A Fool and His Monet by Sandra Orchard | Review

<strong>A Fool and His Monet</strong> Book Cover
A Fool and His Monet Serena Jones Mystery (Book 1) Mystery, Christian Fiction Revell Paperback 338 pages Amazon

Serena Jones has a passion for recovering lost and stolen art–one that’s surpassed only by her zeal to uncover the truth about the art thief who murdered her grandfather. She’s joined the FBI Art Crime Team with the secret hope that one of her cases will lead to his killer. Now, despite her mother’s pleas to do something safer–like get married–Serena’s learning how to go undercover to catch thieves and black market traders.

When a local museum discovers an irreplaceable Monet missing, Jones leaps into action. The clues point in different directions, and her boss orders her to cease investigating her most promising suspect. But determined to solve the case and perhaps discover another clue in her grandfather’s murder, she pushes ahead, regardless of the danger.

With spunk, humor, and plenty of heart-stopping moments, Sandra Orchard gives readers an exciting string of cases to crack and a character they’ll love to watch solve them.

 

Review

Serena Jones is the newest member of the FBI’s Art Crime Squad. After completing her first undercover case, Jones is swept into solving an art theft case at the local museum. With the help of her mentor and the unwanted help of friends and family time is running out to find the thief and recover the stolen art.

I enjoyed this novel. This is a clean mystery, with very little violence. It focuses on the mystery and alludes to a love triangle, that I’m sure will surface in future novels. Although I found the pace a bit slow at times, there was a good mixture of mystery and humor to keep me interested.

This book has been classified as suspense, but I didn’t feel that the action ever got suspenseful. I was intrigued by the story and wanted to solve the crime myself, but didn’t think any plot developed into a high tension level.

I loved the characters Orchard created. Serena’s family was especially cute and it was nice to the dynamics of different personalities play out.

Overall, I thought the plot was good, the characters were entertaining, and the mystery had some twists. I look forward to reading more about Serena Jones.


 

I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Annabel Lee by Mike Nappa | Review

Annabel Lee Book Cover
Annabel Lee Coffey & Hill (Book 1) Mystery, Christian Fiction Revell Paperback 368 pages Amazon

Fourteen miles east of Peachtree, Alabama, a secret is hidden. That secret’s name is Annabel Lee Truckson, and even she doesn’t know why her mysterious uncle has stowed her deep underground in a military-style bunker. He’s left her with a few German words, a barely-controlled guard dog, and a single command: “Don’t open that door for anybody, you got it? Not even me.”

Above ground, a former Army sniper called The Mute and an enigmatic “Dr. Smith” know about the girl. As the race begins to find her, the tension builds. Who wants to set her free? Why does the other want to keep her captive forever? Who will reach her first?

Private investigators Trudi Coffey and Samuel Hill need to piece together the clues and stay alive long enough to retrieve the girl–before it’s too late.

With its stunning writing and relentless pace, Annabel Lee will captivate readers from the first page.

Review

In Atlanta, Private investigator Trudi Coffey is visited by a mysterious Dr. Smith who is looking for a man. Dr. Smith thinks she knows where to find the target. Coffey knows her ex-husband, Sam Hill, probably does.

In Alabama, Annabel Lee is woken by her uncle and hidden in an underground bunker on their property. He gives her the only key and tells her not to open the door for anyone without the safe code. She doesn’t know how long she will be there.

Events from the past converge and the mystery of Dr. Smith’s identity and Annabel Lee’s survival are left in the hands of ex-spouses Coffey & Hill.

Annabel Lee is a fantastic book with continuous action and plot twists. Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different character. Sometimes sequences overlap, but for the most part, the chapters run chronologically. Nappa has done a wonderful job providing tidbits of information to the readers, while the characters might not yet know their connections. Although I did find aspects of the plot predictable, overall this novel keeps the reader guessing. Just when you think the characters are safe, more trouble ensues.

This novel is considered a Christian mystery. It is actually the first I have read of this genre. There are elements of Christianity and spiritual faith throughout, but it is a small aspect that any reader can enjoy the story without feeling preached to.

