I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
PUBLICATION: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, September 1st, 2016
Hen and Izzy had moved from town to town but when their parents buy the old house where their father grew up, they realize this new place is boring. But when they discover they live next door to a witch, this obviously piques their curiosity. Unfortunately, while spying on her, Hen is kidnapped by the Piper and Izzy is thrust into a fantasy world filled with creatures beyond her wildest imagination as she tries to hunt her sister down from the evil Queen Morvanna. Typically when the Piper kidnaps a child, he leaves a Changeling in its place. But not this time. This time its different.
Overall this was a fun book opening up a new world filled with wondrous and memorable creatures mostly focused around the Changelings, creatures that can change into certain animals. I can definitely envision this book opening up a child's imagination. The Changelings were funny and well-developed and even the unlikable ones were, well, likable.
The story centers around Izzy trying to get her sister Hen (weird name) back from the Great Peter the Piper at the Apple Festival. Usually during this festival, children are adopted in this fantasy world known as Faerie. I won't spoil who adopts Hen but it was a nice little plot twist. Unfortunately, the story starts to get a little muddled from here on. Personally, it was hard for me to imagine Morvanna as this evil, big bad guy (or girl) when she wasn't even mentioned in the first 40% of the book. But I digress...
The story moves along nicely in the first half but drags slightly in the second half. Still filled with wonderfully imaginative creatures, Soontornvat does a great job at really opening up this world for sequels involving this creatures and characters that aren't really opened up much in this first novel. But again, around 75% in the book we're introduced to this big fearsome creature known as Lacrimo (which sounds likes a creature that walks around crying... but its not). Just like before, its hard for me to be impressed by a bad guy that seemed like an after thought. And the battle with him was pretty short. Kind of disappointing.
There was one really nice big plot twist at the end that made me appreciate Soontornvat as a legitimate children's author but I won't give that away. Suffice to say it was unexpected (okay... I kinda had a feeling it was coming) and really made the story click a little bit more.
All in all this was a good read and I think kids will like it much more than I did.
PUBLICATION: Crown Archetype Publishers, February 2nd, 2016
Everyone knows that sports have a tendency to make people do strange things they wouldn't otherwise do: paint your face to support your team, stay up late at night to watch your basketball team finish their game, and even name your children after sports icons (i.e. Peyton). But the science, math, and statistics behind this behavior runs much deeper than fans being fans.
This book initially struck me as a Freakonomics meets Sports Illustrated, essentially statistics meets fandom, a mathematical and psychological insight as to why fans and athletes behave the way they do. And in true Freakonomic fashion, its pages are filled with charts, graphs, tables, experiments, statistics, numbers, data, and everything in between. But there's just one problem with this book.
Now don't get me wrong, I loved (devoured!) the first three Freakonomics books as well as other sports memoirs, essays, and exposes. In fact, I'm even one of those strange fans that scream at their television sets when my precious, beloved Buccaneers get called for their 13th off-sides penalty or when my angelic Tampa Bay Rays get a bad call. The problem with this book is that its just plain boring. Not boring in a sense where I couldn't finish it because I kept falling asleep, but boring in a sense that I felt like I had read a lotof this book in other books that were much better. For example, they discuss the probability of a goal keeper in soccer jumping left, right, or staying straight for penalty kicks and how the majority of kicks go straight but out of fear of ridicule, the goalie jumps to the side. This exact scenario is explained in one of the opening chapters of "Think Like a Freak" (Freakonomics book number 3).
The book wasn't all bad though. It started off on a strong note: the worldwide phenomenon known as the T-shirt cannon. This was a great way to start the book, in my opinion. Everyone knows what it is but it was interesting reading the psychology behind why teams utilize them and why fans love them. Another great chapter what "Why the Coach's Seat is Always Hot", discussing the rapid turnover rate and senseless hiring in professional sports - and why management doesn't care.
Overall, this book was okay - nothing spectacular, slightly boring, but it had a few bright spots scattered throughout. I definitely recommend it for a sports fan but the problem is, the math and statistics might be a bit much for the average fan. It's a little too science-y for sports and a little too sports-y for science.
