Friday, September 3, 2021

Book Review: The Camelot Betrayal by Kiersten White

  


Goodreads Overview:

EVERYTHING IS AS IT SHOULD BE IN CAMELOT: King Arthur is expanding his kingdom’s influence with Queen Guinevere at his side. Yet every night, dreams of darkness and unknowable power plague her.

Guinevere might have accepted her role, but she still cannot find a place for herself in all of it. The closer she gets to Brangien, pining for her lost love Isolde, Lancelot, fighting to prove her worth as Queen’s knight, and Arthur, everything to everyone and thus never quite enough for Guinevere–the more she realizes how empty she is. She has no sense of who she truly was before she was Guinevere. The more she tries to claim herself as queen, the more she wonders if Mordred was right: she doesn’t belong. She never will.

When a rescue goes awry and results in the death of something precious, a devastated Guinevere returns to Camelot to find the greatest threat yet has arrived. Not in the form of the Dark Queen or an invading army, but in the form of the real Guinevere’s younger sister. Is her deception at an end? And who is she really deceiving–Camelot, or herself?

Jacque's Review:

This is the second book in the Camelot Rising trilogy. I enjoyed the story, but I don't feel like a lot of progress was made in the plot or character development. Arthur is still dedicated to Camelot and I do not think there will ever be a real relationship between Guinevere and Arthur. The few times Mordred appeared, there was an undeniable spark and connection between him and Guinevere. I am hoping things will eventually move in that direction even though I know she feels a sense of obligation to protect Arthur and Camelot. 

Lancelot wants to be just like all of Arthur's other knights, but as skilled as she is, she will never be one of the boys. She is assigned as Guinevere's knight and the two develop a friendship that eventually becomes strained. Guinevere can see that their relationship is impacting how Lancelot is viewed by her piers and tries to put some distance between them. Lancelot is one of the few people who knows the story of who Guinevere really is, so the two are able to speak freely with one another. They work together and take part in some quests along the way, which added the only real action and adventure to this story.

We do not learn any more about who Guinevere was before coming to Camelot or what has happened to Merlin. Without her memories, she feels like she is an imposter simply playing the role of Queen.  When the real Guinevere's sister arrives, she is convinced she is going to be outed. We do learn more about the real Guinevere from her sister, which I did find interesting.

The ending was a bit shocking, so I am looking forward to reading the final book to see what happens next. I'm not sure this story will have a happily ever after for everyone involved. Fortunately, The Excalibur Curse, is scheduled to be released December 7, 2021, so we will find out soon enough. 

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Book Review: The Private School Murders by James Patterson

  


Goodreads Overview:

In the sequel to the #1 New York Times bestseller Confessions of a Murder Suspect, James Patterson keeps the confessions coming breathlessly as Tandy Angel delves deeper into her own tumultuous history-and proves that she can rise above the sordid Angel legacy.

Wealthy young women are being murdered on Manhattan's exclusive Upper West Side, and the police aren't looking for answers in the right places. Enter Tandy Angel. The first case she cracked was the mystery of her parents' deaths. Now, while she's working to exonerate her brother of his glamorous girlfriend's homicide, she's driven to get involved in the West Side murder spree. 

One of the recent victims was a student at Tandy's own elite school. She has a hunch it may be the work of a serial killer, but the NYPD isn't listening to her...and Tandy can't ignore the disturbing fact that she perfectly fits the profile of the killer's targets. Can she untangle the mysteries in time? Or will she be the next victim?

Jacque's Review:

This is the second book in the Confessions series and was equally as captivating as the first. I enjoy listening to these books vs. reading them since Tandy is speaking directly to the reader. She is telling her story and sharing her secrets, which comes across very effectively through the audiobook. 

This time around the family is broke. The courts freeze all of their assets due to the pending legal cases against their parents. Their Uncle Peter is assigned as their guardian, but delegates the job to Jacob, who is an uncle the Angel kids didn't even know existed until he moved in with them. He has a military background and runs a tight ship. He installs a sense of discipline and accountability the kids desperately needed.

