Author Archives: CJ

A Bad Day for Voodoo by Jeff Strand

A Bad Day for Voodoo by Jeff Strand

When your best friend is just a tiny bit psychotic, you should never actually believe him when he says, “Trust me. This is gonna be awesome.”

Of course, you probably wouldn’t believe a voodoo doll could work either. Or that it could cause someone’s leg to blow clean off with one quick prick. But I’ve seen it. It can happen.

And when there’s suddenly a doll of YOU floating around out there—a doll that could be snatched by a Rottweiler and torn to shreds, or a gang of thugs ready to torch it, or any random family of cannibals (really, do you need the danger here spelled out for you?)—well, you know that’s just gonna be a really bad day …

Since I finished A Bad Day For Voodoo, I’ve brainstormed a review that would suit the amazingness that is this book. Let’s face it, I’m just not clever enough.

I’ve never really been a fan of “comedy” books, I have such a weird sense of humor that it’s rare I find one that actually makes me laugh. (Same with movies!) Strand’s newest book is one of those rarities. The entire book I kept bookmarking pages and marking quotes.

A Bad Day for Voodoo is told as if the main character, Tyler, is writing the book – complete with little side notes that added to the humor. (Want a taste of the humor? Check out this promo post I featured in May.) Like I already said, I laughed. I actually laughed the entire book. Strand’s sense of humor is fabulous.

Strand has fit a little bit of everything into A Bad Day for Voodoo – cannibals, a zombie, and more. Yes, readers, I enjoyed a book with a zombie in it. (Another of my quirks, I dislike zombies.) Every situation is extreme, but it fits. (Squirting blood anyone?)

Tyler’s best friend has found a place that makes voodoo dolls. Tyler is wanting revenge on his teacher, but surely a voodoo doll won’t do anything? When it results in an extreme amount of blood and missing body parts, Tyler’s understandably distressed. Then when another doll pops up for him, he knows he has to go to all extremes to protect it and get it deactivated.

We follow Tyler and his friends and a cast of other creatures (and characters) in a very bad day. It’s quirky, it’s hilarious and it’s such a unique young adult title! I had never read anything from Strand before, but I’m definitely going to pick up more of his works.

As already noted, A Bad Day for Voodoo is bloody. It’s a dark comedy, if that’s not your thing – you aren’t going to enjoy this book. Everyone else is bound to find a bit of gory humor in this title.

I received my copy of A Bad Day for in exchange for my honest opinion.


Here by Denise Grover Swank

Review: Here by Denise Grover Swank


Here – Tour Schedule

Sixteen year old Julia Phillips buries herself in guilt after killing her best friend Monica in a car accident. Julia awoke in the hospital with a broken leg, a new talent for drawing and false memories of the accident, in which she dies and Monica lives. The doctors attribute this to her head injury, but no one can explain how a bracelet engraved with her name ended up at the scene of the accident. A bracelet no one has ever seen before. Classmate Evan Whittaker paid Julia no attention before the accident, let alone after. Now suddenly he’s volunteering to tutor her and offering to drive her home. She can’t ignore that his new obsession started after his two-day disappearance last week and that he wears a pendant she’s been drawing for months. When the police show up one night looking for Evan, he begs Julia to run with him, convincing her that Monica is still alive. Julia agrees to go, never guessing where he’s really from.

I’ve been sitting here for the past 30 minutes staring at my notes trying to decide how to even attempt this review. This is a book when even the mention of the genre could be considered a spoiler. Of course, this is my opinion, many other reviewers have gone much more into detail! (Check out Goodreads or Amazon for those if you are curious! :) ) I avoid as many spoilers as possible here on Letters Inside Out.

Here opens up with a broken main character, Julia. Her best friend died in a car accident that she has no recollection of. I can’t help but feel for her; this is a girl who has been through hell and has no one for support. Her younger sister is kind of mean. Her parents are frustrated. Everyone either seems to hate/blame Julia for what happened or expects her to be smiley and happy after something so tragic! Even as she improved, they continued to be kind of awful.

