Review: I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

517J4sEoJFL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Title:  I Let You Go
Author: Clare Mackintosh
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense,
Publisher: Berkley
Date: May 3, 2016

It’s every mother’s nightmare. A simple split second decision on an ordinary day that shatters her world. A mother lets go of her son’s hand because they’re in sight of their home and moments later, he’s dead in a hit and run. How does one recover from that?

We get to experience this story from two different points of view. First, the Bristol police department. There’s a fierce determination to solve this case and bring justice to the family who lost their beautiful child. His death and the fact that someone would just callously turn around and leave him in his mother’s arms in the street, has profoundly affected the team working on the case. Though the clues are thin, something resonates with the pair who are investigating and they don’t want to give it up or let it go. Even when it looks like it will be an impossible case.

On the other side of the coin is Jenna Gray. Jenna has moved far away to a place where no one knows her in order to try and come to terms with the accident that won’t stop playing over and over in her head. The loss of her child, the devastation…all of it combine to make her somewhat of a hermit in the small seaside town where she’s chosen to live. She lives day to day in her grief, not interested in much of anything beyond mere survival. So when she begins making friends and building a tentative sort of life, she’s constantly afraid that it’s going to tumble like a house of cards.

Since becoming a parent, my tastes in film, television and books have changed. I learned early on in my parenting journey that I was not good with anything where children were harmed or died. When I read the description on this book, something called to me but I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to handle it. I’ll admit to quickly skimming through the opening parts of the book. I didn’t need to read about the accident in detail and that wasn’t something I really wanted to delve into.

However, once I got past that part, I was completely drawn into this book and unable to put it down. My entire imagination was captured with the police, as they tried to investigate this crime and the woman who was unable to stop living it. I loved this book. The plot moved along at a nice clip and the characters were engaging enough to keep me interested from beginning to end.

I pride myself on being the person who can see twists coming a mile away and yet this one caught me completely off guard. So much so that I had to go back and re-read chapters a couple of times to see if I could even pick up clues as to where things were leading. Even going back, I couldn’t see the twists coming. I had to put down the book and wrap my mind around it before I could go forward! And even then, I still couldn’t see how things were going to unfold. It feels like it twisted even more and took me to yet another brand new place that was unexpected!

I loved this book. I was not expecting it to be this tightly woven, engaging, and surprising. Well crafted from beginning to end, I am highly impressed with Mackintosh and what she built here. This is a finely tuned, perfectly plotted suspense novel.  I can easily see Clare Mackintosh becoming a favorite of mine if she keeps putting out books that are this good!

*I received this book for review from Netgalley.

Review: Wildflower

91eLM76EmQL._SY606_Wildflower
Genre: Suspense, Faith
Release date: April 5, 2016

Chloe Morey seems to be a typical college student. At school on a scholarship, she experiences a little more stress and pressure than her peers, but it isn’t anything more than a lot of other college kids. Except that there’s far more under the surface than anyone realizes.

Chloe is experiencing blackouts. When she comes out of them, she is usually in some sort of distress and often, surrounded by sketches, paintings or artwork that all have the same theme. Someone close to her is in danger and she’s pretty sure it’s her friend, Rebecca. Unfortunately, no one believes Chloe when she tells them what she thinks. Everyone just assumes she’s mentally unstable. Until she meets Josh.
Carrying his own heavy burdens, Josh isn’t exactly a shining example of someone who is emotionally stable. Still reeling from the death of his girlfriend, he’s shut down (and out) nearly everything in his life. Yet when his path crosses that of Chloe’s, something about her haunts him and he just can’t quite let go of the idea that he needs to help her.

Wildflower is a suspenseful film with faith based values that can be a refreshing change of pace for Christian audiences. It’s not overly preachy and the plotline and twists are engaging and unique. The filmmaking and acting were well above the average and though the pacing bogged down in portions, it did keep moving along generally well.

 

One of the things I really enjoyed about this film was the idea that not all Christians are perfect. So many people outside the faith find us all judgmental and assume that we all believe we’re perfect. Anyone who spends a decent amount of time in the church can tell you that no one is perfect. We’re all sinners and even living our faith every day, we still mess up. For the most part, we’re broken. This film covers broken really well. It explores the dynamics of how to get past the broken pieces and there are some really powerful moments in here that explain scars and brokenness. It’s powerful stuff.

