Monday, February 5, 2018

It's Been Awhile . . .

Life has been a bit dramatic the last 2 years. I haven't been reading as much as usual, because I've been focusing on things like mental health and my eating disorder. Fun stuff. Although I'm not going to review them, I am going to list the books I've read with a few short comments on them for your reading pleasure. I promise to review my next read.

1. The Wall by Mary Roberts Rinehart - The house called Sunset has been Marcia’s summer home for her entire life. Both of her parents died there, and she and her brother spent their youth exploring its rambling hallways and seaside grounds. They love the old house, but Marcia’s sister-in-law has never taken to it. Juliette loathes the sea, and soon comes to loathe her husband, as well. After they divorce, Juliette pays a final visit to Sunset, demanding alimony. She is there for a few tense days before she disappears. It takes them a week to find her body.

The peace at Sunset has been shattered, and Marcia must work quickly to keep her beloved childhood home from being forever spoiled. Somewhere in the creaky old mansion, a murderer lurks. Will Marcia be accused of the crime? Or will she be the next victim? 

Mary Roberts Rinehart was to mystery novels in America what Agatha Christie was to mystery novels in the UK, however, MRR published 14 years prior to AC's first book. This book was easy to follow (another of hers which I read first and will post below was a tad confusing), and I highly recommend it if you enjoy AC. You can even download ALL of Mary's books for .99 cents on Amazon (which I recently did) here (no affiliate link).

2. The Yellow Room by Mary Roberts Rinehart - As far as Carol Spencer is concerned, the war has spoiled everything. She and Don had been engaged for years and were on the verge of marriage when he was shot down in the South Pacific, leaving Carol on the verge of spinsterhood at twenty-four. She wants to take some kind of job in the war effort, but her invalid mother demands that Carol accompany her to the family’s summer home in Maine. But when they arrive at the faded mansion, they find it completely locked up. The servants are gone, the lights are dark—and there is a body in the closet.

There is a killer on the grounds of the abandoned Spencer estate, and the police believe it is Carol. As war rages across the seas, Carol Spencer fights a private battle of her own—to prove her own innocence, and to save her mother’s life. 

This was the first book of MRR's I read and as I stated above, I found it a bit confusing at times. I felt like I was missing something. Characters often seemed to appear in two places at once which I couldn't understand. Maybe it was just me, because as I said, I've been a bit out of it for 2 years. I still recommend this one, however. It's only $1.99 on Amazon at the moment.

3. White Bird in a Blizzard by Laura Kasischke - When Katrina Connors' mother walks out on her family one frigid January day, Kat is surprised but not shocked; the whole year she has been "becoming sixteen"—falling in love with the boy next door, shedding her baby fat, discovering sex—her mother has slowly been withdrawing. As Kat and her father pick up the pieces of their daily life, she finds herself curiously unaffected by her mother's absence. But in dreams that become too real to ignore, she's haunted by her mother's cries for help. . . .

I got this book from the library soon after it first came out in 1999. I was all of 21/22 at the time, and something about this book really struck me. I'd been wanting to re-read it for some time, but could never remember the name of it. I finally figured it out when I found the movie version on Netflix starring Shailene Woodley. It was a horrible movie. Don't watch it. I did decide to re-read it. Although it didn't strike me in the same way that it did almost 20 years ago, it was still a solid read. I'd recommend it for anyone who likes interesting coming-of-age stories. It's not always an easy one to swallow, but it says important things about family dynamics.

4. Emma in the Night - by Wendy Walker - One night three years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn't add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister's return might just be the beginning of the crime.

The ending was definitely a twist for me. I did suspect one part of it for a long time, but the way in which the ending occurred was not what I predicted at all. I like stories of missing people returned and things of that nature. I watch a lot of ID channel. If you like that type of mystery, you'll enjoy this.

5. The Killing: Uncommon Denominator by Karen Dionne - When firefighters respond to a suspected meth explosion at a trailer park, they discover a man's body, unburned but with terrible head wounds. Meanwhile, another man is discovered in a shipping container at the Port of Seattle, shot execution-style. For Homicide Detective Sarah Linden, two cases soon become one, and she must unravel a complex web of addiction, greed, and betrayal to reveal the killer.

