Wednesday, September 27, 2017

ARC Review: The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall

Release Date: September 19, 2017
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Format: Kindle
Pages: 386 Pages
Genre: fiction
Buy: Kindle | Hardcover 


The Woodburys cherish life in the affluent, bucolic suburb of Avalon Hills, Connecticut. George is a beloved science teacher at the local prep school, a hero who once thwarted a gunman, and his wife, Joan, is a hardworking ER nurse. They have brought up their children in this thriving town of wooded yards and sprawling lakes.

Then one night a police car pulls up to the Woodbury home and George is charged with sexual misconduct—with students from his daughter’s school. As he sits in prison awaiting trial and claiming innocence— is it possible?—Joan vaults between denial and rage as friends and neighbors turn cold. Their daughter, seventeen-year-old Sadie, is a popular high school senior who becomes a social outcast—and finds refuge in an unexpected place. Her brother, Andrew, a lawyer in New York, returns home to support the family, only to confront unhappy memories from his past. A writer tries to exploit their story, while an unlikely men’s rights activist group attempts to recruit Sadie for their cause.


I'm really not sure if I liked this book or not.  George Woodbury, the hero of the town is arrested and charged with sexual misconduct with a few female students at his daughters school. But this isn't a book about George its a book about the rest of the Woodbury family and how they deal with what is happening in their world.

I really struggled with a lot of the characters actions. I would think that the family of a man who has always shown up as an upstanding guy would aggressively defend him unless faced with actual evidence of wrong doing. But Sadie and Joan seem to not really believe him but also flip flop on it, while a lot of the town is behind him. I understand that there would be some flip flopping but I would think that at least in the very beginning they would all pull together and fight this but instead its like things just happen to them.  They seem to take on that victim role and not ever really leave it. I saw some backbone growing midway through the book when one of the characters starts to get angry and take a stand but it quickly dwindled.  This is the kind of case that pits people against each other, they take sides but it seemed like no one wanted to take a stand in this case, the only angry people seemed to be Andrew and the few townspeople that weren't backing George.

Sadies brother, Andrew lives in NYC with his partner, has a love hate relationship with his home town where being a gay teen was not always easy.  When he was in high school he had an affair with one of his teachers but no one in the book seems to think this is wrong which I just don't understand. In fact I think that would cause even more chaos in this town then what is going on with George. A homophobic town learning that a male teacher and male student were sleeping together? The town would have blown up. the school would have been under major scrutiny with two teachers being accused of misconduct but no it doesn't seem to be a big deal. 

Andrew, who is an attorney does try to help his father I never really got a sense of their relationship. Andrew just seems lost and adrift, his family torn apart but ultimately I wonder if what happened when he was a teen isn't still effecting him into adulthood just as Whittall alludes to what happened to another young girl and an older man effecting her life as an adult.

So while there were a lot of interesting pieces to this book I just didn't feel it had the energy or the passion I see surrounding these cases. There were loose ends and pieces that didn't fit.  It sort of fell flat for me and the epilogue while it tied things up, it was a little too neat.

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher through in exchange for an honest review. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

ARC Review: The Visitors by Catherine Burns

Release Date: September 26, 2017
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Format: Kindle
Pages: 304 Pages
Genre: Mystery/thriller/suspense
Buy: Kindle | Hardcover 


Marion Zetland lives with her domineering older brother John in a crumbling mansion on the edge of a northern seaside resort. A timid spinster in her fifties who still sleeps with teddy bears, Marion does her best to live by John’s rules, even if it means turning a blind eye to the noises she hears coming from behind the cellar door...and turning a blind eye to the women’s laundry in the hamper that isn’t hers. For years, she’s buried the signs of John’s devastating secret into the deep recesses of her mind—until the day John is crippled by a heart attack, and Marion becomes the only one whose shoulders are fit to bear his secret. Forced to go down to the cellar and face what her brother has kept hidden, Marion discovers more about herself than she ever thought possible.


It took me a few days before I was ready to write this review.  What a twisted and creepy tale.  I had so many feelings after I read this book.  I wasn't sure whether to cheer or cry instead I think I was just stuck somewhere in between.

Burns has written a truly riveting mystery.  I breezed through this book feeling sorry for Marion who is in her 50's overweight and lives with her overbearing brother.  They live in their crumbling family home which has become a hoarders paradise. John spends most of his time in the basement, entertaining their "visitors" which Marion turns a blind eye to. We don't really learn much about this until the end other than Marion is troubled by them and is scared to go to the basement.  In fact she lives in constant fear of John. It isn't until a tragedy strikes John that Marion seems to get some strength to change her life.

