Tag: fiction

Book Review: Intraterrestrial, by Nicholas Conley

intraterrestrial.jpg
Image belongs to Nicholas Conley/Red Adept Publishing.

Thirteen-year-old Adam is shy, quiet, and a bit of a nerd. He loves looking at the stars through his telescope and building his own bike, while thinking about the mysteries of the universe, but doesn’t really feel like he belongs in his own life. The voice he keeps hearing in his head isn’t helping. When a run-in with a school bully lands him in trouble, it brings the conflict between his parents and himself into sharp focus.

The auto accident changes everything.

Adam ends up with a Traumatic Brain Injury, hovering on the edge of life and death. While his body is fighting to survive, Adam’s mind, his imagination, is in outer space, where he meets a group of aliens fighting against the Nothing that wants to destroy them—and Adam. Adam is the only one that can save them, but to do that, he must fight his way through the darkness that threatens to take away his future.

Intraterrestrial deals with some heavy topics: brain injury, bullying, and finding your place in the world when you’re different than everyone else. Adam is from India, and this makes him feel different from his adoptive parents and everyone else he knows. He struggles with this “differentness” in the first part of the book, as well as bullying and his response to being bullied.

After the accident, Intraterrestrial is both more complex and fantastical. What Adam experiences is imaginative and intriguing—is it really happening, or is his brain struggling to deal with the injury?—yet his reactions and observations sometimes border on childlike. He’s 13, so that makes sense for the character, but I’m undecided on if this novel is geared more towards a YA/middle grade audience, or an adult audience. The subject matter is older, but Adam himself is younger, so it could go either way. I enjoyed the novel very much. It is as creative as the author’s other works, and I look forward to reading more.

Nicholas Conley loves traveling the world and putting his experiences into words. Intraterrestrial is his newest novel.

(Galley provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.)

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Book Review: Before I Let Go, by Marieke Naijkamp

 

before i let go
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Corey and Kyra grew up as best friends in tiny Lost Creek, Alaska. Kyra was vibrant and artistic—and manic/depressive, so the town ostracized her for being different. But Corey was always there for her. Until Corey’s mom got a new job and Corey had to move away, promising Kyra she’d be back in exchange for Kyra’s promise to stay strong.

Days before Corey’s visit home, Kyra dies, and Corey is devastated. Her grief turns to confusion when she returns to Lost, and discovers the town has changed in her absence. Everyone grieves for Kyra, but whispers that her death was meant to be.

Corey doesn’t know what to think. The town that shut Kyra out seems to have embraced her in the past months, but the more Corey asks questions, the more she’s treated as an outsider herself. As she tries to learn more about what happened to Kyra, the more her suspicions grow. Lost is hiding a secret—and Corey can’t get through the darkness to the truth.

I’m just going to say it:  this was a weird book. It’s a mix of YA, magical realism, and death investigation—kind of. Lost comes to vivid, haunting life on the pages, and the characters are both compelling and strange.  Kyra and Corey’s friendship was heartwarming and sad, and I enjoyed Corey’s attempts to find out the truth about her friend. In the end, though, I still wasn’t quite sure what happened. An interesting, unpredictable read.

Marieke Naijkamp was born and raised in the Netherlands. She is the New York Times bestselling author of This is Where It Ends. Her newest novel is Before I Let Go.

(Galley provided by Sourcebooks Fire via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

 

Book Review: An Eye for an Eye, by Caroline Fardig

an eye for an eye
Image belongs to Caroline Fardig.

Ellie Matthews is a forensics professor not a crime scene investigator for a reason:  she got tired of her job taking over her life. When she was asked to consult on a high-profile case a few months ago, she got sucked back in, but she’s been happily back at teaching for a while now, enjoying her normal life.

Until a family friend disappears, and Ellie is called to consult again—on the disappearance of someone she cares about. Ellie is thrown together with Detective Nick Baxter as they try to find the missing girl.

When the girl turns up dead with a pointed message, they realize hurting law enforcement is the game the clever killer is playing. Then Ellie’s sister disappears, and the killer strikes a deal: if Ellie and Nick solve a years-old murder case, he’ll release her sister unharmed.

