Friday, September 16, 2016

Mother-Daughter Review: Die Young with Me: A Memoir by Rob Rufus

Title: Die Young with Me: A Memoir 
Author: Rob Rufus
Publisher: Touchstone 
Source: Publisher 
Published: September 20th, 2016 
Purchase: Amazon  |  B&N 

Summary: Punk’s not dead in rural West Virginia. In fact, it blares constantly from the basement of Rob and Nat Rufus—identical twin brothers with spiked hair, black leather jackets, and the most kick-ass record collection in Appalachia. To them, school (and pretty much everything else) sucks. But what can you expect when you’re the only punks in town?

When the brothers start their own band, their lives begin to change: they meet friends, they attract girls, and they finally get invited to join a national tour and get out of their rat box little town.

But their plans are cut short when Rob is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that has already progressed to Stage Four. Not only are his dreams of punk rock stardom completely shredded, there is a very real threat that this is one battle that can’t be won.

While Rob suffers through nightmarish treatments and debilitating surgery, Nat continues on their band’s road to success alone. But as Rob’s life diverges from his brother’s, he learns to find strength within himself and through his music. Die Young With Me is a raw, honest account of a brave teen’s fight with cancer and the many ways music helped him cope through his recovery. 


Mckenzie’s thoughts: 

Growing up in a small rural West Virginian town, Rob had never experienced anything like punk music before. But once he and his twin brother Nat heard Pennywise for the first time in their cousin Anthony's basement, they were hooked. They knew this was it, this was what they were going to do with their lives. Music became everything; they bought instruments, formed a band, and began slowly turning their dream into a reality. They covered songs from their favorite punk bands, they started writing their own music, they played any gigs they could find -- they even made it onto Warped Tour. Everything seemed to be finally falling into place for Rob and his band. And then Rob got sick. And the dream was put on hold.

I didn't just read this book, I felt it. Die Young with Me is the raw, powerful true story of punk rocker Rob Rufus's battle with cancer; but it's about more than that. This is a story of heartbreak and determination, but it's also a story of overcoming, of fighting against the odds, of following your passion, of following that one thing that keeps you going.

My mother passed her love of reading down to me, but she also passed down her love of music, which is why this was such a perfect book for us to share. I related so much to the author and his connection with music. His love for it was clear on every page, and it's something I'm all too familiar with and something I absolutely loved. The connection he felt to music and the bands that made it, the feeling it gave him, how it gave him something to relate to and somewhere to belong? That hit me on such a deep level. And how Rob felt meeting one of his favorite bands was identical to the way I felt when I met mine. I loved reading from the perspective of someone who gets music, who appreciates it and loves it the way I do, which is what made me feel so connected to this story from the first chapter to the very last line (which was my favorite line of the book and one I wish I could include here).

I definitely recommend Die Young with Me to any music lovers, but I think this story has an important message that applies to everyone. Whether it's music or something else, we all have dreams of some kind, and they're all worth holding onto and fighting for.

Michele’s thoughts: 

Mckenzie sums up my feelings perfectly in her review and I loved this book just as much as she did, but I especially loved how we both related to the story and the author in different ways. I can recall with perfect clarity my very first visit to my town’s only record store. There was nothing like it. I had found my people. The way he describes his experience in his own small town, its only record store, and what music meant to him… what it did for him? Rob Rufus took me back – he gave me total recall on my trip down memory lane. There was no such thing as digital music, and going into that store will forever trump buying music to put on an iPhone. And the way this author tells a story… wow. I felt like we were having a conversation. Like I was curled up in my favorite chair listening to his life story – which is exactly what was happening. And the emotion. I laughed hard, and I cried hard, but I would barely start the crying before he had me laughing again. I raged with him, bled with him, and breathed with him. His storytelling is so genuine, so raw, that I could not help but consume word after word. I recommend this story to absolutely everyone: the fighters, the survivors, and music lovers everywhere. 

