Tag Archive | Mystery

REVIEW: The Smaller Evil by Stephanie Kuehn

The Smaller Evil by Stephanie Kuehn

Read: July 27 – September 1, 2016

Format: ARC Ebook (Penguin First Reads)

My Book Rating: 2 Stars

Genre: YA Contemporary / Mystery / Thriller


Sometimes the greater good requires the smaller evil.

17-year-old Arman Dukoff is struggling with severe anxiety and a history of self-loathing when he arrives at an expensive self-help retreat in the remote hills of Big Sur. He’s taken a huge risk—and two-thousand dollars from his meth-head stepfather—for a chance to “evolve,” as Beau, the retreat leader, says.

Beau is complicated. A father figure? A cult leader? A con man? Arman’s not sure, but more than anyone he’s ever met, Beau makes Arman feel something other than what he usually feels—worthless.

The retreat compound is secluded in coastal California mountains among towering redwoods, and when the iron gates close behind him, Arman believes for a moment that he can get better. But the program is a blur of jargon, bizarre rituals, and incomprehensible encounters with a beautiful girl. Arman is certain he’s failing everything. But Beau disagrees; he thinks Arman has a bright future—though he never says at what.

And then, in an instant Arman can’t believe or totally recall, Beau is gone. Suicide? Or murder? Arman was the only witness and now the compound is getting tense. And maybe dangerous.

As the mysteries and paradoxes multiply and the hints become accusations, Arman must rely on the person he’s always trusted the least: himself.


I received an ARC of this book from Penguin First Reads in exchange for an honest review.


Basic premise: 17-year-old Arman has a crappy home life and is convinced that he screws everything up. He gets invited to go to this “retreat” by the groups leader, a charismatic father figure named Beau. Arman is led to believe he’s special, but then Beau is gone and Arman has holes in his memory. He’s been injured and doesn’t know how. He’s convinced Beau is dead, but the body is gone. Was it suicide? Did Arman kill him?

First things first, I wanted to read this book because I was convinced this “retreat” is really a cult. (It basically is.) I was intrigued. This is a step outside my normal reading box. And I enjoyed the journey. But this book did not leave me feeling satisfied. It left me wondering what I was supposed to take away. There was a conclusion in the end, we find out what really happened, but… I can’t figure out what the purpose of Arman’s journey was. There was a bunch of philosophical thoughts and ideas, and they just went over my head, I can’t imagine the average teenager taking away what the author meant, if she meant for them to take anything away.

There were also sections of text (un-numbered chapters if you will) in all italics, and I don’t know what it was. I think it was Beau talking to… someone? Maybe Arman? But maybe not? I didn’t get the purpose of it. I need someone to explain it to me!

In the end, this was a very strange book. It was mostly enjoyable, especially when I started to question EVERYTHING, including Arman’s sanity. I can’t give it more than 2 stars though because while the writing was very good, I didn’t really connect with any of the characters, and as I mentioned above, I just can’t figure out what I was supposed to take away from this book.

I’ve read other reviews of this book mention this being the authors strangest book yet, so I would consider checking out one of her other books, because she does have a compelling writing style.

Get the The Smaller Evil here:

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Faith is an investment, you tell her, when you see she doesn’t understand. You bargain now for what you hope matters later.

“You know what my father used to tell me about fear?”
“What’s that?”
“‘You only fear what you believe will kill you, never what will.’”
Dale stared at him. Then: “Your dad sounds like a dick.”

“Because always taking the easy route means forgetting there could be others. Maybe better ones. You can’t know unless you try.”

“What’s the doctrine of double effect?”

“It’s a philosophical principle that states an immoral act can sometimes be considered moral if the greater good outweighs the smaller evil.”

“Which would you rather believe in: a bad truth or a good lie?”

REVIEW: Lexie Maxwell & One Spooky House by Heather Balog with Tara Balog

Look at me on a roll with another book review!
I actually have a number of reviews written up, waiting for me to find the time to post.
Additionally, I finished two more books last night, so those will soon be added to the queue.
Why are there only 24 hours in a day people!

In other news, I started training at my new job this evening. I’m leaving retail (woohoo!) and moving onto hospitality, working the front desk at a hotel. Just call me Lorelei Gilmore. (But with less power. And less coffee running through my veins.)

Without further ado, below is my review of a fun young readers novella that my 9 year old daughter really enjoyed reading with me.

