Well, Lacey is back at it again—wrestling with her demons and trying to figure out if there are others worth caring about and saving. The latest shortWell, Lacey is back at it again—wrestling with her demons and trying to figure out if there are others worth caring about and saving. The latest short story in the Back to Bad series, "Audacious", picks up right where "Malicious" left off. Even though I only read "Malicious" a few short months ago, I had to go back and read the last few pages to jog my memory as I was a bit foggy on where I last left Lacey and Jose.
While there is great forward movement in Lacey's story in "Audacious", I feel, the closer we get to the conclusion of the story that Lacey is losing a bit of her bite. However, I suppose you can only get kicked in the teeth so many times before you start to think, "Perhaps I should get a bit of help in trying to confront the demons (real and psychological) in my life."
I always want more Lacey by the time I get to the end of one of the Back to Bad short stories. I envy the late adopters to this series because they will be able to read all 5 stories back-to-back at break neck speed. While I did enjoy this latest installment, I wouldn't mind if the later stories were longer and provided a bit more of a wrap up. As a reviewer, it is getting more difficult to judge each story as a stand alone without a bit of a conclusion at the end of each installment.
I received this book for free from the author in exchange for a honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Have you ever played with a paddle ball? You know that moment when the ball is not quite at the end of its tether,A Solid Bridge Leading to the Finale
Have you ever played with a paddle ball? You know that moment when the ball is not quite at the end of its tether, but hasn’t quite yet made it back to the paddle? That’s “Malicious,” the third installment of the Back to Bad series by Jade Eby.
Once again, the action picks up right where “Voracious” left off. Quickly Lacey is on her own to reflect on her cation and contemplate her next move. Just as she decides what to do next another obstacle (or two) is lobbed at her. This leaves Lacey, and the readers, wondering how Lacey will escape this time.
While this installment of the Back to Bad series isn’t as tension fraught as the first 2 short stories, it is a solid bridge chapter leading to the final two stories featuring Lacey Caldez....more
I can honestly say Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick took me by surprise. I downloaded this via the SYNC Free Downloads event and had no idI can honestly say Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick took me by surprise. I downloaded this via the SYNC Free Downloads event and had no idea what the book was about. Interestingly enough, I had also read The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb, which deals with some of the same issues. I also listened to this novel right after Code Name Verity so you can imagine my shock when the novel starts off with a kid handling a P-38 WWII Nazi handgun.
This novel is a tough, honest look at bullying. Right from the start the reader knows what Leonard's plan is, but the reasons are not totally clear beyond perhaps the usual teenage angst and lack of belonging. When it is finally revealed why Leonard is considering the extreme measure of murder/suicide, I was shocked and immediately heartbroken. I wanted to take Leonard in my arms and give him solace.
The issues this book deals with are quite hard-hitting and may not sit well with all readers. It certainly takes a unique view and gives voice to the person being bullied. There's also a brief glimpse of why the bullying was happening in the first place. For me, the saddest part was not Leonard and his decision, but the lack of involvement from the parents. For me, it says a lot about our society when parents are not connected to their kids and ignore the changes the Leonard saw in himself and Asher.
Overall, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick receives a thumbs up. It's a solid book that deals with some hard-hitting issues that some readers may find troubling, but those issues definitely receive an honest examination. ...more
A collection of 18 short stories, Traveling Left of Center by Nancy Christie takes you on a journey through the human condition. Christie is a masterfA collection of 18 short stories, Traveling Left of Center by Nancy Christie takes you on a journey through the human condition. Christie is a masterful writer fully developing characters in just a few short pages. There is a quote in "Skating on Thin Ice" that summarizes this collection quite nicely.
"I have since learned that thin ice is not only a condition of winter, not confined to stretches of frozen water. There is thin ice everywhere--between lovers and friends, between reality and obsession, between hope and despair."
The quote also probably explains why even though none of the stories in this collection are especially happy; they are not extremely depressing either. Each story was like getting a glimpse into some poor soul's life, almost like a commercial or snapshot, and then stepping away. Each snapshot was fully told and I could move on and I believe the characters moved on, for better or for worse.
My favorite stories in the collection "Alice in Wonderland": I had a chance to review this story earlier this year. Read my full review.
"The Clock": The poor husband in this story gets his revenge. It reminded me of some of the episodes of The Twilight Zone.
"Exit Row": Oh, the horrors of flying and being stuck with someone you hate! How would you escape?
Overall, I would give Traveling Left of Center by Nancie Christie a thumbs up. While I liked some stories better than others, each story is unique, well-rounded and gives a tantalizing peak into difficulties of the human condition. ...more
I don’t even know where to start with Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. This book had me from page one. I’m a sucker for World War II history. I’m aI don’t even know where to start with Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. This book had me from page one. I’m a sucker for World War II history. I’m a sucker for U.K. accents. So you can imagine how this novel, in audiobook format thanks to SYNC, had me from the very first phrase that Queenie utters.
Here’s what worked for me…the point of view from which the story is told (first person) and how that story is shared (letters and diary entries). Listening to the book in the comfort of my cozy car, I felt like Queenie and Maddie were sitting in the car with me telling me their stories. They were my carpool partners. This book definitely made me wish my commute was longer than 20 minutes each way.
When I got to the climax of the story on my drive home from work, I was in tears at the stoplight nearest my home. I can’t imagine being in Maddie’s position and making that decision. It was unfathomable. I definitely DID NOT see it coming. And I still get a bit choked up thinking about it.
There are lots of literary references in the novel especially to Peter Pan. I do wish I had read the book rather than listened as I am sure I would have marked my copy up with notes. I actually found this image on Pinterest listing the Peter Pan references. I definitely want to read Peter Pan and re-read Code Name Verity after I complete “Pan.”
Here’s my tip…if the Author Notes are in your copy, READ THEM! Once I finished listening to the novel, I was delighted to find that Wein had recorded her notes about how the novel came into being. That’s my favorite part about historical fiction, learning how it connects to the real history–where the inspiration to write a historical fiction novel comes from.
As you can tell, I am giving Code Name Verity two thumbs way up! I’m waiting for someone I know to read this and share in my joy for this beautifully crafted novel so I can talk about what actually happened. This is easily the best book I have read this year....more
I had the opportunity to see Wally Lamb in Cedar Rapids as a part of the Outloud! Author Series sponsored by the Metro Library Network. Mr. Lamb has bI had the opportunity to see Wally Lamb in Cedar Rapids as a part of the Outloud! Author Series sponsored by the Metro Library Network. Mr. Lamb has been one of those mysterious authors floating out in the ether. An author one would think that as an English major in college, I would have read by now, but until this year, I hadn’t. Mr. Lamb talked about all his books during his reading and the one that most caught my attention was The Hour I First Believed. The book chronicles a couple who survived Columbine and links in elements of historical fiction and despite the size of the book (over 700 pages), I decided to give it a shot.
I’ll keep this review short and sweet. I did finish The Hour I First Believed. When I finished it, I thought I might have to go into therapy. The book is depressing with very little redemption for the characters until the last few pages. It’s 700 pages to the bottom of a deep dark pit of adultery, addiction, abuse, bullying and self-loathing. The writing is beautiful. The story is expertly woven showing how the past affects the future. But the lack of genuine happiness without cynicism left me feeling empty and depressed.
I’m glad I gave a Wally Lamb book a chance. There were some interesting observations about the Columbine tragedy that reflect discussions that have happened on social media lately. However, if all of Lamb’s books are about the dark side of the human condition without more hope for redemption, I think I’ll back away slowly and stay in the worlds created by the fantasy books I so often chose to read. The Hour I First Believed, unfortunately, gets a thumbs down....more
I once again had the opportunity to hear Heather Gudenkauf speak at our local Barnes and Noble. It’s always a pleasure to see Heather as she is friendI once again had the opportunity to hear Heather Gudenkauf speak at our local Barnes and Noble. It’s always a pleasure to see Heather as she is friendly, warm and honest about her journey as a writer. After her reading and Q & A, I picked up a copy of her latest novel, Little Mercies, which I immediately started reading almost as soon as I got home. I was immediately sucked into Little Mercies and it didn’t let me go until the end.
Heather is very talented with her character development. The characters in Little Mercies are real especially Ellen. I am not a mother, but my heart ached and my eyes filled with tears during her most trying moments. I can’t imagine what it would be like for a parent to read this novel. They would probably need to buy stock in tissues just to make it to the last page!
My favorite thing about Heather’s books is the way she rolls out the plot. The point of contention comes early. She patiently puts her characters through hell while, every once in a while, shining a flashlight in the darkness to give the characters and the reader hope–a little mercy so to speak. She doesn’t rush the story or push the characters beyond what would be considered a reasonable breaking point. The events and emotions are all very real. All these things together make Little Mercies a thumbs up....more
I first learned about the orphan trains that ran from the east coast through the midwest during the Iowa Book Festival a couple of years ago when I atI first learned about the orphan trains that ran from the east coast through the midwest during the Iowa Book Festival a couple of years ago when I attended the reading given by Laura Moriarty for her novel The Chaperone which also explores a train orphan's search for who she is. I really enjoyed The Chaperone and was looking for a similar experience when I picked up Orphan Train.
I'm sad to say that I did not enjoy Orphan Train. The book seemed to skim the surface of all the issues, the characters were paper dolls that did predictable things. Usually, I enjoy books that try to show how our current times are reflected in our past. But Vivian's and Molly's connection, because of their continued distrust of one another, never becomes the strong and loving friendship that, I feel, was intended until it's too late. The lack of growth in the characters' relationships prevented me from connecting with story and the people the story was about.
This was also one of those books where the main characters had every bad (and good) thing conceivable happen to them. It made the plot seem contrived and a little too convenient. Now I won't deny that some of the things that Vivian experienced in her life happened to some of the train orphans. However, to have all of that happen to a SINGLE person is a bit too Lifetime movie-ish for me. As a result, as the book progressed, I would roll my eyes as the next huge life event would happen.
In the end, because I had a difficult time connecting with the characters and believing all those things could happen to one person, Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline receives a thumbs down.
Are you read for another wild ride with Lacey? In just 35 pages, Eby once again packs in tons of page turning action. "Voracious" picks up just secondAre you read for another wild ride with Lacey? In just 35 pages, Eby once again packs in tons of page turning action. "Voracious" picks up just seconds after "Capricious" ends and Lacey's situation hasn't improved, but she is determined make things go her way. Using the skills she learned as a stripper, Lacey attempts to take control of the situation, but luck is never on Lacey's side. I don't think I understood just how helpful those skills would be until Lacey was face-to-face (okay, so maybe it was a little more intimate than face-to-face) with Jose, Robbie's Right Hand Man. Head over to Amazon.com, pick up and read "Capricious" and "Voracious". Then add the next stories in the Back to Bad Series, "Malicious," "Audacious" and "Tenacious" to your to-read list. You won't regret it!
I received an Advanced Reader Copy from the author in exchange for an honest review....more
This review of Tease by Amanda Maciel may contain spoilers. I’m not certain I can fully express why I did not enjoy this book without saying a bit aboThis review of Tease by Amanda Maciel may contain spoilers. I’m not certain I can fully express why I did not enjoy this book without saying a bit about the plot.
I had high hopes for this novel (maybe too high) when I saw it pop up in the blogosphere. What caught my eye were the descriptions about how it shows the bully’s side of the story and the cause and effect of the bullying actions after the person being bullied commits suicide. The book does cover that, in a sense, but I don’t feel the message is delivered effectively as I had hoped.