The family's primary focus is trying to clear their brother Matthew of murder charges, but the situation isn't looking good. Matthew was heavily intoxicated at the time of the murder and isn't even sure of what happened. He is very strong and has a known temper, which can definitely be used against him.

As if that weren't enough, girls Tandy's age that meet her exact demographic are being murdered not far from her home. The police do not see the connection, but Tandy does and decides she needs to solve this case before she becomes the next victim. 

Even off their "vitamins", which were prescription medications their parents gave them to enhance their performance in just about every way, the Angel kids are extraordinarily talented. Tandy has a gifted IQ and can conduct an investigation and work through the evidence more efficiently than investigators with decades of experience. She did get lucky with a few of her discoveries, but I guess that is probably the case with most investigations. 

Tandy also begins to remember her relationship with James Rampling. James is the son of one of the investors that lost millions of dollars in their mother's investment scandal. He is now suing their estate and wants his son to stay as far away from Tandy as possible. Her parents were in agreement prior to their deaths and sent her to a mental institution to put an end to the relationship. While she was there, her memories of the relationship were erased. I'm not sure how one can maintain a genius level IQ and have only certain memories erased, but that is what happened. 

I don't want to give everything away, but will say that I was happy with the ending. All of the pieces came together nicely and in a believable fashion. I wish they would have shared the motivation behind the Private School Murders, but the case is solved and Tandy can breathe easier. The future of the Angel children is up in the air and I look forward to seeing how things will unfold in the next installment in the series.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Book Review: The Innocent Man by John Grisham

  


Goodreads Overview:

In the town of Ada, Oklahoma, Ron Williamson was going to be the next Mickey Mantle. But on his way to the Big Leagues, Ron stumbled, his dreams broken by drinking, drugs, and women. Then, on a winter night in 1982, not far from Ron’s home, a young cocktail waitress named Debra Sue Carter was savagely murdered. The investigation led nowhere. Until, on the flimsiest evidence, it led to Ron Williamson. The washed-up small-town hero was charged, tried, and sentenced to death—in a trial littered with lying witnesses and tainted evidence that would shatter a man’s already broken life…and let a true killer go free. Impeccably researched, grippingly told, filled with eleventh-hour drama, John Grisham’s first work of nonfiction reads like a page-turning legal thriller. It is a book that will terrify anyone who believes in the presumption of innocence—a book no American can afford to miss.

Jacque's Review:

I read all of John Grisham's books as they were released from A Time to Kill through the Runaway Jury. Then I was too busy with college and eventually work and got really far behind. In fact, I didn't even know he had a nonfiction book until I was talking to my brother and he mentioned that he had just finished reading The Innocent Man and it was his favorite Grisham book yet.

This book is about two men who are accused and convicted of a murder they did not commit. The police refused to look at evidence that would have exonerated them and based their entire case on lying witnesses and trumped up evidence. It was absolutely shocking that with DNA evidence these men even went to trial let alone were convicted.

The story reads like one of Grisham's fiction novels and I was immediately engrossed in the story. Ron Williamson was a star baseball player with hopes of playing in the major leagues. He played for several seasons in the minors, but never hit it big. He struggled with depression and bi-polar disorder and required medication and treatment to stay balanced, which he didn't always take. He also enjoyed partying and drinking, which didn't help his situation. He got into some trouble here and there, which made him an easy target for the police when their investigation came up empty. Dennis Fritz was simply guilty by association.

I couldn't help but feel sorry for these two men. They insisted they were innocent and the legal system completely failed them. The corruption in the District Attorney's office and with the investigators working the case was appalling. It is scary to think that this can really happen to innocent people. 

I haven't watched the Netflix series yet, but I look forward to seeing some of the live footage that is described in the book. I also hope to hear some of Grisham's thoughts on the case and the events that took place during the investigation and the trial. As a fiction author, I don't think Grisham could have written such an unbelievable series of events and made it sound believable. It is crazy to think this can really happen in a place where people are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. 

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Book Review: Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra

  


Goodreads Overview:

Black Swan meets Pretty Little Liars in this soapy, drama-packed novel featuring diverse characters who will do anything to be the prima at their elite ballet school.

