3 Year Blogaversary & Giveaway

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Today marks three years since I’ve started Stephanie’s Book Reviews! I’ve had ups and downs and have thought about quitting about a hundred times, but overall, I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve read many great (and not so great) books and have made some great blogger friends.

To thank you all for the Likes, Comments, and Follows from the last three years, I’m having a giveaway. You can a win a copy of any book I’ve reviewed (you can look up lists by author or by rating), up to a $20 value from the Book Depository. Open international (as long as Book Depository ships to you) – must be 18 or over to enter.

THANK YOU!

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Review and Giveaway: Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

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Synopsis from Good Read:

For fans of Laura Lippman and Gillian Flynn comes an electrifying novel of stunning psychological suspense.


I am the star of screaming headlines and campfire ghost stories.
I am one of the four Black-Eyed Susans.
The lucky one.

As a sixteen-year-old, Tessa Cartwright was found in a Texas field, barely alive amid a scattering of bones, with only fragments of memory as to how she got there. Ever since, the press has pursued her as the lone surviving “Black-Eyed Susan,” the nickname given to the murder victims because of the yellow carpet of wildflowers that flourished above their shared grave. Tessa’s testimony about those tragic hours put a man on death row.

Now, almost two decades later, Tessa is an artist and single mother. In the desolate cold of February, she is shocked to discover a freshly planted patch of black-eyed susans—a summertime bloom—just outside her bedroom window. Terrified at the implications—that she sent the wrong man to prison and the real killer remains at large—Tessa turns to the lawyers working to exonerate the man awaiting execution. But the flowers alone are not proof enough, and the forensic investigation of the still-unidentified bones is progressing too slowly. An innocent life hangs in the balance. The legal team appeals to Tessa to undergo hypnosis to retrieve lost memories—and to share the drawings she produced as part of an experimental therapy shortly after her rescue.

What they don’t know is that Tessa and the scared, fragile girl she was have built a  fortress of secrets. As the clock ticks toward the execution, Tessa fears for her sanity, but even more for the safety of her teenaged daughter. Is a serial killer still roaming free, taunting Tessa with a trail of clues? She has no choice but to confront old ghosts and lingering nightmares to finally discover what really happened that night.

Shocking, intense, and utterly original, Black-Eyed Susans is a dazzling psychological thriller, seamlessly weaving past and present in a searing tale of a young woman whose harrowing memories remain in a field of flowers—as a killer makes a chilling return to his garden.

Black-Eyed Susans

I received a copy of this title from NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

Black-Eyed Susans will be available August 11, 2015

Heaberlin effortlessly weaves together past and present into one suspenseful tale of a woman trying to outrun her monster. Ignore the Gillian Flynn comparison. Julia Heaberlin’s Black-Eyed Susans is so good it doesn’t need it.

Black-Eyed Susans is not your usual serial killer story. Details to what exactly happened to Tessa when she was taken at sixteen are kept vague. The horrors the other girls in the grave may have faced are also not expounded upon. There is no grand speech from the killer explaining what made him/her the way he/she is. The story is really more about Tessa’s journey to recovery, which after almost twenty years, is still not quite finished.

Tessa is the lone survivor of the Black-Eyed Susan killer. She testified against the man who is now on death row with very little time left. When Tessa finds the out of season black-eyed susans planted outside her bedroom window she believes it’s the work of the killer, her monster. And it isn’t the first time it’s happened. She joins the team working to free the man she helped convict before it’s too late. In doing so she is forced to confront secrets she’s kept and memories she’s repressed.

Tessa was a likable heroine. Other than being super protective of her teenage daughter and that the other “Susans” talk to her in her head, she’s not as crazy as you might think she would be. She’s paranoid (maybe even rightfully so), but she’s functioning and has made a good life for herself and Charlie, her daughter. Adding to the paranoia brought on by the flowers she finds outside her window, she starts receiving gifts from her childhood friend Lydia, who she hasn’t seen since the trial ended about twenty years ago. Lydia and her family disappeared into the night and no one had heard from them since.

The story is told in alternating chapters of Past and Present. I’m a big fan of multiple timelines and it’s done excellently here. There were several chapters that ended in cliffhanger moments and the next chapter you were in a different timeline. It definitely kept me turning the pages, feeling unable to stop because the story was continually suspenseful in at least one timeline at any given time. After the first two parts of the story, the third is told in Tessa’s Present and Lydia’s Past, and one chapter from The Monster which was also very effective story telling.

