Thursday, January 30, 2014

Review | The Highway by C.J. Box @cjboxauthor

Title:  The Highway
Author:  C.J. Box
Length: 400 Pages
Released: July 30, 2013


When two sisters set out across a remote stretch of Montana road to visit their friend, little do they know it will be the last time anyone might ever hear from them again. The girls—and their car—simply vanish. Former police investigator Cody Hoyt has just lost his job and has fallen off the wagon after a long stretch of sobriety. Convinced by his son and his former rookie partner, Cassie Dewell, he begins the drive south to the girls’ last known location. As Cody makes his way to the lonely stretch of Montana highway where they went missing, Cassie discovers that Gracie and Danielle Sullivan aren’t the first girls who have disappeared in this area. This majestic landscape is the hunting ground for a killer whose viciousness is outmatched only by his intelligence. And he might not be working alone. Time is running out for Gracie and Danielle…Can Cassie overcome her doubts and lack of experience and use her innate skill? Can Cody Hoyt battle his own demons and find this killer before another victim vanishes on the highway?

***Mild Spoilers Possible***
This is my first C.J. Box book, and it probably won't be the last. I picked it up because I saw that my father had read a lot of his books.

Story Comments:
Several parts of the plot seem highly contrived and a bit too pat, but the book is still a quick, compelling read. (I don't want to say more for fear of spoilers, but those who have finished will know what I mean when I say that the way the mystery is solved is a bit disappointing from an investigative standpoint.)

Two teenage girls get kidnapped by a long-haul trucker, hauled to his secret lair, and ... well, you could probably fill in the blanks from here. The end is mostly predictable, though there are 1 or 2 twists to keep you guessing...or just annoy you. It's pretty obvious that the publisher and author are angling for a sequel, which isn't necessarily a bad thing but can earn an eye-roll or two.

Character Comments:
The creepiest character is of course the serial killer. He reads like a textbook serial killer, right down to the strained relationship with his mother. I'm all for research, but it would have been nice if he was a little more well-rounded than complete creeper.

Danielle and Gracie have the funniest dialogue. You can definitely tell the author has been around girls (his bio says he has 3 daughters). If I had to pick a favorite character, I'd say Gracie because she's billed as the level-headed one and her actions actually back that up.

Cassie's (Casandra Dewell) all right. I like that she's not the stereotypical, Det. Beckett-esque knock off character. I sort of wish not quite so much of her insecurity bled onto the pgs of the story, but overall, I still think she's okay. I'd probably pick up a sequel (a free sequel especially).

Cody Hoyt is ... interesting. I sort of want to like him, but he's unconventional to the point of just being annoying.

Profanity comment: Most of the book keeps a nice balance of fitting profanity (even at times amusing like the title of the killer's back-up box) without veering off into every other word must be 4 letters and start with "f", but there's a disappointing section of 3-ish pgs that the story could do fine without.

Summary: The book is reasonably well-written, swift in pace, and interesting. However, the end seemed rushed and carefully tailored, instead of something that would happen naturally.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Review | Fury (Star Wars: Legacy of the Force, Book 7) by Aaron Allston @aaronallston

Title:  Fury 
(Star Wars: Legacy of the Force, Book 7)
Author:  Aaron Allston
Length: 386 Pages
Released: April 2008


Fighting alongside the Corellian rebels, Han and Leia are locked in a war against their son Jacen, who grows more powerful and more dangerous with each passing day. Nothing can stop Jacen’s determination to bring peace with a glorious Galactic Alliance victory–whatever the price.

While Luke grieves the loss of his beloved wife and deals with his guilt over killing the wrong person in retaliation, Jaina, Jag, and Zekk hunt for the real assassin, unaware that the culprit commands Sith powers that can cloud their minds and misdirect their attacks–and even turn them back on themselves.

As Luke and Ben Skywalker struggle to find their place among the chaos, Jacen, shunned by friends and family, launches an invasion to rescue the only person still loyal to him. But with the battle raging on, and the galaxy growing more turbulent and riotous, there’s no question that it is Jacen who is most wanted: dead or alive.