As I mentioned above, there are some moments where the pacing bogs down and a few of the twists and turns in the plot bothered me. They didn’t seem to connect the dots well and once or twice, there were some unrealistic scenes that just didn’t make sense at all.

However, overall, it was a good watch. If you enjoy suspense or mysteries, it’s enough to keep you on the edge of your seat for a while and guessing about where things could be headed.  Wildflower is an engaging film with a unique plot and it’s a solid choice for a movie night.

 

Rating: PG-13

But…Mom and Dad are Fighting! (A Non-Spoiler review of Captain America: Civil War)

6359436575960912062123804479_captain americaTwenty-four hours ago, I would have been hard pressed to answer which of the Marvel Movies was my favorite. The action scenes in the Winter Soldier set the bar for me. The emotion of The First Avenger always rings with me. The Avenger movies and Guardians are my go-to for fun escapism. But what would Civil War bring? The question has plagued me since hearing that two beloved super heroes were going to not only battle it out, but bring in their friends (and ours for that matter!) as well. For months there has been speculation about what Captain America: Civil War was going to be like. Who would live? Who would die? Would any of our heroes step down? Would this change the entire landscape of the Marvel Cinematic Universe? So many questions. All of them answered in a very fast two hours and twenty-eight minutes.  Oh, and this now ranks as my favorite Marvel adventure.

I admit that I had the bar set pretty high for this one. Marvel has always exceeded expectations, so really, setting it up there was a reasonable endeavor.  And you know what? Marvel did it. Not only did they pass the bar, they leaped it. While doing acrobatics. With jazz hands. The movie was that good. (Dare I say that it was the polar opposite of Batman V Superman? Action, adventure, storylines that made sense? Yes. They managed to accomplish, with style, what the other guys couldn’t.) Marvel nailed it. This is what a Super Hero battle should look like.

This movie has a good number of intersecting storylines and lots of little kudos and nods to the fans if you’re looking, but the major overarching story is obviously what happens when two people fall on opposite sides of an ideal. And really, neither one is totally wrong or totally right. When it comes down to it, negotiation just doesn’t work with characters and personalities that are this big. I mean each of these people owns and controls situations within their own right – so should we expect any different when they’re in a room together discussing policy? I think not. (Though really, don’t expect tons of board room discussion, Skype sessions or chats. This is an action movie – pure and simple.)

The battles are long and yet mind-blowingly fast moving. There are moments when, if you blink, you’ll miss something. I did. In at least two scenes my mind was about three steps behind the action on the screen, trying to process what I’d just seen.  But they were well worth the ride.

One of the things I loved about this film was that there was no clear black or white. The audience was free to choose whichever side they felt they needed to support (although in our theater, it was decidedly a Cap crowd) but both sides had relevant points. And both sides cared deeply for the other. You could see it. This wasn’t just some Super Smash Bros Brawl. This was far more than just who has the better super powers or even who is right. This really was a Civil War. Brother against brother. People who were fighting together moments earlier are now on opposite sides. And sometimes switch back. It’s pretty amazing.

Spider-man was great. He and Black Panther added huge value to the movie. Spidey brought a lightness and a new breath of air to our stalwart group while Black Panther brought a powerful gravity, understanding, and vision to our group. (And Vision, by the way? He was fabulous, though woefully underplayed!)

Analyzing it any further would go into spoiler territory and I am not going to do that here. You can check out Marvel Geeks for more detailed reviews as well as perspective from Team Cap and Team Ironman. They will be posting throughout the weekend as quickly as we are able to churn them out!

Suffice it to say, this was a good one. Well worth watching in the theater and it still has not made me waver from my love of Marvel.

Okay guys, I’m ready for Guardians 2 and Infinity War. Can you do me a favor and make them just a little faster??

Kudos to Clarins and Influenster for being class acts…

I’m a member of Influenster. I love being a part of their promotions and trying out new products. And obviously, you can see that I love talking about new things – so it’s a slam dunk all the way around!

