Saturday, June 12, 2021

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro



Rating: 3 of 5 stars 
Pages: 304 pages
Published: March 2021

So, I do not like science fiction or dystopian fiction. I think I might have mentioned that a time or two on this blog. But alas, my book club chose Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro, and I powered through it. At the time I'm writing this review, I realized that it was the only book I actually completed in June. It is not a terribly long book, but it took me a long time to get through it. I would begin reading and find any excuse to stop. This was my first read by Ishiguro. 

I think the story had lots of potential to focus on themes of love and forgiveness, but it got kind of weird and then fell flat at the end for me. Having said that, the author does have a beautiful writing style. I think I would be open to reading another selection; however, this one just didn't do it for me. The synopsis and the content of the book is very vague leaving a lot up to the reader's imagination. This could probably be enjoyable for some, but I like a little more concrete plot. For example, the reader is never even told where the story takes place. 


‘Yes. Until recently, I didn’t think that humans could choose loneliness. That there were sometimes forces more powerful than the wish to avoid loneliness.’

‘The heart you speak of,’ I said. ‘It might indeed be the hardest part of Josie to learn. It might be like a house with many rooms. Even so, a devoted AF, given time, could walk through each of those rooms, studying them carefully in turn, until they became like her own home.’

‘Perhaps all humans are lonely. At least potentially.’

There was something very special, but it wasn’t inside Josie. It was inside those who loved her.

Basically, the book is about an artificial intelligence companion that is purchase for a sickly preteen? (again, not sure about the age because ... vagueness) and follows their relationship as well as the people in her circle. There are some deep elements to ponder while reading like how we treat people and things once they are of no use to us, how people believe in the powers of a higher being, socioeconomic status and how that can affect close relationships. I don't know if any of this is what the author was going for, but it did make for an engaging book club discussion. So, there's that. 

Recommendation: If you're more of a free spirit reader, this book may work for you. Most of the books I read are based in logic and things that could possible happen, so this book was not a favorite of mine. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Flooded by Nicki Koziarz





Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pages: 208 pages
Published: March 2021

This past spring, I participated in another Proverbs 31 Online Bible Study with Nicki Koziarz's latest book, Flooded: The 5 Best Decisions to Make When Life is Hard and Doubt is Rising, at the forefront. (If you're interested in previous study books I've reviewed, just do a simple search for "Proverbs 31" on my website.) I previously read an earlier book authored by Koziarz, 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn't Quit, and it was very powerful. Likewise, Flooded did not disappoint. 

As the title indicates, the Flooded book offers five decisions when life is tough. The decisions that Koziarz has crafted come from her intense study of the Biblical Old Testament figure, Noah, and his calling by God to build an ark. Themes in this book include persistence, trust, and hope.  

The thing I like most about Koziarz's teachings and writings is the practical way in which she applies, the sometimes, complex Biblical teachings. As an author and teacher, Koziarz is talented, and as a person she is truly gifted. In her latest book, she experienced many crises while writing it including the death of not one, but two, family members. Couple that with COVID and the current state of affairs in the United States while she was writing this, she is truly blessed to have delivered such a comprehensive and cohesive teaching book. 

As with all books, I think they meet you where you are. And not all books are for every person at every moment. I don't know that I read this book at the right time in life. That is not to take away anything from the author, but more from me, as I might not have been prepared to receive all it had to offer at this point in my life. However, it is a timeless book that I am thankful to keep on my bookshelf for when it might speak more strongly to me. 

Recommendation: If you are going through a difficult time, this book is a treasure and one that can be referenced again and again. I strongly recommend this book as well as the Proverbs 31 Ministry. It is currently available through the ministry as well as Target department stores.  

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.

Monday, May 17, 2021

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave





Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pages: 320 pages
Published: May 2021

One of my May reads was a new release snagged from Book of the Month. The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave is a mystery thriller that features protagonist, Hannah, who is about a year into her marriage with Owen while also trying to bridge the sometimes awkward step-parenting gap with his 16-year old daughter Bailey. On a seemingly normal day, Owen does not come home from work but instead leaves, separately, Bailey with a bag of cash and Hannah a note that seems to point to Bailey reading: Protect her. The bulk of the story is Hannah trying to figure out where her husband has absconded and why and also how to fulfill his request to protect Bailey. In a search for answers, both Hannah and Bailey find themselves traveling from the west coast to central Texas, and ultimately learning that they will have to close that awkward gap in order to survive - physically, relationally and emotionally.  

