Book Spotlight and Giveaway: Pulled Under (Kill Devil Hils #3) by Sarah Darlington

Pulled Under by Sarah Darlington
man-child. noun.
: a grown man who is very immature, therefore considered a man-child

manwhore. noun.
: a promiscuous man who has no regard for his sexual partners or the emotional value of his relationships

Rhett Morgan couldn't have been more wrong for me. The guy drank beer in the shower, for crying out loud. He had no prospects for the future, had slept with half the women in our beach town of Kill Devil Hills, and had no desire to change his manwhore ways.

And when Ben Turner, the guy I had loved from afar for the past four years, died and I couldn't get over his death, I desperately needed a distraction. A distraction like Rhett. So I used him for a one-night stand. Because, after all, that's the only thing a guy like Rhett is good for...right?

***New Adult Romance. This novel is the third book in the Kill Devil Hills series, however it can be read as a standalone. Recommended for 18+

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Other novels in the Kill Devil Hills Series:

Noah is determined to escape his past and keep his life under control. Then he saves the life of his best friend’s little sister, Georgina Turner — who is battling her own demons. He can't get her out of his head, even if Georgina tears down the emotional walls he so carefully built.
Read chapter 1 and 2 here
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Ellie Turner is a lesbian. She knows who she is, loves who she is, and couldn’t care less what the rest of the world thinks of her. Then television star Nate West comes along. All thick muscle and alpha-male testosterone. When Ellie meets him on an airplane, he ignites something inside her she never knew existed.
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About Sarah Darlington
Sarah Darlington, a New Adult and contemporary romance author, resides in Virginia with her husband, three-year old, and one more little one on the way. Best known for her Kill Devil Hills Series, she's also a former flight attendant, with a degree in school counseling, and harbors a huge passion for traveling. She's especially set on visiting all 50 states.
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Book Review: The Tyrant's Daughter by J.C. Carlson

From a former CIA officer comes the riveting account of a royal Middle Eastern family exiled to the American suburbs.

When her father is killed in a coup, 15-year-old Laila flees from the war-torn middle east to a life of exile and anonymity in the U.S. Gradually she adjusts to a new school, new friends, and a new culture, but while Laila sees opportunity in her new life, her mother is focused on the past. She’s conspiring with CIA operatives and rebel factions to regain the throne their family lost. Laila can’t bear to stand still as an international crisis takes shape around her, but how can one girl stop a conflict that spans generations?

J.C. Carleson delivers a fascinating account of a girl—and a country—on the brink, and a rare glimpse at the personal side of international politics.

*Bonus Backmatter includes a note about the author's CIA past, and a commentary by RAND researcher and president of ARCH International, Dr. Cheryl Benard. Recommendations for further reading are also included. 

Release Date: February 11, 2014
Age Group: YA
Source: Review copy from publisher
Reviewed By: Evan

I was excited to start this book. Considering I finished it the same day, I was not disappointed. 15 year old Laila, her mother, and 6 year old brother, flee the Middle East the night her father is assassinated in a coup. She and her family are relocated to America where they must quickly adapt to our culture. They are no longer royalty but lower class American immigrants.

It is impossible not to sympathize with Laila as she tries to reconcile the ways of her home land and those of ours. She is afraid but brave. Innocent, sheltered, and confused. An easy character to love. At one point she recalls how cereal was a luxury in her country. She says to herself, “Cereal isn’t a luxury you stupid fool, the boxes laugh at me”.  “Everything that was real there is not real here”. Comparisons like these reveal many things we take for granted as Americans.

Laila’s introduction to American schools and social structure is complicated to say the least. Luckily, the friendly Emmy takes her under wing. She tries to teach Laila the unwritten rules of our teenage society. Emmy also introduces Laila to American libraries and an unrestricted internet. This is a big deal; in her country any information released by sources outside the government is forbidden. It gives Laila a chance to read unfiltered reports documenting her family’s rule. Her research reveals secrets her mother is still keeping, a history filled with years of murder and oppression, and a monster of a man she knew only as a loving, protective father.

