Book Review: Befriended

Ou external reviewer Sara had another great read this year! She has been busy making her little yarn creatures (Adorkable Little Crafties) but has been reading in her off time. This one was called Befriended by Ruth O’Neill.

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Synopsis: Gemma Peacock’s life was perfect – or at least, she thought it was. She had a home she loved, a job she enjoyed, and a husband she adored. The only cloud on the horizon was the continuing tension between Gemma and her mother-in-law, but that’s the same for everyone, right?

After the death of her beloved husband, Ritchie, everything begins to fall apart.

Indiana Manors’ life, on the other hand, is far from perfect – but she knows just what she has to do to fix it. Befriend Gemma Peacock – and destroy her.

This novel is about Gemma, a woman who has recently lost her husband. After his funeral, she meets a mysterious woman, who we learn has malicious plans for her. As the story unravels, more and more twists and turns are revealed that keep you guessing. This is a modern mystery that will keep you guessing.

After Gemma and Indiana become friends, we are given the briefest of glimpses into the plans Indiana has for Gemma. Throughout the book, progressions and flashbacks are both revealed in small snippets of information, never giving away too much at once. The twists just keep coming, every time you think you have the ending figured out. I always love a mystery where I can’t figure out the ending until the author wants me to!

There are a lot of aspects to this book, and it is hard to describe without revealing spoilers. The book so quickly turns to the unexpected, there isn’t much to say that won’t reveal it.

I enjoyed the character developments and the twists in the plot. I think the author had a very interesting idea, and clearly planned through how she was going to reveal the whole story, one small part at a time.

This book was an easy read, that kept me staying up too late more than once. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a relaxed mystery, without any darkness or too much fluff.

My only complaints are that it could likely have used another pass through editing, as there were a few typos here and there, though I am notorious for noticing these in any book. There were also a few moments where the dialogue or plot just felt a little to simple or cliche, and I think the author could have expanded more.

Overall, this book was a great read!

Book Rating: 4.5/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer:  This book was sent to us in an ebook format by the author to read and give our honest review.


I recently became a part of the Harper Collins Book Blogger group and they sent me my first batch of ARC’s! Watch the video to see what I got!

ACTUAL NATURAL HEALTH & WELLNESS PRODUCTS, INC.

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Book Review: Dark Matter

September has hit and I am out of readathon territory. It was intense and I was busy but I will say that I managed to read a lot of books! Anyways, I decided to do a buddy read this month with Markus and we chose Dark Matter by Blake Crouch.

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Synopsis: Jason Dessen is walking home through the chilly Chicago streets one night, looking forward to a quiet evening in front of the fireplace with his wife, Daniela, and their son, Charlie—when his reality shatters.

It starts with a man in a mask kidnapping him at gunpoint, for reasons Jason can’t begin to fathom—what would anyone want with an ordinary physics professor?—and grows even more terrifying from there, as Jason’s abductor injects him with some unknown drug and watches while he loses consciousness.

When Jason awakes, he’s in a lab, strapped to a gurney—and a man he’s never seen before is cheerily telling him “welcome back!”

Jason soon learns that in this world he’s woken up to, his house is not his house. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born.

And someone is hunting him.

This book was amazing. I had no idea what I was really getting into when I picked this up but I had been told by many people that it was really good so I went for it and I was not disappointed!

The book had me on the edge of my seat right from chapter 1. I really needed a good pick me up sci-fi and this one was exactly that. I felt like I was right in it with Jason Dessen trying to figure out what was happening and what to do next.

It has become one of my top Sci-Fi reads. Probably my favorite of this year so far. There were a lot of concepts in this book that were explored and I was so glad that they went in the direction they did.

I heard that they are making this into a movie so I hope they can capture the amazing written work of this book and do it justice on the big screen!

There is so much I want to say about this book and talk about it with people but I can’t because of SPOILERS. So I would just say to read it and then we can gush about all the stuff that happens in this masterpiece. If you are a fan of mind-bending, plot-driven books that will keep you guessing then pick this one up! 

Book Rating: 5/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads!

Disclaimer: I read this book because I wanted to. I was in no way compensated for my review.


I recently became a part of the Harper Collins Book Blogger group and they sent me my first batch of ARC’s! Watch the video to see what I got!

ACTUAL NATURAL HEALTH & WELLNESS PRODUCTS, INC.

Book Spotlight: Why She Lied

Welcome to the blog tour for a truly unique, true crime type thriller, written memoir style called, Why She Lied by Julie Coons. Please read on for an excerpt and a chance to win a copy of the book!