I found this story to be intriguing. The characters were well-written and the dialogue engaging enough to keep me invested as a reader. The plot was solid, albeit with a few holes, and the ending was fulfilling. Overall, it was fun read. 



Recommendation: I would recommend this read as an entertaining, driving choice ... just in time for your summer reading list.

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

What Comes After by Joanne Tompkins





Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Pages: 432 pages
Published: April 2021

When I finished reading What comes After, a debut novel by Joanne Tompkins, all I had the emotional energy to offer was: Lovely writing! And I promise, that statement is accurate. Tompkins definitely has a way with words, but the story she crafted was so emotionally raw yet beautifully done, that's the only two words I could put together at the time. This book is not for the faint of heart. Upon opening in the Pacific Northwest, we learn that two childhood friends are dead - one killed the other, then himself. The town is grieving but specifically the parents of the boys left behind. Enter Evangeline, who knew the boys shortly before their deaths. Young and in a bit of a predicament herself, she interjects herself into the life of Isaac, who is the father of the murdered son. Then Isaac reaches out to Lorrie, the mother of the murdering son. From there, the story takes the reader on an arresting journey of loss, grief, but also, hope. 

This is not a book to be rushed through. At 400+ pages, it's a hefty read in both quantity and quality. I read this book over the course of a week and was simply mesmerized by the way the author was able to so vividly capture not only visual elements of the landscape setting but also the emotional ones that come with heavy topics such as death and (physical and sexual) abuse. While the topic is dark, the book is whole and offers the reader light and hope in the end. This book made me feel similar to Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano

My only criticisms of this book, hence the rating shy of 5 stars, is the inclusion of the Quaker religion. I listened to an interview with Tomkins on @NYTBooks Instagram account, and she noted that she is not a Quaker, so I am not sure why she felt compelled to include so much of it in the book. Additionally, she mentioned that Jonah's character was calling out to her to have a voice in the novel. While the chapters told from his perspective help fill in the gaps of the mysterious elements of the book, it also broke the flow of my reading. I'd also love to know if there was any intention by ascribing religious names to so many of the male characters. 

Recommendation: I'd highly recommend this book when you have time to read and also put the book down for a bit so you can ponder before picking it up again. It's an equally cerebral and rewarding read.

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala





Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pages: 307 pages
Published: May 4 2021

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala is a spicy and fun cozy mystery that I snagged via my Book of the Month subscription. The book centers around Lila Macapagal, her family, friends, and the folks in her small hometown she returns to after she finds her fiancĂ© cheating on her with their next-door neighbors (yes, neighborS) in Chicago. While back in town, she attempts to help revive her aunt's failing restaurant. As if that wasn't challenging enough, Lila has to face another ex-boyfriend from high school, Derek Winter, who is a local restaurant critic and who can't seem to give Lila and her aunt a break from negative food critiques. When things seem as though they can't get any worse, Derek experiences a health episode at the restaurant and later dies at the hospital as a result of it. Lila and her family are now suspects in his death. Together, with the help of some friends and community members, Lila attempts to to solve the mystery before her aunt's restaurant (and only form of livelihood) is closed ... for good! 

This book has all the makings of the light murder mystery genre, known as a cozy. What gives it depth is the inclusion of the Asian American community and the cultural contributions of the members of that community. I also appreciated the abundant and strong female characters in the book. The plot is easy to follow, making the book a relatively quick read. I think most readers could finish it in a day or two. The only thing that slowed me down is I continually had to reference the glossary and pronunciation guide in the front of the book as well as look up some words that were not provided. Having said that, I think this book might be easier read via audio or eReader, where you can either hear or quickly look up phrases with a simple click. 

