Book Review: Placebo Junkies by J.C. Carleson

Going Bovine meets Trainspotting in this gritty portrait of at-risk teens gaming the prescription drug trial system.

Meet Audie: Professional lab rat. Guinea pig. Serial human test subject. For Audie and her friends, “volunteering” for pharmaceutical drug trials means a quick fix and easy cash.
Sure, there’s the occasional nasty side effect, but Audie’s got things under control. If Monday’s pill causes a rash, Tuesday’s ointment usually clears it right up. Wednesday’s injection soothes the sting from Tuesday’s “cure,” and Thursday’s procedure makes her forget all about Wednesday’s headache. By the time Friday rolls around, there’s plenty of cash in hand and perhaps even a slot in a government-funded psilocybin study, because WEEKEND!

But the best fix of all is her boyfriend, Dylan, whose terminal illness just makes them even more compatible. He’s turning eighteen soon, so Audie is saving up to make it an unforgettable birthday. That means more drug trials than ever before, but Dylan is worth it.
No pain, no gain, Audie tells herself as the pills wear away at her body and mind. No pain, no gain, she repeats as her grip on reality starts to slide….

Raw and irreverent, Placebo Junkies will captivate readers until the very end, when author J. C. Carleson leans in for a final twist of the knife.

Release Date: October 27, 2015
Age Group: YA
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed By: Kelli


Placebo Junkies is a dark and intense book.  I was gripped from the very first pages, and fell deep into the story.  I found Placebo Junkies nearly impossible to put down.

With all of my medical conditions, one would think that I would have stopped to consider the subjects of drug trials.  I certainly take enough prescription medications to warrant the consideration.  But, all I ever really thought about drug trial participants was that people with certain conditions signed up for trials relating to their specific problems and that was it.  I never even thought about people who participate in medical research for money, in addition to or even in lieu of a traditional job.  So, the premise of Placebo Junkies kind of blew my mind, but in a good way.  In a way that made me see the world a little differently and think about things differently.  And that is always huge when a book has that kind of effect on me.

There were periods, sometimes just scenes, of lightness and happiness throughout Placebo Junkies.  But mostly, this book was about its heavy subject matter: the danger of being a human test subject.  And the story was so intense and thought-provoking.  I was rooting for Audie's happiness and storybook ending throughout the whole story.  So the actual ending came as a complete surprise; a twist I never saw coming.  I admire J.C. Carleson for taking that risk and finishing Placebo Junkies in a manner that suited the feel of the book itself.  

Placebo Junkies was a great read.  I would recommend it for the higher end of the YA spectrum, and for adults as well.  The story stayed with me for weeks after finishing it, and as I type this review, I find myself hoping for a follow-up book.


Things I Can't Explain by Mitchell Kriegman

A complete re-imagining of Clarissa Explains it All as 20-something Clarissa tries to navigate the unemployment line, mompreneurs and the collision of two people in love.

She was a smart, snappy, light-hearted girl who knew it all at fourteen. Now a woman in her late twenties, her searching blue eyes are more serious, but mostly amused by the people around her. The gap-toothed smile that made her seem younger than she really was is gone, but she still lightens up the room. Her unpredictable wardrobe rocks just like when she was a kid, but her fashion sense has evolved and it makes men and women turn their heads.

After leaving high school early, Clarissa interned at the Daily Post while attending night school. At the ripe old age of twenty- two she had it made – her own journalism beat (fashion, gender politics and crime), an affordable apartment in FiDi and a livable wage. She was so totally ahead of the game. Ah, those were the days! All three of them. Remember the Stock Market Crash of 08? Remember when people actually bought newspapers?

All of Clarissa’s charming obsessions, charts, graphs, and superstitions have survived into adulthood, but they’ve evolved into an ever-greater need to claw the world back under control. Her mid-twenties crisis has left her with a whole set of things she can’t explain: an ex-boyfriend turned stalker, her parents’ divorce, a micro relationship with the cute coffee guy, java addiction, “To-Flue Glue,” and then there’s Sam. Where’s Sam anyway?

Things I Can't Explain is about knowing it all in your teens and then feeling like you know nothing in your twenties.

Release Date: November 10, 2015
Age Group: New Adult
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed By: Kelli


Things I Can't Explain was such a fun read!  I loved this both light-hearted and introspective book.

I was a fan of Clarissa Explains It All growing up, so I was super excited to "meet" Clarissa in her twenties. This Clarissa is even more fun, smart, and spunky than I remember.  I loved her narrative voice: she made me laugh so much.  And I loved her outlook on life even more.  She's droll without being dry, and sarcastic without being cynical.  Overall, she's hopefully optimistic, and a great friend.  

