just a girl trying to find her place

read: lean on pete


Lean on Pete | Willy Vlautin | Harper Perennial | 2 stars

We first meet Charley when he and his dad move to Portland. It’s summer so Charley spends his days running and trying to find a job. One day he stumbles upon Portland Meadows, where the horse races are held. There he meets Del Montgomery, a hardened horse owner who takes a chance on Charley, giving him a job. After Charley’s dad is killed, Charley works for Del for a while, taking a liking to Lean on Pete, one of Del’s horses. Pete gets injured so Charley kidnaps him and runs away. What follows are Charley’s adventures as he tries to get to Wyoming to find his aunt.

I wanted to like this book, I really did. But it meandered. There was not a lot happening. Vlautin writes long sentences and loves to use the word “and” to connect his ideas together. I tend to be a concise writer, although I had to each myself that skill and I still ramble horribly in a first draft. I don’t mind if a story meanders, but there was nothing really happening. Charley ran from place to place, trying to save himself and Pete. He encounters a lot of characters along the way, but nobody sticks around for more than a few pages.

He’s a boy on the lam trying to find his aunt. He’s not even sure his aunt will want him if he does end up finding her. Through the whole book I wanted Charley to tell someone what happened to his dad so he could get help, but he always said he didn’t know where his dad was. Perhaps it was for his own protection that he lied about the whereabouts of his father, but it got old after a while.

Vlautin has been compared to John Steinbeck and I suppose that’s true in some cases, but he’s definitely got his own style. I’m not sure I’ll read any of his other works, although it would be unfair to say I hate Vlautin as an author. He’s talented for sure, but he’s not my cup of tea.

Disclaimer: I checked out a copy of this book from the University of Nevada, Reno library. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated in any way.


the power of a story

rebeccasolnit-Flickr_Shawn_CalhounWorth the listen, especially for this:

We think we tell stories, but stories often tell us, tell us to love or to hate, to see or to be blind. Often, too often, stories saddle us, ride us, whip us onward, tell us what to do, and we do it without questioning. The task of learning to be free requires learning to hear them, to question them, to pause and hear silence, to name them, and then to become the storyteller.

Click here to listen.

top 10 tuesday: characters i’d enjoy being stranded with

I borrowed this blog topic from Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl (and I promise to be better about blogging).

I used to participate in Top Ten Tuesday, but then my priorities changed. However, since I’m 99% a book reviewing blogger, I’ve got to allow the occasional reading/writing related post. This is a list of characters  I would be just fine being stranded on a deserted island with. Some are for friendship, some for protection, some for romance and some for comedic relief!

Rory Dawn Hendrix from Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman – I’ve only just started reading this book, I’m in love with this little girl. She’s just trying to survive life in a trailer park with a mama who works in a bar and doesn’t seem too attached to her daughter.

Charley from Lean On Pete by Willy Vlautin – I’m so close to finishing this one, but Charley is the most resilient character I’ve encountered in a long while. His story is worth reading.

Charlotte from The Gin Lovers by Jamie Brenner – I love anything set in the 20s and I really like how Charlotte isn’t afraid to stand up for herself. She goes behind her husband’s back a dozen times to get what she wants. Perhaps that’s not so admirable, but it was darn brave in the 20s when wives were supposed to be submissive to their husbands.

Daisy from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald Hello! It’s Gatsby. This book can do no wrong.

Ramona from The Ramona Series by Beverly Cleary – I know she got into trouble all the time, but she’s adorable.

Matilda from Matilda by Roald Dahl – I loved this book when I was a kid. I could relate to Matilda and how much she loved to read.

Sam and Trin from Shine: The Knowing Ones by Amy Freeman – These two would be great friends to have, even if their adventures were utterly terrifying.

Nancy Drew from The Nancy Drew Books by Carolyn Keene – Another series of books I loved as a kid. Nancy got to have so many adventures solving mysteries.

The BSC Members from The Babysitter’s Club by Ann M. Martin – She was my favorite author when I was younger. I met her once and didn’t know what to do with myself.

Liesel from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – This is in my top five books of all time. His characters are so rich and realistic.

