Category Archives: Uncategorized

#Book #Review: Desert Places by Blake Crouch (@blakecrouch1)

Desert Places
Desert Places by Blake Crouch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was highly uncomfortable in a good way for the most part. It had a very strong Stephen King vibe, and a horrible sense of helplessness that permeated the pages.

Andrew Thomas is a successful writer who receives an ominous note directing him to look for the buried body on his lakefront property and call the phone number on the slip of paper inside the deceased’s pockets. He does, and this kicks off a harrowing journey through some frightening and hostile terrain for our protagonist.

The level of detail Blake Crouch provides in this book made me uncomfortable throughout my reading. I had my hand over my mouth in parts, and read through semi-parted fingers in other parts. I’d read out of squinty eyes as if that would soften the horror bestowed upon the innocents in this book.

I definitely don’t think I would have ever had the chops Andrew did, and I found myself wondering why he didn’t just take his chances with the police. But that hardly warrants a novel, does it?

This book is not for the faint at heart. I am by no means a horror fanatic, so I may be considered in the FoH category myself, but I really struggled through parts of this book due to the level of detail and hopeless situations people found themselves in.

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#BookReview: Asylum by Patrick McGrath

Asylum
Asylum by Patrick McGrath
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was consumed by the first half of this book. I read 50% of it in 2 days, which is telling for me. I was drawn to the ambiguity of Edgar Stark’s mental illness. I felt, as Stella did, that maybe he didn’t actually belong in this well-known psychiatric hospital.

Stella is the wife of an up-and-coming psychiatrist (Max) in England in the late 1950s. They have a young son, Charlie. Stella doesn’t do much of anything, but it is implied that her life is rather ordinary, so it’s not as though she’s an anomaly. The family lives on the grounds of the aforementioned psychiatric hospital, which is how Stella and Edgar happen upon each other.

Given her nothing to do, and her unfortunate boredom with her husband, Stella forges a friendship with Edgar that quickly heats up into an insatiable love affair replete with clandestine meetings for sexual encounters, an attic space made up as romantic quarters for the two. Eventually, and questionably the end goal of his all along, Edgar’s proximity to the grounds’ keys allows him to escape. Soon after, Stella goes on a search for him.

The first half of the book is much more action than the second half. The second half descends into a languishing and constant ache. Madness consumes Stella and she turns into a painfully unlikable and constantly drunk character. Her life choices are bad, so bad. And all of this with a constant undertone of “Gosh I miss Edgar,” which, given how scary he had become, is annoying.

I both read the book and listened as I drove to work to the Audible counterpart. Sir Ian McKellen’s narration improved this book immensely. I recommend the listen if you’re compelled to read this book. I’m not sure I’d recommend it unless I knew someone who liked dry prose that oozed British through its pores.

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#BookReview: Yesterday’s Gone: Season One by @thedavidwwright and @seanplatt

Yesterday's Gone: Season One
Yesterday’s Gone: Season One by Sean Platt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You woke up this morning and something seemed a little…. off. You didn’t hear the hum of the cable box or the little click the refrigerator would make every 15 seconds. Your cell phone didn’t charge up all the way.

Oh yeah.. And your family is gone.

What the hell is happening?

Well, this is the premise of Yesterday’s Gone by Sean Platt and David Wright, whose serialized hit turned into a novel. I both read the Kindle edition of this book and listened to the audiobook companion available at Audible.com.

There was an element of cliche with the some of the characters in this book. Boricio was the serial killer psychopath with an over-abundance of testosterone — say beer-battered bullshit just one more time. Luca was a saccharine sweet clairvoyant child whose metaphoric “sad spiders” thing irritated. Most of the characters were pretty original and solid, though.

So, anyway, back to the thick of it… This Season is the immediate aftermath of something that’s caused most people on the planet to disappear. Only a handful of people are left, and we see the survivors find each other. The story hops from person’s perspective to person’s perspective, infuriatingly when the story gets good, but that just kept me reading when I could and turning on the audiobook as soon as I got in my car every day.

This book really was overall very enjoyable. It is taking the long way around as far as character development and plot velocity, but as it was born for a serialized experience, it may just have a different feel in novel form.

I recommend this book for the consumption factor alone.

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#Review: The Uninvited by Liz Jensen

The Uninvited
The Uninvited by Liz Jensen
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I really don’t know what happened here, but damn. This book was just bad. I didn’t enjoy 95% of it, and if it wasn’t for a NetGalley review, I would have put it down close to the beginning. The cover picture and the blurb set me up for a book I thought I’d really like. I did not.

A frightening phenomenon is occurring. Kids are killing grown-ups. The reason or the rhyme is not established until the very end in hurried fashion as if it were an afterthought. I’ve seen it called dystopian, but meh. It really isn’t. Some bizarre role-switching of the main child in the book, the story told through the eyes of someone with Asperger’s Syndrome, and a lot of boring in between.