In exchange for an honest review, I received a copy of the book from the publisher.
Becca Eckersley is a senior at George Washington University with dreams of attending law school in a few short months. While studying for a test late one night with group of friends, Brad decides he will break into the professor's office and steal a copy of the final, ensuring everyone gets an A and gets into their chosen law school. But things go wrong with this plan and their perfect friendships are strained to the point that Becca ends up dead. But by whom? And why? That's what Kelsey Castle is sent from Miami to find out. A journalist for the magazine Events, she is just coming back from a life crisis and is ready to get back to work. But when her editor hands her this fluff piece, to investigate a murder in the sleepy town of Summit Lake, she quickly realizes something is wrong here. Something is very, very wrong.
This is one of those rare chill-you-to-the-bone, stay-up-late-at-night with bloodshot eyes because you can't quit turning the pages type of thriller. The entire book reverberates with a spooky, eerie feeling that the reader just can't shake. Skillfully written and masterfully paced, this debut novel by Donlea is one that must be read. Where typical murder mysteries lack depth and a spine-tingling feel, this book nails it.
Told from alternating perspectives of Kelsey and Becca, before and after the murder, it always keeps the reader guessing as to what lies around the next corner with an ending that changes everything you once thought you had figured out. I hope the author continues to write in this series using the character of Kelsey as I felt she was a great protagonist but not annoying like most thriller detectives. She was relatable and not over the top.
Bottom line is this: go buy this book. Highly recommended.
DISCLAIMER: I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Publication: Quirk Books, June 7th 2016
Bailey is a college graduate who just hasn't gotten her dream job yet. Living at home, she accepts a position with her high school best friend as a barback, one who cleans the bar. One night she discovers a secret stash of liquors, makes herself a drink, and is suddenly attacked by a demonic creature called a tremen. Upon further questioning of the fellow bartenders, her whole world is turned upside down as she learns of the secret bartending society that imbues themselves with different cocktails, each of which grants the drinker special abilities such as super strength, telekinesis, and impenetrable skin. But will it be enough to stop the ever increasing force of tremens, especially with Halloween just around the corner?
This was an interesting and original read for me as I'm not a big fan of the paranormal genre. But I have to say I enjoyed it. The writing isn't anything spectacular but it does have a nice flow to it, as if someone is just having a conversation with you. The book also has little sparks of humor scattered throughout:
"Follow me on this one because it could get complicated: I'm transgender. Oh, and there's a tremens [demon] behind us."
The text is full of witty banter like this which made it an enjoyable read. Also, between most chapters, the author does a pretty neat thing when he describes each drink used in the previous chapter, how to make it, and how it was discovered to have magical powers. I thought this was a nice addition to the text.
The ending had a bit of a twist as well but I won't give that away. Overall, the book had likeable characters, easy reading, and a nice original concept where bartenders gain magical powers by drinking cocktail concoctions.
Samuel has passed away and in a horrific car crash and there are questions as to if it was intentional or accidental. Therefore, an unnamed writer begins to interview his girlfriend, family, and best friend to recount his last days in an effort to put together an expose hoping to provide more closure.
This book was originally written by a very popular, award winning author in Sweden. It was translated to English for this edition. Something must have been lost in translation because I never really got into this book. The translated writing never seemed to have any direction or flow. It reminded me of sitting down and talking to a elderly person as they recount different stories of their life, none of which are really related to each other.
I also didn't find myself connected to any of the characters. At first, I kept reading hoping those connections would come but 75% into the book, I was looking forward to starting a new book more than I was finishing this one.
Before reading this book, I looked at the reviews of it on Goodreads - stellar ratings! But I couldn't read any of them because they were all in Swedish. My personal thoughts are that if I knew Swedish and read it in its original form, it'd be better. But I don't have a problem with translated novels as I loved "The Dinner" by Herman Koch. This one just didn't do anything for me.
A while back I reviewed an exceptionally original sci-fi masterpiece, "Fluency" by Jen Foehner Wells. I had longed for a sequel mainly because the first one was so good. I recently found out my dreams have come true.