Features a bonus section following the novel that includes a primer on the Star Wars expanded universe, and over half a dozen excerpts from some of the most popular Star Wars books of the last thirty years!

**Warning, there may be mild spoilers ahead.** 
The book is good, no doubts there. The whole business with Allana struck me as a very very tired plotline being used, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that it actually worked. I wish Tenel Ka had a greater role in the story, but with two more books ahead, I can still hope. I shall endeavor to keep my comments related to this book.

Jacen's an idiot, as usual. Homicidal maniac too, but I guess if we wanted to get real technical he's probably suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Tired excuses aside, the authors of this series have done a nice job of presenting his unstable mental state.

There's one reason I would give this book 5 stars and it involves killing someone, but I shall refrain from mentioning who as that would be more than a little spoiler. Still I never did like said character and finally having said character offed was emotional bliss. We all know the authors have their pet characters, and this one just hung around for far too long. Annoying as all of everything foul.

Jaina has more than a cameo role, finally. Jag puts up some decent fighting. Han and Leia have their fair share of adventures. There's not much to complain about character-wise or plot-wise, aside from the sheer over-doneness of certain plot "twists".

Four stars for a well-written, humorous book in a series that is slowly improving.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Teaser Tuesday | Ashlynn's Dreams Chapter 5

Dark Place

I woke up with the headache of all headaches. Whatever that big jerk had shoved into my arm was like drinking hard and taking meth at the same time. (Not that I obtained that bit of knowledge via personal experience.) A very nasty kick in the head would have been kinder. In addition, my arm ached like I’d had a dozen shots and then pitched thirty innings of softball. My hands still stung too, but everything else hurt so much that that particular pain seemed negligible. I tried shaking my head, hoping that would clear away the pain. Big mistake. The pain morphed from not-so-good to very painful to excruciating. It felt like my brains wanted to leak out my ears. If that would have stopped the

pain, I’d have been tempted to take the trade.

My first thought was, Owwwww. And my second thought was Jillian!

I think I said her name out loud, but I can’t be sure because I’m pretty sure I passed out again. I seemed to be doing a lot of that. I might have opened my eyes or just thought I did. It didn’t really matter because, like I said, I didn’t stay with it very long. I sensed another person in the room and had the sensation like I wanted to vomit before blissful nothingness slipped me past the headache.

The second time I woke up, I forced myself to lie still and finish the waking process with the least pain possible. Not that I could have moved anyway, since these people obviously had trust issues and had tied me up as well as giving me that wonderful naptime cocktail. My headache came back down to tolerable levels, though every heartbeat was like a dull hammer being slammed to the floor millimeters from my skull. My eyes felt all gummy like I’d slept for a month; my eyeliner must have melted or something.

I must look a scary sight.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Five Star Review ~ Ashlynn's Dreams @AsYouWishReview

Title: Ashlynn’s Dreams
Length: 208 pgs
Genre: YA, Science Fiction
Cover Artist: Timothy Sparvero
Available in Formats: Kindle/Paperback
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform


Before she was kidnapped, Jillian Marie Antel Blairington was just an average bright, brave, headstrong child. She was excited for life in a new house with her Momma and new Daddy. Afterward, she's all that ... and so much more.

Held in a scientific facility, Jillian discovers her past-a family she never knew and a power she doesn't understand. With her ability now activated, she can enter and even shape a person's dreams. Jillian's been kidnapped, and her Gift has been triggered, so she can locate and save Benjamin Connelly, a brother she never even knew she had. She'd better master this strange ability quickly, though, because her life isn't the only one at stake. Her babysitter, Danielle Matheson, is being held as a hostage to ensure Jillian's full cooperation. Slowly, Jillian begins to learn more about her captor and the other genetically altered children held at the facility.

Join Jillian as she tries to survive the training being forced upon her, find her unknown brother, escape with Danielle, and work her way back to a normal life once more.