There was one thing that irritated me some, and that was the “love” aspect; Evan is OBSESSED with Julia. Sure, at times, it’s cute, but he starts saying things about how he can’t stand to be without her and waiting outside the library during her tutoring session. It was creepy! In Julia’s defense, she was put off somewhat and uncertain by his affection. (There was an explanation, but I don’t want to get into it for spoiler reasons!) I do have to say I *love* Reece, who appeared very little in Here, I’m hoping he’ll be a bit of a bigger focus in the sequel There. I sense the startings of what could potentially be an interesting love triangle.

The premise behind Here is so unique and kept me guessing and trying to figure out why the book began with an intense scene seemingly unrelated with the storyline. I was kept guessing the entire time as to what was going on. I really enjoyed Here and would definitely recommend picking it up if you are in the mood for a different type of read.

I received my copy of Here: On the Otherside Series, Book One from the author and AToMR Book Tours in exchange for my honest opinion.

Unbreak My Heart by Melissa C. Walker

Review: Unbreak My Heart by Melissa C. Walker

Sophomore year broke Clementine Williams’ heart. She fell for her best friend’s boyfriend and long story short: he’s excused, but Clem is vilified and she heads into summer with zero social life.

Enter her parents’ plan to spend the summer on their sailboat. Normally the idea of being stuck on a tiny boat with her parents and little sister would make Clem break out in hives, but floating away sounds pretty good right now.

Then she meets James at one of their first stops along the river. He and his dad are sailing for the summer and he’s just the distraction Clem needs. Can he break down Clem’s walls and heal her broken heart?

I always have a weakness for books by Sarah Dessen or Deb Caletti, they are light, yet powerful. When I first heard the buzz about Unbreak My Heart, I kept hearing that Walker’s newest book was similar I was intrigued. I’ve only ever read Small Town Sinners, but I really enjoyed it.

Clementine is bitter and unhappy, she’s decided that everyone that matters hates her, so she might as well sulk. Clem knows she screwed up and ruined her friendships and she knows how/why, but at the same she doesn’t really get it. Clem isn’t perfect, she’s a teenage girl who fell for the wrong guy. Having been in a similar situation as Clem as a teen, I can’t help but feel for her. He was charming, his comments and actions were beyond innocent, but alas it’s always the girl’s fault. So, she’s been exiled by her friends.

Now she’s stuck with her family on a sailboat all summer. All she really wants to do is read her books and be lazy at home. Then comes along James. Oh, how I love James! He’s this happy-go-lucky guy who does his best to stay upbeat, despite his own troubles. He’s adorable and one of the few boys in YA that isn’t a bit “bad boy”.

I love how beautifully Walker manages to capture Clem’s life using alternating chapters to flash back to the past. To be honest, I went into Unbreak My Heart thinking it’d be just a pure YA contemporary romance, but it’s an exploration of family, friends, and what’s right and wrong.

I received my copy of Unbreak My Heart by Melissa C. Walker in exchange for my honest opinion.

Heads up: When I was looking for the synopsis for this book, I came across this great contest/giveaway opportunity on Facebook! It’s ages 10 to 23. Letters Inside Out is not affiliated, but I thought some of my readers might be interested! Check it out on the Bloomsbury Teen‘s Facebook page. Good luck! (If you aren’t between those ages, check it out to see their playlist for the book, also linked on the page.)

Angel Burn - LA Weatherly (ARC)

Review: Angel Burn – LA Weatherly (ARC)

“Willow knows she’s different from other girls, and not just because she loves tinkering with cars. Willow has a gift. She can look into the future and know people’s dreams and hopes, their sorrows and regrets, just by touching them. She has no idea where this power comes from. But the assassin, Alex, does. Gorgeous, mysterious Alex knows more about Willow than Willow herself does. He knows that her powers link to dark and dangerous forces and that he’s one of the few humans left who can fight them. When Alex finds himself falling in love with his sworn enemy, he discovers that nothing is as it seems, least of all good and evil. In the first book in an action-packed romantic trilogy, L. A. Weatherly sends readers on a thrill ride of a road trip  —  and depicts the human race at the brink of a future as catastrophic as it is deceptively beautiful.”

Angels happen to be one of my favorite book subjects here lately.  When I heard the buzz about Angel Burn, I knew I had to read it.  I wasn’t disappointed.  This different look on angels was so refreshing and different.  The book hooked me early on and I found myself eager to find out what happens next.

