December 23, 2015

Clean by Mia Kerick ~ Blog Tour: #BookReview

Hey Donnie Darlings! Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Clean by Mia Kerick hosted by YA Bound Book Tours. Click here to follow along with the full tour schedule. 

Publication Date: 12/01/15
Publisher: Young Dudes Publishing

Source: Copy for review

Buy: Amazon | B&N 


High school senior Lanny Keating has it all. A three-sport athlete at Lauserville High School looking at a college football scholarship, with a supportive family, stellar grades, boy band good looks... until the fateful day when it all falls apart.

Seventeen-year-old Trevor Ladd has always been a publicly declared zero and the high school bad boy. Abandoned by his mother and sexually abused by his legal guardian, Trevor sets his sights on mere survival.

Lanny seeks out Trevor's companionship to avoid his shattered home life. Unwilling to share their personal experiences of pain, the boys explore ways to escape, leading them into sexual experimentation, and the abuse of illegal drugs and alcohol. Their mutual suffering creates a lasting bond of friendship and love. 

When the time finally comes to get clean and sober, or flunk out of high school, only one of the boys will graduate, while the other spirals downward into addiction. 

Will Lanny and Trevor find the strength to battle their demons of mind-altering substances as well as emotional vulnerability? 

Clean takes the reader on a gritty trip into the real and raw world of teenage substance abuse.  

Clean was really difficult to read due to the subject matter, especially at this time of year when it's supposed to be a joyous, happy time. The sexual abuse was SO hard to read about, but it's a real issue that affects many people and Kerick handled it well. I know life really is this bad for some people. They don't have the pleasure of feeling warm and fuzzy. The holidays can be a stressful time if family ties just aren't there. Those are some of the thoughts running through my head while reading Clean.   

Clean gets intense...REALLY intense. You just want to beg Lanny and Trevor to TALK, to just talk out everything that's going on with them so maybe they could connect that way and wouldn't feel the need to turn to drugs and alcohol. But you also know talking about how they feel would never be that easy for them. It might not have even saved them from themselves, but you can't help but wish they'd try it anyhow.  

I read another of Mia Kerick's books called Love Spell and enjoyed it so much I bought A Hard Day's Night, which I haven't had the chance to read yet. But Love Spell and Clean are two books that couldn't be more different, which is a testament to Kerick's talent. I knew the author's name was familiar. She can climb into the mindset of a young male and portray him realistically and completely.   

I love that her characters are diverse. In Clean, Lanny and Trevor aren't out and proud, at least not at first. Their sexual experimentation is clouded by the substance abuse and is confusing to them. Are they sexually involved because of using drugs and alcohol, or are there real feelings there? 

I leaned towards them having real feelings for one another - feelings they were afraid of having because they didn't want to be hurt. They didn't want to end up alone. They were together, but really they were alone because they knew next to nothing about each other. Lanny and Trevor knew the other was in pain but didn't ask about it. Not that I blamed them - I understood they had their reasons. 

My only complaint about the novel is that the second half feels a little too easy for one of the characters. I won't say which one, but I will say this character does a complete 180 that was almost hard to believe. The family dynamic changed drastically, and I'm not sure that would really happen.   

Overall, Clean is a gripping, raw read that isn't for the faint of heart. There are depictions of sexual abuse that are hard to read and which may also be a trigger for some readers. The effects of addiction and withdrawal are depicted realistically to me, and  it wasn't pretty. I wanted to turn away from the book at times, but I'm glad I didn't.          

 About the Author

Mia Kerick is the mother of four exceptional children—all named after saints—and five nonpedigreed cats—all named after the next best thing to saints, Boston Red Sox players. Her husband of twenty years has been told by many that he has the patience of Job, but don’t ask Mia about that, as it is a sensitive subject.

Mia focuses her stories on the emotional growth of troubled men and their relationships, and she believes that sex has a place in a love story, but not until it is firmly established as a love story. As a teen, Mia filled spiral-bound notebooks with romantic tales of tortured heroes (most of whom happened to strongly resemble lead vocalists of 1980s big-hair bands) and stuffed them under her mattress for safekeeping. She is thankful to Dreamspinner Press for providing her with an alternate place to stash her stories.

Mia is proud of her involvement with the Human Rights Campaign and cheers for each and every victory made in the name of marital equality. Her only major regret: never having taken typing or computer class in school, destining her to a life consumed with two-fingered pecking and constant prayer to the Gods of Technology.

Contact Mia at

Connect with the Author

December 15, 2015

Falling for Christmas by Kate Hewitt ~ #BookReview

Falling for Christmas 

Falling for Christmas
(Falling for the Freemans #1)
By Kate Hewitt
Pages: 110
Publisher: The Tule Publishing Group, LLC 
Publication Date: 11/8/15 
Source: Publisher via Netgalley 
Purchase: Amazon | B&N


Welcome to Creighton Falls, New York... a town time forgot where miracles happen...