Laila tries to fit into her new life but quickly finds herself caught in the middle of what everyone else wants. Her mother schemes to regain power and make Laila’s brother ruler of their country. Old enemies may become new allies, IF Laila goes along with her mother’s plans. The CIA agent who rescued them reveals questionable and dangerous loyalties. This story will keep you guessing until the end.

The Tyrant's Daughter was a truly eye opening read. Loved it!

Book Review: Chemistry by Jodi Lamm

You don’t want to read this book. I’m warning you. This isn’t a heartwarming, boy-meets-girl, high school romance. I wish it were—God, do I ever. No, if you read this, you’re going to be angry… with me, mostly. You’ll probably yell at me, if you’re the type of person who yells at books. You’ll tell me not to be so stupid, but I won’t listen. I’ll be exactly as stupid as I need to be to destroy everything I love because that’s who I am: a walking, talking tragedy. That’s who I’ve always been. But if you’re determined to read on despite my warning, I may as well introduce myself. My name is Claude Frollo, I’m nineteen going on ninety, and this is my story. It isn’t pretty, but it’s honest. And it’s the only story I have left to tell. 

Release Date: June 10, 2015
Age Group: YA
Source: Review copy from author
Reviewed By: Kelli


I've never read a book quite like Chemistry.  It was dark, twisted, and tragic.  I was simultaneously appalled and intrigued by the plot and found this book nearly impossible to put down.

I didn't realize at the time I started Chemistry that it is a retelling of Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  Now that I know this (after finishing the book), the entire story makes so much more sense.  There were times while reading that I was just confused, overwhelmed and shocked at the way the story was going.  Claude was far from a likable narrator and he got worse as the story progressed.  But after finishing the book and realizing it's a retelling, I completely understand why things went the way they did.  

If you're unfamiliar with the basic tenets of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, read about it on Wikipedia here.  I highly recommend being familiar with the plot of The Hunchback of Notre Dame before reading Chemistry.  Don't make the same mistake I did.  You'll like Chemistry so much more if you have a little bit of an idea why these shocking and scary things are happening.

I could see Chemistry being used as a read-along novel to The Hunchback of Notre Dame in classrooms.  It certainly gives a modern, contemporary feel to the classic historical fiction.  

With all that said, I have to say that I did overall enjoy this book.  The intensity of it was unique.  It was definitely a consuming read, one that I finished in two sittings.  I kept thinking, "surely, now will be Claude's redemption," and then he would go and do something else even more twisted.  Some of the appeal of Chemistry was a voyeuristic sense of "how bad can things get?" not unlike being unable to look away from a car wreck on the highway.  

Lamm does a great job at depicting her characters' emotions, especially the tormented Claude.  It is the hallmark of great writing when an author can make you care about a character that you don't even like.  And in the end, I did care about Claude.  I refused to give up hope for him no matter how deplorable his actions were.

If you like contemporary retellings of classic novels, I would recommend Chemistry.  Just be forewarned that it is not a feel-good book, but it's still a good book.  Chemistry is one of those books that will be hard to forget.

Book Review: Lair of Dreams (The Diviners #2) by Libba Bray


After a supernatural showdown with a serial killer, Evie O'Neill has outed herself as a Diviner. Now that the world knows of her ability to "read" objects, and therefore, read the past, she has become a media darling, earning the title, "America's Sweetheart Seer." But not everyone is so accepting of the Diviners' abilities...

Meanwhile, mysterious deaths have been turning up in the city, victims of an unknown sleeping sickness. Can the Diviners descend into the dreamworld and catch a killer?

Release Date: August 25, 2015
Age Group: YA
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed By: Kelli

I've been a fan of Libba Bray since I read her Gemma Doyle series (A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, The Sweet Far Thing).  The Gemma Doyle books were beautifully written and intense, and I can say the same for Lair of Dreams.  Once I started this book, I knew I was in for a treat.

I started Lair of Dreams without realizing that it is actually the second book in The Diviners series.  I have not read book one, The Diviners, but that didn't hinder my reading.  I was able to follow the story without incident, although I would have preferred to read The Diviners first, since the characters referenced events from book one quite frequently in this story.  

