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Review: The Life I Left Behind by Colette McBeth

[ 3 ] May 16, 2016

life i left behind book coverReviewed by Bethany Kelly

The Life I Left Behind by Colette McBeth is an enticing and intricate thriller told mainly in the perspective of two women: Melody and Eve.

Melody Pieterson lives a life ruled by her distrust of herself and the people around her. She keeps herself hidden behind the walls of a fortress, both mental and physical. However, when Eve Elliot’s body is found by a man and his dog on their walk one day, Melody’s carefully built façade is shattered. Six years prior, Melody was attacked and left for dead at the exact same place Eve was, and one of her friends, David Alden, was found guilty of the crime.

With the two incidents having uncanny similarities, and David’s recent release from prison, the cops automatically point the finger at David for the murder. As Melody tries to make sense of everything that is happening, she begins to think that David may not have been the one that attacked her. However, the answers that she is searching for may come at a price. Will she be able to handle the truth? And will she live long enough to find it?

This novel is told in the perspective of Melody and Eve’s ghost. I had a hard time reading Melody’s sections, not because they were badly-written, but because they were so well-written and in character, that I found myself feeling some of Melody’s emotions. Her chapters were filled with sorrow, depression, and fear. McBeth did a fantastic job capturing the essence of a character living in constant fear and mistrust of herself, but again, it was difficult to read through these parts of the book because they were overwhelmingly depressing. I loved that McBeth used Eve’s lingering spirit to recount the days and months leading up to her murder. McBeth certainly has a talent for creating well-developed characters!

I liked the overall story line…I mean, who doesn’t love a good thriller? If I could find one fault in this novel it would be the complicated webs woven throughout the story that sometimes get a little jumbled with the change in perspectives. The ending, however, made up for this completely. I never would’ve guessed the culprit, and was surprised by how well McBeth set this up. She left breadcrumbs for us throughout the novel, but they weren’t noticeable until we were made privy to the identity of Melody’s attacker.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this novel and would love to read more of McBeth’s novels.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Bethany Kelly is currently getting her MFA at Goddard College and has a BA in English. She is a writer, editor, and stay-at-home mother and wife who spends her spare time (when she has some) reading and cooking. Check out her website at

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Minotaur Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The House That Made Me

[ 0 ] May 16, 2016

house that made me book coverReviewed by Poppy Johnson

The House That Made Me, edited by Grant Jarrett, is a book of essays by 19 contemporary writers who were prompted to look at Google Earth and find their childhood homes, then write about how those homes shaped their writing today. On paper, this is a grand idea. Many of the writers describe life altering moments and poignant snapshots from their childhoods to lead the reader through personal family tragedies, joys and triumphs, as well as their accomplishments as writers.

In each story, the home is definitely used as the backdrop, and it either starts to brighten or darken the writer’s landscape for the future. Most of the essays begin with a shout out to Google (I wish they hadn’t). Some of the writers do provide vivid portrayals of their childhoods–these portrayals definitely made me want to go out and find their other written works. But just as many took the assignment too literally and focused on – surprise, surprise – the Google Earth portrayal of their home. I admit that I too have tracked my current and former homes on Google. It was fun, sure. Learning about someone’s childhood home can be fascinating, but not if the focus is on the literal view of the home today (who cares?).

We read about a writer who climbed his roof to learn of the world and was shaken by the space shuttle disasters. There is another writer who shares a Canadian home through Google Earth with her son. There are those deeply affected by their moves as children from one home to another, a writer from 1960s Chicago who escaped a difficult life, and writers who grew up in other countries with stories of their own to tell. At the end of the book are the photos and biographies of all the writers who contributed to the essays, and many of them are accomplished and well worth following up on.

I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in learning a little about the writing process, and more about the specific writers who participated in the compilation. As a side note, the last time I checked, Google was still showing a white in-ground rusty basketball hoop that fell down in a storm over 15 years ago at my house. Are those Google images updated yearly, or are they supposed to be updated on a weekly basis? There I go again…focusing more on Google than the essays…

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

After a decade of working in several NYC law departments and teaching, Poppy decided she enjoyed writing full-time. She currently works as a freelance writing consultant, and lives with her husband and sons on the East Coast.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by SparkPress. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Mailbox Monday

[ 10 ] May 15, 2016

Welcome to Mailbox MondayMailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at the Mailbox Monday blog.

Since I was on vacation last week, here are the books that made their way into my physical and digital mailboxes over the last 2 weeks:

Paper Review Copies

behind closed doors book coverdream land book coverlawyer for the cat book coveraunt dimity book covermiss jane book coverbelgravia book coversemper sonnet book coverbeekeeper's daughter book coverall the missing girls book coversecondhand souls book coverthe children leary book coverthis is my brain on boys book coverthe fairest of them all book coversomeone like you book coveramy snow book coverreverie book coverwolf of sarajevo book coverandy & don book coverred flags book coveri have a voice book coveramherst book coverlillian on life book coverriverbend road book coverthe boiling river book covermuseum of heartbreak book coverworry free living book cover

Digital Review Copies

torn by eden book coversport of kings book coverchasing lady amelia book coverchildren of earth and sky book cover

My Picks from Book of the Month Club

i let you go book coverheat & light book cover

More Additions to My Personal Library

embers of love book coverhouse of happy mothers book coverthe wild dark flowers book coverspinster book coverwitch of napoli book coverthe beautiful years book cover

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Review: The Misadventure of Sherlock Holmes by Giles Chanot

[ 1 ] May 14, 2016

misadventure of sherlock holmes book coverReviewed by Jenna Arthur

When Sherlock Holmes and Watson are on a case, chaos and folly are never far behind. In The Misadventure of Sherlock Holmes by Giles Chanot, Sherlock and Watson take on the case of a missing woman, kidnapped from her home. After swooping in and rescuing her, solving what they thought was a stand alone case, the two detectives move into their new abode and wait for their next big case to arrive.