What about you? Did I miss anyone?

spotlight: winter angel (book 2, seasons of change)

winter angel

Synopsis: She was on holiday. He was tricked into returning. Neither of them wanted to be there, but neither could avoid it. Amy wants to be back under the sun in Portugal. However, when her suggestion is overruled in favour of a skiing holiday, even she can’t turn it down. What she couldn’t have predicted is that the holiday could make her break the one, and only, rule she has: not to get into a serious relationship again. When Amy first sees Luke, she knows something is wrong. He’s struggling to cope with everything and her need to help people makes him the perfect distraction from the cold. He hasn’t been to the Alps in five years and he swore to never ski again. But as his defences are broken by Amy’s persistence, the winter paradise begins to reawaken his desires. However, with constant flashbacks triggering his anxiety, he’s torn, battling conflicting emotions as he becomes increasingly captivated by Amy. She has a rule though. She didn’t go on holiday to fall for someone and the last thing she needs is to ignore her own advice. Whether or not she can move past her insecurities will depend on whether Luke can face his biggest fear. Winter Angel is a standalone, young adult romance novella, but is the second book in the Seasons of Change series.

Download it now for FREE! Only free 19th & 20th of July

Amazon | Amazon UK


You can also download Summer Demons, the first bestselling standalone novella in the Seasons of Change series for 99c / 77p.


White. Gazing out of the small, circular window, it was the only colour he could see surrounding him. The bursts of light—which had broken through the heavy, grey clouds—were reflected back as the ground grew closer with each passing second. Not too long ago he had been blissfully unaware of the location his sister was dragging him to for a holiday.

A bubble of excitement had surrounded him throughout the early morning as he got up, and stayed with him through travelling to the airport and catching the flight. However, it had burst as soon as the icy tips of the mountains appeared and the plane began its descent. Until that moment, he had hoped his guesses had been wrong.

His sister had carefully planned the trip, making sure to hide all clues as to where they were heading, and as she glanced across at him, it seemed as if she had been successful.

Luke’s knuckles were white on the arm rests. He had claimed both of them, gripping them so hard they looked like they would snap under the force, or at least be moulded to the shape of his hands when he removed them.

Ellie watched as he took in a shaky breath, but she heard no exhale.


The silence that filled the space around them was icier than the Alps they had just flown over. Her brother’s gaze remained fixed on the window, watching as the ground, and his fate, drew ever closer. Deep, ragged breaths steamed up the window, which was almost touching his nose. Desperately, he tried to control the tremors shaking his body, and his pounding heart, from the fear that washed over him in waves.

“Luke, please, say something.” Worry had crept into Ellie’s tone. She had thought her idea would do him good, that forcing him to face everything would turn him back into his old self. Ellie missed the brother she had grown up with and wanted him back. However, seeing his eyes wide with fear, his jaw clenched in anger, and his arms tense with both, suddenly she wasn’t so sure about her plan.

“You promised, Ellie. You swore you wouldn’t pressure me, and I trusted you with that. You know how I feel about this.” His voice was sharp and curt as he spoke through clenched teeth, trying to keep a hold on his emotions.

The urge to flee surged within him. He wanted to go home, to get off the plane and board the next flight straight back to England, but he couldn’t. Not only was the plane still minutes from landing—trapping him in the confines of economy class, which felt even smaller as realisation forced him to understand Ellie’s plans—but he also refused to waste more money on the pointless trip Ellie had conned him into taking. If he was going to use the money he had earned from before everything changed, it would be on his own terms.

“You’ll enjoy it when you’re there,” Ellie stated, brushing off his comments like they meant nothing to her.

“That’s easy for you to say. You don’t have to live with, or through, what I have.” Luke was trying hard to control his voice. Had they been in private, he would have already been shouting. The cramped environment meant that Ellie was getting off lightly, but he swore that when they reached their chalet, he would not hold back. She had no right to interfere with his life.

“Never tell me I didn’t live through it, Luke. I was there when it happened, in the hospital, and when you got home. I was there through it all. It may not have been me, but it wasn’t like it had no effect on my life,” Ellie hissed. It was the only way she could convey her anger without disturbing other passengers.