Bray has a deliberate pace to her writing, which can sometimes lend her books a slow start.  I found this to be true for Lair of Dreams.  However, once the story was set up and the world-building was complete (about halfway through the book), I could hardly put this book down.  The second half of Lair of Dreams was just thrilling and surprising.  I loved it.

Some of my favorite things about Libba Bray's writing are her excellent characterization and her imagery.  I loved feeling like I knew her characters inside and out and I also felt like I was in both New York and the dream world right along with everyone else.  

I am not a fan of ghost stories, not at all, so I'm surprised that I actually read this book.  There is a ghost in it, along with some other very creepy things.  I couldn't read this book at night because I was scared it would keep me up (I'm a ninny, I know!).  But, all of this to say that I didn't have any trouble feeling spooked or nightmares after reading Lair of Dreams.  And that is really quite surprising, but I'm glad because now I know I can finish the series.  

I really loved Lair of Dreams.  I highly recommend this book and look forward to the next installment in the series! 


Book Review: For This Child I Prayed by William Gage



After her husband took a second wife, Hannah desperately needed someone to love. For years, she begged God for a baby. When she promised to dedicate her future child to the Tabernacle as a Nazarite, the Lord finally answered her prayer. Now, she was faced with the most difficult choice a mother could make: would she keep her vow to give up her child?

This is a short fictional story based on the biblical account in the Book of Samuel. It is the first part of a series about the founding of the ancient Israelite monarchy. Check Amazon regularly for future releases.

Release Date: July 2, 2015
Age Group: Adult
Source: Review copy from author
Reviewed By: Kelli


The scripture from 1 Samuel 1:27, "For this child I have prayed..." has become a common thing to see on picture frames, crosses, and wall plaques for nurseries.  It's a meaningful scripture that has become increasingly popular.  William Gage took the surrounding verses from Samuel 1:27 and fleshed them out into a short story, of the same name.  

I didn't remember the story of Elkanah and Hannah, so For This Child I Prayed was a treat in that aspect.  I found their story moving and emotional.  I liked that this short story provides the reader with a deeper look into what it was like to be a married woman in Old Testament times.  

Hannah and Elkanah were married for years when Elkanah took a second wife, Peninnah.  The most likely motivator for Elkanah's second marriage was that Hannah was unable to bear children.  As Peninnah births child after child, Hannah's sorrow grows, until she finally prays to God for a child.  As she prays she promises that after the child is weaned, she will give him to the high priest so that the child may serve the Lord always.  

Reading the original scripture gave me the facts of the story, but Gage's short story really gave the words life.  I loved seeing the scripture come alive like that.  Hannah's heartbreak at the way her life has turned out was deep and very well-portrayed.  

About halfway through the story, there was a section where Gage veers from Hannah's perspective and talks about how hard the holidays are for those who are infertile.  While intuitive and informational, it felt more like that part belonged at the end of the story.  It was a little different from the rest of the story and interfered with the flow, in my opinion.  

Overall, I really enjoyed For This Child I Prayed.  I liked the addendum, which described the history behind the cover of the book.  It was definitely a nice touch and a good addition to the story.  I look forward to reading the rest of the stories in Gage's series.


Book Review: Auggie & Me: The Three Wonder Stories by R.J. Palacio

WONDER tells the story of Auggie Pullman: an ordinary boy with an extraordinary face, whose first year at school changed the lives and the perspectives of everyone around him.

AUGGIE & ME is a new side to the WONDER story: three new chapters from three different characters - bully Julian, oldest friend Christopher and classmate Charlotte - giving an insight into how Auggie has touched their own lives. Thought-provoking, surprising, infuriating, heartbreaking and heartwarming, AUGGIE & ME is a must-read for the thousands of readers who loved WONDER.

Release Date: August 27, 2015
Age Group: YA
Source: Review copy from publisher
Reviewed By: Kelli

Like millions of people worldwide, I fell in love with Wonder.  I was so excited to read more from R.J. Palacio when I got the offer to read Auggie & Me.  I am not usually a huge fan of short stories, but the three stories in Auggie & Me are short stories done right.

