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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

#ATBR2019 Review: Last Woman Standing by Amy Gentry @HMHbooks @unlandedgentry

Last Woman Standing 
by Amy Gentry

Thank you Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for these copies! 

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publish Date: January 15, 2019
320 Pages
Genre: Psychological Thriller

Dana Diaz is an aspiring stand‑up comedian—a woman in a man’s world. When she meets a tough computer programmer named Amanda Dorn, the two bond over their struggles in boys’ club professions. Dana confides that she’s recently been harassed and assaulted while in L.A., and Amanda comes up with a plan: they should go after each other’s assailants, Strangers on a Train–style. But Dana finds that revenge, however sweet, draws her into a more complicated series of betrayals. Soon her distrust turns to paranoia, encompassing strangers, friends—and even herself. At what cost will she get her vengeance? Who will end up getting hurt? And when it’s all over, will there be anyone left to trust? 

My Review:

When I read Gentry's Good As Gone a while back, I was floored at just how RAW of a read that was.  While Last Woman Standing is a different category, it's still quite raw in terms of the victimization and harassment of women, comics or otherwise.  

Gentry gives us Dana Diaz - an aspiring comic who has been on the brunt end on more than on occasion.  When Amanda enters her life, here comes the outlet she needed... because sometimes the inactions taken in the past explode into actions in the present. 

Listen, as  woman who has been through her fair share of harassment, there certainly is a fine line of what you think you should fight against and whether or not it's worth it.  I tried to get a manager fired but instead he was just sent to another restaurant, where I'm hoping he didn't harass anyone there... and it's this type of "justice" that gives women a sense that it's not worth it.  Just because he's not in the same place to bother me and the other girls who complained (to me, and me who took it higher), instead of being punished or corrected, he was just sent away.  Out of sight, out of mind? Nope. It just doesn't work that way and this particular incident was an extremely small action compared to others.  I have been lucky that it never escalated to something worse and it's sad that I think this way.

But I digress, back to this read.  I don't particularly get triggered by books but those who do, this may be a hard read for you.  Keep this in mind when reading, straight from the author: "I started writing Last Woman Standing before the #MeToo tidal wave, unaware of some of the worst offenses by famous comics - though I'd heard some rumors.  When the first big story broke, I worried that people might draw conclusions about who certain characters represented.  But as more and more stories came to light, I realized that this type of behavior was just too ubiquitous in the industry to any one person.  Which would be funny if it weren't so sad.  Rage, like comedy, is unforgiving."

This book definitely went in a direction I wasn't expecting from the beginning.  I found the beginning a bit slow quite frankly, but I also *know* Gentry and she has a purpose and I'm glad I continued.  One, I'm certainly going to have less delivery services from now on (or at least for a little bit) and two, guys that won't believe women are probably a bit guilty of something themselves.  STOP BLAMING THE VICTIM.

But on a less serious note, the revenge game is nothing new to the genre, but the manipulation and strategic movement and underscoring of what is happening in the world intertwined was well done.... I don't understand why men just don't get it - DON'T PISS OFF WOMEN.  We are patient, calculating and vindictive... but only when we have to be *wink*.  But man, crazy is as crazy does and UFF, Amanda...…. 

I don't think this book is going to be for everyone considering the slow-ish start and the topic, but I think it's worth the read.  


Jessica's Review:

I'll start off with saying that this book won't be for everyone. I'm not a person that is usually triggered by topics within books, but this deals with harassment experienced by women. I didn't know that Amy Gentry had started this book before the #MeToo movement and before a lot of men in the stand up industry had been implicated. LAST WOMAN STANDING is one that takes that female rage and frustration and turns it on the horrible men that committed these acts.

Dana is trying to make a name for herself in the world of stand up. After a set one night, she meets Amanda. The two begin to discuss the wrongs they have experienced at the hands of their male counterparts in the industry. Fed up, they decide they should go at this STRANGERS ON A TRAIN style and take care of each others' list of enemies. How far will they go to get vengeance on those that abused and harassed them?

There were plenty of twists in this book but it started off a little on the slow side for a thriller. The revenge plot is nothing new to the thriller genre, but it's always great to see the whole "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" in books and the direction the authors take it. Men underestimate women and don't understand the lengths we will go to - vindictive and focused is a dangerous combination! Like I said, this will not be for everyone, but it's a book that's very timely and covers very prominent issues. 