Unlike any other book I've read, Ashlynn's Dreams grabs your attention. With Jillian and her southern drawl, Danielle's growing character bond, and Nadia's protectiveness. Southern drawl is the only way I can describe how Jillian talks, and to be honest it took me a bit to grasp reading such a strong southern accent. Which by the way shouldn't have been difficult since I used to have a heavy southern drawl myself.

The story is told in a few different characters' point of view though it was not hard to follow. Questions arise about Jillian, her past and how she came to be. As a reader I was curious about her ability or gift. The best part to me is as she trains she ends up growing stronger, learning how to control her ability, surprising even the doctors at the laboratory. Danielle, her babysitter, goes through all of this with her and so much more. Between the threats, attacks made to force her to cooperate, and the impossibilities Jillian and Danielle face together, there is no way they could have done it without each other.

The cover represents the story, making the book appealing to younger readers and adults alike. I'm curious now and past ready to pick up Nadia's Tears to see what it withholds. Nadia grew on me in this story so I can't wait to see what's next.

Review by Julia @ As You Wish Reviews

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Snippet Saturday | Heartfelt Cases 4: The Keres Case

Chapter 2
The New Problem

Karen peeked up at the little boy Connor was helping. Now that he wasn’t screaming his head off, Silas didn’t seem like a bad sort. She wondered how anyone could hurt him. Searching her feelings, Karen’s heart seized painfully when the possibility of somebody kidnapping Ellie again sprang to mind.

What would mom do?

That was an easy question: freak out.

What would dad do?

That one was almost as easy: hunt down the jerk and give him a fistful of knuckles.

Karen tried to stop the flow of thoughts, but it didn’t work. In all honesty, the chances of somebody walking away with Ellie were better than good. Kids with Down syndrome could be far too trusting.

Is there such a thing as too trusting?

Before Karen could answer the question, a hand fell across her mouth, slamming her head back hard against the tree trunk.

A man’s voice whispered, “Come with me quietly or I’ll shoot your boyfriend from the tree.”

He’s not my boyfriend, she thought through the haze of pain piercing her skull. Though technically true at the moment, it didn’t mean she could just let the man shoot Connor.

“Nod if you understand me.”

Karen breathed hard, almost hyperventilating.

Don’t faint! Faint! He can’t hurt you then! The conflicting thoughts got tangled in her mind.

The man cursed. “Stop that. If you faint, I’ll shoot you! Come quietly or die here. Those are your options!”

Karen hesitated, torn between screaming for the help that walked mere feet away and heeding the man’s threats. She struggled to pull away, but he tightened his grip, pressing her head painfully against the tree.

“I know where your sister lives.”

That made up Karen’s mind. She ceased her struggles. Tears stinging her eyes, she nodded.

Friday, January 17, 2014

New Release | The Kiverson Case [Heartfelt Cases: Book 2]

 The Kiverson Case
Heartfelt Cases: Book 2
Genre: Christian Mystery
Release Date: Early 2014
Presented by: As You Wish Tours


One man’s vendetta could cost them everything …

When a routine arrest turns deadly, FBI Special Agents Julie Ann and Patrick Duncan are drawn into a dangerous game with Kevin Kiverson, a man with little to lose and much to avenge.

In her heart, Ann knows they will catch Kevin, but she doesn’t know when or how or what sacrifices will be made along the way. She’s prepared to risk her life for others but will her resolve hold when the threat turns to her baby boy?


Kiverson Residence
Vienna, VA
Five years ago

“The only thing you kids need to know is to protect the family,” Asan Kiverson said. His gaze bore into each of his children.

Kevin, the eldest, returned his gaze steadily.

Angela, the middle child, nodded hesitantly, so Asan gave her a reassuring smile.

His smile faded when he looked at his youngest child. “What’s the matter, Benjamin? Don’t you believe me?”

“Yes, Papa,” the boy murmured.

“That’s my boy. You can choose your own path, but always remember the family protects its own. One day, perhaps you kids will be called upon to protect the family.”