Alex was dreamy.  We all love the typical bad boy with a heart of gold, don’t we?  Willow had been through so much and was such a strong individual.  The romance for once didn’t feel forced or rushed to me.  It naturally came about, so that was a breath of fresh air.

Overall this book is unique and I can’t wait for the sequel.  Angel Burn’s release date is May 24, 2011.

Partials by Dan Wells

Review: Partials by Dan Wells

The human race is all but extinct after a war with Partials—engineered organic beings identical to humans—has decimated the population. Reduced to only tens of thousands by RM, a weaponized virus to which only a fraction of humanity is immune, the survivors in North America have huddled together on Long Island while the Partials have mysteriously retreated. The threat of the Partials is still imminent, but, worse, no baby has been born immune to RM in more than a decade. Our time is running out.

Kira, a sixteen-year-old medic-in-training, is on the front lines of this battle, seeing RM ravage the community while mandatory pregnancy laws have pushed what’s left of humanity to the brink of civil war, and she’s not content to stand by and watch. But as she makes a desperate decision to save the last of her race, she will find that the survival of humans and Partials alike rests in her attempts to uncover the connections between them—connections that humanity has forgotten, or perhaps never even knew were there.

Guuuuyyyyysssssss, yesterday I reviewed another title that made me want to just type “omg” over and over. Partials is another one of that sort. Up until a few years ago I wasn’t crazy about sci-fi books. At all. I’m still not all “OOOHHH I love sci-fi”, but I’m more open to reading about aliens, robots, and other sci-fi type things. As long as the books have some other sort of element. Partials fits perfectly, just enough that I’m entertained, but not so much that I’m overwhelmed by it. When I first heard about Partials, the buzz was saying dystopia. I love dystopian, so it immediately went on my TBR list. (Side note: Anyone looking for dystopian, Partials is not your book. It’s post-apocalyptic! There is a difference, I promise.)

In Partials, a disease has made it so that all babies die within a few days of birth. As scientists try to figure out the cause, everyone 18 and up is basically forced to have sex. Women are supposed to reproduce as much as possible, because the government feels one child will eventually survive. Kira’s job is training to become a medic, because of that she’s right there as babies die.

What did I love the most? The idea behind the partials is so realistic. Think of all of the genetically-engineered things appearing now days? Fish are fed chemicals to make them larger. Cloning is possible. The way I see it, it’s just a matter of time before something is “created” like the partials.

I also enjoyed that the teens in Partials, were hardened. They didn’t come across as super fluffy or childlike. They’ve lived hard lives. Many have seen their entire families be killed in the war and show it. On the same vein though, some of the adults come across as weak and a bit fake – the complete opposite.

Romance lovers – there is a touch of a romance, but it’s not a big focus. For me that was a bit of a relief, who really has time to maintain a relationship while they are trying to save the world?

If you enjoy post-apocalyptic books, Partials is not to be missed! (And 2013′s release of Fragments cannot come soon enough!)

I received my copy of Partials from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Rival by Sarah Bennett Wealer

Review: Rival by Sarah Bennett Wealer

Just a note: For the next 2 weeks or so I may be slacking a bit on posting. My best friend is coming to stay with me for a few days, so, I won’t be able to get much reading done either. I do have some posts scheduled to post though.  Also later tonight I will be posting up my Spring Blog Carnival giveaway, so be sure and check back!

“Brooke I don’t like Kathryn Pease. I could pretend everything’s fine between us. I could be nice to her face, then trash her behind her back. But I think it’s better to be honest. I don’t like Kathryn, and I’m not afraid to admit it.
Kathryn I saw a commercial where singers used their voices to shatter glass, but the whole thing is pretty much a myth. The human voice isn’t that strong.
Human hatred is. Anybody who doubts that should feel the hate waves coming off of Brooke Dempsey. But I don’t shatter; I’m not made of glass. Anyway, the parts that break aren’t on the outside.
Brooke and Kathryn used to be best friends . . . until the night when Brooke ruthlessly turned on Kathryn in front of everyone. Suddenly Kathryn was an outcast and Brooke was Queen B. Now, as they prepare to face off one last time, each girl must come to terms with the fact that the person she hates most might just be the best friend she ever had.”