The first story is The Julian Chapter, which I admit, I was looking forward to the least.  I mean, who doesn't love to hate Julian?!  But, I was so surprised at the way my view of Julian changed after reading his story.  I enjoyed hearing Julian's own narrative voice and found myself completely understanding where his anger and hate towards Auggie came from.  Julian's history doesn't excuse his actions, and Palacio does not try to create false sympathy for Julian.  She simply delves into his character and own family life, and through that narrative, the reader comes to see that Julian's behavior towards Auggie and Jack was only natural for him: he is the product of his upbringing.  However, all is not lost, as Julian undergoes quite a bit of character growth in this story.  His visit with his grandmere in Paris was life-changing for him, and reading her story was the most touching part of The Julian Chapter.  I started this short story thinking, "I'll just get through this one quickly because I really want to read the other two," and ended it with tears of compassion for Julian and his family.  Bravo, Palacio!

Next comes Pluto, Auggie's friend Christopher's story.  Auggie and Chris have been friends since birth, but Chris moves away before Auggie starts at Beecher Prep, so he's not there to shelter Auggie at his new school.  Chris's story was just as touching as I expected it to be, and I was once again moved to tears by the end of it.  I loved learning more about Chris, since he wasn't a prominent character in Wonder, at least the way I remember it.  One prominent theme to Auggie & Me is that these stories are not about Auggie.  They're about Julian, Chris, and Charlotte.  Auggie is mentioned in the stories, of course, but in almost like cameos.  The stories are how each character reacts to Auggie, and how his presence at Beecher Prep changes their lives for the better.

The last story is Shingaling, and it was just so cute.  Palacio delves into the "girl war" in Shingaling, and does it with aplomb.  Charlotte's use of Venn diagrams just made me smile.  I loved her spunky personality and her honesty.  I really enjoyed getting to know the girls in Wonder better.  While Shingaling wasn't as emotionally moving as the other two stories, it was still an awesome read.  And the ending was just perfect.  

I loved Auggie & Me.  It is a must-read for fans of Wonder.  And if you haven't read Wonder yet, stop, drop and read that awesome, life-changing book!

Book Tour: 10 Takes: Pacific Northwest Writers by Jennifer Roland

Book Summary: 

From novelists to poets to playwrights, Jennifer Roland interviews a variety of authors who have one thing in common — they have all chosen to make the Pacific Northwest their home. Covering a diversity of disciplines — from comics, fantasy, and detective novels to long-form poetry and illustrated children's series — 10 distinguished authors provide unique perspectives about their craft, provide helpful writing advice and tips for success, and share their passion for living and writing in the Pacific Northwest.


About the Author: 

Jennifer Roland is a freelance and marketing writer with more than 20 years experience in newspaper, magazine, and marketing environments. Jennifer also works as a virtual assistant to writers, helping them build their online presence and connect with readers so they can focus on what they love — writing.

She loves fiction and writes that under the name Jennifer C. Rodland. She hopes to put all of the lessons she learned writing this book into getting more of that published.

Jennifer can be found online at:

Book Review: We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh


From the beloved New York Times bestselling author of The Language of Flowers comes her much-anticipated new novel about young love, hard choices, and hope against all odds.

For fourteen years, Letty Espinosa has worked three jobs around San Francisco to make ends meet while her mother raised her children—Alex, now fifteen, and Luna, six—in their tiny apartment on a forgotten spit of wetlands near the bay. But now Letty’s parents are returning to Mexico, and Letty must step up and become a mother for the first time in her life.

Navigating this new terrain is challenging for Letty, especially as Luna desperately misses her grandparents and Alex, who is falling in love with a classmate, is unwilling to give his mother a chance. Letty comes up with a plan to help the family escape the dangerous neighborhood and heartbreaking injustice that have marked their lives, but one wrong move could jeopardize everything she’s worked for and her family’s fragile hopes for the future.
Vanessa Diffenbaugh blends gorgeous prose with compelling themes of motherhood, undocumented immigration, and the American Dream in a powerful and prescient story about family.  

Release Date: August 18, 2015
Age Group: Adult
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed By: Kelli


If I were an author, I would imagine that it would be difficult beyond belief to follow up a book as stunning and popular as The Language of Flowers. How could anything else compare?  

