Tag: book reviews

Review: POISON by Galt Niederhoffer

51RENPsWuDLPOISON by Galt Niederhoffer / Thriller / Released Nov 2017 by St. Martin’s Press

Review by Heather Haven

Cass, a widow from New York City with two children, meets architect Ryan Connor, who sweeps her off her feet. They end up marrying, moving to Portland, Maine, having a son, and buying a Victorian fixer upper. They are totally and completely happy. Or are they? The house seems to be in constant need of something, as suddenly does the rest of her life. Cass is unable to cope.

Ryan begins to stay late at work more and more. Is it another woman? Is it her inability to be who she once was? Or is she going mad? Why is everyone turning against her? Even her own mother testifies against Cass at a competency hearing in her ability to take care of her two older children. Where is her once idyllic, storybook life? And her life only tumbles down from there.

The author, Galt Niederhoffer, is a master at creating a world in which this woman is being psychologically tortured, either by herself or others. The reader sees the minutest details of her in the throes of losing her mind. In a very close and personal third person point of view, it’s almost as if the author has experienced a situation akin to the one she writes. But that is often the mark of a fine writer, to wear the skin of others. Poison is a sometimes difficult book to read, but the writing is beautiful, intense, and believable.

YA Sci-Fi Review – A Brand New Address

A Brand New AddressA BRAND NEW ADDRESS Intervenus Volume 1 by Kathleen Rowland / Create-Space Publishing – June 2014 – 4 Stars

This New Adult type story will entertain readers who like traditional sci-fi mixed with romance. Yardley Van Dyke must contend with frozen temperatures on an Earth trapped in a new Ice Age. She promised to see to it that her family continued to eat and that means continuing to operate the greenhouse her mother, now deceased, started. This isn’t a fancy structure. It’s obvious that Yardley must scrap and patch to hold things together and she is unappreciated by those who depend on her, especially her father’s fiancée who wants upward mobility in their dysfunctional society.

Yardley isn’t the only one who tries to save those around her. A childhood friend and companion, Marchand LaFond hunts, fishes and does his best to scrounge food for those who need it, sailing an ice-boat across the frozen lake. It’s hard to believe that these two teens live in what was once California. Of course, the reader roots for the two characters to realize the depth of their feelings for one another. These two heroes certainly deserve to have someone who believes in them. One of the best parts was when Yardley figured out a way to take her dog off planet with her and Marchand proved himself a suitable hero by supporting her in the endeavor. The author does an amazing job of describing the hazards of living on a freezing planet and how it affects not only Yardley and Marchand, but those around them. While some people rise and attempt to do their best to deal with adversity, others take advantage. Yet in an unending winter, it is little wonder that the citizenry want to escape somewhere warmer, i.e. Venus. During the story, the reader learns that Yardley and Marchand have more than one adversary, especially those who are in charge of one of the biggest companies on and off of Earth.

Despite the well-developed characters and the setting, some questions remain. For example, in the beginning Marchand intended to enter a contest to leave Earth. He intended to try to make it to Venus and wanted Yardley’s twin brother to travel with him. Tensions mounted since it was obvious that Yardley should be the one to go – she knew plants, would be able to work with Marchand and longed for adventure while Skeeter seemed more of a home or Earth body. However, it was never fully explained why Skeeter bailed on the trip. In addition, why did Dad’s fiancée accept Skeeter staying with them once Yardley announced her decision? Pinky, the fiancée, made it plain that she wanted Dad to herself. Next, Skeeter had a major crush on one of the girls from the “upper crust” – since she pulled strings to go on the trip to Venus, why didn’t he change his mind and opt back into the journey. Next, the reader learns that BotGen, the evil corporation that owns the US government, has a habit of brainwashing its employees – this isn’t a secret from Yardley or Marchand, so why don’t they suspect that astronauts they rescue from another ship may be infected?

Okay, so this is the first in a trilogy and these questions may be answered in later books. Even with unanswered questions, this was a fascinating read. The scenes on Earth made me shiver and I loved the references to another, earlier time before the Ice Age began. The romance between Yardley and Marchand was sweet, loving and a bit spicy at times so it may be too much for younger readers.

