Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sleepy Hollow / Severed: A Tale of Sleepy Hollow

(L) Last year's cover, (R) This year's cover. Gorgeous, both!
New 2015 Cover!! Love it!

Varley, D. (2014). Sleepy Hollow. Self-published.

Young Adult / Paranormal / Romance

I gave this book 4.5 out of 5 Stars

This is a super creepy, super sexy take on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, with Katrina Van Tassel as narrator. Really quick and fun (but CREEPY. Did I mention that?) read!

As opposed to the original story, this Katrina has strong, modern ideas and asserts herself, much to the consternation of her father and the villagers. Often, she acknowledges that she gets away with her actions because of her father's money and position, and you can't blame her. At eighteen, Katrina is expected to follow the restrictive social norms, but she has ideas of her own. (GASP! A female has ideas of her own!)

Ichabod, despite the name, is swoon-worthy, and sparks fly fast as he and Katrina meet. I think Katrina being eighteen and Ichabod a young twenty something gave the attraction and passion of the romance more credibility. There are plenty of obstacles (not the least of which is a headless horseman!)keeping these two apart and some interesting and unexpected twists. Varley does a nice job of casting doubt on the relationship, and readers will certainly question whether or not they have this story figured out.

As a fan of Sleepy Hollow tales, I enjoyed the familiarity of the setting and many character names. All characters, new and old, were authentic and well-written. From the sleazy, lecherous Peter Bottoms to the brutish but mysterious Brom, each unique personality is clearly defined, which makes scenes memorable and eliminates having to turn back pages to figure out who is who.

But what measures the greatness of any Sleepy Hollow tale is the Headless Horseman – and Varley’s version is to die for! (pun intended). The kills are not sugar-coated, and so readers be warned that there is plenty of description and bloody horror in this book – and not only in the Horseman’s kills. Katrina is no shrinking Victorian flower, and she is not afraid to get her hands dirty and play dirty to get what she wants and/or to do what she thinks is right. There were several scenes when I cringed and squirmed with discomfort, which is a real kudo to Varley’s writing skills. My audible “EWWWWWW” while reading was enough to get raised eyebrows and questions from people nearby.

The book concluded a bit rapidly for my liking, and I felt there was one major gap left to fill regarding Brom -- plus the very last sentence leaves a wide-open, unanswered question. Given some of Katrina’s actions, I don’t think a sequel would be possible to get that question answered, so it just hangs there. Arrgh!

I recommend this to young adult and adult readers alike, as long as you understand that heads ARE gonna roll.

Thank you to Dax Varley for giving me an autographed copy of the first version, titled Severed, when I met her at the 2014 Texas Library Association Conference. There were no strings attached, though I am happy to post this honest review in appreciation of her generosity. 

On sale at AMAZON and Barnes and Noble

See the (not nearly as creepy as book)Trailer:

About the author: To learn more about Dax Varley, (she has OTHER AWESOME BOOKS) visit her website, follow her on Twitter, or like her on Facebook.

Inside of my autographed copy!
Click for Hall Ways Review

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Accident

Pavone, C. (2014). The accident. NY: Crown Publishers.
Adult / Suspense / Mystery / Thriller

I gave this book 3.5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads
View the Official Press Release

This is a roller coaster ride of a story. Picture this: you are on a roller coaster, blindfolded, the temperature arctic cold, and the coaster is climbing, climbing; it pauses, and when you are sure you are going to be plunged into a rapid descent, instead, your car abruptly turns right, the air turns hot and humid, and the coaster starts climbing again. Repeat with cold rain subbed for hot air. Repeat with dry wind subbed for cold rain. Get the picture? Then imagine this happens over and over before finally, mercifully, your blindfold is removed, and your coaster crests the highest peak, and you are thrown down, speeding, twisting, turning until the ride slows and comes to a surprising end at a different location from where it started.

That is The Accident.

Though a great plot and behind-the-scenes look into the publishing industry and the power of the media, where the book frustrated me was in the number of characters and points-of-view from chapter to chapter. Most of these characters weren't important to the story -- just illustrations of a point -- and the story got bogged down in extraneous details.  Where a phrase or two would suffice to set a tone, mood, or setting, instead there were paragraphs of phrases, one after another, comma after comma: overkill. I got to a point early on where I could recognize these paragraphs, read the first couple of phrases, and skip the rest.

