Friday, March 1, 2019

Beneath by Maureen A. Miller Blog Giveaway!

From the author of BEYOND comes an exciting new young adult series!


Let’s face it. We all have creepy dreams. I had one, and when I woke up I thought, “Oh my, that’s so scary!” And then I thought, “Oh my, that would make a fun book!” LOL. Don’t worry, it’s not that scary, and there is a cute guy in it to keep it real.  – Maureen A. Miller


An overnight fishing trip on the Atlantic Ocean…

It was Stella Gullaksen’s final break before starting her freshman year at college. Joining her best friend, Jill, and Jill's family aboard the STARKISSED, Stella wakes to a violent storm that capsizes the boat over a hundred miles off the New Jersey shore.

As the waves haul her under Stella knows that she is going to die. Instead, an unusual current drags her deep into the underwater canyons of the Atlantic Ocean. Powerless against the raging waters, she is suddenly sucked into a ventilated cave. One by one, Jill and her family also emerge in the sunken cavern.

With only a faulty diving flashlight to keep oblivion at bay Stella and her best friend's brother, Colin, search the cave in hope of finding a way back to the surface. What they discover, however, is that they are not alone. There are other survivors in this subterranean grotto–survivors spanning decades of maritime disasters.

Will this discovery prove salvation, or have they all been condemned to the same fate? A grim finale at the bottom of the sea?

On an alliance forged by friendship and attraction, Stella and Colin battle to escape the danger that lies beneath.

"Trust me when I say BENEATH is a MUST READ for lovers of all genres!" - Boundless Book Reviews

Releases March 6th Pre-order now!

In this exciting sequel to BENEATH, Stella and Colin search futilely for the rogue Atlantic current that dragged them to the shadowy Underworld just a few months ago. With an ill-defined area to explore, their unsuccessful attempts cost too much money and their resources are running out.

When it appears that all hope is lost, a miracle occurs in the form of a retired Hollywood producer-turned-explorer who is willing to use his ship and equipment to support their quest. Although no one believes their tale, he is the most accepting person they have met. Whether his intentions are honorable remain to be seen.

With a crew full of skeptics, Stella and Colin locate the downwelling current, and once again find themselves dragged into the subterranean network of caves deep in the Atlantic Ocean canyon.

Time is running out for the Underworld, though. Will anyone be left to rise from beneath?

About the Author:
USA TODAY bestselling author, Maureen A. Miller worked in the software industry for fifteen years. She crawled around plant floors in a hard hat and safety glasses hooking up computers to behemoth manufacturing machines. The job required extensive travel. The best form of escapism during those lengthy airport layovers became writing. 

Maureen's first novel, WIDOW'S TALE, earned her a Golden Heart nomination in Romantic Suspense. After that she became hooked to the genre. In fact, she was so hooked she is the founder of the JUST ROMANTIC SUSPENSE website. Recently, Maureen branched out into the Young Adult Science Fiction market with the popular BEYOND Series. To her it was still Romantic Suspense...just on another planet!

Maureen is a firm believer that the world is a better place with mozzarella in it. She’s not a thrill-seeker. Ferris wheels terrify her. She is the mother of an extremely stubborn and adorable Corgi.

And, above all, she is grateful to all the readers who offer such gracious support!


1 Winner will receive a $10 Amazon egift card and a BENEATH Series t-shirt!

Thursday, February 21, 2019

The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

The Girl from Everywhere
Author: Heidi Heilig
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication Date: February 16, 2016

The Girl from Everywhere is about a girl named Nix who lives aboard a time traveling ship captained by her father Slate. Slate is seeking a map to return to a time where Nix's mother is still alive so that he can save her. The story asks, how much would you sacrifice for love?

I really enjoyed the premise of the story but the world-building was lacking. A lot of things just didn't make sense to me. I'm not sure if this is because I was listening to the audiobook, but I think things just needed to be clearer. I wanted to know more about map lore, the differences between fantasy and reality maps, and why only some people can use maps to time travel. These things weren't discussed in a meaningful way and it made the magic less magical to me.

