Friday, August 28, 2015

Back to School Book Giveaway: Con Academy

I have FIVE free copies of Con Academy up for grabs! Score your free copy! To enter, post a comment on the blog. Include your first name, city, state and email contact. Deadline for posts is noon MST on September 10. Winners are chosen randomly by Randomizer. Winners will be notified on September 10. Please check you email on that date. Winners have 24 hours to respond to an email from me. Books will ship from New York. Good luck! Start posting!
School Library Journal says:
"This plot-driven narrative is entertaining and the characters are likable." ---School Library Journal
My review (from blog post on 7/27/15):

Once you pick up Con Academy, you won't put it down!  What a fun, conniving jaunt! This speedy read is all-out raucous, double and triple crosses abound, and readers will root for Will to come out on top.

Will Shea is a new transfer student at the  prestigious Connaughton Academy, a prep school that caters to America's ultra rich and fabulous. As a scholarship recipient, it is only natural that people want to know more about him, and Will has an extraordinary story to tell. His father and mother, missionaries on a small island in the Pacific, are  killed. After their death, Will's church collects money to send him to America to study.

Except that's not the real story. Will (Humbert) is the son of career cons. He's been a con artist since age eight. After his mother died, Will's father spirals out of control and Will runs away. In order to get into the Academy, Will fakes transcripts and breaks into computer files. His con seems to be working...until he meets Andrea. She recognizes a con when she sees one. That's because Andrea is a con herself.

I loved Con Academy. Teen readers will,  too! My one obstacle with this book is the cover. The stack of poker chips with devil horns and a tail does not do the book justice. This is one case that readers should NOT judge the book by its so-so cover.

Highly, highly recommended for anyone who loves a good con! Will is a loveable character with spunk and humor.  Fans of Ally Carter will love Will Shea.

Grade 7-up.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Adult Book Club Pick: The Fall of Princes

The Fall of Princes
by Robert Goolrick
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
304 pages
ISBN: 9781616204204

Available August 25, 2015

From the first paragraph this sizzling, white-hot novel ignites and its tortured burn doesn't stop until the last embers die out. Our anti-hero, Rooney narrates, "When you strike a match, it burns brighter in the first nanosecond than it will ever burn again. That first incandescence. That instantaneous and brilliant flash. 1980 was the year, and I was the match, and that was the year I struck into blinding flame." I don't think I've ever read a more delicious first paragraph! Goolrick is on fire! (Having read A Reliable Wife and Heading Out to Wonderful, I had high hopes for The Fall of Princes). I was not disappointed. In fact, I am thrilled to have had the chance to read Goolrick's latest scorching tale of blistering woe. The film rights have already been optioned to "Being John Malkovich" producer  Sandy Stern and R.E.M. 's Michael Stipe. I expect this novel to be a huge seller and widely read among book clubs. In my opinion, this is one book that will be talked about for some time.

1980 is the year of free money. Trading on "The Street" can make you millions in seconds. Rooney is at the top of his game and playing for kicks. He scores a dream job at "The Firm"--one of Wall Street's hallowed, manic trading houses where if you're lucky you hope to retire before forty with enough money to jet set. If you're unlucky, you will die, burn out, or go to prison. It's too much for many a young man with his eyes set on blinding success, stunningly beautiful women, outrageous debauchery and off the charts decadence. The 80's were ripe for Wall Street and Wall Street got rich off the headiness of expensive champagne and ever more expensive cocaine.

Rooney is courted while still in college. Firms want the best and brightest. He is wined and dined. His head is spinning until that fateful day one hand of cards decides his life for him. His "interview" is a card game. He knows he's hired when he opens the box given to him by a secretary. It's a pen with the firm's name embossed on it. Rooney says, "Pay attention. You can hear the match strike. You can smell the the train pulls out of the station through the dark tunnels and into the brilliance of the future."

Rooney tells his own cautionary tale of 80's meteoric  success and an even more  terrific, epic nosedive  from grace. From golden boy to nearly homeless and pathetically helpless schmo barely existing in a roach infested apartment with his dreams now mere ashes of a long ago burnt out fire. He never invites the readers to feel sorry for him; Rooney is merely reminiscing on days gone by. Days of wine and roses, of hopeless abandon, drunken antics, coked up nights that somehow turn to day and time to get to the office.

The turbulence of the era, the glitz and glamour, the music of money, the sheer excess sings off the pages of The Fall of Princes and it is a glorious tune. New York's Wall Street has never seemed more exciting, exclusive and elusive than in this magnificent read.