*Warning: This book has many extreme triggers including but not limited to, sexual assault, child abuse, violence, and various types of trauma.

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Publication Date: March 3rd, 2019

Genre: True Crime/ Memoir

Will she have to lose her child to save her child?

The day she tells her boyfriend she’s pregnant, is the same day he tells her he’s been accused of molestation. His trial is set to begin the following day.

She needs answers…

To get them, she tricks her boyfriend into signing a release form, giving her full access to all of his legal documents. She uncovers the truth, he’s guilty.

To save her unborn child from this monster, she gets an abortion.

FIVE YEARS LATER and still rebuilding her life, Julie finds out her ex-boyfriend has just become the most wanted man in America, involved in human trafficking. When detectives ask for her help locating him, she gets drawn into a baffling mystery. What began as a seemingly simple search soon turns into a much darker reality.

Someone from her past is watching…

Bit by bit, the tapestry of her own secret childhood begins to unravel. What she learns about her past will haunt her forever: family isn’t always what it seems.

Can she help bring this predator to justice, or will she die trying?

Add to Goodreads

Excerpt

I wanted to throw up. It was so disturbing to hear her talk about a grown man trying to have sexual relations with a child. I expressed my deepest condolences to her.

Then she asked me the million-dollar question: “Are you still with James?”

“No way, of course not, but I have a problem. I found out the day before he told me about his court date that I was pregnant with his child.”

I could actually hear her gasp on the other end of the phone.

Without taking another breath she said, “You have to get rid of that baby.”

Available on Amazon

Giveaway: Print Copy for residents of the United States, and a digital copy internationally!

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About the Author

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JULIE COONS lives in a small town in Oregon. THIS DOES NOT LEAVE THIS HOUSE was her debut memoir. Amy’s bookshelf reviews awarded it the #1 position for top 10 books of 2018. Her second book WHY SHE LIED is based on a true story. Her books are written to lead a movement toward positive change. She tells the stories of her life with honesty and strength.

Julie Coons | Facebook| Twitter


WhyShelied

Blog Tour Schedule

September 2nd

Reads & Reels (Spotlight) http://readsandreels.com

Breakeven Books (Spotlight) https://breakevenbooks.com

LoopyLouLaura (Review) https://www.loopyloulaura.com/

September 3rd

Scarlett Readz & Runz (Interview) https://scarlettreadzandrunz.com/

Touch My Spine Book Reviews (Spotlight) https://touchmyspinebookreviews.com

LIBRORUM IN SEMPITERNUM (Review) http://libroruminsempiternumhome.wordpress.com

September 4th

Just 4 My Books (Review) http://www.just4mybooks.wordpress.com

Shalini’s Books and Reviews (Spotlight) https://bookreviewsbyshalini.com/

Reviews and Promos by Nyx (Review) https://nyxblogs.wordpress.com/

September 5th

Kim Knight (Interview) http://kimknightauthor.wordpress.com

Jessica Belmont (Review) https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/

My Bookish Bliss (Review) http://mybookishbliss.com

September 6th

Mermaid in these Jeans (Spotlight) https://mermaidinthesejeans.com

Dash Fan Book Reviews (Review) https://dashfan81.blogspot.com/

Misty’s Book Space (Review) http://mistysbookspace.wordpress.com

The Faerie Review (Review) http://www.thefaeriereview.com

The Magic of Wor(l)ds (Spotlight) http://themagicofworlds.wordpress.com

Entertainingly Nerdy (Review) https://www.entertaininglynerdy.com

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It is finally September and I completed my NEWTS TBR but until I make that video, here is my September TBR where I talk about the books I will be reading this month and announce my giveaway winner!

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Book Review: The Grey Sisters

Welcome back bookworms! July has been quite the reading month and this was the 5th book I had finished which is pretty good for me. This one was called The Grey Sisters by Jo Treggiari. Jo was kind enough to send me physical copies of both of her books because I read her first book called Blood Will Out, loved it, and have been a huge supporter of her since. So now I am starting a Jo Treggiari section on my bookshelf 🙂 which means that you better write more books Jo!

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Book Synopsis: D and Spider have always been close friends, and they are further united in their shared heartbreak: they both lost siblings in a horrific plane crash two years earlier. A chance sighting of a beloved cuddly toy in a photograph of the only survivor spurs D to finally seek closure. She and Spider and their friend, Min, set off on a road trip to the mountainside site of that terrible crash.