3.5/5 stars

#ATBR2019 Review: The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye @putnambooks @LyndsayFaye

The Paragon Hotel 
by Lyndsay Faye 

Thanks so much to Putnam Books for these review copies.
Jessica and I are a fan on Faye and her brilliance in these historical tellings are one to add to your list.

Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publish Date: January 8, 2019
432 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

The year is 1921, and “Nobody” Alice James is on a cross-country train, carrying a bullet wound and fleeing for her life following an illicit drug and liquor deal gone horribly wrong. Desperate to get as far away as possible from New York City and those who want her dead, she has her sights set on Oregon: a distant frontier that seems the end of the line.

She befriends Max, a black Pullman porter who reminds her achingly of Harlem, who leads Alice to the Paragon Hotel upon arrival in Portland. Her unlikely sanctuary turns out to be the only all-black hotel in the city, and its lodgers seem unduly terrified of a white woman on the premises. But as she meets the churlish Dr. Pendleton, the stately Mavereen, and the unforgettable club chanteuse Blossom Fontaine, she begins to understand the reason for their dread. The Ku Klux Klan has arrived in Portland in fearful numbers–burning crosses, inciting violence, electing officials, and brutalizing blacks. And only Alice, along with her new “family” of Paragon residents, are willing to search for a missing mulatto child who has mysteriously vanished into the Oregon woods.

Why was “Nobody” Alice James forced to escape Harlem? Why do the Paragon’s denizens live in fear–and what other sins are they hiding? Where did the orphaned child who went missing from the hotel, Davy Lee, come from in the first place? And, perhaps most important, why does Blossom DuBois seem to be at the very center of this tangled web?

My Review:

I've been a fan of Faye since Jane Steele and she come back to us again with another stunner in The Paragon Hotel. I'm not much on historical fiction usually but I've ben surprised lately.. however, I already knew going in that Faye has a talent of bringing history to life. She brings Nobody and everybody into The Paragon Hotel.

We switch back and forth from NYC Harlem and how Nobody, "just call me Alice", came to Oregon, The Paragon Hotel and her reasonings behind what she does. Introducing characters such as the doctor, Davy and Blossom, here comes a mystery I wasn't expecting and the KKK, which I was. I was fortunate enough to meet Lyndsay when she was promoting The Whole Art of Detection and remember her mentioning this is where her next book was going to be heading. I was instantly intrigued and SO excited to get my hands on a copy.

I'll be completely honest, it took me quite a bit to get into this book. The cadence and language was hard for me to grasp on to right away. "Quelque". There's nothing that comes out and nudges you or completely WOWs you in an instant scene or reveal. What we get is a span throughout the ENTIRE read that starts to settle into your soul. If you're a lover of historical fiction and reading about the KKK and prohibition times, this is most definitely the read for you. Don't let what I consider a slow start deter you. At right about the third way into the story, I found myself wanting to take this journey with Nobody.

This time period is such a hard one - we still see racism and the KKK is still affluent unfortunately. Some language and scenes really made me angry and I found myself frowning quite a bit throughout the read. If a book can pull these feelings well... I think it's doing something right. 


Jessica's Review:

My introduction to Lyndsay Faye was THE WHOLE ART OF DETECTION, a collection of Sherlock Holmes stories. I love her writing and how effortlessly she sets the scene and the creates the atmosphere for us. THE PARAGON HOTEL is another incredible historical fiction meets mystery read.

Set in the 1920's, Alice, better known as Nobody, flees New York for Oregon. She ends up at The Paragon Hotel and we are introduced to a wide variety of characters. I was impressed with how well Faye was able to flesh them all out for us and how unique each character was.

This book does deal with topics such as racism and focuses on the presence of the KKK in Oregon. If you're a fan of historical fiction that centers around the Prohibition era, then this will be perfect for you. Faye approaches the topics very well and immerses the reader in the time period. For some readers I can see the start being a little slow to grab you, but you find yourself becoming more and more engrossed in Nobody's journey.

