Book Review: The Lives Between Us by Theresa Rizzo

How far would you go to save the one you love?

Reporter Skylar Kendall has run from commitment all her life, pushing people away before they leave her, until her niece worms her way into Skye’s heart and settles in tight. Skye relaxes into a career she enjoys and relishes being a doting aunt.

Then her niece becomes gravely ill. Unable to bear yet another loss, Skye is determined to find a cure, but the girl’s only hope lies in the embryonic stem cell therapy Michigan Senator Edward Hastings repeatedly opposes. When Skye fails to find alternative treatment in time, she vows to end the senator’s political career.

Curious about the woman behind the scathing articles on his best friend, Mark Dutton pursues Skye. Dating Mark gives her access to Hastings’s life and secrets that would launch Skye's career and satisfy her need for retribution… Only she hadn’t counted on falling in love.

Can she avenge the lives lost to politics at the expense of her new love and friends?

Release Date: July 1, 2015
Age Group: Adult
Source: Review copy from author
Reviewed By: Kelli

I adore Theresa Rizzo's writing, and The Lives Between Us was a great reminder of why she is on my auto-buy list.  This book was so emotional and engrossing.  I loved every minute of it!

I love contemporary fiction novels that are more than just a love story.  And The Lives Between Us was SO much more than a love story (although the romance was an added bonus).  Theresa Rizzo tackles tough subjects in her novels, and I admire her for that.  It's not easy or safe to take on topics like embryonic stem cells, but she does it with aplomb.  I love that I learn something from her books.  I can't say that about many fiction authors, so I consider that high praise.  I could tell from the way Rizzo wrote so authoritatively about stem cells that she'd done an enormous amount of research on the subject.  I appreciate that!  It would be easier to skim over the 'hard stuff', but Rizzo tackles it and explains things to the reader without sounding didactic.

To be perfectly honest, I've never spent a lot of time thinking about the difference between embryonic and cord blood stem cells.  I had the mindset of: it's all stem cells, right?  Boy, was I wrong.  There is a huge difference and the politics of using embryonic stem cells for treatment of diseases and injuries are heavy and twisted. 

This compelling story line on its own would have been enough to make The Lives Between Us a great read.  But Rizzo went even further and added a love story, a mystery, and a little bit of politics.  She brought it all together for an amazing read.  I loved that the story took me into the life of a senator.  I had never really considered the pull they must feel, the constant battle between their commitment to their constituents and family.  Rizzo's characterization made her story even more intense for me.

Some of you might be thinking: I'm pro-life and I don't want to read about embryonic stem cells.  Or you might be thinking, I'm pro-choice and I don't want to read about cord blood stem cells.  I'm here to tell you that this book is not about pro-life versus pro-choice.  It's about how we handle devastating circumstances, the hard things in life.  It's about the choices we make for our family, and how far we would go for the ones we love.  It's about reconciling your long-held beliefs with new challenges to those beliefs.  And, mostly, it's about love: the love between friends, family members, and partners. 

Rizzo very honestly portrays the daily life of people with terminal conditions and also people with spinal cord injuries.  The Lives Between Us was an honest, heartbreaking look into what life is like for people suffering in those situations, as well as their family members and caregivers.  I loved that she didn't shy away from the truth about what it's like have one of those conditions.  It made the story so authentic and emotional.
I really loved everything about this powerful book, and highly recommend it.

Author Bio

Theresa Rizzo is a bestselling, award-winning author who writes emotional stories that explore the complexity of relationships and families through real-life trials. 
Born and raised in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, she currently lives outside of Boulder, Colorado with her husband of thirty-two years. She’s raised four wonderful children who are now scattered across the country.

Theresa's debut book, He Belongs to Me, won the 2014 National Indie Excellence Award for romance and the 2014 Readers Crown Award for Mainstream Women’s Fiction and was a finalist in the General Fiction Category of The 2013 USA Best Book Awards.  

Find Theresa on the web at, or connect with her on Facebook, twitter or and Goodreads.

Buy Links:


Book Review: The Fire Wish (The Jinni Wars #1) by Amber Lough

A jinni. A princess. And the wish that changes everything. . . .

