Book Review: Lost Girl by Holly Kammier @hkammier @PublishingAcorn @XpressoTours

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Title: Lost Girl
Series: A Shelby Day Novel
Author: Holly Kammier
Publisher: Acorn Publishing
Publication Date: January 5, 2020
Genres: Mystery, Young Adult

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Lost Girl
A Shelby Day Novel
Holly Kammier
Acorn Publishing, January 2020
ISBN 978-1-947392-61-8
Hardcover

From the publisher—

AN APPALLING ACT OF VIOLENCE AND AN UNSOLVED DOUBLE MURDER.

SMALL-TOWN INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, SHELBY DAY, IS DETERMINED TO HUNT A KILLER. 

As her search draws closer to uncovering the twisted truth, she begins receiving ominous warnings to stay quiet and drop the story. The young journalist is in danger. Her cameraman and best friend, a person with his own secret past, says he wants to protect her. But Shelby is headstrong and dodging anything that could lead to love. She can’t allow anyone to distract her as she fights for the two women who deserve justice. 

She never expects along the way she’ll have to stop and save herself.

Ticktock… If Shelby doesn’t solve the crime soon, she’ll become the killer’s next victim. 

“Lost Girl is a compulsive thrill-ride that reads as if it’s been pulled straight from the headlines. Kammier’s journalism background brings undeniable authenticity to a novel that has it all– a love story, a murder mystery, and a real-life introduction into the distinctive world of television news.” 
-CAROLINE MITCHELL, New York Times best-selling author

This book is for anyone who loves:
Young Adult love stories
Murder Mystery
Redemption
Books with journalism elements
Intended for a mature YA audience

Fans of Veronica Mars, In The Woods, and One Of Us Is Lying, will love this novel.

Lost Girl is, in itself, a puzzle because it’s listed as Young Adult but I don’t know why. The characters are not high schoolers, which is what you usually find in YA, and the setting is not YA-related so the designation really doesn’t make much sense. I’m not particularly fond of the New Adult categorization that started cropping up a few years back but that is what this is so why not call it that or nothing age-defining at all?

Shelby Day is an interesting protagonist largely because she’s not very likeable and that’s fine with me. A character with flaws nearly always enhances things for me and I imagine some of the traits that make an investigative reporter good at her job are exactly those that can irritate other people. Shelby has that dogged determination and pushiness that drives a reporter to get the story. Is she annoying? Yes, and she made me cringe with some of her behavior and her zeal to get the story despite some bad decisions but I also understood her emotional connection to the murder victims. On the other hand, I didn’t buy her claim that PTSD is built into Jewish DNA and actually thought that was a bit dismissive of those who really do suffer from PTSD. Her cameraman and friend, Jack, is nearly as problematic in his somewhat controlling attitude but I did appreciate his willingness to stick by her. The romance between the two may or may not develop but Jack certainly hopes so.

As mystery investigations go, this one is a little weak primarily because I never could figure out why Shelby would be privy to so much information and exclusive interviews and the like. Surely a cub reporter would have to pay a lot more dues to achieve such favored status. Still, the various leads and rising tension kept me reading till the end.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2020.

About the  Author

Co-owner of Acorn Publishing, the UCLA honors graduate is an accomplished content editor/writing coach (her authors have gone on to become USA Today best-sellers and a New York Times best-seller). With a background in journalism, Holly Kammier has worked everywhere from CNN in Washington, D.C. and KCOP-TV in Los Angeles, to the NBC affiliate in small-town Medford, Oregon.

She is the best-selling author of the novel, Kingston Court (Acorn Publishing 2015), and Could Have Been Hollywood, a memoir. Holly recently published her third book, Choosing Hope, a harrowing story of passion and deceit, and the things we do for love. Her next novel, the YA Romantic Suspense, Lost Girl, is scheduled for release in early 2020.

Holly resides in her hometown of San Diego, California, close to family and friends. An avid reader with a passion for timeless books and beautiful writing, she also enjoys long walks, romantic movies, and pink peonies.

Author links: 
Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads

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Book Review: Oasis by Katya de Becerra @KatyaDeBecerra @MacmillanUSA @FierceReads @The_FFBC

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Title: Oasis
Author: Katya de Becerra
Publisher: Imprint/Macmillan
Publication Date: January 7, 2020
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult

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Oasis
Katya de Becerra
Imprint, January 2020
ISBN 978-1-250-12426-5
Hardcover

From the publisher—

The oasis saved them. But who will save them from the oasis?

Alif had exciting summer plans: working on her father’s archaeological dig site in the desert with four close friends . . . and a very cute research assistant. Then the sandstorm hit.