I can see this evoking an array of emotion from readers, such as frustration with the situations the characters find themselves in, but hey, that's a sign of a good book, right? If you're a fan of historical fiction then I would highly recommend this one! Faye has an incredible writing style and I'll continue to pick up her books!

4/5 stars

SPOTLIGHT: What Could Go Wrong by Brett Grayson @FSBAssociates @brettgraysondad

What Could Go Wrong 
by Brett Grayson

A comedic look into marriage, parenting and depression.
Read the excerpt below - it's well worth the laugh!


There comes a time when couples decide to create and raise tiny helpless human beings, hoping they one day become non-tiny and less helpless.

This is one family’s journey through ten months of pregnancy (isn’t it supposed to be nine months?), the first years of parental cluelessness, the terrible twos, threenagers, and the few years that follow when they begin to learn about a world that’s even crazier than they are.

Join the author and his wife as they navigate those ten months, from the always romantic conception, to her water breaking in the most unique way possible. Then watch them attempt parenthood, from the seemingly simple routine of dressing their kids for school, to the complex experience of teaching them to use public bathrooms.

It’s mostly a breeze…

No it isn’t. Pre and postnatal complications; battles with their own mental health; and those rapidly growing and irrational miniature versions of themselves. Some of it is devastating. Much of it is overwhelming. All of it challenges them to maintain their sense of humor.

And when they attempted to go on an airplane as a family... that was a sh*tshow.

Brett Grayson is the author of What Could Go Wrong? My Mostly Comedic Journey through Marriage, Parenting and Depression. A successful trial attorney with offices throughout the five boroughs of NYC and New Jersey, he lives in New Jersey with his wife and two children. 

An excerpt from What Could Go Wrong? My Mostly Comedic Journey through Marriage, Parenting and Depression by Brett Grayson

Urine Catching

“Honey, I didn’t get my period yet.”

“When were you supposed to?”

“Four days ago.”

“So you’re pregnant.

“Stop. It’s not a joke.”

“I’m not joking. If you are, that’s great. We’ll deal with it.” (At least 40 percent of me is okay with this statement.)

“Maybe you should pick up a pregnancy test,” Lauren suggests.

“Should I just get one test or a few?”

“Get one. How hard can it be?”

Thirty minutes later, I have the test stick in my hand. I read the instructions: she needs to pee in a cup and we need to dip the stick in the cup. We then wait for either one or two lines to appear. If a second one appears, she’s pregnant.

I get a cup and come back upstairs.

“What are you doing?” Lauren asks.


“You think I’m peeing in a ‘#1 GRANDMA’ mug?”

“I thought we had plastic cups. We don’t. This is the first thing I found. Why do you have it, anyway?”

“I forgot to give it to my Grandma for Mother’s Day. I’m not peeing in it, Brett. It’s disrespectful to her.”

“Are you kidding me? This is a much more important life for a mug than just holding coffee 100 times. This mug will confirm if she’s going to be a Great-Grandma for the first time.”

“Whatever. Just give me it.”

Lauren pees in it and we put the test down and discuss what we think it will be. After a few minutes, the second line is sort of starting to come in. But is it?

“Let’s bring it in the other room with better light,” Lauren suggests.

We walk into the other room.

“I think I see a second line,” I exclaim.

“You have the worst eyesight.”

“Well, what do you think?”

“I don’t know. I’m freaking out.”

I go to the pharmacy again and buy three different tests. I take mild notice of how expensive it becomes—as much as you can notice when you’re on a mission.

At home, I’m looking at the pink lines from the first test again. It looks like it came in a bit more.

“The new test says ‘Pregnant’ or ‘Not Pregnant’.”

“Why didn’t you just buy that test in the first place?” Lauren asks.

“I don’t know. Leave me alone. I’m nervous.

“YOU’RE nervous?

This test requires you to pee on the actual test stick. She can’t pee, though. I get her water. Finally, she announces that she’s ready to pee.

“Brett, can you hold the stick while I pee on it?”

“I feel like that’s your department.”

“I don’t care whose department it is. There’s no way I’m doing it myself.”


I hold the test stick under her while she takes what seems like nine hours to start peeing. Finally, pee comes flying out in all directions. I don’t think I ever concentrated on the flow of urine from a female before this moment. It is very different from a man’s flow and there are numerous variables. I am caught off-guard and the test stick may not be sufficiently saturated.