Fun fact: “Annabel Lee” is a poem written by Edgar Allen Poe. Nappa, a Poe fan, incorporates Poe’s poem into the novel in many clever ways. I enjoyed drawing the connections between the poem and this novel. I won’t spoil the connections for you, but look out for them while you read. It looks like the next Coffey & Hill novel is titled Raven, so I am excited to see how that Poe poem is intertwined with it (if at all).

 

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


 

Annabel Lee by Edgar Allen Poe
It was many and many a year ago,
   In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
   By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
   Than to love and be loved by me.
 
 
I was a child and she was a child,
   In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love—
   I and my Annabel Lee—
With a love that the wingèd seraphs of Heaven
   Coveted her and me.
 
 
And this was the reason that, long ago,
   In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
   My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsmen came
   And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
   In this kingdom by the sea.
 
 
The angels, not half so happy in Heaven,
   Went envying her and me—
Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know,
   In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
   Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.
 
 
But our love it was stronger by far than the love
   Of those who were older than we—
   Of many far wiser than we—
And neither the angels in Heaven above
   Nor the demons down under the sea
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
 
 
For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
   Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,
   In her sepulchre there by the sea—
   In her tomb by the sounding sea.

My Father’s Son by John Davis| Review

My Father's Son: A Memoir Book Cover
My Father’s Son: A Memoir Memoir Outskirts Press Hardcover 158 pages Amazon

A compelling memoir of fathers, sons, and the Brooklyn streets.

Every family has secrets. Ours were just bigger than others.

“My earliest memory is of a gun.” That gun was in his father’s hand – and it was pointed at his mother’s head. John Davis grew up in the 1970s and ‘80s on the rough streets of Brooklyn, a place where no one thought twice when parents smacked around their kids—or each other. At the center of the tumultuous neighborhood, and John’s world, was his larger-than-life father, Roberto. The Argentinean butcher and kingpin drug dealer was a sadistic bully whose mercurial temper left a trail of tears and chaos across his family. John, in particular, seemed to bear the brunt of Roberto’s wildly swinging moods. Any wrong word could cause an explosion. Every knock on the door might be one of Roberto’s enemies, or the police. In his publishing debut, Davis recounts how he spent his childhood in constant terror and his teen years learning to fight back. But it was much later, as an adult, that he learned the most shocking thing of all about his father, his past, and himself. Told with raw honesty and deep emotion, My Father’s Son is a memoir of fear, abuse, survival, and identity.

 

Review

John Davis did not grow up in the most loving household. His father was verbally and physically abusive and a drug dealer. My Father’s Son is written in two parts. The first provides scenes of Davis’ childhood and interaction with his father. The second part tells a story of enlightenment and a family secret revealed during Davis’ adulthood.

My Father’s Son is a heartbreaking story of abuse. I am still in shock over this story. Davis paints a clear image of his father’s personality and brutality. Readers will witness many events, spanning over years, that show what life was like growing up in the Davis household. The focus is primarily on the father, but some stories involve the mother figure as well. Each chapter covers a different experience and Davis does a great job storytelling within those, however the transitions from chapter to chapter are a bit disconnected. As we enter the second half of this novel, the focus shifts away from the father figure  and delves into a family dynamic.

I would liked to have seen more of the narrator in this novel. We learn a lot about the family members, but I feel that Davis is holding back on his emotions. Without giving the secret away, I will say that Davis opens up about his feelings and the impact of his upbringing at the very end (especially the epilogue). I just wish we saw this more in the first half – a more personal connection to the narrator versus an outsider looking in subjectively.

I enjoyed this novel. It isn’t something I would normally pick up, but I am happy to have read it. Davis had a story tell and he did so successfully.


Disclaimer: I received a free digital version of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

 

Blast From Two Pasts by Kristel S. Villar | Review

<strong>Blast from Two Pasts</strong> Book Cover
Blast from Two Pasts Romance 140 pages

Fate’s been playing tricks on Cara Nicolas lately. She agrees to go on a blind date with her best friend’s fiancé’s cousin, only to discover that the guy is her first love from high school, Lucas Lobregat. Now that would have been a charming story, except that the date turns out to be one of the worst ever. And they can’t even pretend it never happened, because they’re both suddenly part of the wedding preparations.

