Two Steps Forward [review]

Two Steps Forward

Title: Two Steps Forward
Author: Graeme Simsion & Anne Buist
Publisher: Two Roads

[Synopsis]

Zoe, a sometime artist, is from California. Martin, an engineer, is from Yorkshire. Both have ended up in picturesque Cluny, in central France. Both are struggling to come to terms with their recent past – for Zoe, the death of her husband; for Martin, a messy divorce.

Looking to make a new start, each sets out alone to walk two thousand kilometres from Cluny to Santiago de Compostela, in northwestern Spain, in the footsteps of pilgrims who have walked the Camino (the Way) for centuries. The Camino changes you, it’s said. It’s a chance to find a new version of yourself, and a new beginning. But can these two very different people find themselves? Will they find each other?

In this smart, funny and romantic journey, Martin’s and Zoe’s stories are told in alternating chapters by husband-and-wife team Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist. Two Steps Forward is a novel about renewal – physical, psychological and spiritual. It’s about the challenge of walking a long distance and of working out where you are going. And it’s about what you decide to keep, what you choose to leave behind and what you rediscover.

[My Review]

This is definitely a very different book than The Rosie Project (which I loved); though it still focuses on slightly older characters, this time the novel tells the story of two people who meet whilst walking from France to Spain and the ‘rocky road’ (sorry) that is ahead of them. Though it’s entertaining in its own way, it’s not as funny as The Rosie Project and definitely has a more serious tone – I found it more of a thoughtful, contemplative novel, but still enjoyed reading it.

I found the information about the famous pilgrimage from France to Spain interesting and it made me want to try something like that myself (as often happens when I read books like this). The narrative is fairly slow in that not that much actually happens, which meant I didn’t quite get into it as much as I thought I would. However, the story reveals a lot of what both Zoe and Martin are thinking and saying as they keep bumping into each other along the way, instead of an all-action narrative. This novel also manages to avoid being at all cheesy or over the top, which is another plus for me!

The characters didn’t hugely resonate with me; I struggled to properly connect with either Zoe or Martin, but I did find the novel to be an interesting read and one that made me think a little. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a smart, well-written novel about literal and non-literal journeys… if that makes any sense!


Many thanks to Two Roads and Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_BOOKS_ / GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

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[Blog Tour] Vicious Rumer by @JoshWinning – guest post!

VICIOUSRUMER_FRONT.jpg

Today I’m excited to introduce you to Joshua Winning’s new novel, Vicious Rumer – read on to find out more and see a special post by Joshua about the real-life inspiration behind the book!

Title: Vicious Rumer 
Author: Joshua Winning
Publisher: Unbound

[Synopsis]

Rumer Cross is cursed. Scraping by working for a dingy London detective agency, she lives in the shadow of her mother, a violent criminal dubbed the ‘Witch Assassin’ whose bloodthirsty rampage terrorised London for over a decade.

Raised by foster families who never understood her and terrified she could one day turn into her mother, Rumer has become detached and self-reliant. But when she’s targeted by a vicious mobster who believes she’s hiding an occult relic, she’s drawn into the very world she’s been fighting to avoid.

Hunted by assassins and haunted by her mother’s dark legacy, Rumer must also confront a terrible truth: that she’s cursed, because no matter what she does, everybody she’s ever grown close to has died screaming.

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[Real Life Inspiration for Vicious Rumer]

Vicious Rumer deals with obsession. As somebody who suffers from anxiety and depression, I often find myself obsessing over, shall we say, the less ‘fluffy bunny’ side of life. And that’s exactly what Rumer Cross does in this story.

Don’t get me wrong, Vicious Rumer is also a noir-ish, comic-book-esque, candy-pop thriller that moves along at a breakneck speed and is shot through with glimmers of dark humour. It’s inspired by things like The Craft and Jessica Jones and The Maltese Falcon, which hopefully gives it a unique texture. But at the book’s heart, there are serious questions about the (sometimes terrible and untrue) things we believe about ourselves, and whether or not we can ever change.

Rumer genuinely believes every bad thing she’s ever heard about herself. That she’s cursed. A waste of space. Invisible. Some of those things she’s managed to work to her advantage, which is something I admire. The fact that Rumer is able to blend into the background makes her a great shadow for a detective agency, and I love that she figured that out for herself.

On the flipside, though, Rumer really does believe she’s cursed. Her mother was a mob assassin and occultist who died shortly after Rumer was born. Even though her mother’s been dead for almost 20 years, Rumer lives with the guilt and shame of what her mother did, and thinks that her own sorry life is sort of a karmic punishment.