It was the last third of the book before the story got to real page turning (forward, not backward to refresh my memory about who was narrating)and I was fully absorbed and had to finish -- and for that, the book was worth my time. For maximum enjoyment, I would recommend sticking with it and reading it in a short period of time instead of stringing it out. Had I done that, I think it would be a solid 4 Star rating.

Thank you to Blogging for Books and Crown Publishing for providing me a free print copy in exchange for my honest review -- the only kind I give!

Learn more about author Chris Pavone on his website and check-out this conversation with the author about The Accident and his first book, a New York Times Bestseller, The Expats.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Blue Baboon and the Big Balloon

Mostyn, S. (2014). The blue baboon in the big balloon. Self-published by Mostyn Books.

Children's Picture Book

I gave this book 3.5 out 5 stars on Goodreads.

Fun and funny illustrations make this rhyming "a-la-Seuss-style" picture book worth a look. Warning: kids might LEARN by reading this. I especially recommend it to be read aloud BY children (age 7ish, depending on strength of reader) with an adult on hand for guidance. Here's why. . .

I initially read this myself (actually, I read it to my husband), and I was hooked on the illustrations, but not so much on the text. Though the it does rhyme and pile-on, like a Seuss book, it lacked the lyrical sound you find when reading Seuss. I found myself editing out/in words of my own so that it flowed better, and I also was concerned about some of the vocabulary being well beyond the audience. And then I took the book to my seven-year-old niece. She's going into second grade and reading a little above grade level, and she also has a pretty broad vocabulary.

What a different experience reading this book with a child! What I heard were giggles from the silly rhymes and illustrations, and LEARNING going on! Those vocabulary words that concerned me? My little niece used the rhymes to figure out how to pronounce them (veranda, for example) and context clues to define them. We did have quite an interesting conversation about the definition of a mite. Some kids might get freaked out by the idea that mites exist and there's nothing to be done, but my niece just uttered an "ewwwww" and we moved on.

Her two complaints were that it was a bit long and that the mice liked fried rice (umm, she's seven).

If your kids like rhyming and silly adventure, they'll like this book.

Thank you to the author for providing me a free eBook copy in exchange for my honest review -- the only kind I give! 

Want to learn more about the author/illustration team? Go to their website or follow them on Facebook.  

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Silent Prayer: A Prayer Series I

Ahsan, S. (2013). A silent prayer: a prayer series I
     Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, LLC.

Adult / Romance
Winner in Romance category at 2014 Los Angeles Book Festival, 2014 Paris Book Festival, 2014 Hollywood Book Festival, and Honorable Mentions in 2014 New York Book Festival

I gave this book 3.5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads

I generally don't post full reviews of adult books I have read, and I mostly avoid reading romances, so when Samreen Ahsan approached me to review her book, my initial response was hesitant, to say the least. 

Great writer that she is, Sam piqued my curiosity with her premise and description of her book and persuaded me to read it, and I am so glad that I did. Ahsan has found a unique blend of ingredients that are both relevant to the times and bigger than the here and now.  Be prepared to be left thinking -- and frustrated by the unanswered questions and crazy cliffhanger ending. (Fortunately, book two A Prayer Heeded, is already out and in my TBR pile! I am hopeful that there is a whole bunch of tying-up of loose ends.) I am okay with cliffhangers, but I needed something resolved and was left wanting.

Through the relationship that develops between Rania, our protagonist, and Adam, readers are shown the complexities of navigating different cultures and belief systems.  As if that's not interesting enough, there are sprinkles of the paranormal that hint at a higher level of spirituality than most experience.  Ahsan has a real flair for storytelling and definitely knows how to hook a reader. So you may be wondering why I gave this a 3.5 and not a 5.