Just as she is starting to get to know more about the boy she used to love, Oliver Sta. Maria, an old flame who owes her some closure, surprisingly shows up. With two pasts resurfacing, which will Cara choose to rekindle? Or can she have the chance to choose at all?

 


Review

This is a cute story that many will relate to. Villar does a great job of capturing the humor, joy, and frustration of relationships. This book is a quick easy read and lots of fun – very much your typical romantic comedy.

I think the writing could use some improvement, and I didn’t like it when the narrator switched from inner dialogue to talking to the reader- it threw me a little. I also did not like the best friend, I felt her character was flat and just bitter.

Overall this was a good book and I enjoyed reading the story.

Read the first six chapters here.


Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp | Review

<strong>This is Where It Ends</strong> Book Cover
This is Where It Ends Young Adult, LGBTQ Sourcebooks Fire Hardcover 288 pages Amazon

Everyone has a reason to fear the boy with the gun…

10:00 a.m.: The principal of Opportunity, Alabama’s high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.

10:02 a.m.: The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

10:03 a.m.: The auditorium doors won’t open.

10:05 a.m.: Someone starts shooting.

Over the course of 54 minutes, four students must confront their greatest hopes, and darkest fears, as they come face-to-face with the boy with the gun. In a world where violence in schools is at an all-time high and school shootings are a horrifyingly common reality for teenagers, This Is Where It Ends is a rallying cry to end the gun violence epidemic for good.

I received a free e-copy of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review

Something terrible is happening in Opportunity, Alabama. There is a shooter attacking the town’s high school. This is Where It Ends takes place within an hour and follows four students as they deal with the events unfolding.

This book will be controversial. It covers a tough topic that no one ever wants to discuss. Regardless of the topic, Nijkamp has written a compelling story with surprises, action, and emotion.

I love that this novel is written from the perspective of the victims. It was nice to see how these different people reacted to a terrible situation. I also appreciated the fact that not all narrators knew exactly what was unfolding, they were involved but outside the situation. This really showed how these tragedies can affect many people, even those not present. It is also clever that each narrator knows the shooter, so we see a little personal emotion in the connection between them.

While reading, I wanted to see into the shooter’s mind, gain a clue as to why he was doing this terrible thing. However, now that I have had time to reflect, I’m glad Nijkamp didn’t include his perspective. It wouldn’t change what happened and I wouldn’t want to have a reason to justify his actions.

I really liked this novel. I cover a strong topic that unfortunately is relevant to today’s teens. This novel is a great way to spark a conversation about violence at school. This story kept me on my toes the entire time and was an emotional roller coaster. Read this book. Tears were streaming from my face as I read the last pages.

Since the author is on the executive committee of We Need Diverse Books, I have to talk about the diversity in this one. Also, let me preface this by saying that I am all for diversity in novels and believe we should have more.

However, I have to wonder if this novel has diverse characters just to have them, or if they came through naturally. 

I want to see more diversity in novels, but I think it should be natural and not to meet a quota or agenda. The world is diverse and that is beautiful.

 

 

Airplane Rides by Jake Alexander | Review

<strong>Airplane Riders: Observations from Above</strong> Book Cover
Airplane Riders: Observations from Above Memoir AuthorBuzz eBook 156 pages Amazon

10 true conversations, anonymously conveyed by airline passengers to the author. Written under the pseudonym Jake Alexander, Airplane Rides follows a highly successful, but emotionally isolated, real life finance executive through actual conversations had with seatmates. The work takes place over a ten year period and is multidimensional across both the passenger stories told and the moral evolution of this modern day nomad who serves as our narrator. It is a unique set of social observations, provocatively unfolded through the often painful lessons learned by others. Airplane Rides captures that seductive state between where we have been, and where we are going and the possibility of finding absolution along the way.

I received a free e-version of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review

Normally when one writes a memoir, the reader and author can something away from the story. In this case, I felt there was no point to this book except to say look have perverse and open strangers are.