We received a copy of this book in exchange for our honest reviews. 
© at A Belle's Tales


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Release Day Review: The Reader (Sea of Ink and Gold, #1) by Traci Chee

Title: The Reader (Sea of Ink and Gold, #1) 
Author: Traci Chee 
Publisher: Putnam 
Source: Publisher 
Published: September 13th, 2016 
Purchase: Amazon  |  B&N 

Summary: Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible. 


“Once there was, and one day there will be. This is the beginning of every story.” And so begins The Reader by Traci Chee. A debut author’s novel that is so beautiful it feels as though it’s been around for ages, passed down from generation to generation. With the feel of a classic, this book is an ode to books and those who love them.

While living on the run in a world where books and reading are unfamiliar, Sefia protects the unusual item that once belonged to her father: a peculiar, rectangular object that contains power – power to unlock secrets, to find what is lost, and to put Sefia on her intended path of becoming The Reader. Through intersecting storylines, diverse and splendid characters fill the pages as Sefia and a new companion embark on a quest they couldn’t have dreamed possible. And did I mention the PIRATES? Swashbuckling, savvy, pistol-wielding PIRATES!

The book even advises us readers to look closer… and when I began to see why, I grabbed a notepad and pen – what I had at the end brought tears to my eyes. It makes this book even more magical and an absolute adventure for not just the characters but the reader as well. While we’re left knowing there is more story to come, The Reader does not end abruptly nor with any cliffhangers. It simply concluded in a way that left me anticipating more. Imaginative, dazzling, and entirely enchanting, The Reader by Traci Chee is definitely one of my favorite reads of the year. I can hardly wait for the next installment! “This is a book” – and it must be read! 

A huge thank-you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 
© at A Belle's Tales


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

100 Words and a Quote

Title: All the Missing Girls
Author: Megan Miranda
Source: Publisher
Published: June 28th, 2016
Purchase: Amazon | B&N
From Goodreads:
It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne’s case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched.

The decade-old investigation focused on Nic, her brother Daniel, boyfriend Tyler, and Corinne’s boyfriend Jackson. Since then, only Nic has left Cooley Ridge. Daniel and his wife, Laura, are expecting a baby; Jackson works at the town bar; and Tyler is dating Annaleise Carter, Nic’s younger neighbor and the group’s alibi the night Corinne disappeared. Then, within days of Nic’s return, Annaleise goes missing.

Told backwards—Day 15 to Day 1—from the time Annaleise goes missing, Nic works to unravel the truth about her younger neighbor’s disappearance, revealing shocking truths about her friends, her family, and what really happened to Corinne that night ten years ago.

Like nothing you’ve ever read before, All the Missing Girls delivers in all the right ways. With twists and turns that lead down dark alleys and dead ends, you may think you’re walking a familiar path, but then Megan Miranda turns it all upside down and inside out and leaves us wondering just how far we would be willing to go to protect those we love.


One of my favorite things about this book is also the one thing that’s the most frustrating… this story is told backwards. To have the story set up only to then jump ahead 15 days and then reverse one day at a time until you reach the beginning? Brilliantly and wonderfully maddening! The characters are flawed and unreliable, the story itself intense and captivating. A psychological thriller with plenty of suspense, red herrings, and more secrets than one small town can hold. This is Megan Miranda’s first adult book, and I certainly hope it won’t be her last. More please.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Word Count: 100  

Favorite Quote:
"That girl, my dad wrote, and her laughter rattled my heart." 

Title: Before the Fall
Author: Noah Hawley
Published: May 31st, 2016
Purchase: Amazon | B&N
From Goodreads:

On a foggy summer night, eleven people—ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter—depart Martha's Vineyard on a private jet headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the plane plunges into the ocean. The only survivors are Scott Burroughs—the painter—and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of an immensely wealthy and powerful media mogul's family.

