Sophia’s Secret by Julie Ryan

Sometimes the most seemingly idyllic of small towns are the ones that hide the most tantalizing secrets.

What’s it About?

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This is the second book in the Greek Island Mystery series. Although each book is intended to be read as a standalone, some of the characters from the first book, ‘Jenna’s Journey’, do make an appearance.

Kat has never understood why she was sent at the age of seven from Greece to live in England with her Aunt Tigi. When she receives an email from her grandmother, the first contact in over twenty years, informing her of her mother’s death, she knows this could be her last chance to find out the truth. Little by little she finds out the shocking facts as her grandmother opens her heart. It seems everyone has a secret to tell, not only her grandmother, as Manoli, her school friend, also harbours a guilty secret. Then there’s a twenty year old mystery to solve as well as a murder and what happened to the missing Church treasure?

First Impressions

Sophia isn’t the only one with a secret on this small Greek Island! There’s a lot going on in this novel, with multiple mysteries and dramatic plot points taking place over several decades. The book itself is divided into four parts, which definitely helped to keep a sense of order to how the story was told. We start off with Kat traveling back to her childhood home after the death of her mother, who she hasn’t seen since she was just a little girl. As a matter of fact, she hasn’t seen her father or grandmother since then either, as she was sent off to live in another country with her Aunt when she was only seven. Since then she’s received no word from the rest of her family. Now that she’s back on the island, her grandmother, Sophia, is prepared to reveal the true and troubled history of why Kat was sent away so many years before. This is when we enter part 2 of the novel.

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A Blast to the Past

Little did I know that in order to figure out the events of twenty years ago, we’d actually be traveling back even further in time, going all the way back to when Sophia herself was just a teenager. This time jump definitely holds your interest, as you’re constantly wondering how the story will evolve to ultimately explain the reason why Kat was sent away. However, you also sort of have to force your way through a large chunk of the novel, as it’s a rather depressing read. Through Sophia’s eyes we see her tale of woe, forced marriage, rape, pining for a lost love, jealousy, and even murder. Quite a bit of murder actually. As if that wasn’t enough of a downer, throughout the read we’re constantly getting moments which foreshadow even more doom and gloom to come, such as “little did I know how much worse things were about to get.” At times it felt like I needed a shot of tequila before I could proceed to the next chapter!

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Back to the Future

Sophia’s memories in part 2 take up a rather significant portion of the book, and by the time we’ve made our way back up to the present in part 3, I must admit it took me a while to remember what all was going on and who the key players were. Not only have we just reviewed all of Sophia’s secrets revolving around her forced marriage, forbidden love, and the mystery of her husband’s death, but now we have a lost Church treasure, a missing boy from years ago, a dead Jane Doe, Kat’s husband and step daughter having their own problems, a kidnapping, a dead antiques smuggler, and Kat trying to deal with the new information she’s learned about her parents. Again, there’s a lot going on here!

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Bringing it All Together

On the one hand, it definitely seemed like there was too much going on. Some of these mysterious story lines held more prominence in the overall telling of the book, while others seemed to get just a little bit of attention before being quickly put to rest. I was particularly surprised to find that at the very end of the book we even get a link back to an unsolved mystery from the first book that is finally resolved. That being said, I must say it was truly commendable that the author managed to bring every single mystery full circle by the end of the book.

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No stone is left unturned, and every loose end is tied up perfectly. Quite a feat worth mentioning considering there were so many moving pieces at work here. Personally I do think the book as a whole would have benefited from removing some of the more minor side plot distractions, and instead have the drama surrounding Kat’s relationships with her mother, father and grandmother be the sole focus. It just would have pulled the story together more tightly into one cohesive thread.

*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: A Greek Island Mystery, book 2. I did enjoy this sequel better than the first novel in the series! With book one I was kind of disappointed that some elements surrounding the downfall of our main villain were left unresolved. Imagine my surprise to discover that we finally get a resolution to that plot point at the very end of this second book!

