Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Dunning Man, by Kevin Fortuna

Sometimes, life is not neat and tidy.  Sometimes folks are just doing the best that they can.  This collection of stories helps us meet characters that we might normally simply dismiss as lowlifes, the dregs of society.  Their stories help us remember that rarely is anything black and white, all good or all bad.

This book was a very quick read, but that does not mean that it was all easy and breezy to get through.  On the contrary, I found the characters to be complex, and the stories to be quite compelling.  I found myself wondering about the characters, long after their stories ended.  That is the sign of some pretty powerful writing.

Anyone who has ever struggled (and who among us has not?) at some period of his or her life will be able to connect to the stories in this book.  Sometimes, life is hard, and we may not always handle it as well as we could.  I found that the writing was raw and honest.  This is the kind of book that really stays with you.  I am now interested in reading more by this author, perhaps something novel length.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours.  See the rest of the tour here.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Heart Does Not Grow Back, by Fred Venturini

Dale was just your average high school guy.  So when he realizes, after an unfortunate incident involving his dream girl, Dale realizes he has developed the ability to regenerate limbs, he realizes he can no longer pass for average.  Eventually, Dale gets a chance to use his strange ability for extreme good, but it may his downfall.

I am a fan of dark comedy; it certainly is not for everyone, but for those who do enjoy dark or gallows humor, this is a great book.  Sometimes that darkness sheds the most light on the truth of life, and I think this book does just that. This is an incredibly mix of humor, body horror, and stark reality regarding the politics of everyday life.

The characters in the book are strongly written, and really drive the action in this story. Dale is damaged in ways to which readers will easily relate.  I found the writing to be fresh and new, and I am quite excited to see where Venturini goes from here.  All in all, a great book.

I received a review copy courtesy TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Memory Card Full, by Liz Weber

Liz was sold on the idea of getting a dog initially.  In the midst of a rocky relationship, getting a dog seemed almost a desperate attempt at saving the situation.  When the relationship ends, it is clear that the dog, Rufus, belongs with Liz, and he will change her life forever.  Through every rough patch, Rufus is there to make things better.  When Rufus passes away, Liz must adjust to life without him, and learns the healing that sometimes comes with letting go.

I am a sucker for a good memoir, and equally a sucker for books about dogs, so for me, a memoir that involves a dog was sure to pack a wallop.  And the fact that the woman in the memoir is and aspiring writer?  Well, I was sold before I ever picked it up.  

Liz Weber does a fabulous job of opening her life, and her heart, to the readers of this book.  I was enchanted from the first chapter.  The book has an easy-natured way about it, making it a very pleasant read, even when discussing not so pleasant things.  She has quite a knack for describing things in rich detail, to the point where you feel you are there, silently observing the scene.  

I was highly impressed with this book; it lived up to every one of my expectations, which is no small feat.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Unforgivable Fix, by T.E. Woods

When Mort wants to walk away from his past, but his top priority needs to be keeping his daughter safe.  Despite the fact that he had not been in contact with her for some time, when she comes to him for help.  Mort knows that his only hope for keeping her safe is The Fixer, but this might not be something even The Fixer can fix.

I continue to be enamored with this series.  I think the writing is really solid; I feel like I know the recurring characters well at this point, but the new characters, including the new villains, continue to be well developed and keep things fresh.  The plot is fast paced, and full of twists, so it really kept me guessing all the way through, just like her books have in the past.  

I really like that Lydia's character continues to develop through the series.  We learn more of her history and backstory, and I personally felt like it helped me connect better to her character.  This series continues to be solid, yet still surprises me and catches me off guard.  Which is a very good thing indeed.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Lust: Poems, by Diana Raab

Everyone lusts for something.  A lover,  Acceptance.  A better life.  In this poetry anthology, the poet explores feelings of lust, in contrast to feelings of love, and that longing to just live life on one's own terms.

I feel wholly unqualified to critique a book of poetry.  As a literary form, it is quite different from what I am used to.  No real character development, no plot in the way you typically think of plot.  I know absolutely nothing about poetic form.  All I know is whether or not poetry speaks to my soul.  At times, this book absolutely shouted, and at times, it barely whispered.

Erotica is something that quickly loses its novelty with me, particularly erotic poetry.  So, it did not take long for my eyes to sort of glaze over as I read this anthology.  That is, until I got so some poems that dealt with body image framed in the context of sexuality.  Those poems, in particular, really stuck out to me, and connected deeply.  Regardless of whether I feel connected to the content matter or not, I do feel qualified to say that this anthology of poetry is fearless, and more honest that many people feel comfortable with.  For that, I am truly glad to have read it.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

I Shall Be Near to You, by Erin Lindsay McCabe

Rosetta always preferred the more manly chores on her family's farm, being outdoors and doing physical work.  When her sweetheart decides to enlist in the Union army to fight in the Civil War, Rosetta convinces him to marry her before leaving.  She then disguises herself as a man, and enlists in the same unit as her husband.  Reinventing herself as Ross, she finds herself fighting as well as any man, for the sake of her country as well as her family.

I have been on a huge Civil War kick lately, ever since I visited Gettysburg this summer, so this book was right up my alley.  This book was really fascinating, not only thanks to the beautiful writing, but to the fact that this fictional story was based on actual women who fought in the Civil War.  The research behind the book was solid, and allowed me to be completely absorbed into the story.

I thought the writing in the book was just gorgeous.  I adored Rosetta as a character, and I admired her spirit.  I felt like I was able to connect to her adoration of her husband, and her desire to follow him to the ends of the world.  The book will appeal to fans of historical fiction and romance, but I think that in all reality this is the kind of book that would still appeal to fans of general contemporary fiction who tend to shy away from historical books.  While the historical aspect is a huge part of the story, it does not overshadow the book.  One does not need to be a Civil War buff to appreciate the beauty of this book.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Night Visitor, by Dianne Emley

Rory had a very glamorous life, one that anyone would envy, right up until the moment tragedy struck.  Suddenly, Rory's sister was dead, and a man accused of murder.  Rory attempts to move on with her life, but finds herself sharing an odd psychic connection with the accused man, as he attempts to clear his name.

I really felt this book was well written.  I felt that Rory's character, in particular, was really well developed.  I felt connected to her, and could really see the action of the story in my mind.  The writing is very vivid, and appeals to the reader.

I really liked that the book wove together a traditional crime thriller storyline with a paranormal storyline.  It made for something unusual and intriguing.  I feel like the book will appear to a variety of readers by crossing genres. All in all, this was a really solid thriller.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

My Thinning Years; Starving the Gay Within, by Jon Derek Croteau

From an early age, Jon felt different.  He preferred playing with the girls and hated sports.  His father, determined to make a "real man" out of him, belittled Jon's sensitive ways, bullied him into sports, and criticized his physical appearance.  As a result, Jon grew up in total fear of his father, of his own sexuality, and of being fat.  These issues morphed into a full scale eating disorder, fueled by self loathing and internalized homophobia.  For all if his adult life, Jon would struggle.

Oh goodness, this book made me rage, and weep, and rejoice.  Jon does a beautiful job of sharing his story in a way that is honest and genuine.  I did not feel the intention with the writing was to demonize his father, yet I raged over the kind of person his father was.  It breaks my heart to know that any child is emotionally abused in such a manner; this is abuse, and it has real, lasting consequences.  I applaud Jon for the hard work he has done to overcome his abusive past, to seek happiness and healing, and to make difficult but healthy choices in his life.

We constantly hear of young people developing severe emotional issues, engaging in self harm, and attempting suicide, all because of being abused and bullied.  It is important that we continue to spread the message that you can overcome these types of situations.  It will not be easy, and it will probably be painful and unpleasant, but it is possible, and you are worth it.   I am so thankful that Jon has become the strong, eloquent survivor he is, and that he has chosen to share his story.  We often hear of females who have eating disorders, but the reality is, males are also plagued by these issues.  Jon has given voice to an overlooked group, and probably has helped save a few lives in the process.  I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Hexed, by Heather Graham

In his youth, Rocky not only had to deal with the death of a friend, he was the one who found her body.  Now a member of an elite FBI team that deals with unusual situations, Rocky has returned to his hometown area of Salem to investigate a series of murders identical to that of his childhood friend.  Are the murders are related to each other, and to the witchy past of Salem?