Aside from the lack of any resolutions being given, the relationship between Rania and Adam is riddled with red flags -- manipulation, domination, obsession, subservience - indicating an unhealthy, borderline dangerous relationship. It was very hard for me to want this relationship to work, and given Rania's past and issues with intimacy, if Rania were my friend, I'd tell her to end it and run away fast; only Divine intervention would be an excuse for her to give Adam a chance.

Readers are only given small glimpses of the paranormal (Divine?) element in book one, but I feel like that's going to be a door flung wide open, taking the story in a new direction in book two.  THIS is what I'm really anticipating will be the game changer that takes this series to a five star one.

I recommend this book to readers who enjoy a page turner but don't mind waiting for a second book to get their justifications, clarifications, and hopefully, a little mystification!!

Adult books by nature are going to have content that puts them in that category, and there is a great deal of sexual tension, references to sex and sexual abuse, and a bit of innuendo, but no sexual activity. But, with the exception of the liberal use of the "F-bomb," (which really didn't fit, especially coming from Rania), the book is clean. 

Thank you to the author for providing me a free eCopy of the book in exchange for my honest review -- the only kind I give.

Barnes & Noble

Chapters Indigo 


Read more about the author, Samreen Ahsan, on her website, on Goodreads, or on Twitter.


Galvin, A. (2014). Salted. Las Vegas: On-Demand Publishing, LLC.

YA / Fantasy

I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars!

ALL ABOUT AARON / A3 GIVEAWAY author Aaron Galvin gives us robust characters and non-stop action, making this imaginative story of characters from a parallel, underwater world (the Salt) worth a look. Warning: be prepared to be frustrated waiting for the sequel, Taken With A Grain of Salt. Though I had a hard time initially getting into this story, the last third of the book made up for what the start lacked.

This was my introduction to Selkies, man-seals that can transform to live in both the water and land world.There are a lot of characters (drybacks, selkie, silkie, and more) to keep up with, but each was uniquely written enough to leave readers with a distinct impression and real interest in what happens next.  The dialogue of our fabulous main character, Lenny, even allows readers to hear his Boston accent. Get ready to run the full gambit of feelings for the characters -- you will loathe one and love another -- plus author Aaron Galvin also throws in a couple of characters that aren't so easy to read.  Again, a maddening hook to assure we read the sequel.

Where the story lacked -- and why I'm rating a 4 instead of a 5 -- was in the Salt world building. The majority of the story takes place on land, so readers just get a small peek into the workings of the underwater world and its occupants, and at times it is more than a little confusing. Having said that, this is forgivable since clearly the sequel will take us below the sea, where I expect all will be revealed. **UPDATE: Have read book 2 and OH YEAH! Galvin filled in the blanks and then some. This is a 5 star read all the way.

There is no sex, but it is clear one character is repeatedly raped by her owner.  It is quite violent at times (and mostly without punitive consequences or remorse) with blood and gore and death. Language is tame.

Thank you to the author, Aaron Galvin, for providing me a free eBook copy in exchange for my honest review -- the only kind I give. 

3rd Place! Congratulations!



Click to buy Salted
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Congratulations to Samantha R. and Alicia K. for getting book copies, and Angela K., Tres B., and Tori A. for winning bookmarks!
And, don't forget to enter the A3 GRAND PRIZE GIVEAWAY to win signed copies of all four of Aaron's books.



Saturday, July 19, 2014

SOULLESS! Cover Reveal!

FABULOUS Wrap-Around Cover, no?
COVER REVEAL WEEK: 7/14-7/19/2014

I am so excited to be a part of Crystal Collier's Soulless Cover Reveal Week, with my turn to post being this last (but not least) day of the big event!

Soulless, coming October 13, 2014, is book two in the Maiden of Time Trilogy, which started out with the beautifully written Moonless. (side-note, Moonless has the most gorgeous cover and is available as an eBook today for just $2.99 on Amazon! Buy it in eBook now for instant gratification, but buy the print copy to love on that cover. Read my review of Moonless.)

But back to Soulless, here's the cover blurb . . . 

Alexia manipulated time to save the man of her dreams, and lost her best friend to red-eyed wraiths. Still grieving, she struggles to reconcile her loss with what was gained: her impending marriage. But when her wedding is disrupted by the Soulless—who then steal the only protection her people have—she’s forced to unleash her true power.