What follows is much more than either detective imagined.

The strange tales start with a lost engagement ring that was not lost but pawned, threats to a man’s life that were not threats but forged letters, and a strange, but energetic, woman named Mary with a lost cat that never existed. These cases, they soon find out, are all at the back and call of one mysterious man, Professor M. As Sherlock and Watson, with the help of Mary Anderson aka Irene Adler, weave their way through the lies, they must put all the pieces together to find the big picture. Who is this Professor M., this Moriatry? What does a cat, a ring, a kidnapping, strange newspaper articles and murders have to do with him? Why are they being taunted?

The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes tells the age old tale of Sherlock Holmes and his counterpart, Watson. The style of writing and case studies within the plot follow the Sherlock brand. The characters, however, are far more tame than readers would expect from a Sherlock tale. For example, Holmes’ character in the Chanot’s adaptation is far less witty and combative than his Conan Doyle archetype. He is much sweeter and more charming, especially towards Irene, ultimately falling in love with her and marrying her. Likewise, Moriarty is present in theory in the plot but the game of cat and mouse that traditionally ensues between Shelock and M never truly takes flight due to Moriarty’s lack of any official appearance. Watson, on the other hand, is written very well, with Chanot making him the narrator–a brilliant idea in this particular case.

Overall, although the characters are tamer, the writing and language style is still amusing and shows a different side to Sherlock than you may have seen before. It is, in this critic’s opinion, an enjoyable one time read.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Jenna lives in the bustling city of Pittsburgh with her wife and furry children. She loves to cook, watch movies, and looks for inspiration in every book she reads.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Giles Chanot. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Unstuffed by Ruth Soukup

[ 1 ] May 13, 2016

unstuffed book coverReviewed by Poppy Johnson

I started reading Unstuffed excited that the author would finally tell me how to get rid of my useless piles of junk. While I wasn’t disappointed, I also wasn’t wowed by the advice–to tell the truth, I was underwhelmed. Soukup has a popular one-in-a-million blog and whatnot and definitely knows her stuff (no pun intended), but I didn’t get much from her book that I didn’t already know.

The book has three main sections for decluttering the home, the mind and the soul. In the home section there are lists and tips for decluttering such as placing everything in a box for a month, taking everything off the counters, and keeping a central place to gather stuff  in order to properly organize it later. Well, OK…that would never work in my house but it may be good advice for someone else. The mind section focuses on discovering how and why we buy things as a pathway to having less stuff overall. Soukup gives good advice in this section on managing e-mail, managing children’s accumulated school related papers (artwork to permission slips), and purging mountains of emotional junk from loved ones. She suggests getting support, pacing your progress and in the end, just letting go.

Finally, the last section of the book includes relationship advice, information on developing a more peaceful spirit (in relation to all of our stressful junk), and learning to be a better friend in order to cultivate really meaningful relationships. We are told to take time to identify our triggers and stressors, and to make small, powerful and purposeful changes such as sleeping more, exercising more, going to church more, etc.

There are many tips and pre-cut sections, quizzes and helpful advice models and this book. Unfortunately, I have either a) seen it before; b) tried it before; or c) heard it before. I do recommend this book to those unfamiliar with basic concept of decluttering. When it comes to myself, I will just keep cleaning up daily since it seems to be working just fine for me.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

After a decade of working in several NYC law departments and teaching, Poppy decided she enjoyed writing full-time. She currently works as a freelance writing consultant, and lives with her husband and sons on the East Coast.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Zondervan. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Giveaway: The Heart of the Fight by Judith Wright EdD & Bob Wright EdD

[ 1 ] May 13, 2016

heart of the fight book coverI have 2 copies of The Heart of the Fight by Judith Wright EdD and Bob Wright EdD to give away! Open to U.S. residents only

About the book

Every couple fights — it’s how you fight that can determine the success of your relationship. This book teaches you to look beyond what you and your partner fight about, and discover the core issues that undermine your relationship.

In the midst of a disagreement, many couples ask themselves, “What are we really fighting about?” Sound familiar? As it turns out, breakups and divorce don’t happen because couples fight, they happen because of how couples fight. In this much-needed book, Judith and Bob Wright — two married counselors and coaches with over thirty years of experience helping couples learn how to fight well — present their tried-and-true methods for exploring the emotions that underlie many relationship fights.

In this unique guide, you’ll learn how to use disagreements as an opportunity to deepen your understanding of your partner, bring more intimacy to the relationship, strengthen your bond, and really learn from the conflicts and tensions that occur between you. You’ll also learn how to navigate the fifteen most common fights couples have, including “the blame game,” “dueling over dollars,” “If you really loved me, you’d . . . ,” “told-you-so’s,” and more.

If you’re ready to start fighting for your love, rather than against it, this book will show you how.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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