Tensions mount as Ellie struggles to uncover evidence from years ago, while also searching desperately for traces of her sister. She and Nick butt heads as she struggles to cope, and he tries to get her to see just how damaged she is.

I’ve loved everything Caroline Fardig has written (that I’ve read, anyway), and An Eye for an Eye is no exception. The forensics blends seamlessly with the narrative, and the slow investigation had me desperate to find out who the killer was. Nick and Ellie mesh well as they work as an investigative team, but the personal undercurrents grow stronger throughout the novel. This novel works well to both entertain and keep the reader’s mind engaged in the mysteries.

Caroline Fardig is the USA Today best-selling author of The Lizzie Hart Mysteries and The Java Jive Mysteries series. An Eye for an Eye is the second book in the Ellie Matthews series.

(Galley provided by author via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Immortalists, by Chloe Benjamin

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Image belongs to Penguin/Putnam.

In 1969, the Gold family lives on the Lower East Side in New York City. Life is normal, boring even, until the four children hear a neighborhood rumor that a local gypsy can tell you the exact date you will die, and decide to see for themselves. After all, what could it hurt? It takes some time, but they finally track down where the woman lives. They must see her alone, so one by one, they enter her shadowy apartment and listen to her words. They never tell each other what she says, but they never forget their dates.

Simon escapes the trap of familial expectations to find love as a dancer in San Francisco. Klara, who has dreamed of magic her whole life, finds reality overpowering, and becomes a magician in Las Vegas. Daniel has a steady future as an Army doctor, but finds the expectations of his job may be more than he’s willing to give. And Varya becomes a researcher in longevity, seeking to unlock the key to a long life, despite the dreariness of her own.

All of them are shaped by the gypsy’s words, and seek to prove her prediction wrong, but sometimes fate is inescapable.

Let me say, first of all, that I think The Immortalists simply wasn’t a good fit for me. I was very intrigued by the premise, and I love family-saga stories, so it seemed a good match. However, the book is told in four segments, one for each character, and I never felt like I really connected with any of them. Briefly, yes, but not enough to truly enjoy the novel.

Benjamin’s writing is lovely and evocative; I could practically smell the streets of San Francisco and feel the heat of the spotlights, but I never connected emotionally with the characters. I did read this quickly, so perhaps, in a different frame of mind, my experience would have been different.

Chloe Benjamin is an award-winning author from San Francisco, California. The Immortalists is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Putnam/Penguin Random House via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

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Book Review: The Night Market, by Jonathan Moore

the night market
Image belongs to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

In a near-future society where mindless shopping—the desire for “more”—motivates humanity, darkness threatens to take over. Most people don’t even notice something is wrong—nor do they care. They just want more stuff. Homicide detective Ross Carver notices. Sometimes. When he’s not too busy trying to solve the unrelenting crimes that threaten the streets.

One Thursday evening, he visits a crime scene where the victim is covered in a strange substance that’s eating his skin. When FBI agents surround Ross, he’s hustled to a decontamination trailer, hosed down, and forced to drink a strange liquid that gives him seizures. He wakes up in his own bed three days later, with no memory of what happened. And he doesn’t know why his neighbor, Mia, whom he’s never spoken to, is sitting by his bed, reading.

Ross sets out to find out what’s going on. The bits he uncovers convince him that something terrible is going on in America, something that is being covered up by people in high places. He doesn’t know how Mia’s involved, but something tells him to keep her close—that she knows far more than she’s letting on.

I didn’t realize The Night Market was part of a larger world of stories, so the worldbuilding really threw me for a loop. It was like the present-day world, except slightly skewed. Skewed in a terrifying, I-don’t-want-to-live-on-this-planet-anymore way. Society has taken consumerism far beyond today’s ridiculous levels. The snapshots of marketing stunts and the feeding frenzy that ensues was horrifying to me—and believable.