With their camp wiped away, Alif and the others find themselves lost on the sands, seemingly doomed . . . until they find the oasis. It has everything they need: food, water, shade—and mysterious ruins that hide a deadly secret. As reality begins to shift around them, they question what’s real and what’s a mirage.

The answers turn Alif and her friends against one another, and they begin to wonder if they’ve truly been saved. And while it was easy to walk into the oasis, it may be impossible to leave . . .

Katya de Becerra’s new supernatural thriller hides a mystery in plain sight, and will keep you guessing right up to its terrifying conclusion.

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The first thing that caught my eye about this book was the absolutely beautiful and brilliant cover. Elynn Cohen is listed as the book designer and I assume this also means she designed the cover but can’t be sure. Whoever the artist is, brava!

The second thing that got my attention about this book was the synopsis—there is nothing I like better than an archaeology setting in a crossgenre science fiction and mystery story and this one offers hints of horror and supernatural goings on.

The third thing that struck me about this book was the statement shown above, found on the copyright page, hilarious and very much to the point 😁

So, did Oasis and its author come through for me after so much promise? You betcha, but with a tiny bit of disappointment because I was hoping for a creepy horror show and this doesn’t quite get there. Having said that, I was intrigued by the author’s continual introduction of one strange thing after another, such as a desperate man who walks out of the desert, a mindblowing sandstorm (no pun intended), equipment that doesn’t work, an oasis that seems to mean survival but, hmm, perhaps not…

The oasis has a weird and frightening effect on the six people who have reached it and I enjoyed seeing their darker sides and how Alif, in particular, copes with unexpected personality changes in herself and others. In fact, it was refreshing to have characters whose friendships are not all sunshine and lollipops for a change.

When all is said and done, what’s real, what’s hallucination? Or is there maybe something out there?

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2020.

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An Excerpt from Oasis

You don’t really know heat until you come to a place like Dubai. The air was so humid it was like being in a sauna with your clothes on. Every inhale burned and tickled my throat. I tried breathing through my mouth to see if that was any better, but it made it worse. The second we stepped outside, Tommy produced a baseball cap from his pocket and put it on. Watching him, I felt irresponsible for packing all my headgear in my checked-in luggage and not in my carry-on, where it’d be easily accessible. During our short walk to the airport parking lot, the top of my head got so hot I was surely headed for heatstroke. Luke mimicked Tommy and put a cap on, pulling the brim as low as he could to shade his pale, freckled face. Lori unfurled the tasteful silky gauze scarf she had wrapped around her neck and spread it over her head in a casual but stylish way. Only Minh, Rowen, and I remained at the sun’s mercy until we reached Tommy’s monstrous four-wheel drive.

Tommy and Rowen secured some of our luggage to the top of the car, while the rest of our stuff was pushed into the spacious trunk. At last, I climbed inside the blissfully cool car, grateful for air-conditioning.

“Well, this is Dubai, kids,” Tommy said, eyeing our oddball group in the rearview mirror. “I hope you’re ready for the experience of your lives.”

“Yeah, that didn’t come off cheesy at all.” Minh snorted, and I caught a glimpse of Tommy grinning at her. I promptly looked out the window, focusing on the view instead of wondering whether Minh’s exchange with Tommy counted as mutual flirting.

As we drove farther and farther away the airport, the city of Dubai rose from the desert. A mirage of modernity, complete with skyscrapers glistering in the sunlight. The excitement that was pummeling blood against my ears dwindled when we didn’t enter the limits of the city proper, instead veering left and setting course for Tell Abrar, where Dad and the endless sea of dust awaited us. That was the reason we were here—the dig site. I could always check out Dubai with my friends on one of the weekends.

My eyes were glued to the car window, busy taking in the desert’s Mars-like scenery, alternating with modest houses and gas stations. A deafening roar of engines preceded a small group of motorcyclists speeding past us. The riders were wrapped in leather and the spirit of adventure, and I recalled a period of my childhood spent obsessing over Lawrence of Arabia. I imagined T. E. Lawrence himself standing on a dune somewhere, lungs filling with the clean hot air of the limitless desert. Or, perhaps, he was surrounded by the bedouin in the hinterland, or riding his motorcycle through the ocean of sand, leaving it forever haunted by his dagger-wielding white-clad ghost.

I exchanged an excited look with Minh and then with Lori, their eyes equally bright. The three of us had trouble suppressing our burbling anticipation. This was it. We’d made it.

After about an hour on the road, we arrived. Here at Tell Abrar the sand-swept landscape unfolded as far as the eye could see.