The following is a link to her personal blog where she talks about the novel, "Remanence". If you haven't had the chance to check out "Fluency" yet, do so here.
Jason Dessen is an accomplished physicist who has fallen in love, had a child, and gotten married to the woman of his dreams. Because of this new life, he had to give up his research and relegate himself to a teaching position at a middle-tier college while his friend and colleague goes on and achieves high awards in the field of Physics. But coming back from one of his friend's parties to celebrate his last award, Jason is kidnapped, beaten, and asked "Are you happy with your life?" as his entire world is forever changed.
In typical Blake Crouch fashion, the less you know, the better the story. Crouch's recent breakout success with the Wayward Pines trilogy followed this same formula and he pulled it off perfectly. The same phenomenon happens here.
While reading this novel, I literally could not turn the pages fast enough. Well written with multiple plot twists and empathetic characters, this book is sure to win awards this year and for good reason. The only drawback is in the middle of the book, while Crouch is setting up the big premise, it can get a little confusing. But as with most things in life, if the reader puts in the work to understand what Crouch lays out, the payoff is huge.
The great thing about this book is that I finished it last night laying in bed and upon awakening this morning, several other things clicked in my head that made this book that much more sweet. Crouch really excels at covering each potential plot hole (and in a book this involved, there could be plenty) which shows that he is truly becoming one of the great authors of our time. It surprises me that Crouch, with the success of the Wayward Pines series, would swing for something this big and bold, in what is truly an all-or-nothing topic. But swing he does, and he truly hits a home run on this one.
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
What began as a typical PTO meeting changed the course of Caroline Jacob's life when she shouts out a certain four-letter word when the rich housewife/PTO president begins complaining that people need to start doing more. This causes her outcast daughter to get expelled after standing up for her mother at school the next day. Having been pushed around her whole life, Caroline decides to take her daughter and travel 10 hours to her hometown to seek revenge against her own high school bully, Emily, who sparked this life of second-place for Caroline. When the mother-daughter duo arrive, Caroline discovers that picture perfect people might not be so perfect after all.
This was an excellent story that was well-written throughout. I feel that Dicks really excelled at making his characters believable and empathetic especially for readers, such as myself, who didn't have the best high school memories. The story also sparked a conversation amongst myself regarding how lives can be changed by events that occurred years ago. One of my favorite quotes from the novel says:
"Nudge someone one way or the next and a person's life trajectory can change forever."
I thought this was very poignant as I can recall a few moments in my education where fellow students and teachers did gentle gestures that changed the course of my life.
I highly recommend this book and thought it was an easy, smooth, yet deeply emotional read.
So Serge and his pot-addicted friend Coleman is back and this time they're tackling mortgage scams. Serge decides to become a lawyer and help his "girlfriend" Brook (who we met in the last book) in her case. In typical Dorsey fashion, things get out of control fast.
I'm a fan of Tim Dorsey and this series. I must be considering this is book 19 but sometimes he loses me and this was definitely the case here. This book didn't have a clear plot and direction like some of ihs earlier work and got quite confusing and muddled at times. Quite funny as one would expect with a Serge Storms novel, but not nearly as much as the prior books.
Dorsey has a tendency to ramble in his books - that's mostly why he's successful with this series: he's a successful, well-performing rambler, but this time it just doesn't work. The first third of the novel flows nicely but then he lost me. However, reading the other reviews online, this is one of the higher rated novels in this series so I guess its all in the eye of the reader.
One neat thing that came of this novel was the introduction of Serge's wife Molly. I won't spoil how that plot line ends but it definitely makes me want to read his new work, Coconut Cowboy.
I have a couple of updates that have made me quite excited!
1. I was approved for Blake Crouch's new novel, Dark Matter. If you've read my earlier reviews of Crouch's work (Pines trilogy), you'll know I'm a big fan.
2. I was invited to become a member of a program put on by Random House that will increase the number of books I will be reviewing. They have chosen me and my blog to partner with to bring my readers exciting new reads!
I love to read and to discuss books. My preferred genre is sci-fi but I like to read mostly anything.