In the fantastical, dystopian world of An Ember in the Ashes, the Scholars, a once powerful and educated people, live under the ruthless Martial Empire, which has kept them in poverty and illiterate for generations. Told from two perspectives, An Ember in the Ashes opens on the night of a Martial raid on the house of Laia, a Scholar, and her family. When her brother Darin is arrested for treason, Laia flees the scene and goes in search of the only group of people that can help her, the Resistance. Unfortunately their help comes with certain expectations and Laia soon finds herself within the walls of Blackcliff Military Academy, working as a slavegirl and spying on the ruthless Commandant.
The second perspective comes from Elias, a soldier and Mask of the Martial Empire. Just days away from graduation and becoming one of the Martial Empires most feared soldiers, Elias should be proud and celebrating his success, but he has a terrible secret. A secret that he keeps even from those that are closest to him. A secret, that if uncovered would surely destroy him. When approached by an Auger, an ancient group of mystics that use their knowledge of prophecies to influence and manipulate present and future events, Elias is forced to choose between a life of freedom away from the constricting walls of the Academy or staying and fulfilling his destiny.
Brimming with intrigue, mystery and action, gripping and provoking strong emotions from the opening lines, the advanced praise and buzz for An Ember in the Ashes has just been amazing and deservedly so. Sabaa Tahir’s debut has captivated and engrossed readers of all ages and why shouldn’t it; An Ember in the Ashes covers all the basis of your typical YA novel, including social inequality, rebellion of the oppressed, strong female and male characters, loyalty, friendships and provides a healthy dose of social commentary.
But don’t be fooled people because An Ember in the Ashes is anything but a typical YA read. First of all, this book is dark, at times gruesome and there are some evil, horrible people doing unbearably hurtful and horrifying things to human beings. There are definitely no unicorns and rainbows anywhere to be found. And you know what, that’s okay because it’s so honest and real. The characters that Sabaa Tahir has created are strong and imperfect, they have doubts and show fear, make mistakes. They love, grieve and hate like all humans do. Their relationships are complex, involved and messy. These characters are making choices that have devastating consequences, they are sacrificing themselves for their friends, their loved ones, for their beliefs. I guarantee that you will care about some and hate others. They will make you laugh and cry, enrage you and disgust you and at the end, when all is said and done, they will stay with you.
But what captivated me, impressed me and earned my utmost respect was Sabaa Tahir’s writing. To say that it is simply intelligent is to do it a disservice because it is so much more than that. Through her words she is uplifting the reader, demanding their attention, showing them respect, and seeing them as equal. It’s true, that there are some horrific moments in this book, but at no time is it gratuitous or unnecessary. There are no cheaply devised tricks to hold the reader’s interest or create a fantastical plot twist to explain an awkwardly constructed storyline. I can’t convey enough what a refreshing change this is from some of the YA out there that takes an unfortunate sensationalistic approach, pandering to the reader’s perceived need for instant gratification. With An Ember in the Ashes, Sabaa Tahir has restored my faith in the art writing and storytelling.
An Ember in the Ashes was an absolutely amazingly awesome read. I am so happy that I got a chance to read this wonderfully crafted story and hope to read many more novels by Sabaa Tahir in the future. ...more
On the eve of proposing to his long-time girlfriend, Amanda, Justin meets with his dad for lunch to announce his plans. In his usual manner, and with the same straightforward, no nonsense humour that made us love him in Sh*t My dad Says, Justin’s dad tells him to take a day to think about everything he has ever learned about women, love, sex and relationships. What follows is Justin’s humorous account of these reflections, starting with his first crush in childhood, his first kiss, loss of virginity and ultimately meeting Amanda in adulthood.
Although not as funny as Sh*t My dad Says, and there definitely is not enough of Justin’s dad, I Suck at Girls is a poignant and touching account of the trials and tribulations we all face on our journey to find love and acceptance. Many of Justin’s experiences and insecurities, dilemmas, fears and hopes are universal, something each and every one of us has dealt with at some point and this is what makes this book so endearing. There are many new characters introduced, including Justin’s brothers, childhood friends and coworkers who were all amusing, but the whole time I was reading I just kept wishing there had been more of his dad’s awesomely funny and insightful quotes.
All in all a satisfying and quick read (only took a few hours) and one I would recommend, especially for the men out there.