I really disliked this book. It didn’t flow well at all.

NetGalley & the publisher provided the book and I provided my honest opinion.

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#BookReview: So Say the Waiters (Book 1) by @JustinSirois

So Say the Waiters book 1
So Say the Waiters book 1 by Justin Sirois
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’d rate this somewhere between 3.5 and 4 stars.

Imagine a world where a phone app exists that allows you to create and plan your own kidnapping. You give the parameters for the kidnapping: the duration, the experiences you want to have, the safe word for a safe escape…

Henry is a daily grind kind of guy working in a mind-numbing yet steady job in programming where he’s struggling to keep his head above water. His work is sloppy, he calls in late or sick often, skips out early, and he’s paying for it in work performance. His marriage is all but over, and his wife is nearly completely moved out. He receives a phone call and a plane ticket one Friday afternoon to send him across the country from home (Baltimore) to Los Angeles to visit an old friend with a wild and lucrative proposition.

Dani is a girl who’s barely scraping by. She’s a bartender in a band and she’s covered in tattoos. She’s one of kidnApp’s best customers, and an early adopter. She can’t make rent, and she can’t make the guy she likes want her, too, but she’s a whiz with getting swept away by a Taker.

The story winds closely around these two characters, and really does a good job building up the beginnings of a great partnership. This is only Book 1, so the foundation is laid rather well. I really feel the doldrums of Henry’s life, and I’m eager for him to take the opportunity to turn everything on its ear and change directions 180-degrees. But he won’t, because he’s Henry, and he will do this methodically and planting each foot firmly down before taking the next step. That’s where Dani comes in. These two may very well create a powerhouse dynamic duo that will accelerate kidnApp to the upper atmosphere where it belongs.

Criticisms: This book was littered with misspellings and grammatical errors. I am unsure if it was edited. It seems like it was, because it is well-written, but some of the errors are blatant and left me scratching my head. I tried to submit the errors via the Kindle interface, but I’m not sure those are reported exactly as I had it conjured in my mind. Regardless, with a bit of effort in setting aside these oversights, the book is fun and worth a shot to learn if the kidnApp world is right for you.

Book 1 is available for free on Amazon (link), Barnes & Noble for Nook (link), iBooks, or Smashwords (link).

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Lady Eve’s Indiscretion By Grace Burrowes

Grace Burrowes tells a tale that differs slightly from the norm – in that the heroine is not the virginal bride we usually get in these stories. As suggested by the title there has been an indiscretion. 

Lady Eve – a not so subtle reference to the biblical Eve – is a young woman who is afraid of marriage but finds herself in one with Lucas, a Marquis.

I do like that there is already a history between these two characters. This helps to make it more believable when there is love blossoming so quickly between them. The details of Lady Eve’s past are revealed slowly through out the story and it is sad and riveting. The details of her family help to make the entire story more compelling. Unlike many romance writers Burrowes has chosen to have a more realistic family background in which loss has played a prominent role. I found the family dynamics in this book to feel more real than in many others.

Where it gets heavy handed is in the way Eve berates and treats herself over the indiscretion in her past. It doesn’t feel real. There is too much self flagellation and recrimination. The fear makes sense and works but the other does not.

The marquis is a dashing hero – but I promise that at the end of the book you will find yourself wondering why he didn’t just say something sooner – it doesn’t seem like a realistic choice – and it made everything harder for no reason. I’m still questioning that writing choice.

 

I was provided a free copy of this book for review.

The Reluctant Countess by Wendy Vella

As historical romances go this one is not too shabby.

Wendy Vella creates an interesting story with enough layers to keep you interested. Unlike some authors everything is not so predictable as to be given away in the first chapter. It is a self-described Cinderella story – but it does not follow that formula exactly.

The leading lady, Sophie, is slightly more complex than is often found. She has personality and a believable character. Two things which help to make the book an enjoyable read. Her love interest and erstwhile Prince Charming is Patrick who happens to be an Earl not a prince – but Sophie manages to fall in love anyway.

As with many books in this genre one of the weakest elements is the beginning of the romance betwixt the leads. The intense interest and passion suddenly felt with no basis is always hard to believe. While one might be able to accept that there could be an intense purely physical attraction – it is nigh on impossible to believe that with merely a glance at an attractive woman a man feels not only a physical attraction but a soul stirring passion and interest – all the time.

Perhaps that is the problem. Within each book it is supposed to be an amazing event – but as a reader it has been done so many times that it feels trite and overdone before it has really even happened.

Aside from that it was a decent read. Some credible villians add spice and drama in the right places.

I was provided with a free copy for the purpose of reviewing this book.