I wanted to like this, it sounds interesting, but instead, I wound up despising the narrator and wondering why he felt the need to write this down. I don’t mind that the stories are lewd and deal with sex, however, there doesn’t seem a point to them. The author doesn’t learn anything and I don’t have a reason as to why anyone else should read this.

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow | Review

<strong>The Scorpion Rules</strong> Book Cover
The Scorpion Rules Prisoners of Peace (Book 1) Fiction, Young Adult, Science Fiction, LGBTQ Simon & Schuster Hardcover 384 pages Amazon

Greta is a Duchess and a Crown Princess. She is also a Child of Peace, a hostage held by the de facto ruler of the world, the great Artificial Intelligence, Talis. This is how the game is played: if you want to rule, you must give one of your children as a hostage. Start a war and your hostage dies.

The system has worked for centuries. Parents don’t want to see their children murdered.

Greta will be free if she can make it to her eighteenth birthday. Until then she is prepared to die with dignity, if necessary. But everything changes when Elian arrives at the Precepture. He’s a hostage from a new American alliance, and he defies the machines that control every part of their lives—and is severely punished for it. His rebellion opens Greta’s eyes to the brutality of the rules they live under, and to the subtle resistance of her companions. And Greta discovers her own quiet power.

Then Elian’s country declares war on Greta’s and invades the prefecture, taking the hostages hostage. Now the great Talis is furious, and coming himself to deliver punishment. Which surely means that Greta and Elian will be killed…unless Greta can think of a way to break all the rules.

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review

I was very fortunate to meet the author of this novel at the 2015 ALA Annual Conference during the YALSA YA Coffee Klatch. Once I heard the synopsis, I knew I had to read it! My intuition was correct, this is an amazing read.

I know, I know, another YA dystopian novel. But hear me out, this book is worth picking up.

The world is at peace, but always on the brink of war. Each kingdom must sacrifice their child to live as a hostage under the guard of artificial intelligence until they reach age. If a kingdom goes to war, the child of all parties involved will be killed (regardless of who is the aggressor). We follow the heroine, Greta, who has accepted her life as it is until Elián arrives and begins to question the order of things.

Bow does a fantastic job creating a new world for readers. This science fiction novel is one that readers of many genres could become captivated by. Greta is a strong lead character, not at all a damsel in distress. Greta develops beautifully as a character as her quest for knowledge and questioning expands.

There is a love triangle, but it includes two females and one male, which made perfect sense as the relationships grew. Each character has a distinct personality and you get to see their strengths and weaknesses as the novel continues on.

The ending was not what I pictured at all. It takes the reader by surprise and leaves you wanting more.

The second book to this series will be released in 2016 and I will definitely have it preordered.

Atlanta Burns by Chuck Wendig | Review

<strong>Atlanta Burns</strong> Book Cover
Atlanta Burns Atlanta Burns (Book 1) Fiction, Young Adult Skyscape Paperback 367 pages Amazon

You don’t mess with Atlanta Burns.

Everyone knows that. And that’s kinda how she likes it—until the day Atlanta is drawn into a battle against two groups of bullies and saves a pair of new, unexpected friends. But actions have consequences, and when another teen turns up dead—by an apparent suicide—Atlanta knows foul play is involved. And worse: she knows it’s her fault. You go poking rattlesnakes, maybe you get a bit.

Afraid of stirring up the snakes further by investigating, Atlanta turns her focus to the killing of a neighborhood dog. All paths lead to a rural dogfighting ring, and once more Atlanta finds herself face-to-face with bullies of the worst sort. Atlanta cannot abide by letting bad men do awful things to those who don’t deserve it. So she sets out to unleash her own brand of teenage justice.

Will Atlanta triumph? Or is fighting back just asking for a face full of bad news?

This book is intended for mature audiences due to strong language and violence.

Revised edition: Previously published as two volumes, Shotgun Gravy and Bait Dog, this combined edition includes editorial revisions.

