ARC Review: The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden

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Seven girls tied by time.
Five powers that bind.
One curse to lock the horror away.
One attic to keep the monsters at bay.

After the storm of the century rips apart New Orleans, sixteen-year-old Adele Le Moyne wants nothing more than her now silent city to return to normal. But with home resembling a war zone, a parish-wide curfew, and mysterious new faces lurking in the abandoned French Quarter, normal needs a new definition.

As the city murder rate soars, Adele finds herself tangled in a web of magic that weaves back to her own ancestors. Caught in a hurricane of myths and monsters, who can she trust when everyone has a secret and keeping them can mean life or death? Unless . . . you’re immortal.

review3.5/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via Amazon Skyscape & NetGalley 

This review was a long time coming. Partially because I have so many books to read but also because no matter how many times I tried to focus on the story, it felt a little tedious. I wanted to fall head over heels because what’s not to love? New Orleans, witches, vampires, werewolves, all that angst, diary entries, the big bad mystery, and yet, the story fell flat. 

Here’s what I loved (PROS): 

  • The atmosphere. New Orleans post-Storm comes to life with vivid, haunting clarity. You feel the smoky magic and mystery saturating the muggy weather. The devastation and destruction are powerful and moving. There are brief moments of social commentary on the government response and aid. There’s this sense of a city sleeping, just waiting to be awakened. Much like the vampires. 
  • Characters, for the most part, are quirky, diverse, and unique. They all have that particular NOLA strangeness that reads as eccentric and unforgettable. Drag queens, LGBT characters, people of color. It’s all there in beautiful glory and variety. 
  • Diary entries. WOW. They totally transport you to 18th century France and some island settlements, as well as early Louisiana before it was officially established. As a historian, the Casquette girls, the aristocracy, the treatment of slaves, all of it will awaken you to another time. 
  • Mystery propels the plot forward. You’ll want to know the reason behind all the spooky things happening around Adele and to the city. 
  • Isaac is smoking hot. He’s mysterious, artistic, a little brooding, and a lot sexy. He is attentive and flirty with Adele and she’s just NOT having it. Mind BLOWN.The chemistry is there. Like an epiphany.

Here’s what I disliked (CONS):

  • Adele is an interesting character but in many ways, not as compelling as some of the minor characters. She’s kind of boring and impulsive. She grows on you. It seemed like she was lacking in development. I wanted to know more about her likes, her dislikes, what makes her Adele and not some random girl on the street. Even her friendships were loosely inserted and then sort of fizzled out (Brooke and the twins). 
  • The story is convoluted and complex. At times the pieces kind of get muddled. 
  • The pacing is slow. Oh, so slow. The book drags on forever. I felt like the story would never end. There are several parts that might have been shortened to keep the reader engaged but instead, I found myself getting bored and putting the book down. 
  • Adele’s obsession with Nicco is bizarre and a bit random. It seems to come out of nowhere. There’s not enough interaction for them to feel so crazy, compulsively strong. Borderline INSTALOVE. 
  • Many questions were left unanswered. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Magical reading, 

Jordan

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Excerpt Blitz & Giveaway: The Darkest Lie by Pintip Dunn

The Darkest Lie by Pintip Dunn - JenHalliganPR.comThe Darkest Lie | JenHalliganPR.comGoodreads/Amazon/Barnes & Noble

Release Date: June 28, 2016

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“The mother I knew would never do those things. But maybe I never knew her after all.”

Clothes, jokes, coded messages…Cecilia Brooks and her mom shared everything. At least, CeCe thought they did. Six months ago, her mom killed herself after accusations of having sex with a student, and CeCe’s been the subject of whispers and taunts ever since. Now, at the start of her high school senior year, between dealing with her grieving, distracted father, and the social nightmare that has become her life, CeCe just wants to fly under the radar. Instead, she’s volunteering at the school’s crisis hotline—the same place her mother worked.

As she counsels troubled strangers, CeCe’s lingering suspicions about her mom’s death surface. With the help of Sam, a new student and newspaper intern, she starts to piece together fragmented clues that point to a twisted secret at the heart of her community. Soon, finding the truth isn’t just a matter of restoring her mother’s reputation, it’s about saving lives—including CeCe’s own…

“This one will tug your heart and leave you breathless!”
–Natalie D. Richards, author of Six Months Later

Excerpt

It’s time to view the body. Family first.

Well, technically, me first. There was always only three of us in the nuclear unit, and Dad’s been locked in the den for the past seventy-two hours. I’ve only seen him once, when he shuffled upstairs like a pajama-clad zombie and asked me if I’d eaten.

That was it: Did you eat?

Not: I prefer the cherry wood casket. Or: Let me make your grandma’s travel arrangements. Or even: I know this was Mom’s favorite dress, but isn’t the neckline a little…low?

