Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Thriller Review: Stillhouse Lake (Stillhouse Lake #1) by Rachel Caine

Stillhouse Lake (Stillhouse Lake #1)
by Rachel Caine

Gina Royal is the definition of average—a shy Midwestern housewife with a happy marriage and two adorable children. But when a car accident reveals her husband’s secret life as a serial killer, she must remake herself as Gwen Proctor—the ultimate warrior mom.

With her ex now in prison, Gwen has finally found refuge in a new home on remote Stillhouse Lake. Though still the target of stalkers and Internet trolls who think she had something to do with her husband’s crimes, Gwen dares to think her kids can finally grow up in peace.

But just when she’s starting to feel at ease in her new identity, a body turns up in the lake—and threatening letters start arriving from an all-too-familiar address. Gwen Proctor must keep friends close and enemies at bay to avoid being exposed—or watch her kids fall victim to a killer who takes pleasure in tormenting her. One thing is certain: she’s learned how to fight evil. And she’ll never stop.

My Review:
I really liked this one! Engrossing and kept me up too late getting through it.

Looks like the next book comes out this month, but I can't wait for all three to be out. I think I'd rather read these all in a row. It's one of those that really does leave you wanting more.

Yes, while this is a #1, you don't often expect thrillers (even in a series) to end with a cliffhanger, especially one that's just so huge.

Anyway, very good thriller and worth the read, but it is just the beginning.

I purchased my copy of this book.

About the Author:
Rachel Caine is the New York Times, USA Today, and #1 internationally bestselling author of more than fifty novels, including the smash hit bestselling thriller Stillhouse Lake, the internationally bestselling Morganville Vampires series, the Great Library series, the Weather Warden series, the Outcast Season series, the Revivalist series, and the acclaimed YA novel Prince of Shadows.
The pilot for the crowdfunded show MORGANVILLE is now available on Amazon Prime as streaming video.

She was born at White Sands Missile Range, which people who know her say explains a lot. She has been an accountant, a professional musician, and an insurance investigator, and ultimately a corporate management executive before leaving to write full time. She and her husband, comic historian/actor/artist R. Cat Conrad, live in Texas.

Visit her webpage at WWW.RACHELCAINE.COM.

Follow her on Twitter, Goodreads and Amazon.

The next book comes out on December 12, 2017:

Audiobook Review: Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, Simon Prebble (Narrator)

Nineteen Eighty-Four
by George Orwell, Simon Prebble (Narrator)

Blackstone Audio presents a new recording of this dramatically popular book.

George Orwell depicts a gray, totalitarian world dominated by Big Brother and its vast network of agents, including the Thought Police - a world in which news is manufactured according to the authorities' will and people live tepid lives by rote.

Winston Smith, a hero with no heroic qualities, longs only for truth and decency. But living in a social system in which privacy does not exist and where those with unorthodox ideas are brainwashed or put to death, he knows there is no hope for him.

The year 1984 has come and gone, yet George Orwell's nightmare vision of the world we were becoming in 1949 is still the great modern classic portrait of a negative Utopia.

My Review:
It took me quite some time to get around to reading (listening) to this book, and I must say I wasn’t disappointed.

It boggles the mind how pervasively fictional (in the context of the story) every known fact and history in the book is. The concept of double think, well, it’s amazing and seems like it wouldn’t be possible, but the way George Orwell explains it in the book, gives examples, and shows it happening to the characters makes it start feeling pretty real by the end of the story.

I found it particularly chilling how the government run media in the story proactively rewrote history, made all the more so by how easily the citizens of that future dystopia instantly adjusted their own perceptions of history to match.

Then, the romance. I had no idea that this story, with all its reputation of dystopia and Big Brother, was actually a tragic romance. Not only did it make the story hard to put down, but it perfectly illustrates just how well Orwell’s society controls every aspect of those who reside in it.

As for relevance? Well, it’s eerie and eye opening. Having read this, I find myself paying closer attention to trends in what stories the media shares, what they say, and how certain popular figures respond to it. While the story takes the ideas of social and thought control to the extreme, current events make it seem rather possible that the concepts in the book aren’t quite as fictional as one would hope.