Gigi, Bette, and June, three top students at an exclusive Manhattan ballet school, have seen their fair share of drama. Free-spirited new girl Gigi just wants to dance—but the very act might kill her. Privileged New Yorker Bette's desire to escape the shadow of her ballet-star sister brings out a dangerous edge in her. And perfectionist June needs to land a lead role this year or her controlling mother will put an end to her dancing dreams forever.

When every dancer is both friend and foe, the girls will sacrifice, manipulate, and backstab to be the best of the best.

Jacque's Review:

I picked up a copy of this book at BEA several years ago. I was finally motivated to bump it up my TBR list when I started hearing all of the gossip about the Netflix series. Always one to read the book before watching the TV show or movie, I started reading. I have since watched the series and let me tell you....Netflix really took some liberties with this one. The book is definitely YA, but the series is NOT. 

Both the book and movie tackle some difficult issues with eating disorders, the fierce competition in the performing arts, racism, coming out, and substance abuse. 

The book seemed very realistic and could be an insiders view of what it is like trying to make it to the top of the ballet world. Everyone is looking out for only themselves and nobody can be trusted. Netflix took the story and sensationalized it. They added a ton of content for shock value that did not add to the value of the story. In fact, their additions were embarrassing to watch and I was glad my sixteen year old son didn't watch the series with us.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and will read Shiny Broken Pieces, which is the final book in the duology. Cassie is a character that had a distant role in this book. She held the top position as the prima until something happened (the versions of this are drastically different between the book and movie) that sent her away from the school for a while. She returns at the very end of Tiny Pretty Things and I am sure she will shake up the dynamic at the school. There are so many little cliques and everyone seems to have something to hide. Who was really involved in what happened to Cassie is still up in the air. I have my ideas, but I do not see her as a victim. I think she is just as ruthless as the rest of them and will come back with a vengeance. She may have even had it coming in the eyes of most of the other students.

After reading this book, I will not watch a ballet in quite the same way. There is a lot more that goes into a performance than hard work, grace, and elegance. 

Monday, August 23, 2021

Book Review: 56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard

GOODREADS SUMMARY:

No one knew they'd moved in together. Now one of them is dead. Could this be the perfect murder?

56 DAYS AGO
Ciara and Oliver meet in a supermarket queue in Dublin the same week Covid-19 reaches Irish shores.

35 DAYS AGO
When lockdown threatens to keep them apart, Oliver suggests that Ciara move in with him. She sees a unique opportunity for a new relationship to flourish without the pressure of scrutiny of family and friends. He sees it as an opportunity to hide who - and what - he really is.

TODAY
Detectives arrive at Oliver's apartment to discover a decomposing body inside.

Will they be able to determine what really happened, or has lockdown provided someone with the opportunity to commit the perfect crime?


TEE'S THOUGHTS

I just finished this book and am having mixed feelings about it. 


But I will start here: I listened to this on audio. I enjoyed the narrator, her accent was not overly heavy and it made it easy to understand. Some audiobooks have a narrator that is so hard to understand with their accent, that you tend to miss things.


The author had a great concept. The book appealed to me because the subject was close to us all and easy to relate to, however, I do know some wh felt that it was a bit too soon. 


It was a slow burner of a thriller, if you could call it that, I felt it was more a mystery than a thriller. Trying to figure out who each of the players were, that was the mystery. There were a lot of lies and deception going on. There was a bit of a twist at the end, but nothing that would blow your mind or really surprise you at that point.


The story goes back and forth a lot and I was afraid it would confuse me, but I feel that the author generally keeping the story between the main characters and not throwing in others made it easy to follow. There were others but they were scattered through and rarely seemed like major players. Even the " now " chapters with the police investigation were easy to follow. In fact, I loved those chapters in the story. The investigation was more of a draw than the actual characters.


