Thursday, December 26, 2013

Book review: The Sentinel by Holly Martin

When Eve is rescued from a horrific coach crash by her teachers, she is shocked to discover they possess super strength and speed. But what happens next is even more harrowing. 

In the aftermath of the crash she discovers that everyone in her life from neighbours, doctors, dentists, teachers, shop keepers and even her family and friends are actually super strength Guardians sent to protect her. They all have one thing in common, a single minded ferocity that she must be kept alive at all costs. 

However, she is surrounded by secrets and lies. Those in the know deny all knowledge of what happened that fateful night. Everyone else carries on as normal, seemingly unaware of the new strange world that she has stumbled against. 

With the help of Seth, her best friend, Eve discovers the prophecies surrounding her true identity and the super strength she too holds. With her Guardians pledged to protect her, her closest friends ready to die for her, her own hopes and dreams are put on hold whilst she battles to control the amazing powers she has been bestowed with.

But those that seek to destroy her move ever closer. Will the Guardians be enough to protect her when so many are prepared to stop at nothing to see her dead? And will she be strong enough to fulfil her destiny when the time comes? 

A free e-book copy was given to me in exchange for a review.

There was a lot to be covered in The Sentinel; at its heart, I feel like it’s a good book, or at least a good premise.  It takes place in our world but has an entirely new one that we need to be introduced to in order to understand what’s happening.  This is done by way of the main character, Eve, who’s special to this world but doesn’t know it.  Even though she was being raised by guardians, and even her dog was a shapeshifter who had vowed to protect her, she was raised to think she was a normal human being.

Well, not necessarily.  That’s a bit of the problem that makes it not actually the best book it could be.  Apparently she’s spent her entire life being taught self-defense and other such things on the weekends (she says that where other girls her age might be out with friends or on vacation or dates on weekends, she was stuck training).  That isn’t a problem itself, but she claims that she’s “always been normal” and “never had reason to think she wasn’t.” But when it comes down to it, she realizes that a lot of her life isn’t normal.  So the beginning was kind of weak, and felt more like a stock “Normal girl is actually not normal at all” thing.  That definitely should’ve been cut out.

Another thing I have to complain about is that things happen much too fast.  The book is definitely long enough, but so much is happening, and most of it is just talked about.  Integral training is told rather than shown, entire scenes reduced to a few sentences telling what they did and how much fun Eve had or how frustrated she was that she couldn’t get something of her powers down right away.  Like I said, it makes the entire thing rushed.

Finally, I feel like there are too many characters.  The ones who are obviously important to Eve are easy enough to discern between after a while, but she has so many guardians hovering around her who are all named and she talks to at some point that I got them lost in my head.  Near the end when a name is mentioned, I went “Wait, who’s that?” It was supposed to be a big revelation but yeah, I was just confused.

Still, I feel like this is a pretty good read.  I enjoyed it for what it was and would definitely recommend it for fans of the genre.  And perhaps you can go into it without being as picky as I am.  Happy reading!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Book review: The Sandman and the War of Dreams (The Guardians #4) by William Joyce

When the Man in the Moon brought together the Guardians, he warned them that they would face some terrible evils as they strove to protect the children of earth. But nothing could have prepared them for this: Pitch has disappeared and taken Katherine with him. And now the Guardians are not only down one member, but a young girl is missing.

Fortunately, MiM knows just the man to join the team. Sanderson ManSnoozy—known in most circles as the Sandman—may be sleepy, but he’s also stalwart and clever and has a precocious ability to utilize sand in myriad ways. If the other Guardians can just convince Sandy that good can triumph evil, that good dreams can banish nightmares, they’ll have themselves quite a squad. But if they can’t…they might never see Katherine again.

The Sandman and the War of Dreams is the fourth book in the Guardians series, taking place right after Pitch and Katherine were swept up by the elusive and illustrious Mother Nature.  Like the first three books in this series, Sandman is told in the style of a fairytale, with a sweeping world that it takes place in and those silly little things added on to keep it light even when they’re worried about Katherine’s safety.

This particular one focuses on Sanderson Mansnoozy, aka the Sandman, as well as Mother Nature.  I loved this book just as much as the rest; it just seems to go by so fast, to the point where you’re finished and wanting more and more.  The lore behind both new characters is well-integrated and fits in with what’s already established, which is a trick some authors seem to have trouble with in sequels or series.  I also liked that Mother Nature is neutral, despite that she somewhat seems evil.  Her backstory makes you have sympathy for her, even if she’s done some terrible things.