Rooney may have lived a life of excess but he was loved and that makes up for everything. The compassion of strangers comes through in the days of squalor and that hope keeps humans alive.

I will never forget Rooney and I will never forget the storytelling genius who is Robert Goolrick.

Highly, highly recommended for adult readers and book clubs. I was sorry when this book ended. I feel like I will miss Rooney and his foibles.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Book Club Pick: The Hand That Feeds You

The Hand That Feeds You
by A.J. Rich
273 pages
ISBN: 9781476774589

Gruesome and terrible, The Hand That Feeds You is a psychological thriller that delivers a quick one-two punch. Graduate student Morgan Prager is finishing her thesis at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. She meets her fiancé Bennett through her studies (almost unbelievable that a woman of her intellect would date someone she met in the way she found him--but then some women are crazy). Although he can be commanding, assertive and downright mean, Morgan tells herself she is in love with Bennett. She comes home from class one morning and finds the front door open. She fears Bennett may have left the door open accidentally and worries that her three dogs may be loose. Bennett never liked her dogs and Morgan thinks he may have left the door open on purpose.

Entering the apartment, she is overjoyed to see her dogs alive but they are acting strange. Their coats are red with blood. Morgan starts operating on adrenaline and shock. She finds the body of a man she thinks may have been Bennett. It's too hard to tell because the body has been mauled, the face mutilated and a leg torn off. Morgan begins to  fear what her dogs could do to her. They obviously killed once, what if they turn on her? She backs away and locks herself in the bathroom, calls 911 and waits for help to arrive.

How could this have happened? Could her dogs really have killed Bennett? One of her Dobermans is shot by a police officer. The female  Doberman and Cloud, her Great  Pyrenees are taken into custody. Morgan is taken to the psych ward where she struggles to come to terms with the loss of her fiancée, the horrific bloody scene, and the guilt she feels for allowing her dogs to be in this situation.

Once released Morgan searches for Bennett's mother and father. When she finds only dead ends, she has to ask herself: who was this guy I fell in love with? He has no past and no family. There is no record of him being a music producer. In fact, he seems to be a ghost. Then Morgan finds other women who were duped by Bennett, including one who was recently murdered. The police are no help. Morgan turns to her brother and other close friends.

The closer Morgan comes to the truth and the release of her dogs, the deeper the secrets. Could someone have used her dogs to kill Bennett? Who is the real killer? And is he  now after her?

The Hand That Feeds you rockets off the first chapters. By the middle of the story, I felt a bit bogged down and wanted answers to come.  On the other hand, I felt the ending a little rushed.

As a dog owner and rescuer, The Hand That Feeds You really got under my skin. The ick factor creeped me out entirely. It was not just that the dogs attacked and killed; it was that they were then locked up in a terrible environment.

Recommended for adult readers. If you love animals, you may want to pass on this one. I just can't get over it!

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

HIgh School Pick: Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls

Suicide Notes From Beautiful Girls
by Lynn Weingarten
Simon Pulse
325 pages
ISBN: 9781481418539

Dark, disturbing, defiant, thrilling and taut, Suicide Notes From Beautiful Girls will keep readers guessing until the very last page. The symbolism of the three burnt matches on the cover will catch the eyes of teen browsers,  but the story and the characters will keep them reading.

Best friends June and Delia drift away from each other, and nearly a year later June is saddened and horrified to learn of Delia's death. June knows it wasn't suicide and she will not stop until she has answers.

As June begins to investigate, she finds out deeply disturbing things about her "friend." Delia was not just keeping secrets, she was lying and doing much, much worse. Just who was this girl that June befriended? No one is who they seem to be in Suicide Notes From Beautiful Girls and that's the darkness (in a  good way) of this book.

Delia is a case study in friendly sociopath. She manipulates, lies, cheats and controls without any shame. She has no conscience and no soul. She asks everything, forgives nothing, and walks away from trouble and even love. June is easily coerced allowing the vibrant Delia to lead the way. Delia is a white hot supernova that will soon burn out, and June is left with mere sparks of dying stardust.

I loved the premise of the story and the first part of the book really raced along. It gets weird in the middle and weirder still at the end. Love triangles and blackmail, deception, deceit and hatred cause all the characters to act with June being the likely loser.

This is one book not for middle school. Profanity, gender identity, sex, violence, underage drinking, bad behavior. Recommended for grade 9-up.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at