Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Introducing No Place Like Home by Dee Romito AND The Wondrous World of Violet Barnaby by Jenny Lundquist

Birthdays are always better when you get to share them with friends. Today is MY birthday, so...

On top of blowing out the candles for my own birthday, two of my friends are celebrating an even better kind of birthday--BOOK BIRTHDAYS! First up is Dee Romito, the author of The BFF Bucket List, which was all kinds of adorable! Plus, Dee's book has actual red glitter. Scroll down to read all about it.


After living a jet-setting lifestyle thanks to her dad's job, twelve-year-old Kenzie decides it's time for her to plant roots in this heartwarming M!X novel.

Kenzie Rhines doesn't have a home--she has too many. Her dad's job keeps them flying around the country, which means "home" is whatever fancy hotel they're currently staying in and "school" takes place 30,000 feet in the air. And since it's just the two of them, she has no choice but to be his travel partner. Kenzie loves the constant adventures, but she wouldn't mind planting her feet in one place for longer than two seconds, having her own bed, and maybe even finding a best friend she can talk to.

When Kenzie's dad surprises her with the news that they'll be in Las Vegas for an extended business trip, she's thrilled he wants to enroll her in a local middle school while they're there. And even though it's the longest she's been in one place in years, Kenzie knows it's only a matter of time before she's on the move yet again. So, for the first time in her life, she decides to take some risks: why not let the cutest boy in school know she's got a bit of a crush on him, give it a shot and audition for the school musical--The Wizard of Oz (her all-time favorite movie), and run for VP of her class?

Thanks to her plan, Kenzie discovers a courage she didn't know she had--and finally feels like she belongs somewhere. But when things start to get complicated, Kenzie discovers that she'll have to face the consequences of everything she's done since her arrival--and that maybe home isn't necessarily a place on a map, but where your heart is.

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Dee Romito lives in her hometown of Buffalo, New York, where she and her family are steadily checking items off their own bucket list of adventures. You’re likely to find her at the local ice cream shop, writing at a café, or curled up on the couch with her cats. And while she does her best to be a grown-up most of the time, giggling with her BFFs is still one of her all-time favorite things. To join the fun and create your own bucket list, visit TheBFFBucketList.com.

Author Links:

Website | Facebook Twitter Instagram Tumblr Pinterest

Next up is a new book from Jenny Lundquist, whose books always take you back to the magical innocence of childhood.


Violet Barnaby searches for the joy in life after losing her mother in this sweet and funny follow-up to The Charming Life of Izzy Malone.

Violet Barnaby is a having a blue Christmas. She’s still grieving the loss of her mother, and to make things worse, her dad has just married Melanie Harmer, a.k.a. the meanest teacher at Dandelion Hollow Middle School. But on the day Violet and her dad are packing up and moving into the new house they’ll share with Melanie and Melanie’s two children, Violet finds a letter her mother wrote to her before she died, asking Violet to enjoy Christmas, along with a Christmas Wish List—things her mom wants her to do during the holiday season. On the list are exactly the kinds of things Violet doesn’t want to do this year, like Be Someone’s Secret Santa; Give Someone the Gift of Your Time: Volunteer; and Bake Christmas Cookies.

Violet shows the letter to her friend Izzy’s Aunt Mildred, who calls a meeting of the Charm Girls, a club Izzy and Violet belong to along with their friends, Daisy and Sophia. Aunt Mildred decides she will give them each a charm to put on their bracelet if they do all of the tasks on the Christmas Wish List, which Violet is not too happy about. She’d rather forget about the list completely, but feels compelled to honor her mother’s wishes.

And when Izzy’s crush confides a big secret to Violet, Violet feels like she is stuck between her best friend and the boy who she just might have a crush on, too…

Buy Links:


Jenny Lundquist grew up in Huntington Beach, California, wearing glasses and wishing they had magic powers. They didn't, but they did help her earn a degree in intercultural studies at Biola University. Jenny has painted an orphanage in Mexico, taught English at a university in Russia, and hopes one day to write a book at a café in Paris. Jenny and her husband live in northern California with their two sons and Rambo, the world's whiniest cat.