Tainting my excitement with unfounded worry, Tommy’s post on Dig It came back to me all of a sudden. Being here, away from modernity and surrounded by sand on all sides, the unforgiving sun over my head, it was easy to surrender to the idea of meteors crashing into the sands, their fiery spirits lingering to haunt the land to this day. I was about to ask Tommy about his strange blog post, but he finished parking our car and it was time to get out and get going.

Let the adventure begin.

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About the Author

Katya de Becerra was born in Russia, studied in California, lived in Peru, and then stayed in Australia long enough to become a local. She was going to be an Egyptologist when she grew up, but instead she earned a PhD in Anthropology and now works as a university lecturer and a researcher. Katya is a short version of her real name, which is very long and gets mispronounced a lot. What The Woods Keep was her first novel (out now), which is followed by another standalone Oasis in 2020. She has also authored and co-authored academic articles, book chapters, guest posts and opinion pieces.

Website // Twitter // Goodreads // Instagram

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Finished copy of OASIS by Katya de Becerra (US Only)
Starts: January 1st 2020
Ends: January 15th 2020

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Book Review: Resistant by Erika Modrak @brwpublisher

Resistant
A World Divided
Erika Modrak
Black Rose Writing, December 2019
ISBN 978-1-68433-393-6
Trade Paperback

It is pertinent to preface this review by sharing my wish-list for turning A Book into The Best Book.

1.      Characters I attach to like Velcro. The kind that pop into my head, even when it isn’t buried in the pages, and evoke a wide range of emotions.

2.      So well written that I simply slide along the sentences. But not smoothly.

3.      Must have razor-sharp turns, tummy-flipping twists and a reveal so shocking, it hits like a giant wave of ice-cold water— from out of nowhere.

4.      The story itself must be its own kind of special. Something shiny-new, but with a pseudo-nostalgic, familiar feel. A couple of chuckle-worthy lines, a few to bring tears.

Resistant by Erika Modrak, doesn’t stop at checking each box; it fades my Kodachrome-color fantasy into a sad little stick-figure drawing.

Set in two drastically different worlds, separated by only miles and an impenetrable wall, this Young Adult dystopian marvel unfurls from different viewpoints, each providing a part of the big picture.

Cat and Abel are both fortunate—albeit the reasons are not the same—to live in the Dome. The great Dr. Grayson heads up and cares for The Community. He oversees order and all efforts to find a cure for the Virus. He generously provides basic essentials—beyond the vaccination—for this elite group. Protection, too. Under his watch, they are safe from the few survivors on the outside who have most certainly become criminals, quite possibly cannibals.

Wren and Ryder reside in a comfortable, if rough-around-the edges, camp with other folks that have somehow avoided the Virus. Not absolutely isolated, though. Ryder has managed to make a connection with someone inside the walled city, and periodically speeds away on his motor-bike for supplies. Sometimes, he allows Wren to join him.

And that is how Ryder and Wren learn that each camp rule was written for a reason. If broken, consequences are exponentially more severe than parental punishment.

They’ve caused worlds to collide. Secrets spill and cast a shadow of doubt over everything believed to be true. Wary partnerships are formed to ferret out the truth as those with the most to lose frantically try to maintain their malicious cover.

I’ll be happily handing out copies of Resistant as soon as it hits my hot little hands. It would just be wrong to keep it to myself.

Reviewed by jv poore, December 2019.

Book Reviews: Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater and War Spies by Daniel Polansky @mstiefvater @DanielPolansky @Scholastic

Call Down the Hawk
The Dreamer Trilogy, Book 1
Maggie Stiefvater
Scholastic Press, November 2019
ISBN 978-1338188325
Hardcover

There’s an inexplicable way that Ms. Stiefvater wields her words so that the reader is comforted by the cadence and speeds along the stripped-down, short statements that say so very much. If this book were a car, it’d be the 2020 Lotus. Call Down the Hawk doesn’t warm up, it’s already impatiently revving, mirroring the barely-held-back growl that vibrates inside of Ronan Lynch.

Yes, my fellow Raven Cycle fans, Ronan Lynch is back! And, we are in his world now. Beyond the barns.

Ms. Stiefvater, of course makes no time for traipsing down memory lane, but there’s no need. New readers won’t need the background of The Raven Cycle to thoroughly enjoy this story centered around the Lynch brothers. I will not be surprised however, if readers of this first tantalizing tale in the Dreamer Trilogy seek out Raven Cycle series while waiting for the second, simply Stiefvater, Dreamer Book.

Ronan Lynch is a Dreamer. But that isn’t what makes him so surly and somewhat terrifying. Those traits are mainly because he is always thinking. Working out complicated puzzles in his head means that any interruption, even as innocuous as a casual greeting, is enough to have him snarling.