Recommendation: Summer is just around the corner, and this would be a great beach read. Just make sure you have something to munch on nearby. The author provides vivid descriptions of the cuisine with some recipes in the back to try on your own! 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

The Whisper Man by Alex North




Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Pages: 355 pages
Published: June 2019

If you're looking for a riveting and emotional-filled mystery thriller, The Whisper Man by Alex North is a solid choice. I read The Shadows last summer, which is sort of a sequel to this book. I wouldn't say it's a true sequel, but both books take place in the same area and feature detective Amanda Beck. The Shadows was a different kind of mystery that moved at a much slower pace for me. I thoroughly enjoyed The Whisper Man. I found myself picking up the book at every free moment, enjoying the journey but also wanting to reach the end so I could learn the answers to all the questions the book posed. 

The story is centered around four prominent characters that all take the lead at some point. Amanda Beck is the lead detective on a case of a missing and presumed abducted child. Her case has ties to a fellow detective's case, Pete Willis, from several years back where he captured Frank Carter aka The Whisper Man. The two detectives team up to help solve the present-day mystery. In hopes of healing from a recent tragedy, Tom Kennedy and his son Jake move to the town, unbeknownst to them, where these older and more current abductions have taken place. They take up residence in an eccentric house where Jake soon begins to hear whispers at his window, leaving the reader to ponder if the captured Whisper Man has somehow found a way out. 

Recommendation: As with most mysteries, I don't want to give too much away to spoil the story, but I will say I found this one intriguing and strongly recommend it. I've already passed the book along to another reading friend. The tone and pace of this book propels the reader forward to a satisfying conclusion. It's a great read for mystery/thriller lovers. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.

Monday, March 29, 2021

The Kindest Lie by Nancy Johnson






Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pages: 336 pages
Published: February 2021

The Kindest Lie by Nancy Johnson is a literary fiction debut by Chicago native, Nancy Johnson. In this novel, she takes us back to 2008 on the heels on Obama's presidential election where her protagonist, Ruth Tuttle, an engineer and her equally successful husband, Xavier are living a comfortable middle class life in Chicago, Illinois. They've been married just long enough for Xavier to start getting excited about expanding their family. What he doesn't know is what is holding his beloved wife back. She was forced to give up a child she bore when she was a senior in high school. As secrets often do, this one finds its way out into the light and threatens Ruth and Xavier's bond. To qualm her anxieties about the decision she was pushed into nearly a decade prior and in hopes of reconciling with Xavier, Ruth goes back home to Indiana. While there, she befriends a young boy, Midnight, and their lives intertwine as she searches for answers. 

This story was equal parts literary and mystery as the reader follows Ruth on her path to learn about the son she gave up and how it affected the grandmother who raised her and older brother who felt responsible for protecting her. The story alternates between the third person perspectives of Ruth and Midnight that provide pieces of information that ultimately bring the story full circle in the end. With the novel set in the not too distant past, I think it made it more interesting to read with the awareness of present-day situations, such as race relations and economic positions. Overall, I found the novel to be a bit predictable with a satisfying conclusion. I would have liked the author to develop Xavier's character a bit more by including him more in the middle of the book (not just the beginning and short ending). 

Recommendation: Falling into the same generation as the protagonist and understanding her academic and professional aspirations, I found this book very relatable. However, I think it is a worthwhile read for anyone looking for something to devour over the weekend. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour





Rating: 2.5 of 5 stars
Pages: 381 pages
Published: January 2021

I am disappointed to report that it took me a long two weeks to complete Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour. A debut novel about a young black man currently working at one of my favorite places but also searching for himself and striving for success as eventually finds himself in a sales role in bumbling New York City.  

The book opens with Darren Vender living in a Bed-Stuy brownstone with his widowed mother surrounded and supported by his close-knit community. A chance encounter with an exectuive from the top floor of the building where Darren works as a Starbucks barista lands him the opportunity of a lifetime at a start-up company run by that executive. From there Darren transforms into Buck, and the story quickly moves from one unrealistic scenario to another ultimately falling flat. 

While I did appreciate the nods to the culture and how music was incorporated in the first half of the book, I didn't really like the premise of a novel as a sales manual. If I wanted to read a sales manual or a motivational book on how to become a salesperson, I would have done just that - not purchased a novel disguised as one. I think the biggest issue for me was the treatment of women in general, but especially women of color, as characters in the book. They were grossly underdeveloped. And the cherry on top was Soraya being depicted as his ever-devoted girlfriend even though Buck treated her and her father so horribly. I'm all about forgiveness, but I just don't see how any real woman could have forgotten his behavior in the first half of the book to the point that she stuck with him in the end. (Note: This isn't a spoiler. If interested, you'd have to read the book to understand where Buck lands at the end to get my point.) 