Sarah, the main character, is a tag-a-long. She’s not necessarily the main bully; at least I didn’t see her that way. One could argue that Sarah, herself, is being bullied by the toxic group of girls she chooses to hang out with. Sarah doesn’t quite fit in socially or economically with the gaggle of popular girls, she seems to become the scapegoat in the trial that follows Emma’s death. Her parents are divorced. She can’t afford the fancy lawyer. In my opinion, Sarah didn’t lead the majority of attacks and suffers from Stockholm Syndrome. Her strong need to have Brielle accept her, drives her to ignore what her conscience tells her almost every time she’s in a bad situation. She tries desperately to be a good friend with Brielle despite what she knows is wrong.
In the end, Sarah does realize that her participation has caused irreparable harm. The fact not all the bullies came to the same conclusion and because some of them had better lawyers than others, I feel Sarah paid a higher price in the courtroom, in the public’s eyes and especially emotionally. As a result, I was disappointed in how the story wrapped up. I understand that not everything is fair in life, but if this book was truly about the bullies coming to grips with how their actions caused Emma’s suicide, Brielle and the others would have paid a greater price....more
This is the first short short I have read by Áine Greaney and while it isn't my favorite short story in my recent reads, it does have some strong elemThis is the first short short I have read by Áine Greaney and while it isn't my favorite short story in my recent reads, it does have some strong elements that kept me engaged with the story until the end. Ms. Greaney does an excellent job of setting up the location in Ireland. I felt like I could see the street where Delores's family shop is located. And I could feel the cold of a Dublin winter as the snow fell on the late night scene. This small corner of Dublin becomes a character in the story.
The struggle for me was the number of unanswered questions. What happened between Dolores and her father? There's obviously something that caused her to move to America and there definitely a deep seeded guilt (and maybe a reason for her avoidance), beyond her father's illness, forcing her to stay in Dublin when she has a husband and a life back in New York. And then there is the mysterious Ferguson. Why did he buy the place across the way? Has he always been a loner? Why does he fancy Dolores? Heck, why does Dolores fancy him?
But then I tell myself to stop asking questions and enjoy the story for what the author is sharing with me in just a few short pages. And realize, because I am asking questions and wishing to know more, there is a magical, secret conversation happening between me and the author.
Because of her ability to paint a beautiful picture of Dublin during a snowstorm and stirring my desire to know more about the characters in the story, I give Snow by Áine Greaney a thumbs up....more
This Crumbling Pageant by Patricia Burroughs packs a punch. It combines so much mythology--Roman, Celtic, Arthurian and Christian--into one story it'sThis Crumbling Pageant by Patricia Burroughs packs a punch. It combines so much mythology--Roman, Celtic, Arthurian and Christian--into one story it's a wonder how it all fits together. But fit together it does and once the story gets moving it doesn't let up until the last page is turned.
Persephone Fury has a gift or is it a curse? Throughout the course of the novel, with Burroughs's deft handling of the main character, the reader is never quite sure. She weaves a fantasy world with strange powers that sits parallel to our own where the Ordinary are not aware of the magical world and its machinations.
Apparently the end of the world will happen in the Midwest. More specifically the end of the world will happen in Iowa. Andrew Smith’s novel, GrasshopApparently the end of the world will happen in the Midwest. More specifically the end of the world will happen in Iowa. Andrew Smith’s novel, Grasshopper Jungle, is set in a fictional town in Iowa and is told from the point of view of a teenage boy, Austin, who only really thinks about two things…food and sex. So if you are easily offended, you may want to avoid this book because there is an awful lot about sex that some people might find offensive. “You know what I mean.”
I liked Grasshopper Jungle. More specifically, I liked Austin Szerba, the historian. I admired Austin’s observations about history and how he is connected to it. Austin shares a lot of his family history and the history of the inhabitants of his hometown in an effort to show how everything in the universe is connected.
I wasn’t so much a fan of Austin Szerba, the sexually confused teen. After a while, I became annoyed with Austin’s and Robby’s, his best friend, constant smoking, fowl language and bad attitudes. Perhaps that is a sign I am old. I just wanted Austin “to figure it out.” However, I have never questioned my sexual orientation so I recognize that it is a little unreasonable for me to be asking a fictional teenager to just figure it out and get on with it.
Grasshopper Jungle is an apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic science fiction novel that doesn’t take itself too seriously. There were many laugh out loud moments for me. While the future may look bleak and may involve Unstoppable Giant Praying Mantises that are very hungry and very horny, it reminded me that even in the bleakest and most confusing situations laughter can be the best medicine. Grasshopper Jungle receives a thumbs up. ...more
"Alice in Wonderland" by Nancy Christie was featured in The Fussy Librarian recently. At last check it was just 99 cents on Amazon.com. The title alon"Alice in Wonderland" by Nancy Christie was featured in The Fussy Librarian recently. At last check it was just 99 cents on Amazon.com. The title alone drew me in. I'm a huge fan of the retellings of fairy tales and am always on the lookout for a fresh, unique take and Alice in Wonderland delivers.
I'm not quite sure what caught my attention when I was in Half Price Books after Christmas, but I saw The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth GiI'm not quite sure what caught my attention when I was in Half Price Books after Christmas, but I saw The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga on the clearance shelf and had to buy it. Certainly the price point was a draw, but something else grabbed me when I read the inside of the dust jacket. Perhaps it was a feeling of solidarity.
Fanboy is a loner and he has a passion for comic books. He has one friend, a jock named Cal, who shares the same passion. Then Fanboy meets Goth Girl and everything changes.
I enjoyed The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl. The characters were richly drawn teenagers with realistic problems. I was able to identify with Fanboy and his passion for comics. I have my own passions and sometimes hold so tightly to them that sharing them with others seems like a betrayal and a huge risk. No one could possibly love my passions as much as I do, right? But, as Fanboy learns, perhaps sharing your passion allows for other astonishing things to happen.
While Lyga does a great job building and creating the teenage characters in the book, the adults seemed like caricatures. Fanboy's mother complains a lot; and his stepfather was barely redeemable as a human until the very end. The assistant principal at the school was an idiot and easily steamrolled. Would a student really be able to convince one of their teachers that The Great Depression was caused by a Tortoise Blight? I found myself rolling my eyes a lot when the adults entered the picture because the scenes tended towards the extreme. The book is told from Fanboy's perspective so perhaps that was intentional. I guess most teenagers (including myself when I was that age) see their parents in a similar fashion and do wish their teachers were pushovers.
Overall, I liked The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga. Lyga creates vivid teenagers who struggle with real problems. He creates a plot that is easy to connect with and has some surprising twists and turns including a jaw dropping run in with a comic book author. Talk about fangirling! The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga gets a thumbs up....more
In just 32 short pages, Eby paints a tragic picture of the main character. Lacey is in a tough situation and she is forced to go back to an old "friend" for help. The story takes an unexpected turn in the end that will have you screaming, but it is worth the ride.
Eby does a great job showing the desperation of the characters and creating locales that seem very real. I've never stepped foot in a strip club, but with the vivid descriptions in the story, I could probably fake it if someone asked me and I wanted to seem cool. Jade also does a great job of building the suspense that doesn't get downplayed or overplayed in the end. It's a sweet spot that some authors who write this type of story can easily miss.
This is the second story by Jade that I've read. This one, like the first, gets a thumbs up. I'm looking forward to her second full length novel, The Finish , coming out later this year.
Jade Eby introduced me to S. by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst. I didn't need much persuading to buy the book once she stopped by my desk with her copy anJade Eby introduced me to S. by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst. I didn't need much persuading to buy the book once she stopped by my desk with her copy and started pulling pieces out of the book and showing me the intricate margin notes. The only thing holding me back from buying the book was that it was on backorder and didn't arrive on my doorstep until February 15. I placed my order on December 28.
