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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Review: They Never Learn by Layne Fargo

They Never Learn 
by Layne Fargo

Thanks to the author and Scout Press for this copy!

Publisher: Scout Press
Publish Date: October 13, 2020
Hardcover
352 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense

Scarlett Clark is an exceptional English professor. But she’s even better at getting away with murder.

Every year, she searches for the worst man at Gorman University and plots his well-deserved demise. Thanks to her meticulous planning, she’s avoided drawing attention to herself—but as she’s preparing for her biggest kill yet, the school starts probing into the growing body count on campus. Determined to keep her enemies close, Scarlett insinuates herself into the investigation and charms the woman in charge, Dr. Mina Pierce. Everything’s going according to her master plan…until she loses control with her latest victim, putting her secret life at risk of exposure.

Meanwhile, Gorman student Carly Schiller is just trying to survive her freshman year. Finally free of her emotionally abusive father, all Carly wants is to focus on her studies and fade into the background. Her new roommate has other ideas. Allison Hadley is cool and confident—everything Carly wishes she could be—and the two girls quickly form an intense friendship. So when Allison is sexually assaulted at a party, Carly becomes obsessed with making the attacker pay...and turning her fantasies about revenge into a reality.

My Review:


Ok...... if y'all have been following me for any length of time you'll know that I'm a binge reader.  I am a one sit, fast reader who enjoys her stories like a shot of whiskey... but this comes with perils and every once in a while I like to sloooooooooooow it down and really savor a read.  I am SO happy I chose to do this with THEY NEVER LEARN.  Listen, I read her debut, TEMPER, last year and while I found it predictable, I was IN IT TO WIN IT the entire read and it was a 5 star, hands down, review for me.  With this standard set, I was curious where I would stand with her next.... and well... I stand with my jaw dropped.  

Fargo creates these sex scenes that get you fanning your damn face for ..... well, as long as you need to.  Not only does she bring us Scarlett, a crazy ass character that I couldn't help but fall in love with.. but her secondary and even tertiary characters, good AND evil, are LIFE... and DEATH... gimme life and death! Also, YES for the bad ass bisexual females!

"Killing a man is so much more satisfying than fucking a man could ever be." A-(wo)MEN!

Look, at page 304, I was still going "Um, WHAAAAAAAAAAAT".  I don't even care you guys.  I want more of ALL OF THEM (that made it through still alive).  Fargo, please tell me there's more... or kindly e-mail me a continuation... I promise to keep it a secret. 😉

My teeny tiny blip would be that I would've loved to know more about Scarlett's past... we only got through the outer layer... I'd love to dig further.... 

★★★★★

Jessica's Review:


When I picked up TEMPER by Layne Fargo last year, I was immediately sucked in. I couldn’t stop turning those pages and I absolutely loved it. When an author has such a great debut you always hope they don’t fall victim to a sophomore slump, but Fargo blew me away with another addictive thriller. THEY NEVER LEARN is a fast-paced psychological thriller with binge-worthy, short chapters, and some badass female leads.

We all know the saying, hell hath no fury, and this is something I will always love having in my thrillers. Strong women hellbent on revenge, no matter how long and how meticulously planned it will need to be. Scarlett and Carly are two women in different points in their lives – Carly is just beginning her freshman year in college and Scarlett is an English professor. They have one thing in common, that they want the evil men around them to truly pay for the horrible things they have done to women.

Scarlett finds one man every year that she deems to be the worst, based on his crimes, and begins to plan out his death at her hands. Abusers and rapists never get the punishment they deserve, and Scarlett is out to fix that. After her most recent victim is discovered and questions begin to arise around the apparent suicide, a task force at the university is formed with Dr. Mina Pierce in charge. Scarlett will need to get in close with Mina in order to make sure her secrets aren’t revealed.

After Carly’s roommate, Allison, is assaulted at a party it becomes Carly’s obsession to get revenge on the boy that attacked her. Seeing how this event completely changes both Allison and Carly was so frustrating and heartbreaking at the same time. You know that Carly’s heart is in the right place with how she is fiercely trying to protect her roommate from further harm.

It’s not just Scarlett and Carly that are our badass women, we also get Mina Pierce and one of their students, Mikayla. On the other hand, we also get some men you’ll despise and almost hope that they’ll become Scarlett’s next target. I loved the alternating chapters between Scarlett and Carly and seeing their stories unfold. The twists in this one, and that ending! I couldn’t put it down and I need more from Layne Fargo NOW.

5 stars 


Saturday, October 17, 2020

Review: Period Pain by Kopano Matlwa

Period Pain 
by Kopano Matlwa

Publisher: Jocana Media
Publish Date: October 1, 2016
E-book
134 Pages
Standalone
Genre: Contemporary, Cultural (South Africa)

South Africa never was, nor ever will be the Rainbow Nation we believed Mandela dreamt about. But we’ve woken up and grown up and we’re trying to come to terms with this reality.