Lexie Maxwell & One Spooky House by Heather Balog with Tara Balog

Series: The Lexie Maxwell Diaries #1

Read: July 11 – August 10, 2016

Format: Print Book (Goodreads Win)

My Book Rating: 4 Stars

Genre: Children’s Books (9-12 years)


I received a copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads.


I win a lot of books from Goodreads and some excite me more than others. This was one I was pretty excited about because my oldest daughter is the perfect age to read it. I ended up reading this book aloud to both of my daughters at bedtime and they were both engaged in the story (my 9 year old more than my 4 year old). When we finished reading each night I’d get some whines accompanied by “Just ONE more chapter?”

Lexie Maxwell is spending her last summer before starting middle school trying to write a story for a contest but she keeps getting interrupted. Her mother is always demanding her attention for one thing or another. Her older sister is so annoying. Her brothers are loud and obnoxious. And was that a ghost and and her best friends saw in the empty house across the street???

Part of this story is actually the story Lexie is writing for her contest. It’s a really cute detective story about a missing dog. I especially enjoyed reading these sections aloud because I got to use the over dramatic mystery voice over. The kids enjoyed this part too because it was a mystery surrounding a missing dog.

The rest of the story takes place in the real world with Lexie and her friends trying to solve the mystery of the ghost. The mystery is solved in the end, but it was a little anticlimactic. Still, there was closure.

The only negative I can really say is that there were enough editing errors for me to take notice. Nothing a good proof reading couldn’t fix. Despite that, I would still recommend this book. In fact, as soon as we finished reading tonight, my older daughter snatched the book from my hand and said, “I want to read it again!” followed by, “I want to read ALL the books in this series!” So, you’ve got a new fan Heather and Tara Balog!


Buy the book:

Free on Kindle Unlimited or only 99 cents!


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You can also snag book two, Lexie Maxwell & Two New Kids now as well!


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BEHIND THE COVER, Vol 1: Swimming Alone by Nina Mansfield


Welcome everyone!

Today I’m excited to start a new feature on the blog. As you may (or may not) know, I wear many hats in the publishing world. Sure I dabble in writing (someday I’ll finish my book. I promise!) My biggest contribution to the publishing world, however, is book cover design.


Since 2011 I have been honing my talents as a cover designer for a small press called Melange Books, LLC, as well as their subsequent imprints, Satin Romance, and Fire & Ice YA Books.

It’s been five years and hundreds of covers, and I’m still evolving as a digital artist.

As a cover artist, I am charged with creating an eye catching cover design that accurately represents the theme of the book, while remaining visually captivating to the potential reader, and satisfying the author.

In this series of blog posts, I’m going to showcase some of my cover designs and explain what inspired them; why I chose the elements/images I did, and how they relate to the books theme or tone.

I’d love to hear your questions and comments below!


With many of the covers I design, as is true with most if not all cover designers, I have not had the opportunity to read the books first. That was not the case with SWIMMING ALONE. One of the many hats I wear with the Melange Books is that of acquisitions editor for the teen / new adult line of books, Fire & Ice.

While reading Nina Mansfield’s manuscript submission, I already had some ideas swirling around in my head as to what I imagined the cover to be. When it came to actually sitting down and coming up with a design concept for the cover, I was very fortunate that Nina was on board and receptive to my vision.

This cover was created using three pieces of stock art – the woman on the towel, the stormy beach, and the ripped newspaper.

Because SWIMMING ALONE is a mystery, I knew it had to be a little dark and foreboding, so I chose to go with a stormy sky over the turbulent waves. This also worked because the book takes place in a small beach town, while also setting the tone for a mystery. I kept the colors bright and vivid to appeal to the teen audience.

The main character, Cathy, is a teen girl with long dark hair, who longs to spend her days on the beach, but instead ends up working in a bookstore. I used the sunbathing model both to represent Cathy, as well as the Sea Side Stranglers victims, because they were found on the beach and share Cathy’s physical description.

With this book, I really didn’t want the text to appear as though it was just slapped on. One reason being that the text could easily get lost amidst the lightning, the other reason being this would be a lost opportunity to tie more elements of the story into the design.

I went with the torn newspaper look because in the book Cathy reads about the Sea Side Strangler in the newspaper. I aligned the title and byline to appear as though it literally was ripped from a newspaper, even going so far as to research which font faces are typically used in news print, and finding one that was similar and worked visually for this cover.