Speaking of friends, I enjoyed Clarissa's relationships so much.  I think they may have been my favorite aspect of the story.  Especially her topsy-turvy love life, which always had me guessing.  

Things I Can't Explain ends well, but there was definitely some unresolved conflict there.  I really can't wait for the next book in the Clarissa series! 

A Holiday Break

I've been posting less lately, and that's for a good reason: my husband and I are custom building a house, and it's been an incredibly exciting and busy time for me.  I've been in charge of all of the selections and I'm helping our builder with the design.  My husband is in charge of making the money to pay for it all.  :)  

With that said, I haven't had much time at all to read and review.  This makes me very sad, but I know that this season of my life is temporary.  Thus, I will enjoy the last few weeks of our dream house being built, and try not feel guilty about the temporary shift in my priorities.  

We plan to move in January, pending our house being complete, of course, so I plan to get back to my reading then.  I'm still reading and reviewing here and there but it's very sporadic.  

All this to say, you're going to see fewer posts here, more spread out, and if you're emailing me, I may not reply.  Or if I do reply, it will most likely take days to weeks.  That's not an intentional slight, it's just the simple fact that there aren't enough hours in the day for me to do it all.  And my inbox is one of the first things that I let slide when I get busy like this.   

Thank you, readers and fellow bloggers, for hanging in there with us.  I'd So Rather Be Reading is 5 1/2 years strong and we plan to stay around for much longer.  

Happy Thanksgiving if I don't post again before then, and thank you, as always, for supporting I'd So Rather Be Reading!


Incomplete & Complete by Lindy Zart & Wendi Stitzer

Incomplete Summary: 
There are three absolute truths in Grayson Lee’s life:

1. His existence was a mistake.

2. No one is good enough for his best friend, Lily Jacobs, especially not him.
3. He loves her anyway.

Release Date: September 2013
Age Group: New Adult
Source: Kindle
Reviewed By: Nat

Review: Listen, the main character is pretty much Adam Levine plus his black frame glasses. #enoughsaid 

If you are not motivated by the eye candy above, bless your little heart. I was hooked right from the beginning for several reasons (yes, before I realized I was reading about fictional Adam):
  1. Right away I knew I would like the alternating POV of Lily and Grayson. 
  2. The story quickly moved from high school and into the New Adult setting. 
  3. Right when you think you know what is going to happen, either Lily or Grayson screw it up. I wasn't sure if it was going to end HEA or in utter heartbreak. I was actually pretty worried that this series was going to end like a freaking Tarryn Fisher book! #nobueno #tarrynhasnoheartbutweloveheranyway
  4. I liked that Lily and Grayson were both tortured souls but for very different reasons.
  5. And finally, THE PLOT TWIST that comes in book 2: Complete

Complete Summary:
If the truth sets one free, why does Lily Jacobs feel so trapped?

She's learned doing the right thing isn't always best and now she is living the consequences of her greatest sacrifice. Every day since Grayson Lee left is one she wishes he hadn't. Years have gone by since their friendship turned to more and then was eradicated by Lily alone; enough time for their young love to fade. Only it hasn't, not for Lily.

Now he is back and seeing him is devastating to her at the same time it is rapture. She tries to accept that they cannot be together, but everything inside her shouts that they should be; that they only fit with each other. And so she has to accept the greatest truth of all: She loves him still. She loves him enough not to let him go this time.

Release Date: March 2014
Age Group: New Adult
Source: Kindle
Reviewed By: Nat

Just read Incomplete. You will have no choice but to read Complete. #hooklineandsinker

*image sources: google
*book image sources: goodreads

Book Spotlight: The Oracle by DJ Niko

02_The Oracle_Cover The Oracle (The Sarah Weston Chronicles, Book Three) by D.J Niko

Publication Date: November 10, 2015
Medallion Press Paperback; 456p
ISBN-13: 978-1605426273
Genre: Historical/Archaeological Adventure

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In Delphi, the mountain city deemed by the Greek gods to be the center of the Earth, a cult of neo-pagans re-create with painstaking authenticity ancient rituals to glorify the god Apollo and deliver oracles to seekers from around the world. When antiquities are stolen from a museum in nearby Thebes, British archaeologist Sarah Weston and her American partner, Daniel Madigan, are drawn into a plot that goes beyond harmless role-playing: someone’s using the Delphian oracle as a smoke screen for an information exchange, with devastating consequences for the Western world. Pitted against each other by the cult’s mastermind, Sarah and Daniel race against time and their own personal demons to uncover clues left behind by the ancients. Their mission: to find the original navel stone marked with a lost Pythagorean formula detailing the natural events that led to the collapse of the Minoan Empire. But will they find it in time to stop the ultimate terrorist act?