Ariel has lived on the mountain all her life. She and her extended family are looked down upon by neighboring townsfolk and she has learned to live by her wits, trusting few people outside of her isolated, survivalist community. A terrifying attack sends her down the mountain for help; on her way, she comes upon the three girls — a chance encounter that will have far-reaching consequences for them all.

Jo’s books always start out with such gripping chapters and this one did not disappoint! The book starts immediately in an intense scene and the sense of urgency pulls you right in.

She is very good at telling a story from multiple perspectives. Her first book was like this too, bouncing back and forth between two perspectives and this one continued with that feeling but it was bumped up to about 4 or 5 different perspectives and the way that they all tied together was magnificently told.

The book had the perfect amount of “creepy” factor for me. I love books that can make me feel like I am being watched or that there is a hidden figure in the room. It adds so much suspense to the book and just gets me in that creeped out mood that I get when watching a well put together scary/thriller movie. This book was a success on this front. Some of the situations that the characters were put in would make me feel really scared and I absolutely loved that the book could make me feel these things.

There are definitely some twists and turns that you won’t be expecting. I sort of figured it out when I was about halfway through but that is because I have a feel for Jo’s writing style now and I look for certain cues. But that is all a part of the fun for me. If I can figure out a story before it is revealed then I feel like a badass.

This book is a great read for someone that wants a YA fiction with a little bit of thriller in it. And if you get the chance to check out her other book, Blood Will Out, then I strongly suggest it because you will be thinking about it well after you have finished.

Book Rating: 4/5

You can buy this book on Amazon or Penguin Random House Canada and find it on Goodreads!

Disclaimer: I was sent this book in physical format by the author as a gift. I decided to read and give it an honest review because I wanted to.


Watch my reactions to people’s assumptions about me!

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Book Review: The Usurper King

Hey bookworms! I read my TBR jar pick from June (yes I know, its a little late) and this one has been on my shelf for quite a while. It was called The Usurper King by Zeb Haradon and was it ever an interesting one.

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Synopsis: The Usurper King takes place in an alternate universe where the serial killer Ted Bundy was never apprehended and is now running for president in 2016.

Jim, a sufferer of a hybrid computer-biological virus that causes premature aging, tries to pay for his treatments by winning money on the game show ‘Guts!’, which has contestants competitively predict the future by reading animal entrails.

As Jim begins to find omens in the entrails of Bundy’s victory, and details of Bundy’s murderous past are uncovered, Jim and another contestant take it upon themselves to stop his ascent to power before it’s too late.

So this book is kind of a roller coaster. It has its ups and downs. I read some other reviews after reading this book and I completely agree with a bunch of them that state that they don’t really know what genre this book is because it has elements of sci-fi, thriller, and historical fiction but none so solidified that it fits just one of them.

I honestly was captured by the author’s writing style and quite enjoyed how he expressed his characters. I wouldn’t necessarily agree with all of the decisions that the characters made but they were each unique and had a way of giving you just enough knowledge about them that left you wanting to know more.

I never knew where this book was going next. It kept taking different turns which I wasn’t expecting and I loved that. The addition of Ted Bundy as a political figure made it even more interesting. To have a character of that vicious enamour in a position of power is a very scary thing and reminded me of Donald Trump. Thank god for being a Canadian 😛

Trigger warning: Animal Cruelty

There is quite a lot of animal sacrificing for the sake of reading their entrails in this book. I do believe that it went a little overboard with the disregard for the animals lives and killing them as if they were just objects that have no value. That being said, I didn’t let it hinder my experience of the novel that much.

I think this book would be good for someone that isn’t too squeamish and wants a book that doesn’t really have a category, it is just humorous and interesting.

Book Rating: 3.5/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads!

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me in physical format by the author to read and give an honest review.


Watch my Small Booktuber Tag video where I talk about what it is like to be a small booktuber and all the amazing people in the community!

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Book Review: Solving Cadence Moore

It has been a minute people but we are back and we have a review for you! This one is called Solving Cadence Moore by Gregory Sterner and it’s a murder mystery documentary style book. What genre is this do you ask? Um, thriller? Goodreads is no help here so if I had to classify it then I would say slow-burn thriller.

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Synopsis: Ten years ago, famous young singer Cadence Moore disappeared without a trace on a remote highway in western Pennsylvania. To this day her fate remains unknown. Was she kidnapped or murdered? Or did she simply run away in search of a new life, leaving behind the abuse and heartbreak that haunted her?