With the subtitle, we didn’t want potential readers to assume this was an adult novel due to the bikini clad woman on the cover. I think she looks like a teenager, but others may not. We made it very obvious by stating that this is A YOUNG ADULT MYSTERY. There’s no surprise when you open the pages, you get exactly what you expect; a young adult mystery. Place text in this location also eliminates dead space on the cover; it adds balance.

And there you have it! Scroll down to learn more about SWIMMING ALONE and Nina Mansfield.

You can see more examples of my covers on my website: www.carolineandrus.com/design/covers.html
And my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/CarolineAndrusDesigns
I’m also available for hire. Shoot me an email or Facebook message!

SWIMMING ALONE by Nina Mansfield

The Sea Side Strangler is on the loose in Beach Point, where fifteen-year-old Cathy Banks is spending the summer with her aunt (who happens to be mystery writer Roberta McCabe.) Although thrilled to be away from her psychotic, divorcing parents, with no cell phone or internet access, Cathy is positive that her summer is going to be wretched. Just when she begins to make friends, and even finds a crush to drool over, her new friend Lauren vanishes. When a body surfaces in Beach Point Bay, Cathy is forced to face the question: has the Sea Side Strangler struck again?


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The Sea Side Strangler Strikes Again!


Leave it to my mentally unstable, common sense impaired parents to ship me off to the only town in America with an active serial killer on the loose. I could so easily have the life squeezed out of me by some deranged killer. Now that would be the ultimate revenge. I mean, talk about a guilt trip—not that I’d be alive to benefit from it. And quite frankly, I’d prefer to die peacefully, in my sleep, at the age of one hundred and eight, thank you very much.

But seriously, what kind of psychos send their only daughter, their bundle of joy, the light of their lives away to a town where dead bodies keep washing up on shore? My parents, that’s who—all so they could strangle each other without having to worry about me getting in the way. Not literally, just legally. You know—the “d” word: Divorce. The week before they shipped me off, Mommy dearest smashed one-half of the Tiffany china when she found a foreign thong in Daddy’s glove compartment. Now the lawyers are trying to figure out whose half she smashed. (I’d find the questionable thong far more intriguing if I wasn’t totally skeeved.) These are the atrocities they are trying to shield me from.

Serial killers weren’t exactly on their radar when they decided to ship me off.

This particular serial killer wasn’t on my radar either until I saw the headline splashed across the front page of the Beach Point Gazette.

Beach Point, Rhode Island. My current abode. On my own? No such luck. I’m fifteen, but my parents still think I’m five and need a babysitter. I’m staying with my Aunt Bobbie. You might know her as Roberta McCabe, mystery writer extraordinaire. Yeah—that Roberta McCabe. She decided to rent a bungalow this summer here in Beach Point—lock herself in to complete her current masterpiece. I know what you’re thinking—bungalow, beach, mystery writer. Cool, right? Except, there’s a catch.

No TV. No internet. Landline long since disconnected. My only beacon to the world beyond: Aunt Bobbie’s cell phone, which is A) hers, and B) usually off and in her purse and not loaned out to her niece. That would be me—teen girl. Stranded. Cell phoneless. (Long story. There was a toilet involved.) I’m jonesing for a text. I can literally feel my thumb muscles atrophying.

And if that weren’t bad enough, I’ve been forced to find a job. What is the point of spending my summer by the beach if I actually have to work?

The rationale behind this inhumane treatment: “So you stay out of Aunt Bobbie’s hair.” She made it sound like Aunt Bobbie would spontaneously combust if I interrupted her flow of creative juices. But a job? Thanks a lot, Mom. Turns out all the good jobs in Beach Point were already taken. I tried the Smoothie Shop. The Taco Shack. The skeevey guy at the Speedy Link Internet Café wouldn’t even stoop to look at me. He was too busy drooling over his computer monitor. Can we say porn much? (And yeah, who knew internet cafés still existed. I guess it stuck around for all those people who thought they could unplug for the summer, and then realized they couldn’t.)

That’s how I ended up at Ocean View Books one lovely June morning, staring at the aforementioned headline and a picture of a bright-eyed brunette who had apparently washed ashore just days before. The caption read: “Pauline Krystal, 19, Rhode Island State University freshman found dead last Thursday.”

Last Thursday I’d been arguing with my parents. “What do you mean you won’t get me a new cell phone?” I had figured divide and conquer would work. It didn’t. One too many lost or damaged cell phones apparently. The ’rents wanted me to learn some responsibility. And when I had a job (they reasoned independently of each other), I could afford to buy my own.