Declan, the eldest Lynch sibling, exists in a severely serious state of being. His dogged determination to be boring infuriates Ronan, while Ronan’s recklessness gives Declan heartburn. But both brothers adore their younger brother Matthew. The elder siblings are viciously protective of the blissfully unaware boy, in his constant state of content.

Despite their differences, the brothers Lynch are going to have to find a way to work together. The recent loss of both parents has made the trio a target. Turns out, Dreamers aren’t quite as secret or unique as the boys had been led to believe. In fact, there is a group of people banded together for the sole purpose of finding and eliminating all of the Dreamers.

If the brothers Lynch are to survive the assault, they will have to finally be completely honest with each other. Facing the folks set out to obliterate Dreamers could be exponentially easier than unleashing the secrets each sibling has been desperately trying to keep.

Reviewed by jv poore, November 2019.

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War Spies: One Mission, Six Bios
Daniel Polansky
Scholastic Paperbacks, November 2013
ISBN 978-0-545-57655-0
Trade Paperback

Spies seem to have always been significant in warfare, serving not only to steal and share information, but often sabotaging plans as well. This non-fiction collection contains six scintillating, snap-shot bios of some of the most effective double-agents throughout history.

While this may have been written with Middle-Grade and Young Adult readers in mind, this Not-So-Young reader found it to be incredibly interesting and enlightening. I know many of “my” students will definitely dig it.

From the ‘original spymaster’ to the ‘limping lady’, fascinating facts fill the pages. I even re-read the section on the British spy agency’s first female operative. Although I knew a good bit about Belle Boyd, I was delighted to discover the first crime she committed: as a child, she taught a young slave to read.

War Spies is the 7th book in the Profiles series and I learned so much, so quickly that I’m going back for more.

Reviewed by jv poore, January 2019.

Book Review: Every Stolen Breath by Kimberly Gabriel @KT_Gabriel @BlinkYABooks @TLCBookTours

Every Stolen Breath
Kimberly Gabriel
Blink, November 2019
ISBN 978-0-310-76666-7
Hardcover

From the publisher—

The Swarm is unrecognizable, untraceable, and unpredictable—random attacks on the streets of Chicago by a mob of crazed teens that leaves death in its wake. It’s been two years since the last attack, but Lia Finch has found clues that reveal the Swarm is ready to claim a new victim.

Lia is the only one still pursuing her father’s killers, two years after attorney Steven Finch’s murder by the Swarm. Devastated and desperate for answers, Lia will do anything to uncover the reasons behind his death and to stop someone else from being struck down. But due to debilitating asthma and PTSD that leaves her with a tenuous hold on reality, Lia is the last person to mount a crusade on her own.

After a close encounter with the Swarm puts Lia on their radar, she teams up with a teen hacker, a reporter, and a mysterious stranger who knows firsthand how the mob works. Together, they work to uncover the master puppeteer behind the group. Though if Lia and her network don’t stop the person pulling the strings—and fast—Lia may end up the next target.

Inspired by the real-life “flash mob” violence that struck Chicago in 2011, Every Stolen Breath by debut author Kimberly Gabriel is a fast-paced and immersive thriller that shows just how hard one girl will fight back, knowing any breath might be her last.

It’s really hard to fathom how a vicious flash mob can happen, especially when you realize that 98% of the people involved would never do such a horrible thing on their own. The mob mentality is a very real thing and, yes, we can be sheep in the wrong circumstances.

What’s not hard to believe or understand is how a victim can be so messed up, mentally and emotionally, but also physically; Lia’s PTSD is almost a given but it has become a part of her, a part that she has to control as best she can while she pursues justice for her dad and for herself.

This is as intense a story as I’ve ever read and there were moments when I had to put the book down so I could catch my breath. Lia’s journey is frequently a train wreck but she is a girl who won’t be stopped and must be true to herself, no matter what dangers lurk seemingly around every corner. While I’ve never experienced anything even close to this situation, Ms. Gabriel drew me in with a tale I won’t soon forget.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2019.

About the Author

Kimberly Gabriel is an English teacher who writes every chance she gets and struggles with laundry avoidance issues. When she’s not teaching or writing, she’s enjoying life with her husband, her three beautiful children, and a seriously beautiful boxer in the northern suburbs of Chicago.