Kopano has also grown as a writer in the last few years. In Period Pain she has poignantly captured the heartache and confusion of so many South Africans who feel defeated by the litany of headline horrors; xenophobia, corrective rape, corruption and crime and for many the death sentence that is the public health nightmare. Where are we going, what have we become?

Period Pain helps us navigate our South Africa. We meet Masechaba, and through her story we are able to reflect, to question and to rediscover our humanity.

My Review:


A short but extremely powerful read.  Masechaba's story, while hard to read at times, is heart breaking and beautifully written.  The title itself lends to the main character's terrible menstrual pain and suffering (severe menorrhagia) which ultimately points her in the direction of becoming a doctor if only to help women later get hysterectomies that she was denied.  But it also lends to the period of pain Masechaba went through, shown in her diary entries.  

This story touches upon xenophobia, religion, immigration, assault, corruption and mental health but while we are dealing with so much harshness through her eyes, there is also a light of hope shimmering under.  It was really hard to be in her head at times.  It almost felt like I was invading on her privacy as I turned each page.  However, with all the heavy topics layered in this short novel, there is also levity.  Her relationship with Nyasha was a case of opposites attract and she certainly wasn't afraid to speak her mind and I loved that.  We certainly can't look past her relationship with God.  Bible verses are interspersed within the pages and the conversations held between them showed the "friendship" she felt while still questioning the why of everything happening. Though I will admit these were my least favorite moments to read.

The author gives us a very visceral view of Masechaba's life and you can feel every piece thrown at you.  The ending was a little flat and tied up in a pretty bow all things considered.  This isn't an easy read but if you choose to pick this up (and I think you should), then also look past the pain and find the humor and hope that's laced within.

★★★☆


Friday, October 16, 2020

Review: Helena by Claire L. Smith

Helena
by Claire L. Smith

Thank you to Clash Books & Night Worms for this copy.


Publisher: CLASH Books
Publish Date: October 13, 2020
Paperback
141 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Horror, Gothic

On the outskirts of London, 1855, mortician and funeral director Helena Morrigan struggles with her limited finances and the heavy burdens of her past. Desperate to secure herself, she takes up residence in an aged house closer the graveyard, closer to the lost souls that sense her torment and are determined to take her place in the mortal world.

As she tries to tame and free the ghostly figures around her, she becomes acquainted with the owners of the home, the recently orphaned siblings, Eric, Audrey and Christian Tarter.

Yet, the souls she wants to save are on edge as a horrific serial killer runs rampant, giving Helena a boost in business and suspicion. Against her best efforts, Helena is suddenly thrown into a bloody mystery where new and old friendships are tested, innocents are maimed and a horrific family secret that threatens her chance at a peaceful existence and her existence itself.

My Review:


Hello gothic supernatural meets serial murder mystery.  Helena who works with the afterlife can also see them. Um, yes please to the please.  As a mortician, wouldn't a serial killer be VERY good for your business? *wink*

I did find this to be a bit predictable and some parts felt a bit over descriptive.  It took me a little bit to get hooked into the story but at 141 pages, it was a breeze to get through once it caught my full attention.  Where this book absolutely shines is Helena and her interactions with the supernatural.  The eerie tone the author sets really gave me the goosies.  These particular descriptives I could've read about forever. *swoon*  Though at certain times outside of this, it felt like the modern descriptions didn't quite fit the gothic era the book encompassed. 

Overall I feel a bit torn with this read.  The author builds a wonderful spooky gothic atmosphere and I felt myself really falling in love with Helena as a character.  Despite the tiny issues that I had, this is an impressive debut and I do feel a pull to need to know where the story will go from here.

★★★


Review: Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell

Invisible Girl 
by Lisa Jewell

Thanks to Atria for this free review copy!


Publisher: Atria Books
Publish Date: October 13, 2020
Hardcover
368 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Thriller, Suspense, Mystery

Owen Pick’s life is falling apart.

In his thirties, a virgin, and living in his aunt’s spare bedroom, he has just been suspended from his job as a geography teacher after accusations of sexual misconduct, which he strongly denies. Searching for professional advice online, he is inadvertently sucked into the dark world of incel—involuntary celibate—forums, where he meets the charismatic, mysterious, and sinister Bryn.

Across the street from Owen lives the Fours family, headed by mom Cate, a physiotherapist, and dad Roan, a child psychologist. But the Fours family have a bad feeling about their neighbor Owen. He’s a bit creepy and their teenaged daughter swears he followed her home from the train station one night.

Meanwhile, young Saffyre Maddox spent three years as a patient of Roan Fours. Feeling abandoned when their therapy ends, she searches for other ways to maintain her connection with him, following him in the shadows and learning more than she wanted to know about Roan and his family. Then, on Valentine’s night, Saffyre Maddox disappears—and the last person to see her alive is Owen Pick.

My Review:

"There're no such things as happy endings; we all know that."