With chapters weaving between the aftermath of the crash and the backstories of the passengers and crew members—including a Wall Street titan and his wife, a Texan-born party boy just in from London, a young woman questioning her path in life, and a career pilot—the mystery surrounding the tragedy heightens. As the passengers' intrigues unravel, odd coincidences point to a conspiracy. Was it merely by dumb chance that so many influential people perished? Or was something far more sinister at work? Events soon threaten to spiral out of control in an escalating storm of media outrage and accusations. And while Scott struggles to cope with fame that borders on notoriety, the authorities scramble to salvage the truth from the wreckage.


An interesting book that is not at all what I thought it would be. A story that begins in present time with a plane crash and follows one survivor as he gathers the pieces of his now splintered life. The story then delves into the earlier lives of each passenger aboard this private jet. It is sad but hypnotic. The pace is slow at times but just right where it matters most. The thing that intrigued me and at the same time sickened me the most was the media and the way they handled… well, everything. A very thought-provoking read.  

Word Count: 100  

Favorite Quote:
"In the absence of facts, he thinks, we tell ourselves stories." 

Title: Corrupt
Author: Penelope Douglas
Published: November 17th, 2015
Purchase: Amazon | B&N
From Amazon:

Erika I was told that dreams were our heart’s desires. My nightmares, however, became my obsession. His name is Michael Crist. My boyfriend’s older brother is like that scary movie that you peek through your hand to watch. He's handsome, strong, and completely terrifying. The star of his college’s basketball team and now gone pro, he’s more concerned with the dirt on his shoe than me. But I noticed him. I saw him. I heard him. The things that he did, and the deeds that he hid…For years, I bit my nails, unable to look away. Now, I’ve graduated high school and moved on to college, but I haven’t stopped watching Michael. He’s bad, and the dirt I’ve seen isn’t content to stay in my head anymore. Because he’s finally noticed me. Michael Her name is Erika Fane, but everyone calls her Rika. My brother’s girlfriend grew up hanging around my house and is always at our dinner table. She looks down when I enter a room and stills when I am close. I can always feel the fear rolling off of her, and while I haven’t had her body, I know that I have her mind. That’s all I really want anyway. Until my brother leaves for the military, and I find Rika alone at college. In my city. Unprotected. The opportunity is too good to be true, as well as the timing. Because you see, three years ago she put a few of my high school friends in prison, and now they’re out. We’ve waited. We’ve been patient. And now every last one of her nightmares will come true. *Corrupt is a STANDALONE dark romance with no cliffhanger. It is suitable for ages 18+.


There were several things I liked about Corrupt and several things that made me put my cranky pants on. This is a dark romance, but at times I just needed it to be darker! I felt it tiptoed around certain things that would have made this more thrilling and forbidden for me. I wanted Erika to fight harder and figure things out sooner; but in spite of that, I have to admit I did enjoy this story. The premise is exciting and intense, and the characters are definitely interesting. Especially Kai. My first Penelope Douglas read, but not my last. 

Word Count: 100 

Favorite Quote:
"There were dark deeds and bad seeds, but who cared if the house was falling apart as long as it was pretty, right?" 

© at A Belle's Tales



Monday, September 5, 2016

It's Monday! What are you reading?

It's Monday! What are you reading? is a great weekly meme now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date. It's where we share what we're currently reading and what we're starting next.

Currently reading: 

This week, Mckenzie is reading:

And Michele is reading:

Up next: 

And after that, we'll both be dropping everything to read this:

Posts from last week: 

Michele's review of Her Darkest Nightmare by Brenda Novak
Mckenzie's review of Finn's Choice by Darby Karchut

What are you reading this week? 
We hope you have a happy Monday! 

 © at A Belle's Tales


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Early Review: Finn's Choice (The Adventures of Finnegan MacCullen #4) by Darby Karchut

Title: Finn's Choice (The Adventures of Finnegan MacCullen #4) 
Author: Darby Karchut 
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press 
Expected Publication: September 20th, 2016 
Pre-order: Amazon  |  B&N 

Summary: Just when Finn MacCullen thought fate couldn’t kick him any harder after the events of the Festival of the Hunt, it does. Now, he must overcome a series of nearly impossible trials to prove his worth as an apprentice, or lose his place at his master Gideon’s side. 