The characters in this book are so realistic and fun…I loved every second of it! Brooke was my favorite, she stayed true to herself and a geninuely good person throughout the entire book. Sure, she didn’t like Kathryn, but she thought she had a really good reason to feel that way. At times Kathryn came across as whiny. I know she was being terrorized, but I disliked how when Brooke and she were friends, how she behaved. That being said, the way they behaved was real.

I really enjoyed this book, it was the sort of book that reminds you of the cruelty of teen girls, but also gives you a little insight as to why they do what they do.

All These Lives by Sarah Wylie

Review: All These Lives by Sarah Wylie

Sixteen-year-old Dani is convinced she has nine lives. As a child she twice walked away from situations where she should have died. But Dani’s twin, Jena, isn’t so lucky. She has cancer and might not even be able to keep her one life. Dani’s father is in denial. Her mother is trying to hold it together and prove everything’s normal. And Jena is wasting away. To cope, Dani sets out to rid herself of all her extra lives. Maybe they’ll be released into the universe and someone who wants to live more than she does will get one. Someone like Jena. But just when Dani finds herself at the breaking point, she’s faced with a startling realization. Maybe she doesn’t have nine lives after all. Maybe she really only ever had one.

Amazon | Goodreads

All These Lives is one of those titles that I had such high hopes for, I wonder if my anticipation and excitement just led me to be disappointed. Contemporary is always one of my favorite genres and, even more so, I love books with deeper issues. But, unfortunately,  All These Lives failed to impress me all that much.

Dani has grown up thinking she has nine lives, mostly because of her mother’s slightly dramatic past. Her twin sister, Jena, has leukemia. Before you run off, Wylie choose to focus more on the sisters and their bond than what was happening with them. Personally, I would have enjoyed more of the focus on their “lives” than their relationship. Granted, I love character-driven books, I just felt a lot of potential was ignored.

Dani’s way of coping and hope of saving her sister is to use up her nine lives. Dani’s logic and reasoning is explained in the book, but it didn’t bode well with me. She’s 16. She should understand just a bit that her repeat attempts at death are making things worse. And her actions, while acknowledged, aren’t pressed all that much. Obviously, I don’t like Dani. She’s rude and as a result isolated from her friends. I know she’s upset, but I found the entire premise incredibly selfish.

Despite disliking Dani and all of her decisions, All These Lives kept me entertained. I wanted to know what would happen. I also love Jena, she’s very in-tune with her cancer and really just wants to live her life. And the author, Sarah Wylie’s writing is lovely. I can’t wait to read more from her.

To be honest, I’m in the very small percentage of bloggers who seemed to not love All These Lives. As always, when I dislike a book that doesn’t mean everyone else will! I urge you give it a try.

Here are a few blog reviews who enjoyed All These Lives:
365 Days of Reading
Ex Libris
Gothic Angel Book Reviews
That’s What She Read

Review + Giveaway: ALIBI from Twist Literary

Spring Valley’s golden girl is found floating face-down in her boyfriend’s pool, hands bound behind her back, head bleeding, drugs and alcohol in her system. Her friends are the only suspects – and they all have reasons to want her dead. Everyone has an alibi, but no one is innocent.

ALIBI is a 4-part young adult e-book series. Each one-hundred page installment reveals the perspective of a different character: the secret love, the nemesis, the boyfriend, the best friend. As their tales unfold, we learn that Abby is not as perfect as everyone believes, but she’s not the only one with secrets to hide. This page-turning tale of suspense, betrayal, murder, and lust will keep fans of Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars up and reading well past curfew.

Note: This series contains content for mature YA readers.

The general concept behind Alibi is fascinating to me. Four authors all write a 100 page-volume about one event from a different POV. I included the little “explanation” of it so you can get a bit more of a taste of what it’s about. I was excited about that concept automatically, but the synopsis made it an experience I knew I couldn’t miss.

In each volume that character is telling their side of events and recalling events, often the same events filling in with details that the others may not have noticed along with that character’s thoughts of the situation. It’s your basic “whodunit” book, with a “twist”. Like teased in the synopsis, it’s similar to Pretty Little Liars (suspense/twists and turns) and Gossip Girl (sexy/saucy). This combo makes for such a fun ride.

