Tag: reading

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: 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.)

#TheImmortalists

 

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.)

 

 

What I Read in 2017

My goal for 2017 was to read 100 books. I actually read 174 books. Kind of mad I didn’t get to 175…

Here’s my Year in Books on Goodreads, if you want to see what I read.

And here are my monthly recap posts:

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

My goal for 2018 is 150. Let’s see how this year in reading goes.

What did everyone else read in 2017?

Book Review: Where I End, by Katherine Elizabeth Clark

where I end
Image belongs to Moody Publishers.

When you’re on the playground with your kids, you expect to have fun and be silly. You don’t expect your entire life to change in an instant, when a small boy jumps off the jungle gym and lands on your head, breaking your neck, but that is what happened to Katherine Clark in May 2009.

Katherine was paralyzed from the neck down, and doctors diagnosed her with quadriplegia and said she’d never walk again. She had emergency spinal surgery that night, but the doctors told her husband she was no longer the same person. They expected her to be a burden for the rest of her life. They expected her to feel sorry for herself and accept her new, horrifying reality. They were wrong.

Instead, God worked a tremendous miracle in Katherine’s life. Her time in a rehab hospital was marked with frustration and tears, but her trust in God was accompanied by progress every day. By the middle of July, Katherine had learned to walk again and returned home. She experienced the deep, abiding love of God, even in the midst of overwhelming pain and trouble, and she clung to Him and His truths to see her through.

I wanted to read Where I End because of the similarities to my own medical history (a stroke 4 ½ years ago because of an unsuspected birth defect, given a 98% fatality rate, told by a doctor “You’ll never be normal again.”) It is terrifying when your life changes in a single instant, but the experience can be a profound blessing. Katherine Clark tells her story with openness and honesty, and the reader feels her pain and her fear, as well as her hope and her joy. If you need something uplifting in your life, this is the book for you!

Katherine Elizabeth Clark is a mother, a wife to a theologian, and a writer. Where I End is her true story.

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

What I Read in December

I read 21 books this month, bringing my total for the year up to 174. Quite a bit past my goal of 100 books for the year…

Sir Percy Leads the Band, by Emmuska Orczy (classic). I found this “sequel” to The Scarlet Pimpernel to be a fun, entertaining read. And Sir Percy is such a fantastic character, able to change his persona so completely.

Life and Other Near Death Experiences, by Camille Pagan (cultural book of the month, except not). I thought this was going to be mainly set in the Caribbean, hence its place as “cultural” book, but it wasn’t. It was a very enjoyable read about a woman who finds out she has cancer, and, on the same day, her husband tells her he’s gay. So she runs away to Caribbean to deal with the idea of her pending death. A funny read, and Libby is such a likeable and relateable character that I finished this quickly.

Once Upon a Time by Debbi Macomber (spiritual book of the month). This author is one of the very few “romance” authors I’ll read, and this book was par for her:  well-written, thoughtful, and it spoke to me.

Empire of Ivory, by Naomi Novak (TBR/just because). Another solid read in this series. I can’t believe I let these sit unread on my shelf for years

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As You Wish, by Chelsea Sedoti (read to review). A magical realism read about a town where every person is granted one wish on their 18th birthday, and it always comes true.

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Bad Call, by Stephen Wallenfels (read to review). This is a YA suspense about a girl and three guys who go hiking in Yosemite and end up in the midst of a snowstorm, with no food and no shelter. One of them doesn’t come back. A decent level of suspense, but the characters’ motivations had me wondering why so much that I’d rate the book three out of five.

How to Hang a Witch, by Adriana Mather (from my Tulsa book haul). So…I didn’t pay attention to the fact that the book was by one of the Mathers—of Salem Witch Trial notoriety—until I finished the book. The book is about a Mather descendant who moves to Salem and discovers the curse that haunts all of the descendant families—and she tries desperately to uncover the truth and stop the curse before it kills her father. I enjoyed this book, and it had a prominent dose of creepiness.

wolves of winter

The Wolves of Winter, by Tyrell Johnson (read to review). I loved this book! Finished it in just a few hours, straight through, because I couldn’t put it down. A dystopian about Lynn, who lives with her family in the Yukon after nuclear war and disease collapsed civilization. Survival is the focus, until Lynn meets Jax, who shows Lynn a destiny she can’t even comprehend. I can’t speak highly enough about this book, and its unique (to me) setting.

