Category Archives: book reviews

Book Review: Precise by Rebecca Berto

Image links to Amazon page!

Image links to Amazon page!


I’m super excited today to get to review the debut novel of Rebecca Berto. Some of you might be familiar with her blog, Novel Girl. A couple months ago, she released her debut novelette, PRECISE, which is a prequel to her forthcoming novel, PULLING ME UNDER. First of all, I owe her an apology, because posting this took me way longer than it ought to have. I was deep in revision-mode for SHRIKE for most of February, and March just sort of blipped by, and all the sudden it was April. As a result, this is me sort of shamefacedly tugging a lock of hair at you all and confessing my much-belatedness in this review.

So here we go!



I would give PRECISE three stars.

The story is about a young woman named Kates, who (at the beginning of the book) lives with her husband Paul and her abusive mother. The book confronts this abuse head on through the eyes of Kates, who struggles both with her own feelings of intense confusion and her desire to create a better life for her new daughter.

Kates was a very strong character throughout the story. Her need to build a new existence with Paul and baby Ella pushes her outside of the realm of her comfort, and as a reader, I was drawn into Kates’ story. Throughout the narrative, the existent tension kept me reading as Kates tries to break free of a mother who has her fingers so tightly clenched around her life. Paul and Ella are the sole bright spots in Kates’ world, and she defends them in the best way she knows how.

Her mother, Rochelle, is terrifying. Even without being able to empathize with the experience of growing up in a home with a parent who wished you harm, it’s easy to put yourself in Kates’ shoes and imagine the trapped feeling.

The first couple chapters were a bit confusing to me, and they had a few turns of phrase that took me out of the narrative a little, but the story found its grip and held on tight after that.

While PRECISE took a little bit to find its footing, the sample pages from PULLING ME UNDER at the end of the book showed that the momentum gained throughout the rest of PRECISE was nothing if not amplified in the writing of its follow-up. PRECISE was a solid debut, and Rebecca shows an excellent talent for character development that makes the next installment in this series exceedingly promising.

Rebecca has just also released her first full-length novel, DROWNING IN YOU, which you can buy on Amazon (AND it’s climbing the ranks — as of this writing it’s at #179 in Paid Kindle Books!)

Stop by Rebecca’s blog, chat to her on Twitter, and leave her some love in the comments!

Want me to review your book? Check out my Request a Review page!



Book Review: Forged by Fate by Amalia Dillin


Click cover to buy on Amazon!

Amazon description:

After Adam fell, God made Eve to protect the world. — Adam has pursued Eve since the dawn of creation, intent on using her power to create a new world and make himself its God. Throughout history, Eve has thwarted him, determined to protect the world and all of creation. Unknown to her, the Norse god Thor has been sent by the Council of Gods to keep her from Adam’s influence, and more, to protect the interests of the gods themselves. But this time, Adam is after something more than just Eve’s power—he desires her too, body and soul, even if it means the destruction of the world. Eve cannot allow it, but as one generation melds into the next, she begins to wonder if Adam might be a man she could love.

A couple months ago, my friend Amalia Dillin asked me to review her upcoming book, Forged by Fate. Since we initially bonded over a mutual love of mythology, I thought that sounded like a grand idea. So here we go!

I’d give FORGED BY FATE by Amalia Dillin three and a half stars.

First of all, the writing is almost flawless. It’s beautiful prose from front to back of the book, and I expect great things from Amalia in the future. The story is told from three points of view: Eve in the present reincarnated as Abby; Eve at the time of Creation; and the Norse god Thor, who has been set to protect Eve throughout the ages. The latter storyline spans centuries and hops forward a bit with each revolution of the trio of POVs.

The world-building in FORGED BY FATE is very nuanced and well done. The gods walk among mortals, but each pantheon also seems to have its own home. Asgard for the Aesir, Olympus for the Greeks, etc. Thor makes his way through many of these groups of gods throughout the story, and Amalia’s attention to mythological detail is exceptional.