I give this book 3 stars, It did not thrill me but I did not hate it either. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Book Review: The Lost Boys Of Montauk by Amanda M Fairbanks


 GOODREADS SUMMARY:

In March of 1984, the commercial fishing boat Wind Blown left Montauk Harbor on what should have been a routine offshore voyage. Its captain, a married father of three young boys, was the boat’s owner and leader of the four-man crew, which included two locals and the blue-blooded son of a well-to-do summer family. After a week at sea, the weather suddenly turned, and the foursome collided with a nor’easter. They soon found themselves in the fight of their lives. Tragically, it was a fight they lost. Neither the boat nor the bodies of the men were ever recovered.

The fate of the Wind Blown—the second-worst nautical disaster suffered by a Montauk-based fishing vessel in over a hundred years—has become interwoven with the local folklore of the East End’s year-round population. Back then, on the easternmost tip of Long Island, before Wall Street and hedge fund money stormed into town, commercial fishing was the area’s economic lifeblood.

Amanda M. Fairbanks examines the profound shift of Montauk from a working-class village—“a drinking town with a fishing problem”—to a playground for the ultra-wealthy, seeking out the reasons that an event more than three decades old remains so startlingly vivid in people’s minds. She explores the ways in which deep, lasting grief can alter people’s memories. And she shines a light on the powerful and sometimes painful dynamics between fathers and sons, as well as the secrets that can haunt families from beyond the grave.


TEE'S THOUGHTS

I love the ocean. I grew up constantly surrounded by it and in it. My dad was a sailor until I was 16 years old, and from then he was on the water because he wanted to be. So I found that The Lost Boys of Montauk really resonated with me. It is a book about a boat accident and the crew of four that went down on the commercial fishing boat Wind Blown.

Wind Blown which was skippered bu Mike Steadman went down 120 nautical miles from the Montauk Harbor in March 1984. Along with Steadman were a crew of three. First Mate Dave Connick, and two deckhands Michael Vigilant and Scott Clarke.

The author, Amanda Fairbanks interviewed friends and family members of each of the crew members. You learn about the lives they lived and how they came to be aboard the 65 ft trawler. Of course, there is very little about the actual wreck, no one on board survived to tell what really happened. There is speculation. Several people said the boat wasn't sea worthy enough to hold up against the storm that hit the east coast that day, and that the communications ( weather reports etc... ) were bad, and then just the sheer force of this storm, making it rough on any boat out to sea that day.

The book is well researched, you get to know the crew members, however I did question some of the things that Fairbanks wrote about the men. Things I thought that should be left private, things the world just didn't need to know and should have been left private.

The bodies of the crew member were never found and the author did a great job sowing the lasting grief that was felt over the deaths and not having a body to give them closure. One mother refused to believe her son was dead and searched for him until she died. I think the author probably gave some closure to the families with this book, along with the statue that the families erected for the crew. It was a place where they could go and grieve, or to feel close to their lost one. 

I enjoyed this book, but there were slow parts, and I imagine some would find it a tedious read, there are a lot of facts, and as I did, I think many people might go in thinking they would know more about the actual accident. But for me and I hope for the families that were left behind this book is a beautiful memorial to four young men that lost their lives doing what they loved. 





Thursday, August 12, 2021

Book Review: Then You Saw Me by Carrie Aarons


 GOODREADS SUMMARY:
You know what’s guaranteed to send your heart into your throat? Opening the front door of your off-campus house to find the boy you had a crush on all through high school telling you he’s the new subletter.

Of course, he barely knew I existed back then, and still doesn’t even though we attend the same university. But in a house of six college kids, it should be easy to remain invisible while carrying a torch for him. After all, I’m skilled at being overlooked and playing second fiddle.

Except Austin Van Hewitt, my hometown’s golden boy, doesn’t get the memo. After we throw our first party of the year, I’m on his radar and somehow my lips miraculously end up on his. The budding romance is one I’ve always dreamt about. As he shows more and more interest, I push aside the plaguing insecurity of never being good enough.

But then a letter shows up in our mailbox. A time capsule I wrote to myself when I was fifteen. You know, the kind where a teacher sends it to you years later? Guess who opens it by mistake and reads all about how I plan on marrying him and having his babies one day? Did I mention I signed it using his last name?