Where I End, by Elizabeth Katherine Clark (review forthcoming). The true story of Katherine Clark, who broke her neck when a boy on the playground fell on her. The doctors told her she’d never walk again, but God had other plans. An uplifting, inspiring read.

Believe, edited by Randy Frazee (person/spiritual). I’ve been reading this tome since August. Lots to digest here, but broken down into easy chunks.

Mesmerized_Mock-up dpi 72

Mesmerized, by Candace Camp (read to review). Olivia works to expose mediums and their tricks, but finds herself in the midst of events she can’t explain away, when she starts seeing visions from Blackhope Hall’s past, events that seem to feature the current lord of the manor, Stephen, as well. A solid period romance, with the “mad Morelands” providing even more interest.

Wedding Bells, Magic Spells, by Lisa Shearin (as a treat). I love the Rain Benares books, and this was no exception. Lots of action, smart humor, and, of course, the lovely Mychael.

The Forgotten Book, by Mechthild Glaser (review forthcoming). This is a YA fantasy about Emma, who goes to a prestigious boarding school, and who finds an old book full of scribblings.  But this is not your typical journal:  everything written in the book comes true…in a manner of speaking. I enjoyed this book, and the myths and mystery added depth to it. I thought the school—and its students—were a bit too good to be true—no cliques, no enemies, and a whole lot of freedom, but I enjoyed this very much.

The Black Painting, by Neil Olsen (review forthcoming). This was merely a “meh” read to me. Frankly, the characters were too confusing, and the narrative was too disjointed–which makes sense for a novel about characters who arguably all have a mental illness–for me to really get into. And the painting by Goya is very creepy to me.

Firebrand, by Kristen Britain (as a Christmas weekend treat). I absolutely love this series. SO MUCH. Karigan is such a strong character, yet so flawed, and I can both sympathize with and respect her. The characters in this series are so vibrant I feel like I know them personally, and I am drawn into all their stories. This is probably one of the best fantasy series I’ve ever read. Loved it!

Breaking Rules, by S.B. Alexander (to review, but stopped reading). I made it about halfway through this before I stopped reading. There are a ton of good reviews on Goodreads, but the characters are too wishy-washy for me. One second, Train was charming and flirty, the next he was a rude jerk. And sometimes Montana was strong and independent, and sometimes she was also just a jerk.

Menagerie and Spectacle, by Rachel Vincent (Read the first as a treat, because it was already on my Kindle, then had to buy the second one immediately.) I am a huge Rachel Vincent fan, and Menagerie had such a unique concept. Sadly, I could totally see “normal” humans acting this way towards anyone different—because that happens all the time. Looking forward to the enxt one.

The Holy Bible, as an obvious spiritual choice, that I read via a 365-day reading plan.

The Stars Never Rise and The Flame Never Dies, by Rachel Vincent (Read the first as a treat, because it was already on my Kindle, then had to buy the second one immediately.) I finished the first one in about 3 hours, then had to make myself ration the second one…for two days. Fantastic concept. where demons really exist and have consumed all the available souls as they try to take over a world run by the Church, who is desperate to catch natural exorcists. So good!

Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy for Quick Lit.

 

 

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.)

 

 

What I Read in November

In November, I read 20 books, bringing my total for the year up to 154 books read, out of my original goal of 100. (I’ve had more reading time than I imagined, plus, some of the books were fantastic, so I read them very quickly.) I also started two other books which I did not complete, by choice.