 

Night of the Purple Moon – Scott Cramer

Scott Cramer packs a lot into 188 pages. I made the mistake of reading this right before bed last night and had serious trouble going to sleep. But that is a good thing. This book had my mind whirling with questions and left me with a lingering sense of sadness tinged with fear.

On a night when the moon and the world are cast into a lovely purple haze due to a comet’s passing a nightmare begins to unfold. Children around the world wake up to a world in which the adults have died. The terror that this would cause is obvious. Cramer does an excellent job of putting that into words on paper.

It would be almost impossible to write this kind of a story without some hints of Lord of the Flies coming into play. I think almost every school child in America had to read that book. And while there are some allusions to the most well known characters,  Cramer manages to weave them into his own story without letting them overwhelm.  They stay as mere hints.

As an adult reading this book I feel quite certain I had a different reaction to many parts of it than a 12 or 15 year old would. The complete sense of helplessness this inspired when imagining my own niece and stepsons in this world is what kept me up. I would profoundly hope that they would be more like Abby and Jordan in their response to the catastrophe. I enjoyed that Cramer chose to portray how such a situation could let some of the best inner qualities of mankind shine. Compassion, caring and community.

Nothing is glossed over though. Some of the more awful realities and choices that could be made are present as well. This is definitely for the mature YA reader. While some 10 year olds would read and be able to handle the emotional complexity expressed I am sure there are many that would not. This book has the capability to really disturb someone because it causes deeper thought on things many would not want to dwell on.

The only weaknesses I found in the book were an occasional awkwardness in the description of romantic moments and that the switches between what character was narrating were not always clear immediately. But these are very small weaknesses in an otherwise excellent book.

I look forward to the next installment.

 

I was provided a free copy of this book for the purpose of reviewing it.

Desert Fire – H. M. Prévost

The first chapter or two took as little getting into. At times the structure is a bit choppy, but by chapter 5 I was hooked.

Nick is a Canadian teenager suddenly living in the UAE with his mom and older sister. I would like to know a bit more about how exactly everything went down that led to this situation (several unresolved questions about his father and such) but am hoping that will all be forthcoming in a future installment.

And I will be reading any future installments if they continue to be as compelling as this book.

This is a nice mix of a teenage James Bond and 90210 type character. Prévost does an admirable job of keeping this YA without sanitizing it. There is a nice mix of naiveté and knowledge that fits well.

Nick is believable as a character. I was a little worried that Faris and Mohammed would not be during my first few encounters with them, but that fear is put to rest by the middle of the book. I found myself liking them much more – almost like an annoying kid brother.

I thought it quite wise that while Prévost draws the readers attention to what are very different social customs, ideals and norms in the Arabic world in which this is set, she does not lecture or moralize. It would be very easy to present stereotypes and not delve any deeper into them. Instead we get a better picture of the complicated social strictures and reasons why some young people retain aspects of them.

In this fast paced, yet still fleshed out, story there are a lot of things which could be hard to accept and go with. Teenager turned amateur spy, falling transport planes that no one seems to notice even the idea that a fellow teenager could be a terrorist operative. But the only thing I truly had trouble wrapping my head around was the CIF – Canadian Intelligence Force. Supposedly super-secret with better operatives than the CIA, MI-6 or the Navy seals. In Nick’s own words “We had a top notch covert spy agency? Get outta here.”

There is some room for improvement in the descriptions of people, specifically female characters. Their descriptions were a little awkward at times.

Cover Art – this is one of my most frequent complaints, especially with ebooks. Make your cover art compelling. This is an action adventure story it should have a cover that reaches out and grabs you. The current choice of an angsty looking androgynous teen boys face hovering over a desert with some smoke does not do it. The cover looks like an already old book, something from 1982, not a fresh new story full of excitement.

This is a book that 12-14 year old boys would love but they aren’t going to be reaching for that cover. I wouldn’t look twice at a book with that cover. I am glad I was passed along a free copy to read, because I enjoyed – a lot.

All in all a very good book with a lot to offer and the beginning of what appears to be a thrilling new series.

Keep it up.

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Check our bookshelf with the available books for review! Reviewers: If you’re interested in read…

Our books-needing-reviews shelf

Little Sacrifices
Fargoer - The Beginning
Cathedral of Dreams
Pure at Heart
The Sun Zebra
The Sum of My Parts: A Survivor's Story of Dissociative Identity Disorder
Caught in a Moment
The Last Of The Rings
The Void
Our Blissful Bayou Beginnings
Dawn's End
The Metaphysical Double Life of Eri Lane
Bras, Boys, and Blunders: Juliet & Romeo in Bahrain
Under the Black Clouds
Distant Shores
Xor: The Shape of Darkness
The Forever Contract
The Donors
Night of the Purple Moon
The First Zombies Dead Awakening



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