I was absolutely fascinated by this book!  I love that the story centers around a real historic area, and weaves a lot of historic fact into the plot.  I also like that the story did not take the easy way out, making the culprit someone obvious or simply blaming the paranormal.  The plot was very strong, and well written.  I was engaged from the first page.

The character development was good, but I would have liked to either see a little bit more development, or a little less characters.  I know we needed a large cast, to serve as red herrings, but some of the people who were not obvious suspects just seemed to muddy things a little, and make it hard to keep people straight.  Also, I could have done without the romance aspect of the book.  I think the thriller and paranormal aspects of the plot were strong enough to carry the story, the romance seemed like it was an afterthought to try to appeal to romance fans.  

All in all, I found the book really well written, and very unique.  I am looking forward to reading more from this author!

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours, in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Monster Realm, by Nara Duffie

For as long as she can remember, Lillian has loved mythology stories, and the "monsters" that appear in them. When her sister, Bluebell, goes missing, Lillian realizes that those stories may be more fact than fiction, and life as she knows it may change forever.

I cannot even begin to express how impressed I was with this book. The author, Nara Duffie, completed this book 11 days before her 11th birthday. Yes, you read that correctly! She was 10 when she wrote this. Actually, she started writing it much earlier than that, and took her time polishing and perfecting it. You can tell that this book was written with a tremendous amount of dedication and precision. The characters are very well developed, and the back story unfolds brilliantly in the middle of the present action. I thought the book was full of rich imagery, and I admire the author's imagination.

This book will really appeal to fans of books like Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. I think it is a wonderful book for both young adult and adult readers. Do not let the author's young age deter you; this is better writing than I have seen from may seasoned, adult authors. Bravo Nara!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Breathe: A Memoir of Motherhood, Grief, and Family Conflict, by Kelly Kittel

Kelly and Andy had a good life, living on the west coast near Andy's family, and making frequent trips to the east coast to visit Kelly's family.  They have beautiful children.  Then, in an instant, their life trajectory takes a turn, and a life is lost.  Less than a year later, the family suffers another loss, and this time, they want answers.  Sadly, in their search for truth about their loss, the find heart breaking other truths as well, about family, loyalty, and trust.

How does one talk about liking or disliking a book dealing with such raw subject matter as infant loss.  I struggle to put this review into words.  I simply cannot imagine having gone through all that Kelly and Andy experienced in such a short course of time.  This book deals with so many different kinds of loss- loss of children, loss of faith in medical practitioners, loss of familial support.  Just so much loss.  Yet there is such an air of positivity to it.  Kelly seems like such an incredibly strong person.  And her faith is evident throughout the book.

I found myself consumed with this story, and could not stop reading.  I wanted justice for this family.  I wanted healing for this family.  I wanted a happy ending.  But, this is not just a story, this is not fiction.  This family will forever feel the loss of their children.  And that is so hard for me to imagine.  What a brave, wonderful book this is.  I highly recommend it to anyone having gone through child loss or familial estrangement.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Moving Day, by Jonathan Stone

Peke and his wife are in their 70s, preparing to move from their home of 40 years, drive cross country, and set up a quieter, simple life in California.  Suddenly, all their plans are shattered when they are swindled out of all their worldly possessions by thieves posing as moving men. Most men would submit an insurance claim and buy new things, but not Peke.  Peke fights back, with a fire in his belly.  You see, Peke is a survivor, in more ways than one.

This book was unlike any thriller I have ever read.  When I realized what had happened to Peke and his wife, my heart sunk like a stone, as if they were real people.  I was that captured by the writing, from the very beginning.  The author took this very mundane thing, moving, and turned it on its end.  I simply could not read fast enough to suit me.  The characters of Peke and Nick, one of the thieves, are well written, and play well off of each other.  It almost feels like each is what the other might have been, had life taken different turns.