“But…but…” The whining hadn’t worked. Neither had the stomping to my room and the dramatic slamming of my door. Staring at the newspaper though, I felt lucky…lucky to be alive. Breathing. Not front-page news, gory details of my demise entrancing total strangers. And I was entranced. So entranced I didn’t hear her.

“Can I help you?” I finally heard her say. It must have been her third time or something. She seemed annoyed.

I looked up at a freckle-faced girl who was forcing her lips to curl into a smile and raising her eyebrows as if to say, what’s your problem? The freaky thing was she looked remarkably like the girl in the picture, sans cap and gown and cheesy senior photo smile. For a moment, I thought I was staring at a ghost.

“I know, the resemblance is uncanny.” She sighed, like she’d already heard it a million times. “Is there something I can help you with?”

She seemed peeved with my presence. I was going to have to get on her good side fast. “Um, yes, actually…” Total brain freeze. I stalled for time, setting the newspaper back on the rack. She began to straighten it.

“Sorry,” I muttered. She ignored me. I tried to Zen out. Deep breathing. Unfreeze my brain. But now the girl was just ignoring me, so like some un-socialized primate, I stared at the back of her head.

“Look, I know I look like her, but I’m not Pauline Krystal,” she spat when she finally turned around.

“No, it’s not that…I saw the sign in your window. I’m looking for a job,” I managed to blurt out, terrified I’d fail to make meaningful contact.

The girl let out a snort and then a smile—kind of devious—the way Mr. Grady, my history teacher, used to do right before he gave us a pop quiz. “You want a job here? Why?”

“Well, I like books.” Wow, that sounded lame.

“Good answer.” She batted the sarcasm in my direction with her too-long lashes.

“No, really, I do.” I was beginning to sound desperate. Who was I kidding? I was desperate.

“Yeah, that’s what they all say.”

“So, there’ve been a lot of applicants?”

“Uh…no.” Smirk. Squint. Bitch or cool, I couldn’t decide. “Here, fill this out.” She pulled out a clipboard with an application from behind the counter.

It looked just like the last three I’d filled out right before being told, “We’ll keep this on file in case anything opens up.” I was seriously beginning to develop a callus from all this unnecessary writing.

“You guys are actually hiring, aren’t you?” I asked. I wanted to be sure this time.

Sigh. Nod. “Yeah, we are.”

Made me wonder if they were replacing someone.

I borrowed a pen that was practically dead. I scribbled it back to life in the margins. I parked myself outside on a bench and began to fill in my life story:

Name:  Catherine (call me Cathy—let’s leave out the middle name) Banks. (Used to be Bankovsky, but it got shortened way back when on Ellis Island.)

Date of Birth:  Gemini. Old enough to have a job.

Address:  Upstate New York, but currently, somewhere off of Broad Street in Beach Point, Rhode Island.

Former Employer: None. (I’m 15!)

School/Degree:  Just finished the 9th grade.

Why would you like to work at Ocean View Books?  Mom and Dad told me to get a job this summer. Why they care what I do when they aren’t around, who knows. Oh, and the only other place I’ve spotted with a help wanted sign is a burger joint, and I’m a vegan (except for ice cream).

Favorite Author:  Well that’s easy—my aunt!

Availability:  Unfortunately, totally open.

I think you’re intelligent enough to figure out that isn’t what I really wrote, but you get the picture. All those impersonal blanks, and they were going to decide my fate for the summer. Seemed unfair. And then I thought of Pauline Krystal again, and I decided to cease and desist with the negativity. At least I could apply for a job, even if the rejection was starting to get to me.

When I’d dotted my last “i,” and crossed my last “t,” I handed the clipboard back to that girl, who stood with this condescending look frozen on her face—like she was the queen of books and I was just some peon who didn’t stand a chance in hell of getting hired.

“Hi, Catherine. I’m Lauren. Lauren Spade.” She extended her hand and…was that a smile I detected?

“You can call me Cathy.”

She gave me a once over before slipping into the back room, leaving me by my lonesome to check out the store. There wasn’t much to check out. It looked like a bookstore. Rows of books, displays in front, the notorious magazine and newspaper rack off to the side. It had this nautical color scheme going—blue and white with a splash of pale yellow. Exactly what you’d expect from a beachside bookstore. The place was small, not like those mammoth chains. Homey, clean, air-conditioned. If I had to work, I figured this place wasn’t the worst place in the world to slave away.