I started this read a couple days ago and was instantly hooked and zoomed through the first 23% like it was NOTHING.  I was intrigued and tingled with anticipation to see what Jewell had for us this time.  One of the things I love best about her writing is how intricate she is with her characters and know to expect a slow build up of layers that culminate into a full circle of thrillery goodness... predictable or not.  She does the same thing here and we get introduced to several different POVs which we eventually learn how they intersect.

Here's the thing.  After that first 23%, I needed it to just get somewhere.  I understood there was a foundation being built but I started to get a little weary eyed.  If you're looking for a super twisty thriller that's going to POW, BANG, WTF you, then this isn't it.  However, if you're looking for a soft build of a thriller that DOES still surprise you, come on in - the water is warm and waiting for you.

I did think a couple plot points got a little bit muddled but it's the characters that shine and make this book brilliant.  The different character arcs... the vulnerability in the flawed humanity that we can all relate to.  This is where this author shines in all her work.  And I appreciated the ending that gratified an inkling I had tapping at the back of my brain. 

It's no secret that Lisa Jewell is one of my all time favorite authors.  This is my 6th book by her and only 1 of 2 that I've rated less than 4 stars.  The *problem* with reading more than a few books by an author is that they'll probably run the spectrum of AMAZING to GREAT and so while the great books are still amazing, they might not live up to other books you've read.  Am I making sense? Babble much? 🤣 Then She Was Gone and Watching You still rank in my top but really, all of her books are intricate and brilliant in their own right.  

★★★☆


Thursday, October 15, 2020

Review: Dear Child by Romy Hausmann

Dear Child 
by Romy Hausmann

Thank you Flatiron Books for this read!


Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publish Date: October 6, 2020
Hardcover
358 Pages
Standalone
Genre: Psychological Thriller

A windowless shack in the woods. A dash to safety. But when a woman finally escapes her captor, the end of the story is only the beginning of her nightmare.

She says her name is Lena. Lena, who disappeared without a trace 14 years prior. She fits the profile. She has the distinctive scar. But her family swears that she isn’t their Lena.

The little girl who escaped the woods with her knows things she isn’t sharing, and Lena’s devastated father is trying to piece together details that don’t quite fit. Lena is desperate to begin again, but something tells her that her tormentor still wants to get back what belongs to him…and that she may not be able to truly escape until the whole truth about what happened in the woods finally emerges.

My Review:


😲 Whatever it says about me, I absolutely love this type of psychological thriller read.  I was instantly hooked from the very beginning.  A family held captive and finally an escape.  But this escape is just really a continuation of the horror already lived.  

There are a lot of twists and turns with this one and the author keeps us on our tippy toes and I think there was actual smoke coming out of my ears trying to figure this one out.  I was flipping pages with the absolute NEED TO KNOW FEELING.  Don't you just love it when that happens?!  Hausmann bombards us with quite the cast of characters and at times going from one POV to another could be a bit jarring and I had to adjust my thinking with each turn.  I think my favorite character was Hannah, the little girl that was highly intellectual and you never knew quite where she stood or what was happening.  I don't know a lot about one particular note regarding this character to know if it was handled correctly, but I am assuming it was. (Won't go into it to avoid any potential spoilers).  

Y'all, there's a LOT going on in this book.  The psychological aspect of the victims and how they varied.  What you can get used to when you HAVE to.  How strong mentally anyone could be - especially if they never know any different... it's all highly fascinating stuff in my opinion.  I do think that maybe it got just a little *too* convoluted as one reveal was probably unnecessary.  However, I did appreciate the Epilogue for a variety of reasons but I'll just leave that thought there. 😉

At the end of the day, this is one gripping, crazy, psychological thriller that I think will grab your attention and keep you guessing until the very end.  Proceed with caution.

★★★★



Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Review: Jennifer Strange by Cat Scully

 Jennifer Strange 
by Cat Scully

Thank you Night Worms, Cat Scully and YAP Books for this copy.


Publisher: YAP Books / Haverhill House Publishing LLC
Publish Date: July 21, 2020
Paperback
298 Pages
Series: Jennifer Strange #1
Genres: Young Adult, Horror

Fifteen-year-old Jennifer Strange is the Sparrow, cursed with the ability to give ghosts and demonic spirits a body - a flesh and blood anchor in the mortal world - with the touch of her hand. When a ghost attacks her high school and awakens her powers, her father dumps her unceremoniously in the care of her estranged older sister Liz, leaving only his journal as an explanation.

Drawn to the power of the Sparrow, the supernatural creatures preying on Savannah, Georgia will do anything to receive Jennifer’s powerful gift. The sisters must learn to trust each other again and uncover the truth about their family history by deciphering their father’s journal…because if they can’t, Jennifer’s uncontrolled power will rip apart the veil that separates the living from the dead.

A fast-paced and splattery romp, fans of Supernatural, Buffy, and Evil Dead will enjoy Jennifer Strange - the first illustrated novel in a trilogy of stylish queer young adult horror books with big scares for readers not quite ready for adult horror.