Najwa is a jinni, training to be a spy in the war against the humans. Zayele is a human on her way to marry a prince of Baghdad—which she’ll do anything to avoid. So she captures Najwa and makes a wish. With a rush of smoke and fire, they fall apart and re-form—as each other. A jinni and a human, trading lives. Both girls must play their parts among enemies who would kill them if the deception were ever discovered—enemies including the young men Najwa and Zayele are just discovering they might love.

Release Date: July 22, 2014
Age Group: YA
Source: Review copy from publisher
Reviewed By: Evan


How long do we have to wait for book two?  There better be a book two, I loved this! The plot reminded me of similar ones I have enjoyed. You might think that would make it a bore, not the case! The characters are original, intense, and well developed. Quickly there is an emotional connection between them and the reader. That’s a must if I am to stay interested in, and recommend a book. 

Here two girls, Zaylee and Najwa,­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ magically switch places “In a rush of smoke and fire, they fall apart and re-form- as each other”.  I don’t want to give too much away but I want to make it clear that this is not a “Parent Trap” type of swap. If you like mystery, magic and fantasy, with a hint of romantic conflict, this is a great book for you. At the end of each chapter the point of view changed to the other girl’s. So many times in the last few days I have said, SERIOUSLY, yes out loud, because I wasn’t ready. At the end of the next chapter I would have the same reaction.  It was like going to commercial break during an intense part of your favorite T.V. drama. 

The girls, who are in their late teens, cannot let anyone know they are not who they pretend to be. That said, the only flaw I found was at a few points one of them slipped up without arousing suspicion. I found myself thinking, Atish (one of the great supporting characters) ­­­would have caught that.

I hope to read more about these characters, and soon.


Book Review: The Shadows (Black Dagger Brotherhood #13) by J.R. Ward

Two brothers bound by more than blood fight to change a brutal destiny in the heart-wrenching new novel of the Black Dagger Brotherhood by #1 New York Times bestselling author J. R. Ward.

Trez “Latimer” doesn’t really exist. And not just because the identity was created so that a Shadow could function in the underbelly of the human world. Sold by his parents to the Queen of the S’Hsibe as a child, Trez escaped the Territory and has been a pimp and an enforcer in Caldwell, NY for years- all the while on the run from a destiny of sexual servitude. He’s never had anyone he could totally rely on... except for his brother, iAm.

iAm’s sole goal has always been to keep his brother from self-destructing- and he knows he’s failed. It’s not until the Chosen Serena enters Trez’s life that the male begins to turn things around... but by then it’s too late. The pledge to mate the Queen’s daughter comes due and there is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and no negotiating.

Trapped between his heart and a fate he never volunteered for, Trez must decide whether to endanger himself and others- or forever leave behind the female he’s in love with. But then an unimaginable tragedy strikes and changes everything. Staring out over an emotional abyss, Trez must find a reason to go on or risk losing himself and his soul forever. And iAm, in the name of brotherly love, is faced with making the ultimate sacrifice...

Release Date: March 31, 2015
Age Group: Adult
Source: Purchased
Reviewed By: Kelli

The Black Dagger Brotherhood series is my favorite guilty pleasure.  It's not exactly a series I'd share with my mom, but oh my word is it good!  J.R. Ward's vampire world is dangerous, sexy, thrilling, and consuming. 

Once I start a BDB book, there is no stopping until I've finished it.  This is how it goes for me each year: J.R. Ward releases her yearly BDB installment.  I have it pre-ordered on my Kindle to download at midnight on the release date.  I wait until Kaitlyn goes to my mother-in-law's house for the day (she goes once a week) and then I sit and read.  And read.  And read.  Until the whole thing is done.  These books are long so it usually takes me most of the day.  And what a glorious, delicious day it is!  I used to try to make the BDB books last a few days to a week and I never could.  I finally gave up on that pursuit and just focused on enjoying them while I'm reading them.

I absolutely hate waiting for a year for the next book in the series.  But...Ward makes each book so good, so intense, that they are worth waiting for. 

You would really have to already be a reader of the BDB series to understand what The Shadows is all about.  The world is so richly layered, the characters so well-developed, that I can't accurately summarize it in a few paragraphs.  Suffice it to say, The Shadows was just as awesome as I expected it to be. 

As usual, I cannot wait for the next book in the series.  If you're new to J.R. Ward, try her books.  You won't be disappointed! 