Glamorous city girl Hannah Ford wasn't thinking when she walked out of a Christmas party and drove three hundred miles into a snowstorm; she just needed to escape. Thankfully local carpenter Sam Taylor comes to her rescue, and the unlikely pair are forced to spend a snowed-in Christmas together.

All Sam planned for Christmas was to get drunk alone. The holiday has always been something to be endured, until Hannah tumbles into his life, making it magical. Now Hannah and Sam have a chance to have a Christmas together... and make it the best one either of them have ever had.

But can one night out of reality turn into something that's lasting and real?

Falling for Christmas was a cute, lighthearted read, perfect for this time of year. Hannah and Sam are two likable characters whom I wanted to see end up falling in love.     

While Hannah and Sam are total opposites on the outside - Hannah's a sophisticated city girl and Sam is a country boy - they actually share a lot in common. Both have had their hearts broken by relationships that didn't work out, both have moms who weren't there when they needed them, and both are lonely. Overwhelmingly lonely.      

When Hannah feels cautious about accepting Sam's offer to stay with him, her feelings made the story so believable because I'd feel the same way. But she realizes she doesn't have another choice - her car is stuck with no hope of getting it out of the snow that night, there are no hotels, and the snow isn't stopping anytime soon. She even has second thoughts when they pull up to his house, and I felt that moment of panic along with her. 

Sam is sort of gruff at times, and you can understand why when you learn about what happened during his childhood. I could see Hannah's liveliness slowly melt away Sam's tough exterior. It was a joy to watch them grow fond of one another, and I was pulling for them to find a way to make a relationship work! 

I flew through Falling for Christmas and didn't want it to be over. I love stories where a couple ends up snowed in together over Christmas. Love it! I'm not sure what the next book in the series will entail, but I'm definitely going to read it when it comes out!  

A Very Country Christmas by Zara Stoneley ~ #BookReview

A Very Country Christmas

A Very Country Christmas
(Tippermere #2.5)
By Zara Stoneley
Pages: Novella length   
Publisher: HarperImpulse 
Publication Date: 10/29/15
Source: Purchased myself  
Purchase: Amazon | B&N 


A short Christmas story of three courses.

Love is in the air in Tippermere as Lottie dreams of a white Christmas with no trimmings - other than her hot and hunky eventer, Rory. But things are never quite that simple on the Tipping House Estate. 

Festive fervour takes over and it isn't all seasonal peace and goodwill as expectations rise and it soon escalates from cosy dinner for two, to all the trimmings for ten! 

With missing turkeys, loose horses, troublesome terriers and randy huntsmen, Lottie is hard pushed to find time for a kiss under the mistletoe, let alone find the opportunity to woo Rory with her sexy Santa costume. 

But there is only one thing Lottie really wants for Christmas, and only one man can deliver it...

Good thing I ignored the cover for A Very Country Christmas because the writing was fab. For me, this cover doesn't exactly scream, "Read me!" I mean, the dog is cute and looks exactly like mine, but what's up with the underwear on a hanger?? 

The title didn't sound like something I'd want to read, but I chose to ignore that, too. I'm so glad I read it! This novella is like a hidden gem, and even though this is the first book in the series that I've read, I didn't feel like I was missing out on anything I needed to know. I will, however, be reading the other books because I love these characters and can't get enough of them!   

Lottie's Christmas gets crazy when her dinner for two plans turn into a party for ten! She's sweet and lovable, plus she's kind of klutzy just like me. She hasn't cooked much, and I was so nervous for her to cook for this many people on such a big holiday. 

Lottie's boyfriend, Rory, proposed to her a while ago but has yet to give her a proper engagement ring, mostly because of money. She dreams of spending time with him for Christmas, just the two of them, but she ends up inviting more and more people. It was so cute and funny. She's a very giving person. Lottie won't admit it to herself, but she really does want that engagement ring. 

Rory, how I love thy name! (If you're a Doctor Who fan, you'll understand why I love that name so much!) He's so sweet and funny. This was just a really funny story that had me laughing out loud many times with Lottie and Rory's hi-jinks. 

I have to admit I'm jealous of Lottie's family and how much fun they had drinking together and having fun. Even when things go awry as they were inevitably heading that way, they still have a great time. 

I'm hooked on Lottie and Rory - love them together and want to read more of their story! I highly recommend you check this story out. It's FREE as of this posting!     

December 14, 2015

Mini Review ~ Amish Christmas Baby by Samantha Jillian Bayarr

Amish Christmas Baby

Amish Christmas Baby: Book One
(Amish Secrets #1)
by Samantha Jillian Bayarr
Pages: 51 
Publication Date: 12/20/14
Source: Bought myself  
Purchase: Amazon 


When Ellie Fisher finds a baby on her doorstep on Christmas morning, what is she to do - especially when she figures out who the baby's mother is? 

Will she have the strength and the faith to do what is best for the baby and the mother, despite the fact that she is no longer able to have anymore children of her own? 

Amish Christmas Baby definitely isn't my typical read, but I picked it up when it was free, looking for holiday reads. I don't read Christian fiction and don't know much about the Amish, but I was in the mood for a Christmas-themed story to get me in the holiday spirit.

It was a quick and heartwarming read. I loved Ellie to pieces. She's the one who finds the baby on her doorstep, and I think she has a heart of gold. A remarkable woman with a kind heart who thinks of her family first and what she can do to take care of them. 

I was put off that a mother would just dump her baby off in the snow. What if no one had heard the baby crying? I felt bad for the mother, but her baby could have gotten very sick, or even worse, died! 

There was a lot of repetition with Ellie wanting the baby and wondering whether it'd be better for her to raise the baby or the mother to take care of the baby, since she knows who the mother is. The repetition caused me to knock off a star. 

Amish Christmas Baby is just the beginning of a little series. I'm not really interested in continuing on with the series, but other readers will likely enjoy it. Not quite how I hoped this first one would turn out, but a heartstrings tugging kind of short story nevertheless with well developed characters. 

Mini Reviews ~ Zombie Thanksgiving by Rusty Fischer + Pumpkin Spice & a Body On Ice by Willow Monroe

Zombie Thanksgiving 

Zombie Thanksgiving: A YA Paranormal Story 
by Rusty Fischer 
Pages: 24 
Publication Date: 1/10/14
Source: Bought myself  
Purchase: Amazon | B&N


It's Thanksgiving and all Cassie wants to do is sit in her dorm room eating cheesy poofs and binge watching a Horror High marathon on HitFlix. That's when Rex, one of the members of the Zombie Job Corps, shows up, wanting to clean her floor. With nothing better to do, Cassie helps him... and finds a friend for Thanksgiving break. And just in time, too, seeing as a zombie outbreak is starting and Cassie has to decide which side to fight for: the good zombies... or the bad!    

Going in, I knew Zombie Thanksgiving was only 24 pages so I tried to prepare myself for an extremely short story. The writing was so good, but it was still just way too short for me though. 

It's good that Zombie Thanksgiving left me wanting more but also bad because I had so many questions. I would have liked more background on the zombies and the main characters. What happened to them next? I might never find out!!  

This is why short stories, in my opinion, are so difficult to pull off. Readers want them to accomplish A LOT in a short amount of time. I'd rather not read one that ends on a major cliffhanger, which Zombie Thanksgiving does. So if you're okay with cliffhangers, give this one a go. Otherwise, you might end up pulling your hair out wondering what happens next.  

Pumpkin Spice & a Body On Ice 

Pumpkin Spice & a Body On Ice
Dixie Cupp Diner Mysteries
by Willow Monroe 
Pages: 88 
Publication Date: 10/15/15
Source: Bought myself  
Purchase: Amazon 


Cupcakes and murder - a recipe for disaster! 

Starla Cupp lives her life on purpose, and it shows. She owns the best diner in Virginia, has the best friends in the world, and she's the reigning Cupcake Queen of Sugar Hill's annual dessert festival, which is only a couple of weeks away. Life is pretty darn good until she finds Nadine Krump, her arch-nemesis, dead on the railroad tracks behind her diner.

Now she's famous for something besides her cupcakes, and everyone's pretty sure that Nadine's death was no accident. With the sexy new police chief breathing down her neck and a possible killer among her close group of friends, Starla has to figure out what happened, prove herself innocent, and win a cupcake contest before the real killer gets away with murder. 

A fun holiday mystery for everyone!

Starla Cupp and her best friend, Poppy (I love her name!), run the Dixie Cupp (yep, spelled with two p's) Diner together. I love their friendship; they're truly best friends who support each other. It's so nice to see two strong women supporting one another - no tearing each other down going on here! Just really refreshing.

At first I thought the town of Sugar Hill was a cozy one where everyone knows everyone but quickly discovered while everyone does know each other, they don't necessarily like each other. There are a lot of secrets floating around, and it's anything BUT a cozy little town. There are some serious shenanigans going down.

I laughed when the police chief, who's a major health nut, gets roped in by the mayor to judge the annual cupcake contest. There went Starla's hopes of keeping up her winning streak!   

I loved Starla. She says she doesn't just let things happen to her - she says she lives life on purpose, and I really love that motto. Starla made me want to start living my life "on purpose" and stop feeling like everything is out of my control.

The twist was a surprise. I might have seen it coming a tad, but I was left guessing there for a while.  

I just really really want more of these characters and searched to see if the author is planning on it. Not sure at this point, but I think chances are good. I definitely want more Starla!   

I also bought a book by the author called Mall Santa Murder for 99 cents because I enjoyed her writing so much. 

So happy to have been able to scoop up Pumpkin Spice & a Body On Ice for free! I feel lucky to have discovered such great characters and writing!