My Review:


Imagine almost being killed by a supernatural force at your high school one day and after, your father hands you a journal and drops you off with your older sister.  Basically - good luck, read this and try not to die! Byeeeeeeeeee!  This, my friends, is Jennifer Strange.  And her first day in her new school... well, it starts with quite the literal explosion.  But what else would you expect from Savannah - known for the supernatural? 😉

This is the young, queer demon fighter we have been waiting for!  I would absolutely agree that if you love Supernatural and Buffy that this would be a fantastic read for you.  There were many times that I was thinking the Winchesters should head to Savannah and meet up with Strange. *tee hee*  I especially love the interspersed journal entries and fun illustrations.

I do wish we had a bit more character development here - everything just went straight into action so we never really got to know the characters in full.  However, being this is the first in a series, I'm sure we'll see development over the next books forthcoming. Overall, this was a quick and fun romp of a read.  Easily devoured in one sitting and full of supernatural, monstry goodness.  Perfect for the young adult audience who enjoys horror.

★★★☆


Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Blog Tour & Review: The Mirror Man by Jane Gilmartin

The Mirror Man 
by Jane Gilmartin

Thank you Mira Books for this copy and stop on the blog tour.


Publisher: Mira 
Publish Date: October 20, 2020
Hardcover
352 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Science Fiction, Suspense

The offer is too tempting: be part of a scientific breakthrough, step out of his life for a year, and be paid hugely for it. When ViGen Pharmaceuticals asks Jeremiah to be part of an illegal cloning experiment, he sees it as a break from an existence he feels disconnected from. No one will know he’s been replaced—not the son who ignores him, not his increasingly distant wife—since a revolutionary drug called Meld can transfer his consciousness and memories to his copy.

From a luxurious apartment, he watches the clone navigate his day-to-day life. But soon Jeremiah discovers that examining himself from an outsider’s perspective isn’t what he thought it would be, and he watches in horror as “his” life spirals out of control. ViGen needs the experiment to succeed—they won’t call it off, and are prepared to remove any obstacle. With his family in danger, Jeremiah needs to finally find the courage to face himself head-on.


Jane Gilmartin has been a news reporter and editor for several small-town weekly papers and enjoyed a brief but exciting stint as a rock music journalist. A bucket list review just before she turned 50 set her on the path to fiction writing. Also checked off that list: an accidental singing career, attending a Star Trek convention, and getting a hug from David Bowie. She lives in her hometown of Hingham, Massachusetts.

My Review:


If you could have a clone replace you for a year, unbeknownst to anyone at all, and get paid $10M for it, would you? I mean, it's TEN MILLION DOLLARS!  Phew!  It's been a minute since I've read some addictive sci-fi and Gilmartin delivers.

We have all seen the advances in science throughout our decades on this planet.  We've even seen cloning happening and talks of organ possibilities to extend the human life.  We have also seen this type of storyline from other books and movies.  However, what The Mirror Man does is give us a look at the other side.  How someone who voluntarily accepts this role, is now sequestered from his family and can now see himself playing himself.... and when you're watching yourself from afar, you really get an introspective look.  And sometimes it sure ain't pretty.  So, how far would you go to get your life back because even if you didn't, no one would ever know any different....

Honestly, what a run and refreshing read.  I really felt a lot for Jeremiah and loved seeing his full arc.  And for those of you with pets out there, give them a little extra love.  Louie. 💗  For a science fiction read, this was a story about so much humanity and the complexities that are a part of even the most mundane existences.  An outstanding debut. 

★★★★



Spotlight: Absolution by Regina Buttner

 Absolution 
by Regina Buttner


Publisher: SparkPress
Publish Date: October 13, 2020
Paperback
256 Pages
Standalone
Genre: Contemporary

Jeanie thinks she was to blame for the sexual assault she suffered in college—and she’d do anything to keep her old-school Catholic family from finding out about the resulting pregnancy, as well as what she did to conceal it.

Years have passed since the assault, and Jeanie’s husband, Greg, still thinks she’s the seemingly innocent girl he married in a rush to spite his controlling mother. It’s the height of the Seattle dot-com boom, and he’s too busy cashing in his stock options to pay attention to his wife. He isn’t aware of Jeanie’s lingering shame and guilt, or that she married him in the desperate hope that devoting herself to marriage and motherhood would somehow absolve her from the sins in her past.

Their hidden agendas collide when Greg discovers evidence of Jeanie’s long-ago pregnancy. As she confesses the details of that drunken night with her married professor, Greg’s pristine image of her is blown. His shock deepens into violent fury, and Jeanie realizes she needs to leave him—but Greg won’t let her go. He’s up for a big promotion, and he’s not about to let her ruin his reputation by walking out on him. He’ll resort to blackmail if necessary. Or worse. 


Regina is a registered nurse-turned-writer from beautiful upstate New York where she enjoys hiking in the Adirondack Mountains, paddling on the Genesee River, and exploring the Finger Lakes wine country. ABSOLUTION is her first novel.


Spotlight: Hunger of the Pine by Teal Swan

 Hunger of the Pine 
by Teal Swan




Publisher: Watkins Publishing
Publish Date: October 13, 2020
Paperback
400 Pages
Standalone

Aria Abbott has never had a home. Drifting through the foster system for most of her life, she finally finds herself in a situation so unbearable that she has no choice but to run away. Sleeping on the streets pushes Aria beyond any suffering she has felt before; the only thing worse than seeing no escape is the knowledge that no one in the world cares enough to try and find her.

Enter Taylor, a homeless young man with a charismatic smile and a dream of fame, fortune, and the sunshine of LA. Swept up in his energy, Aria and Taylor board a greyhound bus and never look back.

In this bright new world, Aria will discover a whole community of people living in the shadows, in the margins of society. As Taylor follows his dreams, Aria follows her heart. But she will discover that it isn’t always clear who you can trust, that strangers can be kind, or treacherous, or sometimes as familiar as your own reflection, if you’re willing to look hard enough.


Teal Swan, known to many as ‘The Spiritual Catalyst’ on youtube, is an internationally recognized spiritual teacher. Today, she shares what she has learned with millions of people, teaching them how to find forgiveness, happiness, freedom, and self-love in their lives. She reaches a wide audience through online resources, various publications and workshops that she presents around the world.

Teal survived 13 years of physical, mental, and sexual abuse before escaping her abuser at age 19 and beginning her own process of recovery and transformation. She now travels the world, using her abilities to remind people of the united, energetic nature of this universe and teaching them how to find peace in the midst of even the most difficult times.

Q&A WITH TEAL SWAN

BEST-SELLING AUTHOR OF THE NEW NOVEL HUNGER OF THE PINE

Question: Tell us what your new book, Hunger of the Pine, is all about?

Teal Swan: Hunger of the Pine is my first fiction novel, and is a poetic novel about life on the streets in America. The book centers on Aria Abbott, a teen in the foster care system. She has been placed in a Christian foster home where the father is molesting her and her delinquency problems have turned her into the 'scapegoat' of the family. When the tension between her and her foster parents rises, she runs away and begins her life on the streets of Chicago. She soon meets Taylor, another homeless youth who is dreaming of fame, fortune and the sunshine of L.A. Together they board a Greyhound bus and never look back. In this bright new world, Aria will discover a whole community of people living in the shadows, in the margins of society. As Taylor follows his dreams, Aria follows her heart. But she will discover that it isn’t always clear who you can trust, that strangers can be kind, or treacherous, or sometimes as familiar as your own reflection, if you’re willing to look hard enough.

Q: What was your inspiration behind the writing the book?

Swan: As far as I know, no one has ever written a poetic novel about life on the streets of America. I wanted to highlight homelessness through descriptive writing and used a main character as a lens through which to see a snapshot. I also wrote it because I feel that we as a society -- especially in America -- need to look in the mirror at homelessness and see that it is a problem caused by many systemic failures within society. For this reason, there are many 'reasons' someone ends up on the street. And we aren't really solving those reasons. People are complex, and it we need to see them with more compassion and understanding. And, it is with this 'understanding,' rather than labeling people good or bad, that we may see the root cause of behaviors and accurately resolve that root cause.

Q: You have written a lot of wonderful non-fiction books. Why did you decide to take the leap into fiction?

Swan: I want people to feel the raw reality of a side of life that they might never have experienced themselves by using descriptive writing to emotionally put them there. I am a descriptive writer first and foremost. My other books are informational, which I love, but they were not an opportunity to exercise my skills as a writer. Descriptive writing is a whole other beast than writing non-fiction that is engaging yet informative. It is to convey an emotion or sensory experience with words instead of to convey a concept for the purpose of comprehension. I want people to love the writing in and of itself, and remember it for the writing, and for their experience learning about homelessness as well as.

Q: Why did you decide to tackle the topic of youth homelessness?

Swan:  A Great many people don't relate to homelessness or the issues surrounding it. But a great many do and those people are drowning in the feeling that they were just born to suffer. I wanted to show the reality of homelessness and make it relatable to those who don't understand it. But I also wanted to insert some answers and hope into this novel for those who do. To be 'real' it had to be a mixture of "this is too much to surmount" and "you can surmount it". It needed to be tragic but also inspirational. And people who relate to these characters, especially the main character will not have thought of themselves as a protagonist.. as significant...As someone capable of love and triumph and of finding belonging and love... until now!

Q: What do you think society can do to help the homeless population? 

Swan: The issue of homelessness is not an easy one because so many systemic factors within society contribute to it. This means there is not a one size fits all solution. For example, the failures within parenting and beyond that the foster care system cause youth homelessness.

 Society's complete lack of care for the mentally ill and the fact that there is literally nowhere for them to get help if they don't have money, contributes to homelessness in the mentally ill and veterans. The fact that a person on social security is not getting enough money to afford both food and housing and often medications causes senior citizen homelessness. The lack of prioritization within society when it comes to understanding and finding solutions for the needs of those who are in need, create this multivariable factor scenario where suddenly a great many people are on the street. It's time to see the broken-ness of our system and stop thinking things are being taken care of by 'someone else' when they are not.