Enter the Giveaway!
Three (3) Winners will receive an eBook
The Kiverson Case (Heartfelt Cases: Book 2)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, January 16, 2014

**FREE** The Collins Case [Heartfelt Cases: Book 1]

Title: The Collins Case
Series: Heartfelt Cases (Book 1)
Release Date: October 31, 2012
Genre: Christian Mystery
Presented by: As You Wish Tours
Banner Made by: Camelia Miron Skiba


Working for the FBI certainly isn’t a “normal” job, but Special Agent Julie Ann Davidson has never encountered a case as personal as this one. Although not officially assigned to the case, Ann and her partner, Patrick Duncan, take up the cause of finding Rachel, Jason, and Emily Collins. As if that task wasn’t enough, Ann and Patrick also have a baffling case of internet thievery to investigate.

Who is Christopher Collins and what about his past is endangering his family? Where are Rachel and the kids being held? Where is God in the midst of chaos? Will Ann and Patrick arrive in time or will they find only pain?


After work on Thursday, Rachel Collins stopped at the grocery store for basics and something special for dinner. Having heard many horrible stories, she didn’t dare leave the children alone in the car. Warnings about best behavior fell upon deaf ears. Somewhere, she found the patience to tolerate Jason and Emily’s childish antics.

“Why you frown, Mommy?” Jason asked.

“I’m just tired, Jay,” replied Rachel. Her mind took a trip back to the office where a thousand little things had gone wrong. The secretary’s morning car accident had added considerable stress to Rachel’s hectic life. Her trust in God’s sovereignty didn’t make lousy days any easier to live through.

For years she had believed Christ to be mere church rhetoric. Finally, during a particularly rough college year, she had accepted God’s gift of salvation through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. It pained her that Chris avoided church. Come Sunday, Rachel forced a bright smile, sang in the choir, helped in the nursery, and coordinated other children’s ministries. In fact, she kept herself so busy with work, kids, and church that her spiritual walk floundered. Stress and bills were her biggest problems, but she understood that they allowed her family light, food, warmth, and a fine home in the great state of Pennsylvania. She knew the ‘could-haves’ and the ‘what-ifs’ could drive her mad so she decided not to worry about the future.

“When we get home, you need a nap,” Jason said.

Her son’s solemn suggestion drew Rachel back to the present. She chuckled softly. Children were a blessing, even if they did jump all over her nerves sometimes.

“Cookies!” Emily shouted, pointing with a tiny finger.

Annoyed at herself for wandering down the wrong aisle, Rachel winced at the volume, grabbed Emily’s wildly waving hand, and said, “Hush, sweets, I see them.”

That’s what you get for not paying attention. Oh well, the damage is done. The pantry’s nearly empty anyway.

She let them each pick a favorite and finished the hike to the back corner where the main selection of milk and eggs were located.

Ingenious to put milk in the back, Rachel admitted.

Next, they swung by the fish department where Jason made a face.

Emily covered her nose and announced, “Stinky!”

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Goodreads Thursday | Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Title:  Revolution
Author:  Jennifer Donnelly
Length: 498 Pages
Released: Oct 12, 2010


From the privileged streets of modern Brooklyn to the heart of the French Revolution, Jennifer Donnelly, author of the award-winning novel A Northern Light, artfully weaves two girls’ stories into one unforgettable account of life, loss, and enduring love. Revolution spans centuries and vividly depicts the eternal struggles of the human heart.

BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break.

PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want—and couldn’t escape.

Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present.

**My Review**

The cover art on this version's prettier than the audio CD I got, but that's besides the point. The story was fantastic. Anybody who's bothered to read my reviews might notice that I don't often say that. It's a long book; 15 hr and 4 minutes for professionals to read start to finish, but it's worth it. Because I had the CD, I must say that the actresses did a truly wonderful job with their performances. Had I read the book myself, I'd probably be giving this a 3 and a half or 4 star review, but the performances were enjoyable.

Was it perfect? No. There were a few times that I wanted to shake the main character and tell her to get on with her life, but hey, that can happen when you talk about anything for 15 hrs.

Was it believable? Not really. Most of it was believable until the whole time travel thing (which is not a spoiler b/c it's on the back cover of the book). Still, it was enjoyable.