This is a prequel to the TV show The Killing (all seasons can be found on Netflix). Loved the show and I wanted to read this book. It gave a bit of incite as to how Linden and Holder became who they were by the first episode of the first season. If you've ever seen the show, you'll want to read this gem!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Weight of Lies by Emily Carpenter

The Weight of Lies
by Emily Carpenter
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Published by: Lake Union Publishing
Publish Date: June 6, 2017
Genre & Subject Matter: Women's Fiction,
Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reformed party girl Meg Ashley leads a life of privilege, thanks to a bestselling horror novel her mother wrote decades ago. But Meg knows that the glow of their very public life hides a darker reality of lies, manipulation, and the heartbreak of her own solitary childhood. Desperate to break free of her mother, Meg accepts a proposal to write a scandalous, tell-all memoir.
Digging into the past—and her mother’s cult classic—draws Meg to Bonny Island, Georgia, and an unusual woman said to be the inspiration for the book. At first island life seems idyllic, but as Meg starts to ask tough questions, disturbing revelations come to light…including some about her mother.
Soon Meg’s search leads her to question the facts of a decades-old murder. She’s warned to leave it alone, but as the lies pile up, Meg knows she’s getting close to finding a murderer. When her own life is threatened, Meg realizes the darkness found in her mother’s book is nothing compared to the chilling truth that lurks off the page.

It's been quite awhile since I've reviewed a book on here, but after spending a frenzied, sleepless day and night poring over Emily Carpenter's second offering, I just had to get my thoughts down on paper. The Weight of Lies was quite a ride!

Emily Carpenter knows how to tackle a doozy of a tale. She appears to plot rigorously before settling into writing, making sure there are well-hidden clues throughout the piece that make the end all the more satisfying.

This book goes back and forth between sections of a book called Kitten, written by main character Meg's mother, Frances Ashley, and the present-day. Meg's mother wrote the book based on a real life murder that took place on Bonny Island where Frances spent a summer when she was nineteen. The character of Kitten is even based on a little girl named Dorothy whose father owned the hotel at the time.

As the fortieth anniversary of the best seller looms on the horizon, a book editor approaches Meg to write a tell-all about her tortured life with her mother, a Mommie Dearest-type. Meg's early twenty-something angst takes over and she agrees to share her childhood with the Kitten Cult readers. In order to learn more about her mother's time on island, she contacts adult Dorothy ("Doro"), who now owns the hotel, and descends on the island, eager to learn everything she can about what truly happened back in the 1970's. Was Doro truly the murderer as the book and Kitten Cultists suspect, or was it Frances herself? The deeper Meg descends into the mystery, sorting fact from fiction, the more she discovers about her mother and about herself.

The characters of Meg, Frances and Doro aren't short on dimension. Their mannerisms, back histories and the way they intertwine are all satisfyingly explored in the book. I loved that each chapter started with a paragraph from the book, Kitten, giving the reader a glimpse of the fictional account of the events surrounding the murder. Present-day events soon followed, giving the reader more pieces of the puzzle, sometimes contradictory to the information in Kitten. It truly is a Who-Dunnit until the very end, although I suspected things weren't as natural as they seemed with one of the characters.

I felt that the author tried to fit in too many twists involving too many characters. Almost every single character in the story had some kind of unknown-to-the-reader motive for being on Bonny Island. In my opinion, Koa's, in particular, seemed a bit of a stretch and without a ton of explanation, as did Koa as a character. He was very 1-dimensional. At the end of the book, you know what his goal in coming to the island was, but it didn't have a strong hold on me. There needed to be more depth to that storyline.

A couple of things were a bit far-reaching, like the lead poisoning, but I liked the book so much to gloss over those parts.

I've put a SPOILER warning on the information below the break. The plot will not be revealed, however reading below will give you one piece of insignificant information about two of the characters. I just wanted to mention my dislike.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Ten Below Zero

Ten Below Zero
by Whitney Barbetti
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Published by: Whitney Barbetti
Publish Date: August 25, 2014
Genre & Subject Matter: NA, Cancer, Female being Attacked
Rating: 5 Stars

My name is Parker. My body is marked with scars from an attack I don’t remember. I’m indifferent to everything, everyone. The only emotion I feel with any kind of depth is annoyance, and I feel it often.

A text message sent to the wrong number proves to be my undoing.

His name is Everett, but I call him rude. He’s pushy, he’s arrogant, he crowds my personal space, and worst of all: he makes me feel. He chooses to wear all black, all the time, as if he’s waiting to attend a funeral. Probably because he is.

Everett is dying. And he’s spending his final days living, truly living. In doing so, he’s forcing me to feel, to heal. To come face to face with the demons I suppressed in my memory.