I received an ARC of this novel from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review

This book was different than most Young Adult novels I have read, in fact, it could be a blurry line to say this is a young adult with strong content. I don’t think I would have chosen this book off the shelf, but I’m glad I had an opportunity to read it.

Atlanta Burns is one tough chick. The characters are raw and gritty, the story is captivating, and who doesn’t love a female vigilante. This book was a lot to take in, but I found the plot to move along nicely. 

Poorly Drawn Lines by Reza Farazmand | Review

<strong>Poorly Drawn Lines: Good Ideas and Amazing Stories</strong> Book Cover
Poorly Drawn Lines: Good Ideas and Amazing Stories Graphic Novel, Humor Blue Rider Press Paperback 208 pages Amazon

Life is weird. Embrace it. A bear flies through space. A hamster suffers a breakdown. A child marvels at the wonder of nature as worms emerge from the ground to look for vodka (as they always have). Elsewhere, a garden snake is arrested by animal control and jailed for home invasion. These are common occurrences in the world of Reza Farazmand’s wildly popular webcomic, Poorly Drawn Lines. Traveling from deep space to alternate realities to the bottom of the ocean, this collection includes fan favorites alongside never-before-seen comics and original essays. For the first time, Farazmand shares his inimitable take on love, nature, social acceptance, and robots.

I received an ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review

OK, this was hilarious.

Farazmand writes and draws comics with simplicity. I loved the tone of the book and  I was actually muffling giggles while reading this in a bookstore.

This short, humorous book can be read in about 30 minutes if read straight through. The comedy style may not be for everyone, but I do believe everyone can find the humor in the least one comic strip in the book.

Not much else to say. It was a funny book. I laughed. Mission accomplished.

Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar | Review

Vanessa and Her Sister Book Cover
Vanessa and Her Sister Historical Fiction Ballantine Books Hardcover 368 pages Amazon

London, 1905: The city is alight with change, and the Stephen siblings are at the forefront. Vanessa, Virginia, Thoby, and Adrian are leaving behind their childhood home and taking a house in the leafy heart of avant-garde Bloomsbury. There they bring together a glittering circle of bright, outrageous artistic friends who will grow into legend and come to be known as the Bloomsbury Group. And at the center of this charmed circle are the devoted, gifted sisters: Vanessa, the painter, and Virginia, the writer.

Each member of the group will go on to earn fame and success, but so far Vanessa Bell has never sold a painting. Virginia Woolf’s book review has just been turned down by The Times. Lytton Strachey has not published anything. E. M. Forster has finished his first novel but does not like the title. Leonard Woolf is still a civil servant in Ceylon, and John Maynard Keynes is looking for a job. Together, this sparkling coterie of artists and intellectuals throw away convention and embrace the wild freedom of being young, single bohemians in London.

But the landscape shifts when Vanessa unexpectedly falls in love and her sister feels dangerously abandoned. Eerily possessive, charismatic, manipulative, and brilliant, Virginia has always lived in the shelter of Vanessa’s constant attention and encouragement. Without it, she careens toward self-destruction and madness. As tragedy and betrayal threaten to destroy the family, Vanessa must decide if it is finally time to protect her own happiness above all else.

The work of exciting young newcomer Priya Parmar, Vanessa and Her Sister exquisitely captures the champagne-heady days of prewar London and the extraordinary lives of sisters Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf.


I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Review

Vanessa and Her Sister is a beautiful fictional novel about Virginia Woolf and her sister Vanessa Bell. Told in the form of epistolary through Vanessa’s diary. The story also features the Stephens’ siblings and friends. Based on real-life people and events, Vanessa and Her Sister show the bond of families and society life pre-WWI.

I enjoyed this novel immensely. I have read a couple works by Virginia Woolf but was unaware of her talented family and background. This novel offered a realistic glimpse of what her life might have been like. The characters were smart and witty and I felt like I would have gotten along with them in real life.

I love when authors choose alternative literary forms to write in. Reading this novel from the perspective of Vanessa Bell’s diary entries provided an interesting read. There were many detailed accounts, but there were also time gaps which made this more realistic.

I am looking forward to what Parmar comes up with next!