This review was provided by Shannon Kennedy for her column Shannon’s Space in The Book Breeze.  For more of Shannon’s reviews visit:  http://www.thebookbreeze.com/Latest_Issue.php

 

March Mystery Reviews

The Sandcastle MysteriesTHE SANDCASTLE MYSTERIES: DEATH AND DECEPTION AT THE JERSEY SHORE (Eight Women Writers, 2010, $15.95) is the result of a collaboration by the aforementioned women who write under the name of Amea Lake. When a young woman finds the body of her husband on the kitchen floor, she realizes that she knows almost nothing about the man she married. Her amateur sleuthing leads her into a web of international intrigue, money-laundering and murder, while coping with the usual stresses of life along the Atlantic seaboard.  (Reviewed by Roberta’s Ramblings)

Jeff Markowitz takes on small-town New Jersey are always trenchantly funny. In A MINOR CASE OF A Minor Case of MurderMURDER,(Crossroad Press, 2013, $13.00), his reporter sleuth Cassie O’Malley goes to a local baseball game, and finds herself involved with the murder of the team’s mascot. Was the girl in the mosquito suit the target, or was this a case of accidental death? A land deal, a bird fanatic, a cab driver and a would-be sports baron all figure in this jaunt to the Jersey shore and its eccentric inhabitants.  (Reviewed by Roberta’s Ramblings)

As recent events have shown,politics in New Jersey can get nasty. In DEADLY CAMPAIGN, by Alan Orloff (Midnight Ink, 2012, $14.95), Comedy Club owner Channing Deadly CampaignHayes thinks he’s doing a friend a favor when he lends his support to a friend’s political ambitions. Then a gang of goons disrupts the meeting with baseball bats, and things get really serious. Since the young politician’s family doesn’t want police involvement, Channing is pressed into service as a private investigator. It’s a look at the dark side of New Jersey, with pay-offs, blackmail and murder as business as usual.  (Reviewed by Roberta’s Ramblings)

E.F. Watkins shows the artistic side of New Jersey in her latest Quinn Matthews Haunting Mystery, HEX, DEATH & ROCK ‘N ROLL (Amber Quill Press, 2013, $15.00). Quinn’s been called in toHex, Death & Rock 'n Roll help restore an old theater in Elizabeth, NJ, once the preferred venue for vaudeville, later used by rock stars. Now it’s going to be the setting for a new video by the hottest new rock band, Mad Love, but the band’s lead singer is worried about a series of accidents that have plagued the group. Is it sabotage, or something more unworldly? Quinn’s psychic gifts are called on to get to the bottom of the tangled web of personal and professional loves and hates that surround the musicians and their entourage. In the process, she helps an unhappy young woman find fulfillment, and makes a few decisions about her own love life. As always, E.F. Watkins delivers a sold mystery with a psychic twist.  (Reviewed by Roberta’s Ramblings)

THE WEIGHT OF BLOOD By Laura McHugh (Randon House Publishing Group March 11, 2014) Genre: Mystery Score: 4.5The Weight of Blood

Blurb: The town of Henbane sits deep in the Ozark Mountains. Folks there still whisper about Lucy Dane’s mother, a bewitching stranger who appeared long enough to marry Carl Dane and then vanished when Lucy was just a child. Now on the brink of adulthood, Lucy experiences another loss when her friend Cheri disappears and is then found murdered, her body placed on display for all to see. Lucy is haunted by the two lost girls—the mother she never knew and the friend she couldn’t save—and sets out with the help of a local boy, Daniel, to uncover the mystery behind Cheri’s death.

Review: The book was wonderfully paced, building with each page as Lucy delves into the disappearance of her mother and Cheri. Told in dual storylines we find out the truth about the secrets of Henbane. The only downside to the story was about half way through the author decided to delve into a lot more POV’s which bogged down the story. I don’t think much of it was needed and, for me, it was the wrong place for it. This is still a wonderful mystery. I highly recommend this intriguing, complex story about the weight of blood.  (Reviewed by Donna Keihle)

THE LOST SISTERHOOD by Anne Fortier (Ballantine Books March 11, 14) Pages: 608 Genre: Adventure / Women’s Fiction Score 5The Lost Sisterhood

Blurb: Oxford lecturer Diana Morgan is an expert on Greek mythology. Her obsession with the Amazons started in childhood when her eccentric grandmother claimed to be one herself—before vanishing without a trace. Diana’s colleagues shake their heads at her Amazon fixation. But then a mysterious, well-financed foundation makes Diana an offer she cannot refuse – to fly to Coppenhaugen.