Book Review: The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things by Ann Aguirre

Summary: Sage Czinski is trying really hard to be perfect. If she manages it, people won’t peer beyond the surface, or ask hard questions about her past. She’s learned to substitute causes for relationships, and it’s working just fine… until Shane Cavendish strolls into her math class. He’s a little antisocial, a lot beautiful, and everything she never knew she always wanted.

Shane Cavendish just wants to be left alone to play guitar and work on his music. He’s got heartbreak and loneliness in his rearview mirror, and this new school represents his last chance. He doesn’t expect to be happy; he only wants to graduate and move on. He never counted on a girl like Sage.

But love doesn’t mend all broken things, and sometimes life has to fall apart before it can be put back together again…

Release Date: April 2015
Age Group: YA
Source: Publisher
Reviewed By: Nat

This was my first Ann Aquirre book and I was all pumped up and excited because I've heard nothing but awesome-sauce reviews about her paranormal series Enclave. This is Agguire's first dip into the contemporary world and while the writing was great, it just didn't do it for me. I have been on a contemporary bender for several months but this one made me fall back into paranormal lit. 

I really loved the concept behind the title and cover of the book... sticky notes. I thought it was really clever how they identify with the main character Sage. The idea of building walls between people by using kind, simple, written compliments was brilliant and the reactions from the receivers was heartfelt.

This is NOT a bad read, it was just too easy for my taste. I do think that a high school-age audience will get into it a bit better than I did. The main characters had tragic pasts and serious high school drama that did give me #thefeels at times. I just kept waiting for the bomb to drop and when I realized that it had, it was just handled to simply.

If you are looking for an easy, contemporary read about two kids with crap-tastic parents and their struggle to find their place in the world, then this is a good read. 

*image source:

Book Review: The Body in the Woods by April Henry

In this new series told from multiple perspectives, teen members of a search and rescue team discover a dead body in the woods.

Alexis, Nick, and Ruby have very different backgrounds: Alexis has spent her life covering for her mom’s mental illness, Nick’s bravado hides his fear of not being good enough, and Ruby just wants to pursue her eccentric interests in a world that doesn’t understand her. When the three teens join Portland County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, they are teamed up to search for a autistic man lost in the woods. What they find instead is a dead body. In a friendship that will be forged in danger, fear, and courage, the three team up to find the girl’s killer—before he can strike one of their own.

This first book in April Henry’s Point Last Seen YA mystery series is full of riveting suspense, putting readers in the middle of harrowing rescues and crime scene investigations.

Release Date: June 17, 2014
Age Group: YA
Source: Review copy from publisher
Reviewed By: Evan


Alexis, Nick, and Ruby couldn’t be more different. Under normal circumstances they may never have met, never have spoken. It appears the only thing they have in common is SAR, a local search and rescue group.  They only expected to rescue lost people, lost living people. Instead they discover a young girl’s dead body in the woods.

The teens likely encountered the killer, and quickly find themselves in the middle of a gripping murder investigation. A frightening list of suspects grows; it seems almost everyone has a possible motive. As they work together to find a killer, they become forever bonded as friends.

The Body in the Woods was exciting and original. Realistic in detail, from the crime, to the secret lives and insecurities of today’s teens. The author tells a story that makes it possible for young adults to be the heroes, to find the answers when adults can’t.


Book Review: Even When You Lie to Me by Jessica Alcott

Fans of John Green's Looking for Alaska as well as Lauren Oliver and Sarah Dessen will embrace this provocative debut novel, an exploration of taboo love set against the backdrop of a suburban high school.
 Charlie, a senior, isn't looking forward to her last year of high school. Another year of living in the shadow of her best friend, Lila. Another year of hiding behind the covers of her favorite novels. Another year of navigating her tense relationship with her perfectionist mom.

But everything changes when she meets her new English teacher. Mr. Drummond is smart. Irreverent. Funny. Hot. Everyone loves him. And Charlie thinks he's the only one who gets her.

She also thinks she might not be the only one with a crush.

In this stunning debut, Jessica Alcott explores relationships-and their boundaries-in a way that is both searingly honest and sympathetic.

Release Date: June 9, 2015
Age Group: YA
Source: Review copy from publisher
Reviewed By: Kelli

What a great debut!  Jessica Alcott takes on a taboo subject with unflinching honesty and emotion in Even When You Lie to Me.  I loved this book from start to finish.  