About the Author

Daphne Nikolopoulos, photography by Lauren Lieberman / LILA PHOTODaphne Nikolopoulos, photography by Lauren Lieberman / LILA PHOTO[/caption] Daphne Nikolopoulos in an award-winning journalist, author, editor, and lecturer. Under the pen name D.J. Niko, she has written two novels in an archaeological thriller series titled The Sarah Weston Chronicles. Her debut novel, The Tenth Saint (Medallion Press, 2012), won the Gold Medal (popular fiction) in the prestigious, juried Florida Book Awards. Her follow-up release, The Riddle of Solomon, continues the story of British archaeologist Sarah Weston as she seeks the relics—and mystical secrets—left behind by the biblical King Solomon in remote Israel. Daphne is currently at work on The Oracle, book 3 in The Sarah Weston Chronicles, which releases in 2015. Also slated for publication in 2015 is her first historical novel, The Judgment, which is set in Israel and Egypt in the tenth century BCE. In addition to writing fiction, Daphne is editor in chief of Palm Beach Illustrated magazine and editorial director of Palm Beach Media Group. Prior to that, she was a travel journalist who logged hundreds of thousands of miles traveling across the globe, with emphasis on little-known and off-the-beaten-path locales—many of which have inspired her novels. Daphne frequently lectures about her research on the ancient world. She is an instructor at Florida Atlantic University’s Lifelong Learning Society, teaching on the subject of archaeology. She has also spoken to audiences at the Jewish Community Center of the Palm Beaches’ Academy for Continuous Education, and several libraries and private groups throughout Florida. Born and raised in Athens, Greece, Daphne now resides in West Palm Beach with her husband and twin son and daughter. You can find her on the Web at and connect with her on Facebook (AuthorDJNiko) and on Twitter: @djnikobooks.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, November 9 Review at A Book Geek
Tuesday, November 10 Guest Post at Historical Fiction Connection
Wednesday, November 11 Review at Back Porchervations  
Friday, November 13 Spotlight at I'd So Rather Be Reading  
Monday, November 16 Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More Tuesday, November 17 Review at Book Nerd  
Wednesday, November 18 Review at History From a Woman's Perspective Spotlight & Excerpt at The Lit Bitch  
Thursday, November 19 Spotlight at A Literary Vacation  
Friday, November 20 Spotlight at The Never-Ending Book
Monday, November 23 Character Interview at Boom Baby Reviews   
Tuesday, November 24 Guest Post at Yelena Casale's Blog
Friday, November 27 Spotlight at Teatime and Books  
Tuesday, December 1 Review at Kristin Un-Ravelle'd  
Wednesday, December 2 Review at Book Lovers Paradise  
Friday, December 4 Spotlight at Diana's Book Reviews
Thursday, December 10 Review at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf  
Friday, December 11 Guest Post & Giveaway at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews
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Book Review: Not Enough by Mia Hoddell


Neve Colvin isn’t good enough. As an introvert, her life is a never-ending list of labels and criticism. Pressures to change come from everyone—including the one person she thought would love her unconditionally … her mother. All Neve wants is acceptance, but surrounded by extroverts it’s a wish that’s nearly impossible to fulfill.

For Neve there’s only one solution: anyone disapproving must go. Even if it means only one person will remain.

That person is her lifelong friend Blake Reynolds. He’s seen the fights with her mum, the breakdowns caused by attacks on her personality, and the battles for acceptance. Each time she is left shattered and questioning who she is, he’s the one to collect the pieces of her broken heart. Shielding her from the cruelty is his only concern. But how can he protect her when Neve is concealing a secret so dark?

Blake thinks he knows everything about her, and with their relationship developing, he assumes Neve trusts him fully. However, there is one memory Neve is too ashamed of to share. Revealing it will test Blake’s loyalty beyond what she could ever ask, and Blake is the only friend she can’t afford to lose. He’s the one person capable of dragging her from the darkness plaguing her, but with pressures to conform increasing, even Blake may not be enough to pull her back this time.

Release Date: November 16, 2015
Age Group: New Adult
Source: Review copy from author
Reviewed By: Kelli


Not Enough was a fantastic, emotional journey.  I loved this book.

