot of unraveling until 200 pages in, but it’s still a great book.  It is at times dry, and sometimes it seems that the novel drifts, but be patient- there is a reason for it all.  I don’t think this book can be read without discussing it afterwards.  It’s what makes this book unique-because the dialogue continues long after Noa’s story, long after Marlene’s and long after the last page.  It is thought provoking, would make for a great book club discussion, and also in a class to talk about family cycles, the judicial system, and victims of circumstance.

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Review: One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

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  Click on book cover to read synopsis and book info.

 

My Review:

Earlier this year, I was first introduced to the author, Jojo Moyes, through She Reads.  I read and reviewed, The Girl You Left Behind, which I loved!

I was quite excited to read her latest book, One Plus One.  What I love most about Jojo Moyes, is that she truly explores every aspect of each character.  So that by the middle of the book, the reader will truly be vested in each character and feel every emotion he/she experiences.

This book is a huge deviation from, The Girl You Left Behind, because the story is told in present time.  Although, there are many perspectives that are told, which is similar to her last book.  Why do I mention this? Because I absolutely loved this!! Jojo Moyes doesn’t stick to a formulaic way of writing-rather her writing changes each time to compliment the storyline in a brilliant way.

I read this book very fast…not because it is a quick read, but because I had to find out what happens to each character.  I literally stayed up until 5am one night, because my heart ached and I was crying so freaking bad, and I couldn’t sleep until I knew that everyone was going to be okay.  This storyline will tug at everyone’s heart, that knows someone (or is) a single mom trying to make the most of what she has to help her children succeed.  There are moments that readers will laugh, sniffle, feel bad for the characters, and full blown ugly cry….at least I did!

After I read this book, I took some time reflect and could picture this family being like the Hoover family in the movie, “Little Miss Sunshine”.  Jess, Nicky, Tanzie, and Ed are that little family that from the outside looks quite dysfunctional, but from the inside, are quite brave, love each other, and rise above challenges they face.

I loved this book….every little bit of it!

supreme cupcake rating 6

Graduation Memories

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Honestly, just typing this post has given me anxiety.  I am still the parent, walking in a daze, who refuses to believe her little boy grew up into a young man and graduated high school this year!  My son is the first to leave our little bird’s nest, and I am so immensely proud of him.  He worked so hard in school, took honor’s courses, and it all paid off!

Because this was a huge moment for our family and since we didn’t have any family pics that were recent, I seized on the opportunity to combine graduation and family pics.  After a series of unfortunate events, one photographer came forward and rose to the challenge quite well.  I had already picked the place I wanted the pictures taken-just a small local park with such natural beauty, that it seemed to represent us as a family well.

Sophia Danielle Photography is owned and managed by Sophia Loaiza.  She is quite young (anyone under 30 is young to me!), but don’t let that dissuade you.  She has a great eye for poses and listened to my suggestions, too.  She was quite flexible with me, since it was a last minute photo shoot and took as many pictures needed to ensure we had some great shots.  I especially needed pictures for my son’s graduation announcements, which came out so amazing!

The picture below is one of my favorites, because it captured the special relationship between our daughter and her daddy.

**There were many other great pics, but respecting my children’s wishes, I chose this one to show you.

selah and daddy
Daddy & Princess

My friend and cake owner, Jennilicious Desserts, made my son’s cake and cupcakes.  She is a genius when it comes to designing each cake. In my opinion, it’s all about the cake, if you are celebrating an occasion.  I just started working with Jennifer Duran, this past year, and have loved the cakes I’ve ordered from her so far! I simply tell her what I want, in terms of themes, colors, flavors, and she works on some designs and from there, we narrow it down to what is perfect for that occasion!

jennilicous cakes
Photograpy from Ann Milazzo, owner of Never A Missed Moment

The venue was easy to select.  We called my son’s favorite restaurant, Sushi Coast in Houston, and they were quite accommodating and helped make my son’s graduation luncheon a wonderful success!

sushi coast owner
Sushi Coast owners, Harry & Maggie, even joined in on the fun! Photo courtesy of Ann Milazzo, owner of Never A Missed Moment

I knew I wanted a photo booth for my son’s luncheon.  It’s different, and people of all ages can join in on the fun!  Ann Milazzo was my point of contact, and she is FANTASTIC to work with.  She listened to what I wanted, gave great suggestions, and really helped make the event go smoothly.  While she is the owner and photographer for Never A Missed Moment, she also works as a liaison for Event Mojo.  She was so kind to take pictures of everyone, aside from the photo booth, and is very professional and so creative!

I also love Event Mojo!!  Here’s why:

1.  They do the setup and take down of all props

2.  There is a great variety of props to work with

3.  Each person in the photo booth received their copy of the picture!

4.  My son automatically received a copy of the picture, which was placed in a scrapbook, for guests to write their well wishes on!

5.  The staff is family owned by a husband and wife team.  I spoke with Bridgette (the owner) about the layout of the photo card, and she was just a wonderful person to talk to!  The staff is very personable and didn’t get annoyed by the countless pictures my nieces and nephews took!  Taking pictures in a photo booth is addicting and fun, so it’s obviously going to be a huge hit for kids, too!

The best part: each picture was like a postcard with my son’s information on there, to show what we were celebrating!  Bridgette worked with me to select the best design that reflected the graduation.