Perhaps because I identify with her so much, Rumer feels like a real person to me. She does some pretty shocking things that I don’t condone, but she’s also sarcastic, fragile, determined and unshakable. I absolutely loved writing her, and I’m only slightly afraid of her. Writing her story was a sort of exorcism – I was able to confront the dark things I sometimes obsess over, and funnel them into something I’m genuinely proud of. I couldn’t have done it without Rumer.

– Joshua Winning


[About the Author]

Joshua Winning Sentinel Shoot 2014Joshua Winning is an author and film journalist who writes for Total Film, SFX and Radio Times. He has been on set with Kermit the Frog, devoured breakfast with zombies on The Walking Dead, and sat on the Iron Throne while visiting the Game Of Thrones set in Dublin. Jeff Goldblum once told him he looks a bit like Paul Bettany.

A geek at heart, Joshua grew up watching Labyrinth and The Neverending Story on repeat, and was raised on a steady diet of Whedon, Cameron and Lucas. His literary heroes include Robin Jarvis, Stephen King and Daphne du Maurier. As a journalist, he has interviewed some of the most exciting names in the film industry, including Jodie Foster, Ryan Reynolds, Charlize Theron and Christopher Lee. He dreams of getting Sigourney Weaver to yell “Goddammit!” at him one day. Joshua’s dark fantasy series The Sentinel Trilogy is published by Peridot Press.

Find out more about Vicious Rumer and pre-order it on the Unbound website!


[Follow the Blog Tour]

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A Breath After Drowning by @AliceBooks333 [blog tour review]

A Breath After Drowning

Today I’m really excited to be a part of the blog tour for A Breath After Drowning by Alice Blanchard! I’ve got a review coming up, so read on to find out what I thought (and make sure you follow the rest of the tour too)!

Title: A Breath After Drowning
Author: Alice Blanchard
Publisher: Titan Books

[Synopsis]

Child psychiatrist Kate Wolfe’s world comes crashing down when one of her young patients commits suicide, so when a troubled girl is left at the hospital ward, she doubts her ability to help. But the girl knows things about Kate’s past, things she shouldn’t know, forcing Kate to face the murky evidence surrounding her own sister’s murder sixteen years before, bringing Kate face to face with her deepest fear.

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[My Review]

Tense, engaging and intriguing, A Breath After Drowning captured my interest from the very first page. It starts out very focused on the characters, who I really liked (allowing me to become more invested in Kate and her life). Though it jumps backwards in time a little, the storyline is mostly focused on the here and now, which makes a nice change from many other books in this genre which tend to constantly flit between timeframes.

I enjoyed reading about Kate’s childhood, looking out for clues of what might have happened to her sister, but I preferred reading about Kate today, with her mental battles and her quest to find out what really happened all those years ago.

The mystery side of the story develops as the narrative continues, and I found myself completely absorbed – I really wanted to know what had happened; there’s something about ‘cold’ cases which, although they took place so long ago, really grab my attention.

Some parts are more dramatic than others, but overall I felt Alice Blanchard did a great job of not straying into the ‘too-ridiculous’ category. Though the story starts out a lot slower, the pace and tension ramps up as the story continues, ending in a conclusion which left me feeling satisfied and wanting to read more by this author!

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to Philippa at Titan Books for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review, and for inviting me onto the blog tour!


[About the Author]

Alice BlanchardAlice Blanchard is an award-winning author. Her short story collection The Stuntman’s Daughter won the Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction. She has received a PEN Syndicated Fiction Award and a New Letters Literary Award.

Her thriller The Breathtaker was the official selection of NBC’s Today Show Book Club, presented by bestselling author Jacquelyn Mitchard. Her debut novel Darkness Peering was a New York Times’ Notable Book. Her work has been published in 16 countries.

Alice grew up in Connecticut, where she drew inspiration from New England’s thick morning mists and mythic woods. Her father was a well known sculptor and painter. Her mother and sister are poets and her brother is a screenwriter working in Los Angeles. Her husband is a photographer, writer, curator and musician.


[Follow the Blog Tour]

A Breath After Drowning_FINAL (1)

DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_BOOKS_ / GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

Deadly Secrets by @RobertBryndza [review] @bookouture

Deadly Secrets - Robert Bryndza

Title: Deadly Secrets
Author: Robert Bryndza
Series: Detective Erika Foster (#6)
Publisher: Bookouture

[Synopsis]

To commit the perfect murder, you need the perfect cover.

On a cold icy morning, a mother wakes to find her daughter’s blood-soaked body frozen to the road. Who would carry out such a horrific killing on the victim’s doorstep?

