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review 2017-11-21 18:09
Darkest Minds - Alexandra Bracken Darkest Minds - Alexandra Bracken

Children start being psychic, the US government reacts badly.

 

Interesting teen fiction.

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review 2017-11-08 14:59
Badass Female Vigilante Serial Killer – Blood Moon by Alexandra Sokoloff @AlexSokoloff
Blood Moon (The Huntress/FBI Thrillers) - Alexandra Sokoloff

Alexandra Sokoloff has reeled me in, hook, line and sinker, with her Huntress/FBI Thriller Series. Huntress Moon (see my review here) blew me away and she has kept it up in Blood Moon, Book II.

 

The covers scream out to me…and I do not hesitate to answer…I’m coming.

 

Cover:  Brandi Doane

 

Blood Moon (The Huntress/FBI Thrillers, #2)

 

Goodreads  /  Amazon US  /  Amazon UK  /  Amazon CA

 

MY REVIEW

 

I am so excited to be back with Special Agent Matthew Roarke, kicking down doors and taking down the bad guys, as his hunt for Cara continues. I love action from the opening page, getting me fully invested in the story and Blood Moon has it in spades.

 

This book picks up where Huntress Moon, Book I, left off. It does  fill in some blanks from the first book, but I will tell you now, I am so happy I started at the beginning. I don’t want to miss a thing and I don’t think you will either.

 

Cara is a female serial killer, but she is so much more than that. She is a vigilante that Roarke has been chasing since Huntress Moon, Book I of the series. Cara was not born this was, she was created…by The Reaper. She touched me deeply. Right or wrong? Who are we to judge? She is exorcising her demons the only way she knows how, saving innocent lives along the way.

 

Life is not black and white, but many shades of gray. Blood Moon makes many questions come to mind as man’s inhumanity to those unable to protect themselves is shoved in your face. Is evil alive? Does it have a physical presence?

 

How far should they, the FBI, go to draw her out? Roarke has conflicting feelings, but comes up with the plan. Cara was Roarke’s incentive to become an FBI agent, since he learned about the tragedy surrounding her at when he was nine years old.

 

Alexandra Sokoloff has written a story that pushes and pulls me in so many directions making me question myself. My morals and ethics. Who is right? Who is wrong?

 

She skillullly weaves the past and the present, sharing the storyline from Cara and Roarke’s perspective. The investigation takes them to surprising places, the clues and evidence leading them in unexpected ways. This is not your typical police procedural. Reading all the evidence takes a meticulous and detailed mind, thinking outside the box. I think it takes a special kind of person, whether you are deciphering the clues as a reader or creating them as a writer.

 

Alexandra Sokoloff is able to ramp up the intrigue, my curiosity, the suspense, and my anticipation to a horrifying, frantic level, making me wonder how this can possibly end.

 

Would you care if the traffickers, rapists, and pimps were offed? Would you go out of your way to find the vigilante who protects children who are unable to protect themselves and others have cast aside?

 

The characters come to life in a way I never anticipated. I loved them, I hated them, I worried about them, I raged at them, I fretted with fear and terror, and I wished they would go down in flames, and I mean that literally.

 

I love/hate the ending, BUT don’t think for a minute that the story is done, because Alexandra Sokoloff has so much more coming in Cold Moon, Book III, and I do not want to miss one second of Roarke’s and Cara’s story. I didn’t wait…I immediately began to read it.

 

I voluntarily reviewed a free copy of Blood Moon by Alexandra Sokoloff.

Animated Animals. Pictures, Images and Photos  5 Stars

 

Read more here.

