Book Review: Game On


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Title – Game On: How to be a queen, not a pawn, in a game devised by men
Author – Renee Cleveland
Genre – Self-help / relationships
Publication Date – October 19, 2013
Publisher – Planettopia Publishing LLC
Cover Artist – Beetiful Custom Designs

Game On - Book Cover 11-20-13


While adapting to single mother-hood Renee re-entered the dating arena that was filled with great challenges and crazy excitement. Renee’s first release, Game On, is about her journey through the dating world, discovering the games that men play to try and conquer women. Game On is infused with insights, experiences along with advice that is sure to allow readers to come away with new perspectives. Game On will make you laugh and cry all in the same!

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Game On - Author Photo - 11-20-13


Renee grew up in a small town in Southern Maryland and has lived in various places from coast to coast. She majored in English Literature and Child Psychology while pursuing her higher education. She is a hardworking, passionate single mother of 3 beautiful children whom are her greatest joys in life.


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2 Kindle Copies


My Review:
Traditionally, self-help books are a tricky genre for myself. They either come across too preachy, where the author has ALL of the answers to whatever problem you have or they dole out advice that is largely just common sense. Game On falls neatly somewhere in the middle of this. Cleveland mixes advice with short, amusing personal narratives. She also draws upon other text that has been written about the subject, taking care not to cast those aside as the wrong way to do things; Cleveland simply adds to it. I love that she stresses the importance of having friends and not planning a wedding at hello. I laughed aloud when I read that last part. Hilarious, yes but I’ve known so many friends to do just that!

One thing I especially appreciated was the narrative about Motorcycle Man. It isn’t one of her shining moments but serves as a learning experience for the author and her readers.

I give Game On 3.5/5 stars

Blog Tour: Her by Felicia Johnson – 5 Stars


Title: Her

Author: Felicia Johnson

Pub Date: May 22, 2013


cover her

In many ways, Kristen Elliott is a normal, seventeen-year-old girl. Kristen loves her family. She works hard academically, and tries to please her mother. She takes on the additional responsibility of caring for her twin siblings, Nick and Alison. She idealizes her best friend, Lexus, who not only seems to lead the perfect life, but also catches the attention of John, the boy Kristen secretly loves. However, as is the case with many teenagers, Kristen feels frustrated, isolated, and confused. In other ways, Kristen is not like other kids her age. She knows something is wrong with her. Kristen feels like an utter failure. She is unable to please her abrasive mother, and scared to confront Jack, her abusive stepfather. She is also unable to protect Nick from Jack, making her fell all the more helpless. Adding to her problems, she knows she will never be as beautiful as her best friend Lexus. Kristen finds solace in self-injury, and the company of Mr. Sharp, her imaginary friend who encourages her feelings of self-loathing.

After a failed suicide attempt, Kristen is placed in the Bent Creek mental hospital, where she is diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. While in the hospital, she meets a group of peers suffering with their own mental illnesses, and a compassionate staff of doctors and counselors. From there, Kristen begins her journey to survival. She discovers the circumstances that brought her to this breaking point, struggles to understand her mental illness, and fights to be a survivor against her own worst enemy: her self-blame. Kristen’s tale of endurance illustrates the complex illness of Borderline Personality Disorder. Readers – including those suffering from BPD and their friends and family – can glean insight into the illness from Kristen’s humanity. Her story is an example of how, if we try to push the past away, we are either doomed to repeat it or let it haunt us to our graves


Felicia Johnson is a writer, youth mentor, student and big sister. She loves ice cream and seeing her little sister, Laura, smile.

Author Links

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My father would probably have killed my mother. Theresa probably would have still killed herself, and I probably would have done it, too.” “Were you scared?” “At first I was. When I first got here, I thought I was being punished. Now I see what being a survivor really is. It’s not giving up. It’s not running away. It’s getting through whatever it is you have to get through to make it. It is allowing you to grow stronger for whatever is coming next. It is being brave and choosing to live through it all so that you can share your story and help others. That’s what a survivor does. I don’t want to run away anymore. I just want to live and make things better. My mom wants to do the same. I tell you, Kristen, Bent Creek may seem like the worst place to be right now, but you’ll see. It’s not.”  He looked straight into my eyes and said, “I’ve watched you.” My heart started beating fast. He grabbed my hand gently and looked down at my bandaged wrists. His fingers traced the fresh tape that Ms.Mosley had used for the bandages when she’d changed them this morning. I closed my eyes and let myself feel this moment between us.“You seem so sad and regretful. You can’t just let it out, can you?” I shook my head. My eyes were still closed. I felt tears begin to well up in them. There were no words to describe that moment. His words and the feelings inside of me were just too  much. The tears poured out from underneath my eyelids. He squeezed my hands. I jolted, not afraid, just feeling too much.“Open your eyes,” he said. I did open my eyes, and his large, beautiful eyes stared into mine. “You know how the old people in here always have something to say to us? And when they talk, they think they know everything. You know?” He chuckled a little. Then his smile  disappeared. “There are things I keep hearing over and over that I do believe, though. They sound old–  fashioned, and they are definitely cliché. But remember this, Kristen,” he told me with his seriously passionate stare. “This too shall pass, and what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.” He paused. “If you let it. Keep your head up and your eyes open. That’s how you  will survive. If what you go through doesn’t kill you, let it make you stronger.”