Review: Since I’ve always had more curiousity than common sense, I had to trouble believing that Diana would leave the country with a complete stranger in her quest for the Amazons. There are three storylines that weave together the present and past to tell the tale of Diana’s work to uncover proof the Amazons existed, her memories of her missing grandmother and Myrina, the first Amazon queen. No journey would be complete without a couple of good looking men and Fortier offers us two – James Moselane, Diana’s longtime crush and Nick Barran, the secretive man she meets in North Africa. There’s danger and intrigue and I loved every page. Since I’m not a student of history, I don’t know how her story stacks up to the facts but as an avid reader I can tell you this is not a book you only read once. A very satisfying journey with twists, turns and plenty of surprises that you don’t want to end.  (Reviewed by Donna Keihle)

March YA Reviews

FOOLS GOLD by Lynn Lovegreen

Prism Book Group (Dec 2013)    4 Stars   Reviewed by Shannon’s SpaceFools Gold

This debut novel was a fun, sweet, new adult romance with an old-fashioned tone. Eighteen-year-old Ellie Webster sets off on the adventure of a life-time when she heads to gold rush Alaska with her younger brother to save the family farm. The young duo needs to raise money to settle a debt that their now deceased father incurred. Ellie doesn’t expect to fall in love along the way, especially not with a saloonkeeper. Duke Masterson may operate a saloon, but there is more substance to him than Ellie thinks. Slowly, she begins to realize she might have found the man of her dreams. Skagway, Alaska in 1898 was a wild, raucous place that comes to life in Lovegreen’s book. The reader gets a good view of everyday pleasures and problems, such as Soapy Smith, the con-artist determined to steal a fortune. When Ellie and her brother fail to make it to the gold-fields, she starts baking pies and selling slices to the miners. Ellie isn’t sure what she wants. Is it a husband or her independence? Does she want to share her life with the man who courts her or does she want to send him away? Well-developed characters and a beautifully described setting make the story come to life for the reader. Duke Masterson is a charming, wonderful, handsome hero. He could have used a few flaws. The way he chooses to earn a living really isn’t one of them since he won’t serve alcohol to underage drinkers, a bit of a stretch in 1898. He also doesn’t have saloon girls, or cheat his customers. He’s determined to earn a decent living by selling booze to the miners. Along the way, he helps people, not just Ellie. As a hero, he’s an all-around “nice” guy and Ellie is a very “nice” girl who reminds the Skagway locals of the women they left behind. That makes this book, a nice cozy romance with an old-time feel, the perfect way to enjoy a rainy evening, perhaps with a piece of apple pie.

INTO THE DEEP by Missy Fleming

Fire and Ice YA ~ January 2014    4.5 Stars    Reviewed by Shannon’s SpaceInto the Deep

Blurb: No one understands the fury of the ocean like Zoey.

Turning sixteen can be a watershed moment in any girl’s life, but for Zoey, it means discovering who and what she truly is – a mermaid. Wow, what a hook! The victim of a devastating accident when she was six, Zoey deals with a prosthetic leg and feels like she’ll never be accepted by her peers. Then a trip to the beach shows her a whole new world. She is a mermaid, a princess and she decides to explore what this actually means. She can talk to sea animals and makes a new friend, a dolphin that in turn helps her find the father that she’s always missed. She’s a princess in this new underwater realm, but it doesn’t make her life easier. Zoey soon learns that her royal family faces an enemy determined to destroy them. She wants to help them and along the way help herself. She needs to save not only this new world, but the one she left behind. She isn’t alone in this struggle. There are others who will help her like Nerio, a young mer that she finds as brave as he is handsome. He has issues with the fact that she is from a higher class than he is and attempts to keep his distance from her. However, being strong, smart and resilient, Zoey won’t back down from the challenge he represents. She can catch her mate and keep him, or not. It’s up to her and he’s in trouble. The sparks between them could definitely set the ocean on fire! They’re a fun couple. It’s always difficult to build a believable fantasy world, but Ms. Fleming manages this very successfully. When she describes the ocean, we see the garbage, the debris left by humans from a sodden diaper to an abandoned suitcase. Then, Zoey views the multi-dimensional colors of other sea creatures as well as herself. The descriptions don’t slow the pace of the story, but add to it. The same is true of the sharp, sassy dialogue which is never overloaded with tags. Still, there isn’t any difficulty in knowing who speaks. When Zoey visits her father, she learns that his marriage is a political alliance. Her stepmother and half-sister definitely have understandable issues with Zoey, but this becomes a bit contrived. Zoey is far too reasonable and polite with them for a sixteen-year-old girl. It would be more natural for her to express what she honestly thinks and then regret it later. The same is true with her assigned “maid” who has a very snarky turn of phrase. She rudely informs Zoey of what she needs to know and again she tolerates it to obtain the information. This level of maturity in a heroine is truly amazing, but somewhat unbelievable in a teenager who wasn’t raised in the royal environment. Yet, Zoey seems as if she could definitely lead the next generation of mer-people into the future and most readers will eagerly await the next installment in her adventures.