This is a very character-driven novel, which I loved. I feel like we really got to know Tessa, even though she was not always the most reliable narrator. I liked all of the side characters, her daughter Charlie, their neighbor (and comic relief) Effie, the lawyer and love interest Bill, Charlie’s father Lucas, and the forensic scientist Jo. I also felt the side characters from the Past, Lydia and the therapist that is helping prepare Tessa for trial, are very well done.

There’s not much more I can say that wouldn’t involve spoilers. Overall, I really enjoyed Black-Eyed Susans. It was a well paced, character-driven, suspenseful novel that I couldn’t stop reading. And during the few times I wasn’t reading – for silly things like work – I was thinking about reading it. I would definitely recommend it to fans of Suspense and character-driven novels.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

4 stars

Now for a Giveaway!

Enter the rafflecopter below for a chance to win a copy of Black-Eyed Susans! Please note that if you win, your information will be forwarded on to the publisher so they can mail out the copy. US only (sorry international friends)!

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*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS

I can’t help myself and have to mention one more thing. THIS DOES CONTAIN SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the book, please don’t read any further.

While we find out who the killer is, we never get his/her name at any time throughout the book (I went looking for it while writing my review because I couldn’t recall it and realized only pronouns or his title was used). I think this is a brilliant, subtle narrative device which reinforces the theme of the story being about Tessa and not the serial killer.

That said, I still wish there would have been a little more info on the killer as to the how’s and why’s. But, as I mentioned earlier, this story isn’t really about him and it doesn’t really detract from the story not knowing those things.

2 Year Blogaversary

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Today is Stephanie’s Book Reviews 2 Year Blogaversary! My first ever post was a review of Her Last Breath by Linda Castillo on June 23, 2013. I hope my reviews have gotten little better since then…

Since I’ve started I’ve written 430 posts. My top 5 most viewed reviews are:

Opposition (Lux #5) by Jennifer Armentrout

Sentinel (Covenant #5) by Jennifer Armentrout

Ruin & Rising (The Grisha #3) by Leigh Bardugo

The Ruby Circle (Bloodlines #6) by Richelle Mead

The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom

(Apparently series enders are the most searched for reviews.)

Thanks to all those that have followed, commented, and liked things on this little blog. It’ll never be one of those blogs with thousands of followers or be a money maker, but I enjoy it.

To thank you, I’m hosting a giveaway for an ebook of your choice, up to $10.99 (I know that’s kind of a random number, but I’ve noticed a lot of ebooks on my own wish list are this price). The winner will get their choice of a kindle book or Nook book. Don’t have an e-reader? You can download apps on your tablet or smart phone.

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Free Books Abound

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This week has been great for free books for me! I decided to share my excitement.

FROM THE AUTHOR

-I received (signed!) copies of Remember Me and Get to Me by Lara Van Hulzen from the author for review.

-I also received a signed copy of Boy Band by Jacqueline E. Smith. I bought the Nook copy of this book, but I brought to her attention some formatting errors in the final copy (they’re working on it!) and she very graciously offered me another copy. I’m looking forward to re-reading this one!
GIVEAWAY WINS
-I received a copy of The Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks from Cook’s Reviews.
-I also won, but have not yet received, The Fill-in Boyfriend by Kasie West from Confessions of a Book Geek and A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab from Lost in a Great Book.
The Fill-In Boyfriend   A Darker Shade of Magic (A Darker Shade of Magic, #1)
And last but not least, don’t miss your chance to win a free book! Click the above link to go to my Tax Refund Share the Wealth Giveaway and win any book I’ve reviewed on my blog – open for two more days!
Happy Reading!

2015 Reading Goal Update

I’ve been saving Wednesdays to re-blog my posts from The Bookish People, which was a collaboration blog I joined. Unfortunately, due to the lack of time from the moderator and many of the contributors not contributing on time, it only lasted three weeks. I decided to try and use Wednesdays to do my own Discussion/Random Topic posts.

This week’s topic from The Bookish People was a reading goal update and since I already had it drafted, I decided that’s what I’ll go with today.

My reading goal for 2015 is 115 books. I decided on this number because it’s an increase from last year’s goal (100) and I thought it was a doable number taking into account my new job which has longer hours, a shorter lunch break, and really cuts into my reading time.

I’ve debated on whether or not to include re-reads in my count, but ultimately decided to only count new books. I’m currently at 42 books, which is 5 books ahead of schedule, according to Good Reads.

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Do you have a reading goal? What is it? How are you doing?

There’s Still time to enter my Tax Refund Share the Wealth (Ha Ha) Giveaway! It’s open until May 9th!