Ross unknowing walks into a mess far beyond anything he’s every considered, and it takes every ounce of instinct and skill to keep himself alive. This is a dark book, and I really had no idea what was going on until the end. And even then, I’m still not sure.

Jonathan Moore is a Honolulu attorney whose fiction has been short-listed for the Bram Stoker Award. The Night Market is his newest novel.

(Galley provided by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Black Painting, by Neil Olson

The Black Painting
Image belongs to Hanover Square.

The Morse family is known for old money, the East Coast, and a stolen Goya painting. The painting, a self-portrait said to cause madness and death in anyone who views it, was stolen years before. None of the four cousins—Kenny, James, Audrey, and Teresa—have visited the family home at Owl’s Point—or their grandfather—since, amidst the accusations and blame over the painting’s disappearance. Not to mention the rumors of madness.

But now their aging grandfather wants to see them. Individually. Considering the patriarch’s age, the cousins think the summons is related to their inheritance, so they go. When Teresa and Audrey arrive, they find their grandfather’s body, his terrified gaze fixed on the spot where the missing painting once hung.

With the family gathered to mourn, old accusations are resurrected, and the police start asking questions—not just about the old man’s death, but about the missing painting, which is worth millions. Determined to find out who killed her grandfather, Teresa starts digging into the past, hoping to prove her own father wasn’t mad…and that she has not inherited that madness. But even missing, the black painting has a strange effect on everyone connected to it, and the darkness may be too much for Teresa.

This book sounded like a perfect fit for me:  I love family mysteries like this, although the painting creeped me out a tiny bit. However, this family is crazy. Legitimately. No matter which family member I was reading about—and even some of the non-familial characters—I could not make a connection because their thoughts and actions seemed completely illogical to me. Which kind of makes sense if viewed through the lens of a family closely associated with a painting that supposedly drives everyone around it mad. I finished reading it, but I am rarely a fan of books without characters I can care about. This book was not the right fit for me.

Neil Olson is a publishing industry professional, as well as an author. The Black Painting is his newest novel.

(Galley provided by Hanover Square via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

 

 

Book Review: The Forgotten Book, by Mechthild Gläser

the forgotten book
Image belongs to Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan.

Emma’s life is pretty good. She attends a prestigious boarding school. Her friends all trust her enough to ask her for advice. She’s pretty sure the guy she’s had a crush on for ages is about to ask her out. Things are going well. Except for arrogant Darcy de Winter, the heir to the family who owns the school, who’s there searching for clues about his missing sister.

Then someone trashes the abandoned library Emma and her friends have taken as “theirs,” and Emma finds an old book hidden there. The book is filled with pages written by many different people over the years. A diary of sorts, Emma thinks, and she starts writing in it as well.

When the things Emma writes in the book come true—sort of—Emma realizes there’s more to the book than she thought. But someone else knows of the book’s power, and will stop at nothing to take it from Emma. Emma must unravel the mysteries hidden in the book—and the school—if she’s to figure out what the book is—and who’s after it.

The Forgotten Book is labeled as YA, but that seems a tiny bit too old for this book, to me. Or maybe Emma’s led such a sheltered life that she seems younger. And, considering this is a boarding school, there is surprising little conflict or animosity between a group of students who all live together. Everyone gets along. That was the most far-fetched part of this book for me. Not the magic book.

I enjoyed the mystery, as Emma tries to figure out the secrets of the book, as well as the mysterious creature mentioned in the book. The school sounds like a fantastical place to live, or at least to visit. Emma is an interesting character:  she’s very innocent and oblivious to some things, but she’s inquisitive enough to make up for her naivety.

Mechthild Gläser is an award-winning German author. The Forgotten Book is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

 

Book Review: The Wolves of Winter, by Tyrell Johnson

wolves of winter
Image belongs to Scribner.

It wasn’t enough for nations to disagree. They had to add nuclear war to the mix, changing both the environment and nature, making food scarce and luxuries like electricity and chocolate a thing of the past. Then came the Asian Flu, and millions died, changing the landscape of the world even more.