Overall, an excellent and chilling story. Highly recommended. The audiobook performance by Simon Prebble was fantastic.

I borrowed this audiobook from the library.

*Note that the image I used is for a boxed set of this book along with Animal Farm. It was the closest match I could find to the one I read from the library.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Review: Only Tim Sent Flowers by George Kaplan

Only Tim Sent Flowers
by George Kaplan

Mary Louise, a bookish, redheaded, freckle-faced, eighteen-year-old virgin, who is unaware she has Asperger’s Syndrome, dispenses with Tim, her loving but far too serious and conventional high school boyfriend, then thrusts herself, groin first, into the 1960s sexual revolution, pioneering concepts such as friends with benefits and serial monogamy, while earning two college degrees in statistics. Nicknamed Tookie by her doting father, she engages in often humorous escapades with innumerable unsuitable lovers, whom she seduces with her oral virtuosity. But through it all, the one thing she really wants escapes her—a man who will truly love her, despite her faults, and give her a daughter.

My Review:
Only Tim Sent Flowers reads like a memoir. The main character, Mary Louise, or Tookie, becomes obsessed with experiencing and learning everything about sex.

I actually thought her relationship with her first boyfriend, Tim, was kind of sad. He’s very sweet and respectful, and he loves her, but it isn’t enough for Mary Louise. She loses interest in him when her attempts to get him to be her first fail. I kind of wanted her to get back with him, but the story is true to both her own and Tim’s personalities. He needs more and she wants less, or perhaps just different. It’s just too bad.

Anyway, that set aside, a good chunk of the book is Tookie cycling her way through as many fellows as humanly possible, studying and applying what she learns exuberantly. Some of her actual relationships are pretty interesting side stories, but again, I found them sad. Her sense of accomplishment and self-worth come at a cost I don’t think she realizes. She wants love, but only knows one variable in the formula.

I thought the fact that she has undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome added an interesting dynamic. Her behavior and preferences seem over the top until you take that into account. This characteristic is only overtly mentioned in the book’s description and the author’s note at the end, but it defines her.
As for the sexual encounters, well, nothing is left to the imagination. It’s very straightforward and detailed. One is left without a doubt about every one of Tookie’s likes and dislikes, and why. Some of the Asperger’s characteristics seemed to come out in these as well, which I thought showed some pretty good attention to detail. It is definitely meant for adult readers as there is a nearly constant stream of sex and sexual pursuit.

As for the storytelling, it comes across as rather factual and direct, a style typical of memoirs. This book should not be mistaken for a romance.

Overall, I thought this was a really good book, though it can be sad at times. I think the book might appeal to adults who enjoy fictional memoirs.

I received an ARC of this book from the author.

About the Author:
After a career of chasing, and being chased by, spies and assorted thugs across national monuments while being mistaken for Cary Grant, George Kaplan hung up his shoulder holster and used the money to buy a computer to serve as his word processor. Although well versed in writing after-action summaries, Kaplan had no experience with writing fiction, other than his expense reports. Government repercussions about modeling characters after his cohorts and enemies would have been far too risky, so he fabricated a heroine who has qualities he'd seen a few of on each of a number of women he'd rubbed shoulders (and sometimes more) with, during his long career undercover. Kaplan's first novel, Only Tim Sent Flowers, launches his Tookie series about an undiagnosed Aspie girl who perseveres through numerous unexpected adventures.
Author's website https://blackopalbooks.com/george-kaplan/

Other links:
Book Trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAHvbJ7MEac
Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Only-Tim-Sent-Flowers-Revised/dp/1626947295/
Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36176303-only-tim-sent-flowers

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Middle Grade Review: Journey to Skioria by Kandi J. Wyatt

Journey to Skioria 
by Kandi J. Wyatt

Tania is lost, shipwrecked on an unfamiliar shore. With no friends or family, the nine-year-old girl must make her way through the realm of the woodland people to a town she's never heard of. With unexpected allies from the forest, Tania departs on a wild adventure where storms rage and the forces of nature do their very best to end her journey before it has truly begun.

In a land full of forests, oceans, and small people, what will it take for one young girl to make it home alive?