“Why though, Ellie? Why is this such a big deal to you?” Luke’s eyes were full of sorrow as he turned to face his sister for the first time, begging to understand her reasoning for putting him through something she knew would hurt him.

About the Author:

Mia Hoddell lives in the UK with her family and two cats. She spends most of her time writing or reading, loves anything paranormal and has an overactive imagination that keeps her up until the early hours of the morning. With three poems published before the age of sixteen, Mia moved on to short stories but finding she had too much to tell with too little space, Mia progressed to novels. She started her first series (The Wanderer Trilogy) at the age of fourteen and since then hasn’t stopped writing. Elemental Killers is her second series and with an ever growing list of ideas, Mia is trying to keep up with the speed at which her imagination generates them.

Connect with Mia:

Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Google+ | Amazon Author Page

or subscribe to Mia’s newsletter for information on ARCs, giveaways and new releases.

one more day (book 3 – maclarens of fire mountain)


One More Day (Book Three, MacLarens of Fire Mountain Contemporary Romance Series) by Shirleen Davies

Book Synopsis:

Cameron “Cam” Sinclair is smart, driven, and dedicated, with an easygoing temperament that belies his strong will and the personal ambitions he holds close. Besides his family, his job as head of IT at the MacLaren Cattle Company and his position as a Search and Rescue volunteer are all he needs to make him happy. At least that’s what he thinks until he meets, and is instantly drawn to, fellow SAR volunteer, Lainey Devlin.

Lainey is compassionate, independent, and ready to break away from her manipulative and controlling fiancé. Just as her decision is made, she’s called into a major search and rescue effort, where once again, her path crosses with the intriguing, and much too handsome, Cam Sinclair. But Lainey’s plans are set. An opportunity to buy a flourishing preschool in northern Arizona is her chance to make a fresh start, and nothing, not even her fierce attraction to Cam Sinclair, will impede her plans.

As Lainey begins to settle into her new life, an unexpected danger arises —threats from an unknown assailant—someone who doesn’t believe she belongs in Fire Mountain. The more Lainey begins to love her new home, the greater the danger becomes. Can she accept the help and protection Cam offers while ignoring her consuming desire for him?

Even if Lainey finally accepts her attraction to Cam, will he ever be able to come to terms with his own driving ambition and allow himself to consider a different life than the one he’s always pictured? A life with the one woman who offers more than he’d ever hoped to find?

Read One More Day, another heart-warming and romantic story of passion, love, choices, and commitment in the MacLarens of Fire Mountain Contemporary Romance series.

Author Bio:

I have been writing most of my life, but only recently began the transition into fiction. Historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and short stories are what keep me reading, so that is the focus of my writing. 

I was born in California, grew up between a growing beach town and a small town at the base of the San Bernardino mountains. My mother originally planned to name me Katherine, but she read an article in the paper about a woman named Shirleen shortly before my birth, so instead of having a cool nickname, like Kate, I am simply Shirleen. My mainstays growing up were all the Nancy Drew mystery books; I loved them. Eventually I moved on to mysteries, suspense stories, crime novels, and romance. Pride and Prejudice will always be one of my favorites. 

Besides California, life changes have allowed me to live in Oregon, Colorado, and Arizona. Everywhere I have lived has been inspirational in one way or another, giving me the opportunity to meet remarkable people with their own stories to tell. I’ve sailed, skied, owned horses plus lots of other animals, and ridden various off-road vehicles. I enjoy dancing, fishing, hunting, being the back-seater on my husband’s Harley, traveling and, of course, reading and writing.

 Prior to transitioning to writing fiction, I worked for Fortune 500 and many smaller, start-up companies. Fortunately, I regained my sanity long enough to start my own consulting firm, which I still maintain today. 

My husband and I spend most of our time at our main home in the mountains of Arizona and our second home in Southern California. Between us we have five boys with growing careers and families of their own. So, from my perspective, my life is a success and always an adventure. I wouldn’t change a thing; well, except finding more time to write.

I love hearing from readers, so please feel email me at shirleen@shirleendavies.com.