That being said the characters made up for a lot of the issues I had with the world-building. Kashmir was my favorite. A thief from a desert land, who had the most obvious crush on Nix. He was clearly who I was rooting for in the love triangle that Nix finds herself in. I'm sure you just cringed when I mentioned the love triangle but I honestly didn't mind it. The two people Nix is interested in represent two futures she could have had if she wasn't a time traveler. Blake, a local boy from the time she should be living in in Hawaii represents what could have been and Kashmir represents her present. I liked this dichotomy. I do wish the secondary characters had been more fleshed out. They were all interchangeable to me and I mostly just thought of them as "the crew" rather than as individuals, I hope that in the sequel the author has time to expand on these characters.

The audiobook narration was fantastic. I liked the voices that Kim Mai Guest used, her deep Kashmir voice and even the dog bark she did to represent Blake's dog was fun. I like it when narrator's get into voicing the characters, and you could tell this narrator was enjoying herself.

I liked this book and would recommend the audiobook specifically. It was about a 9 hour listen and I never once found myself bored by either the story or the narrator. I had a couple of little things; characters and world-building, that could have been more polished but overall this was a solid debut novel and I'll definitely be reading (or listening to) the sequel.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Books I LOVED with Fewer than 2,000 Ratings on Goodreads

1 Foreign to You by Jeremy Martin 
2 The Cemetery Boys by Heather Brewer
3 Every Falling Star: The True Story of How I Escaped North Korea by Sungju Lee 

4 Stolen Time by Daniel Rollins
5 The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen

6 Play Me Backwards by Adam Selzer
7 Velvet by Temple West 
8 Return Once More by Trisha Leigh

9 Calvin by Martine Leavitt
10 Charlie, Presumed Dead by Anne Heltzel 

Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Enchanted Sonata by Heather Dixon Wallwork

The Enchanted Sonata 
Author: Heather Dixon Wallwork
Publisher: The Wallworkshop
Publication Date: October 23, 2018


This clever little book combines the Nutcracker ballet with another famous story, that of the Pied Piper. At the beginning of this novel, Clara receives a nutcracker and enchanted storybook for Christmas. Clara begins reading the book that night and finds out that the piper has turned all of the children into toys and the prince of the empire, Nikolai into a life-sized Nutcracker. Clara is then transported into this whimsical, holiday world where rats the size of bears are locked into a war with the people of the empire.

Clara and the Nutcracker find each other and team up to defeat the piper, push the rats back into their territory, and get Clara back to her world in time for the holiday piano recital she has been working towards for years. Well, at least that's the plan, and things don't go as planned.

I thought the relationship between Clara and Nutcracker was cute. It was a sweet kind of fairytale romance and went really well with the whimsy and lightness of the story. My only issue was that after Clara learned Nutcracker was, in fact, Nikolai the soon to be emperor she kept calling him Nutcracker. I didn't like that this choice not to use his name. It made it feel like there was a distance between the two characters when there wasn't.

My favorite thing about this book ended up being two middle-aged side characters that Clara accidentally transports to the Nutcrackers world. They decide to stay even when Clara offers to take them back. There were a few side-stories like this one throughout the book that really drove home the holiday magic aspect. And that is exactly what I was looking for when I picked up this book something fun and full of holiday magic.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Ten Most Recent Additions to My To-Read List

It's been a little while since I last participated in Top 10 Tuesday, but I'm so excited about what is coming up on my to be read list that I HAD to share! 

1 House of Salt & Sorrows by Erin A. Craig
2 Blood Heir by Amelie Wen Zhao
3 Fairy-Strick by Amy Sumida

4 The Wicked and the Divine: The Faust Act by Kieron Gillen
5 Lovely War by Julie Berry

6 This Book is Not Yet Rated by Peter Bognanni
7 The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe by Ally Condie
8 The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones

9 Warrior of the Wild by Tricia Levenseller
10 Never-Contented Things by Sarah Porter

Monday, January 28, 2019

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

The Princess Diarist 
Author: Carrie Fisher
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: October 18, 2016


Listening to this audiobook is a little eerie. It is narrated by Carrie Fisher and her daughter Billie Lourd. It was weird, and strangely comforting, to hear Fisher's voice after her passing. Eeriness aside I can't image the story being told any other way.

