Sunday, December 30, 2018

Why isn't reading hereditary?

My kids act like my love of reading is an affront to them specifically. As if I enjoy reading purely to irritate them. Do you know how many times I'd wished my mother had sent me to my room to read when I'd pissed her off?

Let me set the stage for ya. The 2nd Hunger Games movie is on and Aidan is watching. Cinna appears on screen and I whimper a little because, well... if you know, you KNOW. Aidan looks over at me and says, 'what?' 

What? Oh my god, kid, I'll tell you WHAT!

They do carry half  of my DNA, correct? I mean, that's how it works, right? So why... no, HOW IN THE EVER LOVING HELL do they both hate to read???  I just find it wholly unfair. I don't begrudge them their father's affinity for math despite my reaching for a mug of broken glass and seltzer water to gurgle when I think about it. They complain about being bored when there is an entire Happy Potter library at their disposal, yet balk at the suggestion that reading might actually entertain them. 

God, I can't even comprehend the bull-headedness so securely centered in my sons. I'd be remiss to mention that I, myself, am not stubborn or contrary  in any way and therefore have obviously no culpability in that particular aspect of their personality. Just ask my husband...

Friday, December 28, 2018

Review: The Rooster Bar

The Rooster Bar The Rooster Bar by John Grisham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I keep waiting for Grisham to run out of lawyer tales but apparently he's still going strong. The Rooster Bar had a lot of fun with the emails from each character to the student loan sharks, I loved those parts. Antics the characters get up to are clever, as usual. And speaking of the characters, these law students are each flawed to the point of being criminals themselves. I didn't have too much sympathy for them despite the sham they fell victim to. Apparently many people had a hard time with this book because they hated the characters and/or the things the characters did. Who says you have to be the president of their fan club? I managed to enjoy the story and the characters regardless. There is a satisfying wrap up to the story, something a few other Grisham novels failed to provide.

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Sunday, December 23, 2018

Review: Smart Marketing for Indie Authors: How I Sold my First 1,563 Books and Counting!

Smart Marketing for Indie Authors: How I Sold my First 1,563 Books and Counting! Smart Marketing for Indie Authors: How I Sold my First 1,563 Books and Counting! by Mike Kowis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Smart Marketing for Indie Authors: How I Sold my First 1,563 Books and Counting! I wish you could see my deadpan/really face right now; you know the gif of the kid's school picture where they make the eyes blink slowly to portray how not amused you are with something? That's me right now after having to type out that title. Kowis forgot to include 'Don't make your title fifteen words long' or 'If your title requires a colon, it's too long' in his 'What NOT to do' chapter but he's a lawyer so being needlessly wordy is in his genes, right?

Okay, now that I've worked the snark out, Smart Marketing is... well, smart. Also a bit thick with common sense but sometimes writers are too blinded by the love of their craft to think logically beyond the act of telling a story. Here is a step by step, clearly stated playbook to keep the indie author on the right track. I am interested in reading future reviews to see if other authors have had success with the advice given by Mr. Kowis.

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Review: Attribution: The Screenplay

Attribution: The Screenplay Attribution: The Screenplay by Christine Horner
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Based on the summary, this story has both aspects I gravitate toward and ones that I have a tendency to back away from. I'm all for the underdog, the disgraced character who musters the courage to overcome an injustice from some deep rooted sense of loyalty. A backdrop of doom for humanity via some plague, horrific natural disaster or, as is the case here, a global water crisis usually makes for an action filled adventure that I enjoy. Where my focus tends to fade is in the futuristic, sci-fi genre that Attribution seemed almost surely to be despite the date being a couple short decades ahead.

The author's intro in Attribution: The Screenplay drew me in quickly. I felt like I connected with Christine Horner on the writer level and just knew I was going to love this novel in screenplay format despite trying and giving up on several screenplays before. Oh how I wish it had happened that way! I want to be able to say how much I loved this character or hated that one. I'd like to be able to tell you that the action was thrilling and the world portrayed was rich and detailed. I can't say any of those things because apparently I am a reader who cannot read screenplays. That is not the fault of the author, this may be an award winning screenplay, I've no idea. What I can say is that the plot of this story in fascinating and I wish I had been able to see past the format to experience it.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Review: Unlocking the Natural-Born Leader’s Abilities: An Autobiographical Exposé

Unlocking the Natural-Born Leader’S Abilities: An Autobiographical Exposé Unlocking the Natural-Born Leader’S Abilities: An Autobiographical Exposé by Salar A. Khan MD MBA
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Unlocking the Natural-Born Leader’s Abilities: An Autobiographical Exposé, written by Salar A. Khan MD MBA, is a relatively short read for an autobiography slash self-help book. As it turns out, this author knows how to get to the point and there's something refreshing about that in a genre that has a tendency to take itself very seriously. Unlocking is a serious book about a serious topic written in a spectacularly human way. Though there are very detailed and specific directions given to guide the audience, it's the personal anecdotes that finalize the sale.

Dr. Khan is so clearly an intelligent and successful man, a generous man, who wants to share his knowledge with others. I only wish those 123 pages were better translated and/or edited. I mentioned the 'human' element to the writing but somehow, right along side that humanness was a dreary monotone delivery in many places. I don't think it would have been much work at all to tidy those things up for publication.

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Review: The Caged Butterfly

The Caged Butterfly The Caged Butterfly by Marian L. Thomas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Caged Butterfly is my first Marion L Thomas novel but I can safely say it will not be my last. I don't feel the need to ramble on about the complexities of the plot or how each character felt rich in my gut and stood out in full color in my head; all of that is true, of course, but that's not why I held an electronic device to my chest after reading the last page. That's a thing I do, physically hold onto books in an effort to extend the connection that was made just a tad longer. The act was well earned here.

A simple/not simple at all way to describe The Caged Butterfly would be Gone With the Wind meets Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. There was a sweeping sense to the story that felt vaguely Legends of the Fall ish. And while it's definitely not of the same subject matter, it has the romanticism of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and much of the backdrop racism found in To Kill a Mockingbird and The Bluest Eye. Anyone who enjoyed any of the books I brought up here will understand what I am trying to convey as to how well done this novel truly is.

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Sunday, December 16, 2018

Review: The Silent Wife

The Silent Wife The Silent Wife by Kerry Fisher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Silent Wife. It seems like 'wives' are a recurring theme in my reading these past months.

This one could have been titled accurately a number of different ways. The Bastard Husband, for one. The Blind Husband, The Waiting in the Wings Wife, The Vapid Mother in Law, The Family Who Lies Together.... I could go on. These characters must have been fun to write because they were definitely fun to read. And hate. The story is a slow builder as far as thrillers go and there aren't red herrings flying about for the reader to dodge - which I appreciated greatly. What happens and how things are revealed feels very organic, not scripted or fantastical. Family drama is the name of this game. I found it very well done.

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Sunday, December 9, 2018

Review: The Chemist

The Chemist The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This one breaks my heart. The Host is one of my all time favorite books and I expected The Chemist to fight for the position, or at least come close. Within the first 100 pages I had an inkling but I soldiered on in hope.

Listen, I had my romance phase, it burned hot and heavy for a good couple years, but turns out I'm more than over it. As soon as this turned more toward the feelings and doe eyes, I checked out. Thats 418 pages of checked out reading and that isn't easy to swallow, folks. I read a hundred books between the time I started this book and the time I finished it. I'm nothing if not stubborn.

The premise here was fantastic, unique with a female lead, perfect mounting tension and just the right amount of action. A dangerous woman on the run, Oleander has all the bones to be an American Lisbeth Salander but unlike that tattooed heroine, Meyer's girl couldn't keep it together.

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My Rating System

I feel like I should explain my rating system a bit because as I peruse, it's clearly a tad skewed. If you read posts based on labels, you'll see that the great majority of the reviews here at Novel Junky are books I read for a paid review. 

Let me clarify, paid does not mean positive. I have turned down many paid review opportunities because the author or publisher insisted on a positive review. My rule is that I write my review based on my opinion and if my opinion is that it sucks, you won't find me raving about it here, on Good Reads or on Amazon. It has happened that my review wasn't favorable and whoever hired me chooses to not have me post a review at all. That's fine with me. They're paying for a review, if they don't want to publish that review, what do I care?

All that said, I rate paid reviews on a different scale than I rate books I choose for myself. It's my Work Scale. When I review for a paying client, I put the focus on more technical details; the flow of the story, character consistency, believability, editing errors, etc... I don't have to have that hug the book to your chest moment to give it a fourth or fifth star. A well written book in a genre I loathe, even with characters I despise, can be higher rated because there are no barriers in the way for a reader who does love the genre or connects with the characters. Even five stars are handed out more freely when the writing is great or there is clearly in depth research that went into it. Just because I didn't fawn all over it doesn't mean millions of others won't. 

When I review books I have chosen for myself, it's all about me. I call it my Me Scale. How did I like the plot? Did I love the characters? How angry was I at the ending? Me, me, me... get it? A book has to have been pressed into my chest for a fourth star. I have to have found myself drifting back into that world with those characters after I've finished it. Every other book that author has written is now on my To Read list. If one or all of those happened and I tell my bookie friends to read it, if I give my copy to my sister with the stipulation that I get it back because I have to have it with me, there's my elusive 5th star. Sometimes I don't even write a proper review for the books I choose for myself because my feelings will change about it over time. I will go back months, even years after to finally express how a book impacted my world.

And that is the difference. The books I choose for myself, I expect an impact in some way, good or bad. That's a high standard to rate by. My paid opportunities are, for lack of a better word, work. I'm reading them because I have to in order to get paid. That doesn't mean there haven't been books that came to my attention as work and ended up reviewed on my Me Scale.

So now that I've made that clear as mud, continue on...

Review: Behind Closed Doors

Behind Closed Doors Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you need your thrills delivered via shocking twist after aha moment, this isn't your jam. I thought I was one of those people, demanding psychological thrillers knock me off balance that way but Behind Closed Doors knew better.

There is no moment where everything you thought you knew becomes skewed, you get the awful truth delivered piping hot, front and center. In fact the horror of this book is such that you almost wish for a twist to make it not so. The shock comes in the reality.

I loved it, it felt fresh and treated me like a grown up who could handle the horrible truth. That's a bit of a rarity in this genre recently.

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Review: The Wife Between Us

The Wife Between Us The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I admit the first identity twist got me, something that happens less and less often these days, but once that one wore off, the rest of the ‘who is she/he really’ reveals felt forced. That ‘no freaking way’ punch only once more when we get the entirety of circumstances behind Vanessa and Richard’s break up.

The Maggie, Jason, Maureen, even Kate aspects of the plot could have landed on the cutting room floor and the book would have survived for me. I didn’t need any of them to love the book and love the book, I did, despite the previous statements. It’s not easy to pull off even one good plot twist and these ladies did two brilliantly.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Review: Just One Look

Just One Look Just One Look by Harlan Coben
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Harlan Coben is one of those authors whose books I buy every time I find one and I've yet to be disappointed. Just One Look, on the surface, differed not. The tried and true formula of creating misconceptions and slowly revealing truths that Coben excels at is front and center again. Characters are well developed, in many cases so well that when they've succumbed to the author's viscous blade you're left thinking, "wait, he's dead already?!?!" That'll teach you to cozy up to a character.

While there's nothing I hated in this book, other than what you're supposed to hate, in the end I felt unfulfilled. All the loose ends are tied up, the truth of the whole thing is clever as usual but I keep wondering why this was so... generic. I would never discourage reading this book, I just can't rave about it the way I have about others.

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Saturday, December 1, 2018

Review: The Suicide Princess

The Suicide Princess The Suicide Princess by Anthony Bryan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this on the downswing of my romance phase and it pushed me back to the thriller side of life. The psychological twists, the reveals, the lust, the tension, the heat, the heartbreak, the fury, the shock... I couldn't explain it to you if I tried. And my oh my do I want to try. But more, I want you to read it!

Stephanie is a brilliant, deeply flawed character, the kind I usually have no stomach for. She does mind numbingly stupid things, hurts people viscously, and pays dearly. Derrick and Jacob will floor you for VASTLY different reasons, even sub-characters in Suicide Princess pop up in your thoughts long after you've finished the book.

This is most certainly an adult themed book. The sex scenes are intense, graphic, and smoking hot!

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*This is one I read way back in 2014 and forgot to actually review. Bad book blogger!

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Review: Deep Undercover: My Secret Life and Tangled Allegiances as a KGB Spy in America

Deep Undercover: My Secret Life and Tangled Allegiances as a KGB Spy in America Deep Undercover: My Secret Life and Tangled Allegiances as a KGB Spy in America by Jack Barsky
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm getting more and more picky about awarding that fourth star and I thought Deep Under Cover would get it. My husband met the author and got me a signed copy, maybe that set it on a figurative pedestal in my mind. I don't read much non-fiction, certainly not autobiographies but I'm a fan girl of The American and The Assets and Washington D.C.'s Spy Museum ranks higher than the Smithsonian for me so if I was going to start anywhere, Deep Under Cover was the right place. It's a fascinating story, well written - I suspect by a ghost writer - and full of nuances of that life that are both thought provoking and infuriating. It's a good book, really.

Turns out, I just didn't like Jack Barsky. His hard knock start at life didn't soften me up at all. I shocked myself with the level of disapproval I feel about this enemy of our country living the life he ended up with in said country, on said country's tab and generosity. I'd feel doubly sick about it had my husband actually purchased the book.

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Thursday, October 25, 2018

Review: Dead End Girl

Dead End Girl Dead End Girl by L.T. Vargus
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Violet, Violet, Violet... Sometimes the main character is so exhausting! A lot of the time that exasperation helps build a bond between them and the reader, this time it infuriated the reader. I can't pinpoint the difference in Violet's vulnerabilities compared to similar characters but what I know is the parts of the plot I should have been focused on fell into the melee. I can't get past a disconnect with a character like that and it's a damn shame because that part that, for me, faded to white noise was really good!

Dead End Girl had all the murder, mayhem, tension, drama, and darkness I fawn over in this genre. I imagine any reader who can stand Violet will be all over this series. Vargas has a flair for this type of fiction and as soon as I find a main character I don't wish for the demise of, I'll be all over it!

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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Review: Sharp Objects

Sharp Objects Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm probably in the minority in my assessment of Sharp Objects. It's super popular and rightfully so, I guess. The twists and reveals were Gillian-Flynn-perfect, as always. Characters were full, both in the best and worst ways.

I just couldn't stand the overwhelming darkness of Camille. It never let up. The plot was thrilling but also depressing in a way I found it hard to see past. For most fans of this author, Sharp Objects only cements their loyalty. I get it, it's absolutely deserved, so long as you can pull yourself out from the dreariness of Camille's thoughts. I just couldn't.

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Saturday, September 1, 2018

Review: The Sighting

The Sighting The Sighting by Christopher Coleman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Coleman can do creepy, that's been proven. You have to give the guy some stars for imagination, and I did. What made me hold back on a 4th was how vile I found the characters. Worse than vile is boring, they bored me! The premise was truly unique but the evolution was stunted. I feel like I want to give it back and say, no, please redo it, I know you can do better.

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Saturday, August 18, 2018

Review: The Trespasser

The Trespasser The Trespasser by Tana French
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tana French is quickly becoming a Harlan Coben in that I can snatch up any book with her name on it and be pretty certain I'm going to like it. Now considering this in only my second French novel, it makes that first statement kind of a big deal.

The Trespasser is a solid police procedural written with a grace uncommon in the genre. The flowery prose doesn't dampen the horror of the crimes, if anything, the horror is highlighted against it. This would be a novel to gently ease a gore-sensitive reader into this type of crime fiction because yes, it is absolutely bloody and violent but the language which paints the picture is beautiful enough you almost don't notice.

All of the characters fit their role perfectly, with just the right information given out at a time. Main characters, secondary and even the swiftly mentioned "extras" have their precise place in the narrative and that is a delicate balance to achieve.

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Sunday, August 12, 2018

Review: When Never Comes

When Never Comes When Never Comes by Barbara Davis
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When Never Comes... what never came was fruition. I had such high hopes for this plot and especially for Christy-Lynn and the next thing I know I'm reading a Lifetime movie. To be fair, when I went back to read the book description, I guess I should have seen it coming.

I put this on my DNF shelf, though I do actually finish them all. I turn on my freaky fast read/skim radar to be sure I'm not missing something that will turn it around for me. Notice the book remains on my DNF shelf.

Now all that sounds pretty bad but hear me out; This book isn't bad, it's just bad for ME. I know there's a big audience for coming of age, wholesome, Lifetime-esque literature and Barbara Davis did it well here. Those two stars represent only my disappointment in the lack of high drama/thrills in When Never Comes and I know many many people who would put it on a Faves shelf.

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Friday, July 6, 2018

Review: The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don't think you can really go wrong with King. This is one of his low key horror where everything is understated and the big reveal isn't alien life forms. For that, I am grateful. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is much more The Long Walk or The Body/Stand By Me than The Langoliers. I have a 14 year old boy who "hates to read" who will soon be a Stephen King fan just like his mama!

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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Review: They Came With The Snow

They Came With The Snow They Came With The Snow by Christopher Coleman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Post apocalyptic, zombie-esque sci-fi is not a genre I would have thought I would enjoy so much. It's a short read but the brevity works for the story. Coleman can do creepy well and channels Game of Thrones when it comes to who survives. I like a little severity now and then.If there's a petition to demand more of this world, I'll add my name.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Review: The Ruined Wife

The Ruined Wife The Ruined Wife by Marin Montgomery
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read The Ruined Wife on vacation in Cabo in one afternoon. I loved it.

Then why only three stars? you ask?

Let me explain... I loved the story, the characters, the drama, the thrills, and the twists overall. I mean of course it had its eye roll moments when the scope of believability got skewed but if we wanted a true story we'd have been perusing a different genre, wouldn't we?

I said I loved the characters and I did. Some I loved to hate; looking at you, Steven. Some I just wanted to to stop throwing up; ALY! Good lord, see a dr, no human should vomit that much. And if I never read the words 'messy bun' again, I'll be just fine.

I would tell my friends to read it but it's not a What To Read After Gone Girl kind of recommendation. Hence the three stars.

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Thursday, May 31, 2018

Review: Mean Girl

Mean Girl Mean Girl by Natasha A. Salnikova
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I hate to do the dreaded one star but I can't, in good conscience, give more. Why I even finished it is somewhat a mystery other than I just couldn't believe it was as bad as it was. It was like being Punk'd via fiction. The term absurd doesn't even quantify the level of believability in Mean Girl. I found myself looking around me as I read, almost in disbelief, like someone out there in my reality could save me from what I was doing to myself. I'm still shell shocked by it. It could have only been made worse had I paid for it.

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Friday, May 25, 2018

Review: The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Having watched the movie before I read the book, I found reading this in the way I normally devour a book impossible. So I decided to do the audiobook and I really enjoyed it. As with every novel turned movie, there are about a million things in the book you can't possibly get from the movie. There is so much more to every character from Clarice to Dr. Chilton.

Thomas Harris has created a world and characters you couldn't forget if you tried.

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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Review: The Last Thing She Ever Did

The Last Thing She Ever Did The Last Thing She Ever Did by Gregg Olsen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another Kindle Unlimited book that I would have paid separately for. Despite truly hating nearly every character except the three year old, I did love the book. Like they say, love or hate a character, it simply means they are well written. The Last Thing She Ever Did is a prime example of that.

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Saturday, May 5, 2018

Review: I Am Watching You

I Am Watching You I Am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Finally, the description "a psychological thriller with unexpected twists" lives up to the hype. So many fall short but I Am Watching You actually delivers. Often the changing perspective/narrator style can be tiresome and Driscoll did it just right. My only gripe is that I wanted more from the 'unsub'. The tiny teases she did give could have been a much larger part and served to wrench up the tension all the way through although I see where she had to be careful not to give the twist away.

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Monday, April 30, 2018

Review: The Cellar

The Cellar The Cellar by Natasha Preston
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Cellar kinda stomped my spirit. I just KNEW this was going to be SO. GOOD.

It wasn't.

For one the story needs to decide if it's adult or not. You can have immature characters, young characters, and still be an adult book. The Cellar unsuccessfully straddled that fence and were this book a male, that failure would have been painful. And while I'm on the subject of characters, it's probably possible to make a character more annoying than Summer (and Preston tried with Clover and Lewis) but it would take a lot of effort. Waiting for the main character's death scene like the Grinch looking down on Whoville most likely isn't what the author was going for.

Or maybe she was and if so, Bravo!!

Clover is the most pathetic villain both in imagination - I read the Butterfly Garden, too - and follow through. He ticks every cliche box on every villain how to list there could possibly be. It's hard to be scared or even unnerved by a character so thoroughly superficial and dull.

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Thursday, April 26, 2018

Review: The Victims' Club

The Victims' Club The Victims' Club by Jeffery Deaver
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Short story which in my opinion has just an excuse to give a good back-story - except here. Here, it was just enough for this specific story. My only irritation here is that I missed the point where the twist was alluded to. I knew to pay attention to the list that was given but I missed it. That's not the author's fault, I mean it was RIGHT THERE and I missed it. So, okay, kudos to you, Deaver. Nicely done.

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Review: Stillhouse Lake

Stillhouse Lake Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

OMG, y'all! This is a freaking amazing book! If you're looking for a badass female with some straight-up focus on being who you want to be when you grow up, "Gwen" is your girl. I feel like I'm a bit harsh as a book critic, I am picky about my characters and the plot line but I have no complaints beyond "why is this over?!?!"

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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Review: Interference

Interference Interference by Amélie Antoine
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It got an extra star because it was good until it became maddening. The big reveal? So completely unrealistic! Even fiction needs some quantity of reality. One thing I'll give the author, her characters are written well, assuming they are written to be hated.

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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Review: The Marriage Lie

The Marriage Lie The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved this! Watching Iris unravel her husband was as infatuating as it was infuriating. What I didn't like is the ending. But just because I didn't like it doesn't mean it wasn't a good ending, I mean here I am, the day after, still thinking about it. That's a sign of a well written novel.

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Friday, April 6, 2018

Review: Dahmer Detective: The Interrogation and Investigation That Shocked The World

Dahmer Detective: The Interrogation and Investigation That Shocked The World Dahmer Detective: The Interrogation and Investigation That Shocked The World by Patrick Kennedy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this up after watching Kennedy on a Dahmer interview. I became as fascinated with the detective as I have been with Dahmer. His book did not disappoint. Granted this guy was a cop and not a writer so things like every sentence of dialogue starting out with "Hey, Pat..." or "Hey, Jeff..." began to wear raw but even so, the book was so interesting. There are definitely things I found out here that years and years of documentaries didn't tell me. If you're Dahmer Darling, this is worth it.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Review: Idi & the Talisman of Talia

Idi & the Talisman of Talia Idi & the Talisman of Talia by T.N. Traynor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

T. N. Traynor is the author of Idi and the Talisman of Talia, the second book in her Born to Be trilogy. The summary states that this leaves off exactly where Book 1, Idi and the Oracle's Quest left off. I went in at a disadvantage having not read the previous book and I felt clouded throughout the read because of that. The cover illustration and characterizations like "Goblin Fart Platoon" in the summary place this firmly in a children's story and obviously in the fantasy genre as well.

Had I read book one and already been immersed in this magical world and been introduced to these characters, I would have really enjoyed this. It is fast paced and fun with a surprising amount of depth to characters and the storyline that I didn't expect. Traynor is a talented writer and I can see this series easily becoming a favorite for kids and adults alike.

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Monday, March 26, 2018

Review: The Waste-Wise Kitchen Companion: Hundreds of Practical Tips for Repairing, Reusing, and Repurposing Food: How to Eat Better, Save Money, and Utilize Leftovers Creatively

The Waste-Wise Kitchen Companion: Hundreds of Practical Tips for Repairing, Reusing, and Repurposing Food: How to Eat Better, Save Money, and Utilize Leftovers Creatively The Waste-Wise Kitchen Companion: Hundreds of Practical Tips for Repairing, Reusing, and Repurposing Food: How to Eat Better, Save Money, and Utilize Leftovers Creatively by Jean B. MacLeod
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Waste-Wise Kitchen Companion: Hundreds of Practical Tips for Repairing, Reusing, and Repurposing Food: How to Eat Better, Save Money, and Utilize Leftovers Creatively. Whew, that was a mouthful! Two colons, that's a serious title that I feel could have ended with The Waste-Wise Kitchen but that's just me.

In a nutshell, this is part cookbook, part self-help, part gardening meets sustainability friendly living. Compiled into an easy to navigate, alphabetically ordered list, The Waste-Wise Kitchen will be handy for everyone from professional chefs to those who have trouble boiling water. A lot of it is common sense but clearly there is a need for reminders when you consider how wasteful our society has become. Here MacLeod gives many tips and kitchen hacks for running your kitchen more efficiently and wisely. It's not hard to come to the conclusion that if you can manage your kitchen in this manner then surely you can make the same strides in other areas of your life. Nice job!

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Review: The Zero Commandment

The Zero Commandment The Zero Commandment by Lawrence J. Epstein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Zero Commandment is book three in the Charlie Singer and Katie Walker series by author Lawrence J. Epstein. I have not read books one and two but the write ups sound as promising as I found this to be. I love a good detective mystery and I love the 1940s era so this mash-up of the two had me excited from the get go. Solving crimes without the help of super computers and high tech gadgets is a nice change of pace in this genre.

The characters Charlie and Katie were a pleasant surprise to me. I enjoyed the rawness in each of them. I thought Epstein created personalities realistically and in a way that felt sincere. There were times that I loved each character and times when each made me want to scream in frustration. To this reader, that is a sign of well written characters and characters make or break a story. The Zero Commandment gets the #worthit hashtag for certain.

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Review: Afterlife Code

Afterlife Code Afterlife Code by J.M. Erickson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Afterlife Code is a short novella (69 pages) written by J. M. Erickson.The premise is that a brilliant scientist who struggles with autism has created a computer code for a brain implant that helps her lead a more normal life. What can't be portrayed with that simple write up is that this is roughly seventy pages of science fiction, time travel, horror that demands at least one re-read to truly get everything that happens in this story. In fact, I did read it twice and I know without a doubt that I've missed some things and I will be going back to figure it all out. That's the magic of this novella, you want (maybe even need) this to be a full length book and possibly even the beginning of a series. There are so many ways this can go and I find myself yearning for more.

Another aspect of Afterlife Code that I enjoyed was the autism avenue. I have almost no experience with autism except the general stereotypical knowledge, which is to say I know nothing, Jon Snow. It was interesting to have a character so accomplished to put forth the truth that autism isn't a handicap. I hope this kind of thinking is the trend in regards to autism.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Review: Samsara

Samsara Samsara by Lorraine Margaret
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Samsara by Lorraine Margaret is billed as a romance... I don't know what to think about this. I think the word would be brutal. This is too brutal a book to be a romance. Gang rape, revenge killing, and hatred are major themes throughout and it is difficult to build a romance around that. Margaret tried though, and she didn't fully fail. I think if a reader manages to not be triggered by severe sexual abuse descriptions or even simply grossed out by the summary, which includes a reference to the main character developing an obsession with the beauty of Ryan's penis and a reverence for his bodily fluids, the core of the relationship could work. It's not something I would ever try to pull off but kudos to her for attempting it.

Personally, I did not like Ailith. Ryan felt barren to me. I can see though where other readers could love both. I guess I just couldn't get around being put off by the summary, hard as I tried to do. The book is well written, almost no errors, and this author is clearly a talented one.

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Review: The Hanged Man: A Digby Rolf Mystery

The Hanged Man: A Digby Rolf Mystery The Hanged Man: A Digby Rolf Mystery by Raymond M Hall
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Raymond M. Hall is the author of The Hanged Man: A Digby Rolf Mystery, a title which leads me to believe this is one of a series. I am not sure if this is the first or tenth in the series because I can't find the others at all. It doesn't really matter but the search for that information took from my precious reading time.

I assumed the time period was early 1900's simply because of the method of execution being hanging and executions in Great Britain stopped in 1965 but I'm still not certain when this takes place. It bothers me. Also, I assumed Digby would be a police officer or private investigator but alas, he's a chaplain and I find Joe Schmo ameature sleuths unrealistic. Despite those details weighing down my opinion, The Hanged Man is rather good. I bought John's ghost appearing throughout more eagerly than I did the investigative skills of a prison chaplain.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Review: Startoucher

Startoucher Startoucher by C.J. Odle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Startoucher is a novel on science fiction as well as fantasy lists and finds itself on one called... cyberpunk. Is that a designated genre now? I'm going to have to look that one up...

So Jake is a slick L.A. attorney who has no business in the Mojave Desert but that's exactly where he finds himself, drawn by his repressed psychic abilities. From there we find out that Earth and humanity as we know it is a big alien experiment and Judgment Day is coming. Now imagine that scenario as real life. Yeah, we're in trouble, yo! So we're all going to be cosmically adjudicated and that is one heck of a set up for a science fiction book, right? Abso-friggin-lutely!

Startoucher is unique in everything from alien technology to metaphysical origins. Characters are perfect right down to the alien beings. The only thing I found myself disappointed in was the ending. I know every author wants a lead in to another book which leads to a best selling series but perhaps not every story should go there. There is something to be said for stand alones.

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Review: The General Theory of Haunting

The General Theory of Haunting The General Theory of Haunting by Richard Easter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Richard Easter is the author of a book titled The General Theory of Haunting. This is one of three books Easter has written in his Snow Trilogy. Each book is independent of one another and the other two sound just as interesting as this one does. They are all on my To Read list now which, according to my calculations, I should get to in about 55 years.

Haunting is a ghost story for ghost fanatics. It has a great back story setting up the scene for the present day spine tingling. There is also a romantic feel to the story, something I found makes the whole thing more tragic and made for much more intense scares throughout. The creep factor is almost under the radar and I am impressed at how the author built that up. I was a bit surprised at how much I enjoyed this. It is perfect for a stormy evening, if you can handle it.

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Review: Plagued: Book One: The Girl Who Chased The Shadows

Plagued: Book One: The Girl Who Chased The Shadows Plagued: Book One: The Girl Who Chased The Shadows by Garrison Scott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Plagued: Book One: The Girl Who Chased the Shadows is a post-apocalyptic, fantasy novel with a dash of romance, science fiction, adventure, survival, zombies, and wicked humor written by Garrison Scott. It is difficult to really describe the book in too much detail because doing so would almost ruin the surprise as to what the reader actually gets as each aspect is revealed. Trust me, it's worth the suspense to find out on your own as you read.

Characters are always the make it or break it factor for me. In Plagued the characters kind of vary from fully fleshed out entities to thin charactacatures/stereotypical drones. Thankfully, the main as well as important supporting characters are more often the former of the two. The best plot can't override badly written characters. And speaking of plot, as I mentioned before, the variety of different aspects of life that come to play here really makes this book what it is. Were it simply a post-apocalyptic novel, there wouldn't be such a full story as we get with everything else that life has to throw here. Well done!

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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Review: Closer to Paradise

Closer to Paradise Closer to Paradise by H Stinington
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Closer to Paradise is book one in the 3 volume (at present time) Dancing Romance series written by H. Stinington. Daniel and Isabella are twenty and eighteen year old professional dancers who have won many dance competitions together as a couple. Except they're not a couple, though they desperately want to be. After a fateful night stranded in the same hotel room, those feelings become impossible to ignore and they begin to try to find the way they hope exists to both continue pursuing the top tiers of the dancing world and be a couple in love. In a move far wiser than their ages normally permit, they make a decision to keep their feelings inside for the best of their careers but that's not the end of the story, is it?

This romance is definitely for the younger romance reader. Though their decisions, and to some extent even their dialogue, is more often what you might expect of a more mature character. The scenarios weren't over the top or too conveniently circumstantial, supporting characters were well written and the setting in the world of professional dance competitions was interesting.

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Review: Four Beauties and the Judge

Four Beauties and the Judge Four Beauties and the Judge by Haran Choi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Four Beauties and the Judge is billed as a children's story, a label I remain unsure about. Haran Choi has penned a story of four beautiful (and rather narcissistic) young women who find themselves in the Underworld after falling for a trick scripted by Death. Their lives on Earth as servants to various Emperors in China are judged by a monkey judge named Hu to decide who among them would ascend to the Sky Lounge. What follows is a bizarre beauty pageant with a 'tribal council' feel to the outcome.

The moral of the story is inner beauty is more important than outer but the path to that is a troubled one. There was so much that went unexplained and I felt like if things shouldn't be named if not explained to some extent. There were many places in the book where quotation marks were backwards and oddly placed, missing spaces between words and large spaces between others. Perhaps that was due to formatting rather than author mistake but it irritated me either way.

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Review: On the lighter side of forever

On the lighter side of forever On the lighter side of forever by Everett Lavell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

On the Lighter Side of Forever is a conversational/monologue style self help book with both feet planted firmly in the humor genre. At only twenty-eight pages, it is a short read which I appreciate in books like this. Brevity helps grip a precise focus and here, I found it seemed to keep the tone light even when the topic could have easily gone darker. Speaking of topics, the range here is wide. From parenting to death, happiness to religion, free will to lying, it's all in there somewhere. And it's arranged in just about that order, which is to say no order. One idea leads into another and another and sometimes it felt like some topics were forgotten and left unfinished as the author took on a new brawl with an aspect of life. This is funny but not happy, in my opinion. The language is sarcastic and I usually love that but here it was such biting sarcasm, it came off as angry and jaded.

Best thing about this book? The dedication: “Dedicated to the most magnificent and entertaining person I have ever gotten the pleasure to know. This person, through all life’s trials and tribulations and all its rises and falls, has proven to be nothing less than God’s best work. So it gives me great pleasure to dedicate this book to myself.”

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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Review: Miguel Traveler #1: The Man from Texas

Miguel Traveler #1: The Man from Texas Miguel Traveler #1: The Man from Texas by Daniel McFatter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Miguel Traveler #1, Man from Texas is a post-apocalyptic novel that feels like an old western. Daniel McFatter writes in a unique style that I didn't expect in a book of this genre, though I enjoyed it a lot. In this case, for me, it truly was the way the author wrote his characters and they way he made them speak. Their cadence and mannerisms contrasted so greatly with what I have come to expect from this type of book and it worked like a charm. I found myself quickly engrossed in each character and heavily invested in their futures. Though the circumstances surrounding the events of the plot were interesting and important, none of it would have mattered with lesser characters. McFatter is a "writer" over an "author" in that sense.

Miguel Traveler, Man from Texas is Longmire meets The Walking Dead meets Lonesome Dove meets It. There is no one word description to be delivered here.

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Review: Taerak's Void

Taerak's Void Taerak's Void by M.R. Mathias
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Taerak's Void is the first in a four (possibly up to five) book series called Fantastica written by M.R. Mathias. I started out with book 2, Sapphire of Souls, so going back was warmly welcomed. The world in this fantasy series is rich in mythology, characters, and creatures. I am in awe at what elaborate and unique things have come out of the mind of Mathias.

Fans of fantasy and science fiction, dragons and trolls, and everything in between will be captivated by Taerak's Void. This is full of adventure as the reader follows Braxton through the unbelievable things he must experience here. The word I keep coming back to is sweeping. Everything about the plot, setting, and characters is broad yet defined perfectly. All of the information you need to feel fully immersed is given without the bad aftertaste of info-dump. Mathias is a very talented fantasy author and Taerak's Void is just the right set-up for Sapphire of Souls, which is book two.

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Review: The Last Train

The Last Train The Last Train by Michael Pronko
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Author Michael Pronko brings us The Last Train, a murder mystery where the mystery is not who the murderer is. Set in Tokyo, there is an exotic aura to the story that I thought enhanced everything from plot to characters. I can admit to being completely ignorant of Japanese culture and day to day, it doesn't hold any interest to me. Which is why I was surprised that I enjoyed that aspect of this book as much as I did.

The cliches in The Last Train are plenty but none more-so than brooding, lonely detective, Hiroshi Shimizu. I must say, cliche or not, you gotta love the guy. I did, anyway. All of the characters were fascinating in one way or another, including minor ones. The plot is fast paced but not rushed which is a difficult balance to achieve. I would have no problem recommending this novel to my mystery loving bookies, especially those who gravitate toward police procedurals.

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Review: Unfrozen

Unfrozen Unfrozen by Regine Abel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Coming into a series at book nine usually creates some serious confusion but in Unfrozen, that is not a problem for the reader. In this series, Valos of Sonhadra, each book has a different author so the variance in each one must be wide. I think that's an interesting way to do a series.

The opening scene in Unfrozen is a great hook. My worst fear is physical torture and the depiction of the fear Lydia experiences while she waits for her turn is gut wrenching. It's not easy to write that kind of thing but Regine Abel has a knack for it. Beyond creating that atmosphere of fear, the author also manages to give you some good background without you realizing that you're being told the information.

I'll be honest and say I was disappointed when the setting was changed from the prison. That place was a horrible but fascinating place that I would like to read more about. Aside from personal preferences like that, the book was a great addition to the fantasy genre.

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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Review: A Secret Muse

A Secret Muse A Secret Muse by Mandy Jackson-Beverly
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mandy Jackson-Beverly is the author of A Secret Muse. It is 300 pages of urban fantasy including vampires and ancient societies and how the woman at the center of it all navigates her reality.

We can be honest and say that vampire stories are a dime a dozen and there are rarely any surprises anymore. In A Secret Muse though, the surprise comes from the bad guys! Finally a plot where those who are evil have an actual reason for being that way and not simply thrust into the role by necessity. If you're going to go paranormal, this is the way to go. I enjoyed the action and the back-story helped to solidify everything nicely. The cliff-hanger, though, I could do without. It is possible to create a series without those kind of cliche pseudo-endings.

Something that really irked me was the many errors here that were so evident. Proofreaders are to authors what diamonds are to girls, if you get my drift.

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Review: Bible Giants of Faith: Bible Study Guides

Bible Giants of Faith: Bible Study Guides Bible Giants of Faith: Bible Study Guides by James Taiwo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Bible Giants of Faith: Bible Study Guides (My Bible Stories Book 1) by James Taiwo is probably a great book for outwardly religious people or those interested in the Christian faith and the teachings of the bible. I do not happen to fall into one of those categories so I had to look at this book from a different angle. I, of course, know many of the stories in the Bible and I know the basics of Christianity
so I didn't go in totally blind. Bible Giants of Faith really just retells the stories of 10 ordinary people God used to spread his teachings, so to speak; Abraham, Moses, Joseph, Ruth, Samuel, David, Elijah, Daniel, Esther, and Peter. I think all examples of people living the best they can and doing the best they can are inspirational and those told in the Bible are no different. This was well written with few errors and for being a clearly religious book, the author managed to avoid that condescending preachiness that is so often found in the genre.

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Review: Rebecca Steele: Chasing a Dream: A Look Behind the Scenes at the United States Silver Eagles

Rebecca Steele: Chasing a Dream: A Look Behind the Scenes at the United States Silver Eagles Rebecca Steele: Chasing a Dream: A Look Behind the Scenes at the United States Silver Eagles by Joanne Patterson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Rebecca Steele: Chasing a Dream: A Look Behind the Scenes at the United States Silver Eagles. What is up with the length of this title? Doesn't matter, because the book is pretty good, I just have to wonder if someone ever thought to suggested an alternate title here.

A novel is made by the characters for me so I shall start there. Becky, our heroine, was just the tiniest bit prudish for my taste. She had some interesting quirks and seemed to possess a brain so the level to which she fell into blind, naive love was a contradiction I didn't completely buy. The Silver Eagle love triangle is rounded out by Johnny and Mike. Now I don't want to spoil anything for anyone but they are the ultimate examples of textbook good guy and bad boy. I found it clear from the start who should have gotten the girl and being that this a 'wholesome' romance, of course it would work out this way. Fringe characters here were just background scenery and lacked any real depth. Even so, they were a part of a decent romance novel.

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Review: The MECE Muse: 100+ Selected Practices, Unwritten Rules, and Habits of Great Consultants

The MECE Muse: 100+ Selected Practices, Unwritten Rules, and Habits of Great Consultants The MECE Muse: 100+ Selected Practices, Unwritten Rules, and Habits of Great Consultants by Christie Lindor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Christie Lindor has written MECE Muse: 100+Selected Practices, Unwritten Rules, and Habits of Great Consultants. This is clearly for 'consultants' but after reading through it, this book lays out some great rules for just getting along with people, connecting, and being present in relationships. I will admit to going in with a sense that this was just another book detailing how to fool people into thinking you care in order to get as much money as possible from them; brown nosing, sucking up... whatever you want to label it as. And it is, kind of. I mean the very first thing you read is about how a client gets irate and throws things at a consultant and the author paints it like the tantrum throwing executive was a victim of shoddy preparations by the consultant. That crap doesn't fly with kids in my house and it has no place in the professional world, period. However, if you keep reading, this also has a real genuinity to it. The advice is precise and logical. Everyone from PTA moms to CEOs can get something from MECE Muse.

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