Author Links:

Monday, September 18, 2017

Mystery Monday: Maura Murray

It's Monday, which means it's time for another...

Today's my first-ever Mystery Monday rerun...but I'm rerunning for a good reason. Saturday night, a six-part series called The Disappearance of Maura Murray debuts on Oxygen and if you haven't heard that story, you must at least read up on it to decide whether you want to watch the show or not. For me, it is hands down the most haunting mysterious disappearance story I've ever heard.

This story was originally posted in 2015 under the title She Just Disappeared.

Maura Murray was a 21-year-old student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Without warning or explanation, Maura got in her car one day and started driving toward the White Mountains. She wrecked her car in a snowbank at this spot on Route 112 in Woodsville, New Hampshire:

She was last seen standing by her damaged black Saturn. A bus driver stopped to ask if she needed him to call the police. She asked him not to and said she'd already called AAA. (No cell phone service is available in the area, so that couldn't have happened.) The bus driver got home a few minutes later and called the police. When they arrived at the scene three minutes later, they found a locked, empty car and no sign of Maura.

Maura wasn't perfect. In fact, she got into a little trouble before disappearing. This is a shot of her taken by the police after she illegally used someone's credit card to buy food:

There have been stories that her body was buried beneath a local guy's house. There have been questions about whether she started a new life somewhere. There have been all kinds of rumors, innuendo, and facts...all of which are brought out and dissected on podcasts, on news shows, and online. 

Johnny Depp even recently purchased the rights to a book written by a journalist obsessed with Maura's case. What will really be amazing is if the many "armchair detectives" who are obsessed with this case can actually solve it, once and for all.

Did Maura run from the scene and start a new life?

Or did someone harm her?

What do you think?

Friday, September 15, 2017

Introducing Thunderstruck by Brenda Drake

I'm so excited to be part of Pitch Wars this year. I'm a mentor...and the experience is amazing. The woman who organizes this life-changing event for aspiring authors is Brenda Drake, who is a New York Times best-selling author. And today, Brenda is celebrating having a new book on shelves. Scroll down to read all about it. And don't forget to enter the giveaway at the end of the post to win a swag pack or a $25 Amazon gift card!


Stevie Moon is famous...at least to the subscribers on her comic review vlog. At school, she’s as plain as the gray painted walls in the cafeteria. So when Blake, the hot new guy at school, shows an interest in her, she knows trouble when she sees it. Been there. And never doing it again.

As the son of the god Thor, Blake Foster's been given an important mission—to recover the Norse god Heimdall’s sacred and powerful horn before someone uses it to herald in the destruction of the entire universe. But while Blake is great in a fight, the battlefield that is a high school’s social scene is another matter.

Blake knows his only choice is to team up with the adorable Stevie, but she's not willing to give him even the time of day. He'll need to woo the girl and find the horn if he hopes to win this war. Who better to tackle Stevie's defenses than the demi-god of thunder?

Add Thunderstruck on Goodreads.

Buy Links:


Brenda Drake is a New York Times bestselling author of young adult fiction. She grew up the youngest of three children, an Air Force brat, and the continual new kid at school. Her fondest memories growing up is of her eccentric, Irish grandmother’s animated tales, which gave her a strong love for storytelling. So it was only fitting that she would choose to write stories with a bend toward the fantastical. When she’s not writing or hanging out with her family, she haunts libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops, or reads someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment).

Author Links:

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Monday, September 11, 2017

Mystery Monday: Late Choir

It's Monday, which means it's time for another...

Church choirs have long been a vital part of most church services. Choir members volunteer hours of their time for practice, as well as committing to be front and center at church, usually for multiple services a week.

The West Side Baptist Church choir in Beatrice, Nebraska was even more dedicated than most. The 15 people who made up the choir were never, ever late for their 7:20 pm choir practice. They knew if they were late, they'd feel the wrath of the choir director, Mrs. Paul.