And risk losing everything.

With the memorable characters, plot, and HOLY COW ending of Moonless, I fully expect Soulless to grab me by the collar, pull me in, and give me both answers and surprises not to be forgotten.  

<<<<< Click to win an autographed ARC on Goodreads!

  • Signed Print Book
  • Signed eBook Copy of MOONLESS!
  • Receive SOULLESS one week before the official release!
  • Free Shipping (In the US)
  • (eBook and perks also available for pre-order) 

Came back to Hall Ways on 10/16/2014 for a stop on the Blog Tour!

Crystal Collier is a young adult author who pens dark fantasy, historical, and romance hybrids. She can be found practicing her brother-induced ninja skills while teaching children or madly typing about fantastic and impossible creatures. She has lived from coast to coast and now calls Florida home with her creative husband, three littles, and "friend" (a.k.a. the zombie locked in her closet). Secretly, she dreams of world domination and a bottomless supply of cheese. 
Isn't she adorable?
You can find out more about Crystal, her books, and her love for cheese on her blog, Facebook, or on Twitter. Be sure to sign up for her newsletter to receive release news and freebies.

Friday, July 4, 2014


Vivian, H.W. (2014). Chasers. Raleigh, NC: Lulu Press, Inc.

YA / Fantasy, magic, mystery
I gave this book 3 of 5 stars on Goodreads - I liked it!

The premise of this story is one of the most unique I have encountered in YA books. That premise, in combination with the dazzling cover, enticed me into reading H.W. Vivian's Chasers

Narration was done in alternating chapters from three-ish viewpoints: main character Shelby's, nemesis the Spirit Man's, and confusing character (more on that in a bit) Steve's -- and also one other chapter from another character we never meet again, whose sole purpose is to give us information on the Spirit Man.  It was an odd tactic, but I liked knowing more about the Spirit Man and his motivations and history.  It didn't make me forgive the Spirit Man or have sympathy for him, but it was interesting to know why he had a vendetta against all the Conditionals, and the Spirit Man was one of the best written characters of the book.

Where the story fell short for me was in unrealistic reactions & emotions by some of the characters, but primarily Shelby. For example, fourteen-year-old Shelby has a particularly horrifying encounter with the Spirit Man where she is physically harmed.  Where most people, teenaged or not, would have a complete meltdown and possibly even go into shock if something like this happened to them, Shelby doesn't even break down into tears when it's over.  This was nightmare stuff and actually a strong point of author Vivian's writing is in her descriptions and attention to detail.

Another problem for some may be that our heroine, Shelby, isn't really even likable. Though many teens (humans!) are egocentric by definition, Shelby is conceited and pompous to the extent that she even states things about her adoring fans and her general awesomeness -- and she's a bully.  This combination made it hard to believe that she would realistically have an ounce of popularity, yet she did.  I kept waiting for a dose of humility, or a comeuppance -- something satisfying enough to make her a likable person, but it never really came. Of course, there is no rule that says the main character of a book has to be likable, and certainly Shelby is memorable, which is another kudo to Vivian's writing.

Confusing to me were the characters of Tyler and Steve, who really didn't need to be included. The information Tyler shared could have easily been conveyed by another character (May's grandmother or Shelby's parents), and the insta-love fell flat. Steve's back story seemed irrelevant, bordering on inappropriate, and the one contribution he made in conjunction with Shelby's quest seemed unnecessary. It is possible that these characters could come into play in a sequel book, but the story had closure, with just a few loose ends that really didn't need to be tied. I am not sure what there is left to tell, but if there is more to come in this story, I wish that Steve in particular would have been better attached.

The book is violent, but not gory, and the language is clean. There is no sex, though there are some adult situations (alcohol, marriage problems, references to infidelity) courtesy of character Steve.  Fans of curses and the supernatural will enjoy this one-of-a-kind storyline, and I look forward to more from H.W. Vivian.

Thank you to Lulu and the author for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review -- the only kind I give!

LEARN MORE about Chasers and H.W. Vivian by going to her Facebook, Twitter, or website

Click to purchase Chasers from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Lulu Press.