Q: What do you hope readers take away from A Hunger of Pine and Aria’s story?

Swan: I want people to feel the raw reality of a side of life that they might never have experienced themselves by using descriptive writing to emotionally put them there. Also, a better and more empathetic view of the homeless population. We tend to be so uncomfortable with homelessness that we compartmentalize it and tell ourselves that we could never be in the same position... That homeless are like a 'breed' of people or another species unto themselves. Understanding this why behind homelessness actually makes it impossible for us to keep this 'separation' alive. To keep them marginalized. When we stop seeing people as "other", when we relate to them, we suddenly have the motive to do something because we identify with them instead. I wrote this book to create this identification, understanding and relatability so as to close this perceptual gap.


Spotlight: How to Make a Life by Florence Kraut

How to Make a Life 
by Florence Kraut

Thank you Smith Publicity and She Write Press for this copy.

Publisher: She Write Press
Publish Date: October 13, 2020
Paperback
320 Pages
Standalone
Genre: Historical Fiction

When Ida and her daughter Bessie flee a catastrophic pogrom in Ukraine for America in 1905, they believe their emigration will ensure that their children and grandchildren will be safe from harm. But choices and decisions made by one generation have ripple effects on those who come later—and in the decades that follow, family secrets, betrayals, and mistakes made in the name of love threaten the survival of the family: Bessie and Abe Weissman’s children struggle with the shattering effects of daughter Ruby’s mental illness, of Jenny’s love affair with her brother-in-law, of the disappearance of Ruby’s daughter as she flees her mother’s legacy, and of the accidental deaths of Irene’s husband and granddaughter.

A sweeping saga that follows three generations from the tenements of Brooklyn through WWII, from Woodstock to India, and from Spain to Israel, How to Make a Life is the story of a family who must learn to accept each other’s differences—or risk cutting ties with the very people who anchor their place in the world. 



Spotlight: Return to Virgin River by Robyn Carr

 Return to Virgin River 
by Robyn Carr

Also a Netflix series!

Publisher: MIRA
Publish Date: October 13, 2020
Hardcover
320 Pages
Genre: Contemporary Romance

#1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr returns to the beloved town of Virgin River with a brand-new story about fresh starts, new friends and the magic of Christmas.

Kaylee Sloan’s home in Southern California is full of wonderful memories of the woman who raised her. But the memories are prolonging her grief over her mother’s recent death. A successful author, Kaylee hoped she could pour herself into her work. Instead she has terrible writer’s block and a looming deadline.

Determined to escape distractions and avoid the holiday season, Kaylee borrows a cabin in Virgin River. She knows the isolation will help her writing, and as she drives north through the mountains and the majestic redwoods, she immediately feels inspired. Until she arrives at a building that has just gone up in flames. Devastated, she heads to Jack’s Bar to plan her next steps. The local watering hole is the heart of the town, and once she crosses the threshold, she’s surprised to be embraced by people who are more than willing to help a friend—or a stranger—in need.

Kaylee’s world is expanding in ways she never dreamed possible. And when she rescues a kitten followed by a dog with a litter of puppies, she finds her heart opening up to the animals who need her. And then there’s the dog trainer who knows exactly how to help her. As the holidays approach, Kaylee’s dread turns to wonder. Because there’s no better place to spend Christmas than Virgin River. 


Monday, October 12, 2020

Spotlight: A Discerning Eye by Carol Orange

A Discerning Eye 
by Carol Orange


A Discerning Eye is available on Oct. 13 at: Bookshop.org, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.

On March 18, 1990 thieves broke into Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and stole 13 works of art including masterpieces by such renowned artists as Vermeer, Rembrandt and Degas, in what would become history’s largest art theft. Thirty years later, the crime remains unsolved with none of the paintings recovered. This tragic robbery inspired A Discerning Eye [Cavan Bridge Press, October 13, 2020] a debut novel by Carol Orange, writer and fine arts consultant for over twenty years. The novel’s art heist mystery and high stakes international intrigue involves Interpol, the FBI, the Mafia, drug lords, and the daring, clever art dealer at the center: Portia Malatesta. 

As a Gardner docent Portia is devastated when she learns of the stolen pieces and becomes determined to help uncover their whereabouts. Skillfully, she constructs a psychological profile of the thief by analyzing a common thread in most of the stolen art. She suspects the mastermind behind it all is obsessed with the interaction of dark and light in both art and life. Orange believes, “There is an inherent tension between the shadowy and light sides of most people. Perhaps knowing or observing the shadowy side of life motivates painters to combine the portrayal of dark events with the hopeful promise of light.”

When the FBI enlists Portia's help in a sting operation to recover the stolen works of art, she goes on a dangerous trip to Colombia, where she'll have to earn the trust of a notorious drug lord's daughter. With everything at risk, Portia navigates the country’s underworld and uncovers a complicated web of politics and pride, where one misstep could have deadly consequences...