But Finn and Gideon, and their friends, are determined to boot fate right back. They’re going to do whatever it takes to succeed, including teaming up with a sorceress and a certain teen angel. 

However, Finn’s life has as many twists as a Celtic knot, and master and apprentice find themselves in their ancestral homeland of Ireland with only their wits—and a fair bit of the Black Hand’s charm—to protect them from the vengeful Celtic goddess known as the Sc├íthach. 

In this heart-stopping finale of the award-winning series, it’s going to take every scrap of Finn’s Irish luck and pluck to save himself, and his master, from death. Or worse.


It's hard to believe this series has come to an end. I started the first book, Finn Finnegan, three years ago; but it feels like I've been a part of this world for much longer. And in some ways, it feels like it was only yesterday I first met Finn and Gideon. Finn's Choice was such an amazing conclusion; and without spoiling anything, I'll just say that I was incredibly happy with the way things were wrapped up – and with a particular scene at the end.

The characters. I cannot put into words what these characters have come to mean to me. Finn and Gideon are two of my absolute favorites, and saying goodbye to them was difficult; but I was really happy with the way things worked out. I really loved getting more of Griffin and Basil in this one, too. I loved their cameos in the last book, and I'm so excited to start the Griffin series to get to know them even better.

The writing and world-building in these books are absolutely beautiful. It makes my heart ache a little to think I won't be revisiting Colorado or Ireland with these characters anymore; they were written with so much detail that it felt like I was truly standing there with them within the pages. I know it won't be long, though, before I pick up book one and begin this adventure again. These may be middle-grade books, but there is something in the Adventures of Finnegan MacCullen series for all ages. There's humor and heartbreak and plenty of adventure. I for one know that this is a series I'll be re-reading for many years to come and that someday my own kids will love it as much as I do. I'm so grateful to Darby Karchut for giving me such an amazing world to love and be a part of. I may be leaving this series for now, but it's definitely not leaving me. <3 

A huge thank-you to the author for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

© at A Belle's Tales


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Release Day Review: Her Darkest Nightmare (The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles #1) by Brenda Novak

Title: Her Darkest Nightmare (The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles #1)
Author: Brenda Novak
Publisher: St. Martin's Press 
Source: Publisher 
Published: August 30th, 2016 
Purchase: Amazon  |  B&N 

Summary: First in an electrifying new series from New York Times bestselling author Brenda Novak

Evelyn Talbot knows that a psychopath can look perfectly normal. She was only sixteen when her own boyfriend Jasper imprisoned and tortured her—and left her for dead. Now an eminent psychiatrist who specializes in the criminal mind, Evelyn is the force behind Hanover House, a maximum-security facility located in a small Alaskan town. Her job puts her at odds with Sergeant Amarok, who is convinced that Hanover is a threat to his community…even as his attraction to beautiful Evelyn threatens to tear his world apart. 

Then, just as the bitter Alaskan winter cuts both town and prison off from the outside world, the mutilated body of a local woman turns up. For Amarok, this is the final proof he needs: Hanover has to go. Evelyn, though, has reason to fear that the crime is a personal message to her—the first sign that the killer who haunts her dreams has found her again...and that the life she has so carefully rebuilt will never be the same…


Dr. Evelyn Talbot is a successful and respected psychiatrist who focuses on serial killers and their psyche and behaviorism. Evelyn’s new project, Hanover House, is a maximum security prison built in the small town of Hilltop, Alaska. Along with her specially selected team of psychiatrists and hand-picked prison staff, she will delve into the minds of these killers, studying them in the hopes of finding out what makes them do what they do and preventing future victims, something Evelyn herself almost became when she was only sixteen years old. Jasper, her first love – her first everything – killed her three best friends and then tortured her for three days before leaving her for dead. This is the force that drives Evelyn to stop men like Jasper. Unlike the men in Hanover House, Jasper was never caught. And to this day, he haunts her.