Lauren returned empty-handed. “Mr. Hopper will be right out.” At this point, she had turned on her customer service personality, which I chalked up to the impending appearance of her boss.

We stood there for a moment, waiting. I wondered if I should say something, and what I should do with my hands.

Lauren broke the awkward silence. “My birthday is in May, too.”

My first thought: she’s psychic. She was infiltrating my mind using the top-secret knowledge she’d acquired as a sleeper cell agent for some international terrorist organization. Either that or she wasn’t entirely human and possessed all sorts of powers I would never fully comprehend. She was actually waiting for me to read her mind but realized I was just another pathetic human—OK, I’ll admit it now. I have a slightly overactive imagination at times. It usually helps make life a little more interesting—but then I figured out the mundane reality, which, to anyone but me, would probably have been pretty obvious:  She’d read my job application.

“And I noticed Roberta McCabe is your favorite author.”

“Actually, she’s my aunt.”

“No way! I loved The Private Lives of Serial Killers.”

“You read it?” The true extent of my aunt’s fame never ceased to amaze me.

“Yeah. I mean, there’s something about serial killers—crime in general. You wonder why people do it, what motivates them to kill.” Her eyes blazed, like someone had lit a match inside them.

“I know what you mean.” The truth of the matter is, murder is one of the few things that keeps my attention these days. I’ve read every FBI profiler book out there—and of course, all of my aunt’s mayhem-inspired fiction. But Lauren actually seemed more into it than me, if that was possible, which was either cool or freaky. I couldn’t decide.

“Your aunt—is she working on a new book?”

“She always is.”

“What about?”

That, I didn’t know. I never knew. Aunt Bobbie never divulged the details of her handiwork until she’d printed out the last page, so to speak. “Couldn’t tell ya,” I said to Lauren, then added, “She keeps it secret,” so she wouldn’t think I was being a bitch. “I’m staying with her this summer, and I honestly haven’t the foggiest idea what she’s writing about. She thinks it’s bad luck to reveal even the tiniest detail, like it will spin her into serious writer’s block.”

“No way! Roberta McCabe is in Beach Point this summer?” For a second, I thought Lauren was going to hyperventilate. I imagined a brief, yet disturbing, vision of her face turning blue. But she contained herself and continued. “Well, she’s come to the right place if she’s writing about another serial killer.”

Before I had the chance to respond, Arnie Hopper slithered onto the scene.



 Tammy Marie RoseNina Mansfield is a Connecticut based writer. Swimming Alone is her first young adult novel. Nina began her writing career as a playwright; she has written numerous plays, which have been produced throughout United States and in Canada, Australia, England and Ireland. Her short plays have been anthologized in Smith & Kraus’s The Best Ten-Minute Plays (of 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014) and YouthPlays’ Middle Schoolin’ It.  Her one-act play Clean is published by Original Works Publishing.  A collection of her plays entitled Three More Marriage Plays, along with her plays No Epilogue, Crash Bound, Text Misdirected and Missed Exit are available from One Act Play Depot. Her short mystery fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Mysterical-E. In addition to writing, Nina enjoys reading, seeing theater, practicing yoga, traveling and spending time with her husband and daughter.  Nina is a member of the Dramatists Guild, Mystery Writers of America, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and Sisters in Crime.

Connect with Nina Online:


REVIEW: The Bride Wore Size 12 by Meg Cabot

The Bride Wore Size 12 by Meg Cabot

Series: Heather Wells #5

Read: October 11-12 2015

Format: Audiobook

My Book Rating: 5/5 Stars

Narrator Rating: 4/5 Stars

Genre: Contemporary Romance (New Adult)


Meg Cabot’s Mediator and 1-800-Missing series’ are two of my all time favorites. The last time I ventured into her adult books I was less than impressed. So, I shied away from them for a while. Therefor, this is my first Heather Wells book, and after reading (rather listening to…) this book, I’m kicking myself for not picking them up sooner!

Former pop superstar Heather Wells is in the midst of planning her wedding to PI Cooper Cartwright while working her job, helping run a dorm at the local collage. Things are going smoothly until a resident in her building ends up dead.

The events in this book are improbable and crazy, but Meg Cabot has a way of making them work. She makes a book about a murdered girl seem lighthearted. Her characters are fun, interesting and at times, down right hilarious.