Charlie Marx, host of the popular conspiracy radio show “Underground Broadcast,” is obsessed with Cadence. Desperate to find her after deceiving his boss to save his job, he launches an investigation of his own, digging deep into the missing woman’s past and uncovering her darkest secrets. Working feverishly for weeks, he claims to have solved the mystery and promises to reveal Cadence’s fate at the end of a groundbreaking podcast series and live radio special.

But is it all a lie? As years of twisted details slowly unravel, Charlie races to solve the biggest mystery of the decade. If he succeeds, it will mean closure for Cadence. If he fails, his entire world will come crashing down live on air–and the truth may be lost forever.

This was the first time that I read a book like this where it was set up in a documentary style with a plot that was revealed through a set of podcasts. So right there, it wins with originality on my eyes.

I liked the book because it had a lot of build up with explanations into backstory so you were able to have all the pieces of the puzzle while trying to figure it out yourself.

The whole time you are wondering yourself if this girl actually survived or if she has been dead the whole time and who murdered her if she was even murdered. It really makes you think the entire way through. She is very much a mystery and you follow along with the podcast as they figure her out.

I will say that at parts of the book, it felt like they were going a bit far into the descriptions. It was a book I could put down if I needed to do something else but was still gripping when I picked it back up. A slow burn I as one would say.

And the cover of this book is just so beautiful! Props to the designer who draws the eyes to this book with their great design.

There was a point about 3/4 of the way through the book where the characters condoned drinking and driving which I get was part of the scene but I didn’t think that was necessary. I mean why put this as the action of a “good” character and then let them do it (or at least allude to them doing it)? It may just be me but I find that a big subject like that shouldn’t be shown as a thing to be OK with. I will say that this and some other derogatory terms they used when describing other characters was what brought it down to a 4 star instead of 5 star read.

Everything else I thought was fantastic and it really progressed well to a thrilling conclusion! I would recommend this to someone that wants a murder mystery that is given to you in a different style than usual but just as captivating.

Book Rating: 4/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and Book Depository and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in physical format by the author the read and give an honest review.


I made a TBR video for the month of May and talk about all the books that I will be trying to read.

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Book Review: The Secrets You Hide

Gimme a Thriller! Gimme a Psycho! What does that equal? A Psychological Thriller! I read this one during the day tours we took while in Scotland. All those long bus rides gave me ample time to read and then I finished this book on the airplane on the way back home. This one was called The Secrets You Hide by Kate Helm and was sent to me by NetGalley.

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Synopsis: In her eyes, no-one is innocent…

A knock-out read for fans of Clare Mackintosh, Anatomy of a Scandal and Apple Tree Yard.

Georgia Sage has a gift: she can see evil in people. As a courtroom artist she uses her skills to help condemn those who commit terrible crimes. After all, her own brutal past means she knows innocence is even rarer than justice.

But when she is drawn back into the trial that defined her career, a case of twisted family betrayal, she realises her own reckless pursuit of justice may have helped the guilty go free.

As Georgia gets closer to the truth behind the Slater family, something happens that threatens not only her career – but even her own sanity. At first, she fears her guilt around the events of her terrible childhood is finally coming back to haunt her.

The truth turns out to be even more terrifying . . .

This book was phenomenal. The way the author fleshed out the characters and had them start out as one type of person and eventually become another type of person was just fantastic.

It was written in such a way that you could almost feel what the characters were going through. And the main character had a backstory that was slowly revealed as the book progressed, giving you layer by layer of her past (like peeling an onion).

I can honestly say that I did not see the end coming. It was like one of those things where you read and read and think that you have it all figured out and then get to the end and realize that you knew nothing.

I couldn’t put this one down. It was so captivating and thrilling. I wish I would have got to it sooner. It was fun too because it is a book based in the UK and I noticed that they were using some of the slang terms from the UK that I was actually hearing people say while exploring Ireland and Scotland. For example, when someone is asking you to come for tea, they will say “want to come in for a cuppa”. Things like this added to the book and gave it that authentic feel.

I would recommend this book to anyone that wants a very well written psychological thriller that will keep you on your toes!

Book Rating: 5/5

You can buy this book on Book Depository and Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by NetGalley and Bonnier Zaffre in ebook format to read and give my honest review.


I did some book hauling while I was away on vacation because who doesn’t like UK book covers. Check out the video below to see what book I picked up!

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Cover Reveal: Sketch by Didi Oviatt

Sketch cover

Wow! Talk about cover love! I am so happy to reveal this unique cover of upcoming book by Didi Oviatt, Called Sketch. Today, I also have a sneak peek for you, so be sure to read on!