Recently I took part in a campaign where I  got to try a skin product from Clarins. Now post cancer, I’m really really really cautious about my skin. The radiation damage and the difficulties I went through during treatments really took a toll on me – both my skin and my emotions. So when I tried this new product, I was a little hesitant, to say the least. Thankfully, it worked well for me and I got some excellent results!  That made it very easy for me to do the requisite posting/reviewing at various locations.  In  the end, it was no biggie – all was said and done.

But Friday afternoon, I got an exceptional gift in the mail and had to share. A full sized package of the product that I’d reviewed!

This is the box I got. Isn't it cool? They really seem to get their audience.

This is the box I got. Isn’t it cool? They really seem to get their audience.

But the best part (for me) was inside. No, not the product….I opened it to find this:

12928206_10154130035741457_3505065693730990107_n

A hand written note! I loved it so much. And the note? That helped push it over the top for me. It’s not often at all these days that a company even acknowledges their customer base, let alone take the time to write a handwritten note. Thank you so much for this. It really meant more than you know to me as I work through looking in the mirror and getting used to the new norm for me. Thank you!

Clarins, this was a definite marketing win! Thank you so much for caring about your customers and taking the time to follow through in such a great way! You’re rockstars! And thank you Influenster, for working with such classy companies to bring us great product!

Review: Three Wishes by Lisa T. Bergren

51bfI1CVGCL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_ Three Wishes by Lisa T. Bergren
Genre: Historical/Romance
Publisher: Bergren Creative Group
Date: April 8, 2016

Zara Ruiz has no idea what’s going to happen in her life. Admittedly, most teenagers aren’t sure, but Zara’s situation is a little different. She’s still in high school and her only guardian, her grandmother, has just passed away. Zara now has a restaurant in her name that she can keep or sell and a whole litany of other things to think about.

 

When she goes to the beach one afternoon and sees an unusual gathering of starfish in a tide pool, she is intrigued, but there isn’t a lot more than that. Until she sees the very old, very crusty and tarnished lamp in the bottom of the pool. She doesn’t think about it too long before she wades out and snags the lamp. From there, it gets just a little surreal.

Soon, the beach that she knows, loves, and recognizes takes a dramatic shift to something she only vaguely recognizes. And within moments, Zara realizes there’s something very, very wrong. A handsome young man on horseback barrels past her, pursued by other men that don’t appear to be in a playful goofing mood.

Zara quickly recognizes that things aren’t in the right place, or better yet, she isn’t in the right…time. A fast story about falling from a ship and having a head injury that doesn’t allow her to remember will buy her some time. But who is this handsome young man? Does he mean her harm? And why does his mother keep looking at Zara with that strange gaze? Is there more to this story?

Lisa T. Bergren burst into the time travel genre (It is one, isn’t it? A whole genre? If not, I’m claiming it as such!) a few years ago with one of my very favorite books, Waterfall. Since then, I have eagerly devoured every time travel adventure she has put forth and I have never been disappointed. Zara’s tale in Three Wishes is no different. Though some things aren’t surprising as you progress through the story, it doesn’t take away from the delight of visiting another time and place with Lisa as the tour guide.

 

The hero is dashing, wealthy, flirtatious and troubled. Zara is similar to the She Wolves in Lisa’s other tale with her bravado leading her into trouble just as quickly as it sometimes rescues her. As much as she knows that she needs to go home, she feels a draw to this time and place.

The only thing I had an issue with was the ending. Lisa, you know I love you to pieces, but you ended it THERE??? I’m ready for the next one please!

 

Rating: PG-13 – there are some situations in the book that might be advanced for younger readers, but this is a perfect teen, young adult and grown up read!

 

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Can you be too careful? Um…no. Not in this business.

mhBImMYThis started out as a Facebook post, but it grew and grew to the point that I realized it would be better handled as a blog entry/article. So here you go!

Over the weekend, a close friend of my family texted me to ask me about a potential agent that had reached out to her via Facebook. This girl is like a daughter to me and she knows how much I care about her, so protective mode kicked in. Where did you hear of this guy? Who recommended him? What’s he offering? The answers were a bit murky. All she had for me was his name, a link to his Facebook profile (he’d contacted her via Facebook) and the name of the agency he said he was with. She said that he told her that there were some stories about him online but they all went back to one unhappy person.  I told her I would ask around and see what I could find out.