Straight off her last harrowing case, Detective Erika Foster is feeling fragile but determined to lead the investigation. As she sets to work, she finds reports of assaults in the same quiet South London suburb where the woman was killed. One chilling detail links them to the murder victim – they were all attacked by a figure in black wearing a gas mask.

Erika is on the hunt for a killer with a terrifying calling card. The case gets more complicated when she uncovers a tangled web of secrets surrounding the death of the beautiful young woman.

Yet just as Erika begins to piece the clues together, she is forced to confront painful memories of her past. Erika must dig deep, stay focused and find the killer. Only this time, one of her own is in terrible danger…

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[My Review]

Another fantastic, well-written release from Robert Bryndza and the Detective Erika Foster series, which has quickly climbed to one of my favourite detective/ crime series, and which never fails to draw me into Erika’s world so completely. I know once I pick up a novel in this series I won’t be able to do anything else until I’ve finished it!

As well as lots of gripping investigation and police work, plus glimpses into the life of a disturbing killer, we also see a bit more of Erika’s soft side as she helps her father in law and deals with some surprising news from a certain someone…

I love the police procedural element of the story – as always the plot is gripping, tight and excellently written, with the perfect mix of personal elements surrounding Erika’s team and the police work itself.

Deadly Secrets could be read as a stand-alone, but with five previous (brilliant) novels to get stuck into, I recommend starting from the beginning so you know as much as possible about Erika and her background, as this only enhances each story!

[Rating: 5/5]

Many thanks to Bookouture for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_BOOKS_ / GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

Spotlight on: Whippoorwill by Robert Bartam

Today on the blog we welcome Robert Bartram’s new book, Whippoorwill, “a thrilling tale of espionage set in the American Civil War” with glowing reviews! Read an extract and find out more about the book below…

Whippoorwill - Robert Bartram

Title: Whippoorwill
Author: R.L. Bartram
Publisher: Matador

[Synopsis]

Barely fourteen, Ceci Prejean is a tomboy running wild in the hot Louisiana summer. After breaking the nose of a local boy, her father decides to enlist the aid of Hecubah, a beautiful Creole woman, with a secret past, who takes Ceci in hand and turns her into a lady.

Now, eighteen-year-old Ceci meets and falls passionately in love with a handsome young northerner, Trent Sinclaire. Trent is a cadet at the West Point military academy. He acts as if he knows Ceci. They begin a torrid affair, even as the southern states begin to secede from the Union.

Only weeks before their wedding, the Confederate army attacks Fort Sumter and the civil war begins. Trent is called to active service in the north, leaving Ceci heartbroken in the south. Swearing vengeance on the union, after the untimely death of her family at the fall of New Orleans, Ceci meets with infamous spy master, Henry Doucet. He initiates her into the shadowy world of espionage. After her failure to avert the catastrophe at Gettysburg, Ceci infiltrates the White House.

There, she comes face to face with Abraham Lincoln, a man she’s sworn to kill. Forming a reckless alliance with the actor, John Wilkes Booth, she is drawn deeper into the plot to assassinate the President of the United States. A Confederate spy in love with a Union officer, her next decision will determine whether she lives or dies…

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[Extract]

Trent was lucky. The Confederate musket ball that was intended to kill him merely grazed his brow. He lurched violently back in his saddle. His horse reared wildly, throwing him, unconscious to theground, directly into the path of his own cavalry advancing only yards behind him.

At the far end of the field, Sergeant Nathanial Pike and his men, engaged in the hasty formation of a skirmish line, watched helplessly as the scene unfolded. As Trent hit the ground, a Confederate soldier appeared out of the shadows. Small and slight, little more than a boy, he lunged forwards, grabbed the officer by the lapels of his coat and dragged him out of the path of the galloping horses. Throwing himself across the man’s prone body, he shielded him from the pounding hooves. The cavalry thundered past oblivious, in the half-light, to the fate of their captain.

As the danger passed, the rebel rose to his knees and appeared to search the unconscious man.

“God damn thieving rebs,” Pike snatched his pistol from its holster, his thumb wrenching back the hammer. Before he could take aim, the rebel stopped searching. He leaned forwards and, cradling the officer’s face in his hands, bent down and kissed him, full on the lips, long and hard. Pike’s pistol, arm and jaw dropped simultaneously.

Something, some noise, some movement, made the rebel look up and glance furtively around. He jumped to his feet and, with a final backwards glance at the fallen man, melted into the shadows, like a wraith.

It was some moments before Pike’s jaw snapped shut, his teeth meeting with an audible click. He rounded on his men. “Did you see what I just saw?” he demanded.