As excited as Evelyn is for her work at Hanover House, the community of Hilltop is horrified that these prisoners are now living in their backyard. And no one is more upset than Sergeant Amarok, who is sworn to protect the people of this town. But as much as Amarok would like to see Hanover House gone, he doesn’t want to see Evelyn leave. There is something going on between these two, much to their annoyance.

This is only my second book by Brenda Novak, but I enjoyed this story and meeting Evelyn Talbot. I had not read very far in the book when I felt like I was missing some details that I thought I needed. I discovered the novella Hanover House, a short story about Evelyn’s second abduction at the hands of Jasper, which answered some of the questions I had. It is not necessary to read the novella before starting this book, but I have one of those brains that won’t rest until I have all the details and I absolutely cannot read anything out of order. So I’m glad that I paused Her Darkest Nightmare and read it, especially with the insight into Evelyn and Amarok’s unique but uneasy relationship.

I enjoyed the plot, though at times it felt a bit far-fetched but still kept me invested to the end. The characters are likable, and even those who are intentionally unlikable are fascinating. My favorite aspect was the inclusion of quotes from actual serial killers at the beginning of each chapter. It was absolutely chilling, perfectly setting the tone for this novel. Though I have read more graphic thrillers and even though this story contains a romance, it is still a dark and intense read. I know for a fact I will be reading the second installment of this new series. I recommend this book for fans of suspense and readers of Brenda Novak. 

A huge thank-you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 
© at A Belle's Tales


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Release Day Review: Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

Title: Behind Closed Doors 
Author: B.A. Paris 
Publisher: St. Martin's Press 
Source: Publisher 
Published: August 9th, 2016 
Purchase: Amazon  |  B&N 

Summary: Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace: he has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You'd like to get to know Grace better. But it's difficult, because you realize Jack and Grace are never apart. Some might call this true love.

Picture this: a dinner party at their perfect home, the conversation and wine flowing. They appear to be in their element while entertaining. And Grace's friends are eager to reciprocate with lunch the following week. Grace wants to go, but knows she never will. Her friends call—so why doesn't Grace ever answer the phone? And how can she cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim?

And why are there bars on one of the bedroom windows?

The perfect marriage? Or the perfect lie? 


Nobody is perfect. You never know what goes on behind closed doors. These are two sayings we hear all our lives but that have never been proven truer than within the pages of this book.

For all appearances, Jack and Grace are the perfect couple with the perfect marriage. This is the perfect lie. When Grace met Jack, he seemed too good to be true. He was. Page after page reveals just how far from good Jack is. This was a book the subject matter of which was difficult to read at times, but nothing could tear me away until I knew how it ended. I have to say, the antagonist did not terrify me in the way I thought he might; it was the situation he placed the main character in that did. I had my moments of “Why don’t you just…” and “Can’t you try…” and “Just do this…” – but then she would, and then she’d try, and then she did. And it was all in vain. I think there’s a different kind of fight to put up when you have nothing to lose and when you have someone you’re fighting for. Because of Grace’s love for her little sister, her options were very limited. And speaking of her little sister, Millie was quite the scene-stealer and easily my favorite character. The clock is counting down and Grace knows she only has one chance left before her nightmare becomes someone else’s.

Behind Closed Doors was a fast read and an intriguing debut from B.A. Paris. Though it is being touted as the next *insert 2012’s best-selling thriller that shall not be named here* – as is every psychological thriller that has since followed it – this is not that book. It doesn’t need any comparison; it does just fine on its own.  Creepy, thrilling, and will definitely have you side-eyeing your significant other! 

A huge thank-you to the publisher for sending this book in exchange for my honest review. 
© at A Belle's Tales