Final Impressions: While this mystery certainly kept me guessing, and managed to hold my interest throughout, it was also kind of hard to want to pick it up and read sometimes considering the subject matter. Sophia had a tough life, and it was disheartening to read about her trials and tribulations in such detail. That being said, it was nice to see that she was eventually rewarded for her hardships later in life. As far as the mystery of why Kat was sent away all those years before, it was definitely an interesting and surprising reason, but I can’t say I ever fully understood why all communication was cut off from her until now. A bit more explanation as to why Sophia in particular, as well as Kat’s father, never chose to visit her throughout the years would have been nice.

Smut Level: None really.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.25 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 331 Pages.

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Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid

Wow! Just…wow! Just when you think you know where this book is going it throws you for a loop. One of the most brilliant tales of unrequited love I’ve read in a long time.

What’s it About? 

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Best friends Dave and Julia were determined to never be cliché high school kids—the ones who sit at the same lunch table every day, dissecting the drama from homeroom and plotting their campaigns for prom king and queen. They even wrote their own Never List of everything they vowed they’d never, ever do in high school. Some of the rules have been easy to follow, like #5, never die your hair a color of the rainbow, or #7, never hook up with a teacher. But Dave has a secret: he’s broken rule #8, never pine silently after someone for the entirety of high school. It’s either that or break rule #10, never date your best friend. Dave has loved Julia for as long as he can remember. Julia is beautiful, wild and impetuous. So when she suggests they do every Never on the list, Dave is happy to play along. He even dyes his hair an unfortunate shade of green. It starts as a joke, but then a funny thing happens: Dave and Julia discover that by skipping the clichés, they’ve actually been missing out on high school. And maybe even on love.

First Impressions

I’ll admit, when I first read the synopsis of this book I thought, “Well, we all know where this is going.” I assumed it would be predictable, just like every single high school romantic comedy book or movie out there. Hot mamma’s biscuits I couldn’t have been more wrong! It didn’t take long before I started questioning where in the heck this book was headed, and even though I won’t give any spoilers I can tell you that the ending definitely surprised me. That is a rare thing indeed.

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Oh the Shenanigans

In an attempt to break up the monotony of senioritis, Dave and Julia vow to do everything they swore they’d never do in high school. Basically, they want to try every cliché in the book. What follows is a plethora of hilarious shenanigans, and you can’t help but be drawn in by their natural chemistry. In accordance with this vow to try new things, Dave attempts to finally suppress his feelings of love for Julia by spending time with another chica in the schoolyard, Gretchen. As he spends more and more time with Gretchen, Julia realizes she might have feelings of her own for her best friend Dave. Oh the drama!

My absolute favorite part of this book was the promposal that Dave sets up to have the most perfectly clichéd invite to prom ever. I’m talking giant teddy bear costumes and orchestras here. However, the extreme effort and time he puts into this project shows that Dave has developed true feelings for Gretchen. How will these new feelings play into his love for Julia? And what will he do when Julia finally admits that she loves him too?

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Why so Brilliant? 

I’ll admit that at times the characters weren’t the most likable people ever, but there were several factors which played into the overall brilliance of this book. Firstly, the book starts from Dave’s point of view, but about 1/3 of the way through it switches to Julia’s perspective. Definitely an unexpected, but awesome transition so that we can actually hear both sides of the story. Then, just when you think you’ve got everything figured out, the last section of the book alternates back and forth between Dave and Julia. A ballsy move to be sure, but it worked, and provided a deeper understanding to Dave and Julia’s feelings.

Second moment of brilliance came towards the end, where Dave calls out Julia for being the biggest cliché of them all: the person who always judges the clichés. Sorry to tell you sweetie, but you’re not the only teenager to ever question the ridiculousness of high school cliques.

And now for the absolute most brilliant aspect of the entire book: everyone can relate to it. We all may have had very different high school experiences than the characters in this book, but we can all connect with this story because at one point in time we’ve all experienced that unrequited love/crush that Dave’s been suffering through for years. You know the kind. Where every look, laugh, or innocent touch makes us tingle with excitement. Where we pine for that other person, and wonder how we could ever get over that crush. Is this making you think back to high school?

*I received a signed copy of this book from the author at BookExpo America*

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Series: No, but if the author will agree to write a sequel (the college years perhaps?) I promise with all of my being that I will always, ALWAYS, put hot sauce on. Read the book, and you’ll get what I’m saying.