My Review:

I don’t think I’ve ever rooted more for a main character like I have for Kristen Elliot. Her is an honest, compelling and emotional roller coaster from beginning to end. From the start, we are thrust into Kristen’s mind and her fragile emotional state. I wasn’t sure about reading a book that began with a suicide attempt but Johnson held my interest, dropping pieces of the puzzle that is Kristen’s past – her memories prompted by little things that happen at Bent Creek, the mental hospital. The memories fall in bit by bit and just as it goes with completing  a puzzle, the whole picture becomes clearer as Kristen slips back into memories of her past.

While we are only able to see things from Kristen’s perspective, Johnson’s narrative doesn’t feel one-sided. It feels complete, multidimensional even. We’re able to see things through her eyes and understand the causes or reasons for her hopelessness, the help she’s receiving and the love she’s sorely lacked from her mother and the monster.

There’s a character in the book, known as Mr. Sharp. He’s not what you’d call an ordinary character. Kristen refers to him as an “evil entity.” And I must say, I was a bit uncomfortable with his “presence” in the beginning but I think that was the point to not only understanding Kristen’s illness but to understand the difficulty and stigma around mental health treatment.

There isn’t a part of this book that I didn’t enjoy. Enjoy might be the wrong word – I was moved. There was no filler, no lag in the story. It’s a book you devour in one sitting and might need a box of Kleenex during or afterwards.

I can’t recommend this book enough to everyone and anyone.


Book Review: A.A. Pencil’s Reunion




C. Moore Catholic High School’s 10-year reunion was organized as many reunions are – to reminisce, to see who had made a success of their lives, and in truth, to gossip on who had not. But this party in the secluded, 1890’s mansion once owned by a long dead, paranoid WWII Veteran, was to become anything but typical.

After a horrible accident within the mansion, the alumni realize they are locked in and fighting for their lives. Instantly, tempers rise and fingers are pointed as the number of living alumni begins to rapidly decrease. Theories range from there being a murderer in the midst to the mansion possibly being haunted by the previous owner’s ghost.

Who or what is responsible and will anyone make it out alive?

Find out for yourself in this combination of a mystery and psychological thriller, with a twisted ending!

About the author:


A. A. Pencil works part time as a school nurse at an all-boys Catholic school in New York City. As a Lupus survivor, she uses writing as a significant part of her therapy and you will see influences from classical writers such as Agatha Christie and Edgar Alan Poe in her work. When not working or writing, she enjoys cooking, shopping and walking. She has sponsored a child in Mexico for over three years with a children’s organization. She currently lives in a borough of New York City with her extended family who are her greatest supporters.



Buy Reunion!

To celebrate the release of AA Pencil’s debut novel “The Reunion” – During the months of November & December – 1% of the gross sales of all novels with Lavish Publishing, LLC will be donated to the Lupus Foundation of America. The donation will be made in May 2014 in honor of AA Pencil and National Lupus Awareness Month.

My review:
Ever imagine what it’d be like to get back together with your old schoolmates? Does it involve lots of backstabbing, murder and mayhem? Gosh, I hope not! That’s what books are for. Namely, A.A. Pencil’s Reunion. I was drawn to this book as the synopsis reminded me of Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians, one of my favorite books. Put a bunch of people in a room and have them start dropping like flies and you’ve got my attention! In Reunion there are all types. There’s the evil queen bee, class clown, awkward girl, jock, not-so-gracious hostess and the list goes on. Put them in a house together and everything goes awry. Old, nasty secrets are released in the form of a game, prompting a few to leave. There are MANY characters; so much so, that I admit, it was a bit difficult to remember who was who and their connection amongst other characters. Much of the beginning is spent on introducing the reader to the characters, their shared past and what they’ve recently been up to so Reunion starts out a bit slow but picks up right when everyone is ready to settle into bed. Two former schoolmates are dead and since the “party” started with a bevy of terrible secrets, no one is without suspicion. When the action starts, Christie’s influence is evident on Pencil’s writing and here is where she shines. I give Reunion 4/5 stars.

The Master’s Book



About The Master’s Book:

Sean moves to Brussels to a house that is a crime scene…

In 1482 Mary, the last Duchess of Burgundy, lies on her deathbed in a castle in Flanders. She is only 25. In her final moments she makes a wish that, 500 years later, will threaten the lives of a boy and a girl living in Brussels.

The Master’s Book is the story of Sean, an Irish teenager, just arrived in Brussels to a house that is also a crime scene. Together with Stephanie, his classmate, he finds an illuminated manuscript, only for it to be stolen almost at once.

Where did this manuscript come from? Who was it originally made for? Is there a connection with the beautiful tomb Sean has seen in Bruges? Above all, why does someone want this book so badly that they are prepared to kill for it?

Part thriller and part paper-chase, this book is aimed at boys and girls of twelve and over.