The premise is simple enough, yet touching in its relatability.  Who among us hasn't felt inadequate?  I know that I sure have, and do quite often.  Feeling inadequate is something I struggle with daily, especially given my multiple health conditions which keep me from living the life I want to live.  Luckily, I have an extremely supportive network of family and friends who constantly lift me up and help me out.  

But Neve has no such network.  She has her best friend, Blake, but that's it.  And she's scared to let Blake all the way in, to share her deepest secrets, for fear of scaring him off.  Furthermore, Neve faces constant criticism from the person who should love and support her the most: her own mother.  Every day, Neve has to hear from her mother about how she's doing everything wrong and how she should be living her life.  

What drew me into Neve's story was how easily I identified with her.  Neve is an introvert, one who is more comfortable working on her graphic design business than going out to a club.  She likes one on one interactions but not being in a group of people.  I could relate to all of these aspects of Neve's personality.

A person can be told they're insufficient only so many times before they start to break.  And luckily for Neve, Blake is always there to pick up the pieces of her heart.  I loved that Neve had Blake to lean on.  He was the perfect friend for her, so supportive and understanding.  He accepted her fully and loved her no matter what.  Their relationship was positive and healthy and I loved that aspect of the story.

All of the conflict in Neve's life finally comes to a boiling point and she has a major decision to make about her future.  I really loved how Hoddell resolved the conflict and the fact that things got better over time, not overnight.  

I finished Not Enough feeling encouraged and hopeful.  It's an honest and emotional story that made me appreciate my own special qualities as an introvert.  I highly recommend this book!


Children's Book Review: The Little Tree by Muon Van

When the Little Tree sees the world around her narrowing, she worries about what life will be like for her Little Seed. She decides to take the biggest risk of all, and let Little Seed find a richer life on her own.

Release Date: November 10, 2015
Age Group: Children's
Source: Review copy from publisher
Reviewed By: Kelli & Kaitlyn

Kaitlyn and I were excited to read The Little Tree, me because I loved Muon Van's first book, In a Village by the Sea, and Kaitlyn because she loves reading new books.  I expected a poetically written tale with beautiful illustrations and I was not disappointed.  

The Little Tree was both hopeful and bittersweet.  It's all about a mother's love for her child, and how she wants a better life for her child.  Isn't that what all parents want?  For our children to thrive and prosper?  Even if they aren't with us physically?  I know I do.  So as a mother, this book hit close to home with me.

Kaitlyn loved The Little Tree.  She loved the story and especially the illustrations.  Her favorite part was the seed's journey away from its mother.  Ironic, I know, that she would like the part that made me tear up.  

The story ends on a high note, and left both of us feeling happy.  We both loved The Little Tree and eagerly await Muon Van's next book!

Book Review: NEED by Joelle Charbonneau

"No one gets something for nothing. We all should know better."

Teenagers at Wisconsin's Nottawa High School are drawn deeper into a social networking site that promises to grant their every need . . . regardless of the consequences. Soon the site turns sinister, with simple pranks escalating to malicious crimes. The body count rises. In this chilling YA thriller, the author of the best-selling Testing trilogy examines not only the dark side of social media, but the dark side of human nature.

Release Date: November 3, 2015
Age Group: YA
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed By: Kelli

What an intense read!  I loved NEED's unique premise and non-stop action.  I sped through this book and was left wanting more.  The book ends with what sounded to me like the start of a sequel.  I really hope Charbonneau turns NEED into a series because this premise is unique and exciting enough to support multiple books.

At first, NEED seemed like a typical YA story: characters making their way through the murky waters of high school drama.  But then, the story quickly turned sinister and scary as all get-out.  I was hooked!  I found myself reading NEED in two sittings (I've would've read it in one sitting but that pesky little thing called sleep kept me from it).  

Charbonneau's narrative was perfectly suited to the story.  Kaylee is the first person narrator, but there are chapters with third person narratives from other characters.  Those chapters are shorter, and had the feel of little vignettes, little glimpses into the secondary characters' thoughts and emotions.  Additionally, they gave the reader some insight into why people were doing the crazy things they were doing, all because of NEED.  
NEED ends with a huge twist.  I was shocked at the way Charbonneau resolved the conflict, but upon further reflection, feel it was just what the plot needed.  

As far as YA thrillers go, NEED is one of my favorites.  The story is fast-paced, intense, unique, and unforgettable.  In fact, I think I'll go back and read some of Charbonneau's earlier works.  I highly recommend NEED!