All in all, this is a great book, an innocent fairytale that will appeal to both children and adults.  Honestly, I’d have to say the only thing I was disappointed in with the book is that the third one said Jack Frost would be showing up in this one, and he never does.  A bit of poor planning, I guess.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Book review: On Solid Ground by Michelle Kemper Brownlow

Gracie survived an emotionally abusive relationship that wrecked her. Her ex, Noah, systematically chipped away at her self-esteem through intimidation, humiliation and infidelity which left Gracie unable to trust her own perception of his intentions. But after falling head over heels for Jake, her best friend and the man who stood by her through it all, she is ready to experience life in the way it was meant to be lived. However, Gracie may find it impossible to simultaneously heal from the trauma of abuse while navigating a relationship with Jake. Can she put her heart on hold in order to heal her soul? The sequel to the five-star debut novel, In Too Deep, chronicles Gracie's steps toward healing as she falls deeper in love, reaches out for help, stands on her own, steps out of her comfort zone, faces her biggest fears, and reconnects with a sensual, talented soul from her past all in hopes of finding herself on solid ground.

A copy was given to me as part of the On Solid Ground tour.

Well, I read the book that came before this and, if you’ve seen my review for it, you’ll see I was incredibly unimpressed, especially considering all the hype that was around it.  The same pretty much goes for this book.  The only reason it gets two stars instead of one is because there were moments in it that I actually, genuinely enjoyed, but I found myself frustrated at that because I had already decided that it wasn’t that great of a book, so to see that the author is capable of actually entertaining me made me feel like the effort had been wasted in an otherwise bland story.

When I reviewed the first book, I mentioned that the dialog was really stiff.  Well, that’s changed in this book.  Instead of sounding like bad actors reading from a script someone who doesn’t understand the conventions of casual English wrote, it sounds like everyone’s either a Shakespearean actor or they’d be more appropriately put into a daytime soap opera.  The dialog is honestly so melodramatic that there’s no way the author ever actually listened to how college students in their early twenties communicate.

Related to that, literally all they ever talk about is Gracie’s former relationship.  She and Becki have weekly lunch dates and the first time they’re shown having one, they talk about Becki breaking up with her own boyfriend, and then a big deal is made out of how she shouldn’t be complaining because of what just happened to Gracie.  And then they talk about what happened to Gracie.  Gracie could be in bed with her new boyfriend and she’ll just be laying there, flashbacking to what Noah did to her.  I realize the entire point of this book is Gracie healing after an abusive relationship, but come on.  We get it.  She’s emotionally scarred.  Does she have nothing else in her life that she needs to think about?

Well considering her parents are willing to pay her rent and any and all living expenses (which apparently includes four-hundred dollars spent at a furniture store so she can remodel her apartment) apparently she really doesn’t.  That part irked me, too.  It just made me see her as a spoiled brat.  Which is about the only characterization we actually get, considering like the first book, everyone says what a free spirit she truly is, but nope, we don’t see it.  The attempts to actually show it are just as stilted as the dialog is.  When she was standing up on stage with Calon and started rapping as a warm up for the show, I was groaning instead of laughing.  I also feel like times that should’ve been shown were really glossed over, which just means we have a lot going on but very little actually happening.

That’s another complaint I had about this book.  The ending was really rushed and I felt Brownlow could’ve gotten a whole other book out of it.  The revelation about the sex tape and what’s on it should’ve been a big deal, but we get so little on it.  Gracie finds out, breaks down for a few pages, then goes to the police.  The frat house is shut down and some guys are dragged off, and apparently that’s that (I guess there’s no such thing as due process in this world).  Again, I feel like the process could’ve been an entire book of its own.  The fact that it’s in there just made it seem to drag out unnecessarily.

There’s also the fact that it’s inconsistent.  For instance, at the start of the book it’s mentioned that Alternate Tragedy had gotten big and would be going on their first real tour when summer ended, so they were in town just chilling out and performing at Mitchell’s because they wanted to.  And then later we find out they’ve been put on a tour at the last minute as the opening act for another band and Gracie’s angsting about Calon and the rest of the guys leaving town.  Editing is a thing you should do.

And of course there’s a ton about Gracie and Jake we find out that we should’ve already known from the first book.  I realize that not everyone is expecting to do a sequel to their book, but we don’t even find out Gracie’s major until this one.  Which is kind of an important detail for a book about a college student.

To sum it up, I just… had no sympathy for this book.  Because the first book gave me no reason to sympathize with Gracie or see why she would want to stay with Noah, all the talk about how badly he hurt her and how she must heal just comes off as melodramatic for me.  And the fact that it only takes her a couple months to “get over it” makes me facepalm really hard.  I only wish that whatever possessed Brownlow during those good passages could’ve been more consistent.  Another disappointment.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Book Tour: On Solid Ground by Michelle Kemper Brownlow

The strong force of the wave pulled me under. I gasped for air just before my face disappeared below the surface. My body rolled over and over, my arms flailed, and my head pounded into the sea bed which felt like a concrete floor. The salty water stung my eyes. I forced myself to keep them open, fearing I would slip into unconsciousness from the blow I took to the head. I knew I had to hold it together long enough for the swell to pull me back up when the wave rolled. But something was pulling me deeper. I fought with all my might, kicking against the thick water swallowing me whole. I used my arms like underwater oars and sliced through the depths trying to reach what I needed most, but I was in too deep.

