Thursday, June 30, 2016

Review: GRIDLEY GIRLS by Meredith First

by Meredith First
Publication Date: June 21, 2016
Published by SparkPress
Pages: 400
Source: Publisher
Purchase Amazon | B&N | Indiebound


Sometimes you have to go back before you can move forward.

Meg Monahan feels like she was born to be a secret keeper. From the moment she became a peer counselor in high school, Meg has been keeping her friends secrets – from sordid family drama to their sex lives – that she never wanted to know. Flash forward to adulthood when Meg is a recruiter for the world’s hippest (and most paranoid) high-tech company – and now Meg is a professional secret keeper.

When sudden tragedy strikes before Meg hosts the wedding of her childhood BFF, Anne Calzaretta, the women are forced to face their past – and their secrets – in order to move on to their future.

In 1978, Meg, Anne, Jennifer, and Tonya were such close friends, they were known as “The Group” in their hometown of Gridley, California. But in ninth grade, their lives were changed forever. Loss, lies, and secrets separated them, but could not break their bonds of friendship.

Thirty years later, Meg and Anne reminisce about those days—dealing with parents, school, boys, sex, love, and betrayal. Anne remembers their freshman year as an easier time, but Meg, still feeling guilty about a betrayal of Anne’s trust, is haunted. Even now, Meg is keeping a secret she’s not prepared to face, let alone share.

In her debut novel, based on true events, Meredith First tells a timeless story about the bonds of friendship, loss, and betrayal—and the forgiveness that is within everyone.

Can anyone really keep a secret forever?

My Thoughts

"Meg is a professional secret keeper." This sentence and the book cover is what prompted me to read Gridley Girls. It sounded mysterious and the cover screamed summer, and I love stories about friendships and growing up, so I thought it was a perfect read for me. I'll admit that while I was reading the story and enjoying it, it took me longer than I anticipated to finish it. That had to do more with me and not the story, but once I committed my time to this book, I really got into the story and the lives of Meg and her friends. 

Meg is an interesting and amusing character and there are many things about her that I identified with. Her tell it like it is, honest attitude is refreshing. She is contemplative and sincere and her friends took notice. And while these qualities are her gift, they are also her burden. The secrets she keeps become too much for her. 

What I liked:

  • Meg's relationship with her sister Rowan. She found wisdom in her sister's words. Rowan was more than Meg's sisterm she was her friend too.
  • The idea of The Virgin Diaries and Meg keeping an account of their high school days and Anne's need to read them.
  • Dan Stone - he was "a great guy." I loved the final scenes with him in the story and Meg's "high school romance." Their "romance" was sweet and Meg's uncertainty rang so true when she tried to break up with him because she was scared of being in a relationship. 
  • Meg's friendship with Anne and the support and the love that she has for her from childhood into adulthood. 
  • Understanding Meg's secret. 

Favorite Quotes

From the prologue: "Join me now, in Gridley, where the land is lush, the fruit is sweet, and the girls are more fun than you would ever guess. Where we might not live happily ever after all the time, but we have each other, and that's all we need.
     Life isn't so boring in a small town." (pg. 2) - This is the hook and a good one!

"I don't believe in sweating." (pg. 6) - Adult Meg at spin class. This line cracked me up and I just knew that Meg was full of personality. And she is and her humor and perspective makes Gridley Girls entertaining. 

"I guess just growing up and getting older scares me. I don't like the unknown. I like to know what's going to happen and that we're all safe. Ever since I started high school, I feel like we're not safe. It seems like bad stuff happens so quickly, . . ." (pg. 227) - Meg pinpointing that growing up is hard. In adolescence, they are dealing with new experiences, making their own decisions, and how overwhelming and scary that can be when they are still so young. 

"No good ever comes from a story that begins with "I was just trying to be cool." (pg 234) - You know that time when you do something really dumb and are lucky you didn't get caught. This is that time for Meg.

GRIDLEY GIRLS is filled with humor and contemplation, and so much honesty about dealing with uncertainity. Uncertainty is scary can be paralizing and this story shows that, but it also shows how to get beyond it. I really enjoyed reading about the friendships and secrets and growing up and getting wiser. It's a fantastic read and I'd recommended it to readers who enjoy stories about friendships and growing up.

Disclaimer:  I received this ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.  I was not compensated in any way other than the ARC provided. Quotes were taken from the ARC and may differ from the final published copy. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

THE DARKEST LIE by Pintip Dunn - Excerpt and Giveaway

The Darkest Lie Release Blitz | Pintip Dunn |

I'm so excited to be part of the Release Blitz for Pintip Dunn's THE DARKEST LIE! I was lucky enough to receive and advanced readers copy of THE DARKEST LIE and was completely floored!

(from my review)

"THE DARKEST LIE combines the thrills of a mystery with the realities of young adult contemporary which make for a heart-pounding, heart-stopping, and sometimes, heartbreaking read. I read it almost straight through because from the get-go, this book had a hold of me, making me reading it furiously until the very end. When a book takes control of me like that, nothing else matters.