Sketch

Expected Publication Date: June 2019

Genre: YA Thriller/ Psychological Thriller

Publisher: Creativia

When the body of the local girl, Misty Crawl, is found dismembered in an underground bunker, the town is thrown into a whirlwind of panic and speculation. Times aren’t exactly smooth sailing with a depression in full swing. The spaced out community of farmers pull together as one, trying to uncover the guilty party.

Thrown smack in the middle of such chaos, is a group of teens. They’re known troublemakers, but have good hearts. Although they’re innocent, the local law enforcers believe otherwise, and the true killer is lurking far too close for comfort. Will the four be able to uncover the truth before one of them pays the price for Misty’s death? Or will the brutal killer strike again, attacking the heart of the four?

*Sketch is a young adult psychological thriller. It’s a quick easy read, appropriate and gripping for mid-teens and up, with no sexual content and some bloody gore. Parent’s be advised.

Excerpt

As soon as Steven’s dad, Robert Smith, pulls down the road, they look mischievously at one another and then take off in a sprint down the steps into his basement. Steven’s always wanted to know what’s locked away down here. His father told him years ago that it was just a room full of old newspapers. But, Steven’s always known there has to be more to this dingy looking door all locked away. It doesn’t take Chloe long to pick the lock. She’s getting better and faster at it with every lock she opens. The door creaks as it swings open, and there it is.

“Holy shit,” gasps John.

“This is the best day of my life,” says Michael.

“Look at the dust on all this stuff. I’ll bet this door hasn’t been open in years! No one will even notice if we take it!” adds Chloe.

Steven whispers in fear, “I don’t know guys, my dad will kill me if he finds out.”

“No he won’t, Red, I can take him,” jokes Michael.

Staring back at them from the wall to wall metal storage shelves are two small crossbows and an open chest of arrows. Along with old war paint, hatchets, a couple machetes, rope, and one box of newspapers setting on the floor.

“What the hell was my dad doing with this stuff?” Steven asks, more to himself than the others.

Steven’s dad isn’t an adventuress man, and aside from the yearly deer and occasional bear he shoots, he doesn’t even like to get out and do much.

“The bears are getting out of control around here,” and, “we gotta’ have meat to survive,” is his logic for hunting.

He doesn’t enjoy hunting as a sport like the majority of other men and even women in town. It’s more of a chore for him. Which is only one step away from insanity, in Steven’s point of view. Hunting is Steven’s favorite thing to do with his dad, aside from throwing a football.

“Who cares why he has this stuff!?” John says, always the planner of the group. “Let’s just take it now and hurry, in case he forgot something and has to come back home. We don’t want to get caught carrying it all out of your house.”

They grab as much as they can lift and head straight for the woods. Distracted by all the cool things, they don’t even bother to glance at the newspapers in the box on the floor.

Pre-Order your Copy Today!

About the Author

Didi's Pic

Didi Oviatt is an intuitive soul. She’s a wife and mother first, with one son and one daughter. Her thirst to write was developed at an early age, and she never looked back. After digging down deep and getting in touch with her literary self, she’s writing mystery/thrillers like Sketch, Search For Maylee, Aggravated Momentum, Justice for Belle, and New Age Lamians. Along with a six-piece short story collection called the Time Wasters. She’s also collaborated with Kim Knight in an ongoing interactive short story anthology The Suspenseful Collection. When Didi doesn’t have her nose buried in a book, she can be found enjoying a laid back outdoorsy life. Time spent sleeping under the stars, hiking, fishing, and ATVing the back roads of beautiful mountain trails, sun-bathing in the desert heat, along with watching the relaxing dance of a campfire plays an important part of her day-to-day lifestyle.

Didi can be found on her Website/Blog, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and most importantly AMAZON!

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Is anyone taking part in the Harry Potter Magical Readathon? Here is my video showing the books I chose to read for my OWLS! Let me know in the comments if you are participating.

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Book Review: Rarity of the Century

I received an ARC of this book way back when I started up the blog and finally got around to reading it as I am trying to make progress on the blog book TBR when I don’t have paid reviews coming in. This one was called Rarity of the Century by Fawzy Zablah and I am using it as my book for “defense against the dark arts” book (had to start with the letter R) in the Magical readathon.

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Synopsis: Chucho, an aimless tramp of Palestinian/Latino descent, has reached a lull in his young adult life that he surmises is directly linked to a long ago, barely spoken of family tragedy that left him an orphan.

After a brief stint and stellar downfall in the fetish porn industry, he is forced to move back home with his flamboyant uncle in South Beach and get a job at a Brazilian steak house. Just as he is getting used to his new position in life, he falls for the hostess Shiraz Zirel who first torments him via her unattainable beauty and then by ignoring him.