“Get out!” I could barely get the words out before I had to run to the bathroom and void my gut of its contents. Noah didn’t move.

I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand and screamed, “I said, Get! Out!” I stumbled back into the room, grabbed the box of mementos I’d collected from the last year of our relationship, and dumped everything into the trashcan in the corner. Like a communal grave, there lay movie tickets, dried rose petals, a strip of photos from the boardwalk, all the beautiful letters he wrote last fall semester, an empty beer bottle, and all the rest of what was now just a reminder of the guy I thought I knew.

“Gracie, don’t…” His face fell, but he didn’t move from the edge of my bed.

“Don’t? Don’t what, Noah? Don’t break up with you? Are you kidding?” My ears burned from his admission of guilt. It hit me broadside. I wasn’t prepared for the words he had spoken just moments before.

The rush of water covering me grew cold. Icy. My body quaked. My lungs burned and begged for air. I could see light above. It glimmered and danced on the small waves my panic created. I reached for the surface. Even if I couldn’t pull myself up, maybe just feeling the sun’s warmth would stop the shivering that threatened to unravel me.

My legs gave out beneath me and I crumbled into a heap on my apartment floor. I sobbed so uncontrollably I gasped for air. I was livid. Repulsed. Crushed and torn. Noah was the love of my life, and things were just getting back to the way I longed for them to be. Back to what used to be our “normal.” Before he pledged Sigma Chi. Our relationship hadn’t been easy since I transferred to Knoxville. But our story wasn’t ready to end.

It went something like this:

Bad boy meets good girl.

First kiss.

Bad boy turns sensitive.


Good girl gives sensitive boy all of her.

Long distance.

Flowers. Love letters.

Long, sweet phone calls.

Good girl transfers to sensitive boy’s school.

Sensitive boy becomes fraternity boy.

Drunken social events.

Secrets revealed.

Fraternity boy pulls good girl under.

Good girl finds herself in too deep.

- In Too Deep by Michelle Kemper Brownlow

In Too Deep by Michelle Kemper Brownlow
Publication date: June 6th 2013
by Sapphire Star Publishing
Genre: New Adult Romance

Long- Gracie has just finished her freshman year of college in Memphis when she takes a job at a local pizza joint in her home town of McKenzie, Tennessee. She is the epitome of innocence when she meets Noah. Noah is unabashedly handsome, intriguingly reckless and just cocky enough to be sexy. Gracie’s instincts tell her to stay far away from him and based on the stories she hears from her co-workers he leaves broken hearts in his wake. But still, she can’t explain her fascination with him.

Noah puts aside his bad boy ways when what he thought was a summer crush has him unexpectedly falling in love. But soon after Gracie transfers to UT Knoxville to be with Noah, their unexpected love becomes riddled with anger, deceit and humiliation.

Jake, Noah’s former roommate and Gracie’s best friend, can no longer be a bystander. Gracie’s world falls out from beneath her and when she breaks she turns to Jake for strength. As Jake talks her through a decision she’s not yet strong enough to make, together they uncover a truth so ugly neither of them is prepared for its fallout. Will Jake pull her to the surface or is Gracie Jordan finally In Too Deep?




On Solid Ground by Michelle Kemper Brownlow
(In Too Deep #2)
Publication date: December 3rd 2013
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance

Gracie survived an emotionally abusive relationship that wrecked her. Her ex, Noah, systematically chipped away at her self-esteem through intimidation, humiliation and infidelity which left Gracie unable to trust her own perception of his intentions. But after falling head over heels for Jake, her best friend and the man who stood by her through it all, she is ready to experience life in the way it was meant to be lived.  However, Gracie may find it impossible to simultaneously heal from the trauma of abuse while navigating a relationship with Jake. Can she put her heart on hold in order to heal her soul?The sequel to the five-star debut novel, In Too Deep, chronicles Gracie’s steps toward healing as she falls deeper in love, reaches out for help, stands on her own, steps out of her comfort zone, faces her biggest fears, and reconnects with a sensual, talented soul from her past all in hopes of finding herself on solid ground.




Michelle Kemper Brownlow has been a storyteller her entire life. Her debut was on the high school cheerleading bus granting requests to re-tell her most embarrassing moments for a gaggle of hysterical squadmates.

Earning her Bachelor’s degree from Penn State University in Art Education and then marrying her very own “Jake,” she moved to Binghamton, NY where she taught high school. After having two children she quit work and finished her Master’s degree in Elementary Education at Binghamton University.