“Why didn’t you get it?” Lauren yells.

“You moved.”

“No, I didn’t.”

We put the test down and wait. The dogs are in their dog bed bored by our bickering.

“If it says ‘Not Pregnant’, are we taking another test?” Lauren asks.

“Yes, of course. That’s why I bought three tests ... that second pink line from the first test really looks like it’s coming in ... is it three minutes yet?” I ask impatiently.

“Why, did you stop looking at the watch?”

“What’s the difference? It will either pop up ‘Pregnant’ or ‘Not Pregnant’. It’s not going to change to ‘Maybe’.”

Lauren is staring at the test stick. “I see an hourglass.” She reads the instructions. “An hourglass means the test isn’t working.”

“I knew it,” I say. “There isn’t enough pee on it.”

We have two tests left. We take one out, but she can’t pee. Again, she drinks a glass of water and we run the faucet. Twenty minutes later, she’s ready.

“Brett, if you don’t catch the pee this time, I’m leaving you and I’m having this baby with a much older French businessman.”

“That’s very specific.”

Fortunately, I have improved my urine-catching skills and the stream flows on the stick for a few seconds. We wait. We look at the first test and the second pink line has gotten more pronounced.

The moment comes – “Pregnant. We’re as prepared as a piece of sashimi. No turning back now. 

From What Could Go Wrong? by Brett Grayson © 2018 by Brett Grayson. 

Monday, January 14, 2019

#ATBR2019 Review: As Long As We Both Shall Live by Joann Chaney @joann_chaney @flatironbooks

As Long As We Both Shall Live 
by Joann Chaney

Thanks so Flatiron Books for these amazing review copies - Jessica and I are starting strong for our All The Book Reviews reads for 2019.  Continue below to see what we thought of this crazy ass story.

Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publish Date: January 15, 2019
336 Pages
Genres: Thriller, Mystery

What happens when you're really, truly done making your marriage work? You can't be married to someone without sometimes wanting to bash them over the head...As Long As We Both Shall Live is JoAnn Chaney's wicked, masterful examination of a marriage gone very wrong, a marriage with lots of secrets...

"My wife! I think she's dead!" Matt frantically tells park rangers that he and his wife, Marie, were hiking when she fell off a cliff into the raging river below. They start a search, but they aren't hopeful: no one could have survived that fall. It was a tragic accident.

But Matt's first wife also died in suspicious circumstances. And when the police pull a body out of the river, they have a lot more questions for Matt.

Detectives Loren and Spengler want to know if Matt is a grieving, twice-unlucky husband or a cold-blooded murderer. They dig into the couple's lives to see what they can unearth. And they find that love's got teeth, it's got claws, and once it hitches you to a person, it's tough to rip yourself free.

So what happens when you're done making it work?

My Review:

"If you try to kill your wife without a plan, you will fail.  There are plenty of assholes who do just that, men who decide to murder their significant other on the spur of the moment because they're angry or drunk or jealous or just plain tired of the nagging or they don't want to go through the hassle of a divorce, and they get caught.  They always get caught."

And with that beginning, I was hooked and found myself spiraling my way into this crazy read.  Men are known to be aggressive, conniving and manipulative at times.  Cheating on their wives, making their wives feel they are going crazy and start questioning themselves. They think they're so clever.. but really, it's the women you don't want to piss off.  Women are patient, calculating and when they have their minds set to something... well, you don't want to be on the bad side of their anger.

When in a relationship for a long time, particularly a marriage, things can start to get dull, complacent.  The cute things you loved at the beginning are now nothing more than tingles under the skin that get more and more irritating.  But then there are moments where you remember why you married that person... why you fell in love with them.  And those are the things you grasp onto... for better or worse, that's a marriage, no?  Matt and Marie take a hiking trip - a romantic trip to try and flame the embers of their long dilapidated marriage.  Next thing you know Marie has fallen off the side of a cliff.  Matt's wife has died... again.  This isn't his first marriage where his wife has died and he has been exonerated.  But where does the truth begin when the lies start to fall apart around him?