His question was answered with shrugs and scowls. Not one man there could swear he hadn’t dreamed it. Then suddenly, they heard it, far off, plaintive and eerie, the cry of a whippoorwill.


Rob PHOTO[About the Author]

With Historical Romance as his preferred genre, Robert has continued to write for several years.

Many of his short stories have appeared in various national periodicals and magazines.
His debut novel “Dance the Moon Down”, a story of love against adversity during the First World War, gained him considerable critical praise, being voted book of the month by “Wall to Wall books”.

His second novel “Whippoorwill” tells of a passionate affair between a young southern woman and a northern man at the beginning of the American Civil War.

He is single and lives and works in Hertfordshire.

Visit Robert on Goodreads and buy Whippoorwill on Amazon.


DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_BOOKS_ / GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

WWW Wednesday [11 April 2018]

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted by Sam at Taking On a World of Words.

Visit her blog to take a look, and get involved too if you can, even if you don’t have a blog yourself – as she says, you can leave your answers in the post comments. I’d love to see your answers too!

The three W’s are:

    1. What have you finished reading?
    2. What are you currently reading?
    3. What will you read next?

What have you finished reading? 

The Next Girl – Carla Kovach [review to follow]
Anna – Amanda Prowse [read my review here]
Deadly Secrets – Robert Bryndza [review to follow]

What are you currently reading? 

Skin Deep - Liz Nugent

Skin Deep – Liz Nugent

What will you read next?

A Breath After Drowning – Alice Blanchard (I’m on the blog tour on the 17th April!)
…then probably Two Steps Forward – Graeme Simsion & Anne Buist

What have you been reading recently? Any exciting books you’re looking forward to reading next?

If you do your own version of this tag please let me know in the comments below, I’d love to read your answers too!


DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_BOOKS / GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

Goodreads Monday [Two Steps Forward]

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren’s Page Turners . To take part, you simply choose a random book from your TBR and show it off. Don’t forget to check out her blog and link back to Lauren’s Page Turners, and add your own links!]

I am a big fan of the Don Tillman series by Graeme Simsion, so although I’ve no doubt this book will be very different, I’m looking forward to reading another release from Graeme and his wife, Anne Buist!

Title: Two Steps Forward
Author: Graeme SimsionAnne Buist
Publish date: 5 April 2018

Two Steps Forward

[Synopsis]

Zoe, a sometime artist, is from California. Martin, an engineer, is from Yorkshire. Both have ended up in picturesque Cluny, in central France. Both are struggling to come to terms with their recent past – for Zoe, the death of her husband; for Martin, a messy divorce.

Looking to make a new start, each sets out alone to walk two thousand kilometres from Cluny to Santiago de Compostela, in northwestern Spain, in the footsteps of pilgrims who have walked the Camino (the Way) for centuries. The Camino changes you, it’s said. It’s a chance to find a new version of yourself, and a new beginning. But can these two very different people find themselves? Will they find each other?

In this smart, funny and romantic journey, Martin’s and Zoe’s stories are told in alternating chapters by husband-and-wife team Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist. Two Steps Forward is a novel about renewal – physical, psychological and spiritual. It’s about the challenge of walking a long distance and of working out where you are going. And it’s about what you decide to keep, what you choose to leave behind and what you rediscover.

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Have you heard anything about this book, or have you got it on your TBR list? 

DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_BOOKS_ / GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

The Minimalist Kitchen [review] #recipes #simplecooking

The Minimalist Kitchen - Melissa Coleman

Title: The Minimalist Kitchen
Author: Melissa Coleman
Publisher: Time Inc

[Synopsis]

The practical art of making more with less–in the kitchen!

Melissa Coleman, the creator of the popular design and lifestyle blog The Faux Martha, shares her refreshingly simple approach to cooking that delivers beautiful and satisfying meals using familiar ingredients and minimal kitchen tools. The Minimalist Kitchen includes 100 wholesome recipes that use Melissa’s efficient cooking techniques, and the results are anything but ordinary. You’ll find Biscuits with Bourbon-Blueberry Quick Jam, Pesto Garden Pasta with an easy homemade pesto, Humble Chuck Roast that’s simple to prepare and so versatile, Roasted Autumn Sweet Potato Salad, Stovetop Mac and Cheese, and Two-Bowl Carrot Cupcakes. While The Minimalist Kitchen helps tackle one of the home’s biggest problem areas—the kitchen—this book goes beyond the basics of clearing out and cleaning up, it also gives readers practical tips to maintain this simplified way of life. Melissa shows you how to shop, stock your pantry, meal plan without losing your mind, and most importantly, that delicious food doesn’t take tons of ingredients or gadgets to prepare. This streamlined way of cooking is a breath of fresh air in modern lives where clutter and distraction can so easily take over.