Book can be found at: GoodReads | Amazon

Author bio ImagePhilip Coleman has worked as a biologist for most of his life—in Ireland, Belgium and now in Switzerland. Having been an avid reader all his life, he took up writing only in 2006. This is his first published novel. He drew his inspiration for the story from the period he spent working for the EU in Brussels. He has a grown-up son and daughter (who were roughly the same ages as Sean and Maeve during the time in Brussels but otherwise aren’t a bit like them at all!). He now lives in France.

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My Review

I truly enjoyed The Master’s Book. I love a good mystery and who hasn’t had the desire to solve a crime themselves? The main character, Sean is likeable, admirable and ever so relatable. His schoolboy crush on classmate and fellow sleuth, Stephanie, drives many of his actions. The set-up itself is intriguing: Sean and his family, including one of my favorite characters, pesky, yet bright, younger sister Maeve have moved into a new home in Brussels. And not just any new home, its previous owner was murdered (fodder for local gossip that leaves dwellers to gawk at the homes’ new inhabitants). Sean’s mam isn’t too happy about it and neither is Sean until he meets Stephanie at his new school. He’s immediately taken by her and she by the knowledge of the history of his home. They connect over said history and together find a secret room within the basement. Sean’s interested but not nearly as much as Stephanie and it’s her probing that gets this mysterious door opened. Behind that door lies another and in that small room lies a safe. Of course, they’ve thought about notifying their parents but Stephanie would rather wait and due to Sean’s infatuation with her, agrees. That is until, the two face real danger and have no choice but to present their parents with their findings. Master’s keeps you on the edge-of-your-seat, and makes you root for it’s brave, though sometimes stubborn protagonists. It’s truly an enjoyable and thrilling read.

I give The Master’s Book 4.5/5 stars!

Beautiful Beautiful By Heidi Garrett Blog Tour & Giveaway!

Release Date: November 15th
Series: Once Upon a Time Today Collection
Genre: Adult Contemporary Fairy Tale novella
Publisher: Half-Faerie Publishing
Movie director Kerrin Mayham has an eye for beauty. Now her years of struggling on the indie film circuit are about to pay off. She’s the frontrunner to win Golden Pinnacle’s Director of the Year. Winning will mean generous financial backing for her next project, and the most bankable actors in the industry are already signaling interest in the leading role. How will she decide which Adonis is right for the part of Demion Glass?In this contemporary retelling of the eponymous Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, Kerrin’s journey leads her to discover a deeper meaning of beauty.
My Review:
Who doesn’t love a good fairy tale? What about two? Heidi Garrett’s Beautiful Beautiful reminds me of the film The Princess Bride, with main character Kerrin’s fairy tale to her daughter  interspersed with her own story as Kerrin takes over for Peter Falk as storyteller. She tells her daughter the fairytale version of how she and her father met and married. Kerrin is an award winning director, known for finding the beauty in a film but is unable to find that true beauty in a mate. I appreciated the fact the Kerrin isn’t looking to feel “whole.” Kerrin is proud of her ability to showcase strong female characters on the screen and Heidi has done just that with her character; Kerrin is a successful and accomplished woman on her own. I also enjoyed the balance of the narrative. It isn’t easy to craft one story, let alone three. There’s Kerrin’s real life tale, the fairytale told to Mibi, her daughter and the subject for the film, Demion Glass. As Kerrin tells the tale to her daughter, she notes that, “Apparently, when it came to seven-year-olds, a warm heart didn’t beat magic shoes.” Not only is that funny and probably true, it mirrors Kerrin’s actions as she blindly goes after those “magic shoes” in the form of a stunning actor. It is only after she utilizes her eye for film that she discovers the superficial quality of those “shoes” and finds the “warm heart” she’s yearned for.
I invite you to find the beauty in this quick and lovely read.
I give Beautiful Beautiful 4/5 stars.
Favorite Quotes:
” Her eye sought asymmetry and dissonance, as much as order and balance, measuring light and angles, to frame the perfect shot in her mind.”
“‘It’s good isn’t it?’ he asked, oblivious to the deep chasms on either side of the inner wall she balanced upon.”
“You can’t always see inner beauty on the first take.” “Thanks Confucius.”
“Apparently, when it came to seven-year-olds, a warm heart didn’t beat magic shoes.”
Author Bio:
Heidi Garrett is the author of the contemporary fairytale novella collection, Once Upon a Time Today. In these stand-alone retellings of popular and obscure fairy tales, adult characters navigate the deep woods of the modern landscape to find their Happily Ever Afters. The Original Fairy Tale short stories: The Girl Who Watched For ElvesThe Girl Who Dreamed of Red Shoes, and The Girl Who Couldn’t Sing are a prelude to that collection.She is also the author of The Queen of the Realm of Faerie series, a fairy tale/high fantasy mashup about a young half-faerie, half mortal woman who must save both the Enchanted and Mortal Worlds.Heidi was born in Texas, and in an attempt to reside in as many cities in that state as she could, made it to Houston, Lubbock, Austin, and El Paso. Heidi now lives in Eastern Washington state with her husband, their two cats, her laptop, and her Kindle.

Being from the South, she often contemplates the magic of snow and hopes to remind readers that: Once upon a time, you lived in an enchanted world…

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