At first glance it all looked relatively okay. I had her ask him a few questions and none of the answers gave us pause. He knew all the language and his answers made sense. I still wasn’t sure about things and asked her to give me a day or two to do some more research.

Thank God I did.  With much research, I discovered that he’s changed his name several times, created multiple modeling agencies – none of which are legally registered entities according to public records and I found a long trail of incidents documented across the internet.  But it took a lot of digging (and a lot of help from friends) to put together all the pieces.

What I found out was nasty, awful, and big enough that I’ve actually contacted friends in my local police department. The man has entire blog posts that were written specifically to warn other girls and women away from him. They were not easy to find – but once I uncovered things, I found specific incidents, dates, times – and corroborating stories and comments from random strangers who had similar experiences with him. I found posts across social media from girls warning other girls to stay away from him and even a trail of discussions about him across sci fi forums. (It seems one of his favorite places to hang are sci-fi conventions and he’s well known for approaching cosplayers.)  I uncovered (after much searching) a blog post from a woman who claims that he approached her about a modeling gig and asked her to come to his car while he grabbed a business card. When she got there, he opened his trunk and it was full of rope, gags, handcuffs and a variety of other things. He told her he had a bondage shoot coming up and he asked if she was interested. When he has approached women online, he’s been found to stalk them – follow them online – and continually harass them. Sometimes for up to a year or more. EVERYWHERE THEY GO ONLINE. Across forums, social media, websites – even professional complaint forums where these women have warned others. In short, this man is far worse than just a scam artist, everything I’ve found points to predator.

This girl he approached is savvy, smart (she actually WORKED ON CAGED NO MORE with me so trafficking and targeting is not something she’s naive about) and she was drawn in. If you would like to know his name, I’m happy to share in messages. I fully believe he’s more than a scam artist – he’s a predator. If you want his info to share with your friends, folks in the biz, etc – please message or email me. I’ll happily share everything I’ve found.

I’m constantly asked about how to get into this business and let me tell you this: YOU CANNOT BE TOO CAREFUL. Many young women or men (all of us really!) want to be liked and tend to be afraid to offend. They don’t want to burn someone that could potentially benefit their career.  They won’t stand up for themselves, ask the hard questions, or push back. They’ll accept friend requests and buy all the promises without doing their research.

ANYONE LEGITIMATELY IN THIS BUSINESS WILL WANT TO PROTECT YOU AS MUCH AS YOU DO. No one who is honestly building a legitimate business will be offended, angry, or drop you if you ask the tough questions and call them to accountability.

Quick tips:

  • Do not give ANYONE your personal cell phone number, email or address. You can have a Google voice number for FREE that will allow you to screen your calls without losing your privacy. If you want advice on how to do this, let me know. NO ONE WILL KNOW it’s a Google Voice number – you can call with it or have people call you on it and it acts just like a regular phone number.
  • Do not give access to your private profiles. This means accepting random friend requests on Facebook. It seems harmless enough to accept a friend request and it’s a great way to network. Look! I’m friends with this person! Yay! But look at it this way. This also gives these people access to your map (everywhere you’ve checked in!) your friend lists, etc. It also enables them to download all of your personal pictures and you have given them free reign to talk to all of your friends, family, and make note of EVERYTHING you’ve ever posted. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, but look back up at that part where the woman said his trunk was full of ropes, gags, etc. If you met someone on the street who had all that stuff in their car, would you hand them ALL of that information about you? Didn’t think so.  Again, anyone legitimately seeking to work a business deal with you will not randomly friend request you. This step should come after actually working together – or at least a short time of conversation. NOT immediately.
  • Do not agree to allow someone to take pictures of you based on promises. Check their work. Ask if you can talk to other models. See if they have business references who have hired them previously.
  • Google. Bing. Yahoo. USE THEM. Search the name of the company they are with or any company they’ve ever been with. Search their names (any combo of first, middle, last or whatever you have), their name with the city, their name with modeling/acting, etc. Don’t be afraid to go deep, look in older records, and ask lots of questions. Anyone legitimate in this business will applaud your research.

You can’t be too careful. You really can’t.