Tax Refund Share the Wealth (Ha Ha) Giveaway!

I think we've all faced "intaxication" in one way or another!

I received my first tax refund check in the mail yesterday! I decided to share the vast wealth (haha) and host a giveaway! You can win any book I’ve reviewed (see them listed by rating or by author) in your choice of a couple different kind of formats, up to $15.00. You can choose a book from The Book Depository, as long as they ship free to you, or you can be “gifted” a Kindle or Nook copy.

*I believe the Rafflecopter will take you to a new page, so before you get to it, you may want to look at my sidebar to follow the blog by WordPress, e-mail, or Bloglovin’ and leave a comment (about what book you may want to win) for entries!*

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Blog Tour, Review, and Giveaway: Gone by Anna Bloom

 

Title: Gone

Author: Anna Bloom

Genre: Mature YA (intended for readers ages 16-19)

Publication: July 28th, 2014

Rebecca Walters harbours a dark secret, and as the fifty-three bangles she wears on her wrists as a self-imposed sentence of guilt remind her, she can’t even begin to consider moving on. Not after what happened on that night six months ago… a night which she can’t remember and yet managed to change her life forever.

When Rebecca comes across Joshua Adams, man equally haunted by past tragedies, on a moonlit beach, both of their lives are destined to change forever, and when the girl made out of the sun meets the boy made out of the moon and sea, anything can happen… but will the knowledge of their murky pasts bring them together or drive them apart?

Will Rebecca finally be able to claim her freedom? Will she stay and fight to be the girl she found on the sandy beaches of Cornwall or is she destined to keep running and hiding from a past that won’t stay Gone? One thing’s for certain: either way, nothing will ever be the same again.

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Anna Bloom is a contemporary romance writer who writes about life as it happens. Combining a busy schedule of looking after two small children whilst working in a local school and completing The Uni Files series she also spends a lot of time imagining kissing hot guys – all in the name of her art.

                  Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

REVIEW

Welcome! I’m so excited to be a stop on the blog tour for Anna Bloom’s new book, Gone.

I feel like Anna Bloom gets better with every book she writes. I’ve read her Uni Files books and thought they were cute and fun, so I was expecting to like Gone and I was not disappointed! Often times when you read different books/series by the same author they use a lot of the same tropes and character mannerisms and phrases, so I was almost expecting a younger version of Ben and Lilah. But Bloom definitely defied my expectations and wrote a completely different tale with new characters that are nothing like the ones she’s written before.

Let’s talk about POV. If you’ve followed my blog at all, you know that I LOVE multiple 1st Person POV. It can be tricky, but when done well I think it really gives the best emotional payoff. And Bloom pulls it off beautifully. Bex and Josh both have distinct voices and I never mixed up their chapters. They each carry their own guilt and pain, which is a major part of the story, and Bloom manages to convey each in different ways.

One thing that always bugs me in YA books is the insta-love factor, but I actually think it works here. When one of them comments about how they’ve only known each other a couple of days, it almost surprises me, because it really does feel like they’ve been together longer.

While I felt the story was pretty well paced, there were a few chapters towards the middle of the book that dragged a little bit for me. Also I thought that the phrases “the boy made of the sea and the moon” and “the girl made of sun” were used a little too much.

Overall, I really enjoyed Gone. It was a sweet story with a deeper message of forgiveness and acceptance. I would recommend this book to fans of YA contemporary.

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CHECK OUT THE REST OF THE STOPS ON THE BLOG TOUR:

July 28th

Kimberlyfaye Reads (http://kimberlyfayereads.com)

Flutters and Flails (http://fluttersandflails.blogspot.com/)

Camisado Mind (http://camisadomind.blogspot.com)

July 29th

Actin’ Up with Books (http://actinupwithbooks.blogspot.com)

The Phantom Paragrapher (www.thephantomparagrapher.blogspot.com)

Stephanie’s Book Reviews (https://stephaniesbookreviews.wordpress.com)

July 30th

JRRichardson Fics (http://jrrichardsonfics.wordpress.com/)

Holly’s Hot Reads (http://hollyshotreads.wordpress.com)

July 31st

The Book Lovers (http://thebooklovers.org)

I’m Buried in Books (http://wwwburiedinbooks.blogspot.com/)

Books With Izzy (http://bookswithizzy.blogspot.com/)

August 1st

Inside the Pages of a Book (www.insidethepagesofabook.com)

Sleepless in Chicago (http://www.sleeplessinchi.com)

Good Choice Reading (http://goodchoicereading.com)