I had started Volume 1 with the intention of reading it before bed and then starting volume 2 the next day. By the conclusion of volume 2, I was pretty sure who had killed Abigail (and was right). Even with my suspicions, Alibi kept me guessing about situations until it was tied up at the end.

Lovers of suspenseful books aren’t going to want miss Alibi.

I received ALIBI Volumes I-IV: The Complete Series from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

Twist Literary is giving away Volumes 1-4 here on Letters Inside Out!

Where the Truth Lies by Jessica Warman

Review: Where the Truth Lies by Jessica Warman

Taken from B&N: “On the surface, Emily Meckler leads the perfect life. She has three best friends, two loving parents, and the ideal setup at the Connecticut prep school where her father is the headmaster. Then the enigmatic Del Sugar enters her life, and Emily is immediately swept away-but her passionate relationship with Del is just the first of many things that aren’t quite what they seem in Emily’s life. As the lies she’s been told start to unravel, Emily must set out to discover the truth, a journey that will lead her to question everything she thought she knew.”

When I read Breathless earlier this year, I knew I had to read Where the Truth Lies. Usually I dislike books where characters fall into a fast-paced romance, I don’t HATE them, I just don’t find them realistic. Something about the passion and the way it was written, I was riveted.

At first everything in the book seems completely perfect. With an exception of Emily’s dreams, but that’s not something controlled, so I kind of overlooked it. When I say everything, I do mean everything…her friends, her school, her parents…Even Del was perfect with a touch of bad-boy gleaming.

As the story unfolds, small secrets and actions from the characters, things aren’t so perfect and shiny. I kept finding myself wanting to know more and more. The mystery of it all kept me guessing and on the edge of my seat. I won’t get into details as to what happens to each character (or their past secrets), because I hate spoilers, but I will say Jessica Warman weaves an amazing page-turner. If you haven’t checked out any of her books, definitely do so!

Thanks to Bloomsbury USA/Walker Books for providing me with a free copy of Where The Truth Lies for review.


Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters

Review: Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters

Let’s say you’re fourteen and live in New York City. You’d think your life would be like a glamorous TV show, right? And yet . . . You don’t have a checking account, much less a personal Black American Express card. You’ve never been to a club, and the only couture in your closet is a Halloween costume your mom made from an old laundry bag.

In other words? You’re Kelsey Finkelstein – fourteen and frustrated. Every time she tries to live up to her awesome potential, her plans are foiled. Kelsey wants to rebrand herself for high school to make the kind of mark she knows is her destiny. But just because Kelsey has a plan for greatness . . . it doesn’t mean the rest of the world is in on it.

When I first heard of Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disaster, I was so excited. It’s being buzzed as perfect for fans of two of my favorite contemporary authors – Lauren Myracle and Meg Cabot. I saw a few mixed reviews for it, but I was eager to get my hands on it.

Freshman Year is as funny as it promises, almost too much so. Kelsey has the worst luck. Ever. Pretty much everything that can go wrong with her “rebranding” does. At times I found myself going, “Really?!” But I giggled along, so it was fun in a predictable sort of way. I even found myself laughing out loud in some parts, because it was just so funny the situations she found herself in!

Rant time: I don’t usually get appalled easily by characters’ bad behavior, but the characters in this book likely need Alcoholics Anonymous or will by the time they graduate. For freshmen in high school (13-14 years old for you non-US people), they all drink much more than I ever heard anyone doing while in school. I know, it’s a book, but this made it feel so unrealistic. There is no major punishment for their drinking. At one point it was mentioned they actually drank prior to their freshman year; there is one side character who is insecure because she doesn’t drink, everyone else does. They aren’t even drinking wine coolers or beer (most of the time) so it kind of grated on my nerves.

Aside from the drinking issue being out of hand, Freshman Year really was a cute read. There is some BFF drama that I adored and it made me think back to my own friends in high school and even middle school with our petty situations. You have a character questioning their sexuality which is always a pleasant surprise in any book, because I feel it deserves as much attention as possible.

This one may not be for everyone, but if you are wanting something that might make you giggle you might consider picking it up!

A lot of bloggers really loved this title though, be sure and check out some of their reviews before making up your mind:
Candace’s Book Blog
Read Me Bookmark Me Love Me

I received my copy of Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters in exchange for my honest opinion from the publisher.