Mortifying would be an understatement. After he starts pulling away, I’m once again the girl in the background hoping that someone will understand me enough to pay me all of their attention. 

The old me, the one conditioned to settle for what she’s given, would back down. This time, though, if I want everything I almost held in my hands, I’ll have to speak up. I’ll have to admit exactly how I feel, fight for the love that was blossoming. And I’m not sure what’s scarier; voicing my inner thoughts or facing his ultimate rejection.


TEE'S THOUGHTS

We have all been there. Had that one crush in school, the one that seemed to last forever. The one who didn't even know you were alive.

So imagine this: a few years later you are in college and one of your roommates' leaves, and who shows up to sublet their room? Yep. The guy. The one you had crushed so hard on.

Carrie Aarons knows how to write romance. She keeps you engaged and turning pages. She gets you invested, not only in the story but the characters themselves. She makes them feel like they are your friends, and that you are right in the middle of the action. In fact, she is becoming one of my go-to authors on contemporary romance.

The main characters Taya and Austin are both complex characters. Austin's last name is synonymous with the town they grew up in. Well-known and well connected. He is the perfect son, the perfect student. He is the golden boy. Taya has spent her life playing second best to her little sister.

I enjoyed both characters. Surprisingly Carrie Aarons did not make Austin a character you dislike, the arrogant high school jock that so many seem to focus on. He is very likable and you instantly understand where he is coming from and his actions. And of course, you feel for Taya, she goes through this horrible humiliation that we would all want to avoid.

Both of them are human, they feel real to the reader. They are vulnerable, they are insecure, and like anyone from a dysfunctional family they struggle with things, but the thing that really drew me to these two was their ability to be fighters and the intense connection between them.

Are you a fan of close proximity roommate romances? Do you like stories that are full of angst and emotions?  If you answered yes to either of these, do yourself a favor and pick up Then You Saw Me By Carrie Aarons. You won't be sorry.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Book Review: Her Perfect Life by Hank Phillipi Ryan


 GOODREADS SUMMARY:

Everyone knows Lily Atwood—and that may be her biggest problem. The beloved television reporter has it all—fame, fortune, Emmys, an adorable seven-year-old daughter, and the hashtag her loving fans created: #PerfectLily. To keep it, all she has to do is protect one life-changing secret. 

Her own. 

Lily has an anonymous source who feeds her story tips—but suddenly, the source begins telling Lily inside information about her own life. How does he—or she—know the truth? 

Lily understands that no one reveals a secret unless they have a reason. Now she’s terrified someone is determined to destroy her world—and with it, everyone and everything she holds dear.

How much will she risk to keep her perfect life?

TEE'S THOUGHTS

I struggled with this book, mostly I think, because I could not connect with the main characters, nor did I like them at all. I found Lily whiney, obsessive, and self-centered. I never trusted her producer Greer, right from the start she seemed way too jealous of Lily and was just all-around sneaky.

The story is told in dual timelines, about 25 years between them. The past timeline centers around Cassie, Lily's older sister who leaves for college and while there disappears never to be heard from again. No one had ever figured out what had happened to her.

Present time deals with Cassie, a well-known and successful news personality, and her producer Greer. Cassie is always looking for Casie in every female that is the age she would have been, but she is also hiding secrets of her own, such as the father of her daughter.

There are some great twists in the story, some that I had figured out and some that I was totally off on. I can certainly see why Hank Phillipi Ryan has such a large and faithful fan base, her writing is masterful. It was just hard for me to enjoy the book when I disliked the characters so much. I am looking forward to trying other books that she has written.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Book Review: Midnight Spells Murder by Mary Angela


 GOODREADS SUMMARY:

Spirit Canyon’s annual Spirit Spooktacular weekend is on, and for local amateur sleuth Zo Jones, it’s boomtime for business at her Happy Camper gift shop . . . until a murderer drops in for a browse.

To celebrate Halloween at the Happy Camper, Zo schedules a talk by successful author and self-proclaimed witch Marianne Morgan. Although Marianne’s benign brand of witchcraft is more about feminine empowerment than black magic, her presence is still not welcomed by everyone. Then on a midnight stroll home, Zo spots what seems to be a new Halloween decoration propped up outside the Happy Camper. What she finds is not a mannequin but a dead Marianne, her lifeless body dressed in traditional witch’s garb. But why would someone send this good witch back to the spirit world permanently?