Determined to come to terms with painful childhood memories, disappointing personal decisions and secrets that threaten to undermine her future, Liz Kroft decides to embark on a journey of self-rediscovery hiking the John Muir Trail. Meant to be a three-week, solitary journey of introspection, her plans unexpectedly change when her boyfriend Dante decides to join her at the last minute. As the trek unfolds, Liz is forced to take ownership of her past actions and face up to her deepest secrets and fears, all the while dealing with the demanding hike, majestic but daunting landscape, inclement weather, as well as some unsavoury characters.
It’s true that The Middle of Something is the eloquently told tale of one woman’s journey in search of clarity, repentance, acceptance and forgiveness, but don’t let the book’s blurb fool you. Within the pages of this wonderfully written book, Sonja Yoerg has artfully and skillfully crafted a fast paced, heart pumping adventure tale that will not only pull at your heart strings but get your adrenaline pumping too. Not only did this unexpected twist add a level of complexity to an already great story line, but increased the enjoyment of the book as a whole.
The scenery and landscape of the John Muir trail are captured so vividly that I wish I were a hiker. I was so captivated by the majestic beauty described that I would love to go on this journey myself! The characters are engaging and true to life, their emotions, dialogues, interactions and mannerisms so realistically rendered that you can’t help but get emotionally attached to them. As much as Sonja Yoerg has created Liz, Dante, Paul and Linda to be personable and likable, the Roots brothers were created perfectly evil and add just the right amount of danger and excitement.
The Middle of Somewhere was such a wonderfully surprising read, very satisfying and entertaining. I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it to fans of women’s fiction and thrillers alike. You should all definitely get your hands on a copy of this great read and while you’re at it, check out Sonja Yoerg’s debut novel House Broken.
Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Group (Berkley)/NAL for providing me an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review....more
After spending the better part of last month binge reading the preceding installments in this series, I was excited to finally sit down with the latest Pendergast novel. Having suffered a tragedy and debilitating illness, Agent Pendergast was a little scarce in the previous novels, White Fire and Blue Labyrinth, so I am happy to report that in Crimson Shore, Pendergast is back! And not only is he the star of the show but he is in top form, perfectly polished and reserved (and oh, so sexy!), back to using his intelligence and unique investigative style to solve this latest crime.
At the request of the renowned sculptor Percival Lake, Agent Pendergast and Constance Green travel to the small town of Exmouth, Massachusetts in order to investigate the apparent theft of Mr. Lake’s extensive, and very expensive, wine collection. With the discovery of a hidden compartment in the wine cellar, containing an old bone fragment, this seemingly straightforward robbery quickly takes a dark and sinister turn, and the duos investigation uncovers this small town’s disturbing, long buried secret involving murder, witches covens and shipwrecked treasures.
Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child are absolute masters of suspenseful mystery thrillers, and this latest Pendergast adventure is proof of that talent. Crimson Shore is a fast moving mystery, weaving in just the right amount of the paranormal thriller and historical fiction. They captured the atmosphere and mentality of a small coastal town perfectly, and created for the reader, almost from the very first page, a creepy, dark, sinister and dangerous atmosphere.
The relationship between Constance and Pendergast is absolutely electrifying and I just loved how their characters played on each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Hoping that this is a trend for future installments. Pendergast is a master manipulator and uses this talent to uncover information in his investigations, so it was nice to see this again in Crimson Shore. Aside from the mystery aspect of these books, his investigative techniques, and the situations that are created as a result, are a hugely entertaining part of the storyline and something that I always look forward to.
With a blend of mystery and suspense, with a touch of the paranormal and some surprising sexual tension mixed in, Crimson Shore has it all. All in all, a highly entertaining and addictive read. Definitely recommend!
I give Crimson Shore 4/5 stars.
Thank you to NetGalley and Grand Central Publishing for providing me an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review. ...more
Since their father left the family to marry another woman, and with an absentee mother always too self-absorbed in her own drama to take care of her cSince their father left the family to marry another woman, and with an absentee mother always too self-absorbed in her own drama to take care of her children, sisters Eva and Kim have always been there for each other. While for Kim, Eva is all the family she needs, Eva considers Harry, her best friend, a part of her family as well. Unfortunately, Kim and Harry dislike each other and there is nothing they can agree upon, have nothing in common except their love for Eva. Through each milestone and family event they are at conflict until the moment when a person near and dear to them suffers a tragedy. Will this moment finally put Kim and Harry on the same page and help them put their differences aside?
The premise of the book initially drew me in, and it being marketed for fans of Jojo Moyes didn’t hurt! While the build up created in the storyline kept me eagerly turning the pages, I soon realised that each resulting twist and plot resolution chipped away at my enjoyment of this book. So the most important plot point of Don’t Get Me Wrong is that Kim and Harry dislike each other because of something he did when they first met, and the whole time I’m reading I’m hoping and expecting it to be something horrible (with all the buildup that’s what you would expect, right?) but in the end it’s really nothing and that’s so disappointing!
I love books that start off with the prologue or first chapter in the present and then have story go back into the past and working its way back to the present, developing both the characters and plotline, creating a connection for the reader to the story. Don’t Get Me Wrong tries to follow this style but the timeline shifts are confusing and at times occurring with no previous lead-up or explanation, so that it took me a few pages to figure out what was going on.
In the end, I can’t exactly say that I didn’t like this book but I didn’t really like it either. All I wanted to do was read a good romance novel and Don’t Get Me Wrong unfortunately wasn’t.
I give this book 2/5 stars.
Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for providing me an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review. ...more
Recently separated from her husband Chris, and in a difficult relationship with her young daughter, Hannah, Isabel Moore, a forty-something teacher is struggling to overcome the grief that has consumed her since the tragic (and somewhat puzzling) death of her best friend Josie a year ago. Conflicted by her loyalty to Josie and feelings of self-reproach for the mysterious and difficult circumstances surrounding her death, Isabel is just trying to survive day to day, dealing with the paralysing and debilitating effects of her depression and grief. When her mother suggests she joins a support group, Isabel is initially reluctant but then the chance meeting with a new man, opens up Isabel to the possibility of hope and a new lease on her future.
Lauren Fox is a good writer and I commend her for the great job she did in creating the emotionally traumatised, broken and grieving character of Isabel. I just wished I could reach out and hug her and give her the support she needed through her tough time because this is what he so desperately needed and somehow never got from the people around her. Because just as great as Isabel’s character was created, that is how much the others, including Isabel’s husband and friend Mark were lacking. They came across as cold, uncaring and impatient, and gave the impression that they found Isabel and her behaviour to be a nuisance.
I’m feeling like a broken record because I find myself repeating the same words I have written in many reviews this year. Unfortunately, Days of Awe is just another example of what happens when writing (although at times good) lets down the entire storyline of a book. So many great ideas were started or implied but nothing came of them because of vague and lacklustre word usage. It’s like reading a book of cliff-hangers…so frustrating!
Days of Awe has left me conflicted and somewhat indifferent. Even after many weeks of reflection, I’m still not quite sure where I stand when it comes to liking this book. For all the reasons listed above (both the good and the bad) I am giving Days of Awe 2/5 stars. It was neither good nor bad, just ok.
Thank you to NetGalley and Knopf for providing me an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review. ...more
Way back in 1995, or thereabouts, I read my first Tom Savage novel, the fast-paced and chilling mystery thriller Precipice. Years later I came across an old copy of it at a book sale and re-read it once more. It was just as deliciously deceptive and thrilling as I remembered it to be. So of course, when I saw that there was a new Tom Savage thriller coming out, I had to get my hands on a copy of it. What follows are my thoughts after reading Mrs. John Doe.
Nora Baron, also known by her stage name Noreen Hughes, is a former actress and current drama/acting teacher on Long Island Sound. Wife to Jeff Baron, electronics consultant, and mother to Dana, she lives a fairly peaceful and idyllic life. After receiving a distressing phone call from her husband’s employer informing her of Jeff’s death, Nora travels to London, England to identify her husband’s body. As soon as she lands, things take an unexpected turn and Nora soon realises that not everyone is who they appear to be, as she unwittingly becomes a person of interest in a dangerous international conspiracy.
The first half of the book was exactly what I had expected from Tom Savage, a fast paced, unpredictable and compulsively page turning read. The author’s use of subterfuge and misdirection was excellent, and I found myself blindsided by some of the twists in the storyline. Nora Baron, as the main character was portrayed as a quite capable, strong woman, and an excellent female role model. We definitely need more books with women like her. However, as the story progressed, everything became a little too perfect and too convenient for even this book, which already at the get go requires you to suspend all disbelief. I found the ending actually quite predictable, having kind of guessed the outcome sometime in the second half of the book. In the end, not at the same level as Precipice, but nonetheless a light and easy to read, entertaining spy thriller.
I give Mrs. John Doe 3/5 stars.
Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing (Alibi) for providing me an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review. ...more
The Shift is a well written and very readable account of a 12 hour nursing shift in the oncology ward at a busy US teaching hospital. To be more specific, The Shift follows the author, Theresa Brown, a practicing nurse, during one of her typical shifts, trying to balance caring for her cancer patients with compassion and grace with the necessity for meticulous administrative and record keeping duties.
Although based on her true life experiences, the patients and events written about in The Shift are in fact a fusion of the many patients Theresa Brown has cared for over the years. This is in no way meant as a criticism, I only mention it because I find that it adds a certain robustness to her writing, providing wonderful, well-rounded insight into the behind the scenes look of a nurse’s working environment. Theresa Browns writing is fluid and sharp, which gives this non-fiction read a very ‘fiction novel’ feel. It also creates such realistic and vivid scenes that as a reader, I often felt the rush and stress of her job, amazed at the multitasking and prioritizing required, all the while keeping a level head.
I don’t know how close her accounts are to those of nurses in the Canadian medical system but one thing is certain: nurses are an indispensible part of the medical system and should be accorded the utmost respect.
On her latest trip to Rome, talented violinist Julia Ansdell, buys a book of gypsy music at a local antique store and discovers within its pages a handwritten piece of music entitled the Incendio Waltz. Once home with her family, loving husband Rob and beautiful three year old daughter Lily, Julia sits down to play this piece of music. The melody is hauntingly mesmerizing and completely captivates her attention; but while it is blissful for Julia, this same piece of music is causing strange and disturbing behaviour in her young daughter. With only the name L. Todesco as a clue, and determined to understand the cause of her daughter’s chilling outbursts, Julia uncovers the tragic love story of Lorenzo and Laura and unwittingly unearths a dark and ugly moment in Italian history.
Having read all of Tess Gerritsen’s novels, including the entire Rizzoli & Isles series and her standalones, I jumped at the chance to read and review her latest thriller, Playing with Fire. Having made a name for herself in the mystery/thriller department, Tess Gerritsen adds a welcome dose of historical fiction to the mix in this dark and chilling fast paced thriller. She is a masterful storyteller and I just loved how the two timelines complimented each other, blending a quick paced and thrilling plotline with an equally poignant and intricately researched historical component that added such richness, emotion (and a little bit of romance) to the overall feel and flow of the novel. Reading about the fate of Lorenzo and his fellow Italian Jews during WWII was both fascinating and educational without being too overbearing or dark.
With Julia, Lorenzo and Laura, Tess Gerritsen has created strong, intelligent, and emotionally involved characters that the reader can easily engage with and care about. On this level, the author never disappoints. The passion of creating and playing music shared by the characters was intense and beautifully captured and portrayed throughout the story. Although I found some of their dialogue to be slightly cringe-worthy, I can honestly say that I was so involved with the characters trials and tribulations that the ending absolutely, positively took me for a loop. Bravo!
Playing with Fire is definitely for those who like a side of historical fiction with their mystery thrillers. If you’ve enjoyed Tess Gerritsen’s previous novels, or if you have come across her for the very first time, I recommend you pick up a copy of Playing with Fire. You will not be disappointed!
I give Playing with Fire 4/5 stars.
Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing (Ballantine Books) for providing me an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review....more
Stavros Stavros Mavrakis is the patriarch of a dysfunctional and highly opinionated Greek immigrant family, living in New Jersey. He is the proud owner of Gala Diner, father to three daughters and the ex-husband to a handful of ex-wives. After having a premonition of his death in exactly ten days, he writes an emotionally heated email to his family outlining his thoughts and final wishes. While for Stavros these are dark times, his family and friends, however, are taking the news of his impending death lightly, immune to his frequently absurd, overbearing and dramatic outbursts. When the tenth day finally dawns, and the events of this tumultuous day are revealed, the Mavrakis clan is changed forever.
In Let Me Explain You, Annie Liontas has eloquently captured the struggles of immigrants and their families as they try to make a new and better life for themselves in their new country. As a child of immigrants, I understand that struggle and the pull between the new and old world that children often face. My favourite parts of Let Me Explain You were in fact the sections where the author describes Stavros’ and Dina’s childhood, youth and final journey to America.
Unfortunately, this was about all I really enjoyed. I found Stavros to be overbearing and ridiculous, unnecessarily difficult and at times downright unbalanced. Instead of adding to the story for its potential comedic value, his character was so over the top that it was actually quite a detractor to my enjoyment. His daughters on the other hand were better developed in terms of evoking sympathy in the reader, and the author has made them much more realistic and believable.
In the end, Let Me Explain You did not live up to the hype of being laugh out loud funny which is a shame because the potential was there (My Big Fat Greek Wedding ring any bells?). There were definitely moments that tug at my heartstrings but those were also few and far between. Would I recommend this book? Maybe, but it’s definitely not on top of my list.
Thank you to NetGalley and Scribner for providing me an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review. ...more
Will Shea, an orphan from a remote South Pacific island, is on a scholarship at the very prestigious private Connaughton Academy. What his classmates and school administration don’t know is that Will is actually a talented conman from New Jersey who has scammed his way into the school’s hallowed halls. Andrea Dufresne, a classmate and fellow con artist, knows that the school is too small for both of them to operate so to rectify the situation the two make a bet: the first to fleece the chosen mark wins the right to stay at Connaughton Academy, while the other must leave. As the con progresses, friendships and family ties are put to the test, and soon Will uncovers a school secret that could potentially ruin careers and lives.
What first attracted me to Con Academy was the cover – I admit that I often choose books this way and am a sucker for a pretty cover. That being said, the blurb intrigued me and, in fact, the first few chapters hooked me, with the author’s fresh writing and snappy dialogue. I thought ‘hey, this is going to be very fun Sunday read’. Unfortunately, just as quickly the writing and storyline progression just started falling apart. All these potentially intriguing characters were being introduced, ones that I considered to be important to the story, but they all seemed two-dimensional and flat. This holds true for the con itself; here’s a plot point that really the entire book is based on and it just hangs there, underdeveloped and not really invoking interest from the reader. It’s as if Con Academy was written for a reader with a very short attention span, so, in order not to lose them and keep them entertained, everything had to be wrapped up quickly and neatly without too many twists or turns.
As for Will, who is supposed to be this amazing conman, I found his character to be lacklustre and not at all charismatic, or charming as would be expected of someone in this type of role. The entire time I was reading, I had to keep reminding myself of who the author was portraying Will and Andrea to be, but all I could think of was that they were just two kids, two regular teenagers playing a childish game.
Now we come to the recommendation part and although I have lukewarm feelings for this book and personally didn’t love it, I think it’s more maybe because of my age and certain expectations I have from the books I read. So, taking that into consideration, I would still recommend Con Academy, but for a younger audience. It’s being marketed to 14 years and up but I’d recommend it to the 12-14 year olds.
I give Con Academy 2.5/5 stars.
Thank you to Goodreads First Reads and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing me a free copy in exchange for an honest review. ...more
While at the store picking up groceries, Nick Hansen runs into a young girl who is the spitting image of his college girlfriend Marissa Minor. Although twenty years have passed since he saw her last, it is as if she were there in front of his eyes once again. The only catch is that Marissa was killed in a campus fire all those years ago. So who is this girl? When she is found the next day, murdered in a hotel room with Nick’s name and address in her pocket, and with the police watching his every move, Nick is determined to uncover the truth. With the help of his friend and investigator, Laurel Davidson, Nick soon discovers that what he knew as reality all these years just crumbles leaving a big gaping hole filled with lies and deceit.
I always find it difficult to rate and review books where I really liked the storyline and plot twists but was so distracted from the enjoyment of the book by the author’s writing style and character portrayal. The writing was painfully straightforward, bare bones, lacking much needed descriptors and embellishments. What would have made this a kickass little mystery/thriller would have been to infuse some intensity and emotion, to create some much needed thrills and chills.
As far as Nick goes, I understand he’s been traumatised and hurt. Losing your one true love at such a young age and under such tragic circumstances is not easy, but then creates a strong yet vulnerable character, a likable character not a blubbering mass of desperation that you just want to shake some sense into.
Somebody I Used to Know was not a bad book, and reading the other reviews on Goodreads I totally understand why so many people rated it highly. It is not my intent to discourage anyone from reading Somebody I Used to Know, because how much you like or dislike a book is totally based on personal taste. It just didn’t push the buttons that needed pushing and simply put just wasn’t for me at this moment in time.