West Side Baptist Church Image credit: Unsolved Mysteries

On March 1, 1950, though, it seemed everything was against the 15 perfectly punctual choir members:

  • Ladona Vandergrift--The high school sophomore was stuck on a geometry problem and couldn't seem to set it aside to leave on time.
  • Royena Estes--Her car wouldn't start. She called Ladona for a ride, but had to wait for Ladona to finish her math problem.
  • Mrs. Schuster--She and her small daughter, who would have come to practice with her, stopped by Mrs. Schuster's mom's house to help her get ready for a meeting.
  • Herbert Kipf--Ran late because he was working hard to finish a letter.
  • Joyce Black--Was procrastinating going out into the cold.
  • Harvey Ahl--Was planning to bring his two boys to practice with him, but ran late because he was talking.
  • Marilyn Paul--Overslept her nap. Marilyn was the pianist for practice.
  • Mrs. Paul--The choir director was late because of her oversleeping daughter, Marilyn. She couldn't get her to wake up earlier when she tried.
  • Lucille Jones and Dorothy Wood--These high school girls usually went to practice together, but Lucille wanted to listen to the rest of a radio show.

Earlier, the Reverend had gone to the church to warm things up. He lit the furnace and went home to eat dinner. He would have normally arrived at 7:10, but his wife was ironing his daughter's dress, so he, too, was late.

At 7:25 pm, residents throughout the area heard a loud bang as the furnace exploded. The church was demolished. Every choir member was spared because they were all late.

It was the first time the choir had been late for practice. But if they hadn't been late, they likely would have all died or been seriously injured in the explosion.

The above was from a well-known Life Magazine report on the explosion. Click here to read more about it.

Do you think divine intervention was at play here? Or was it just a coincidence?

Friday, September 08, 2017

Introducing I Belong with You by Ashelyn Drake

If you like romance novels, you should definitely check out Ashelyn Drake's books. She never disappoints. Today, she's revealing her latest cover. Scroll down to read all about it!


Emily Richards and David Burke are the best of coworkers—pretending they’re over their hot yet short-lived romance.

When Emily finds herself without a place to live, David jumps to her rescue, offering a room in his apartment. But how can two people who are very attracted to each other survive being in such close quarters, sharing everything including a shower?

David is ready to settle down, but that’s the last thing on Emily’s mind. Will the lies and jealousy between them be the end of their relationship for good?



Ashelyn Drake is a romance author. While it’s rare for her not to have either a book in hand or her fingers flying across a laptop, she also enjoys spending time with her family. She believes you are never too old to enjoy a good swing set and there’s never a bad time for some dark chocolate. She also writes speculative fiction under the name Kelly Hashway.

Author Links:

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

IWSG: Pleasant Surprises

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means hundreds of us will be posting about our insecurities. If you haven't yet, join in. You'll be glad you did!

Each month we have a question. This month's question is:

Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? For example, by trying a new genre you didn't think you'd be comfortable in?

Before I answer this question: a caveat. In addition to my novels, I write for a dozen or so freelance clients, providing 2,000 or more words a day. I write about everything from cloud computing...

...to antique furniture.

But the freelance topic that surprised me the most was cold fusion. When I was asked to write about it, I was new to freelancing, which is 100 percent the only reason I agreed to do it. I didn't know any better.

That was when I first realized I could somehow manage to write about something I didn't understand. And every time I have to write about the Blockchain or Bitcoin, that same cycle happens all over again.

When I wrote the middle-grade novel that helped me land my agent, I wasn't sure I could do it. I wanted to write a story about young ghost hunters, but I wasn't sure I could handle the suspense/adventure that was required. I'd never done suspense/adventure before.

But I managed to do it...and well enough to get an agent. It also captured the attention of some big publishers, even though it never quite made it here:

What I learned was that we can all tackle new challenges. We just need to push ourselves. After all, I can write about cold fusion when I don't even know what it is!

Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? What did you learn from the experience?