Soon Zo realizes that plenty of folks have motives for murdering Marianne. What’s worse, nosy TV newsman Justin Castle plans to broadcast a report associating Marianne’s murder with the Happy Camper. Zo calls on her partner in sleuthing, local forest ranger Max Harrington, to help her find the culprit before Justin’s report airs. Otherwise, Zo’s business just might go bust. But to catch this killer, Zo will have to risk much more than just her reputation.

TEE'S THOUGHTS

Halloween. Murder. Yes, please. Midnight Spells Murder by Mary Angela is the second in the A Happy Camper series, the started with Open For Murder. Yes, it is the second but if you haven't read Open For Murder, you don't need to. I didn't read it, and I made it through Midnight Spells Murder perfectly fine. I am sure I missed some character history, such as the growing relationship between Zo and Max, but it did not take away from the story.

Zo is the owner of The Happy Camper, a gift shop in Spirit Canyon. She hosts an author book signing as part of a town-wide Halloween celebration, and when it is over finds the author dead dressed as a witch. She sets out to find the murderer before she is blamed for the crime. It is exactly what you want in a cozy mystery, however typical they usually are.

Ok. I will admit it. I totally chose this book because of the super sweet Halloween cover. I couldn't resist, it called my name. I know I should never pick a book based on the cover ( I bet you have also... tell me you haven't and I probably won't believe you LOL), but this time it worked out for me.  

The writing in the story is engaging and easy to read, making it quick and fun. The characters all seemed to have a purpose in the story, and for me, the secondary characters really played strong roles and added much humor to the story. There was also a secondary story, that involved Zo and her necklace, which was one of my favorite parts of the book.

The setting was perfect and it had me dreaming of cooler weather as I read ( It has been over 100 degrees here since we arrived home from San Diego and their 75-degree weather ) and the author's description of all the towns Halloween decorations and the seasonal parade had me craving some good ole pumpkin spice.

So turn up your AC, grab a cozy blanket, and some pumpkin spice whatever it is you drink, and sink in for a fun, cozy Halloween read with Midnight Spells Murder.




Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Book Review: Much Ado About Nauticaling by Gabby Allan


GOODREADS SUMMARY

After far too many years in the Los Angeles corporate world, Whitney Dagner has come home to Santa Catalina Island off the California coast to help her brother Nick run Nautically Yours, the family tourism business. Between gift shop shifts selling all manner of T-shirts and tchotchkes and keeping her feline Whiskers in fine fettle, she pilots the Sea Bounder, a glass-bottom boat showing tourists the underwater sights of aquatic plants, marine life--and a murder victim?

The self-proclaimed Master of the Island, Jules Tisdale was a wealthy man with business interests throughout Catalina who was about to be honored as Person of the Year before someone strangled him with his own tie and tossed his body into the water. That someone appears to be Nick, who had a raw deal from Jules and no alibi the night of his murder. To clear her brother's name, Whit will have to investigate Jules' shady associates and not exactly grief-stricken family members--with the unwelcome help of Felix Ramirez, police diver and Whit's ex-boyfriend who's looking to rekindle their relationship

TEE'S THOUGHTS

Gabby Allan’s debut book Much Ado About Nauticaling is a Feldmans good cozy mystery, perfect for a summer beach read.


Whitney and her brother Nick own and operate a flat bottom boat named Nautically Yours on the island of Catalina in California. One of Catalina’s promenade residents is murdered and Nick gets the blame. It doesn’t help that he runs and stays hidden throughout the book casting even more suspicion on him, so it is up to Whitney to clear his name.


The story takes off early, catching your attention and keeping it, in fact, you will find yourself finishing it before you realize it. The writing is clear and engaging and Gabby Allan’s description of Catalina is so visual you can practically see it in your mind. I also loved the times she wrote about them giving tours on the boat. I love sailing, and even though the boat wasn’t a sailboat, I could still visualize the smell of the ocean and the feel of the salty water stinging on my face as it sailed on the wind.


Allan’s characters are all well written. Quirky characters abound in this book and you will quickly find a few favorites, mine was her grandmother Goldie, I could picture her so visibly in my head with the help of Allan’s writing. Several of the secondary character you will also find that you will dislike, for me, Nick was one of them, for the mere reason, he ran off making him look guilty and leaving poor Whitney with running the boat business, her own gift store business and trying to solve the mystery to clear his name. The story wasn't impossible to figure out, but the writer did well at making you doubt yourself on several people.


Much Ado About Nauticaling is the first book in a series by Gabby Allan titled  Whit and Whiskers Mystery and I enjoyed Much Ado About Nauticaling enough to want to pick up the second one when it comes out to revisit the island of Catalina and see what Whit has gotten into next.



Friday, June 25, 2021

The View from the Very Best House in Town by Meera Trehan


Book Summary

This inventive debut combines the pleasures of a thriller, a school story, and a real estate listing in its witty and insightful exploration of what it means to be—and lose—a friend.

Sam and Asha. Asha and Sam. A perfect pair of friends whose differences complement well, and whose main similarity, autism, means they understand each other. They are a fixture, an established thing, just as Donnybrooke, the mansion that sits on the highest hill in Coreville, is the acknowledged best house in town—and Asha’s dream home. But when Sam is accepted into elite Castleton Academy, leaving Asha to navigate public middle school alone, she begins to wonder if the things she is certain about are so fixed after all. Because soon Sam is spending time with Prestyn, Asha’s tormentor whose family also happens to own Donnybrooke, and who have forbidden Asha from setting foot inside. Told from the points of view of Asha, Sam, and Donnybrooke itself, this remarkable debut explores themes of prejudice and classism as it delves into the mysteries of what makes a person a friend and a house a home.

Flo's Review

Well, this book took me through the range of emotions. I felt protective of Asha and Sam. I felt angry at the adults. And I rolled my eyes so hard at Donnybroke throughout the whole thing.

There's so much to explore in this story that I'm sure sleep deprived me won't scratch the surface, but I'll try to mention a few things. 

First of all, I loved how different points of view came in. How Donnybroke saw himself, how Asha same him, how Sam saw him, how Prestyn saw him. You of course have the different POVs of the children -- for example, how Sam's mom saw him, how Prestyn saw him, how Asha saw him, how he saw himself. Same with Asha.

I felt a lot of this book with my heart hurting for Sam and Asha and what I thought they didn't realize. But by the end I came to understand that they did realize everything. They processed it in their own time and way, and came out stronger. Though they were doubted by some of the adults in the story, they were also loved and understood by others. My favorite part of this story was walking this path with Sam and Asha, seeing through their eyes, feeling all the confusion and hurt, and then seeing how much they grew, individually. Friend break ups and relationships in general are every bit as emotional and impactful on the individuals as romantic relationships, and I'm always happy to read a friendship story.

I feel like I could go into my app store and download Househaunt! What detailed, realistic description of that game. Though I agree with Joanna -- it's probably too gross for me! Lol

Also, can we please have a mini series of stories from around the town all narrated by Donnybroke? That would be amazing.

The View from the Very Best House in Town publishes in February 2022, but don't worry -- I will definitely be reminding you of it when it gets closer to pub date so you can pick it up!

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Book Review: A Shadowed Fate by Marty Ambrose


GOODREADS SUMMARY:

A shocking revelation from an old friend leads Claire Clairmont on a dangerous quest in this second in a fascinating historical trilogy based on the 'summer of 1816' Byron/Shelley group.

1873, Florence. Claire Clairmont, the last survivor of the 'haunted summer of 1816' Byron/Shelley circle, is reeling from the series of events triggered by the arrival of Michael Rosetti two weeks before, which culminated in a brutal murder and a shocking revelation from her old friend, Edward Trewlany.