Now back to scary predator guy above. I’m not naming him publicly because he has this wonderful habit of violently harassing and stalking anyone who posts about him publicly online. I found many, many, many trails of him following these young women across social media sites, blogs, and even forums like the BBB and complaint forums. He claimed they were stalking him but in reality, he began to stalk them and he continued, in some cases, for years. He did everything he could online to destroy their careers. Some of them were simply because the women turned him down when he offered them contracts.   If you are concerned and would like to know his name(s) and company(ies), please drop me a comment, email me or message me on Facebook.  

Review: When Falcons Fall: A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery

51AGfm4tMaLTitle: When Falcons Fall: A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery
Author: C.S. Harris
Genre: historical, mystery, suspense
Publisher: NAL
Date: March 1, 2016

When we last left Sebastian St. Cyr, he had just solved a murder.  That’s not surprising since they seem to follow him around, but he had also just discovered that he isn’t quite as alone in the world as he thought he was. Unfortunately, shortly after learning about this new relative (someone who looks eerily like he does) that same relative became a victim of murder.  Pretty horrifying tale.

In this outing, St. Cyr, (Viscount Devlin) has made a trip to a small, sleepy village to meet his aforementioned (now deceased) relative’s family. Yes, that’s a sentence that can give you pause when reading it. You should try writing it!  Unfortunately, his arrival coincides with the shocking death of a young woman. See, I told you that death seems to follow him around. The local government, unused to these things, enlists his aid in solving the mystery.

Though many in the region believe that the young woman’s death must have been suicide, Sebastian quickly uncovers details that prove it wasn’t nearly that simple. As he works his way through more and more information without getting any closer to the truth, his frustration level grows. Even learning more about his relative and getting closer to his own family mystery doesn’t help soothe the anxiety over not solving the murder of the young woman. So when another body shows up, things get even more stressful!

With achingly beautiful descriptions, fast moving plotlines, and unforgettable characters, the Sebastian St. Cyr series is fast becoming one of my favorite must reads. This is the second book I’ve read by C.S. Harris and both times I’ve been fully engaged with the characters, the story, and at the end, I was ready to learn more. Full of vivid descriptions and characters with settings I wish I could see in person, these stories are a delightful escape from the modern stresses.

The twists and turns in this plot were unexpected and took the story in directions that kept it fresher than the average whodunit. Until a few years ago, I never pictures myself as a mystery fan, but these books have opened my eyes to the fun that can be a puzzle just waiting to be pieced together.

This was a great read that kept me involved from beginning to end. I am excited to watch Sebastian’s story continue to unfold and see what sort of revelations come in future books!

Review: Remnants: Season of Glory by Lisa T. Bergren

51Q4CUhz+PLRemnants: Season of Glory by Lisa Tawn Bergren
Genre: YA, Christian, Dystopian
Publisher: Blink
Date: March 8, 2016

Andriana and the other Remnants are in the fiercest battle they’ve ever imagined and they understand that more than just their own lives hang in the balance. Pacifica is growing more and more unrestful and things are coming to a boiling point. It’s a frightening time. The Remnants know that the Maker will help them fulfill their purpose, but what sort of danger will come along the way? In battles, no one is guaranteed to get out alive.

One of the biggest questions that is plaguing the group is whether Keallach can be trusted. It’s entirely possible that he might be part of a ruse or a trap that could endanger the lives of all of the Remnants. Even Andriana, with her knowledge of people’s feelings, can’t tell for sure where his heart lies. However, she believes that they truly need to give him a chance. Her Knight, Ronan, isn’t so sure. Even if Keallach’s intentions toward the Remnants are pure, Ronan knows that Keallach wants Andriana’s heart and affections as well. As you can imagine, this doesn’t go over very well and creates an entirely new level of anxiety in the midst of battle.

This final chapter in the Remnants series is just as big, bold, and beautiful as you would hope it would be. It does not disappoint in the least and, even though the ending is tied up quite neatly, you’re still left with a longing for more.

The plot is fast moving – so much so that it’s sometimes breathtaking. There were several places where so much unfolded that was key to the plotline, that I’d have to go back and re-read to catch it all.  A few times, I got over excited about where the story was going and I’d miss some things. It takes a lot for me to be so engaged in a story that I can’t wait to turn the next page. And it takes even more for me to be so excited I skip over important plot points and have to go back!