For years, a nomadic, secretive existence is the only thing that kept them alive. Now, for seven years, Lynn and her family—mother, brother, honorary uncle and his adopted son—have huddled together in their tiny community in the Yukon wilderness, hunting and struggling to eke out a hardscrabble existence in a world gone mad. Then Lynn finds an injured stranger and his dog and brings them home, never dreaming what she was unleashing on them all.

Jax has been used as a weapon for too long; now he’s on the run, desperate to keep ahead of his enemies. “Alone” is the only safety he knows. But when Lynn and her family get caught up in his fight to survive, he realizes there is far more going on than he knew, and he must decide whether to keep his solitary existence, or fight for a glimpse of hope for mankind.

I’m not going to lie: I do love dystopian novels. Well, I love good dystopian novels. Wolves of Winter is far, far more than “good.” No, the idea of a world decimated by war and sickness isn’t new, but the execution of the concept is, and the characters are as well. We get to know Lynn:  her strengths, weaknesses, hopes, and desires, and we watch as she starts growing into the person she can be. I cannot imagine the strength it would take to survive in the Yukon with no modern conveniences to fall back on (First World problem, I know), but Lynn shines through with grace and love for her family, leaving the reader riveted to the page. I read this straight through in one sitting, and I cannot recommend it highly enough!

Tyrell Johnson loves the outdoors. Wolves of Winter is his debut novel.

(Galley provided by Scribner via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

 

 

Book Review: A Murder for the Books, by Victoria Gilbert

a murder for the books
Image belongs to Crooked Lane Books.

After a love affair gone wrong, Amy Webber flees to the small Virginia town where her aunt lives and becomes the librarian. It’s not what she had in mind for her life, but she takes quiet satisfaction in helping the town’s residents. Until one of them turns up dead in the library, and Amy is thrust into a mystery that goes back almost one hundred years.

Amy’s neighbor, Richard, inherited the house that belonged to his great-uncle. The town believes the house’s original owner was poisoned by his wife—who vanished after her trial—and who Richard’s great-uncle was in love with. Determined to find out the truth, Richard convinces Amy to help him solve the case, revealing chilling details that the town’s founders would like to keep secret.

A Murder for the Books is more than a cozy mystery. It’s a comfy, enjoyable read in a small-town full of quirky, memorable characters. The town feels like home—complete with the family member no one wants to claim, the town grapevine, and people like Amy and Richard you’d really like to spend time with. A light read that you can sink into, without getting bogged down into weighty matters.

Victoria Gilbert has worked as a librarian and writes cozy mysteries. A Murder for the Books is the first book in the Blue Ridge Library Mystery series.

(Galley provided by Crooked Lane Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: All the Wrong Chords, by Christine Hurley Deriso

all the wrong chords
Image belongs to Flux.

Scarlett Stiles has had a tough time since her brother died of a drug overdose, so she agrees—reluctantly—to spend the summer with her grandfather, who’s getting older and, according to Scarlett’s parents, needs help driving. Except Scarlett is the one who really needs help in that area, as a near-miss proves. Scarlett’s near-miss turns out to be Zach, a funny, thoughtful boy with a band in need of a guitar player.

Scarlett hasn’t played guitar since her brother died, but one look at the band’s hot lead singer, Declan, has her agreeing. Just once, Scarlett thinks she deserves the hot guy, so she pursues the attraction between herself and Declan. When conflict between Declan and the rest of the band comes to a boil, Scarlett is caught between what she thinks and what she feels, while she learns new things about herself and her brother.

All the Wrong Chords is, at heart, a light YA read with a heroine who is drawn to a boy that no one else can see good in. Scarlett isn’t a perfect character. She struggles with bad decisions, feelings of inadequacy, and a tendency to be selfish. In the midst of her grief over her brother, she fails to see the pain of those around her, which causes her to hurt people she cares about. This is a good read, full of emotion and some laughs. The secondary characters make this very worth reading, and the issues concerning drug abuse and being true to yourself lend a deeper tone to the story.

Christine Hurley Deriso loves words, so she became a writer. All the Wrong Chords is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Flux via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

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