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Introducing Ready, Set, Goal by Debbie Dadey AND Halfway Normal by Barbara Dee

It's another round of book birthdays. They come in twos and threes these days! Today we're sharing birthday cake with Debbie Dadey and Barbara Dee--two fantabulous authors you see around here very often!

First up is this book by my friend and fellow Aladdin author Debbie Dadey. It's the latest in her Mermaid Tales series.


Shelly Siren and Trident Academy’s Shell Wars team travel to the city of Atlantis for the championship game in this sparkling Mermaid Tales adventure.

Shelly Siren loves playing on Trident Academy’s Shell Wars team. But is she ready to compete in the Shell Wars Championships in the fintastically famous city of Atlantis? She’s not sure, but luckily Echo, Kiki, and Pearl will be swimming along for the ride.

As part of their trip, the mergirls get a tour of Atlantis, and learn all about how the great human city ended up at the bottom of the ocean. But when they swim through Poseidon’s Temple, Shelly spots a spookfish—which legend has it, carries a horrible curse.

Shelly’s sure the curse is just a silly sea story. But after she knocks over a precious relic, accidentally hits Rocky with her Shell Wars stick, and gives another player a black eye, Shelly isn’t sure what to think. Could the Spookfish Curse be real? And will it ruin the chances of Trident Academy’s Shell Wars team taking home the championship trophy?

Buy Links:


Debbie Dadey is an award-winning children’s book author who has written more than 150 books. She is best known for her series The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids, written with Marcia Thornton Jones. Debbie lives with her husband, three children, and three dogs in Sevierville, Tennessee.

Author Links:

Website | Facebook Twitter YouTube Pinterest

Book birthday #2 is a mega-talented author with an impressive career. Her book Star-Crossed was the talk of the kidlit world earlier this year, and her latest book is already making a similar splash:


A cancer survivor must readjust to “normal” middle school life in this hopeful novel from the author of Star-Crossed and Truth or Dare.

Norah Levy has just completed two years of treatment for leukemia and is ready to go back to the “real world” of middle school. She knows it'll be tricky—but like the Greek mythological characters she read about while she was sick, Norah’s up for any challenge.

But seventh grade turns out to be trickier than she thought. Norah’s classmates don’t know what to make of her. Her best friend, Harper, tries to be there for her, but she doesn’t get it, really—and is hanging out with a new group of girls. Norah’s other good friend, Silas, is avoiding her. What’s that about, anyway?

When Norah is placed with the eighth graders for math and science she meets Griffin, a cute boy who encourages her love of Greek mythology and art. And Norah decides not to tell him her secret—that she was “that girl" who had cancer. But when something happens to make secret-keeping impossible, Norah must figure out a way to share her cancer story.

But how do you explain something to others that you can’t explain to yourself? Can Nora take her cue from her favorite Greek myth? And then, once she finds the words, can she move forward with a whole new ‘normal’?

Buy Links:


Barbara Dee is the author of Halfway Normal, Star-Crossed, Truth or Dare, The (Almost) Perfect Guide to Imperfect Boys, Trauma Queen, This Is Me From Now On, Solving Zoe (Bank Street Best Children’s Books), and Just Another Day in My Insanely Real Life (Publishers Weekly, starred review). Barbara is one of the founders and directors of the Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival. She lives in Westchester County, New York, with her family, two naughty cats, and a rescue hound dog named Ripley. Read more about Barbara at BarbaraDeeBooks.com.

Author Links:

Monday, September 04, 2017

Mystery Monday: The Mall Murders

It's Monday, which means it's time for another...

***Warning: Today's mystery involves the deaths of children.***

On December 12, 2007, Nancy Bochicchio and her seven-year-old daughter, Joey, pulled into the Town Center Mall in Boca Raton, Florida. They were captured by a surveillance camera leaving the mall at 3:11 p.m.

Police were called to the mall just before midnight. Nancy's SUV was parked in the Sears parking lot with the engine still running. The bodies of her and her daughter were inside, bound, and one of them was wearing blacked-out goggles.

Nancy's purse was found 45 miles away. The crime has never been solved. 