Connect  with Shirleen:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Buy the book:

Amazon | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords

Disclaimer: I participated in this blog tour with Sage’s Book Tours. I was provided with all the materials and all opinions are my own. No other compensation was provided.

read: braving the brontes


Braving the Brontes (Carly Keene, Literary Detective) | Katherine Rue | Publisher: In This Together Media | 3 stars

A couple of years ago, I participated in a writing project called Story A Day May. The goal, effectively, was to write a short story every day during the month of May, ending up with 31 short stories at the end. There weren’t really any length or style requirements. The goal was to just write. I’d been itching to write a series at this time, so I wrote 31 stories all containing the same characters, planning to expand them into novellas later. So far that hasn’t happened, but I still have them.

My point is that what I wrote involved a young girl who traveled back in time to meet famous characters. When Braving the Brontes caught my eye on NetGalley, I knew I had to read it, just to see how this genre was handled, especially for a middle grade audience (my intended audience).

Ms. Rue handled it really well. She sent Carly Keene, Literary Detective through the first edition of Jane Eyre to spend some time with the Bronte sisters. The detective part is where she has to solve a mystery, given to her by the ghost of Maria, a Bronte sister who died 20+ years before Carly ever arrived. Of course, Carly can’t let on that she’s arrived in 1846 from 2014. She has a few Freudian slips, but mostly she fits right into the role of Charlotte Bronte’s young charge, Caroline.

One of the things I liked about this book was that it didn’t switch back and forth between past and present. The first two chapters introduce us to Carly and send her off to the bookstore and the final chapter brings us full circle back to the bookstore. Everything in between is solely focused on Carly being with the Brontes. She doesn’t even mention her actual parents that many times.

It’s clear Ms. Rue did her research on the Brontes to make this feel authentic and believable. I would have liked to see Carly interact more with Branwell, because there are moments when his hatred of her is fierce, but then there is a moment later that leaves you questioning that hatred. That moment felt thrown in for good measure and was never really explained because after that moment Branwell basically disappears from the story, only mentioned in passing twice by the end, as if he were just some visitor to the parsonage.

Overall, Braving the Brontes is a fun start to a fun series. It’s proof that girls can have just as many great adventures as boys. Carly is a character many girls today will be able to relate to. She’s tough, brave, rugged. She runs cross country, fishes, camps, but also loves books and making up stories with her best friend. There’s nothing prissy about her and I like that.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. All opinions are my own and no other compensation was provided.


read: the witch of belladonna bay


The Witch of Belladonna Bay | Suzanne Palmieri | Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin | 5 stars

I don’t even know where to begin with this book. It was utterly magical. I haven’t read much magical realism, but if there’s anything in that genre that’s even remotely like this, please tell me what it is, because I have to read it. I haven’t lost myself in a book in a long time. I read so much, especially for review, that I don’t let myself get lost in books, simply because there are so many books that need to be read.

The Witch of Belladonna Bay tells the story of Bronwyn Whalen and her return to the family home in Magnolia Creek, Alabama after she finds out her brother is in jail. Her father asks her to come home to help get him out of jail and help with her niece, Byrd. What unfolds is most unexpected and shows us that redemption is possible, if you can open your heart to it.

I really don’t know how to review this book without telling all the important bits and pieces. Everything (and everyone) is connected. There will be moments that surprise you. There’s a little bit of a mystery woven in, but you won’t be able to solve it before it’s meant to be solved. There are events you will not see coming because there’s no hint prior to the revelation that this happened.

Ms. Palmieri weaves a tale for the ages. Her words come together to create beautiful, heavy sentences. I got the impression from GoodReads that this is the second in The Lost Witch series (the first being The Witch of Little Italy), however; without having read the first (yet), I can definitively say this one can stand alone. My guess is that some of the characters are the same and the stories are intertwined, but the books don’t need to be read in any particular order.

With the exception of The Book Thief, I don’t think I’ve ever truly been at a loss when it comes to reviewing a book. I am not normally a re-reader of books, but I am keeping this in my library to return to.

Disclaimer: I am participating in BookSparks PR’s summer reading challenge. I was given a copy of the book, but no other compensation was provided.


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