It was fascinating watching events unfold from the point of view of Marion, who has an almost child-like quality.  Her mother and John have convinced her she is stupid and useless and so she believes it. Its amazing what you can deny but do we really know everything there is to know about Marion? Burns peels back the layers in this creepy character study ending in a stunning conclusion.

This is not a faced paced, kill or be killed race to the finish it is a methodical study of a woman who has been controlled and manipulated her whole life but those around her and then finally finding her strength to break free.  This family is twisted and nuts and thats what makes it all so fascinating.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through in exchange for an honest review. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

ARC Book Review: Nyxia by Scott Reintgen

Release Date: September 12, 2017
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Format: Kindle
Pages: 386 Pages
Genre: Sci/fi fantasy YA
Buy: Kindle Hardcover 


Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family.


Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden—a planet that Babel has kept hidden—where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe.

But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human.


I was so excited after reading this book.  Finally publishing has caught on to the concept of diversity. There are characters of all different races and the main character is an African American boy named Emmett.

Reintgen has written a fabulous book.  I was drawn in immediately. This book starts out strong and gets stronger and stronger.  I couldn't put it down and the ending! Omg. When Emmett and the others are recruited by Babel Corp to go to Eden they had no idea what they were in for.  Babel Corp is not all that it seems and is definitely hiding things.

Emmett and the others are pitted against each other in a form of the Hunger Games and the strangeness of Nyxia.  They are trained to fight, to mine and control Nyxia. They learn about Eden and the people who live there but all for what purpose? The unknown motives of Babel corp remind me of the movie Avatar. Is Nyxia special to the people of Eden?  What is Babel really doing on Eden? What are the people of Eden like? So many questions! I hope book 2 doesn't take too long to come out.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through in exchange for an honest review. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

ARC Review: Murder Under the Fig Tree: A Palestine Mystery by Kate Jessica Raphael

Release Date: September 19 2017
Publisher: She Writes Press
Format: Kindle
Pages: 320 Pages
Genre: mystery/lgbt
Buy: Kindle | Paperback 


Hamas has taken power in Palestine, and the Israeli government is rounding up threats. When Palestinian policewoman Rania Bakara finds herself thrown in prison, though she has never been part of Hamas, her friend Chloe flies in from San Francisco to get her out. Chloe begs an Israeli policeman named Benny for help—and Benny offers Rania a way out: investigate the death of a young man in a village near her own. The young man’s neighbors believe the Israeli army killed him; Benny believes his death might not have been so honorable.

Initially, Rania refuses; she has no interest in helping the Israelis. But she is released anyway, and returns home to find herself without a job and suspected of being a traitor. Searching for redemption, she launches an investigation into the young man’s death that draws her into a Palestinian gay scene she never knew existed.

With Chloe and her Palestinian Australian lover as guides, Rania explores a Jerusalem gay bar, meets with a lesbian support group, and plunges deep into the victim’s world, forcing her to question her beliefs about love, justice, and cultural identity.


This is the second book in the Palestine Mystery series but the first one I read.  I definitely felt like I had missed something by not reading the first.  At the beginning Rania is imprisoned by Israel for something that happened in book 1 - we never quite figure out what that is.  Once she is released she is manipulated into solving the murder of a young gay Palestinian man who was said to be killed by an Israeli soldier.

This book is very political on many levels and a little difficult to follow if you aren't very familiar with the politics of this area.  Raphael's political views are very clear in her writing and she doesn't hold back her contempt for the Israeli government or military. I wish she had focused a little more on the Palestinian LGBT advocates and gay culture in a place where being gay is a death sentence, instead of the settlements and checkpoints although I know writing a book set in this part of the world can't eliminate this all together.  It almost felt like the mystery got lost in the politics.

There are many layers to the mystery due to the secretive and hidden nature of most lgbt people in Palestine.  I almost missed the big reveal of who murdered Daoud. It seemed almost anticlimactic and more of a side note.

This is a good mystery but too heavily bogged down with Palestine vs Israel politics. The author did an admirable job on touching on the Palestinian lgbt ignorance and intolerance but it still could have been more.  I really wanted to like this book.  I loved Rania the tough, female detective trying to balance her family and career in a very patriarchal society and culture but even with that it had a hard time keeping my interest.

Disclaimer: I received an advanced e-galley of this book from the publisher through in exchange for an honest review. 

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