Did I eat?

Yes, Dad. I had soup from the can and microwaved pizza rolls and a bowl of cereal. The food sloshes in my stomach now as I walk down the runner to the casket I picked out because of its mauve tint.

Calla lilies pile in urns around the viewing room, and the air-conditioning wars with the sweat along my hairline. My mom smiles at me from a portrait erected behind the casket. Her eyes are hesitant and a little wary, as if she knew, somehow, some way, she would wind up here. Lifeless. Pumped full of formaldehyde. About to be gawked at by a town full of gossips.

This was only going to end one of two ways—with Tabitha Brooks dead or in jail. I never thought I’d say this, but I’d give anything to see my mother behind bars.

I wade through the dense, chilly air and stop a few feet from the body. Behind me, my grandmother and aunt sit, a box of tissues between them, blowing their noses like it’s a sport.

“Look at our Cecilia,” Gram sniffs. “So brave. Not a single tear shed.”

If she only knew. I’m not brave. Fifteen minutes ago, I was retching into the toilet bowl. Five minutes from now, when the doors open for the visitation, I’ll be long gone, leaving Gram to shake people’s hands and deal with the bit lips, the knowing eyebrows, that inevitable speaking-in-a-funeral-parlor whisper. I can hear the titters: “Is it true? Tabitha’s heart stopped while she was boffing the high school quarterback? Why, she must’ve been twenty years his senior!”

Twenty-three years, to be exact, and a high school English teacher to boot. But she didn’t actually die during sex. Instead, a few days after Tommy Farrow came forward with their affair, my mother took her own life.

What could be a clearer admission of guilt? She might as well have been caught in the act. The investigation was shut down before it even began.

I take a shuddering breath. Two more minutes. A hundred and twenty seconds and then I can leave. I steel my shoulders and walk the final steps to my mother’s body.

Oh god. It’s even worse than I thought.

The room whirls around me, and nausea sprints up my throat. My hands shoot out to grab the casket, stopping short of actually touching the corpse.

This . . . this thing . . . can’t be my mother. She never smiled like that, all serene and peaceful-like. She never wore this much makeup; her red hair was never chopped so closely to her head. My mother was chaos and passion, devastation and joy. Dad used to say you could reach deep into her eyes and pull out a song.

Well, her eyes are closed now, and I’m not sure there’ll be any music in my life, ever again.

authPintip cropped-2

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Pintip Dunn graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B. in English Literature and Language. She received her J.D. at Yale Law School, where she was an editor of the YALE LAW JOURNAL. She also published an article in the YALE LAW JOURNAL, entitled, “How Judges Overrule: Speech Act Theory and the Doctrine of Stare Decisis.”

Pintip is represented by literary agent Beth Miller of Writers House. She is a 2012 RWA Golden Heart® finalist and a 2014 double-finalist. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Washington Romance Writers, YARWA, and The Golden Network.

She lives with her husband and children in Maryland. You can learn more about Pintip and her books at www.pintipdunn.com.

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One winner will receive a prize pack including the following 5 books: Forget Tomorrow by Pintip Dunn; Six Months Later by Natalie Richards; Find Me by Romily Bernard; and From Where I Watch You by Shannon Grogan; Lies I Told by Michelle Zink

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 Pleasant reading, 

Jordan

Excerpt Blitz & Giveaway: Leave A Mark by Stephanie Fournet

Leave a Mark by Stephanie Fournet | Excerpt Blitz | JenHalliganPR.comLeave a Mark by Stephanie Fournet | JenHalliganPR.comGoodreads

Publisher: Blue Tulip Publishing

Release Date: April 28, 2016

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Dyed, pierced, and covered in tattoos, Wren Blanchard is the exact opposite of everything Dr. Lee Hawthorne thought he wanted.

His residency is almost finished. With the perfect job, the beautiful house, and the polished girlfriend, he knows he should be happy, yet he isn’t.

But once Wren lands in his ER with her sharp tongue and artist’s soul, she leaves a mark on him that just won’t fade.

Wren knows the good doctor is way out of her league. To people like him, she’s a circus freak. Besides, she’s not the type to get hung up on guys, especially ones with midnight blue eyes—ones who know all about antiques, crack bad jokes, and love Joss Whedon.

No. She doesn’t need that.

After all, she has friends, a psychotic cat, and a promising career as one of the best tattoo artists in town. And it’s enough.

Really, it is.

Or it would be if Lee weren’t there every time she turned around.

One kiss seals their fate.

Their attraction is undeniable–but Wren’s past is full of ghosts. Is their bond strong enough for a solid future? Or will their new relationship crumble beneath the weight of all she carries?

Excerpt

She studied him for a moment. “Are you still in your residency?”