 

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Source: www.fundinmental.com/badass-female-vigilante-serial-killer-blood-moon-by-alexandra-sokoloff-alexsokoloff
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review 2017-11-05 10:55
Loving My Actual Christmas: An Experiment In Relishing The Season by Alexandra Kuykendall
Loving My Actual Christmas: An Experiment in Relishing the Season - Alexandra Kuykendall

The Christmas season is a particularly difficult time for women to slow down and relish what's right in front of them. An annual marker for many, it is a holiday that can often remind us how life is not going as we'd planned. Our family relationships remain strained, our finances stretched, and our schedules stuffed with too much to do in too little time. Following the formula of her successful Loving My Actual Life, Alexandra Kuykendall shares with readers her own personal experiment to be completely present in her life as it is during the holiday season. Addressing the themes of Advent and Christmas, she reflects on hope, love, joy, peace, and relishing the season, with practical pullouts on common Christmas stressors, such as finances, schedules, and extended family. Kuykendall's signature candor helps women go easy on themselves, remember what truly matters, and find joy in their imperfect Christmases.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

It all started with Alexandra Kuykendall's previous release, Loving My Actual Life, in which for an entire year she challenged herself to slow down a bit and take in the actual life she was living rather than the one she was obsessively trying to achieve through insane schedules, a go-go-go lifestyle and maybe a touch of subconsciously trying to compete with friends and neighbors for a mythical "best life" award. Using the format of that experiment, Kuykendall challenges herself once again, this time tackling the seemingly inevitable stress that comes with each year's impending holiday season -- the days packed with endless holiday festivities, the decorating, the blown out holiday budget that depresses her come January. She explains that her inspiration this time around was the realization that she did not want her daughters to grow up and have their dominant holiday memories be of stressed out, edgy and resentful parents. Instead, she wanted to put the need for perfection aside and just try to be present and authentically capture the true magic of Christmas for her girls. This year, Kuykendall wants to put the focus back on true family togetherness, charity, kindness, all those warm fuzzy emotions we ALL desperately need a good dose of right about now. 

 

Can I do this? Create an experiment where I'm able to savor the season in front of me without ending up overwhelmed and bitter? Where I avoid needing a detox from the fa-la-la-la and the mistletoe? It is worth the try. Because hope, peace, joy, and love are certainly words I want to associate with this time of year. Rather than overspending, overeating, undersleeping and underrejoicing, I want to notice the goodness God has offered in the here and now. In this year. This Christmas. Regardless of the circumstances. Because I don't want to resent this actual Christmas. I want to love it. 

 

 

It's a tough year for Kuykendall, as it's the year her stepfather passed away, a man she had come to rely on as a loving, reliable male figure in her life (for more on the difficult relationship Kuykendall has with her birth father, check out her memoir, The Artist's Daughter). Hard as it will be to tackle a season of family gatherings without this important man there for her, Kuykendall works hard not to let the sadness tarnish the warm memories she wants to cultivate for her family. 

 

In Loving My Actual Christmas, Kuykendall admits from the very beginning that this round will be slightly different because she is not working within the luxury of an entire year. We are talking about a season. So she gets the ball rolling in November, jumping right into family gatherings and activities around Thanksgiving, Christmas right around the corner. After moving passed Christmas, the book closes out a few days past the New Year (this past January 2017, as she notes that she started writing this book during 2016 holiday season).

 

Though she may not have a full year to work through, to give herself some sense of structure to this experiment, Kuykendall plots out the time frame of the experiment using the window of Advent (the 4 weeks leading up to Christmas Day) as well as Christmastide (more commonly known as the Twelve Days of Christmas), carrying through to just after New Year's celebrations. This book has the same diary-like layout as Loving My Actual Life. From day one, Kuykendall makes entries for every day of every week, giving readers a rundown of what the day's activities looked like, what she hopes to accomplish with that day, what she comes away with (lesson-wise) at day's end, and what Scripture she used that day to ponder on as she worked through each day's schedule. The entries are divided by Advent week and for each week she gives herself an overall theme to focus on: 

 

  • Week 1 = HOPE
  • Week 2 = LOVE
  • Week 3 = JOY
  • Week 4 = PEACE
  • * and then a section that does an overview on her Christmastide experience

 

Each chapter closes on "Questions for Reflection", questions that help guide readers on their own journey of better appreciating the season. She also offers relevant scripture, so this book (as well as her previous experiment book) have potential to be used as devotional supplements. Kuykendall is quick to address that a lot of the issues / stressors she tackles in this book will likely come of as #firstworldproblems, but as she points out -- the experiments are called MY ACTUAL LIFE and MY ACTUAL CHRISTMAS... it might seem first world, but it is the life SHE is personally living, so we gotta let her do her thing. 