I love that THE DARKEST LIE has the Veronica Mars vibe to it. It's serious and smart, with wit and romance and danger."

Check out the excerpt below and then enter for a chance to win a copy of THE DARKEST LIE for yourself!

The Darkest Lie by Pintip Dunn | A Book and a Latte |

The Darkest Lie
Publisher: Kensington YA
Publication: June 28, 2016

  “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…

Excerpt from The Darkest Lie

“I’ve been researching the story of her suicide, Sam says. And I came across something in my research that nobody could explain.
What is it? I say dully, even though I can probably guess. I mean, theres lots thats inexplicable about my moms behavior. Tons.
Like: How could a grown woman be sexually attracted to a boy? Or more importantly: Why would she act on it? And my personal favorite: Did she have any kind of moral fiber—even a few lost threads—at all?
But Sam bypasses all the obvious questions and picks up a lock of my hair. I feel the slight tug all the way to my roots.
Her hair. He rubs my strands between his fingers, and I suppress a shiver. It was chopped off, jagged. One article said it looked like it was lopped off with a butcher knife.
I shrug, but even that simple movement is infused with the awareness of his touch. Still, he doesnt let go.
They said she was crazy,” I say. “Out of her mind. Maybe she was disfiguring herself as a sign of her shame. Who knows what motivated her actions?
But even as I repeat the explanation the detectives gave for just about everything, my dads words echo in my mind: I knew your mother. She wasnt capable of those things. I dont believe she did any of it.
All of a sudden, my excuses sound exactly like what they are—easy, surface-level assumptions designed to make it easier for the detectives to close the case.
Sam frowns. “I guess I could buy that if I hadnt seen the interview with her hair stylist in one of the local papers.

Oh. One of those. Every newspaper in a fifty-mile radius went berserk when my mom committed suicide. Every day, there was a new article, featuring interviews with her fellow teachers, former students, even our lawn guy, for gods sake. If there was a story on her hair salon, I mustve missed it.
“The stylist kept saying your mom’s haircut was inconceivable, and I couldn’t understand why. So when I was scooting past Cut & Dry the other day, I stopped to talk to her.”
Did she confirm my mom was a natural redhead? I raise my eyebrows. Reveal the exact color of dye she used to cover her silver sparkles?
Not at all, he says, and something about his tone stops me. The chill begins at the base of my spine and crawls its way up, one long spider leg at a time. The stylist said shes been cutting your mom’s hair for two decades. And in all that time, your mother never let her cut more than half an inch. In fact, she came into the salon two days before she died, and they had the exact same argument. The stylist tried to talk her into a bob, and your mom adamantly refused. 
Abruptly, he lets go of my hair, and the strands swing back over my shoulder, loose, unencumbered, and very, very cold.
Sams eyes pierce right into me. So what I want to know is: What couldve happened in two days that made her change her mind? Unless . . . she didn't. 

Pintip DunnAbout Pintip Dunn

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. Her debut novel, FORGET TOMORROW, is a finalist in the Best First Book category of RWA’s RITA® contest. 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


There are 2 prizes! One winner will win a signed copy of THE DARKEST LIE (US only), and another winner will receive a $50 gift card to Amazon or Book Depository (international)! 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Spotlight on FRAYED by Kara Terzis - Excerpt and Giveaway



Author: Kara Terzis
Release Date: June 7, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire


Ava Hale will do anything to find her sister’s killer…although she’ll wish she hadn’t. Because the harder Ava looks, the more secrets she uncovers about Kesley, and the more she begins to think that the girl she called sister was a liar. A sneak. A stranger.

And Kesley’s murderer could be much closer than she thought …

A debut novel from Wattpad award-winner Kara Terzis, Frayed is a psychological whodunit that will keep you guessing!

Buy Links:

About the Author:

Kara Terzis was twelve when she wrote her first novel, and has not stopped writing since. Later she started publishing her work on Wattpad where in 2013 she won Sourcebooks Story Development Prize. She lives with her family in Sydney, Australia. You can visit her online at

Social Media Links:

Twitter: @kara_terzis

Excerpt from Frayed:

Dear Kesley,
My therapist tells me I should write you a letter. Every time I see her, she asks whether I’ve started, and every session I tell her it’s a stupid idea.
But here I am, writing a letter to a dead girl. I tried saying it’s morbid, but that ran dry when she said it could be therapeutic. Like flushing all my thoughts and feelings out of my system and onto paper.
I pondered over where I should start the letter. Where, after all, did our story begin? From the moment you were born…or died? I chose the latter, thinking that at least the letter would be done quicker that way.
Starting this letter is one of the hardest things I’ve done, Kesley. There are so many places I could start, but I chose this place. So here goes nothing, Kesley, because it began, and ended, with you.
And that end began when Rafe Lawrence came back to town.
The unhealthy growl of a car pulled me from my thoughts. I fixed a smile onto my face as my best friend, Lia Zhang, pulled up to the curb.
The window slid down with a hum and she poked her head out the opening. Her long curtain of glossy black hair looked sleek and model-like, achieving a quality that all those hair product ads promised. Lia’s half-Filipino, half-Chinese heritage showed through in the flawlessness of her skin, too.
“Get in,” she said. “You must be freezing your ass out there.”
I shivered at her words, only just then noticing the way that the cold seemed to bite at my skin, but I ignored the foreboding feeling that crept up on me. I walked around to the passenger seat and slid in, the warmth from the heater engulfing me. Oddly enough, I didn’t find it comforting at all.
Music pumped from the car speakers, but on seeing my gaze flicker toward it, she rolled her eyes and turned it down. She knew I hated music.
“You were ten minutes late,” I said. “Why?”
She pressed her lips together before she laughed. “Yeah, I know. Such a rebel, right? ‘Cause, like, I have a record of being so punctual anyway.” Lia was always known for being late. Fashionably, but still——late was late. Time was precious. It could seep past you without you even knowing.
And then, in the blink of an eye, it could vanish.
I tilted my head in her direction. I knew Lia like I knew the back of my hand. Better, probably. And by the way her eyes were too focused on the road ahead, I knew that something was wrong. Just like it always did, her facade cracked.
“Just don’t be angry at me, okay?” she whispered.
“You know I won’t,” I said, and despite the thick cloud of depression that still covered me, I managed a small smile. Or a replica of what used to be my smile, anyway. Most people didn’t look deep enough to see the difference.
Lia shot me a skeptical look, but answered. “I ran into someone this morning, at the café.”
“Who?” I asked.
“Rafe Lawrence.”
My mind went blank for a moment as I stared out the window. I was distantly aware of the thumping coming from my chest, getting louder and louder as the seconds ticked passed. Breathe, Ava, breathe.
“Yeah,” said Lia. “I know, right? He leaves, and suddenly, a few months after Kesley dies—” She broke off with a stiff glance in my direction. “Anyway,” she continued, “he’s back now. He told me that he wants to talk to you.” I swallowed, but my throat was dry. It felt like I was swallowing parchment. My tongue felt too thick in my mouth and I couldn’t seem to form any words.
“Right,” I managed.
“You’re not going to go, right?” she said.
I hesitated. Was I?
“Don’t be insane, Ava. You know the boy has issues. I never understood what Kesley even saw in him, anyway.” Her jaw tightened for a fraction of a second.
“They weren’t together like that,” I said, cutting her off swiftly. An instant defensiveness had sprung up inside me of me.
“If you say so,” Lia muttered, eyeing the marked road that stretched ahead of us. I sighed and glanced out the window once more. Lia and I were both stubborn; we both thought that we were always right. That was where we clashed. Continually. But she was also the best and only friend that I had, so I clung on tight to her.
She and Jackson were the only ones I had left
But I also knew Lia had seen Rafe as more than just a friend of Kesley’s, something she’d deny profusely, as he’d rejected her on multiple occasions.
I’d always wondered just how bitter she felt toward Kesley about that.
The pine trees were a blur of green and brown as we sped past, heading in the general direction of the one school that Circling Pines had. Winter was drawing closer by the second, though the thought didn’t bother me. At least it would give me an excuse to stay indoors all day.
“What exactly did Rafe tell you?” I asked Lia as we passed the only shopping strip: a collection of café’s and overpriced clothes shops.
“Not much,” Lia admitted. “Only that he wanted to meet you for coffee this afternoon to talk.” There was a pause, a very deliberate, prolonged pause. “I also told him that you wouldn’t go.”
“I know! I’m sorry! But you can’t actually be considering this.”
I folded my arms over my chest and glared at the pine trees. My hands shook, and I resisted the urge to ball them into fists. “Until you give me a good reason why, then I’m going,” I said in a surprisingly calm voice.
Lia tapped the steering wheel in a melodic sort of way, though I knew it was more of a nervous habit than a conscious thought. It looked like she was fighting against something she wanted to say, as if she was worried it might get me upset. I’d seen that look plenty of times in the past weeks.
“What’s bothering you?” I said.
“What do you really know about Rafe?” she blurted out.
“Um. He was a year younger than my sister, spent way too much time in juvenile detention, my foster mother never liked him much—”
“Okay, okay,” interrupted Lia. “But I mean, what do you know about Rafe and your sister?”
“I don’t know, she never told me much about him, all right? Can we just leave it at that?” The school gates were coming into view, iron-wrought and impressive looking, with ivy that clung to the metal like a winter coat.
“Fine,” said Lia. She angled the car into a free parking space near the back of the almost full parking lot and killed the engine. The lot was deserted. Everyone must have been in class already, meaning that Lia and I were horribly late. Lia pulled the car keys out of the ignition and stuffed them into her jacket pocket with a brief glance in my direction. “All I’m saying is that your sister was murdered, and there’s a killer on the loose.”
Her words sent a chill through me more than the bitterly cold air outside.

Giveaway  for Sourcebooks Fire YA Thriller BookBundle 
(Runs June 1-June 30th; U.S. & Canada only):

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