Possibly my favorite character was Detective Canavan. He wasn’t in the book much, but he stole his scenes. I laughed out loud when he told Heather she has a habit of “kicking up shit.”

This book is definitely for the older teens to new adult crowd, but while there is sex, it’s pretty much innuendo and “off camera.” Which is what I prefer.

I’m eager to read the rest of the series and would recommend this to anyone who enjoys lighthearted mysteries with romance and humor.

REVIEW: Dead Ringer by Jessie Rosen

Dead Ringer by Jessie Rosen

Read: September 2015

Format: ARC Ebook (Kindle)

My Book Rating: 3/5 Stars

Genre: Contemporary Mystery YA


I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


I actually didn’t think I was going to like Dead Ringer at all when I first started reading it. The point of view started with the new girl in school, Laura, then started jumping to other characters and I’m honestly not a real big fan of that. It has it’s moments, and it has to be done right. I forced myself to keep reading and I came to appreciate the multiple POV’s, ultimately they did work, I just wish the transition had been smoother.

As I said, Laura is the new girl at school and she looks eerily similar to Sarah, the girl who died almost two years prior. As Laura adjusts to live in her new school she begins digging around the past, trying to figure out what really happened to Sarah.

We also get into the head of Charlie, he’s the schools star soccer player. He has his own secrets to hide about Sarah and he’s also getting close to Laura. I really liked Charlie, I liked how his character was developed. I was able to sympathize with and root for him.

The third character from whom we see a POV is Sasha. She’s also out for answers to Sarah’s death and an enigma herself for much of the book. We initially don’t know her motivation or how she even knows about Sarah. I think she was a great addition to the story and added a nice extra layer of mystery.

All of this was great, except…. details were given in the beginning of the book don’t match up with the end game. I really can’t say a whole lot or else it will ruin the book for those who have not yet read it. The ending is fabulous, minus the terrible cliffhanger the author leaves us with. But, the motives and inner thoughts from the beginning of the book do not fit with the character after the big twist. There’s suspension of believe in fiction, and I’m pretty lenient with what I’ll let slide, but this stuff was big. Like the author changed the ending as she was writing it and didn’t go back to change those earlier details.

The characters were likable though, and trying to solve the mystery was fun, but I’m a stickler for the details and I’m just really irritated with this one

Will I read the next book? If NetGalley offers it up to me, I will happily take it to see if the resolution to the cliffhanger will make up for the details in this book that didn’t make sense.

Ultimately, I’d say this book is average. It had a lot of potential but it needed some reworking in order to make the pieces fit together properly. If you’re less of a stickler for details and are just looking for a nice mystery with some interesting twists, this may be the book for you.



REVIEW: The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss by Max Wirestone

This one is for the gamers and geeks out there!

The publisher describes this book as: “for fans of The Guild, New Girl, Scott Pilgrim, Big Bang Theory, Veronica Mars, or anyone who has ever geeked out about something.”.



The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss by Max Wirestone

Read: September 2015

Format: Ebook ARC (Kindle)

My Book Rating: 5/5 Stars

Genre: New Adult Mystery – humorous


I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


Confession: I used to be a World of Warcraft addict. It’s true. I participated in lan parties in my boyfriend’s apartment with his roommates and their girlfriends. We were cool like that.

What does this have to do with The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss? Well, this book is ideal for anyone with basic knowledge of MMORPG’s. (That’s massive multiplayer online role playing game’s for those not in the know.)

This book is absolutely ridiculous in all the right ways. Everything that happens is so completely unbelievable, it’s believable.

Dahlia has been out of work for over a year. She graduated college with her fancy business degree, then proceeded to spend a year interviewing and not getting hired anywhere. Enter Jonah. He offers Dahlia $1,000 to find out who stole a digital weapon in the MMORPG he plays. Why? She has no background in detective work – save two days as a temp answering phones. She’s the worst (wo)man for the job, but she’s broke. So she takes his money and gets to work.

I can’t say too much about the plot without giving anything away, but it’s a ride. There’s murder, crazy people, gamers (another variety of crazy people – trust me, I know) and learning to deal with the cards life has dealt.