Diffenbaugh manages to accomplish the seemingly impossible with We Never Asked for Wings.  This book was entirely encompassing in its beautiful prose and nuanced characters.  I couldn't put it down and didn't want to. 

We Never Asked for Wings is told in the third person perspective.  This isn't my favorite narrative style, but it is used to an advantage here: the reader learns the thoughts of all of the main characters.  The end result was that I finished the book feeling as though I knew the characters personally.  They were so real to me that they could have been anyone I encounter in daily life: the mother with two children at the store, at the doctor, getting gas.  Letty, Alex and Luna were more than just fictional characters; each of them had traits that anyone could relate to.  And that is the beauty of Diffenbaugh's writing: even when she's covering a topic that you may think has nothing to do with your life, you see yourself in her characters.  After all, it doesn't matter what our challenges are---hard is hard---our human response and reactions are all the same.  

My point is that reading Vanessa Diffenbaugh's work makes me feel more connected to the world around me.  I somehow feel understood, validated and in sync with the world.  Not to mention her outstanding imagery that has me picturing the scenes as I read, and noticing the beauty that surrounds my every day life as well.

If you haven't read Vanessa Diffenbaugh yet, you are missing out.  Seriously, go buy her!


Book Review: Barefoot in the City of Broken Dreams (Russel Middlebrook The Futon Years #2) by Brent Hartinger


“There was no way moving to Los Angeles was going to make me give up my soul. After all, I’d already seen all the movies about Hollywood. I knew how things worked.”

Twenty-four year-old Russel Middebrook and his boyfriend have moved to Los Angeles so Russel can try to make it as a screenwriter.

Almost right away, in a forgotten old house off of Sunset Boulevard, Russel meets Isaac Brander, a once-famous film producer who is convinced he can turn Russel’s screenplay into a movie.

Russel knows that success can't possibly come this easy. After all, most of Russel's Los Angeles friends are so desperate to make it that it's downright scary. His ex-boyfriend, Otto, is trying everything to become an actor, and Daniel, the sexy neighbor, doesn't even need a casting couch to get naked.

So what’s the catch with Mr. Brander? Could it be that movies about Hollywood don’t tell the whole truth? But what does that mean for Russel’s soul?
Barefoot in the City of Broken Dreams, a companion book to Brent Hartinger’s The Thing I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know, is a fast-paced, funny story about the price of fame in Hollywood: the hilarious lengths people will go to achieve it, and the touching secret to survival when things don’t work out exactly as planned.


Release Date: August 14, 2015
Age Group: New Adult
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Reviewed By: Kelli


I read and loved the first installment in Russel Middlebrook the Futon Years, The Thing I Didn't Know I Didn't Know (read my review here), and so I knew I was in for a treat with Barefoot in the City of Broken Dreams.  I love Hartinger's writing: it's simultaneously light-hearted and introspective and his characters are so easy to relate to.  Barefoot in the City of Broken Dreams was my favorite Russel Middlebrook book to date.

Like Hartinger's other books, this story was fast-paced, yet it never felt rushed.  I read the book in two sittings because the story was so good I didn't want to put it down.  Russel's narrative voice is probably my favorite thing about his books.  He is honest and sweetly optimistic, without being too naive.  I truly like Russel as a character, and I can't always say that about main characters.  

Russel and Kevin's relationship is a favorite of mine.  I loved watching their relationship strengthen and develop over time.  Like all love stories, there were some bumps in the road for Kevin and Russel, but the way they worked past them was what I really admired.  Both characters grew in this book, and I enjoyed that aspect of the story, particularly Russel's growth.

I liked that even though Barefoot in the City of Broken Dreams spanned a long period of time.  It's not a particularly long book, yet it covers months of Russel's life.  And that led to even more growth opportunities for Russel.  

I feel so invested in these characters; even the minor characters like Zoe, Lewis and Otto.  I love that Hartinger puts so much development and depth into each character, no matter how big or small a part they play in the plot.  

I just love this series and I really can't wait for the next Russel Middlebrook book!