S. by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst is a complicated book and I've decided to take it slow and try to digest it a bit. If you aren't familiar with how this book works, I invite you to check out the links on Jade's blog, Chasing Empty Pavements. S. is a romance story told in the margins of the novel The Ship of Theseus by V.M Straka. I have gotten through The Ship of Theseus and now need to go back through the book and read the two or three sets of margin notes.
As a stand alone novel, The Ship of Theseus by V.M Straka is quite mysterious. The main character journeys throughout the novel on a ship bound to ports unknown searching for his identity and a woman he may (or may not) love.
As I got further and further into the novel, I couldn't help but be reminded by Lost, one of my favorite shows. There are lots of layers (like an onion and ogres) that if you wanted to peel them back one-by-one, I'm sure there is some existential meaning behind the man's journey, his memory loss, the crazy boat and the leader, Vevoda. The Ship of Theseus looks like, feels like and smells like (I'm not kidding) a dusty old novel I would have been required to read in one of my literature classes in college. I feel I would have enjoyed it more if I could have read a chapter and discussed it in detail with a group of people. Since this is a J.J. Abrams creation, I knew it was completely possible by the time I got through my first read through of S. /The Ship of Theseus none of my questions about the man and his memory loss would be answered. I tried to see the deeper message and let the book speak to me. It really didn't.
I am hoping that as I go through S. for the second time and read the margin notes, the real magic of S. will come alive. I did try to read the margin notes as I read The Ship of Theseus, but I felt like I was trodding through mud and getting lost in details that didn't make sense because I hadn't read enough of The Ship of Theseus yet for them to make sense. Trying to read the margin notes while reading the main novel made progress really slow and confusing to I switch my focus back to JUST The Ship of Theseus and the margin notes in pencil.
I am looking forward to reading through S. by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst again. I just need a bit of a brain break and will get back to it soon....more
I came across this book by a chance conversation with one of the booksellers at Barnes and Noble. All she had to say was, "It's like Dan Brown, but beI came across this book by a chance conversation with one of the booksellers at Barnes and Noble. All she had to say was, "It's like Dan Brown, but better." See the issue I had with The Da Vinci Code was the ending. The reveal of who done it was such a let down to me as a reader. "I spent all those hours on the edge of my seat for that?!" was my thought when I got to end. I hate mysteries that leave me feeling like that. So I bit on The Breath of God which I checked out of my local library.
The Breath of God was a better read for me than The Da Vinci Code. Unlike The Da Vinci Code which is based on conspiracy theories, which depending on your bent, may or may not be true, The Breath of God is based on religious doctrine and posed questions I've often asked myself. Why do all the major religions of the world share some of the same basic tenants? How did that happen? Why did that happen? How did history shape religion? Now if you want a humorous answer to these questions, you must really check out Lamb by Christopher Moore. If satire and humor, when applied to religion really aren't your thing, then The Breath of God is right up your alley.
Small doesn't create the gripping cliffhangers at the end of each chapter that Brown does and I was able to read the book in short bursts and walk away without it constantly nagging at me like The Da Vinci Code did. Small, on the whole, does craft a stronger story that provides you with the major building blocks to see how the religions in the world may be connected. You can see how the pieces of the plot and the Issa story fit together. I like being given breadcrumbs that lead me to the end of the story.
A few of Small's characters are a bit on the extreme side and at times, maybe a little over the top. After Grant, the main character in the story, achieves his life long goal, the story isn't quite wrapped up. I'm not a reader who necessarily needs all the plot lines wrapped up into a neat little bow. As a result, the last 30 or so pages after Grant returns to the States seemed a little extraneous. I wasn't necessarily concerned with how his discovery was going be received by the Christian Fundamentalists. However, I'm sure I'm in the minority and Small does a over the top, all the "bad" guys have to pay ending which was disappointing. I was left wondering why the book couldn't just have ended after Chapter 55.
Overall, I liked The Breath of God by Jeffery Small. There was an academic approach to religion that I appreciated. And while some of the characters were over the top, the book had a satisfying conclusion that didn't leave me mystified (or pissed) at the end....more