The Brownlow family of four moved to Michelle’s hometown of Morgantown, PA while the children were still quite young. A few years after moving, her family grew by one when they welcomed a baby into their home through the gift of adoption. The family still resides in PA, just miles from where that high school cheer bus was parked.

Michelle has been an artist for as long as she can remember, always choosing pencils and crayons over toys and puzzles. As a freelance illustrator, her simple characters play the starring roles in numerous emergent reader books published by Reading Reading Books.

“Writing is my way of making sense of the world. When I give my characters life on the pages I write, it frees up space in my mind to welcome in new stories that are begging to be told,” says Brownlow.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Book Blitz: Letters to Nowhere series by Julie Cross

Letters To Nowhere Series Julie Cross
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult

Book 1: Letters to Nowhere

From the International Bestselling Author of the Tempest Series...
Set in the tough world of Elite Gymnastics...

I've gotten used to the dead parents face. I've gotten used to living with my gymnastics coach. I've even adjusted to sharing a bathroom with his way-too-hot son. Dealing with boys is not something that's made it onto my list of experiences as of yet. But here I am, doing it. And something about Jordan--being around him, talking to him, thinking about him--makes me feel like I can finally breathe again. That's something I haven't been able to do lately. He knows what it feels like to be me right now. He knows what it's like to wonder--what now? I think about it constantly. I need answers. I need to know how to get through this. In the gym, if you're struggling, you train harder, you do drills and conditioning. How do I work hard at moving on? At being on my own? And what happens if I might be...maybe...probably falling for Jordan? I mean we live together now. That can't happen, can it? But kissing him...well, let's just say it's not an easy activity to forget.

You can find my review of book one here.

Book 2: Return to Sender

If only summer could last forever…

Karen and Jordan might be out in the open with their relationship, but that doesn't make it any easier for them to face events looming in the future. Like Jordan leaving for college halfway across the country. Or Karen's win at a big international gymnastics competition setting the bar high for her future and adding pressure like she's never experienced before.

But when Nina Jones (aka-US Gymnastics Dictator), makes plans for Karen and teammate Stevie to train at a gymnastics camp for a month—the same camp where Jordan coaches—romantic summer interludes replace their fears of being apart. Both Jordan and Karen know that when fall comes, some very tough decisions will have to be made, but for now, it’s stolen kisses, racing hearts, and whispered words.

Book 3: Return to You

Releasing December 15th 2013

How many dreams can you chase at once?

Even with bad boy, TJ, disrupting their morning workouts, Karen and Stevie’s daily battles with each other are sure to bring both of them closer to a national title at next month’s championships. It’s the kind of feud that creates winning results.

Until a fall from the uneven bars shakes Karen’s rock-solid confidence. Not only does she balk every time she so much as attempts a routine, she’s also facing all this without much support from Jordan. After receiving some bad news, Jordan’s reluctance to listen to reason causes Karen so much frustration she begins to avoid him, needing space to deal with her own issues. He needs someone to force him to make the right choice, he needs his dad to intervene and Karen knows this, but is torn between her loyalty to Jordan and her concern for her coach’s son. Even though both paths lead to the same person—Jordan—it feels like she’s choosing between two different people.

And then there’s the growing tension between TJ and Stevie. They’re obviously on the verge of either ripping each other’s heads off or ripping each other’s clothes off. It’s hard for either Jordan or Karen to tell where those two are headed. Tension is building from every possible outlet and there’s bound to be an explosion of some kind in the very near future.


Purchase book 1:

Purchase book 2:


Julie Cross is the International Bestselling author of the Tempest series, a young adult science fiction trilogy which includes Tempest, Vortex, and the final installment, Timestorm (St. Martin's Press). She's also the author of Letters to Nowhere (8/13), a mature young adult romance set in the world of elite gymnastics, as well as several forthcoming young adult and new adult novels with publishers like Entangled, Sourcebooks, HarperCollins, and St. Martin's Press/Thomas Dunne Books.

Julie lives in Central Illinois with her husband and three children. She's a former gymnast, longtime gymnastics fan, coach, and former Gymnastics  Program Director with the YMCA. She's a lover of books, devouring several novels a week, especially in the young adult and new adult genres. Outside of her reading and writing credibility's, Julie Cross is a committed--but not talented--long distance runner, creator of imaginary beach vacations, Midwest bipolar weather survivor, expired CPR certification card holder, as well as a ponytail and gym shoe addict. You can find her online via twitter, her personal website, email, facebook, Goodreads, or co-moderating the YAwriters section of reddit.


Each blog hosting this blitz is authorized to give away one e-book copy of the first book in this series, Letters to Nowhere.  The prize will be gifted through Amazon.  To sign up, simply use the Rafflecopter widget below!

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