I immediately liked Charlie.  I felt for her, not because I was in love with a teacher, but because she is so awkward and uncomfortable around her peers.  I was exactly the same way.  Charlie and I even had the same type of best friend: someone beautiful, popular, and fun.  Charlie lives in Lila's shadow and is happy to stay there, not because she's content but because she has such low self-esteem that she can't imagine a different high school experience.  

But all of that changes when she meets Mr. Drummond.  Charlie immediately feels a connection to him.  At first, she thinks he's making fun of her: giving her a nickname (Chuck), calling on her in class, teasing her about her answer to a question.  But Lila insists that Mr. Drummond likes Charlie.  And all of a sudden, Charlie's life gets a lot more interesting.

This story was so enthralling.  I loved the writing style, the subject matter and the character growth.  Once I started Even When You Lie to Me, I was so captivated by the story (how was it going to end?!) that I had to read it in one sitting.  I loved the realism and the way Alcott developed her characters.  I didn't always like them, but I always understood them and that is a hallmark of a great read. 

I was so conflicted as I read Even When You Lie to Me.  I wanted Charlie to be happy, all the while knowing Mr. Drummond was not the right person for her.  I think at its heart, this book is about first love, and how falling in love for the first time stains a person, for better or worse.   

I want to make it clear that I don't condone teacher-student relationships.  I think that even when the student is of age, the fact that the teacher is in an authority position just makes it wrong.  And Alcott seems to share the same view because her book doesn't treat the teacher-student relationship with sympathy or acceptance.  No, her characters know that it's wrong, that their behavior is inappropriate, and the struggle between their desires of lust and doing what's right was the crux of the novel.

Many readers will probably dislike the ending; however, I thought it was perfect, if a little abrupt.  I loved the growth in Charlotte and the way she steps outside of her comfort zone and makes new friends throughout the school year.  I finished the book knowing that she'd have a bright future ahead of her.  Is there really anything more we can ask for in a contemporary fiction novel?

Audio Book Spotlight: Darjeeling: The Colorful History and Precarious Fate of the World's Greatest Tea by Jeff Koehler

Today we're highlighting Jeff Koehler's book Darjeeling.  I'm a big fan of tea and that is why this book appeals to me.  Enjoy a clip from the audiobook below.


Darjeeling's tea bushes run across a mythical landscape steeped with the religious, the sacred, and the picturesque. Planted at high elevation in the heart of the Eastern Himalayas, in an area of northern India bound by Nepal to the west, Bhutan to the east, and Sikkim to the north, the linear rows of brilliant green, waist-high shrubs that coat the steep slopes and valleys around this Victorian "hill town" produce only a fraction of the world's tea, and less than one percent of India's total. Yet the tea from that limited crop, with its characteristic bright, amber-colored brew and muscatel flavors--delicate and flowery, hinting of apricots and peaches--is generally considered the best in the world.

This is the story of how Darjeeling tea began, was key to the largest tea industry on the globe under Imperial British rule, and came to produce the highest-quality tea leaves anywhere in the world. It is a story rich in history, intrigue and empire, full of adventurers and unlikely successes in culture, mythology and religions, ecology and terroir, all set with a backdrop of the looming Himalayas and drenching monsoons. The story is ripe with the imprint of the Raj as well as the contemporary clout of "voodoo farmers" getting world record prices for their fine teas--and all of it beginning with one of the most audacious acts of corporate smuggling in history.

But it is also the story of how the industry spiraled into decline by the end of the twentieth century, and how this edenic spot in the high Himalayas seethes with union unrest and a violent independence struggle. It is also a front-line fight against the devastating effects of climate change and decades of harming farming practices, a fight that is being fought in some tea gardens--and, astonishingly, won--using radical methods.

Jeff Koehler has written a fascinating chronicle of India and its most sought-after tea. Blending history, politics, and reportage together, along with a collection of recipes that tea-drinkers will love, Darjeeling is an indispensable volume for fans of micro-history and tea fanatics.

Children's Book Review: A Wilcox and Griswold Mystery: The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake by Robin Newman

When food goes missing on Ed's farm, Detectives Wilcox and Griswold do what it takes to track down the thieves. In this case, Miss Rabbit's carrot cake has disappeared. Has it been stolen? Or eaten? Or both? Who dunnit?