Recommendation: I like giving debut authors a chance, especially often overlooked authors of color, and I'm glad I gave Askaripour a chance and read his book all the way through, even the acknowledgements. This book was not my cup of tea (or cup of joe), but he promises his next one won't be anything like this one. So, who knows, I might give his next novel a try.

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Matchless: The Life and Love of Jesus





Rating: 5 of 5 stars 

Matchless: The Life and Love of Jesus is the second book I've engaged with by Angie Smith. The reason I say engaged is because the book is written and organized in such a way to facilitate either a group or individual Bible study. The first book, Seamless, was compiled in similar fashion. Matchless focuses on the birth, ministry, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

In her customary way, Smith does a great job explaining and highlighting parts of the Savior's life and how Christians can apply the lessons presented to their individual lives. She backs her statements with Biblical scripture. Smith also uses humor to help make her message relatable. After completing the book, I noted that many people did not appreciate this (especially her use of the metaphorical Janet); however, I find that type of dry humor effective. I may have been able to appreciate it more because I participated in this study along with Lifeway ministries and had access to Smith's videos where her personality really shines through. Whether the humor resonates with the reader or not, the message is still true and powerful. 

I found this book easy to read and follow. I am glad I had access to the videos as they enhanced my learning. Similar to the Seamless book, I am sure I will use Matchless as a reference and go back to it again and again. 

Recommendation: If you know Jesus or are curious about His life, this is a good book to learn (and learn more) about Him. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.



Sunday, February 14, 2021

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager






Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Pages: 384 pages
Published: July 2018

As of this writing, I am currently moderating a read-along with BOTM's Mystery/Thriller Discussion Group, which is the reason I downloaded a copy of The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager from my local library

The book centers around Emma Davis who, as a 13-year old, got the opportunity to spend the summer at the prestigious Camp Nightingale. While there, her three bunkmates go missing never to be seen again. Fast forward a decade and a half later, and Emma has been asked by the Camp's director, Franny, to return to the scene of the disappearance as one of the Camp's activity instructors. The goal is for the Camp to re-open with a new and fresh start. Emma agrees in hopes assuming the role of amateur detective and finding out what really happened to her bunkmates all those years ago. To her surprise, history seems to repeat itself, and Emma finds herself in the middle of another unexplainable disappearance of three young girls. 

Like most mysteries, this one included a large cast of characters that created an element of confusion and offered many theories of who could have done it. The story also see-sawed between present day and 15 years in the past, providing just enough details to keep the reader hooked. I was a little troubled by the extreme violence against women by this male author. Overall, I found this novel to be a formulaic modern-day mystery and fairly predictable; however, I did appreciate the little twist ending.  

Recommendation: While I enjoy reading mystery thrillers, this was my first read by this pseudonymous author. While I did finish this book so that I could fulfill my duties as moderator, the book neither struck me as exceptionally bad or outrageously entertaining. However, it did keep me engaged over an exceptionally cold winter weekend in north Texas. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet




Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Pages: 343 pages
Published: June 2020

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett has won all kinds of awards including Book of the Month's Book of the Year Award for 2020, proving that a few good things came out of that horrible year. Because I am a BFF member, I was fortunate enough to snag my copy for free this January. A story delayed is not a story denied. I can certainly see why Bennett has become a fast favorite author in the world of literary and historical fiction. She is, indeed, a talented writer. 

So, the book is about the identical twin Vignes sisters who are extremely fair in complexion. As young adults, the two women take two very different paths in life - one sister ending up on the east coast with an abusive husband, who happens to have lots of melanin, and she has to take the walk of shame back home to their small town of fair-skinned residents with her dark-skinned child. While the other sister ends up on the west coast married to a white man who has no idea she is Black. The novel turns into somewhat of a coming of age novel that spans the twin's lives and those of their daughters (one very White and one very Black) who, by happenstance, meet each other as young adults. 

I truly enjoy the writing in this book. Bennett does a great job creating imagery, evoking emotions, and telling truths about her characters. In this particular novel, which is her sophomoric piece (The Mothers, her debut), she takes on the heavy topics of colorism, identity, and self-acceptance in a very careful, thought-out way. Specifically, she shares the fictional account, that is very much based in reality, of a Black woman "passing" for White. This practice was often used as a path to opportunities and surely an easier life in segregated America. 

I was heavily invested in this story from page one. I often kept reading past my bedtime to learn more. There has been some buzz about the ending. It seems to me that the expectation was that there be some type of bang-up, action-filled ending. Instead the book, just ended. I don't think every story (whether it be in book or film form) has to have some satisfying conclusion. Like life, sometimes, the story just ... simply ... ends. (As a side note, I think a lot of people felt this way about the movie "The Photograph.") 

Recommendation: This book wasn't about the ending. It was about the journey. Every story does not need a resolved conflict or a happy ending. Sometimes it's just nice to peek into the lives of fictional characters for 300-500 pages and enjoy the literature. And that's exactly what I did. I highly recommend this book for mature teens and young adults (~16-19) as well as older adults looking to lose oneself in a beautifully-crafted story. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.

Monday, January 25, 2021

The Survivors by Jane Harper





Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Pages: 384 pages
Published: September 2020

The Survivors by Jane Harper is a dark, mysterious novel set in the small town of Evelyn Bay, Australia and on a beautiful beach. Kieran Elliott has come back home to help his mother prepare to move his father, who is suffering from dementia, to a palliative care facility. While there, a young out-of-town college student, there to further her art studies, is murdered. This current-day event brings a tragic event that caused the death of Kieran's brother and the disappearance of a young girl nearly 12 years ago to the surface. The moderately-paced story interweaves the present-day crime with the horrific events of the past to a complete conclusion. 

I enjoyed this book. While it was slow to get started for me, I found the writing to be solid and descriptive. The author had me longing to go for a swim, which is just not feasible in January (even in Texas). There were a lot of characters, as well as red herrings, introduced, that provided elements of confusion and intrigue in determining whodunit. I had pinned the murder on just about everyone, except for the right person, before I reach the conclusion. 

Having said that, the ending did fall a little flat for me. I don't know what I was expecting, but I was a little underwhelmed when I found out who the murderer was and what happened to the missing girl from 12 years prior. The story moved a bit slow for me, but it wasn't too slow. I am trying to take more time to read and digest books this year rather than racing to some arbitrary finish line of total books read by the year's end. 

Recommendation: I appreciated the imagery Harper provided in this novel. It was a suspenseful and engaging without being too graphic. I would recommended it to older teens and adults for a long weekend read. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.









Monday, January 11, 2021

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig






Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Pages: 288 pages
Published: September 2020

I know I am in the minority, but I didn't love The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. This book was highly anticipated, and books about books, libraries, and the like are usually my jams, but this one didn't do it for me. The premise is that purgatory is a library and a person between the realms of life and death can choose another chance at life. It is here we meet the main character, Nora, who has had some defeats in life. At The Midnight Library she meets her old school librarian who helps her decide what her ultimate fate will be. 

The idea seems interesting, and I really did want to like this book. However, I found the writing to be a bit non-committal and more stream of consciousness. For some reason, I felt obligated to push through and finish, maybe because it was relatively short. I don't normally do this with books. I try not to treat them like a stern parent insisting their child finish their meal. 

The overall tone of this book was sad and depressing, which wasn't a particularly good choice to read at the beginning of a fresh, new year. Each alternative life that Nora tried on made for a series of incomplete, unsatisfying stories. There were, however, some beautifully-constructed passages. 

Recommendation: I wouldn't recommend this book one way or another. A lot of readers I respect have enjoyed it, so it is possible that this one just didn't suit me. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.









Wednesday, January 6, 2021

This Close to Okay by Leesa Cross-Smith






Rating: 5+ of 5 stars
Pages: 320 pages
Published: February 2021

I'll say it again: Welcome to 2021! Now, this is how to start the year reading. This Close to Okay is my first read by author Leesa Cross-Smith, and I think I am in love. In this deeply-moving novel, she shares a story about two strangers who meet at a pivotal time in both their lives. Both Tallie and Emmett are struggling with some demons and attempting to deal with them mentally and physically. A chance meeting leads to them spending a three-day weekend together and learning about each other and more about themselves. 

This is one of those books that you have to enjoy the journey. At only 320 pages, the book may seem short, but there's so much to unpack, it is best to consume it slowly and let it sit with you a while. I found Cross-Smith's writing to be thoughtful, thorough and descriptive. Some passages were so vivid I could truly picture the scenes and the characters as she proffered them. To me, this is a wonderful talent. And I must say she wrote in such a descriptive way, not to sell movie rights (although I'd love to see it on screen), but rather to truly ignite a reader's imagination. 

Recommendation: This book was wonderful. You want to learn how it all ends, but the prose is too beautiful to rush. I savored this book like a rich piece of cheesecake. Its purchase pushed me into BFF status with BOTM, and it was a good buy. I highly recommend it - so much so that I plan to re-visit it, something I rarely do with books but often with cheesecake! 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.









Friday, January 1, 2021

The Girl with a Clock for a Heart by Peter Swanson






Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Pages: 289 pages
Published: February 2014

Welcome to 2021. I started this book in 2020, but it is my first one completed on the first day of the year, and I hope this does not portend my reading year. The Girl with a Clock for a Heart by Peter Swanson had great promise and an interesting premise but was an extremely frustrating read. This mystery's main character is George Foss, who reconnects with his first college love some decades later, when she asks him for a pretty serious favor. Seemingly caught up in the nostalgia of the relationship they once had George agrees and finds himself caught up in a dangerous whirlwind. 

The book is fast-moving, and the author's writing is intriguing. However, the story fell flat for me in the end because the ending really wasn't an ending at all. George was so infuriating, I'm not even sure we can call him a protagonist because he was his own antagonist. His love interest was equally difficult to follow and highly unlikeable. It just didn't seem like George made good choices throughout the book, and the author took the easy way out in the end - leaving this reader quite unfulfilled. 

Recommendation: I read this book with the Fort Worth Library's awesome Stay at Home Book Club. It's an awesome group of people all over the interwebs that reads and discusses together, and the consensus was Mr. Swanson left much too be desired with this read. But, hey, that's the way the cookie crumbles sometimes. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.








Sunday, December 27, 2020

All the Things We Never Knew by Liara Tamani





Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pages: 384 pages
Published: June 2020

All the Things We Never Knew is Liara Tamani's second novel and my last read of 2020. The pandemic year did not offer me a lot of extra time to read. I was blessed to maintain my job, and my workload was different but full. Additionally, my free time at home was sometimes overtaken by the mental fatigue of everything that was going on in the world. So, I ended the year reading this young adult fiction novel as my 34th selection. Furthermore, my first read of the year was also young adult fiction. And I make no apologies for it. 

This relatively short novel is very cute. It is categorized as young adult fiction but has substance. It is about two teenagers who are basketball stars on their respective teams and fall in love at first sight. The begin a fast-building relationship but, as in most love stories, some secrets get in the way - causing conflict between the two. If I had to summarize this book in one sentence, I'd say it's Love & Basketball in book form. Additionally, the book is set in my residential state of Texas, so that connection made it an interesting read.  

Tamani is a gifted writer. I've had her first novel, also set in Texas, Calling My Name on my audiobook TBR for some time now. My hope is to get to that soon. If this one is any indication, I do not think I will be disappointed. 

Recommendation: All the Things We Never Knew (not to be confused with Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng) is a good book for tweens and up. It was a light-hearted read with a powerful lesson. I've passed the book along to my 14-year old niece for her reading pleasure. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.








Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Goodnight Beautiful by Aimee Malloy





Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Pages: 293 pages
Published: October 2020

Goodnight Beautiful by Aimee Malloy was a BOTM selection that I did not purchase, but rather borrowed, from my local library. The story is about newlyweds Sam and Annie who move from New York City to a more suburban area of New York to start their new life together. Sam is an attractive, well-known therapist who sees clients in his downstairs office. Unfortunately, his sessions can be heard via an upstairs vent. Sam also, like many married couples, has some secrets of his own. These all collide and Sam goes missing. 

Oh my word, this was an excellent, twisty read! Tangled with plot lines from Stephen King's Misery, the story is fast-moving and reaches a pretty tidy ending. The thing I liked most about this book is it challenged the reader to question his/her/them preconceived ideas about gender dialect and behavior. 

I don't want to share anymore so that I don't give away any of the juicy plot twists and turns. 

Recommendation: Just go snag a copy for yourself. It's a fun way to spend a few days losing yourself in a story.  

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.








Monday, November 30, 2020

Sister Dear by Hannah Mary McKinnon





Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Pages: 384 pages
Published: May 2020

I borrowed a copy of Sister Dear by Hannah Mary McKinnon from a work colleague. It's an odd little story about Eleanor who on the same night she learns her father is not who she thought he was, he dies. As a result, she learns the name of her biological father and seeks to learn more about him. By interjecting herself into his life she becomes friends with his daughter, her half sister, Victoria. Victoria is everything Eleanor is not, and she wants everything Victoria has. Over the course of the novel, we see how her attempt to attain what Victoria has plays out, ultimately to her detriment. 

This was a quick little read for me over a weekend, but I think the story had several plot holes and situations that were just not realistic. One of them being the relationship between Eleanor and her mother and younger sister. I just didn't understand all of the acrimony in the relationship, and it wasn't really explained well. Also, Eleanor's biological father was very unlikeable and unrealistic, I just couldn't see a person being that cold to flesh and blood. However, I don't know how the other half lives; perhaps people do go to these limits to hide major secrets. 

Other than these character development issues, the story was interesting. It kept me engaged over the couple of days I read it. I liken it to one of those family mysteries you'd catch on the Lifetime Movie Network. I wouldn't say the book was time well spent, but it wasn't time wasted either. 

Recommendation: This is a twisty work of fiction that anyone could find themselves lost in over the course of a couple of days. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.








Sunday, November 22, 2020

337 by M. Jonathan Lee





Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Pages: 337 pages
Published: November 2020

Hideway Fall publishers contacted me a few months ago with an email teaser about M. Jonathan Lee's intriguing sixth new novel, 337. I get a lot of these requests through my blog contact form. After learning a bit about this book, I allowed the publisher to send me a ARC for review. And I am glad I did. 337 pulls the reader in before even opening the book. I noticed the title was displayed on the cover in a font that mimicked the author's last name (if you flipped it over). The book's page count is 337. Beyond those two elements, I'm not sure how the title relates to the story. The book is about and narrated by a young man, Sam, whose mother (Sandra) disappeared when he was just 12 years old a day after the family's annual family picnic. Her disappearance leaves Sam and his 7-year old brother with their neglectful and abusive father, Ray. The book is a double-ended and upside down, for reasons I am still trying to discern. I started reading from the side of the blue cover. After learning about the disappearance of Sandra, the book fast-forwards 25 years and Ray, Sam's father, calls and asks him to go check on Sam's dying grandmother. Then, the book instructs the reader to flip and turn the book to page 16 and continue reading normally.  

From the outset, it seems as though the story is about a man trying to come to terms with the unresolved disappearance of his mother, and it is about that to a certain degree. However, the bigger story is about Sam's reconciliation and reconnecting with his family and, in a sense, himself. The overall tone of the books is somber. The story, told from Sam's point-of-view, is very descriptive. Honestly, there's very little action, which makes the short chapters seem a little longer than they are. However, the writing style and Sandra's disappearance create enough intrigue to keep the reader hooked. 

There's a little plot twist at the end that I can't say I saw coming, but it didn't really surprise me either. I am wondering if it was even necessary. The mystery portion of the novel left me with more questions than anything. I think this novel is about personal growth and overcoming tragic circumstances and the ending just felt a little expendable to me. Having said all of that, Lee is definitely a gifted writer. The PR packet I received with this book makes me want to read some of his others. 

Recommendation: This is not an action-packed mystery. It is a beautifully written story about grief and healing. I devoured this book in a short weekend, and I would definitely recommend it with the caveat that one shouldn't put too much stock in the synopsis for guiding you through the story. In fact, I'd say, just skip the author-provided synopsis and dive right in. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Please note: The double-ended upside-down opening for this book is available in books ordered in hard copy from UK booksellers only.

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.

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