Connect with Kimberly
Website // Facebook // Twitter // Instagram

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Book Review: Refraction by Naomi Hughes @NaomiHughesYA @PageStreetKids @The_FFBC

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Title: Refraction
Author: Naomi Hughes
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult

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Refraction
Naomi Hughes
Page Street Kids, November 2019
ISBN 978-1624148903
Hardcover

From the publisher—

After an attack on earth, all reflective surfaces become weapons to release monsters, causing a planet-wide ban on mirrors. Despite the danger, the demand rises, and 17-year-old Marty Callahan becomes a distributor in an illegal mirror trade―until he’s caught by the mayor’s son, whose slate is far from clean. Both of them are exiled for their crimes to one of the many abandoned cities overrun by fog. But they soon realize their thoughts influence their surroundings and their deepest fears begin to manifest.

There is much to like about this book but two things in particular really made me love it—(1) the main characters are boys and (2) there’s no romance. No, girls do not have to be the stars of everything 😉

Marty is a flawed character in any number of ways, not least of which is his propensity to do what’s best for himself even if it’s not legal or good for anyone else; in fact, he has been known to actually put others in harm’s way. Despite that, he works hard to control his OCD and his ultimate goal is to find his brother. Before the alien attack, Marty was making progress under therapy to manage his OCD but it’s much more difficult now without professional help and, of course, medication is no longer available.

Earth is in shambles after the aliens brought monsters and survival is predicated on a strict ban on reflective surfaces because that’s how the monsters get through. That ban, quite naturally, created a black market for mirrors and Marty is a player. When he gets caught by another teen, Elliott, both are headed for real trouble, sent into the deadly fog. The two boys are on their own and have to rely on each other, developing a real friendship as they come to know and trust each other.

The plot here is creative and well-planned, keeping me flipping electronic pages to find out what would happen next. The author’s characterizations are vivid and appealing and the monsters are just as scary as they should be…almost as much as Elliott’s mother. Also, not to repeat myself, it’s really refreshing to have a story focused on two boys.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, Novenber 2019.

About the Author

Hey! I’m Naomi Hughes, writer of quirky young adult fiction (usually involving physics and/or unicorns). I live in the Midwest US, a region I love even though it tries to murder me with tornadoes every spring. When not writing, my hobbies include reading (of course), traveling, and geeking out over Marvel superheroes and certain time-traveling Doctors. My debut YA sci-fi standalone novel, Afterimage, is available now from Page Street Publishing. My next novel, Refraction (also a standalone YA sci-fi), comes out in Nov 2019. I also offer freelance critique services at naomiedits.com.

Author Links:
Website // Twitter // Goodreads // Instagram

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PRIZE: Win (1) copy of REFRACTION
by Naomi Hughes (US Only)

STARTS: November 5th 2019

ENDS: November 19th 2019

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Book Review: The Call of Death by R.J. Garcia @rj_dreamer @parliamentbooks @YABoundToursPR

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Title: The Call of Death
Author: R.J. Garcia
Publisher: Parliament House
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Genres: Mystery, Romantic Suspense, Young Adult

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The Call of Death
R.J. Garcia
Parliament House, November 2019
ISBN 978-1703743708
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Fourteen-year-old Hannah Priestly crashes into a terrifying future. She wakes up in her dorm room now knowing the name of an infamous serial killer, Norman Biggs. He will attack her in the future unless she and her three male friends can change fate.

Hannah is a suntanned, obsessive-compulsive California girl dropped off at an English boarding school by her celebrity mother. Hannah has difficulty understanding algebra, let alone her increasingly dark visions. Rory Veer is Hannah’s smart, easy-going and romantically challenged friend and school crush. When Norman Biggs unexpectedly appears in Rory’s reality, terror is set in motion. It is Rory who must acknowledge a past he has denied if the mystery is to be unraveled.

This was a twisty ride for sure; imagine suddenly having “knowledge” of someone or something you shouldn’t and then discovering that this person will do serious harm to her in the future. In Hannah’s case, it’s a good thing she has friends to help her stop what’s going to happen. Those friends have become her family away from home at the boarding school and, of course, one of those friendships becomes something more but not so quickly as to seem inappropriate or rushed. That’s a really good thing, in my opinion, because these are young teens and we get to see them grow over a period of time, making the emotional attachments seem more natural.

Seeing one’s future must be unsettling, especially for a young girl who is just now learning about her psychic abilities. For Hannah and the reader, it means sudden flips of time, keeping us all on tenterhooks until various threads begin to come together and Hannah and her friends reach a surprising yet satisfying conclusion.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2019.

About the Author

R.J. Garcia is a wife and proud mom. She earned her MSW and worked with foster children and as a school social worker. Writing has been her other great love. She has published several non-fiction pieces. She has been writing short-stories for as long as she can remember. To her amazement, those short stories became novels!

Author Links:
Website // Goodreads // Twitter // Facebook

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