He hurts me, he fulfills me, he completes me. And still, he's dying.

This is my new favorite author! I have no idea how I ran across this book on Amazon, but I'm SO GLAD I took a chance on it in spite of it's foreshadowed end. This is literally the only book that's ever made me cry, yet I can't sing its praises enough!

We've all read books with the "terminal illness" trope and/or the "broken people who overcome things" trope, and hopefully, we're all ready to read a fresh and uncharted version of those. That's what Ten Below Zero is. While those are strong themes in the story, they are by no means the reason that this story resonates. The realistic characters and the journey they embark on that shaped this book in a way that no other has for me.

Parker has blocked out the terrible incident that caused her scars. In order to maintain that wall, she's turned off all of her emotions and is simply surviving instead of living. I completely identify with her, and not just because I've had my own attack experience. The author made me identify with her character through her carefully chosen words and descriptions of Parker.

Everett has a terminal illness and is choosing to fully live until the end. He's in the exact opposite place than Parker, and after a wrong number on his part and an impulsive move on hers, he is determined to show her how to feel and how to live.

The two set off for a road trip, Everett's last hurrah. Will Parker thaw? Will Everett find what he's looking for? You'll have to read to see. I do not want to give away any spoilers as it is best to let the story unfold naturally for the reader.

Let me know if you've read this one!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Flat Out Celeste by Jessica Park

Flat Out Celeste
by Jessica Park
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Published by: Create Space
Publish Date: May 22, 2014
Genre: YA
Rating: 4.5 Stars

For high-school senior Celeste Watkins, every day is a brutal test of bravery. And Celeste is scared. Alienated because she’s too smart, her speech too affected, her social skills too far outside the norm, she seems to have no choice but to retreat into isolation. But college could set her free, right? If she can make it through this grueling senior year, then maybe. If she can just find that one person to throw her a lifeline, then maybe, just maybe. Justin Milano, a college sophomore with his own set of quirks, could be that person to pull her from a world of solitude. To rescue her—that is, if she’ll let him. Together, they may work. Together, they may save each other. And together they may also save another couple—two people Celeste knows are absolutely, positively flat-out in love.

I LOVED LOVED LOVED Flat Out Love by Jessica Park, and have had this follow-up on my TBR pile for awhile. I finally got the chance to sit down and read it. I was not disappointed.

Jessica Park has a knack for making her characters seem like people I know in real life. I know a lot of people write things like that in their reviews, but I REALLY mean this. I feel like I could hang out with Celeste or Matt or Justin and feel comfortable with them. Celeste likely has Aspergers while Justin has some type of ADHD. She brings a natural calm to him, and he accepts her for who she is. Matt and Julie of Flat Out Love also make an appearance. I won't go into too much detail as reading it is much more gratifying than the review I'm writing. I just can't do Jessica Park's books justice.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Just a Bit Wrong by Alessandra Hazard

Just a Bit Wrong
by Alessandra Hazard

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Published by: Amazon Digital
Publish Date: September 14, 2015
Genre: M/M Romance, LGBTQ
Rating: 4 Stars

Zach Hardaway is one of the best physiotherapists in Europe.
Tristan DuVal is a young soccer star with a groin injury.
They despise each other from the moment they meet.

As far as Zach is concerned, Tristan is a rich, spoiled brat who is too used to getting his own way. 

As far as Tristan is concerned, Zach is a bossy, presumptuous jerk. 
Tristan hates Zach. He does. The problem is, he also wants to shove Zach against the nearest wall and climb him like a tree.

As soon as I finished reading Book 2 in the Straight Guys series by this author, I went right on to this one. I skipped #3 because I wasn't sure if it was healthy for me to read, but since the same characters overlap in this book and in Book #5, I think I will go back and read it.

The characters in this book could not be more different. Zach is straight in every way - straight-edged personality (or so he portrays), straight to the point physiotherapy, and someone who doesn't like games. Tristan, on the other hand, is a spoiled brat who gets off on manipulating people until he has no friends or family. He can certainly be annoying and a handful, but he was a well-written character.

While Zach and Tristan do get their HEA, there is a lot of depth to this book. We learn some about Tristan's background in this novel, but in the next (that I'm currently reading), we learn much, much more about why Tristan is the way he is. This is a stand alone novel, but I would keep reading to learn as much about these characters as you can.

The only thing negative I have to say about the series is that I don't like any of the book covers.