The great thing about the characters is that they are ideal enough to be held up as examples to others in the book, but Lisa doesn’t make them perfect. There’s no Mary Sue here. They have an ‘inside line’ to the Maker, and yet they still stumble, struggle, and sometimes fall. The way they have to work through their issues is hard to experience, but it’s real. No matter where each of us may be in our walk, we all still have things we need to learn and overcome. Bergren’s characters help each of us identify with those journeys.

I am a huge fan of Lisa’s writing. She’s one of my favorite authors and no matter what, I’ll always follow what she brings to life through her writing. I am so thankful to say that Lisa’s work hasn’t ever disappointed. I may have lofty expectations when I pick up one of her books, but she meets those and, on several occasions, has exceeded them to the point that they reset the bar. If you haven’t yet experienced one of Lisa’s tales, the Remnants series is a beautiful place to start!

Review: Perfect Days by Raphael Montes

51IPE2lbQwLPerfect Days by Raphael Montes
Genre: Novel
Publisher: Penguin Press
Date: February 16, 2016

Teo Avelar looks like your normal average medical student. He lives with his disabled mother and goes home every evening to a routine with her and her faithful dog. It’s normal and, to tell the truth, it’s pretty boring. He spends his days talking to Gertrude, his friend from school.

Gertrude is an older lady who has really experienced life and Teo loves talking with her. She’s his best friend. She’s also the cadaver that he’s cutting into every day to learn more about the human body.

Yeah. Let that sink in a little. Teo’s best friend is the cadaver he’s systematically slicing up for medical school. He talks to her. He dreams about her. She is, for the most part, the biggest reality in his world.

And that, right there, should give you a pretty strong indicator of what this book is going to be like. When the opening shows a friendship between a cadaver and a medical student, it can only go wonkier (yes, I just made up that word) from there, right?

Then Teo goes to a party, not expecting much, and he meets an aspiring young screenwriter. That’s when things took a bit of a creepy turn. Just a bit. For now.

This book was stunning. I mean incredibly, amazingly, stunning. Like “did he really go there?” sort of stunning. The writing was tight. The plot was fast paced. The dialogue (both internal conversations and between characters) are spot on. This was a really well written book. I admit that I had a hard time working my way through it. There were moments it was so overwhelmingly intense that I had to walk away for a little while. Not hours – days. It took me longer to read this book than the average because of that.

When I finally finished it, I was absolutely stunned nearly speechless by the ending. What an amazing and disturbing twist. This book made Gone Girl look like an animated Disney Film. If you like that sort of tension, suspense, and drama, then DO NOT MISS THIS BOOK. Raphael Montes is a writer to watch. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if this story got optioned for film. It plays out that well.

Be well aware, this is not a family friendly book. It’s scary as heck. It will creep into your mind and taunt you for days after you’ve read it. But if you like that sort of genre, pick up your copy now. You won’t be disappointed!

 

Rating: R – Definitely some disturbing images in this one!

 

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Review: Hot Dudes Coloring Book by D.C. Taylor

Hot Dudes Coloring Book by D.C. Taylor
Reviewed by Lori Twichell
Genre: Coloring Book
Publisher: Berkley
Date: February 2, 2016

9781101987247So yeah, how do you review a coloring book? This is a unique challenge that is now coming to the forefront with the advent of all the adult coloring books out there. I have several. I love sitting down to watch a film and spending my evening coloring.

So when the Hot Dudes coloring book popped into my inbox, I laughed quite a bit, wished I’d had a copy for the recent spate of White Elephant gift exchanges I’d done during the holidays, and happily agreed to review it.

 

This isn’t going to be a huge, long, elaborate review. I mean, it’s a coloring book. But I will say it’s fun. I haven’t colored in it yet. I’m trying to figure out if I want to save it for a gift, but I honestly think I’ll probably end up buying lots of these for my friends.
 

 

Here’s one example of a page:

20160212_160024

The rest follow similar funny/cheesy takes on the hottest guys. Firemen? Cowboys? Beach bums? Bikers? You’ll find a guy in here that clicks with you!

Enjoy the Hot Dudes coloring book – it’s tons of fun!

 

Review copy provided by the publisher.

%d bloggers like this: