Wednesday, September 26, 2018

ARC Book Review: The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Release Date: September 18, 2018
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Format: ebook
Pages: 448 pages
Genre:  Mystery/ Thriller
Buy: Kindle | Paperback | Audio

Synopsis: 

How do you stop a murder that’s already happened?

The Hardcastle family is hosting a masquerade at their home, and their daughter Evelyn Hardcastle will die. She will die everyday until Aiden Bishop is able identify her killer and break the cycle. 
But every time the day begins again, Aiden wakes up each day in a different body as one of the guests.

Aiden’s only escape is to solve Evelyn Hardcastle’s murder and conquer the shadows of an enemy he struggles to even comprehend. But nothing and no one are quite what they seem. 

Review:

This book is the most unique book I've read since the Time Travelers Wife. Aiden Bishop is trapped in a loop trying to figure out who killed Evelyn Hardcastle. Only he isn't the only one trying to solve the mystery.  He is however the only one who is jumping from body to body and the only one who retains some sense of what happened the time before. Can he piece all the clues together and solve this?

Apparently Aiden Bishop has chosen to live this time over and over in order to do something else, unfortunately Aiden can't remember what that is and with each jump he loses another piece of himself making it harder to maintain control of the body he is in and remember why he is there in the first place.

This is a fresh well written story that may have your head spinning in circles but its worth every minute of confusion.  Dark, atmospheric and compelling I loved that each of the people that Aiden jumps into has different strengths and weaknesses that he must utilize to solve this crime. I can't say much more without giving too much away but this book is brilliant.





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

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Monday, September 24, 2018

Audio Book Review: Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are so You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be by Rachel Hollis

Release Date: February 6, 2018
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Format: Audio
Length: 7 hours 4 minutes
Narrator: Rachel Hollis
Genre: Personal Growth
Buy: Audible | Kindle 

Synopsis: 

Do you ever suspect that everyone else has life figured out and you don't have a clue? If so, Rachel Hollis has something to tell you: That's a lie.
As the founder of the lifestyle website TheChicSite.com and CEO of her own media company, Rachel Hollis developed an immense online community by sharing tips for better living while fearlessly revealing the messiness of her own life. Now, in this challenging and inspiring new book, Rachel exposes the 20 lies and misconceptions that too often hold us back from living joyfully and productively, lies we've told ourselves so often we don't even hear them anymore.

With painful honesty and fearless humor, Rachel unpacks and examines the falsehoods that once left her feeling overwhelmed and unworthy, and reveals the specific practical strategies that helped her move past them. In the process, she encourages, entertains, and even kicks a little butt, all to convince you to do whatever it takes to get real and become the joyous, confident woman you were meant to be.

With unflinching faith and rock-hard tenacity, Girl, Wash Your Face shows you how to live with passion and hustle - and how to give yourself grace without giving up.

Review:

This book is often listed under Christian lit...but I really didn't feel that.  Yes, she is religious and prays and talks about God, but it doesn't feel preachy. As someone not Christian I appreciated how unpreachy and nonjudgmental this book was.  In fact this book is just chock full of real down to earth advice, don't gossip, remember to take care of yourself etc...

When we look closer at our own behaviors and thoughts, people we spend time with etc we can see what we like or dislike about ourselves and make changes. Looking within will change your life. This is not new subject matter, its not even anything mind blowing I think it is all in Rachels down home delivery. Listening to this book made me feel like I was sitting down with a cup of coffee at the local starbucks with a friend. Rachel Hollis made a connection with me by telling me her stories from her heart, and explaining what she did to make changes in her life that helped.  She didn't teach, she didn't lecture she connected to me on a personal level.

This is advice that you can hear over and over because honestly even the best of us lapse and fall into bad patterns so its a good reminder and who better to deliver it than someone like Hollis, as smart woman, willing to admit her flaws, but also willing to keep trying.

As a side note I appreciate her candor in talking about her adoption journey.  People think that its all sunshine and roses but its a long and time consuming process and yes if you are going through the state and foster care or if you are adopting multiple children with special needs chances are someone is going to call child protective services on you.  Sadly I've seen it happen all too often to good families and the reports come out unfounded - unfortunately the times when children are truly at risk tend to fall through the cracks until its too late.


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Friday, September 21, 2018

ARC Book Review: Nowhere Man (Orphan X book 2) by Gregg Hurwitz

Release Date: January 17, 2017
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Format: ebook
Pages: 369 pages
Genre:  Mystery/ Thriller
Buy: Kindle | Paperback | Audio

Synopsis: 

Spoken about only in whispers, the Nowhere Man can only be reached by the truly desperate, he can —He will do anything to save them.

Evan Smoak is the Nowhere Man.

Taken from a group home at twelve, Evan was raised and trained as part of the Orphan Program, an off-the-books operation designed to create deniable intelligence assets—i.e. assassins. Evan was Orphan X. He broke with the Program, using everything he learned to disappear and reinvent himself as the Nowhere Man.

But his new life is interrupted when a surprise attack comes from an unlikely angle and Evan is caught unaware. Captured, drugged, and spirited off to a remote location, he finds himself heavily guarded and cut off from everything he knows. His captors think they have him trapped and helpless in a virtual cage but they don’t know who they’re dealing with—or that they’ve trapped themselves inside that cage with one of the deadliest and most resourceful men on earth.

Review:

Evan finds himself captured in an unknown location, under guard by a number of trigger-happy mercenaries, and at the mercy of a sadistic, opportunistic individual with unlimited resources. His captors think they've got the best of Evan, but they don't understand who they're dealing with.

This book is uneven, parts are slow and almost redundant and then bam you remember why you like the first one so much and how kick ass Evan Smoak really is. The last 1/3 of the book really redeemed this book for me. Since Evan spends most of this book captive he isn't doing what he does best which is go after the bad guys.  I do like that Evan seems to be introspective during his capture and that plays out in the end, and I'm wondering where it will lead. Overall this is a good book but I'm hoping that the next one in the series will get us back to seeing more of Evan in action.





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

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Audio Book Review: Lost Highlander (Book 1) by Cassidy Cayman

Release Date: December 22, 2014
Publisher: Little Black Cat
Format: Audio
Length: 7 hours 16 minutes
Narrator: Angela Dawe
Genre: Romance
Buy: Audible | Kindle 

Synopsis: 

Grad student and cocktail waitress Evelyn Merkholtz has plenty to deal with. Too much to deal with. So, when her runaway best friend calls with a mysterious and urgent request to join her in Scotland, she is secretly more than happy to drop everything and oblige.

She's faced with an ancient curse, an adorably hunky villager, and a super hot (but possibly murderous), Highland warrior from the 18th century - and realizes that getting burned at the stake is a really bad way to get out of writing her thesis.

Review:

I had high hopes for this book but it left me wanting.  It felt like a 2nd rate version of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. The chemistry between Evelyn and the Scottish hottie was barely there, in fact I couldn't figure out who he was interested in at first Evelyn or her friend Piper.  Then there is the romance between Piper and the hot Highlander from another time. The chemistry was barely there and they were almost a side note in this book when I felt they really should have been front and center since the book is called the Lost Highlander. 

It just felt like the author wasn't sure which way the story should go and having two romances in the same book can be difficult since one seems to get the back burner.  Either way this book just didn't work for me.  I have been contemplating picking up the 2nd book in this series to see if it catches me but I'm not sure yet.




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Monday, September 17, 2018

Audio Book Review: Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

Release Date: September 12, 2017
Publisher: Random House Studios
Format: Audio
Length: 15 hours 28 minutes
Narrator: Toni Morrison
Genre: Fiction
Buy: Audible | Kindle 

Synopsis: 

Milkman Dead was born shortly after a neighborhood eccentric hurled himself off a rooftop in a vain attempt at flight. For the rest of his life he, too, will be trying to fly. With this brilliantly imagined novel, Toni Morrison transfigures the coming-of-age story as audaciously as Saul Bellow or Gabriel García Márquez. As she follows Milkman from his rustbelt city to the place of his family’s origins, Morrison introduces an entire cast of strivers and seeresses, liars and assassins, the inhabitants of a fully realized black world.

Review:

I've tried to read this book once before and struggled with the dense prose. I decided to try the audio version of this book to see if it helped but I still struggled to focus and stay involved with the story.

Set in between 1930 and 1960's the murder of Emmett Till and the rise of Malcolm X are referenced and help to set the stage of this book.  Milkman Dead (born Macon Dead, III)  believes that names define you, that they reflect your yearnings, failures, wishes, weaknesses and even your worst fears.  It used to be a tradition in Southern families to use the Bible to choose names for newly born children, and many of the characters in Morrison’s book are named for characters in the bible but the main character Milkman was always called by his nickname that seemed to reflect where he came from.

Pilate, Milkman's aunt is a shaman, she speaks to the dead and is respected and slightly feared by everyone. She has no belly button which is scary and mysterious. Milkman is mesmerized with her. Her strange way of living and the mystery that surrounds her. In search for himself Milkman travels to southern Virginia to find his roots. To discover why he has dreams of flying, to find the peace that Pilate seems to have found.

I had a really hard time following this book, but I struggled through and while I didn't love it I'm glad I finally finished it.




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Friday, September 14, 2018

Audio Book Review: Biting Cold (Chicagoland Vampires book 6) by Chloe Neill

Release Date: August 7, 2012
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Format: Audio
Length: 10 hours 40 minutes
Narrator: Cynthia Holloway
Genre: Romance/ Fantasy
Buy: Audible | Kindle 

Synopsis: 

Turned into a vampire against her will, 28-year-old Merit found her way into the dark circle of Chicago's vampire underground, where she learned there was more to supernaturals than met the eye - and more supernaturals than the public ever imagined. And not all the secrets she learned were for sharing - among humans or inhumans.

Now Merit is on the hunt, charging across the stark American Midwest, tailing a rogue supernatural intent on stealing an ancient artifact that could unleash catastrophic evil on the world. But Merit is also the prey. An enemy of Chicagoland is hunting her, and he'll stop at nothing to get the book for himself. No mercy allowed. No rules apply. No lives spared. The race is on.

Review:

This is not a stand alone nor do I think you can really follow these books out of order. I'm not sure I liked this book as much as the others I found it to be a little slow and just didn't have the power of the other books in this series so far. 

It tied up some loose ends from the previous book and brought to light some new supernaturals that we didn't see before which was intriguing. We got to see the inner workings of the Pack den Little Red which plays a role in her newest series Chicagoland heirs.

Overall this was an okay book I didn't love it but I didn't hate it.  As I said before it filled in some plot gaps and I feel like we can now move forward into a less angsty plot without a depressed Merit. 




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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Audio Book Review: Drink Deep (Chicagoland Vampires Book 5) by Chloe Neill

Release Date: November 2, 2011
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Format: Audio
Length: 10 hours 18 minutes
Narrator: Cynthia Holloway
Genre: Romance/ Fantasy
Buy: Audible | Kindle 

Synopsis: 

Clouds are brewing over Cadogan House, and Merit the vampire can't tell if this is the darkness before the dawn, or the calm before the storm. With the city itself in turmoil over paranormals and the state threatening to pass a paranormal registration act, times have never been more precarious for the vampires. If only they could lay low for a bit...

Then magic rears its ugly head when Lake Michigan turns black. The mayor insists it's nothing to worry about, but Merit knows a panic is coming. She'll have to turn to friends old and new to find out who's behind this, and stop them before it's too late for both the vampires and humans.

Review:


Nothing can be calm for long in the city of Chicago and while Merit is still reeling from the things that happened in Hard Bitten she is trying to focus on the task at hand.  Weird things are happening in Chicago and Vampires are being blamed by the misinformed humans running the government. Cadogan house has been taken over by the GP who just seems to be looking for reasons to break up the house, cutting out junk food and rationing blood is a good way to make good vamps riot. 

Meanwhile Merit is running around trying to sort out why Lake Michigan has turned black and other supernatural events are happening.  She also doesn't have the support of her best friend and sorcerer in training Mallory who is talking exams and acting weirder and weirder the more stressed she gets. 

Things take a big twist at the end of the book not making things much worse but making them a bit better. Merit struggles to deal with different supernaturals and learn the politics of the vampire world she has to be brave and hold things together until she can figure out what to do next.  Another great book from Chloe Neill. I wish she would stop leaving me with cliffhangers though. 



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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

ARC Book Review: Run & Hide by Alan McDermott

Release Date: August 22, 2018
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Format: ebook
Pages: 300 pages
Genre:  True Crime Fiction
Buy: Kindle Paperback | Audio

Synopsis: 

There’s only so long you can run for your life.
Eva Driscoll is used to chasing down bad guys, but now the bad guys are chasing her. She knows they won’t stop until she’s dead.

After her brother is killed in a faked suicide, Driscoll teams up with ex-soldier Rees Colback, the one person who can help her find answers. Together they’re determined to uncover why members of his Special Forces squad are dying in mysterious circumstances.
But with every agency in the country in hot pursuit, their only choice is to flee.

The clock is ticking. They can’t run forever. It’s time to make a choice: kill or be killed…

Review:

I believe this is the first in a series about Eva Driscoll.  Eva is a CIA operative who gets called in to take people down. When her brother is killed she goes on a mission to find his killer.  What she finds is that his whole platoon is being eradicated, but she manages to save one, ex-soldier Rees Colback.  Eva, and Rees with the help of some friends take on the biggest fight of their lives. Behind the government is a group of men who are really controlling the country.  Not for the benefit of anyone but themselves.

Conspiracy theories abound in this well written tight book. Run and Hide is a fast paced thrill ride from start to finish. I love that the main kick ass character is female and that she can hold her own with the best of the guys she is fighting.The bad guys are deplorable and maybe strike a little too close to the billionaires club we read about every day in the USA these days. I'm from Philadelphia so I'm a sucker for an underdog and Eva going up against the powers that be can't be more of an underdog. I can't wait to read more about Eva and her team.






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

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Monday, September 10, 2018

Audio Book Review: Dance With Me (Dancing Book 1) by Heidi Cullinan

Release Date: August 28, 2015
Publisher: Audible Studios
Format: Audio
Length: 9 hours 59 minutes
Narrator: Iggy Toma
Genre: Romance
Buy: Audible | Kindle 

Synopsis: 

Sometimes, life requires a partner.

Ed Maurer has bounced back, more or less, from the neck injury that permanently benched his semi-pro football career. He hates his soul-killing office job, but he loves volunteering at a local community center. The only fly in his ointment is the dance instructor, Laurie Parker, who can't seem to stay out of his way.

Laurie was once one of the most celebrated ballet dancers in the world, but now he volunteers at Halcyon Center to avoid his society mother's machinations. It would be a perfect escape, except for the oaf of a football player cutting him glares from across the room.

When Laurie has a ballroom dancing emergency and Ed stands in as his partner, their perceptions of each other turn upside down. Dancing leads to friendship, being friends leads to becoming lovers, but most important of all, their partnership shows them how to heal the pain of their pasts. Because with every turn across the floor, Ed and Laurie realize the only escape from their personal demons is to keep dancing - together.

Review:

This is a beautifully written story.  Ed is suffering from a neck injury - he looks fine but it can cripple him at a turn.  Living with pain when it can't be seen is a struggle for so many people, and this book shines a light on it and makes it okay.

Laurie is trying to find his way.  He loves to dance but has been struggling with anxiety at performing. Can he break free of this and find his passion again?

I am looking forward to reading more from this author.




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Friday, September 7, 2018

Audio Book Review: Hard Bitten (Chicagoland Vampires Book 4) by Chloe Neill

Release Date: May 13, 2011
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Format: Audio
Length: 10 hours 25 minutes
Narrator: Cynthia Holloway
Genre: Romance/Fantasy
Buy: Audible | Kindle 

Synopsis: 

Times are hard for newly minted vampire Merit. Ever since shapeshifters announced their presence to the world, humans have been rallying against supernaturals - and they're camping outside of Cadogan House with protest signs that could turn to pitchforks at any moment. Inside its doors, things between Merit and her Master, green-eyed heartbreaker Ethan Sullivan, are tense. But then the mayor of Chicago calls Merit and Ethan to a clandestine meeting and tells them about a violent vamp attack that has left three women missing. His message is simple: get your House in order. Or else.

Merit needs to get to the bottom of this crime, but it doesn't help that she can't tell who's on her side. So she secretly calls in a favor from someone who's tall, dark, and part of an underground vamp group that may have some deep intel on the attack. Merit soon finds herself in the heady, dark heart of Chicago's supernatural society - a world full of vampires who seem to be ready to fulfill the protesting human's worst fears, and a place where she'll learn that you can't be a vampire without getting a little blood on your hands.

Review:

What an appropriate time to reading a book like this. I feel like real life is imitating art.  Protesters are outside Cadogan house protesting the presence of vampires in the city of Chicago and while the hate and distrust builds between the humans and the supernatural there are strange goings on in the city with Vampires acting aggressively

While Ethan and Merit believe that their old foe is back in town and causing havoc again they also have to contend with the Mayor who is putting pressure on Cadogan house to find out what is happening and fix it or suffer the consequences. In a race against time and while dodging misinformed humans Ethan and Merit try to find out what is causing vampires to go crazy and who is recruiting vamps from house bars.

This is one hell of a ride with one heck of an ending that will leave your breathless. The heat and tension between Merit and Ethan is taken up a notch and things start to look up for these two despite the chaos they are dealing with.

After finishing this book I'm a bit stunned but can't wait to pick up the next book to see what the hell happens from here.



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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Audio Book Review: Bloodlands Series by Harold Schechter

Release Date: July 14, 2017
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Format: Audio
Length: 6 hours 12 minutes
Narrator: Steven Weber
Genre: Crime/history
Buy: Kindle 

Synopsis: 

A heinous history of America: Six short stories exploring the dark heart of US history, true-crime master Harold Schechter reveals six sensational but nearly forgotten acts of carnage and bloodlust that shocked the nation. From a diabolical Kansas family down the road from Laura Ingalls Wilder to an Elvis-inspired “rebel” to the country’s first mass shooter, these chilling criminals dominated the headlines—and nightmares—of their day.

Review:

Each is a short book or hour or so audio.  I listened to the stories as each of the kindle versions come with audio.  So if you are a kindle unlimited member you will be able to read or listen to each of these for free.

Each book is dark and fact filled story about several little known sensational acts of violence that happened in America.

Pied Piper: Charismatic serial killer whose friends follow him regardless of his relentless quest to kill.

Little Slaughterhouse - At a remote little inn not far from the Kansas homestead of Laura Ingalls Wilder lived the Bender family. These pioneers welcomed unwary visitors with jackrabbit stew and a sledgehammer to the skull. In time, their apple orchard gave up its secrets—a burial ground for their mutilated victims, each stripped of their possessions.

Rampage: In 1949, things like this just didn’t happen: A quiet New Jersey resident took a morning walk with a 9 mm Luger pistol. In twelve minutes he murdered thirteen neighbors…and then went back to bed.

Panic: During the Depression, economic anxieties found an outlet in a series of child murders that triggered an irrational nationwide hysteria: pedophiliac psychopaths were overrunning the country.
As America was brought to rage and fury by the press and the FBI, lynch mobs took to the streets, reason gave way to doomsday scenarios, and one father was even driven to murder his three daughters to “save them” from a degenerate crime wave.

The Brick Slayer: the story of a young black man Robert Nixon who was accused and convicted of killing several women with a brick. The crime was the basis of Native Son by Richard Wright. Robert Nixon was abused in custody and later confessed to many of the crimes he was accused. Nixon was found to have the IQ of an 11 year old. His testimony was contradictory and rambling but nonetheless he was convicted and sentenced to death by his all white jury.

Pirate: Albert Hicks was convicted of murdering and chopping up his fellow shipmates.  Throughout his trial Hicks showed no emotion. From the time of his arrest to his execution this case was a public circus. PT Barnum even showed up asking to make a cast of his head and bought his clothes to make a wax figure for his museum.




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Monday, September 3, 2018

Audio Book Review: His Omega ( The Werewolves of Manhattan Book 1) by AC Katt

Release Date: April 17, 2017
Publisher: MLR Press
Format: Audio
Length: 6 hours 42 minutes
Narrator: Joel Leslie
Genre: Romance
Buy: Audible | Kindle 

Synopsis: 

On his way home from a meeting of the North American werewolf council, Armand La Marche is stopped in his limousine by a boy who is hurt by an unknown assailant who murdered his friend. After decades of searching, Armand has found his mate. There is one problem, someone is trying to kill Sean.

Sean Quinn's friend Leroy was gutted trying to protect him. He runs for help and stops the first car he sees.

Armand LaMarche is head Alpha of the North American werewolf council and was in his limousine on his way home to his Manhattan brownstone. When the wounded boy stops his car, Armand recognizes two things:the boy is part wolf, an Omega with a great gift, and he's Armand's mate. Now all Armand has to do is claim his mate and keep him safe from the murderer.

Review:

Interesting story but a bit cheesy.  The narrator however was wonderful, changing voices and accents which really brought the story to life. The endearing baby's and loves were a bit much and got a little old real quick.  Overall this is a good shifter story with a mediocre love story. I wish there had been more about them being wolves, more shifting etc.




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