This book is all over the place but in a good way.  I really enjoyed Spengler - and the advice her mom gives her "You squeeze all their balls now." Maybe I related to her because we're both 1/2 Korean and I understood the hassles she went through.  I can only imagine how hard it is to be in the law enforcement field as a woman who doesn't get taken seriously enough.  Her bite made me giggle on more than one occasion.  I'm not sure if the background or side story within that field was really necessary but I also enjoyed it - along with the camaraderie between her and Loren.

There's a lot going on within this story. I found myself going AHA at around page 180 thinking I knew what was going to happen and I was half right... which hell, I gave myself a pat on the back for.  But nope - it went just a tiny bit in a different direction.  

Look, for avid thriller readers, this will be nothing too new.  However, this is most definite binge worthy read.  Short chapters, page turners and well, damn... I do love some crazy ass people so for me, pure love for this story.  I also enjoyed the different headings for each section. Kept me singing in my head - like I need more noise there. 😉


Jessica's Review:

The first pages had me instantly hooked - "If you try to kill your wife without a plan, you will fail." Talk about an opening sentence. AS LONG AS WE BOTH SHALL LIVE by JoAnn Chaney was an ironically timed read for me. Started and finished it the day I picked out my wedding dress. This was a total binge read and I only put it down because it was 1am and I was falling asleep.

Matt and Marie's marriage is hitting a rough patch. Everything they once loved about each other are now irritating and they find themselves resenting each other rather than loving the other. A nice trip away together should help, right? Well, things take a turn for the worse when Marie falls off a cliff on a hike. A tragic accident, or is it? This isn't the first time a wife of Matt's has turned up dead, is this a pattern or just horrible accidents?
We seem to bounce all over the place but not in a way that confuses you or loses you in the story. Plenty of twists throughout the book and the short chapters kept me flipping through. I read chapter to chapter, so when they're so short I fall victim to the "oh, only 5 pages? I can do one more chapter." cycle. I also enjoyed the chapter names, like my buddy reader, Chandra, I found myself singing them in my head a few times. 

Overall, this is a solid thriller. Plenty to keep you on your toes and really well-written crazy characters. Despite the horrible things men can do to their wives - cheating, manipulating them and causing paranoia - you never want to underestimate the power of a woman on a mission. I would definitely recommend this one to be on your winter TBR.

4/5 stars

Sunday, January 13, 2019

BLOG TOUR & REVIEW: The Liar's Room by Simon Lelic @Simon_Lelic @berkleypub

The Liar's Room 
by Simon Lelic

Thanks so much to Berkley Publishing for this review copy and my stop on the blog tour.

Publisher: Berkley Pub
Publish Date: January 15, 2019
352 Pages
Genres: Suspense, Thriller

Two liars. One room. No way out.
Susanna Fenton has a secret. Fourteen years ago she left her identity behind, reinventing herself as a therapist and starting a new life. It was the only way to keep her daughter safe.

But when a young man, Adam Geraghty, walks into her office, claiming he needs Susanna's help but asking unsettling questions, she begins to fear that her secret has been discovered.

Who is Adam, really? What does he intend to do to Susanna?

And what has he done to her daughter?

My Review:

A story that crosses the span of only a few hours.  Susanna, a counselor, has no idea that new patient Adam has quite the issues to bring up with her.  Very quickly this escalates into a what the actual hell is going on here type of read. 

Flashing back and forth to Susanna's past, Adam and Susanna's lives intertwine together in a way that surprises us all. There's a tension that is built from the first page throughout the read that is palpitating.  It's truly hard to discuss much of anything without spoiling the book so I'm going to keep this vague and short.

Secrets never remain secrets.  You never know what is going on in someone else's head and why they take the actions that they do.  Word matter.  Actions matter.  I absolutely loved how this story increasingly gets a little bit crazier and crazier.  I was a teeny bit underwhelmed with the ending after such a big build up.  At the same time, it also seems suiting, so I'm torn with how I felt about it.

Lelic really accentuates the tension between Adam and Susanna and that is what will keep you turning these pages.  A one sit read for me.