Thank you to NetGalley and The Penguin Group for providing me an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review. ...more
Told through the voices of the three main characters, Catrin, Callum and Rachel, Little Black Lies tells the story of the disappearance and search of a missing boy over the span of five days. But more than this, it is the story of three emotionally broken individuals, struggling with overwhelming sadness, grief and vengeance; three people desperately seeking atonement and forgiveness for their past actions.
Catrin, struggles with the grief of losing her two children in a car accident three years ago and spends her days planning revenge on her once best friend Rachel. With only a few days before the anniversary of her sons’ deaths a little boy disappears. This is the third child that has gone missing in as many years and Catrin joins the search, hoping that somehow this will bring her back to herself, bring back the caring woman she once was.
Callum, a Scotsman who fought as a young soldier during the Falkland War 12 years previous, returned to the islands to make a new life for himself. Working as a reporter for the local newspaper, he is consumed with nightmares and flashbacks from his time as a soldier during the War, unable to cope with the atrocious acts he was forced to commit.
Rachel, responsible for the deaths of Catrin’s sons, is wracked with the guilt of this event and longs to break free of the rejection, shame and humiliation she feels on a daily basis from the small and tight knit community of the island.
By choosing the Falkland Islands as the setting for Little Black Lies, Sharon Bolton has created the perfect backdrop for this chillingly dark psychological thriller. The barren windswept landscape, the isolation, and war history are described so vividly and together help to accentuate the emotional scars of the main characters but also adds to the all-around dark, desperate and sinister feel of the story.
The twists are shocking and breathtaking, and just kept me entirely immersed in this story and the characters. As Catrin, Callum and Rachel recount their movements over the five days, secrets are revealed and the intensity grows to an almost unbearable point. The last few pages are like a whirlwind, unexpected and explosive and will stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page and closed the book cover.
This was my very first book by Sharon Bolton (who has also published under S.J. Bolton) but it definitely will not be my last.
Thank you to NetGalley and Random House UK, Transworld Publishers and Bantam Press for providing me an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review. ...more
Close friends for twenty years, Emma Michaels, Mackenzie Hayes and Serena Stockton have spent one week every summer at their favourite lake house, bonding and decompressing from their high profile careers and personal trials and tribulations. After a five year estrangement, the three women make their way once again to the lake house, but before they can reach their destination, a tragic accident and highly explosive secret threatens to unravel their friendship.
Touted as the perfect beach read, and a heartwarming tale of female friendship, I really was looking forward to reading this book. Wendy Wax did a wonderful job describing the beautiful scenery of the lake house and did an exceptional job developing the characters of Emma, Mackenzie and Serena. They came across as a very close knit group of women, loving, caring, witty and sincere. Unfortunately, the storyline was so drawn out, that once Emma’s secret is revealed, the resolution is so quick and abrupt that it kind of left me wondering what just happened. I would have enjoyed the story much more if the reveal had been earlier, the relationships between the women and their male counterparts more developed and a lot less time spent in the build up.
While I didn’t quite enjoy A Week at the Lake, I have heard great things about her Ten Beach Road series and her novel While We Were Watching Downton Abbey and would be more than willing to give one of these books a try.
Thank you to Goodreads First Reads and Penguin Canada for providing me an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review. ...more
Skylar Kendall, a Detroit journalist, has had an emotionally difficult time growing up. After losing both her parents at a young age, and living withSkylar Kendall, a Detroit journalist, has had an emotionally difficult time growing up. After losing both her parents at a young age, and living with her older sister Faith and her husband Peter, Skye has moved from job to job, unable to settle down. Spending time with her nine year old niece, Niki, seems to be the only thing that keeps her grounded. However, when Niki falls gravely ill and requires treatment involving embryonic stem cells, Skye faces her biggest challenge, the opposition of Michigan Senator Edward Hastings. In a relationship with Edward’s friend Mark but still determined to ruin the senator’s career, Skye must decide whether to pursue this vengeful path or chose her friends and family and let the past remain in the past.
The author Theresa Rizzo contacted me directly to offer a copy of The Lives Between Us in exchange for my review. I admit that I was quite flattered by the gesture having just started reviewing and blogging that I accepted with pleasure. After reading the description I was even more intrigued, and looked forward to reading the book.
Unfortunately, soon after starting I realised that The Lives Between Us, and the storyline would not be as enjoyable as I had hoped. A potentially touching story of a family facing the medical crises of one of its members, I found the writing to be heavy handed and stilted, almost forced and not capturing appropriately the intense emotional strains that these individuals were under. The prose simply didn’t allow for me to have any sympathy for these characters although I could see the possibility of it with perhaps some additional editing.
The relationships between the characters were very two dimensional and not adequately developed, and in the case of Skylar and Mark they completely lacked the chemistry required to make their romance believable. I would have liked to see more time spent developing these characters, both their emotional and physical relationships to one another, which in turn would have added more nuance to the plot line. Instead all the author’s energy was used to convey the character’s passion for embryonic cell research, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but what could have been used as a chance to educate the reader and make them more sympathetic to the cause actually ended up giving the feeling of being preached to, which in the end was quite overwhelming and off-putting.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t read The Lives Between Us, and if you look at the other reviews, most of the people enjoyed it quite a bit. I just wasn’t one of them.
Thank you to the author Theresa Rizzo for providing me an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review. ...more
Ever since I read The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown when it first came out, I have been fascinated by novels that manage to combine science and religion with historical mysteries and the quest for ancient treasures. Add to that a dash of action and adventure in an exotic locale and you’ve got the perfect package. Glenn Cooper’s latest thriller The Resurrection Maker ticks off all the required boxes.
By all accounts, Arthur Mallory, chemist, treasure hunter and Grail enthusiast, is a very regular young man. His ordinary life takes a drastic and dramatic turn when he is a witness and the victim of a violent crime in which his friend, and fellow Grail Loon, Andrew Holmes dies.
In an attempt to put things right, he embarks on a quest to uncover the culprit of his friend’s death and finally unravel the mystery of one of the most intriguing historical mysteries of our time, the existence and location of the Holy Grail. He is joined by the beautiful and mysterious physicist Claire and together, piecing together clues set out hundreds of years ago, they travel across Europe on a hunt for the elusive Excalibur sword made famous by King Arthur and the Holy Grail chalice.
Will these two adventurers find their treasure or will the Khem, a secretive and sinister society foil their attempts and take possession of this ancient artifact said to possess almost supernatural powers that could possibly shed light on the actual resurrection of Jesus Christ and offer immortality to humankind.
The Resurrection Maker started off wonderfully, seamlessly blending story lines from the past and present that were intriguing and caught and held my attention for about the first two thirds of the book. Unfortunately, this did not hold true for the remainder and in fact truthfully told I actually had some difficulty and even a lack of interest in finishing the book. I am a huge fan of Glenn Cooper and was somewhat disappointed by this latest novel. The Resurrection Maker was definitely not up to par with his previous works.
If you have never read anything by Glenn Cooper but think that you might want to check out one of his books I would recommend you start with his Will Piper trilogy: Library of the Dead, Book of Souls and The Librarians. These works showcase Glenn Cooper at his very best.
Thank you to NetGalley and Lascaux Media for providing me with an e-reader copy in exchange for an honest review. ...more
At 28, Jessica Fechtor was enjoying life. Enrolled in graduate school and newly married with plans to start a family, she was living life happily until, while running on the tread mill, she collapsed from a brain aneurism. Suffering a number of complications and numerous brain surgeries, Jessica survived but the trauma and months of hospitalisation left her both physically and mentally weak.
Recuperating at home, surrounded by her wonderfully supportive family and friends, she reflected on memories of joyous and loving moments spent cooking and baking. Her love of food had always been there, so when a friend suggested starting a food blog, Jessica readily accepted and so started her path back to reclaiming her life.
Jessica Fechtor writes in such a way that creates an instant connection with the reader; as if the two of us had just sat down for a coffee and chat. I immediately understood this food-soul connection and I think at some point in our lives we’ve all experienced it; smells and tastes that take us back to special moments. For me a simple bowl of pasta with freshly grated cheese or a piece of chocolate on freshly baked bread will bring back many of my most cherished childhood memories of summers spent with cousins sitting around the dinner table or camp fire, lying on the beach or in my grandmother’s kitchen and in all of them there is always food, a lot of giggling, happiness and an ever present feeling of contentment.
What makes Stir even more appealing is that Jessica Fechtor doesn’t sensationalise her story, make it fantastical or overly tragic. Her approach is simple, straightforward and honest. She’s not afraid to show her fear and vulnerability, and wears her humanity and emotions on her sleeve. As a wonderfully personal touch, interspersed between the chapters are Jessica’s own delicious recipes. So much like Stir, the recipes are straightforward and very ‘doable’, using simple, wholesome ingredients found readily in any pantry. Even if you have just a passing enjoyment of cooking or baking, these recipes will make you want to get into the kitchen and try them.
Stir is an intelligent, insightful, intimate and honest memoir. I fell in love with this book after just reading the prologue and first chapter and really can’t say enough good things about it except go out and get yourself a copy!
Thank you to NetGalley and The Penguin Group (Avery) for providing me an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review. ...more
I’ve followed TLC’s ‘The Little Couple’ on and off over the years, basically since it premiered back in 2009 and have enjoyed watching Jennifer Arnold and Bill Klein interact in an average height dominated world. They both strike me as being quite personable, respectful, and loving and what’s nice is that this same charm, determination and strong character comes through in their new book Life is Short (No Pun Intended): Love, Laughter and Learning to Enjoy Every Moment.
Told in alternating chapters written by Jennifer and Bill, this biography/memoir starts from the very moment of their birth, through their childhoods, schooling and careers, their eventual meeting, marriage and starting a family.
What struck me the most is that from the very beginning and through every obstacle and curve ball life could possibly throw at them, Jennifer and Bill persevered with great determination, an awesome support network and an unbelievably unshakable positive attitude. It’s wonderful how they never let their stature or people’s preconceived notions of them and their capabilities stop them from following their dreams and plans for what they envisioned their life could and should be.
Not only is this a wonderfully inspirational book for Little People to read, but it is also a touching, educational and insightful read for anyone going through a challenging or difficult period in their life. Even if you have never watched ‘The Little Couple’, you should give the adorable and bubbly Jennifer and Bill and their equally encouraging Life is Short a try.
Thank you to NetGalley and Howard Books for providing me an Advanced Reader Copy in exchange for an honest review. ...more
Bream Gives Me Hiccups is a collection of stories presented in different narrative forms, from restaurant reviews and dialogues to text messages and email exchanges, exploring a number of topics including family relationships as well as social and political issues.
I always struggle with books marketed as humour because I unfortunately rarely find them to be as funny as they are hyped to be. Bream Gives Me Hiccups is just one more example of such a book. While I enjoyed a number of pieces which in fact elicited a smile and maybe even a chuckle, I personally did not find any of them to be particularly witty, hilarious or even just funny. Jesse Eisenberg’s writing style is pretentious and comes off as if these stories were part of a performance. His emphasis on social commentary is over the top and heavy handed that it actually took all the fun out of reading the narratives.
I wouldn’t recommend Bream Gives me Hiccups, but if you are looking for a good laugh, some social commentary and great writing check out anything by David Sedaris or Justin Halpern.
Thank you to NetGalley and Grove Atlantic for providing me an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review. ...more
Best-selling crime author Jerry Grey, writing under the pseudonym of Henry Cutter, has been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and now instead of writing he spends his days in a nursing home, convinced that he has committed the terrible, brutal crimes he has written about in his books. Although everyone around him, including his caregivers and friends tell him that it is just the disease manipulating his mind, Jerry senses deep down that he has done something terrible, something horrible and he must do everything in his power to discover what it is.
First let me say, what a fantastic premise! It reminded me quite a lot of the movie Memento which I found absolutely fascinating, giving off a slight noir fiction vibe. Paul Cleave has written a satisfactory thriller around this premise, with occasional surprising twists and turns. The character of Jerry Grey has been developed very well, conveying with absorbing prose the reality, somewhat exaggerated, of the downward spiral into confusion and delusions Alzheimer’s disease creates. The remaining characters, their actions and words misled me, in a good way, all the way to the very end, the somewhat surprising and unexpected end.
That being said, I found there was a fair bit of unnecessary back and forth, repletion, and extraneous narrative in Trust No One. Personally, I think that with some extra editing and a few tweaks here and there, this full length novel would have actually made a much more enjoyable reading experience as a novella or short story.
In terms of recommendation, Trust No One is an adequate thriller, for fans that enjoy a little ‘noir’ in the crime genre.
I give Trust No One 2.5/5 stars.
Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for providing me an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review. ...more