Frustrated with Shiraz, Chucho decides to give up on love. But when a Rapture event of unknown origins occurs over all of South Florida, Chucho and Shiraz find that they are the sole survivors. In fact, Chucho realizes with new-found excitement, they may be the last two people on earth.

Can they be together? Are they fated for love? And what is that strange thing in the sky over South Beach anyway? As the star-crossed lovers journey to investigate the inexplicable phenomenon, they encounter a mysterious, yet familiar third survivor that will force them into a fight for their lives.

I’m honestly not really sure what I just finished reading.

There were 3 different viewpoints of the story. It was essentially the same story being retold from the 3 main characters perspectives so a lot of what was happening was already known and it left little to the imagination. I did not like one single character in this book. They were all pretty conceited in the way they thought about and treated others.

There was no love in this book. It was just people using other people for sex. And don’t get me started on the sex. There was so much emphasis on the man being dominant over the woman and how she was supposed to be his “slave”. *Pardon my french* but are you fucking kidding me?! Men and women should be treated equally in a relationship and there were so many parts of this book where they were treated worse than a dog (I also don’t condone treating any animal poorly). I realize that this may be used to build a nasty character but honestly, it was too much for me to enjoy the book.

Also, trigger warning that there is a lot of rape. It made me feel uncomfortable reading these parts. The second trigger warning I would add is that there is quite a bit of racism towards people of Jewish descent. There is a line where the character says that he wants to be Hitler. I had to pause when I read that and think to myself, what was the author trying to achieve with this?

And then the whole post-apocalyptic thing. It never explains how this came to be. I was kind of waiting for an explanation to tie everything together at the end but nope. No explanation at all.

I feel bad about this review because I was hopeful for an interesting book but I just found myself cringing a lot while reading. I believe that the author had an idea and they tried to make it into a story but it did not feel complete in my opinion. I hope that this rating doesn’t make the author feel like there book is not good. This was just my personal opinion of how I felt about the book but someone else might like it.

*I always hope that authors will continue to write regardless of bad reviews to push through and work on their dreams. You guys make the creations that we love to consume as readers.*

Book Rating: 1/5

You can find this book on Amazon and Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us as an advanced reader’s copy in physical format by the author to read and give an honest review.


I recently uploaded my Booktube Newbie tag video so check it out below if you are interested. I would love it if you subscribed but that is completely up to you!

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Book Review: The Fourth Courier

Hey bookworms! I have another review! It has been a while but I have been working on reading, making videos and planning a trip so that is why. This time, I read an advanced reader’s copy of The Fourth Courier by Timothy Jay Smith.

The Fourth Courier (Arcade)

Synopsis: It is 1992 in Warsaw, Poland, and the communist era has just ended. A series of grisly murders suddenly becomes an international case when it’s feared that the victims may have been couriers smuggling nuclear material out of the defunct Soviet Union. The FBI sends an agent to help with the investigation. When he learns that a Russian physicist who designed a portable atomic bomb has disappeared, the race is on to find him—and the bomb—before it ends up in the wrong hands.

I quite enjoyed this book. It is a nice feeling when an author sends you a book to read and you have no idea what you are going in to but then find yourself caught up in this web of mystery and intrigue.

The characters were well fleshed out and they had just enough backstory to let the reader know all the details they needed to for the story to progress.

There is a heavy influence of LGBTQ+ in this book which I wasn’t expecting from this type of genre but I must say I am happy in the way it was used and glad that genres are branching out and including this type of representation.

I felt myself wanting to know what would happen next and kept myself up late at night to just get through the next chapter…..and then the next one…..and so on. This made me pretty tired at work for a couple days as it was a recurring situation :P.

Polish is also a part of my ancestry so it was interesting to read a book that was set in Poland. I had never really thought about the country or what it looks like over there but the book gave me a pretty good visual image of the economy and what it takes to survive day to day in such a place.

Overall, it wasn’t perfect. It had its little flaws where I would questions a character’s decisions sometimes but it was a solid novel with an intense sequence of events and I would be happy to read more by this author in the future.

Book Rating: 4/5

You can find this book on Amazon and Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author to read and give an honest review.

The author also provided us with an interview he conducted. Check it out below to get to know about him a little bit more.

Timothy Jay Smith (S#1)

THE FOURTH COURIER: AN INTERVIEW WITH TIMOTHY JAY SMITH

You have a new novel coming out, The Fourth Courier, set in Poland. What’s it about?