Release Date: May 12, 2015
Age Group: Chapter Books
Source: Review copy from publisher
Reviewed By: Kelli & Kaitlyn

The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake has the unique distinction of being the very fist chapter book I've read to Kaitlyn.  I was so impressed at how this book captured and held her attention!  We read it through in one sitting (it took over 30 minutes) and she immediately asked to read it again.

The protagonists are two mice who are detectives for a farm.  They investigate missing food.  Isn't that such a cute premise?  Kaitlyn loved the premise and so did I.  The prose was easy for a four year old to follow while still being entertaining for me to read aloud.  There was a lot of witty banter between characters, and some repeating jokes which made the story even more fun.

The illustrations struck the right note: fun yet not too childish like a board book.  They added depth and imagination to the story.

Kaitlyn and I both loved The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake and we highly recommend this book! 

Book Review: Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

If you could read my mind, you wouldn't be smiling.

Samantha McAllister looks just like the rest of the popular girls in her junior class. But hidden beneath the straightened hair and expertly applied makeup is a secret that her friends would never understand: Sam has Purely-Obsessional OCD and is consumed by a stream of dark thoughts and worries that she can't turn off.

Second-guessing every move, thought, and word makes daily life a struggle, and it doesn't help that her lifelong friends will turn toxic at the first sign of a wrong outfit, wrong lunch, or wrong crush. Yet Sam knows she'd be truly crazy to leave the protection of the most popular girls in school. So when Sam meets Caroline, she has to keep her new friend with a refreshing sense of humor and no style a secret, right up there with Sam's weekly visits to her psychiatrist.

Caroline introduces Sam to Poet's Corner, a hidden room and a tight-knit group of misfits who have been ignored by the school at large. Sam is drawn to them immediately, especially a guitar-playing guy with a talent for verse, and starts to discover a whole new side of herself. Slowly, she begins to feel more "normal" than she ever has as part of the popular crowd . . . until she finds a new reason to question her sanity and all she holds dear.

Release Date: June 16, 2015
Age Group: YA
Source: Review copy from publisher
Reviewed By: Kelli

I loved every single thing about this book.  The first words drew me in and I couldn't put Every Last Word down until I'd finished it.

Every Last Word hit uncomfortably close to home for me.  Like Samantha, I also have Pure-Obsessional OCD, or Pure-O, and often feel tortured by my own mind.  In the first chapter, Samantha is trimming roses for Valentine's Day and when handed the scissors, is afraid she's going to cut all the roses up with them.  And then she'll cut her friends' hair and not be able to stop.  This kind of thinking, going into a panic over what would be a fleeting thought for most, is called an intrusive thought.  

Intrusive thoughts cause major distress, panic, and upset.  They are a hallmark of Pure-O, and the way Stone wrote Sam's intrusive thoughts was so perfectly accurate, I got chills.  I could so easily identify with Sam, especially how she feels as though she has to keep her disorder hidden from her friends.  Stone's personification of Pure-O was so true to what my experience with it has been.  I could tell that she did a great deal of research while planning and writing this book.  I love it when authors write so knowledgeably on a difficult subject.

One of the caveats of books that address mental health issues or substance abuse issues is how the protagonist's issues are addressed.  Too often, I've seen the trope of "love cures all" and that just rings false and feels like a deux ex machina to me.  I was so happy that Sam got better in realistic ways.  Sam goes to therapy and does the hard, hard work of sharing her thoughts and reframing them.  She takes medication to help herself cope, and surrounds herself with people who build her up instead of bringing her down.  Sam learns healthy coping methods (several of which inspired me!) and I loved Stone for the way she addresses Sam's OCD.

Beyond Sam's OCD, there were so many interesting aspects to this story: bullying, 'mean girls,' poetry, music, swimming, and young love.  I loved the depth that these themes provided.  Each chapter was titled, something else I really like, because it adds interest and meaning to the story.  And the titles themselves were so relevant to Sam, because they all consisted of three words (three is 'her' number) and were all three words taken from the chapter.  This is significant to the story because this way of creating titles is something Sam came up with herself for her playlists.

Stone's prose flowed so well, that I ended up reading Every Last Word in one sitting.  I loved every single thing about this book and can't wait to read more from Tamera Ireland Stone.

New Adult Summer Reads of 2015


 Continuing with our summer reading lists, here are our recommendations for New Adult reads this summer.  They're in no particular order and are not all new releases, just ones that we love.  :)





 Do you have any New Adult summer reading plans?