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Thursday, October 29, 2020

Blog Tour & Review: The Preserve by Ariel S. Winter

The Preserve 
by Ariel S. Winter

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

Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler
Publish Date: November 3, 2020
Paperback
256 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopia, Thriller

The critically acclaimed author of the “bold, innovating, and thrilling” (Stephen King) novel The Twenty-Year Death and the “brilliant” (Booklist, starred review) novel Barren Cove returns with a dark and compelling mystery set in the near future.

Decimated by plague, the human population is now a minority. Robots—complex AIs almost indistinguishable from humans—are the ruling majority. Nine months ago, in a controversial move, the robot government opened a series of preserves, designated areas where humans can choose to live without robot interference. Now the preserves face their first challenge: someone has been murdered.

Chief of Police Jesse Laughton on the SoCar Preserve is assigned to the case. He fears the factions that were opposed to the preserves will use the crime as evidence that the new system does not work. As he digs for information, robots in the outside world start turning up dead from bad drug-like programs that may have originated on SoCar land. And when Laughton learns his murder victim was a hacker who wrote drug-programs, it appears that the two cases might be linked. Soon, it’s clear that the entire preserve system is in danger of collapsing. Laughton’s former partner, a robot named Kir, arrives to assist on the case, and they soon uncover shocking secrets revealing that life on the preserve is not as peaceful as its human residents claim. But in order to protect humanity’s new way of life, Laughton must solve this murder before it’s too late.

The Preserve is a fresh and futuristic mystery that is perfect for fans of Westworld and Blade Runner.

“[E]ntertaining... fun, twisty mystery.” Publishers Weekly

“Winter does his worldbuilding gracefully… Robots may not be so different from humans in this fast-paced futuristic mystery.” Kirkus Reviews

 

“Winter reveals his world slowly and subtly, forcing you to follow his trail of clues even as his detectives follow their own—unraveling two mysteries at once. In sparse, hardboiled prose, he invests real warmth into a human/robot friendship and finds time between shootouts to ask fascinating questions about the future of both species.” —Isaac Marion, New York Times bestselling author of Warm Bodies

My Review:

Robots? ✔ Murder? ✔ Sign me UP! Oh... this is a dystopian future where mankind has been almost completely depleted by a plague and complex AIs are now the ruling majority? Oh, and the robot government decided to say some of the preserves can be designated human areas where there will be no robot interference.  Sound a bit familiar? ๐Ÿ˜‰ Clever.

I'm a bit torn with this read.  Concept is fantastic.  It's moderately paced and we get a lot of story for 239 pages but I do wish it was a bit longer and incorporated more background to how the robots took over and maybe expanded to see if any humans lived among the robots and what that would look like.  I'm super curious about it!  More robots please!  I'm a crime fiction kinda girl as y'all know... so for the police procedural part of this book, it was a fun murder mystery... I think I just wanted more sci-fi. ๐Ÿคท 

Basically, concept is amazing, loved the idea of the layers within this new society but needed more expansion and less surface level type world building. Am I mad I read it? Not at all.  It has all the ingredients that would normally wet my appetite... it just didn't quite hit that sweet spot.

Definitely give this a go if it intrigues you and see what you think of it.  I'm in the minority here so go look at other reviews before passing this up.

★★


Review: Odd Man Out by James Newman

Odd Man Out 
by James Newman


Publisher: Bloodshot Books
Publish Date: November 17, 2016
Paperback
130 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Horror

The Black Mountain Camp for Boys. Summer of ’89. It is a time for splashing in the lake and exploring the wilderness, for nine teenagers to bond together and create friendships that could last the rest of their lives.

But among this group there is a young man with a secret — a secret that, in this time and place, is unthinkable to his peers.

When the others discover the truth, it will change each of them forever. They will all have blood on their hands.

ODD MAN OUT is a heart-wrenching tale of bullies and bigotry, a story that explores what happens when good people don’t stand up for what’s right. It is a tale of how far we have come … and how far we still have left to go.

My Review:


Wooooooooooow.  This isn't an easy read due to the brutality of the bullying that takes place but the messages are loud and clear and ones we should all pay attention to.  

It's 1989.  Welcome to the Boys Camp in a "boys will be boys" summer where getting in trouble is a staple - especially if the boys are left with minimal supervision.  Already the alphas are showing their bullying ways and no one can or will stop them.  Y'all..... this novella seriously is a gut punch.  So many things to discuss but I'll try to keep this short.  

This book shows bullying and homophobia at some of its worst. It also touches on how infectious anger and hatred can be.  Even those that know what is happening is wrong, they tamp down their inner conscious and just "try to get through it".  They think they can make up for not speaking up and taking action later.  It speaks on how complicit we all can be in acts and probably have been at one time or another.  When have you been angry about something that you ended up taking out on someone that didn't deserve it?  Anger manifests and when you get an army behind you... well, we all too well know how far that could potentially go and it's fucking frightening.  I would love to think that from 1989 to our present 2020 that things have progressed but sadly they have not so let us all make conscious decisions to not manifest in the hate and to stick up for those who need it.

Anyways, a tough and somber read but absolutely worthy of your time.  I cannot believe this is my first Newman - will definitely be picking up The Wicked soooooooon!

★★★★★


Tuesday, October 27, 2020

#ATBR2020 Review: We Hear Voices by Evie Green

We Hear Voices 
by Evie Green

Thank you Berkley Publishing and NetGalley for this review copy.

Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: December 1, 2020
Kindle Edition
384 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Horror, Sci-Fi

An eerie debut about a little boy who recovers from a sickness and inherits an imaginary friend who makes him do violent things...

Kids have imaginary friends. Rachel knows this. So when her young son, Billy, miraculously recovers from a horrible flu that has proven fatal for many, she thinks nothing of Delfy, his new invisible friend. After all, her family is healthy and that's all that matters.

But soon Delfy is telling Billy what to do, and the boy is acting up and lashing out in ways he never has before. As Delfy's influence is growing stranger and more sinister by the day, and rising tensions threaten to tear Rachel's family apart, she clings to one purpose: to protect her children at any cost--even from themselves.

We Hear Voices is a mischievously gripping near-future horror novel that tests the fragility of family and the terrifying gray area between fear and love.

My Review:

Imagine you're in a pandemic... I know, I know... it's a stretch, but just try.  Now imagine you're a kid that caught whatever "flu" (J5X) is going around, gets REALLY sick but then starts to recover.  But he's also brought with him a new imaginary friend named Delfy.  Imaginary friends are harmless right? ๐Ÿ˜‰ Spider bouquet anyone? ๐Ÿ•ท♥

As an only child you would've thought I would've had an imaginary friend but I never did.   I would make up scenarios in my head all the time and hold conversations where I was the voice of everyone that wasn't there... but they were people I knew and never someone that didn't actually exist.  I have ALWAYS been fascinated with imaginary friends and then couple that with kids turned creepy AND add a pandemic to the mix?  I'm in! Yes, I'm that person who watched all the pandemic movies when all of *this* occurred but anywayssssssssssss......

I'm SUPER torn in how I feel about this novel.  The concept it fantastic and the synopsis hooked me straight away. I do feel that some parts of the book felt like we were being told, rather than shown, what was happening.  And this was usually in a cluster of sentences that basically told the reader what happened over a short period of time.  It just seemed off compared to the feel of the rest of the read.  (cluster of sentences... paragraph, whatever ๐Ÿคฃ)  I had fun with how the characters ended up intersecting but that ending.... 

Ok, let me say that I love when books get wonky. And this absolutely gets wonky.  I'm undecided if I'm LOVING on it or just kinda MEH about it. Either way, I swiped to the left one last time on my e-copy with a head shake and a smile.  There's certainly some plots holes but as a debut, I'm pretty excited for the whole concept of this story.  I'm gonna keep an eye on Green... I'm excited to see what else she has for us in the future.

★★★

Jessica's Review:


This book is far too similar to what’s happening our world now with the pandemic, despite being set in the distant future. WE HEAR VOICES is the debut novel from Evie Green and I absolutely loved the concept and the overall pacing. There were just a couple things that are keeping me in the middle with this, but it’s really just more of a “me as a reader” type thing.

So, not only is there a pandemic raging, a little boy catches the virus and almost dies from it. Thankfully, he recovers, but with his recovery comes a new imaginary friend named Delfy. Imaginary friends are harmless, right? Well, not in this case. Delfy seems to be controlling his every move and some have horrible outcomes. Is this something that all survivors are experiencing? So many questions and you’re in for a crazy ride!

I think this is a solid debut for Evie Green and I’m looking forward to what she has for us next. This was a great concept and had plenty of creepy and unsettling moments throughout. There was just something that missed for me, and I can’t really place what. Again, probably a “me as a reader thing”, I know a lot of other readers that are raving about this! Highly recommend giving this one a read.

3 stars


Sunday, October 25, 2020

Review: Perfectly Impossible by Elizabeth Topp

Perfectly Impossible 
by Elizabeth Topp

Thank you Little A for this review copy!


Publisher: Little A
Publish Date: November 1, 2020
Hardcover
314 Pages
Standalone
Genre: Contemporary

In this witty debut novel, Elizabeth Topp crafts a story that ventures behind the fanciful facade of Park Avenue and into the life of one lovable type A assistant.

Anna’s job is simple: prevent the unexpected from happening and do everything better than perfectly. An artist at heart, Anna works a day job as a private assistant for Bambi Von Bizmark, a megarich Upper East Side matriarch who’s about to be honored at the illustrious Opera Ball.

Caught between the staid world of great wealth and her unconventional life as an artist, Anna struggles with her true calling. If she’s supposed to be a painter, why is she so much more successful as a personal assistant? When her boyfriend lands a fancy new job, it throws their future as a couple into doubt and intensifies Anna’s identity crisis. All she has to do is ensure everything runs smoothly and hold herself together until the Opera Ball is over. How hard could that be?

Featuring a vibrant array of characters from the powerful to the proletarian, Perfectly Impossible offers a glimpse into a world you’ll never want to leave.

My Review:


I know people who have the high level, executive/personal assistant job and it is NOT easy.  24 hours a day, 365 days a week.  And it's like stepping into a completely different world.  One you knew of, but wasn't sure if it REALLY existed like you see on TV.  I was eager to read this as I wanted to get a birds eye view of sorts, through a fiction read on an all too real world.  I'm a little confused.  Is this supposed to be satire or a real, but comical also, look into this type of life?  

Anna is an interesting character.  As the Von Bismarks' personal assistant, she basically runs their life and is constantly juggling a zillion things to not only make sure their lives run as smoothly as possible (even with impossible requests...) she is also a struggling artist trying to launch her career so she can finally quit the current one she has.  Cue in all the things that could happen that did happen which led to things that couldn't happen.  WHAT.  Yeah.  She's a hard character to like.  While the Von Bismarks are quite an interesting family, you expect that kind of behavior so you give them a pass for being entitled rich people.  But Anna is also entitled and unexpectedly so.  A very selfish character when you get down to it.  I kinda loved to hate on her to be honest.

Here's the thing.  I felt like I was going to dislocate an eyeball for how much I rolled them during this read.  It's hard to feel any empathy for Anna.  And the antics that ensued were somewhat humorous but got to be just a bit much as the story continued.  It's fairly predictable and hits all the notes you expect it to.  And this isn't a bad thing - I think I was just expecting a bit more of Anna trying to balance her two identities in a way where I could've rooted for her.

★★

Friday, October 23, 2020

Review: Goodnight Beautiful by Aimee Molloy

Goodnight Beautiful 
by Aimee Molloy

Thank you to the author and Harper Books for this free copy!


Publisher: Harper
Publish Date: October 13, 2020
Hardcover
293 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Thriller, Suspense

Newlyweds Sam Statler and Annie Potter are head over heels, and excited to say good-bye to New York and start a life together in Sam's sleepy hometown in upstate New York. Or, it turns out, a life where Annie spends most of her time alone while Sam, her therapist husband, works long hours in his downstairs office, tending to the egos of his (mostly female) clientele.

Little does Sam know that through a vent in his ceiling, every word of his sessions can be heard from the room upstairs. The pharmacist's wife, contemplating a divorce. The well-known painter whose boyfriend doesn’t satisfy her in bed. Who could resist listening? Everything is fine until the French girl in the green mini Cooper shows up, and Sam decides to go to work and not come home, throwing a wrench into Sam and Annie's happily ever after.

My Review:


I'm shaking my head but also smiling after I just closed this highly entertaining read.  This damn book.... I'm actually super excited to go read all the reviews of this once I finish writing this one.  I have a feeling that one big portion is going to be a love/hate for some readers.  I personally found it super entertaining - though at one point I was wondering just HOW much of this was actually going to continue.  Then it did a 180 of sideways (which translates to it still being sideways) and took you into a different direction.  You'll know what I'm talking about when you read this and if you haven't read it yet, mark it and come back to me when you do!

This synopsis does little to tell you what this story is about.  I actually went back to read it after I was done because that did not feel like the book I thought I just read ... and I mean that in the BEST way.  This is a super fun one to go into blind, which you basically are even if you have read the synopsis...  ANYWAYS..... I loved all the little nods to a different piece of literature.  And it was really a pleasure to see it progress from one type of thriller rolling right into a different type with the insanity escalating at a very fun pace.  You'll probably have to suspend a little bit of reality, which I really don't mind doing.

I will say that I could've done without the epilogue. ⧓ A little too tidied up for my taste, but I also couldn't help getting a little smirk on my face at that last line.  Brilliant yet maddening for me! ๐Ÿคฃ  Listen y'all,  I appreciate the uniqueness of this thriller so much.  I was absolutely entertained throughout the entirety of this read and there are some definite fun reveals that happen.   Happy reading, friends!

★★★★



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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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? ๐Ÿคฃ 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:


๐Ÿ˜ฒ 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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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? ๐Ÿ˜‰

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. ๐Ÿ’—  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.