 

What I love about these experiments of hers is that Kuykendall gives it to her readers honestly, warts and all. She fully admits to being human, starting with the best intentions and then getting in the moment and seriously wanting to throw in the towel instead. Immediately from Day 1 of her Christmas experiment she hits a wall. Not a good start, but a humorous and relatable one! She talks of facing the living room mantel, realizing she has to take down all the "harvest" decor to set up the Nativity scene... and she's honestly just not feelin' it, y'all! Who hasn't been there!

 

Also on this day she's hit with the first wave of holiday family travel plans (orchestrating all that) as well as trying to find time to sit down to do the obligatory Christmas cards. Those Christmas cards haunt her through many of the days, leading her to tell a story of when she just decided to NOT do cards one year, and guess what? There was a little guilt involved on her part, but no one died and no one disowned her. This spoke to my soul as it's exactly where I was last Christmas, and frankly I don't know that I'm feeling much for the cards this year, so it was nice to get a sense of camaraderie from that. Kuykendall encourages readers to still do cards, but do them for the right reason. Do it because you honestly love and miss these people and WANT to connect, don't just make it a chore to scratch off because you don't want things to get awkward later. 

 

No big surprise, but one of Kuykendall's big takeaways from this project is that the best gift is really just giving someone time / attention / respect / love. If you love the act of bestowing physical gifts, just make sure that the gifts show you LISTEN TO THEM. Don't get caught up in getting what everyone else seems to be buying -- unless, I guess, your people have expressed that's truly what they want with all their hearts. But in general, it's nice to give gifts that give a nod to something said in passing that shows you were listening even when they thought you weren't! ;-)

 

Other main points:

 

* Decide on a holiday budget and STICK TO IT. Also, it might help to make an inventory of all expected costs for the season -- what you anticipate to spend on holiday meals, outings, travel, holiday clothing, etc. Factor that into the overall "holiday budget" at the beginning of the season and you probably won't have quite as much sticker shock come January. 

 

* As Kuykendall's husband kept telling her throughout this process: "No bad-mouthing Christmas!" Your season might still have an element of stress no matter what you do but don't blame the season, just find your zen again and remember the real "reason for the season".

 

As I carried out the experiment, I was reminded that this holiday becomes a circus because we are operating out of our longings. We long for memories and fun and happiness. We long for meaning and purpose. We know it must be hidden somewhere among the decorations and the fuss. And when I stopped and paid attention, this is what stood out to me about why we do all of this Christmas making in the first place. 

 

* Learn to say "no" sometimes and be okay with it. Much of the stress of the season comes from us allowing ourselves to be roped into doing every little thing to ensure everyone else has the perfect season. Once in awhile, stop and say no. And then go let yourself have some you time so YOU can enjoy the season. 

 

At the back of the book, Kuykendall also offers supplemental guides such as "Practical Tips and Strategies" where she outlines just how exactly she pulled off this experiment and how you can try it yourself. Within the guides she also encourages readers to engage in some moments of contemplation: evaluate family holiday traditions, WHY you still do them and should you continue with them or are you merely doing it out of habit? (Think: are the kids too old for it? Are there enough people that still enjoy the tradition or are you just forcing them through?). She gives you a really handy guide on ways to be more economical during the season as well as a pep talk on the power of "no thank you".

She closes with the plea to readers that while they go through this process (should they choose to, that is), in all things always strive to continually be kind, gracious and compassionate. 