Orange utilizes her vast art knowledge and experience working in Latin American to craft a fast-paced, deftly plotted mystery where the fate of several of the world's most prized masterpieces are in one person’s hands.  Fans of Donna Leon and John Le Carré will clamor for this action-packed tale filled with marital tensions, temptations, and twists and turns that will keep the reader guessing throughout. 


Carol Orange has worked in the art world for more than twenty years. She began as a research editor on art books in London and later became an art dealer in Boston. She also worked as an advertising manager for South and Central America at Polaroid Corporation. She lived in Paris for two years where she researched George Sand's life and writing.. Her short story "Delicious Dates" was included in Warren Adler's 2010 short story anthology. Another story, "Close Call" appeared in the Atherton Review, Vol. 102. She currently lives in Chicago near her daughter and her family. A Discerning Eye is her debut novel.

For more information, please visit www.carolorange.com and connect with her on Twitter @COrangeAntiques or Instagram @carolorange2


Review: Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters by Emily Carpenter

 Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters 
by Emily Carpenter

Thank you Lake Union and NetGalley for this amazing copy.

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publish Date: October 20, 2020
Kindle Edition
Standalone but follow up to Burying the Honeysuckle Girls
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Contemporary

The bestselling author of Burying the Honeysuckle Girls returns to uncover a faith healer’s elusive and haunted past.

Dove Jarrod was a renowned evangelist and faith healer. Only her granddaughter, Eve Candler, knows that Dove was a con artist. In the eight years since Dove’s death, Eve has maintained Dove’s charitable foundation—and her lies. But just as a documentary team wraps up a shoot about the miracle worker, Eve is assaulted by a vengeful stranger intent on exposing what could be Dove’s darkest secret: murder…

Tuscaloosa, 1934: a wily young orphan escapes the psychiatric hospital where she was born. When she joins the itinerant inspirational duo the Hawthorn Sisters, the road ahead is one of stirring new possibilities. And with an obsessive predator on her trail, one of untold dangers. For a young girl to survive, desperate choices must be made.

Now, to protect her family, Eve will join forces with the investigative filmmaker and one of Dove’s friends, risking everything to unravel the truth behind the accusations against her grandmother. But will the truth set her free or set her world on fire? 

My Review:


If you haven't read Emily Carpenter by now then I highly suggest that you do.  This is my fourth book by her and ding ding ding - we have another winner!  This is somewhat a 'follow-up" to Burying the Honeysuckle Girls, which I haven't read (YET), but this can absolutely be read as a standalone.  I never once felt out of sorts or like I was missing something.

Faith healers, a Southern Gothic atmosphere and buried family secrets - what more could you ask for?!  I absolutely fell in love with and appreciated Dove's spirit and tenacity.... and Eve doesn't fall far from the family tree.  With dual timelines I find I prefer one over the other and that was the same in this case as well.  I was riveted by Dove's storyline in 1934 and had to stop myself from rushing through Eve's chapters to get back to her.

Carpenter has a talent for building an atmosphere that makes you feel like you're right in the pages with her characters.  If I could go back to 1934 and become Dove's friend, I absolutely would have.  Anyone who likes interesting multi-faceted mysteries hugged with Southern charm will surely need to pick this book up.

★★★★


Saturday, October 10, 2020

Review: Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark

 Ring Shout 
by  P. Djèlí Clark

Thank you NetGalley and Tor Books for this copy.


Publisher: Tor
Publish Date: October 13, 2020
Kindle Edition
192 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Horror, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Sci-Fi

D. W. Griffith is a sorcerer, and The Birth of a Nation is a spell that drew upon the darkest thoughts and wishes from the heart of America. Now, rising in power and prominence, the Klan has a plot to unleash Hell on Earth.

Luckily, Maryse Boudreaux has a magic sword and a head full of tales. When she's not running bootleg whiskey through Prohibition Georgia, she's fighting monsters she calls "Ku Kluxes." She's damn good at it, too. But to confront this ongoing evil, she must journey between worlds to face nightmares made flesh--and her own demons. Together with a foul-mouthed sharpshooter and a Harlem Hellfighter, Maryse sets out to save a world from the hate that would consume it.

My Review:


Klu Klux Klan members turned into (bigger) monsters under a hex from the Birth of a Nation film and Maryse Boudreaux and friends are not having any of it!  There's so much happening in these short pages and this is a novella that is scary on so many levels.  While this takes place during the prohibition era in Georgia, Clark also peppers in many other historical parts that really shows how much I still need to educate myself.

While this genre mash-up definitely has its humorous side, it's also a mix of injustice, vengeance, hate breeding on top of hate, monstrous humans becoming larger than life actual monsters, historical points and some different horror parts - from sci-fi to fantasy to body horror and some gross descriptions.  Even the parts that might not quite work for you, you still can't look away from.  There is a LOT happening in under 200 pages so strap yourself in and prepare for the bumpy ride.  Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

It did take a little bit for me to quite grasp what was happening and the uniqueness of this journey.  While sometimes this kind of mixed genre read doesn't quite work for me, it does work here.  Not your typical horror novella - this dark magical fantasy will keep you on your tippy toes.