This memoir offers personal stories, as Carrie Fisher recalled them, about auditioning for Star Wars, the filming of A New Hope, and the press tour the actors went on following the release of the movie. It is also sprinkled with diary entries, more akin to poetry than a true diary, and anecdotes about Fisher's brief affair with Harrison Ford during filming.

The Princess Diarist was a quick listen (5 hours) but it offered a glimpse into the Carrie Fisher's memories of filming and how playing the famous Princess Leia affected her life in both positive and negative ways. But mostly positive.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

The Hobbit
Author: JRR Tolkien


I'm almost embarrassed, as someone who reads a lot, to admit that I have never read anything by J.R.R. Tolkien. In my defense, I'm not a big fan of high fantasy so the stories have never appealed to me. That being said my husband and I just finished a movie marathon where we watched all of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies (in that order) so I decided to give the book chance. Which I'm happy I did.

To make the story more enjoyable I decided to listen to the audiobook. I enjoyed the bright narration and the short musical interludes that proceeded each chapter. I think this form made the story feel more like a movie, rather than me drudging through another high fantasy novel I'm only marginally engaged with. 

Now, this is going to sound kind of ridiculous but I'm rating this novel 4-stars because I actually enjoyed the movie series more. This story is pretty short and the details weren't as fleshed out as I expected. Peter Jackson turned this single book into three movies so naturally, he included things that were merely alluded to in the original but were expanded on in the movie in greater detail. He also included things that weren't in the book at all. I can see how this would upset fans who love the story and wanted the movie to stay as true to it as possible. For me, I liked all of the side things Peter Jackson added; the relationship between the girl elf and the dwarf, Legolas, Bard's family, and my personal favorite part of the movie where Smaug is dipped in gold. Those moments were scene sealers for me so to not seem them mirrored in the print was a little disappointing. 

Overall, this was an enjoyable listen. I enjoyed the full cast of characters and the hero's journey that Bilbo embarks on. This is truly a timeless tale and if you're like me and haven't read it yet definitely give the audiobook a try. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Empty Mansion: The Mysterious Life of Hugette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman & Paul Clark Newell

Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune
Authors: Bill Dedman & Paul Clark Newell Jr.
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: September 10, 2018


Huguette Clark is infinitely fascinating. Her life is just plain interesting. Her father was W.A Clark a Copper titan in the same league as Carnegie, Morgan, and Vanderbilt; and her mother was a former ward of Clark he married. Well, eventually married. These familial surprises, twists and turns are part of the charm of this journalistic-style biography of Huguette, her family, and what happened to her fortune following her death.

I don't want to spoil too much so I won't go into a lengthy history of Huguette's life but suffice to say that the average reader will know little of this family's history or about Huguette's reclusive life. Bill Dedman also includes relevant historical information from the early days of the 20th century. I liked this aspect of the story because it involves the development of the Pacific Northwest and Montana. I grew up and currently live in this area so I'd been to all or most of the locations mentioned, it was interesting to think of these places the way they would have been 100 years ago, especially Butte. A few years ago my Mom and I were driving from South Dakota to Washington when our car basically gave up on the pass just before Butte, Montana and we ended up staying in the town for a few days. It was fun to learn more about this town and how Clark shaped it. 

I listened to the audiobook version of this book. I really liked the narration, especially the commentary by the co-authors and the recordings of Huguette's voice. She had a very distinctive voice and one of her doctors described her as "cute as pie". I think that is an apt description of the woman I got to know while reading this book. 

Huguette did not live the life of a typical person. She lived life on her own terms, enjoyed what she liked whether that be dolls or Smurfs. She was generous to those in her tight-knit circle and after her death, unsurprisingly everyone argued over her money. This book changed my opinion on Huguette. At the beginning I thought of her as a rich old lady who got taken advantage of and was kept in a hospital, alienated from the world. I'm not so sure of that now. Like I said, Huguette lived life on her own terms and she had the money to do so. That doesn't mean she was taken advantage of. It means she did what she wanted whether that be creating lavish dollhouses or staying in a hospital. I think that is my biggest takeaway from this pseudo-biography. Live the life you want to live. Huguette did, and I think she lived a happy life.