Saturday, September 24, 2016

*Review* Californium by R. Dean Johnson

Genre: YA Fiction
Published: July 19, 2016
Pages: 352


A coming-of-age crossover novel about growing up, selling out, and fitting in.
     It's late summer 1982 when the Houghton family uproots from Paterson, New Jersey and moves to Yorba Linda, California—the self-anointed "Land of Gracious Living." Fourteen year-old Reece is trying his best to believe his family has come to California for the opportunities it affords and not to outrun a shared family secret, but he's beginning to realize that even his heroes have flaws, everybody lies, and starting a band may be his only chance at salvation.
      With a bullhorn, a borrowed guitar, and his new best friends—Keith, a know-it-all who knows very little; and Treat, a mohawked kid obsessed with obscure albums—Reece starts a punk group of his own.
      While Reece's relationship with his parents suffers under the strain of new jobs, new friends, new crushes, and old secrets, his confidence soars. Even without a gig or a song they can play the same way twice, the buzz about the band is swirling, and it's not until the night of the band's first gig that Reece will fully understand how much of his new home is authentic, how much is artificial, and how some things, like the chemical element Californium, can be both at the same time.


I received a copy of this book through Penguin's First to Read program in exchange for an honest review.

For some reason I had it in my head that this book was set 10-15 years before it is, so there was a bit of a social disconnect for me for a while, until I went and read the blurb again. Things started to make a little more sense then. It was a little surreal for me reading something that really qualifies as historical fiction (in my opinion) that is set at a time when I almost existed. Surely I can't be that old right?

I wanted to like this book. I wanted to be sucked into it and not let go. Neither of those things happened for me. I would have been fine letting my loan expire without finishing it, except that I don't like not finishing books. It wasn't bad, but it was just kind of meh for me. Almost like a boring Dazed and Confused.

There were some questions that I did kind of want to know the answers to, and I am glad I finished the book and got those answers, or at least started on the path towards them, but it wasn't anything that I wanted to know so badly that I stayed up all night just to keep reading.

Overall I give Californium 3 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

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About the Author

I haven't been R Dean Johnson my whole life. My parents named me Robert Dean Johnson, Jr. They called me Bobby. Everyone did until high school when I graduated to Bob. It felt mature, so I went with it. Who doesn't like a guy named Bob Johnson? It's a fine name up until the point you think you might want to be a writer.

I didn't know I'd want to become a writer. In fact, I started college at Cal Poly Pomona as an engineering major who wrote stories rather than doing his physics homework, graduated as a business major who wrote really plot-heavy stories about people who didn't like their jobs as business people, and left an ad agency job in Irvine, CA after four years to go back to school and learn more about writing stories. Good ones. 

It wasn't until a brief stint in the MFA program at the University of Alabama that I discovered my namesake, The Robert Johnson. The guy whose name is synonymous with the Delta Blues. The guy who may or may not have sold his soul to the Devil at the crossroads and suddenly started doing things with a guitar unlike anyone else. The guy who died young and mysteriously. How can some kid from Anaheim (yes, home to Disneyland) compete with a guy that dangerous? A guy that cool? Well, I can't. And frankly. publishing anything as Bob Johnson sounds about as real to me as John Doe or Anonymous. So, I have two early publications as Robert Johnson, Jr., and the bulk of my work appears under the name, R. Dean Johnson. 

I hold an MA in English from Kansas State University (Wildcats, not Jayhawks). After that brief stint at Alabama, I went on to earn an MFA in Creative Writing from Arizona State University (Sun Devils, not Wildcats).  

After teaching stops at Prescott College (AZ), Yavapai College (AZ), Cameron University (OK), and Gotham Writers Workshop (NY), I am now an Associate Professor at Eastern Kentucky University where I teach fiction and creative nonfiction in our low res MFA program, Bluegrass Writers Studio. 