I love the strong emphasis on survival in this book, and coming to terms with what one is willing to do to secure that survival.  There were quite a few twists I never anticipated, and I was riveted the entire time I was reading.  If you are looking for a book full of action, and a plot unlike any thriller you have ever read before, then this is the perfect summer read for you.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sweet Tooth: A Memoir, by Tim Anderson

As a teenager, Tim started to realize that he was different, that he was attracted to other boys.  He knew he needed to keep this a secret, so he started daydreaming; just when he thinks he is beginning to deal with his sexuality, life throws him another curveball, when he discovers he has Type I diabetes.  Tim struggles to learn how to deal with this life altering disease, and along the way he suffers severe reactions when his blood sugar drops dangerously low.  People in his life learn how to spot the signs and take care of him, but between his disease and his sexuality, he spends quite a few years as a big, sloppy mess.  Eventually, however, he learns to manage life, as well as any of us do.

I am a sucker for a great memoir; real, personal stories are the ones I find most interesting. Which is exactly why I loved this book so much.  I felt like this book can really speak to people.  A reader needs to look past the specifics- one does not need to be a Type I diabetic, or gay, or a boy with curly swoopy bangs, to relate to this book.  One needs only to have struggled with something, anything, that made them feel different, defective, outcast.  And who among us has not, at some point, had such a struggle?

I found the book to be incredibly well written, a perfect balance of wit, self deprecation, and seriousness. The chapters are interspersed with vignettes of Tim suffering severe reactions, and I found those to be highly educational.  I never realized, despite the fact that I too have seen Steel Magnolias, the drastic shifts in personality and behavior that can occur when a diabetic person's blood sugar bottoms out.  I wonder how many times we think someone is drunk or high or crazy, when really, they are just a diabetic in need of some juice.

I found this book to be brave, and honest, and raw.  I wish more people had the courage to tell their stories the way Tim has.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours, in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Under a Silent Moon, by Elizabeth Haynes

Two women are found dead on the same night, one a clear homicide, the other what seems to be a suicide.   DNA evidence also seems to suggest the cases are linked, beyond the fact that they occurred in close proximity to each other.  As the investigative team gathers evidence, it would seem that the cases are not as open and shut as they initially appeared.  And as the investigation continues, it becomes clear that most everyone has some dirty little secrets that will come to light.

I have been a fan of this author for a couple of years now, ever since I read her very first book.  So it came as no surprise that I really loved this book as well.  What did come as a surprise was how different this was from her previous works.  While the crime and thriller aspects were just as on point as always, this book was rooted in a much darker, sexual place.

One of the dead women, Polly, is very open with her sexuality, almost pansexual in nature.  The message here is clear: a sexually open woman deserves to die.  And this is not the author's message; this is society's message.  In a world where rape culture influences so many daily interactions women endure, this message is always looming on the surface.  One need only to read the daily news to confirm this fact.

I thought the writing was on point, as it always is with this author.  I also liked the unusual format of weaving police paperwork, text messages, and other forms of communication into the story. It kept me on my toes.

Yet another winner by Elizabeth Haynes.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Outside In, by Doug Cooper

When a student dies in his classroom, Brad is ready to leave teaching forever.  At the very least, he is leaving St. Louis.  He travels to Put-in-Bay, Ohio, to spend the summer partying with friends.  Brad thinks he is running away from his problems, but perhaps he is just running toward his future.  But suddenly, the party spins out of control, and the future is forever changed.

I was completely sucked into this book, and I cannot fully explain why.  I mean, when a book opens with death, you know you are in for one heck of a ride.  I cannot help but feel sorry for Brad, he seems so lost.  And he seems a little to old for the party scene.  They all do really.  It seems like a bit of a modern tragedy really, and I pitied them.  I was also completely fascinated by them.

I was never into the party scene, mostly because I lived at home until I was in my 20s.  I worked my way through college and focused on my studies, even after I had moved out for graduate school.  So, you might say I was able to live vicariously through these characters.  But even living the party lifestyle vicariously was too much for me.  This book made me eternally thankful I never got involved in the party scene, but it also helped me understand how young people get sucked into drug and alcohol addictions.  Like Brad, we all find ourselves running.