★★★★



Friday, October 9, 2020

Review: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

 The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue 
by V.E. Schwab

Thank you Tor Books for this AMAZING copy.


Publisher: Tor Books
Publish Date: October 6, 2020
Hardcopy
448 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Historical Fiction, Fantasy

A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.

My Review:


What an epic journey I just had with Addie LaRue, Henry and Luc.  WHAT A JOURNEY! I love that this 448 page novel has a very short synopsis and to be honest.... at first I thought this may be one of those that lulls here and there but I am so happy to have proven myself wrong.  Now, we can talk about what an amazing writer this author is and how this book just proves once again that Schwab spins yet another outrageously good tale that you will fall in love with.  For me, it wasn't just about that, but more so the fact that humans are complex and we all want to feel loved and have our freedom... but at what price?  Always be careful what you wish for.

300 years of Addie LaRue.  I thoroughly enjoyed the jumps in time lines as we get to see her through these various journeys.  I felt for her so much and couldn't imagine what it would be like to consistently be forgotten... even though at times I've certainly wished I could be invisible in this oh so busy world.  She is one tough woman!  And then to finally be seen! FINALLY! And then story starts to really soar.  I fell in love with all the characters.  Even Luc.  How could you not?  My eyes got a bit misty towards the end and I closed the book fully satisfied but also wanting more.  Ahem, Schwab.... do we get to see the next dance? Or has the curtain fallen?

This story will definitely stick with me for a long time.  The main storyline is fantastic (as you can probably gleam from this review) but it's really the subtle nuances and the undercurrent of everything else that I truly found fascinating.  Like finding that backbeat of a track rather than just paying attention to the loudest one that everyone else is dancing to.  Really the perfect story I needed in my life at this moment.

And Addie LaRue, I promise I will always remember you.  While I'm obviously rating this 5 stars, I also give it 7 beautifully placed freckles. ❤

★★★★★


Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Review: Chapel Street by Sean Paul Murphy

Chapel Street 
by Sean Paul Murphy

Thank you Touchpoint Press for this copy!


Publisher: TouchPoint Press
Publish Date: July 3, 2020
Paperback
284 Pages
Standalone
Genre: Horror


Rick Bakos never had a chance at happiness. After enduring the tragic death of his father in a car accident, Rick grew up to helplessly watch both his older brother Lenny and his mother Agnes succumb to madness and suicide. Nor were they the first members of his family to kill themselves. Suicide has steadily stalked the Bakos family since they first arrived in Baltimore from Bohemia at the turn of the 20th Century.

Turning to genealogy to better understand his self-destructive family, Rick works as a volunteer for the website RestingPlace. After photographing the grave of Betty Kostek for the webpage, Rick finds himself drawn into a maelstrom of horror. Each night he finds himself inexorably drawn closer to self-destruction.

Rick’s only ally is a fellow volunteer named Teri Poskocil. She, too, has fallen under the suicidal spell of the late Betty Kostek. The couple soon discovers their pairing wasn’t a coincidence. Their great-grandparents were next door neighbors on Chapel Street nearly a century earlier. So were Betty’s grandparents.

Together Rick and Teri must solve the mystery of Chapel Street before they find death at their own hands.


My Review:


I've always felt that writers have a tendency to bring something true to themselves into their work... and nothing is more true than it is for this author.  This book is loosely based on the author growing up in a haunted house while also living through suicides within his own family.  This caught my attention right away and I couldn't wait to see how this was explored.

The author brings us Rick Bakos, our MC, who has lived through a series of suicides within his family.  Through his hobby of genealogy and updating his website of graves, he ends up meeting Betty Kostek, whose grave haunts him from the get go.  From here we see the culmination of strange events that lead him to find odd coincidences and strange occurrences stemming from Chapel Street.  Oh Betty, you are doing a number on everyone.  Thank God (?) for Tombstone Teri, who curiously enough, has the same hobby as Rick.  Perhaps their fateful meeting and joint venture will get them to the otherside...

Full transparency, the first few chapters were a bit of a struggle to get through.  I almost considered DNFing it altogether.  But something compelled me to continue (was that you, Betty?!).  And I'm truly glad that I did.  Rick, the boring good guy, really worms his way into your heart and you're rooting for him throughout the read.  I did find some lulls within the read but overall, the book just gets better and better as you go... and quite frankly I loved it when Rick lost it a bit every once in a while... 😉.

I do wish that books wouldn't be compared to such big movies ... this one is "The Conjuring meets Hereditary".   This brings big expectations from the reader that might not be met.  Especially for two such big movies within the horror realm whether you loved or hated them.  I can see where the comparison is but hate that I had that in the back of my head the whole time.  

This is fantastic read if you love a demonic storyline that spans generations.  The gloomy, dark feels really resonate from these pages and I could absolutely see this adapted to film.  I look forward to seeing what else the author brings to us.

★★★☆