Should you read it? Not gonna lie, at times Julia was kind of annoying in her attempts to be quirky and different from everyone else, but there was something about the dynamic between her and Dave that I just couldn’t look away from.

Smut Level: Nothing too graphic. It’s young adult after all.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $9.99 Kindle Price. Harlequin Teen. 320 Pages

Juggler, Porn Star, Monkey Wrench by Rich Leder

Well, I’ve gotta hand it to this book, it has one hell of a unique title. As for the story goes, I’m not really sure what just happened.

What’s it About? 

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My name is Mark Manilow. I am a LA screenwriter. Here’s my recipe for a cocktail called “Romantic Hollywood Sex Comedy.” Start with my estranged wife, who left me two years ago to become a juggler. Pour in the ensuing emotional tailspin conjoined with my brutal case of writer’s block. Mix with my last-gasp writing job, a ridiculous porn flick called Broken Boner. Add in the Broken Boner porn star, who seduces me into an ill-fated partnership. Throw in the gun-toting producer and eccentric Montecito billionaire who hire me to adapt the phonebook into a movie. Combine with the return of my headaches and a trip to an ancient Chinese healer, where I meet the healer’s beguiling granddaughter—my monkey wrench. Serve with wonderment as to whether or not I’ll find a way to settle things with the juggler, break it off with the porn star, and fall in love with the monkey wrench…or if anyone will stop laughing long enough to notice.

First Impressions

So Mark is a screenwriter, and from what I can tell, he’s not a very good one. He’s only written one mildly successful script which has been shelved for all eternity due to some kind of Hollywood mumbo jumbo. He’s a bit down in the dumps trying to think up the premise for his next story when he gets a shot to write the script for a porn film. Just as Mark is starting to warm up to the idea of being the next big name in porn writing, the director of the film informs Mark that he just doesn’t have what it takes to write a porno. I’m sorry but if the guy can’t write porn, I question if he can write anything else.

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The Characters

Mark meets a plethora of different characters throughout the novel, and each one is crazier than the last. In my opinion, the personas were too outlandish to be believable, which took away from how much you could really connect with any of them. The entire novel culminates in one tediously long, drawn-out scene in which practically all of the characters from the book come together for a reading of Mark’s newest script, Phone Book: the Movie.

That’s right! The guy who couldn’t write porn wrote a movie script inspired by the phone book. This script reading is one of the most ridiculous scenes I’ve ever come across, and escalates to include an orgy and attempted murder, although nobody really seems to care that either is taking place. Unfortunately, what I assume was an attempt at hilarity left me feeling more confused than amused.

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The Writing

Although it was unique to see how this struggling writer goes from attempting to write porn to adapting the phone book for a feature film, the writing did annoy me at times. Firstly, there were way too many anecdotes which added nothing to the storyline, including a multitude of flashbacks and possibly imagined scenarios. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with flashbacks, but they have to tie in somehow to the overall plot.

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The second element which I barely noticed at first, but had me on the brink of chucking my Kindle across the room by the end, was the addition of rambling lists. For example, did you know that Mark has written dramas, comedies, dramedies, romantic comedies, sophomoric comedies, teen comedies, family comedies, action, adventure, action-adventure, thrillers, sci-fi, and westerns? He also talks about producers and directors and writers and actors and agents and managers and painters and carpenters and this guy really needs to learn the use of etc.

*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Stand-alone

Should you read it? It was a little out there for my taste, and has convinced me to never move to LA if there’s even a smidgen of a chance I’ll meet people like this out there.

Smut Level: Believe it or not, the absolute funniest scene was when Mark visited a beautiful mansion which actually contained sets for multiple porn flicks. An amusing experience to say the least.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Laugh Riot Press. 390 Pages.

Tag: Seven Deadly Sins of Reading

Well, this could be interesting! I was tagged by Katherine’s Bookcase to participate in this little ditty, and I must say it was a delight to think up my responses for each of these. I hope you enjoy!

Defined as: An intense and selfish desire for something.

 What is your most expensive book?

I absolutely detest spending a lot of money on books. Most of mine fall under the $2.99 mark, and I feel like spending $5 is a splurge. Therefore, I usually ask for the more expensive books as Christmas or birthday presents. That being said, I think the most expensive book I personally ever bought (excluding college textbooks of course) was an anthology on Ancient Egypt that cost about $25.00.