I think this would make a good summer read, since it is set in the summer , and has sort of a resort-like feel to it.  But be forewarned, it is also pretty dark.  All in all, a very engaging book.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the review here.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Lemonade Revealed, by Will Chluho

A boy is rescued in the waters off of a Pacific Island, and now suffers from amnesia.  He encounters a priest, a warrior, and the governor, each of whom instruct him in different areas, and each of whom has some underlying reason for befriending him.  The three men warn him to avoid a mysterious man on the island, yet that man is the one person who can help the boy learn his true identity.

It is very rare that I leave a book feeling like I did not understand it, but this book left me feeling just that; confused.  The story itself is not unpleasant; the reading was actually quite relaxing.  The story is gentle, like a lazy flowing river.  It was the perfect kind of book to read in the summer sun.  But I felt like I was just missing something.

The book is highly philosophical, and I suspect it contains some religious allegory, what with the theme of searching for Father, and different people coming together to make up that Father role.  But that almost seems too simple, so I was left feeling like there was a deeper meaning that I was missing.  So, I was left feeling a little naive and stupid, not a good feeling to have after reading a book.

The writing was quite beautiful, and sweet, but for some reason this book is slightly off the mark for me.  I suspect I will need to re-read it a few times, to really flesh out my full opinion of it.  

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours, in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Serpent of Venice, by Christopher Moore

The envoy of the Queen has been invited to dinner, but not all is as it seems.  The invitation is a trap, set by three dastardly plotters- a merchant, a senator, and a naval military officer.  You see, the envoy is in the way of these men; he blocks their quest for wealth and power.  They simply must get rid of him.  But rest assured, he will not go quietly.

I have had many books by this author on my "to read" lists over the years, but this is the first one I have actually gotten to read, and I must say, I was pleasantly surprised.  I consider myself to be a great fan of classic literature, and while I do hold it in some reverence, I am also a fan of a good satire or parody.  So I was quite happy to see that the author does a great job of parodying some classic literary tropes and mechanisms in a humorous way.  The book left me chuckling numerous times.

From what I gather, the character of Pocket is one that has been previously introduced in the author's writing.  However, I did not feel like I had was out of the loop, having not read any of the previous books.  Perhaps if I were to read them now, this book would become even more enjoyable to me, but nevertheless, I feel like the characters and the writing stood on their own.

While a good understanding or familiarity with Shakespeare is helpful for the full enjoyment of the book, it is not entirely necessary.  Most importantly, one should go into it with an open mind and a sense of humor.  If you do that, you will find yourself in the middle of a highly entertaining book.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Driving Lessons, by Zoe Fishman

Sarah has spent years living in New York City, to the point where the city has become a part of her identity.  When her husband, Josh, takes a job in Virginia, she is faced with leaving everything she knows, and trying to find her true self.  Along the way, she is forced to confront her fears, examine her relationships, and help two other women in her life adjust to their own new realities.

I love a book about female characters who are lovably flawed, in ways with which I can fully relate.  As a woman the same age as Sarah, I found myself totally understanding her fears about her identity, both as a career woman, and as a woman contemplating motherhood.  I love that the three women in the book basically start out on somewhat similar paths, and find their journeys vastly different, yet interwoven and compatible.  It helped me see the irony in everyday situations.

I really loved Sarah as a character.  I thought she was well developed, and very likable, even in her slightly less likable moments.  She possesses a sweetness of spirit that I found refreshing.  Typically, sweet characters appear naive, but Sarah is not.  She is simply good, yet still flawed.  I really adored her compassion to her friend dealing with a crisis; the scenes between Sarah and Mona, the friend, are very tender in their own mildly acerbic way.  

This is a good book about female identity, relationships, independence, and interconnectedness.  I really loved it, and would recommend it to readers fond of books focusing on female characters which out being overt chick lit.  This should be on a lot of summer reading lists.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Girl Who Came Home, by Hazel Gaynor

Maggie Murphy is leaving everything she loves behind in her small town in Ireland.  She leaves her friends, her home, and her love Seamus, to travel to America on the Titanic.  We all know that tragedies befell the passengers of that ship, but we learn that Maggie survived, and many years later shares the story with her great granddaughter.