THE TYRANT’S DAUGHTER By J.C. Carleson

Random House Children’s (Feb 11, 2014)    Genre: Teens & YA Score: 5!    Reviewed by Donna KeihleThe Tyrant's Daughter

I was immediately drawn into this book. In the author’s note she refers to this as a “big story told in small details” and it was done perfectly. It is the story of Laila who was ripped from her country by the CIA during the coup that killed her father and dropped into America with little understanding of what happened. Shocked to discover the person she saw as a loving father is referred to as a tyrant and a dictator she seeks answers and understanding until she learns to everything there is a price. Carleson humanizes a complex situation and brings to light a point of view we seldom see in this country. It’s not a story you walk away from feeling good but rather enlightened. I highly recommend this book.

SECOND HEARTS and STORM SHELLS by G.J. Walker-Smith

Books 2 & 3 in the YA romance Wishes Series   (Amazon Digital Services, Inc 2013).  Reviewed by Donna KeihleSecond Hearts

When book 1 ended, Adam had returned to New York and Charli had left for her adventure. In book 2 she travels to New York to see if what she had with Adam was real. There this sweet young woman from Tasmania is introduced to New York high society. They were never the same after that. Charli is reminiscent of a series Storm Shellsof books I read decades ago called CLAUDIA with her sweet, naive steadfastness to remains true to herself. Adam turns out to not be quite the prince she fell in love with and at the end of book 2, well, things looked grim for this couple. In Book 3 Adam follows Charli back to Pipers Cove. Can two people who are so in love with so little in common find a way? This is a wonderfully written story, a must read for any age. The layers to the characters is amazing. The series is captivating and not one you want to miss but be sure you start with the first book.

GHOST HAND by Ripley Patton

Publisher: Ripley Patton    Genre: YA Paranormal    Rating: 5    Reviewed by Book BabblesGhost Hand

To understand the background of this novel it’s best to provide the blurb from the jacket: “Seventeen-year-old Olivia Black has a rare birth defect known as Psyche Sans Soma, or PSS. Instead of a right hand made of flesh and blood, she was born with a hand made of ethereal energy. How does Olivia handle being the girl with the ghost hand? Well, she’s a little bit morbid and a whole lot snarky. “ I loved the whole concept of PSS—one body part is ghostly (could be hand, arm, leg, nose)—and the different and strange powers that come along with PSS. I also enjoyed the storytelling. This action-packed novel grabs you from the first sentence and the story just keeps going as a group of PSS teens face a powerful organization of PSS haters and twisted scientists who have their own plans for the teens. Toss in a little potential for romance, some deceit, disagreement and tension between the PSS kids and this really becomes a real page-turner. There is suspense, mystery, action, and moments of heartbreak balanced by tears of joy. The second book, Ghost Hold, is already out and a third is on the way. I am definitely planning to read the entire trilogy.

WHAT IN GOD’S NAME by Simon Rich

Publisher: Reagan Arthur / Back Bay Books    Genre: YA Paranormal    Rating: 2.5   Reviewed by Book BabblesWhat in God's Name

I read this for book group. I was really looking forward to it because I knew that Simon Rich had written for Saturday Night Live and could be really funny. Unfortunately, though this book had some funny moments, for the most part I found it to be cynical and a slog. The premise is that God runs a corporation, Heaven Inc. The angels work for the cooperation, doing a variety of jobs for the cooperation, ranging from prayer triage to arranging miracles that are hard to detect, and to helping God open his own fusion restaurant in heaven. I had no problem with the premise and figured it would provide plenty of opportunity for funny commentary on the human condition. However, Rich decided to make Heaven Inc. the most pathetic, dysfunctional, and uncaring corporate environment ever. Even God doesn’t care about humanity anymore and wants to destroy them all and retire to run his Asian Fusion restaurant. The two “good” angels who actually do care are hopelessly immature, socially awkward, and are able to save the world completely based only on happenstance rather than any competent action. I think using one incident in human kind as pathetic could have been funny, as one angel could have been funny. The juxtaposition of competent people against the pathetic, hopelessly and forever lost ones might have yielded more laughs. For me the over-the-top dysfunctionality of both humans and angels, with God being the most dysfunctional of all was too much. In the end, I felt tired and depressed. I did laugh at a couple of bits. But the bits weren’t enough to carry the book. I felt like I was listening to a stand up comedian who had maybe 4 or 5 good jokes at the beginning that stretched too far. At the end I was smiling to be polite but no more laughs were to be had.