I probably only like Andi's character because I like the way the voice actress presented her, but I suppose paper and pen Andi has her strengths. Alexandrine's a cool character; brave, compassionate, etc.

Things to like: There are multiple layers here, yet the switching between Alexandrine's diary entries and Andi's first person narration seemed seamless. Truman's story unfolds in bits and pieces. Tantalizing bits are woven throughout changing your perspective each time you see it, shining light on different sections of a beautiful painting. The music references were nice. I can't relate to that sort of obsession with music, but Andi came through with a genuine passion for the subject.

Parental note: The book says it's for listener's 12-17, but I think it's worth mentioning that it contains some fairly strong language. I'm probably just a relic from the past and kids probably hear way worse things on the school bus, but for those who still like to know such things, there it is.

Summary: Can't say how I'd feel if I read each page, but hearing the story on CD was a lovely experience. The story's excellent.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

My 2014 Goal | Give Back + Raise Money: Charities

The 2014 Goal / Objective: 
To obtain 200 new reviews for my books + raise money for charities.

Possible Beneficiaries:  

Together we are stronger than the individual sum of our parts. We can have a greater impact if we work together. Many people understand these sentiments but have no idea how to turn them into practical means of helping. There are many causes worth fighting for, but limited resources often make us feel inadequate. We don’t often consider time and talent gifts to be spent on worthy causes.

Sure, I could give to each cause on my own without anyone ever knowing it, but the amount I actually would give is probably far less than what will be given if I force 1000 strangers and new friends to keep me accountable. Besides, many of these non-profits rely on word of mouth to spread their causes. By reading this, you’ve heard of them and maybe even read up on their causes, whether they stick in your mind and heart is up to you.

In 2014, I will donate $1 per new honest review of any of my books. (2014 reviews thus far = 1) I will also donate $0.10 per "New Like" on my Facebook Page and $0.20 per postcard/bookmark pack given away in a contest (up to $200). The current “like” count is 1095. (Facebook Likes Increased = 11 at $1.10 & Postcards given away in 2014 so far = 5 at $1) A very good start I'd say.

What books does this apply to?
Genre: YA, Science Fiction

Genre: YA, Science Fiction

Genre: Christian, Mystery

Heartfelt Cases 2: The Kiverson Case (novella) - Coming Soon
Genre: Christian, Mystery

I want to help, but I don’t really want to buy a new book:
I’m willing to invest a bit in this project. I have 20 copies of Ashlynn’s Dreams, First Edition (old cover). Anyone within the U.S. may request one of these. Upon request, I will mail a book to an address you provide. Your obligation from that point on is to read, review, sign, and pass on the book. The pass on part is important. The worst fate any book can suffer is to languish in a box, where most of these are currently residing.

Also, if you email me or my PA and let us know which book (title) and eBook version/format (mobi, epub, pdf) you prefer we'll provide you with a review copy that way.

I want to help, but I hate reading YA and/or Christian books, how can I help?
  1. Like my Facebook Page. Invite your friends to like my page.
  2. Email the blog post of my proposal to good friends (ones who won’t consider your email spam).
  3. Donate to one of these worthy causes.
  4. If you’re an author, run a similar program. I dare ya. I triple dog dare ya.

If none of this fits you, then try to think of some creative way you could give. I’d love to hear your story.

Ideas to consider:
  • Volunteer at a food bank
  • Take a struggling friend out for dinner
  • Do the dishes for your parents
  • Visit people in the hospital
  • Rake leaves/ shovel snow / pick up sticks for a neighbor
  • Buy gift cards to a food market and donate them to those in need
  • Sell some treasures you haven’t used in 20+ years on eBay and donate the cash, etc.
Fine Details/ How do I get my review to count?
I’d prefer the reviews be done on amazon, goodreads, or some other program I’ve heard of, but I’ll also take email submissions. They don’t have to be positive reviews, just honest, and it needs to be more than “it was good” or “it was bad”. Amazon says you have to put in at least 20 words, but I’m going to up that to at least 100 because I believe you’ve got to put time and effort in this as your investment.