Defined as: Extreme anger.

 What author do you have a love/hate relationship with?

Hands down that would have to be Diana Gabaldon of the Outlander series. I didn’t even need to ponder over this one. I absolutely adored the first Outlander book, and really enjoyed a few others in the series, but after the monotonous hunk of crap that was the fifth book, I’m having some difficulty picking up the next one in the series. Also, a note to authors everywhere: if your book can be sold in an abridged version it means the original is too freakin’ long!

Defined as: Intense over-indulgence.

What book have you devoured over and over with no shame?

Hmm, I’m not one to re-read too many books, mainly because I have too many new ones on my TBR list to get through. However, I do know of one book that I read more than once because I liked it so much, and that would be Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters. I first read this for a book report in the 8th grade and was astonished to find out that it was part of a series. I spent pretty much the rest of high school devouring the series, but during a winter break in college I picked up the first one again. It has mystery, history, a tad of romance, and my first topic of infatuation: Egypt.

Defined as: a reluctance to work or make an effort.

What book have you neglected to read due to laziness?

Alright, this one is going to get me a lot of crap. I only read 17 pages of the first Harry Potter book. I just couldn’t get past all of the weird names, and was right on the cusp of where I was getting too old to really appreciate the magic of it all. I know most of you out there will say that you’re never too old to read Harry Potter, but I think I missed my window, and really have no desire or inclination to read the series. Please don’t hate me 😦

Defined as: satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.

What book do you talk about most in order to sound like an intellectual reader?

Ah yes, let’s bring on the bragging rights, shall we? So, I spent all four years of college studying Chinese, and even went to graduate school in China. When I came back to the US I was proficient enough in Chinese to read the entire first Hunger Games book in Mandarin. I know that the Hunger Games itself in English isn’t a very highly intellectual book, but I read it in Chinese for crying out loud!

Defined as: a strong sexual desire.

What attributes do you find attractive in male characters?

I love a male character with alpha tendencies. There’s just something about a man who can’t help how much he desires a woman that sparks my interest. Throw in a tad of jealousy and him referring to the female character as mine, and I’m good to go. Now, if I encountered someone like that in real life I’d probably run as fast as I could in the opposite direction, but in book land it’s an attractive quality.

Defined as: a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck.

What book would you most like to receive as a gift?

I would probably cry from unadulterated happiness if I could get the last two books of the Outlander series in audio format. They are just so unbelievably expensive, but I feel like I would finish them in half the time if someone else could read them to me while I get ready in the morning and walk to work.

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I’m tagging:

Kimberly Wenzler

Hyper About Books

The Opinionated Woman’s Musings

A Well Read Woman

Katie MorningStar

Beignets and Burnt Toast

Dancing Books

Kate Martyn

Kilts and Swords

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If you don’t want to participate, no worries! If I left you off this list, and would like to be added, just let me know!

Death’s Door by Dannie C. Hill

I’m baaaack!! Did you miss me? Well I hope so because I missed all of you. I had a lovely time relaxing on the beach, and read so many books and novellas it’s kind of shocking. I’m back at my home base for the next week before I leave on another two week trip to California for work, so I’m gonna try and write as many reviews as I can before leaving. For my epic return to blogging (ha, yeah right), I’m reviewing a book that one of perhaps my most loyal blog followers gave me. I think he’s commented on or liked almost every one of my reviews, so I figured it’s about time I reviewed his book! I hope you all enjoy. Death's Door

After finishing this book I realized one of the most difficult things I’d have to do was figure out how to categorize it. It doesn’t really fit the mold of my normal book selection: romance. I mean sure, there was romance in it, but it definitely wasn’t the main focus. There was action and suspense in it, but I wouldn’t really say it was a thriller or action novel. It kind of reminded me of James Bond at times, but without all the fun toys. I did laugh out loud a couple times, but it’s not a comedy either. Hmm, what to call it. Oh, I know. What we have here is a bromance!