 

Near the end of the experiment, Kuykendall points out that throughout this process it is important to keep in mind that you can't (or at the very least, shouldn't) gloss over the hurts and struggles of the year with a simple dusting of tinsel, a few rounds of carols and a nice mug of eggnog (if eggnog is your thing). Kuykendall advises readers to remember the Nativity story: all the struggles that were going on in that time in history, how so many people craved a positive change for peace... and what happened? A star suddenly appeared in the night sky shining a light so bright as to leave any observer awe-struck, so bright as to be able to guide three wise men to a random manger. A light in the darkness. The darkness doesn't go away for good, but having your heart in the right place helps keeps the hardships at bay. That's the idea here. Acknowledge the struggles but embrace the joy and grace found behind them. We will likely always be trying to fight off one evil or another in the world, but Kuykendall encourages you, when faced with dark times, to allow yourself to still be in awe of the marvels & beauties in the world, because if you keep yourself open enough, they will remind you that they are still out there. As she says, "This is a year to celebrate the good news within the context of our actual lives."

 

 

FTC Disclaimer:  Baker Books kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own. 

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text 2017-10-25 02:27
Reading progress update: I've read 25%.
The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding - Alexandra Bracken

Really not sure if I am going to be able to finish this book, its a very strange book so far. I will try to read some more of the book later before I decided what I am going to do, either stop reading it or to continue to try to read it for at least a little bit more. 

I do like Prosper and I don't know how his going to handle what he just found out about himself. I think I will try to read a different book and then come back to this book later. 

 

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review 2017-10-22 17:29
Killer Look by Linda Fairstein
Killer Look (An Alexandra Cooper Novel) - Linda Fairstein

New York City is one of the fashion capitals of the world, well-known for its glamour and style. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the runway, where American haute couture continually astounds with its creativity, daring, and innovation in the name of beauty. Yet high fashion means high stakes, as Alex Cooper quickly discovers when businessman and designer Wolf Savage is found dead in an apparent suicide, mere days before the biggest show of his career. When the man's daughter insists Savage s death was murder, the case becomes more than a media sensation: It is a race to find a killer in a world created entirely out of fantasy and illusion.

With her own job at the DA's office in jeopardy, and the temptation to self-medicate her PTSD with alcohol almost too strong to resist, Alex is not anyone's first choice for help. But she is determined to uncover the grime and the possible homicide beneath the glitz. Along with detectives Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace, Alex must penetrate the twisted roots and mixed motives among the high-profile players in the Garment District. The investigation takes the trio from the missing money in Wolf Savage's international fashion house to his own recovery from addiction; from the role of Louisiana Voodoo in his life to his excessive womanizing; and to the family secrets he kept so well-hidden, even from those closest to him just as things are about to get deadly on the catwalk.


*********
 
I have to admit that I was unsure that I would like this story because of the fashion angle. I have read two books previous in this series and have enjoyed them both so I hoped it would turn out to be just as good as they had been. And, yes, despite my lack of fashion interest did this book work out for me. But, then again, a killer in the fashion world doesn't seem that far-fetched when you think about it. All those egoistic, megalomaniacs that only care about earning more money would probably kill without any problems if that meant earning more money. I mean some of them already do that with poor working conditions, buildings collapsing and minimum wagers. Sorry, I got off the track... 
 
In Killer Look is Alex Cooper recuperating after being kidnapped in the previous book, and what better way to get back than to help an old school mate to find out the truth about her father's death. Everything points to suicide, but Alex is not so sure and together with detectives Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace is she investigating the case. Or rather they are and she is unofficially helping. But, perhaps she should have stayed out of this and focused on getting better because there seemed to be danger lurking in the fashion world... 
 
I ended up quite liking the book. I especially like the fact that Alex and Mike are now official a couple, it will be interesting to read the previous books to see how that happened since they have been just friends for years. I liked the case and I liked the tidbit of fashion history that Linda Fairstein includes in the story. That's one of the best things about this series besides the cases. I just love reading books that include interesting tidbits. The case may have started off a bit slow, but it got more interesting as the story progressed and it seems that a lot of the people around Wolf Savage has secrets...
 
Killer Look is a superb book, although personally, I can't understand why you want to spend so much money on clothes when you can buy books instead...
 
I want to thank the publisher for providing me with a free copy through NetGalley for an honest review!
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