The Fourth Courier opens in the spring of 1992, only four months after the collapse of the Soviet Union. A series of grisly murders in Warsaw suddenly becomes an international concern when radiation is detected on the third victim’s hands, raising fears that all the victims might have smuggled nuclear material out of Russia.

Poland’s new Solidarity government asks for help and the FBI sends Special Agent Jay Porter to assist in the investigation. He teams up with a gay CIA agent. When they learn that a Russian physicist who designed a portable atomic bomb is missing, the race is on to find him and the bomb before it ends up in the wrong hands.

My novels have been called literary thrillers because I use an event or threat—a thriller plot—to examine what the situation means to ordinary people. In The Fourth Courier, Jay becomes intimately involved with a Polish family, giving the reader a chance to see how the Poles coped with their collective hangover from the communist era.

How did you come up with the story for The Fourth Courier?

The Fourth Courier book goes back a long way for me. In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell and Solidarity won the first free election in Poland in over sixty years. In the same year, Mikhail Gorbachev introduced new cooperative laws in the Soviet Union, which was an area of my expertise. I was invited to the Soviet Union as a consultant, which led to my consulting throughout the former Soviet bloc, eventually living for over two years in Poland.

At the time, there was a lot of smuggling across the border between Russia and Poland, giving rise to fears that nuclear material, too, might be slipping across. While on assignment in Latvia, I met with a very unhappy decommissioned Soviet general, who completely misunderstood my purpose for being there. When an official meeting concluded, he suggested we go for a walk where we could talk without being overheard.

I followed him deep into a forest. I couldn’t imagine what he wanted. Finally we stopped, and he said, “I can get you anything you want.” I must have looked puzzled because he added, “Atomic.”

Then I understood. In an earlier conversation, there had been some passing remarks about the Soviets’ nuclear arsenal in Latvia, for which he had had some responsibility, and apparently still some access. While my real purpose for being there was to design a volunteer program for business specialists, he assumed that was a front and I was really a spy. Or perhaps he thought, I really did want to buy an atomic bomb!

Have you always been a writer?

In the sense of enjoying to write, yes. I actually wrote my first stage play in fourth grade and started a novel in sixth grade, but I didn’t become a full-time fiction writer until twenty years ago. The first half of my adult life I spent working on projects to help low income people all over the world. I always enjoyed the writing aspects of my work—reports, proposals, even two credit manuals—but I reached a point where I’d accomplished my career goals, I was only forty-six years old, and I had a story I wanted to tell.

What was the story?

For over two years, I managed the U.S. Government’s first significant project to assist Palestinians following the 1993 Oslo Accords. One thing I learned was that everyone needed to be at the negotiating table to achieve an enduring peace. So I wrote a story of reconciliation—A Vision of Angels—that weaves together the lives of four characters and their families.

If anybody had ever hoped that a book might change the world, I did. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to bring about peace in the Middle East, but I’ve continued writing nevertheless.

The Fourth Courier has a strong sense of place. It’s obvious that you know Warsaw well. Other than living there, what special research did you do?

Warsaw is a city with a very distinctive character. It’s always atmospheric, verging on gloomy in winter, and the perfect location for a noir-ish thriller.

I had left Warsaw several years before I decided to write a novel set there, so I went back to refresh my memory. I looked at it entirely differently. What worked dramatically? Where would I set scenes in my story?

It was on that research trip when all the events along the Vistula River came together for me. There was a houseboat. There was Billy’s shack, and Billy himself whose “jaundiced features appeared pinched from a rotting apple.” There were sandbars reached by narrow concrete jetties and a derelict white building with a sign simply saying Nightclub. Fortunately, Billy’s dogs were tethered or I wouldn’t be here to answer your questions.

My main character is an FBI agent, and I didn’t know much about it. A friend, who was an assistant to Attorney General Janet Reno, arranged a private tour of the FBI’s training facility in Quantico. That was before 9/11. I don’t think that could be done now. Maybe for James Bond himself but not for a wannabe writer.

If I was going to write a novel about smuggling a portable atomic bomb, I needed to know what a bomb entailed. Weight, seize, basic design, fuel? How would a miniature bomb be detonated? So I blindly contacted the Department of Energy. I explained what I wanted and was soon connected to an atomic expert who agreed to meet with me.

We met on the weekend at a Starbucks-like coffee shop in Rockville, MD. We met in line and were already talking about atomic bombs before we ordered our coffees. He had brought basic drawings of them. He was an expert and eager to share his knowledge.