The total number of Amazon reviews is easy to check on, but if you’re posting to a different site or don’t want your review out in the public eye, paste the review into the body of an email.

Closing Remarks:
An idea like this only works if other people catch on to the vision. Part of why I want to do this is to get people to realize that lending a helping hand doesn’t always have to involve money, sometimes the gift can be time, talent, or even just a smile.

I, Julie C. Gilbert, am in no way directly associated with any of these charities.  I am simply promising to donate in response to your (my followers) participation on my Facebook page and interaction with my work.

Teaser Tuesday | Nadia's Tears Chapter 6


Malia sat on the van’s floor with her hands folded neatly in her lap. I had to review the dream six times before I noticed the dark cuffs binding her wrists. Malia looked sad and tired. The dark jumpsuit she wore had thin, red and blue stripes that looked like wires running down the sleeves and legs. I’d never seen anything like it, but Varick obviously had for his reaction was to take three angry steps forward.

The guards shifted nervously but held their guns steady.

“I’m all right, Varick,” Malia called. The light shining down on her glinted off the three tears forming tracks down her face.

“No tears, my dear,” Dr. Devya said softly. He reached down with a towel and blotted the tears from her face.

“This wasn’t part of the deal,” Varick protested. “I told you I would come alone. Why didn’t you believe me?”

“Get in the van,” Dr. Devya ordered.

“I want an answer. How do I know this isn’t just a trap?”

Dr. Devya’s laugh could definitely be qualified as bitter. “You’re not that important.” He nodded toward Malia and added, “She’s not that important, but Nadia is. She must live. Now get in or make a move that will likely get two of your sisters seriously hurt or killed.”


Varick didn’t ask the question out loud, but I felt it blazing brightly in his mind. Without further delay, he climbed carefully past Malia into the van. A hood slipped over Varick’s head, but before it could completely block his vision, I saw him reach for Malia. Even after the hood blocked his sight, I felt his odd mixture of sorrow, joy, and burning anger melt away when he sat by Malia and wrapped her in a warm hug.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Snippet Saturday | Heartfelt Cases 4: The Keres Case

Chapter 1
The Search

Who kidnaps a kid only to give the police instructions on where to conduct a manhunt?

He could still feel the laminated piece of white paper buried under the packing materials and knife on the kid’s bed.

“You’re doing it again,” Donny said in a slightly scolding tone.

“What?” asked Ralph. He finished off the water and crushed the flimsy plastic against his leg.

“You’re thinking that something’s off about that note.” Donny opened a fresh bottle of water, drank a good bit of it, and poured the rest over his graying black hair.

Unable to deny it, Ralph just shrugged. “What kind of criminal leaves notes these days? That’s for low budget films and cheap paperbacks.”

“The kind of sicko who leaves a knife tucked up in a kid’s bed,” Donny replied, matching Ralph shrug for shrug. “We’re all agreed that this guy’s a few cards short of a deck, but don’t let it get to you.”

A high-pitched, female scream disintegrated any sort of reply Ralph could possibly imagine. Exchanging a grim look with Donny, Ralph tossed the useless water bottle to the ground and ran toward the commotion. His breaths came in gasps, and he thought he might keel over from a heart attack at any moment. Nevertheless, Ralph forced himself to jog along in Donny’s wake.

Got to work out more. Got to eat less.

Ralph’s boot caught briefly on a tree root. He grunted and

stumbled forward into a small clearing. At first, he couldn’t see anything unusual. A bunch of people milled about in front of a tree like agitated ants.

Everybody babbled, and nobody heard anything.

The first real sound that broke through Ralph’s desensitized senses was a woman’s sobs. Knowing she would have some answers, Ralph weaved through the milling crowd toward the sobs.

A flash of white pulled Ralph’s gaze upward just as Donny gripped his right bicep hard. Ralph speared Donny with a glare before letting his eyes follow his friend’s line of sight up, up, and up some more until he finally saw a child’s body hanging from the tree.