The question surprised him. “Yes. Is it that obvious?”

Her startled laughter was the only answer he needed. And Lee wanted to hear it again — even if she laughed at him.

“I mean, I’m licensed. It’s not like I just have my learner’s permit or anything.” It was a bad joke. An awful joke, but it worked because she kept laughing. Her laughter was a mix of high and low notes, like a handbell choir. And like music, he could feel it in his chest.

“That’s not what I meant,” she said, her smile untamed. “You just look really young, and I’ve heard that residents have — like — negative time.”

He gave her a helpless grin. “Negative time. That’s about right. Who told you that?”

Her smile demurred. “One of my clients.”

“One of your clients is a resident?” His curiosity pounced. Did he know someone who was secretly covered in Wren’s work?

“Who?”

She shook her head, but her smile never failed. “I don’t tat and tell. Tattooing is very personal. If someone wants you to see their work, you’ll see it. But I don’t talk about my clients.”

Even though he was the one asking, Lee liked that she wouldn’t answer. “You don’t talk about them at all?”

Wren raised and dropped her right shoulder in a half shrug, but she still smiled at him. “Well, I don’t identify them.” Her voice softened, but Lee thought he heard a touch of pride. “I’ll talk about the artwork, or I’ll retell a funny story someone told me while I worked on them, but I don’t go around talking about who was in my parlor.”

“That’s cool,” he managed, even though it was more than cool. After seeing her artwork on the walls of her apartment, he already respected her as a professional, but she clearly had integrity on top of talent. He wanted to know more, but more than anything, Lee wanted her to keep talking. “What kind of tats did you do today?”

Her smile grew, and again her cheeks colored. He found his eye drawn to the translucent skin below her cheekbones. Wren’s fair complexion was an alluring contrast to her black and blue hair, but when she blushed, Lee found it impossible to look away.

“Well, let’s see…” Her green eyes swiveled to the ceiling as she recounted. “I did a fleur-de-lis for this girl who turned eighteen today. I inked a Captain America shield on this guy’s bicep—”

Lee laughed, not so much about the tattoo choice, but at the look of amusement in her eyes.

“Yeah, he was definitely an Avengers fan… Um…” She paused to tally on her fingers. “…I touched up a Celtic knot for a lady, and I worked on a larger piece for one of my regulars.”

“What was it?” Lee asked, intrigued with the way her face softened when she thought about her work.

“Oh, it’s a dragon. Pretty big.” Wren drew a serpentine shape across her chest. “A piece like that needs to be worked on in stages, so we did some of the shading today.”

He had more questions. He could have stood there listening to her all night, but the rational part of his brain told him to give it a rest. They were in the middle of the grocery store. If he wanted to talk to her more, he should ask her out for coffee.

But you can’t ask her out. You’re seeing someone.

“You’re really talented. I’m sure you stay pretty busy. You seem…” He couldn’t find the words for what he wanted to say. He wanted to tell her that she seemed like the kind of person he could talk to — listen to — for hours. And that he would’ve liked the chance. That she was special, and he knew it. “…you seem perfect — I mean… you are unique.”

He didn’t question why she stared at him with unblinking eyes. What the hell had he just said? She was perfect? Who talked like that?

But in the seconds after he’d blurted out the words, he watched her eyes light with a smile — a surprised and genuine smile, and he realized he didn’t regret the words at all.

“Um… thank you?” What had been pink on her cheeks was now scarlet, and Lee thought he might have turned a little pink, too.

“I should let you get back to your shopping,” he said, clearing his throat. He didn’t want to walk away. Maybe if he just stood there, she’d leave first, and he’d be able to watch her go.

“Yeah…” She didn’t move.

Neither of them moved.

“…yeah, I should go.”

“It was great running into you,” he said in a rush. “I’m glad you are feeling better.”

“It was nice running into you, too, Dr.—”

“Lee,” he interjected.

She bit her lip and smiled. “Lee,” she said with a nod. “It was so nice, Lee.”

It was selfish. He’d made her say his name and, again, as he knew he would, he felt a stirring — like fingers running down his sternum. He’d never liked the sound of his name so much.

“Wren,” he said with a nod, liking the feel of her name on his tongue even more.

“Goodnight.” She turned and left him.

authstephanie

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Stephanie Fournet, author of Fall Semester, Legacy, and Butterfly Ginger, lives in Lafayette, Louisiana—not far from the Saint Streets where her novels are set. She shares her home with her husband John and her daughter Hannah, their needy dogs Gladys and Mabel, and an immortal blue finch named Baby Blue. When she isn’t writing romance novels, she is usually helping students get into college or running. She loves hearing from fans, so look for her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and stephaniefournet.com.

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Happy reading, 

Jordan