All that, but I'm still just Bob. The guys on my softball team call me Bob. My undergrad and graduate students call me Bob. My wife, the writer Julie Hensley, calls me Bob. Even my kids (7 and 3) sometimes call me Bob. Pleased to meet you, I'm Bob.

*Review* Crossroads by Mary Ting

Genre: YA Paranormal
Published: April 6, 2011
Pages: 295


Can two worlds collide in dreams? 

Protecting her from the fallen was his duty.
Falling in love was never part of his plan.
Loving her was forbidden.
Being with her was all that mattered, even if it meant he would be exiled for all eternity. 

Claudia Emerson's life is about to change when her good friend, who coincidentally shares the same first and last name, dies in a tragic accident. Distraught at the loss of her friend, Claudia's dreams become tumultuous, and through them she mysteriously travels to another world called Crossroads. There, she unexpectedly meets Michael, a nephilim--half angel, half human. Now that she's been there, fallen and demons are after her, suspecting she must be special, and it is up to Michael and the other nephilim to protect her. Her dream becomes a nightmare as more secrets are revealed about who she really is, and the true identities of the people she loves most.


I was hired to proofread this book. The only aspects of the story that I influenced were spelling and grammar. If you feel that my connection to the book makes my review untrustworthy, so be it, but this is my honest review.

This is the first book in the series and should have been the first one I read, but it wasn't. In spite of knowing ultimately how things would end, I was still intrigued by the story. It really helped to build the depth of character for many of the characters that I already feel intimately familiar with. And although future books in the series do a pretty good job of explaining the basic rules that apply to angels in this world, Crossroads does it in more depth so that it makes a little more sense. While I can say that it's not absolutely necessary to read the books in order, I would definitely recommend it.

This book had a little bit of everything; action, romance, mystery, but mostly action and romance. I did find myself sort of wishing that Claudia would consider another love interest (and that's with knowing how things turn out down the road!) 

Overall I give Crossroads 4 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

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About the Author

International Bestselling Author Mary Ting/M. Clarke resides in Southern California with her husband and two children. She enjoys oil painting and making jewelry. Writing her first novel, Crossroads Saga, happened by chance. It was a way to grieve the death of her beloved grandmother, and inspired by a dream she once had as a young girl. When she started reading new adult novels, she fell in love with the genre. It was the reason she had to write one-Something Great. Why the pen name, M Clarke? She tours with Magic Johnson Foundation to promote literacy and her children's chapter book-No Bullies Allowed.

Ways to keep in touch with the author:

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Twitter: @maryting

*Review* Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Genre: Contemporary YA
Published: September 1, 2015
Pages: 310


My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.


I listened to the audiobook version of this book. Like most audiobooks I've listened to, I felt like the opposite gendered voices seemed like caricatures. They didn't see a lot of use though, so my annoyance was minimal. Additionally, about half the time Olly was "talking" it was through emails and voiced by a male narrator.

This story hooked me, but also made me feel a little bit like I was listening to Me Before You as told through the eyes of Will (if he had wanted to live). The stories are completely different, with completely different medical issues, but the feelings of the stories were similar to me.

I wanted to know what would happen between Madeline and Olly, or if anything would happen. While it's easy to accept her falling for him, it's not quite so easy to accept him falling for her. Under the circumstances in the story, I was able to accept it, but I had to do a fair bit of rationalizing in my head for it.

I was pretty surprised by the ending, although I probably should have seen it coming (and I think a small part of me did, maybe). It did piss me off though.

Overall I give Everything, Everything 4 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

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About the Author

Nicola Yoon grew up in Jamaica (the island) and Brooklyn (part of Long Island). She currently resides in Los Angeles, CA with her husband and daughter, both of whom she loves beyond all reason. You can find her at and on twitter and tumblr @NicolaYoon

*Review* A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Published: August 27, 2012
Pages: 337


A grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

Meet Ove. He's a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn't walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove's mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents' association to their very foundations.


I read this book for my September book club meeting. I read it early so that I could loan my copy to another member. That is really the only reason I have finished it already. 

This book got off to a slow start for me and I really don't like Ove. He has apparently been a bitter old man since the day he was born. That's rather hard for me to relate to. There were times when I felt sorry for him though.

About halfway through the book I finally started to get interested in the story. i wanted to see if Ove would succeed in his mission, or if he would continue to be foiled by others. At about the same time, we started to really see more of Ove's depth, getting underneath his bitter old man exterior which made it so that I wanted him to succeed less and less.

In the end the book managed to yank a few tears straight from my eyes, so you may want to have some tissues handy.

Overall I give A Man Called Ove 4 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

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*Review* The Smaller Evil by Stephanie Kuehn

Genre: YA/Thriller
Published: August 2, 2016
Pages: 248


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 a copy of this book through Penguin's First to Read program in exchange for an honest review.

This book was confusing, but it's supposed to be, I think. We see basically the whole story from Arman's perspective, and he is kept in the dark for a reason. That reason may or may not be revealed in the end (honestly, I still have some questions which makes this a bit of a choose your own ending kind of story, except the choices are endless because they're all in your head.) 

This book took me straight into the heart of a cult, and it's very clear that's what it's about (the only thing that is absolutely clear about this book is that it's about a cult in fact.) As a fairly self-assured thirty-two year old woman, I have a hard time understanding how people could get sucked into a cult, but through the eyes of Arman, it makes a lot of sense. I found myself kind of wanting to be part of it all too.

I felt connected to Arman and really feel like I understand as much about him as any teenager trying to figure out who they are understands about themselves. 

Overall I give The Smaller Evil 4 out of 5 stars because it kept me intrigued until the end. - Katie 

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About the Author

Stephanie Kuehn holds degrees in linguistics and sport psychology, as well as a doctorate in clinical psychology. Her debut young adult novel, CHARM & STRANGE, was the winner of the 2014 William C. Morris Debut YA Award, and her second novel for teens, COMPLICIT, was named to YALSA's 2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults list. Stephanie was also awarded the 2015 PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship for her forthcoming novel, THE PRAGMATIST, and her most recent book, DELICATE MONSTERS, has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Stephanie lives in Northern California with her husband, their three children, and a joyful abundance of pets.

*Review* The Scrapyard Man by S.H. Richardson

Genre: Romance
Published: September 4, 2016
Pages: 182


Dramatic. Hyper sensitive. Emotional. I know what they say about me. But I don’t give a shit. Buck taught me to never be ashamed of who I am, to never hide my true nature, and I will be respected for it. My kindness is often mistaken for weakness. I use that to my advantage. Mother and Aunt Enid rely on me to take care of them, even though they don’t see me as a capable man, one who can take care of himself. They are wrong. Buck was the one person who saw my true nature and harnessed it in order to maximize my strengths and hone my skills. He knew the real me, what I’m capable of. But he’s gone now, and I’m left searching for someone to believe in me. 

What a difference a few months can make. My sister Clover found the love of her life in Range. I couldn’t be happier for them. The men who live at Buck’s Junkyard have become my second family, my brothers. But I want more from one of them. He’s sweet and kind, maybe too kind to give me what I need, but our bond of friendship is solid. I long for a savage beast that can take my body to heights unknown and never let me fall, not a shy worrywart that’s afraid to take what he wants. I want my hero to be more than just a sandwich, even if I have to force him to make the move we both want.

While helping Sebastian grieve the loss of the only father figure he’s ever known, Ashley catches the eye of a dangerous deviant hell-bent on having her for himself. With the lives of their women at stake, Sebastian and the other Junkyard Boys set aside their differences and fight together to save the women they love.

My husband looks like a creep in this photo.


I was hired to proofread this book. The only aspects of the story that I influenced were the spelling and grammar. If you feel that my connection with the book makes my review untrustworthy, so be it, but this is my honest review.

This is the second book in a series, but the first one that I've read. While it's very possible that I would have had a better understanding of some of the characters actions if I had read The Junkyard Boys first, I don't think doing so is absolutely necessary. I didn't feel completely lost at any point, or like there were inside jokes going over my head because I hadn't been introduced to them. So while it's probably advisable to read the series in order, I don't think it's necessary to enjoy this book. 

I do not really care for motorcycle club romances, and while the junkyard boys are not a motorcycle club, they act a lot like one, so I had a difficult time really enjoying this book because of that aspect.

I did enjoy the interactions between the characters. It was really obvious that they all care for each other and have each others backs. I particularly liked seeing Ashley ribbing Sebastian all the time. Their flirtation was cute. 

What I didn't enjoy in the story was the dominant alpha male attitudes, but that is what typically turns me off of MC romances too, so it's not surprising that I wouldn't enjoy it here. If you like dominant alpha males, you will very likely like these men. I just don't. 

Overall I give The Scrapyard Man 3 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

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*Review* Entwined Souls by Michele Gantz

Genre: Paranormal Romance
Published: September 6, 2016
Pages: 100


Amia Grace has always escaped into the abandoned graveyard to write, no clue why she’s drawn here of all places. Lately, it’s the only place that the feeling of being watched doesn’t overwhelm her. Everything in her life on track, until she meets Gage McGavin. 

There’s something about him that creates a riot of emotions that Amia can’t quite place her finger on.  One moment she wants him, the next she wants to run scared. 

Gage only wants Amia for one reason. Her power. He knows that she’s more than just a writer. More than just a girl. She’s the future, and he plans on controlling that. 

Until his brother enters the picture. Hunter has a goal of his own.  Amia will be his. 

What do you do when your soul isn't completely your own?


I was hired to proofread this book. The only aspects of the book that I influenced were spelling and grammar. If you feel that my connection with the book makes my review untrustworthy, so be it, but this is my honest review.

I felt like this book was a fresh take on the vampire romance sub-genre, although it was also reminiscent of The Vampire Diaries in a way. Gantt's vampire lore includes elements I've never encountered before, but they definitely make a certain amount of sense. 

I was intrigued by the story and wanted to keep reading, even after it was over. The story was gripping with just enough mystery to keep me guessing. The characters were well rounded and sufficiently flawed to seem real.

There were a couple aspects of the story that just did not make sense to me though, but they were fairly minor details and not really a big deal in the whole scheme of things.

Overall I give Entwined Souls 4.5 out of 5 stars. It was a very solid debut. - Katie 

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About the Author

In my time on this Earth, I have always been intrigued by the written word. As a child, I was always a strong reader. As I grew older, I found other hobbies, that was until I was introduced to Edward Cullen, yes, I was a Twihard! I loved the Twilight Saga very much and opened my eyes back to the Young Adult book world. I was ravenous again, reading any YA book I could get my hands on.

This eventually lead to the inevitable right? Fifty Shades of Grey entered my world, and while I, like many, enjoyed it. But I was left thinking, wow, the romance genre really has changed, and I like it!! I began paging through Amazon desperately searching for books. Then I discovered book blogs and my world was done.

I eventually became a reviewer for a blog, and couldn’t have been more thrilled. I discovered a love within myself for dark, dangerous antiheroes that could be found within the pages of books. This amazing indie book world introduced me to some of my now best friends, opened my eyes to amazing authors, and has turned into a career that I know love.

After reviewing for another blog and helping with blogging duties, I craved running my own blog, and with the help of some of the most amazing women, we created #Minxes Love Books. Silly name as it may seem, we had fallen in love with Jaimie Roberts writing, and we were known for creating funny hashtags in her street team. She began calling us her #Minxes, so we KNEW when we started a blog, that it just had to be that! We have grown a following and love what we do!!

Now, join me as I enter into the world of authorship. I honestly cannot wait to share this story as these characters have been screaming in my head for years for me to tell their story.