I am fascinated by the stories of the Titanic.  I cannot imagine what it would have been like to have lived at the time when this happened.  I cannot imagine how it would have felt as the nation mourned this tragedy.  As someone who has enjoyed other books and movies on the topic, I felt certain I would enjoy this book.  And I did, though it was uncertain for a while.

The book starts off with excellent character development of Maggie.  We learn her backstory, and why she is reluctant to read.  We also get to know some other minor characters from the past, as well as some characters from the future.  The thing that put me off, just the slightest bit, was the amount of narrative switching, between past, present, letter, journals, telegrams, and different characters.  It all got to be too much.  I was glad when things straightened out a little more, and there were less narrative devices and voices.

I think the story was an excellent concept, and the writing was mostly solid.  I just think the execution of the book was a just a tiny bit clumsy.  I am all for historical accuracy, but I could have done without a lot of the historical telegrams and such that really played no part in the story.  Had the story focused more on the actual boat and all its passengers and crew, this would have been necessary.  However, since it was mostly just about Maggie, it did not make sense to include those things.  Again, just too many different narrative devices; it chopped up the flow of the text.

In general, however, I found the book interesting.  I think it will appeal to fans of historical fiction, particularly readers looking for a nice, sweet romance story.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Black Chalk, by Christopher J. Yates

A group of students at Oxford create a complicated game that forces them into uncomfortable situations.  6 students begin the game, only 5 survive it, and only 1 can win it.  As the game's intensity progresses, it takes a toll on the players' education, friendships, and in at least one instance, sanity.  Is there really any way to actually win this game?

This book had be hooked from the very beginning.  There was something incredibly original in this storyline.  I thought the plot was well thought out, terribly clever, and totally riveting.  We meet the players one by one, and while they are well developed, they do not surrender all their secrets immediately.  By the time I realized the tricky nature of the narrative, I was certain that this book was going to take me places I did not expect.  That is a quality I admire in a thriller, and this one delivered on all its promises.

The nature of the writing is luxurious and extravagant.  Yates knows how to turn a phrase in a way seldom seen in contemporary writing.  The writing is smart, without being pretentious.  In short, this book surpassed all my expectations in those most wonderful ways.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Clever Girl, by Tessa Hadley

Stella grows up in post-WWII England.  She lives through the tumult of the 50s, 60s, and 70s.  Along the way she falls in love a few times, makes friends, becomes a mother, works a variety of jobs, and pursues her education.

I have to say I found this book terribly boring.  It started off strong, when Stella was a child being raised by a single mother.  The anecdotal stories from her youth were engaging, and in their own ways, beautiful.  All of this changes when Stella's mother remarries, and Stella develops into a bit of a brat.  She begins acting out and rebelling, and ends up, quite predictably, in trouble.

The rest of the book is so unremarkable.  It simple outlines the remainder of Stella's life, all the poor decisions she makes, the few redeeming choices she has, and basically a summary of an dull, ordinary life.  I found myself wholly unable to care about Stella as a character.  She seemed flat and undeveloped from a literary character standpoint.  The plot was also very plain, and nothing about it grabbed my attention in the least.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.

The Deepest Secret, by Carla Buckley

Eve's son Tyler has a deadly condition.  Any contact with sunlight could literally kill Tyler.  As a result, Eve's family has learned to survive in a somewhat locked down existence.  Air tight and light tight rooms, Tyler only leaving the house at night.  But the strain has gotten worse as Tyler has gotten older.  Now his sister is acting out, his dad works out of town, and Eve has just about reached her limit.  When a tragedy occurs, the very existence of this family's situation is held in delicate balance.

This book?  Explosive.  This is not just your run of the mill thriller.  I mean, sure, there is the typical aspects of a thriller, with a crime being committed and consequently covered up.  But the aspect of Tyler's rare medical condition literally casts shade over the entire story.  And as we all know, everything looks spookier in the shadows.  

I thought the character development was superb in this story.  Eve and Tyler have a very complex relationship, one that totally dominates the family situation.  Eve really tugs on your heartstrings, you see the desperation in her, the extreme love she feels for her son.  And Tyler is absolutely smothered, between his condition and her love.  

I particularly like the aspect of the book that details Tyler's nighttime treks around the community.  In the dark, Tyler sees that everyone has secrets, and he alone is privy to them.  It makes the book so much more interesting, knowing that there are layers upon layers of mystery.  It made this one of the most intriguing thrillers I have read in years.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Fixer, by T. E. Woods

Lydia is a successful psychologist. She begins treating a mysterious new client, a woman named Savannah. Savannah is a tough nut to crack, playing by her own rules and making enigmatic statements about people in her life getting hurt. Savannah has put up walls of steel to protect herself, and Lydia wonders if she will be able to break through them enough to do any good for her client. It becomes apparent that Savannah feels responsible for some recent murders, so Lydia joins forces with the detectives to learn the truth, when nothing is as it seems.

I thought this was a pretty fantastic novel. I like a good crime thriller, particularly one that keeps me guessing, as this one did. I really enjoyed the development of the characters Lydia and Savannah. I did not anticipate the direction the book was going to take, in regards to their characters. I liked that the focus of the book was on strong women taking control, even if their methods were highly illegal.

The writing was sharp, and kept me glued to the pages. I thought the plot was solid, and the ending was a real shocker. The story took just the right amount of twists and turns to keep me guessing, without seeming confusing. The only thing I thought lacked a slight bit of credibility was the detective allowing Lydia to get so involved in the case without him questioning it more from the beginning. But, readers are willing to suspend disbelief when the story is good enough, and in this case, it certainly was good enough.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Isolation Door, by Anish Majumdar

Neil has grown up with the chaos of a schizophrenic mother.  His father becomes her primary caretaker, but to some degree he is in denial of the severity of his wife's condition.  Neil longs to break free of this chaos, and start his own life.  He sees education and an acting career as his escape.  As he begins to develop his own life, a life full of friendships and love, he realizes that all life is chaotic, and everyone has their own issues.

This novel feels so melancholy to me, and in a way, there is a beauty to that.  I felt like the story must have been somewhat autobiographical; there was just too much sadness and heartfelt emotion in it to simply be fiction.  I think that feeling leaps from the page.  Similarly, I feel like the characters, particularly of Neil and his parents, are so realistic, they must be based in truth.

Mental illness is just now starting to be less of a taboo topic.  We are hearing more and more prominent people talk about various mental health issues.  What we still do not hear much of are the voices of the family members.  Often, loved ones can become as much a casualty to one's mental health issues as the sufferer him or herself.  So, regardless of whether this is pure fiction or based in the author's own experiences, I am glad to see a book accurately portraying life as an adult child of a schizophrenic parent.  Honest, realistic books like this will help to continue to reduce the taboo of frank mental health discussions.  

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Pact, by Mitchell S. Karnes

Paul is a boy in middle school who constantly gets picked on my his classmates.  When a new boy named Scott comes to the school, he begins to stick up for Paul.  The boys learn that they have a common interest in a role playing game, so Paul introduces Scott to some other boys who play.  Scott is trying to adjust to a new school, as well as coping with the loss of his father, and his decision to take a stand against the school bullies makes it difficult for him to simply blend in.

Bullying is such an important topic.  We see countless people speaking out on the need to change bullying culture; we hear of the horrible impact of bullying behavior; we see more and more schools adopting a zero tolerance policy on bullying.  So it makes sense that we address it in the books our kids are reading as well.  This book is aimed at middle grades readers, and it does a good job of showing what it is like to be involved in a bullying situation, whether you are the bully, the bullied, or a spectator.

I really like that this book painted a pretty accurate picture of what kids in the middle grades age group can possibly deal with.  The book was able to stay appropriate for the intended age group, while avoiding too much sugar coating of the issue.  I think the format of this book could be used to help kids in this age range deal with other issues as well.  I am interested to see where the author goes from here, but based on this book alone I think he had written something that the kids will really relate to.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here