Thursday, January 10, 2019

REVIEW: Ricochet Joe by Dean Koontz @deankoontz

Ricochet Joe 
by Dean Koontz

Publisher: Amazon Original Stories
Publish Date: December 28, 2017

Kindle Edition
95 Pages
Genres: Science Fiction, Short Stories

Can an ordinary guy make extraordinary choices in a battle between humanity and unearthly evil?
Joe Mandel is a perfectly ordinary guy from a perfectly ordinary town—a college student and community volunteer who dreams of one day publishing a novel. When a series of strange intuitions leads him to a crime in progress, Joe jumps headlong into danger without hesitation. In the aftermath, he wonders about the uncanny impulse that suddenly swept over him.
Until new friend Portia Montclair, the strangely wise daughter of the local police chief, explains to him what sent him ricocheting around town like a crazy pinball. Portia tells of another reality, a reality more thrilling—and terrifying—than Joe ever imagined. Timeless, elemental forces of good and evil have come to the quiet town of Little City: a cosmic entity capable of infecting human beings, and the seeker who has chosen Joe to find it.
To stop the malevolent invader, this average Joe must be braver than he ever thought possible…and face the hardest decisions of his life.
My Review:
I saw this on Kindle Unlimited, which I finally decided to give a go for a month during the free trial, and well, it's Koontz so I couldn't pass it up!  It has graphics and photos riddled throughout that while didn't enhance my reading experience, was fun to see here and there throughout this short read.
Ordinary Joe becomes not so ordinary.  Has no idea where he wants to go in life and then meets Portia and automatically knows that wherever he goes, he'd like for her to be there.  Then this book goes from ordinary to parallel universes because time is not as linear as we all like to think it is and now there's a parasite and a good versus evil type "war" to be fought.  
A cute ordinary to extraordinary fella who has to make the tough decision and hope that the decision he makes is the right one - and who knows - maybe in another world, it is.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

REVIEW: And Hell Followed - an Anthology

And Hell Followed

Thanks so much to Death's Head Press for this advanced copy.

Publisher: Death Head's Press
Publish Date: January 15, 2019
Kindle Edition
Genres: Short Stories, Anthology, Horror, Apocalyptic

Seventeen authors re-imagine the biblical apocalypse and all the hell that follows sixteen horrifying tales. What if the prophecies of Revelation hit today? What sort of craziness and evil would ensue? With this list of excellent authors contributing, it’s sure to be a Hell of a read!

Wrath James White
Sam West
The Sisters of Slaughter
Jeff Strand
K Trap Jones
C Derick Miller
Christine Morgan
Patrick C. Harrison III
John Wayne Comunale
Hyäne Sawbones
Delphine Quinn
James Watts
Wile E. Young
Chris Miller
Mark Deloy
Richard Raven

My Review:

I really wanted to love this anthology.  It's biblical apocalyptic stories so the them is the same across the board.  However, there was just too much of the same kind of things throughout each story - which is fine amongst themselves but when reading back to back to back, it got to be a little bit oversaturated.  Seems when hell comes to earth, it's gruesome, a lot of cussing, a lot of strange sex and private parts grabbing and heavy metal.  I'm not opposed to ANY of this - usually the stranger, grosser and weirder the better. 

Just like with all anthologies, there's a mixed bag - some are great, some not so much. I think this would've been better read a story at a time with a little break in between.  Back to back just got a bit cumbersome really. 

Not a bad bunch for hell on earth though.  So go get biblical.


SPOTLIGHT: Game Changers of the Apocalypse by Mark Kirkbride @markkirkbride

Game Changers of the Apocalypse 
by Mark Kirkbride

Publisher: Omnium Gatherum
Publish Date: January 7, 2019
254 Pages
Genres: horror, post-apocalyptic

It’s always the end of the world when you break up with someone. This time it really is...

Everyone on the planet has mysteriously disappeared, leaving exes Greg and Polly. They’ve survived the apocalypse, yet shouldn’t have. Battling each other and a malevolent entity that teases them with their fate, how long can they remain ahead? Even more terrifying than everyone else on the planet disappearing is what’s about to take their place… 

Mark Kirkbride lives in Shepperton, England. He is the author of two novels, Game Changers of the Apocalypse and Satan’s Fan Club, both published by Omnium Gatherum. His short stories can be found in Under the BedSci Phi JournalDisclaimer Magazine and Flash Fiction Magazine. His poetry has appeared in the Big Issue, the Morning Star, the Mirror and Horror Writers Association chapbooks.