Joey and Nancy Bochicchio

However, it was only one of a string of similar cases in the Boca Raton area. Earlier in 2007, Randi Gorenberg left the Town Center Mall following an afternoon of shopping. Her body was found behind a nearby Civic Center. Police were alerted to the situation by a witness who reported hearing gunshots and seeing a woman being pushed from the passenger side of a dark SUV. The SUV matched Randi Gorenberg's vehicle.

Randi Gorenberg and her vehicle

An anonymous woman may have provided insight into what happened to this woman. In a 2008 interview, she described in detail what happened to her and her daughter at the Town Center Mall just four months before Nancy and Joey's murder.

The mom, identified as Jane Doe, left the mall for her SUV. She strapped her son into his car seat, closed his door, and walked around to the driver's-side door to get in. That was when she saw a man in the back seat with a gun pointed at her son's head. The man made her drive, stop at an ATM to withdraw $600, then drive to a remote spot. He bound her with zipties and drove around, but as they spoke, he seemed to warm up to her and let her and her son go. This was the composite that was made of the abductor.

The crimes appear to be isolated to 2007, which means the perpetrator could be in jail on another charge or maybe he stopped killing altogether. He could have simply changed his M.O. Or maybe the three crimes weren't connected at all. What do you think?

Monday, August 28, 2017

Mystery Monday: Joan Risch

It's Monday, which means it's time for another...

BUT FIRST...I just need to take a second to congratulate Cathrina Constantine. She won the autographed copy of Best. Night. Ever. from the recent blog tour!

The 50s and 60s were an interesting time for women. It was normal for a woman to stay home and take care of the kids while the man worked. Joan Risch was a typical 1960s housewife...with one big exception. One day in October of 1961, Joan's husband left on a work trip and never saw his wife again.

Joan Risch was the mother of two young children, Lillian and David. In 1961, they moved to a city just outside of Boston and were an active part of the community.

On the morning of October 24, Martin left early for the airport to fly to New York City. Joan fed the children breakfast and left her son with a neighbor before heading to the dentist with her daughter in their 1951 Chevrolet.

Front of Risch home. Image credit: I Can't Believe It's Nonfiction

By 11:15 a.m., Joan was back home and her daughter was playing outside with a neighbor's son. Soon after she returned, a dry cleaner arrived to pick up some of her husband's suits. He entered the house and said he saw nothing out of the ordinary.

Just before 2pm, Joan took her daughter and her neighbor's son across the street to the neighbor's house. At approximately 2:15 pm, that neighbor said she saw Joan walking up her driveway in a trench coat, carrying something red. She looked like she was chasing someone. That was the last time Joan was ever seen.

The Risch Driveway. Image credit: I Can't Believe It's Nonfiction

At 2:45, a woman was spotted walking along the road on Route 2A in Lincoln, Massachusetts. She wore a trench coat and was hunched over as though she were cold. Between 3:15 and 3:30, a similar-looking woman was spotted on the Route 128 median strip in Waltham. She had blood running down her legs and was holding her stomach as though cradling something.

Joan's car in her driveway. Image credit: I Can't Believe It's Nonfiction

At 3:40, the neighbor dropped Lillian off at her house on her way to the store. When she returned at 4:15, Lillian came over and said, "Mommy is gone and the kitchen is covered with red paint." The neighbor crossed the street and found David crying in his crib and blood in the kitchen. She called the police.

Warning: Crime Scene Photos Below!!!

In the kitchen, the phone receiver had been ripped from the wall. The phone book was open to a page listing emergency numbers. There was blood in the kitchen and on the driveway all the way to the road. One thumbprint was found in the blood in the kitchen that could not be traced to anyone.

Her husband was initially suspected, but he was eventually cleared. But prior to her death, Joan had checked out 25 books on disappearances and missing persons cases over the summer. Did she orchestrate her own disappearance?

Was this an abortion gone wrong? Or was it a case of attempted murder where she got away, only to be tracked down later by her killer while walking down the road?

What do you think happened to Joan Risch?