Can you imagine having that conversation in a café today, openly looking at how-to schematics for building an atomic bomb while sipping skinny lattés?

You’ve mentioned ‘scenes’ a couple of times. I know you also write screenplays. Do you find it difficult to go between the different formats or styles?

The sense of scene is crucial to my writing. It’s how I think about a story. Before I start new work, I always have the opening and closing scenes in my head, and then I ask myself what scenes do I need to get from start to finish.

I think it comes from growing up in a house where the television was never turned off. My sisters and I were even allowed to watch TV while doing homework if we kept our grades up. Sometimes I joke that canned laughter was the soundtrack of my childhood. I haven’t owned a television for many years, but growing up with it exposed me to telling stories in scenes, and it’s why my readers often say they can see my stories as they read them.

For me, it’s not difficult to go between prose and screenplays. In fact, I use the process of adapting a novel to a screenplay as an editing tool for the novel. It helps me sharpen the dialogue and tighten the story.

In your bio, you mention traveling the world to find your characters and stories, and doing things like smuggling out plays from behind the Iron Curtain. Was it all as exciting as it sounds?

It was only one play, and yes, I confess to having an exciting life. I’ve done some crazy things, too, and occasionally managed to put myself in dangerous situations. Frankly, when I recall some of the things I’ve done, I scare myself! By comparison, smuggling a play out of Czechoslovakia in 1974 seems tame. But I’ve always had a travel bug and wanted to go almost everywhere, so I took some chances, often traveled alone, and went to places where I could have been made to disappear without a trace.

It sounds like you have a whole library full of books you could write. How do you decide what story to tell and who will be your characters?

I came of age in the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement and the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, so I developed a strong sense of social justice. That guided my career choice more than anything, and when I quit working to write full-time, it was natural that I wanted my books to reflect my concerns. Not in a “big message” way, but more in terms of raising awareness about things that concern me.

For example, take Cooper’s Promise, my novel about a gay deserter from the war in Iraq who ends up adrift in a fictional African country. It was 2003, and in a few days, I was headed to Antwerp to research blood diamonds for a new novel. I was running errands when NPR’s Neal Conan (Talk of the Nation) came on the radio with an interview of National Geographic photographer Jodi Cobb about a project on modern-day slavery. It was the first time I heard details about human trafficking, and was so shocked by its enormity that I pulled my car off the road to listen.

I decided on the spot that I needed to find a story that touched on both blood diamonds and trafficking. When I went to Antwerp a few days later, I visited the Diamond District as planned, but also visited a safe house for women who had been rescued from traffickers.

In The Fourth Courier, you team up a white straight FBI agent with a black gay CIA agent. Even Publishers Weeklycommented that it seemed like an ideal set-up for a sequel. Do you plan to write one?

Probably not. My to-be-written list is already too long.

I’m close to finishing the final edits on a book set in Greek island village, which is more of a mystery about an arsonist than a thriller. I’ve already started a new novel set in Istanbul about a young refugee who’s recruited by the CIA to go deep undercover with ISIS. I’ve never written a novel set in the States but I have the idea for one.

To date, my books have been stand-alones with totally different settings, characters, and plots. I try to write what I like to read: smart mysteries/thrillers with strong plots and colorful characters set in interesting places. I suppose like me, I want my stories to travel around and meet new people.

You’ve had gay protagonists or important characters since your first novel over twenty years ago when gay literature had not yet become mainstream. How would you say that affected your choices as a writer, or did it?

Friends warned me that I shouldn’t become known as a gay writer because it would pigeonhole me and sideline me from consideration as a serious writer. At the time, I think the general public thought gay books were all about sex and more sex. Of course, already there were many emerging gay literary writers; it was more stigma than reality.

The world of thrillers and mysteries is still largely uninhabited by gays. Hopefully I am helping to change that. I also hope that my novels expand my readers’ understanding of homosexuality in the places where I set them. In The Fourth Courier, the gay angle is key to solving the case. In my other novels, too, the plot turns on something gay, and the way it does is always something that couldn’t have happened in the same way anywhere else because of the cultural context.

What do you want your readers to take away from The Fourth Courier?

What motivated me to write The Fourth Courier was a desire to portray what happened to ordinary Polish people at an exciting albeit unsettling moment in their country’s history. I hope my readers like my characters as much as I do—at least the good guys. The people are what made Poland such a great experience.

The Fourth Courier is my thank-you note to them.


I also released a new video onto book tube recently so feel free to watch it here and make sure to like and subscribe if you like it!

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