Lord of the Rings meets Narnia in this standalone middle grade fantasy by author Kandi J Wyatt.

My Review:
Journey from Skioria follows Tania, a little girl who finds herself shipwrecked in a mysterious land. She quickly makes friends with the tiny inhabitants, and they agree to accompany her safely back to her family. Along the way she experiences the wonders of Skioria and it's neighbors.

What I liked about the story most was Fyrh's story. It had some depth and a good resolution. I also enjoyed some of the lore and tales told by the adults along the journey, but they were still all rather short and simple. I also enjoyed some of the pranks, but they did tend to make the adults seem more childlike than the children at times.

I was a little disappointed by how Tania, despite being the focus of the story, took a back seat to all the antics of her companions. She's basically an observer, and besides a little bit of conflict she perceives on behalf of Fyrh, there isn't much danger or risk for her to overcome.

As for the illustrations, different ones are featured at the start of each chapter, but I couldn't identify them in the context. Captions would have helped. I really wanted to know who belonged to each image.

Overall, it's a pleasant read, but without a lot of meat. I imagine younger middle graders might like it, and I didn't find anything in the story objectionable, but I wouldn't really recommend it to adult readers.

I received the review copy of this book from the author's publicist.

About the Author: 
Kandi J Wyatt is a wife, mother of five, teacher, artist, and author. In her free time, she enjoys writing fantasy stories and Christmas programs, and drawing with graphite and colored pencils. Portraits are her specialty. Kandi also enjoys photography, thanks to her photographer husband who has let her join his journey as both his model and apprentice, and she occasionally serves as his assistant when he needs a “light stand with feet.”

To learn more, visit:
Blog:  http://kandijwyatt.com/
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kandi-Wyatt-author/647179792053374
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/kandijwyatt
Pinterest:  https://www.pinterest.com/kandiwyatt3/
Instagram:  https://instagram.com/kandijwyatt/
Google +: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+KandiWyatt
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Kandi-J.-Wyatt/e/B00ZTC4T10
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13817774.Kandi_J_Wyatt

Book Links:
Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35913848-journey-from-skioria
Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074VG34TR
Barnes and Noble:  https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/journey-from-skioria-kandi-j-wyatt/1126984307
iTunes:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/journey-from-skioria/id1272359137

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

YA Review: Lakeside by Amanda Linehan

by Amanda Linehan

Badminton, Trivia, Evil Spirits. Welcome to Lakeside...

Seventeen-year-old Jemi is the new girl in town. Again.

After moving with her mother to the town of Lakeside, Jemi finds herself thrown into a busy life with new friends. Amid an array of new activities, she volunteers to clean up the town lake and its surrounding park, which is rumored by superstitious locals to be controlled by evil spirits.

When her project is sabotaged by a jealous classmate, Jemi is ready to throw in the towel. But with the help of her friends, an eccentric millionaire, and an array of memorable townspeople, Jemi takes back her project and learns that sometimes the way to success is to hang on and let go.

Because in Lakeside, there’s always more than what meets the eye.

My Review:
Jemi just wants to get in enough community service hours to graduate. Instead she finds herself heading up an impossible project to bring to life Lakeside’s embarrassing namesake.

The story is all about finding strength in yourself and following your vision, even when you feel inadequate to the task. Jemi feels real in how she, as a teenager, handles a challenge that quickly becomes more than she expected. Even so, there is a glimmer of the paranormal and a small hint of romantic interest, just enough to up the complexity and interest in the story.

Besides that, I’d have liked to know if there were some background behind the spiders. They seem to be linked to the spirits Jemi learns about, but why?

Overall, I really enjoyed the story. I think folks who like reading about teens who overcome obstacles would like this book, while readers who expect more than a glimmer of the paranormal may be disappointed.

I received the review copy of this book from the author.

About the Author:

Amanda Linehan is a fiction writer, indie publisher and INFP. She has published three novels and a couple handfuls of short stories. Her short fiction has been featured on Every Day Fiction.

She lives in Maryland, likes to be outside and writes with her cat sleeping on the floor beside her desk.

Twitter @amandalinehan
Author Site: http://amandalinehan.com/

Other books I've read by this author: