Posted in 5 Stars, Book Review

REVIEW: Cold Calling by Russell Mardell


Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Comedy
Publisher: Matador
Publication Date: 
February 3, 2016
Formats Available: 
Kindle, Paperback

Still reeling from the break-up with the love of his life, insurance firm cold-caller Ray English has become a bit of a screw up. Cynical and withdrawn, Ray is aimlessly drifting through life in London with his long suffering best friend, Danny. However, once he is asked to reform his college band for a friend’s wedding, Ray is soon forced to face up to his old life, and the hometown he had tried so hard to turn his back on.

Anya Belmont is a woman with a secret and a history that continues to shape her life. A coffee shop owner in Salisbury, Anya is successful, yet bored; married, yet lonely. She is also slowly being driven to distraction by her highly temperamental friend, the child-hating children’s author, Eva Cunningham.

Through fate, coincidence or just bad timing, Ray and Anya’s lives begin to change when Ray cold-calls Anya and the two strike up a seemingly innocuous conversation. Against their better judgement, their conversation is soon the start of a relationship played out over the phone. But can there ever be anything real in a phone call?

MY RATING: 📚 📚 📚 📚 📚

I’ll be honest–I requested this book solely because of the title and the cover. I’m sure I read the book description, but I couldn’t remember a bit of it when I finally got around to reading it. There’s a danger in judging a book by its cover, as countless movies and TV shows have taught us, but every once in a while, it results in something pleasantly phenomenal.

One thing I really enjoyed about Cold Calling is how the characters are loveable, despite their unloveable characteristics. Ray English is a bit of a mess. He’s hung up on his ex-girlfriend Katie nearly five years after their five-month relationship ended. At thirty, he doesn’t have any career plans or directions; instead, he’s still living with his college buddy, Danny. Danny’s not much better than Ray, other than the fact that he’s let his past girlfriends go. Anya has built a hedge around her heart and refuses to let anyone inside–anyone except Ray, that is, when he surprises her with a cold call about her husband’s life insurance policy. And Eva . . . well, Eva is the ugliness that we all carry inside us.

I love this book for the same reason I love the movie (500) Days of Summer. Through it, we see the danger that lies in romanticizing the past and refusing to let it go. There is also an element of The Five People You Meet in Heaven too, although not at all in the afterlife sense. The ways in which total strangers can touch each other’s lives is astounding, and this book does a brilliant job of showcasing that.

The ending is not what I was expecting, and I love it for that. This is a nice, quick read guaranteed to warm your heart and make you laugh out loud.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in 3 Stars, Book Review

REVIEW: The Syndicate by Sophie Davis


Genre: Science Fiction, Time Travel
Publisher: Dabber & Baehr
Publication Date:
March 1, 2016
Formats Available: 
Kindle, Paperback

In a future where time travel has been outlawed, a black market exists for anyone with the money, connections, and nerve to request items from days past. As a Runner for one of the underground syndicates that now controls the timewaves, Stassi 2446-89 has seen it all: the fall of Rome, the rise of Hitler, the end of democracy, the establishment of time tourism, and the devastating consequences of it. Her job is to seamlessly slip through the past, in search of items of value to the syndicate’s clientele. Stassi’s next assignment takes her to Paris in the 1920’s, in search of a lost manuscript by one of the twentieth century’s greatest writers. She and her partner, Gaige, are swept up in the City of Light during the height of fashion and culture—as alluring a locale as they’ve ever visited. But a seedier side of life lurks beneath the glamorous façade, and the pair quickly learns this run is more dangerous than any of their previous missions. Because history isn’t playing out as it should be—a first for the syndicate. When the stakes are raised and it becomes a matter of life or death, Stassi and Gaige must ultimately decide how far they’re willing to go to ensure the future as they know it.

MY RATING: 📚 📚 📚

The Syndicate is such a difficult book to rate. There are aspects of it I think are absolutely brilliant, but I also walked away feeling confused and a little disappointed.

First, the good things. I absolutely love the premise and found it extremely plausible. Based on what I know of history and human nature, it makes total sense that if time travel were possible, it would soon become outlawed. There’s always that one group who can’t follow the rules and ruins everything for the rest of us. The Syndicate system was as widespread and intricate as you’d expect from what is essentially a Mob. The integration of historic figures was very well done, and was something I appreciated as a former student of history. I also really enjoyed the characters and easily connected to them. While it’s not at all the main focus, there’s a cute romantic development that really snagged me.

Now on to the things that didn’t really work for me. The pacing was incredibly slow, especially the first quarter of the book, and although big books don’t scare me, I think this one could have been much, much shorter and still told the story thoroughly. While I appreciated the author’s attention to detail, too much of it was focused on training sessions, meals, hair and makeup, getting dressed, etc. A little of that would have been perfect to set the scene, but I quickly got bogged down and had to take a break from the book. Additionally, Stassi’s and Gaige’s mood (as well as that of the narrative) tended to shift from silly and carefree one minute to dead serious the next, which was a little disorienting. I also found myself longing for the characters from the 25th century to be speaking a little differently–I know they’re time travelers so they probably use old slang a lot, but it was a little difficult to believe they’d still be using expressions and cliches from our time.

The main source of my confusion at the end were details I think really should have been addressed in the first book of the series. They mention that prima materia is the substance that allows time travel to exist, which is fine. But since this is an alchemical term and some of the Syndicate’s employees are called alchemists, I was really hoping they would further explain what exactly was going on with that. I was especially interested to find out why being an alchemists is a family thing. Hopefully this is something that will be explained in subsequent books in the series.

Even though there was a lot that didn’t work for me, The Syndicate did keep me interested throughout and I am definitely interested in finding out what happens to Stassi, Gaige, Molly, and the rest. I’ll be reading the second book when it comes out. I just hope it’s a little bit easier to get through!

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


Posted in 5 Stars, Book Review

REVIEW: Stars Above by Marissa Meyer

Stars Above.jpg

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Fairy Tale Retelling
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date:
February 2, 2016
Formats Available: 
Kindle, Paperback, Hardcover, Audio

The enchantment continues…

The universe of the Lunar Chronicles holds stories–and secrets–that are wondrous, vicious, and romantic. How did Cinder first arrive in New Beijing? How did the brooding soldier, Wolf, transform from young man to killer? When did Princess Winter and the palace guard, Jacin, realize their destinies?

With six stories–five of which have never before been published–and an exclusive never-before-seen excerpt from Marissa Meyer’s novel Heartless, about the Queen of Hearts from Alice in WonderlandStars Above is essential for fans of the best-selling and beloved Lunar Chronicles.


The Little Android: A retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid,” set in the world of The Lunar Chronicles.

Glitches: In this prequel to Cinder, we see the results of the plague play out, and the emotional toll it takes on Cinder. Something that may, or may not, be a glitch….

The Queen’s Army: In this prequel to Scarlet, we’re introduced to the army Queen Levana is building, and one soldier in particular who will do anything to keep from becoming the monster they want him to be.

Carswell’s Guide to Being Lucky: Thirteen-year-old Carswell Thorne has big plans involving a Rampion spaceship and a no-return trip out of Los Angeles.

The Keeper: A prequel to the Lunar Chronicles, showing a young Scarlet and how Princess Selene came into the care of Michelle Benoit.

After Sunshine Passes By: In this prequel to Cress, we see how a nine-year-old Cress ended up alone on a satellite, spying on Earth for Luna.

The Princess and the Guard
: In this prequel to Winter, we see a game called The Princess

The Mechanic
: In this prequel to Cinder, we see Kai and Cinder’s first meeting from Kai’s perspective.

Something Old, Something New
: In this epilogue to Winter, friends gather for the wedding of the century…

MY RATING: 📚 📚 📚 📚 📚

This collection of vignettes is a perfect end to the Lunar Chronicles. While most of the sections fill in the backstory gaps rather than introduce new information, it was entertaining and heartwarming to see the story played out from different perspectives. ‘The Little Android” was an insanely creative adaption of “The Little Mermaid,” and was probably my favorite part of the entire collection. The last story–“Something Old, Something New”–is the ending we were all hoping for Cinder and the gang. If you enjoyed Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter, be sure to give this one a read. You won’t regret it! I enjoyed it so much more than Fairest.



Posted in cover reveal

COVER REVEAL: Redd’s Descent by C.M. Albert


Redd’s Descent
The Dark Woods Series #1

The dark fairy tales your mother never told you about. 

Celtic folklore warns its people not to enter the Dark Woods at night if you want to live to see the light of day. For Redd Kearney, he has no choice after the death of his grandmother at the hands of the vicious, mythical half-breed creatures. But what he finds is way worse than any childhood legend ever could have warned him about.

Finding himself chained up in the creature’s den, he has two choices: surrender to her evil to stay alive, or die resisting. But the stakes are high when he has a new travel companion whose virtue he needs to keep intact, and when his wife Aine’s life is threatened if he doesn’t comply and give the Alpha what her pack needs to survive.

Can Redd surrender to his dark side without losing himself in the process? Or will Mac’s dark, insatiable desires cause his full descent before he has time to escape?

Redd’s Descent is a dark retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, where roles are reversed and the big bad wolf literally means to eat her victim alive.



Author C.M. Albert enjoys living dangerously on the razor’s edge as both author and editor. In addition to being an Amazon bestselling author, she’s had the privilege of copy-editing under her Grammar Babe business for several international bestselling and award-winning authors. Her own writing infuses a healthy blend of humor and romance, and she’s a sucker for a good villain and everlasting love. In her spare time, she and her husband wrangle their two young kids and enjoy spending time outdoors. When not writing, editing, or kid wrangling, C.M. Albert is also a Reiki practitioner, chocolate chip cookie aficionado, kindness ambassador, and seeker of naps.

You can find C.M. Albert online at:

Facebook/Author Page: 

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Posted in 2 Stars, Book Review

REVIEW: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho


Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Philosophy
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: 
May 1, 1993 (first published 1988)
Formats Available: 
Kindle, Paperback, Hardcover, Audio


Combining magic, mysticism, wisdom and wonder into an inspiring tale of self-discovery, The Alchemist has become a modern classic, selling millions of copies around the world and transforming the lives of countless readers across generations. 

Paulo Coelho’s masterpiece tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure. His quest will lead him to riches far different–and far more satisfying–than he ever imagined. Santiago’s journey teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, of recognizing opportunity and learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, most importantly, to follow our dreams. 


This book has been on my mental to-read shelf for years for several different reasons. For one, I fell in love with Latin American literature during college, when I was studying the Spanish language. Even though this book was originally written in Portuguese, it seemed to have all of those delightful elements I adored in authors like Gabriel García Márquezand Jorge Luis Borges: magical realism, mysticism, and of course, alchemy.

For those who are unfamiliar, I love alchemy and its presence in literature, both overtly and symbolically. I encountered it first in a reading of Michel Butor’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Ape: A Caprice, and subsequently gobbled it up in Borges’ Ficciones, and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Alchemy is why I have a developing love for Medieval literature. Alchemy is everything.

So, understandably, I expected to fall in love with this book. I didn’t. In fact, I struggled to finish it. I imagine that had it been any longer, I probably would have set it down, but the story was only 167 pages long. I couldn’t give up on something so short.

There is no question that Paulo Coelho is a gifted writer. He knows how to construct a beautiful sentence, and his imagery is superb. The premise of the story, too, is good: the classic hero’s quest, in which a simple shepherd boy follows a long string of omens to seek after treasure promised him in a dream. Over the course of his journey he suffers loss and encounters peril, but through this also achieves wisdom, understanding, and enlightenment.

But overall, this superficial goodness could not secure my heart in favor ofThe Alchemist. Perhaps I would have appreciated it more had Coelho given me the chance, but with each page I felt like he was bludgeoning me to death with the point. The text was overly repetitive, to point that I considered playing some kind of drinking game every time a character mentioned “the Soul of the World,” “the Language of the World,” or “Personal Legends.” This book read like a pretentious New Age self-help book, rather than a modern classic.

Perhaps I went in with expectations set entirely too high. I wanted another One Hundred Years of Solitude, or at least something similar. That isn’t what I received. If you have read and enjoyed Paulo Coelho’s other works, you may enjoy this one as well, but otherwise, I can’t think of anyone I would recommend this to.

Posted in 4 Stars, Book Review

REVIEW: Fairest by Marissa Meyer



Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Fairy Tale Retelling
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: 
January 27, 2015
Formats Available: 
Kindle, Paperback, Hardcover, Audio


Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all?

Fals of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story–a story that has never been told . . . until now. 

Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series. 

MY RATING: 📚 📚 📚 📚

True Rating: 3.5 

I wasn’t aware of Fairest when I initially read The Lunar Chronicles, so instead of reading it between Cress and Winteras suggested, I read it a few months after I finished the series. This novella is well-written, as is everything that Marissa Meyer puts out, and it did a great job of filling in the story gaps I’d noticed between the third and fourth main novels, but I can’t help but wonder if it was really necessary. There isn’t a lot of new information presented here, mostly just details of events strongly hinted at in the other books.

I am impressed, however, with how Meyer is able to handle such a complex character. Given our current cultural tendency to create sympathetic villains, I was pleased to see that while we do see Levana’s vulnerabilities and doubts inFairest, we don’t for one second forget how crazy evil she is. Has she been through Hell? Yes, absolutely–but that doesn’t justify any of the Hell she creates for other people.

Through this novella, Meyer sets up a juxtaposition between Levana and Cinder, which is very similar to what J.K. Rowling did with Voldemort and Harry in the later Harry Potter books. Both characters have suffered greatly at the hands of family (and stepfamily), and they share the same bloodline known for harshness and cruelty. Fairest shows more clearly that it is the characters’ choices, not what happens to them, that defines who they are. Levana chooses to embrace bitterness and hate. Cinder fights back. This is an important distinction that makes the end of Winter that much more meaningful.

Check out my reviews of the other Lunar Chronicles books!




Posted in Uncategorized

Ridiculosity Blog Tour!


Todd Campau is an aspiring writer living in Texas. He is a long-serving member of the US Army and Army Reserves with more than a few deployments in his career. Todd is a project manager and business analyst and holds a B. A. in Slavic Studies and an M.B.A. in Operations.

Ridiculosity cover.jpg

Ridiculosity – a Deployment to Afghanistan, published in March 2016, is based on emails sent to friends and family during a recent deployment to Afghanistan. Have you ever wondered what soldiers actually do when not fighting or working? Here is a behind the scenes look at the daily activities of a team of intel collectors deployed to a volatile eastern province on the border with Pakistan.


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