The book follows Dell (aka bro #1) and Bill (you guessed it, bro #2), and their quest to prevent a terrorist organization from releasing a dirty bomb on an American city. As you can see, not a romance. They both work for the Terrorism Task Force at the New Jersey State Police, but Dell has this “sight” which allows him to see danger before it happens. Not a bad skill/superpower to have when trying to find terrorists. Bill may not have any superpowers (tough break), but Dell won’t work with anyone else, even when the NSA recruits Dell for a special mission. Isn’t that just the sweetest! I’m telling ya, these two were partners in basically every sense of the word except physically. I’ll admit at times I did wonder if they were just going to say “To hell with it!” and jump at each other like bunnies, but alas, they remained platonic bros throughout the whole book.

For not being a romance book I did wonder if I’d like this thing, but it did actually keep my interest. This mission that our two bros have been recruited for takes them all over the world, from New Jersey, to the Middle East and back again, and even to the middle of nowhere Iowa to fight a terrorist cell! I have been to Iowa. Definitely wasn’t as exciting of a trip as the bros had. I had KFC for dinner because there wasn’t anything else near my hotel. Anyway, back to the book.

While in the Middle East, Dell and Bill come across a young boy and his sister who help them get out of a pickle involving guns and bad guys. Dell vows to protect them and bring them back to the US. Bill on the other hand finds he can’t quite stop thinking about the young sister, Fatima, who has some of the most beautiful eyes he’s ever seen. Sure, she may have black teeth and a hump on her back, but he finds her intriguing nevertheless. Turns out Fatima is actually beautiful inside and out, but has taken on an ugly disguise so as not to attract the wrong kind of attention from bad men. So we have a romance blossoming between Fatima and Bill, Dell having visions all over the place, and both of our bros playing action hero to protect America. This book has got a bit of everything!

Believe it or not, my favorite parts in this book were not the romantic moments between Bill and Fatima. Kind of surprising when you consider the fact that my blog centers around romance! Rather, I loved the times when we had a bit of comedy, especially when Dell and Bill’s captain in New Jersey was involved. Captain Teasdale was freakin’ hilarious. He absolutely hates Dell who constantly tries to order everyone around during a mission, and he is ridiculously skittish for someone who works in a crime unit. Bill was also kind of an idiot, so his character made me giggle a few times.

Now, even though I loved the funny parts of this book I did feel they were misplaced at times. For example, during a suspenseful scene where Dell and Bill are running from terrorists in the Middle East, Bill has a terrible case of…we’ll call it difficulty adjusting to the local cuisine. Basically, they can’t hide in any one place for very long because Bill’s farts alert the bad guys of their location, and even if the bad guys were deaf they’d just have to follow the scent of poo! Now who doesn’t love poop jokes, but there is a time and place for everything. Even during the climax of the book we are presented with some ill-timed comedy. The terrorists with the bomb have kidnapped Fatima and her brother. Dell is devastated because they have taken two people who have come to be considered family, and Bill is miserable because they have taken the love of his life. Captain Teasdale on the other hand is about to go all Rambo on the terrorist’s asses because they have also kidnapped a dog that he’s grown fond of. Throughout the whole scene he’s like, “If they hurt that dog, I swear to God! We have to find them!” Ummm, terrorists are about to kill a bunch of people using a dirty bomb, and you are worried about a dog. Dude, priorities!

I also wish we would have been provided with more of a back story for Dell, including his relationship with Bill. At the start of the book Dell is a depressed and brooding little man with a death wish. Why? I have no idea! Sure, he has these visions, but it seems like they always lead him to catch the bad guys, and it’s not like he experiences any pain during these visions. What’s the problem? Also, Dell and Bill seem to be closer than Batman and Robin, minus the funny capes, but I felt like we never truly realized why. I think at one point Dell says that Bill saved his life, but I would have liked to hear more about that.

Even though this book didn’t really correspond to the romance novels I’m used to reading, it was kind of nice to read something different for a spell.

*An ARC of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Nope

Should you read it: If you’re not sure what kind of book you want to read next, then you might as well pick this one up because it hits practically every category of book possible. Action, comedy, drama, suspense, romance, and even some paranormal qualities.

Smut Level: Pretty low smut level. The scenes between Bill and Fatima are pretty PG, although there are some non-sexual naked times in the desert. Dell gets down and dirty with a chica, but their foreplay is more descriptive than the act itself.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here