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The Seventh Decimate, by Stephen R. Donaldson (read to review). Donaldson seems to thrive on unlikable main characters—or, at least, characters that I find hard to like—and this is no exception. The prince of a nation torn by a years-long war goes in search of a book that might hold the key to his land’s survival. Prince Bifalt is angry at pretty much everything around him, so he’s hateful and does things without thinking. I read this, but I’m not sure I’ll continue on with the trilogy.

TEA

The Austen Escape, by Katherine Reay (read to review). I really enjoyed this book! I’m a huge Jane Austen fan, and being able to go on a trip to stay in an Austen-esque estate and play dress-up and pretend to be one of her characters sounds so fun! I can totally relate to Mary Davies feeling overshadowed by her larger-than-life best friend, and her awkwardness and cluelessness around her crush. Fun, light reading that I definitely recommend.

The Taking, The Replaced, and The Countdown, by Kimberly Derting (just because). So…I bought a used—and signed—copy of The Taking months ago, and it’s been sitting there in the stack since. I picked it up one day and was immediately sucked in. Actually, I read the whole thing that day! Ditto for The Replaced and The Countdown. It’s about Kyra, who wakes up behind a gas station and finds out that five years have passed—five years she doesn’t remember at all—and everything has changed, but she remains the same. Her boyfriend id dating her best friend, and his little brother, Tyler, is all grown up now. Then Kyra realizes she has powers. And that people are following her. Suddenly, all those stories of alien abductions aren’t sounding quite so crazy. I LOVED these books. It probably took me less than 8 hours to read all three, because I could not put them down. I will definitely be reading more of Kimberly Derting’s books. Go. Read. These!

The Zombie Gospel, by Danielle J. Stricklend (spiritual book of the month). I loved the parallels the author made in this book, between The Walking Dead and the Christian life.

Animal Farm, by George Orwell (classic book of the month). I have no idea how I’d never read this before. And now I wish I hadn’t…but I disliked the pigs in this novel so much that bacon is sounding REALLY good right now!

From Sand and Ash, by Amy Harmon (cultural book of the month). Wow. This is set in World War II, in Italy, and tells the story of an Italian Jew, and the man she loves, who is a priest. This was a fantastic read!

Autonomous, by Andy Marino (read to review, but will not be reviewing because I did not care for it). This is basically all about four self-obsessed teenagers  and their secrets. Also, social media and a self-driving car. No, thanks.

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Little Broken Things, by Nicole Baart (read to review). A thriller with a hefty dose of mystery/what is going on here. A mysterious, abandoned child, secrets, and a clever bad guy, set in a small town, amidst memories from high school. Also a look into a broken family’s secrets.

I started reading Fix Me by Lisa M. Cronkite, but stopped at about 30%. The main character has a drug problem—a made-up drug, not something that actually exists—and the narrative was too distant/disjointed for me to connect with.

Hardcore Twenty-Four, by Janet Evanovich (just because). I’ve been disappointed with the last few Stephanie Plum books. The whole Ranger and Joe (simultaneously but also with feelings of guilt) thing is a bit annoying Make up your mind already! (and please pick Ranger). Most of the humor was also missing from this one, despite the zombies.

rules of rain

Rules of Rain, by Leah Scheier (read to review). I really enjoyed this book about a girl with an autistic twin brother. Rain tries to get her brother to stand on his own two feet, but it’s hard for her to adjust to not being needed.

Spelled, by Betsy Schow (just because). This was a fun, light-humored book about a spoiled princess whose wish turns the fairy tale world upside down. The puns in this book made it well-worth reading. It reminded me of Piers Anthony’s Xanth books.

The Leaving, by Tara Altebrando (just because). One of my Tulsa book haul picks, this is about six children who disappeared 11 years ago, and five of them suddenly show back up at home, with no memories of what happened. A bit twisted, but intriguing.

Dear Mr. Knightley, by Katherine Reay (just because). I discovered Katherine Reay earlier this month, and loved The Austen Escape, so I picked this one up for fun…and emerged on the other side a few hours later. Another fantastic, Austen-related tale, with a MC who absorbs herself in books, which I can relate to.