Another confession: I didn’t read this book, while working I used text to speech on my Kindle and it was read to me in a very robotic female voice which I now identify as the voice of Dahlia Moss. I believe this made the humor in this book a thousand times funnier. I actually had a moment where I had to stop working and stifle my laughter, which was turning to tears. It was hilarious. There are references to MMORPG’s (obviously), Pokemon, gaming conventions and so much more. One of my favorite parts was while in the game gathering clues, Dahlia discovers one of Jonah’s guild members is pregnant, and another guild member says said pregnant gamer will be leaving the game soon, because that’s what happens when female players have babies. Real life takes over and they quit their MMORPG’s. I laughed a lot, and shared this part with my husband, because when I had a baby I quite playing WoW.

The best part about the book is Dahlia herself. She’s gotten to the the point where she just doesn’t care. Nothing is working out, so she’ll just roll with the punches. If that means dying her hair pink, so be it. If that means planning a virtual in game funeral for the death of a real person? Why not. She’s surrounded by an oddball cast that are too insane not to be real. Like her roommate Charice, who has completely spontaneous theme parties in her apartment (which incidentally lead to Jonah showing up to offer Dahlia the detective job).

The mystery in this book is resolved perfectly. The clues are all there, though I didn’t have an inkling of ‘whodunit’ until nearly the big reveal.

Seriously, anyone who has ever submerged themselves in geek culture must read this book. It’s a healthy dose of Veronica Mars (though slightly less competent) and The Guild. In a movie, Felicia Day would play Dahlia. There’s simply no other choice.

If there’s a sequel I want to read it to find out what mess Dahlia will get herself into next!

REVIEW: My Secret to Tell by Natalie D. Richards

See, I knew NetGalley wouldn’t let me down! I found a gem this time. If you’re a lover of mystery and/or romance – this one is for you!

BONUS: Now through October 5 you can enter to win a print copy of this book from Goodreads!


My Secret to Tell by Natalie D. Richards

Read: September 2015

Format: Ebook ARC (Kindle)

My Book Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Genre: Young Adult Mystery / Romance


I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My Secret to Tell is the story of Emmerson (Emmie) May. She’s seventeen, smart, kind, driven… and completely in love with her best friends brother. Ever since her older brother, Landon, dropped out of college and abandoned the family, Emmie has put the pressure of living up to her mothers hopes on herself. While she really dreams of becoming a marine biologist, or maybe a veterinarian, her mother expects her to live the life she didn’t get when she got pregnant too young – by a boy who did not fit the mold her own parents wanted for her. So, in order to help Emmie live her mothers dream of her becoming a lawyer, she takes a job with her best friend Chelsea’s father’s business, helping out in the office.

All is good and well in her world until the day Chelsea’s brother, Deacon, shows up in her bedroom covered in blood. Years earlier, Deacon found his mother dead, ever since, the sight of blood has left him virtually catatonic. Emmie and Chelsea have spent years taking care of him whenever blood is involved.

Emmie soon discovers Deacon is the prime suspect in an assault that has left Deacon and Chelsea’s father in the hospital. Emmie knows that though Deacon has a tough exterior, there’s no possible way he would ever do something like this. Her parents tell her to stay away, the sherrif tells her if she sees him she must call him immediately, Deacon is a wanted man. But Emmie is a helper, she’s a fixer, she can’t just abandon her friend.

I honestly wasn’t sure whether I’d like this story or not when I requested it from NetGalley. I don’t read a lot of mysteries, but this book makes me want to read more. The characters were phenomenal. Richards did a great job creating two very likable and flawed characters with Emmie and Deacon. While Deacon takes his demons and lashes out at the world, driving too fast and dating too many girls, Emmie goes the other route, and at her brother leaving, becomes borderline OCD. Despite their flaws—or perhaps because of them— both are extremely charismatic and relatable characters.

The whole time I was rooting for Emmie and Deacon to end up together. The sexual tension was there, slowly building the entire story. The two made a great team trying to solve the mystery of Deacon’s dad’s assault.

Just when I thought I’d figured out the mystery, Richards threw a curve ball and I was second guessing everything. In the end, I was very satisfied with the conclusion of the story. Skeletons were revealed, characters grew, and I was left feeling satisfied with the story. This won’t be the only Natalie D. Richards book I will read, I think she has a new fan.

The only negative, which forces me to deduct half a star, is the formatting of this book. I’m really hoping that because I read an advanced copy, the formatting will be resolved prior to release day, but just in case it’s not, I would not feel right failing to mention it here.

Ultimately, this is a must read in my book. A very satisfying mystery, with excellent character development and enough romance thrown in for good measure.