If you do need a photographer or want a photo booth at your next event, I have each name highlighted.  By clicking on the name, you will be directed to their page for additional information.

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Photo courtesy from Event Mojo.

As you can see, us moms had a blast, too!

My son, his brother, and cousins, also enjoyed celebrating!

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Photo courtesy from Event Mojo

The best part of all of this, is that close friends celebrated such an important day with us, and our family was there to enjoy it, too!

My son is excited about the next step in his journey: college! So, it was quite nice to revisit this day with you, and share all the wonderful people who helped contribute.

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Quick Reviews for Books I’ve Read This Summer

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It doesn’t always happen, but with the recent health issues I’ve had, being homebound has allowed me the opportunity to read more than I have in a long time.  Reading has been the silver lining, this summer.  Usually, summer is the time when I read from my TBR list, which I have yet to touch! I think most readers can relate-but it seems my TBR list is always expanding!!!  With new releases each week, it can be overwhelming to keep up with!

Below are some books I’ve read-so far!  If you click on the picture of each book, it will take you book page, so that you can read the synopsis.

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This is a story that reads almost like a mystery, because Olivia has to piece together the events that happened before the fatal death of her estranged friend, Sally.  I enjoyed reading about the relationship between Sally and Olivia (before they became adults), and could certainly relate to having that “crazy friend”-who goes off the edge.  Eleanor Moran doesn’t give all the details in order, with the story changing from past to present, which made the book even more fascinating to read!  I love a great mystery, wrapped up in a novel that has a little bit of everything: widowhood, survivor’s guilt, infidelity, friendships, lies and betrayal, and a little romance.  The reader is given one piece of the puzzle, in random order, as each piece slowly takes shape to reveal the hidden truths that were there the whole time.

I loved Madeline and felt her emotions were true to that of a child, who deals with the loss of her parent.  She is angry, distant, reluctant, and slowly opens her heart to the possibilities of loving and honoring her mother, while also accepting a new beginning.  My heart ached for her, as she struggles to balance her faithfulness to her mom, while also learning to accept someone else in her life.  It isn’t until the very end that Moran reveals to the reader and Sally’s family-the reason for Sally’s demise and “crazy behavior”, which came as a shock but then made sense!  Eleanor Moran nails the psychological issues Sally faces and the internal struggles she dealt with and the demons that she faced.

While there were times that it seemed Olivia was in a trance and did whatever William wanted, it seemed that in some cosmic weird way that Sally wanted things to evolve as they do and that in the end, she could rest in peace knowing those she loved were all together.

It’s an excellent read!  I read this one quite quickly because  I wanted to know what happens!  Most of all, I love the style of writing Eleanor Manor has in this book-as it was a puzzle that slowly connects and reveals all the hidden secrets that the characters have.  Those who love books about mental illness, family secrets/relationships, and friendships, will certainly love this book!

excellent cupcake 5  *A huge thank you to the publisher for giving me the opportunity to review this book.

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Let’s face it.  The book cover doesn’t scream, “READ ME!”.  But….don’t let that deter you from reading it!  Once you’ve read it, you will completely understand the cover and appreciate it that much more.  This book is a traditional thriller book.  It has mystery, electric energy that intensifies as each chapter is read, murder, possible suspects and motives, and psychological drama that will have your head spinning!  It’s definitely one of my best picks for 2014, because it the kind of book that any reader will enjoy.

You love history? Check.

You love murder mystery? Check.

You love reading about an underdog protagonist that has a secret? Check.

You want to read a book that you won’t be able to put down? Check.

You want a book that has to deal with sociopaths, psychological issues? Check.

You want a book that intensifies as each chapter is read? Check.

This book has it all.  There is so much detail, that Lisa Unger leaves no stone uncovered.  She weaves this incredible story, with two alternating voices.  Whose voice is the second? That ‘s one of the mysteries!  I absolutely loved this book, couldn’t put it down, and read this book in 1 day.  That is really unheard for me, and being sick, I actually read this book with a migraine.  I literally read with one eye closed at times because my head hurt….but I needed to know what happened! Yeah, this book is that fantastic.  Add it to your TBR list, or better yet, just stop what you are reading and grab this book!  It’s that good.

supreme cupcake rating 6

*This book was provided for review, courtesy of the publisher.

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This is a book that starts out quite intense.  Clarissa is a girl that people either can relate to because they see parts of themselves in her, or know someone who is like her.  Either way, Clarissa will be someone that will bring out strong emotions in the reader.  Clarissa is the typical victim: she is isolated, wants to have a relationship but doesn’t know how to set boundaries because she has self-esteem issues, and doesn’t know who to trust.  There are so many issues Clarissa is challenged with, because of the torment she endures from her predator (Rafe).  The reader is taken on a journey of the psychological trauma and prison a person can get entrapped in, and how it slowly strips everything from the victim, to a point of panic.  It’s an incredible book that shows that cycles repeat, until the victim takes control and makes a shift mentally.

If you or someone you know is feeling threatened, in an unsafe situation, or needs to talk to someone, please call the Crisis Hotline!

1.800.273.8255

24/7, anytime, anywhere.

great cupcake 4  *This book was provided through TLC Book Tours, in exchange for an honest review.