Anatomy of a Scandal, by Sarah Vaughan (read to review). This is about a woman, married for years, whose husband is accused of rape. There’s several timelines in this book, the present-day/rape trial, and the college-days tales of several characters. This one was merely “eh” for me, but it wasn’t a bad read. Just not what I needed at the time, so I chose not to review it.

the girl in the tower

The Girl in the Tower, by Katherine Arden (read to review). Have you ever read a book that you related to a character so much that it kind of blew your mind? That was this book, for me! I thought the first book, The Bear and the Nightingale, was fantastic, and the second book is phenomenal. I loved this book, which takes Vasya from her village home to the streets of Moscow, as she searches for a life that will make her happy—not the life everyone expects her to lead. There is magic in the pages of this book, and it saturates every word. I cannot recommend this enough. (And the cover is gorgeous!)

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The Ninth Grave, by Stefan Ahnhem (stopped reading). I don’t normally start reading a series in the middle, but in this case, I took a chance. It didn’t work out for me. The opening was fantastically intriguing, but after that, the 15% I read jumped around a lot, and I couldn’t keep everyone straight, so I stopped reading. Perhaps I need to try again, from the beginning of the series.

Dead Man’s Chest, by Kerry Greenwood (review forthcoming). Ironically, this is also the first book in the series I’ve read. Book 18, to be exact. And I enjoyed it a lot! Phryne is a fascinating character—private detective/investigator—set in Australia, in one of my favorite eras to read about. She’s spunky and so observant I was completely engaged. A fun, light read.

All the Wrong Chords, by Christine Hurley Deriso (review forthcoming). I really enjoyed this YA book about Scarlett (obviously, I love her name, since Gone with the Wind is my favorite book ever), trying to recover from her brother’s death, who lives with her grandfather for the summer, and joins a local band with a hot lead singer. Scarlett’s struggle with the past, the truth, and her choices to ignore that little voice in her head is all of us.

A Murder for the Books, by Victoria Gilbert (review forthcoming). Amy is still reeling from the disastrous end of her last relationship, so she moves in with her aunt in a small Virginia town. She wasn’t ready for a mystery from the past that relates to two murders in the present, nor is she ready for her new neighbor, dancer-turned-teacher Richard. This was a fun read, and I completely related to Amy and her issues. Go read this!

Linking up with Anne from Modern Mrs. Darcy for Quick Lit.)

“Rules of Rain” Spotlight Tour!

rules of rain

How far would you go to protect the ones you love?

Rain has taken care of Ethan all of their lives. Before she even knew what autism meant, she was her twin brother’s connection to the world around him. Each day with Ethan is unvarying and predictable, and Rain takes comfort in being the one who holds their family together. It’s nice to be needed—to be the center of someone’s world. If only her longtime crush, Liam, would notice her too…

Then one night, her life is upended by a mistake she can’t undo. Suddenly Rain’s new romance begins to unravel along with her carefully constructed rules. Rain isn’t used to asking for help—and certainly not from Ethan. But the brother she’s always protected is the only one who can help her. And letting go of the past may be the only way for Rain to hold onto her relationships that matter most.

Leah Scheier works as a pediatrician and pens stories of romance and adventure. Her latest novel, Your Voice Is All I Hear, received a Starred Review from Booklist. She lives in Maryland. Learn more at leahscheier.com.

Buy Links:

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Chapters | iBooks | Indiebound

Rules of Rain was a fantastic read! The relationship between Rain and Ethan was so believable—I have two brothers, and while we’ve always loved each other, sometimes we really fought, especially during those growing-up-and-apart years. The book truly captures the ups-and-downs of siblings, and portrays the added nuances of autism with compassion.

Rules of Rain also deals with first loves, and the mistakes that are sometimes made by people who are trying to figure out who they are. This is a great book, and well-worth picking up.

The publisher is holding a contest for a giveaway for two copies of Rules of Rain!
Check it out here:

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