Eve as a character is multi-layered and fascinating. Sought after by her brother Adam since the time of creation, she’s spent lifetimes (literally) avoiding his advances. Adam himself has been punished for his greed and lust for power by having his memory erased. While Eve remembers each successive incarnation of herself, Adam goes through his lives oblivious — until the present.

I loved the premise of this book. It’s a rich look into the idea of “What if ALL the gods were real?”

It was a smooth, easy read that I sped through quite quickly. As the first in a trilogy, I have high expectations for the remaining two books.

While well structured, the one thing that I felt the book was missing was escalating tension. For the most part, the triad of POVs worked very well, but I found that it hampered any threat to Eve in the two storylines that occurred in the past because I knew that she was fine in the present. I also found that Adam as an antagonist didn’t create as much tension as I hoped he would. Though those around him were worried by his presence, he didn’t do anything to justify that worry in the present-day storyline. The result of those things is that I didn’t have a lot of sense of the stakes in the novel, personal or external. That said, I feel that the second and third books have the potential to create those stakes and tension using the foundation built by FORGED BY FATE. I fully intend to continue with the series.

I hope you’ll check out Amalia’s blog and Goodreads page. You can also follow her on Twitter!

Show Amalia some love in the comments!

Book Review: In Her Shadow by August McLaughlin


Click the image to buy the book from Amazon!

From Amazon:

One woman locked in a basement, nearing death and longing for escape. Another baffled by the inexplicable symptoms wreaking havoc on her life. Both are lost and alone, yet somehow connected. And time is running out…

Near the tenth anniversary of her parents’ unexpected death, Claire Fiksen, a lovely young Harvard-grad and gifted psychologist in Minnesota, develops bizarre symptoms of an eating disorder that threaten her fledgling career, her relationship with a handsome young medical student, her grasp on reality and, soon, her life.
When her beloved grandfather reveals that there may be more to her parents’ death than she’s realized, Claire’s pursuit of healing becomes a desperate search for answers as she delves into her family’s sordid past. Meanwhile, someone is watching her every move, plotting to draw her into her own twisted web of misery.
Claire has something he needs, and he’ll stop at nothing to obtain it. Every step Claire takes brings her closer to the truth and danger. And her life, she discovers, isn’t the only one at stake.
I’ve known August McLaughlin via blog/Facebook/Twitter for a long time now. Not only is she a powerful voice for women’s rights, nutrition, and women’s sexuality (check out her Girl Boner series — it’s hilarious and amazing), but she’s a phenomenal writer. When I heard she’d released her debut thriller, IN HER SHADOW, I knew I had to check it out. The premise sounded engaging, and I got a copy almost immediately.
I read it in one day.
Now, the last few years have been kind of rough reading years for me. I think the last book I read in such a short time was The Hunger Games, and I’d been having a lot of trouble getting through books I’d even been looking forward to reading. Imagine my joy when August’s book just bowled me over and took over an entire afternoon.
After finishing it, here are my thoughts.
I’d give IN HER SHADOW four of five stars. Or rather, four and a half, but I couldn’t find a picture of that.
Claire Fiksen is an engaging protagonist. The book sucked me in from the first few chapters. Interspersed with the introduction to Claire and her boyfriend, her career and her family, there are glimpses into the mind of a chilling stalker. The story also cuts to a young woman trapped in a basement and her disturbing life. The upward spiral of the plot moves all three viewpoints along masterfully. The pacing is brisk, and the writing is fluid and beautifully wrought. I grew to love Claire’s character as the book unfolded.
As Claire starts to unravel her family mystery, she starts experiencing the symptoms of an eating disorder she’s never before struggled with. That interesting layer to her development was intriguing, and August brings it home to a startling revelation.
The plot is intricate and well-woven, and the storytelling is fantastic. From the earliest chapters, IN HER SHADOW builds to its emotional and cataclysmic conclusion. With plenty of twists and turns, this is a beautifully layered and multi-faceted debut from August McLaughlin. I suggest you scurry over to Amazon and buy it now.
You can find August here:
Whatever you do, make sure you keep your eyes peeled for August’s work in the future.
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