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[My Review]

This is a varied, inspiring book designed to pare things down and keep it all a bit simpler whilst cooking, and particularly how to ‘slim down’ your pantry so you don’t have an unnecessary amount of utensils, ingredients and spices hanging around and getting in the way. There are also tips and tricks for ensuring you’re as efficient as possible in the kitchen. I found this interesting but ultimately was more excited about the recipes!

Now, these don’t claim to be super healthy recipes, but they sure are tempting! The breakfast recipes feature a lot of baked goods and some really tasty oatmeal recipes. For me, breakfast is great but I really want inspiration for exciting lunch and dinner options. Enter: the ‘main dishes’ section!

Here you’ll find a range of flavours, styles and complexities to suit various abilities and tastes, from Chickpea Tikka Masala (which I’ve tried and loved!) to Soba Bowls with Peanut Sauce (I’ve tried the sauce part which was delicious), and Butternut Pasta which is high on my list to try when I feel like a carb-heavy meal!

Because my partner is pescetarian I tend to cook just veggie or fish-based meals for both of us, and there’s a good number of those in here. However most of the main-course recipes include some form of meat, and look very enticing! The maple-soaked salmon looks absolutely delicious and temptingly simple (I love a fairly short list of ingredients, it’s far less intimidating!) and there are also some really lovely looking desserts which I’ve added to my ‘to cook’ list!

The photography is lovely and really adds to the book’s elegant and – you guessed it – stylishly minimalistic aesthetic, and it would make a lovely gift for someone too!


Many thanks to the Time Inc. Books for providing an ARC of this book on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_BOOKS_ / GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

 

Anna by @MrsAmandaProwse [review]

Anna - Amanda Prowse

Title: Anna
Author: Amanda Prowse
Publisher: Head of Zeus

[Synopsis]

One Love, Two Stories.

Anna Cole grew up in care, and is determined to start a family of her own. Theo Montgomery had a loveless childhood, and wants only to find his soulmate.

Then, one day, Theo meets Anna, and Anna meets Theo. Two damaged souls from different worlds. Is their love for each other enough to let go of the pain of their pasts? Or will Anna and Theo break each others’ hearts?

There are two sides to every love story. This is Anna’s.

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[My Review]

Anna is a sweet, absorbing story about a young girl with such a sad start in life, and her battle to overcome her demons and fall in love – with Theo, the subject of the follow up to this story (this book is about Anna, book 2 is from Theo’s point of view).

There are plenty of sad points to this story as well as some more uplifting parts which you can’t help but smile at. The characters are convincing and, though some are definitely not likable, there are plenty of people you really do feel you can get behind (Anna’s cousin is just brilliant and so lovely, in stark contrast to his parents). Anna herself is just lovely; she hasn’t really got any ‘edges’ to her, she’s just very sweet and kind. She’s has had such a hard time and you can’t help but feel for her, making you actually care about what happens to her.

The plot covers so many parts of life in general and so many different ‘kinds’ of people, and I loved reading about them all – from the people she met whilst in a children’s home to Theo and his (slightly strange) family, as well as people from Anna’s own family who she never got to meet growing up. They’re all here!

The way Anna ends definitely left me wanting to read book 2, Theo, which will be released this month, and which will hopefully answer even more about Theo’s earlier life. He’s an equally interesting character and so I can see why Amanda Prowse has chosen to write a book from each of their perspectives – what a great idea!


DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_BOOKS_ / GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

WWW Wednesday [4 April 2018]

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted by Sam at Taking On a World of Words.

Visit her blog to take a look, and get involved too if you can, even if you don’t have a blog yourself – as she says, you can leave your answers in the post comments. I’d love to see your answers too!

The three W’s are:

    1. What have you finished reading?
    2. What are you currently reading?
    3. What will you read next?

What have you finished reading? 

Briguella – Vicki Fitzgerald [read my review here]
The Wildflowers – Harriet Evans [read my review as part of the blog tour]

What are you currently reading? 

The Next Girl – Carla Kovach
Anna – Amanda Prowse [I started reading this a few weeks ago then realised I only had a sampler copy when it ended rather abruptly – finally figured out why and have now purchased the full version, so reading the rest of the book now!]
What will you read next?

Skin Deep – Liz Nugent
or:
Two Steps Forward – Graeme Simsion & Anne Buist

What have you been reading recently? Any exciting books you’re looking forward to reading next?

If you do your own version of this tag please let me know in the comments below, I’d love to read your answers too!


DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_BOOKS / GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!