Stunned by her betrayal at the hands of those closest to her, Claire determines to travel to the convent at Bagnacavallo near Ravenna to learn the true fate of Allegra, her daughter by Lord Byron. But the valuable Cades sketch given to her by Rosetti is stolen, and Claire soon finds herself shadowed at every turn and in increasing danger as she embarks on her quest. Is the theft linked to Allegra, and can Claire uncover what really happened in Ravenna so many years ago?

TEE'S THOUGHTS:

Mary Shelley....Lord Byron....mention their names and I am sure to pick up the book. Both are favorites of mine along with Shelley's husband Percy. I also will read anything on the haunting weekend that they spent when Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. So when I was asked if I wanted to read an advance copy of Marty Ambrose's A Shadowed Fate, which has these writers in it...how could I say no?

The book deals with the mystery surrounding the death of Allegra, Mary Shelley's and Lord Byron's daughter. Shelley's step-sister Claire Clairmont travels to Bagnacavallo to the convent that Byron had placed Allegra in to find out the truth of what happened to her.

A Shadowed Fate happens to be Book 2 of the Lord Byron Mystery series and I suggest that you read the first book, Clair's Last Secret before jumping into A Shadowed Fate as I did, the book is not meant as a stand-alone. However, I did still very much enjoy the book. Marty AMbrose's writing is well thought out and her characters were full of depth, and her descriptions of Italy...beautiful.

I am planning to pick up a copy of Clair's Last Secret, so I can read them in order before the third one comes out, because A Shadowed Fate certainly ends on a cliffhanger!

If you enjoy Historical Fiction, Mysteries, or the romantic/ gothic age of writing, you should look into The Lord Byron Mysteries.
 

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Tuned In Thursdays: Listen to " It's Not An Accident, It's Love " by Polarized Eyes


 
I am going to liven things up over here and throw on a new single that sounds a lot like old school punk.
It's Not An Accident, It's Love is by UK band Polarized Eyes.

The band consists of...wait for it...16 and 17 year olds. Imagine the future these kids have ahead of them.
The band consists Noah Lonergan ( vocals and guitar ) Amber Welsh (bass ) Michael Barlingieri (guitar) and Harry Heard ( drums ) 




All of them were brought up properly on the music of Patti Smith, The Who and The Clash and their sound is influenced by Nirvana, Royal Blood and Idles. They've been friends since they met at their North London primary school and started making a noise together in 2018.

Polarized Eyes  write powerful songs that capture the zeitgeist of Gen Z – from global warming and toxic masculinity to racism and corruption.






Friday, June 4, 2021

Book Review: 28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand


GOODREADS SUMMARY:

By the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Summer of '69: Their secret love affair has lasted for decades -- but this could be the summer that changes everything.

When Mallory Blessing's son, Link, receives deathbed instructions from his mother to call a number on a slip of paper in her desk drawer, he's not sure what to expect. But he certainly does not expect Jake McCloud to answer. It's the late spring of 2020 and Jake's wife, Ursula DeGournsey, is the frontrunner in the upcoming Presidential election.

There must be a mistake, Link thinks. How do Mallory and Jake know each other?

Flashback to the sweet summer of 1993: Mallory has just inherited a beachfront cottage on Nantucket from her aunt, and she agrees to host her brother's bachelor party. Cooper's friend from college, Jake McCloud, attends, and Jake and Mallory form a bond that will persevere -- through marriage, children, and Ursula's stratospheric political rise -- until Mallory learns she's dying.

Based on the classic film Same Time Next Year (which Mallory and Jake watch every summer), 28 Summers explores the agony and romance of a one-weekend-per-year affair and the dramatic ways this relationship complicates and enriches their lives and the lives of the people they love.

TEE'S THOUGHTS:

Elin Hilderbrand's 28 Summers was a beach read I had leftover from last summer, I have several that I feel I need to read before I can justify filling my shelves with new ones. I love beach reads, but dang I am trying to be good !

28 Summers is basically a take of the old Alan Alda movie Same Time Next Year, which is a movie I really enjoy. If you are not old enough, you may know Mr. Alda from his role as Hawkeye from watching old Mash reruns, or maybe not. I am aging myself... let us move on.

I will also say this is the first novel I have read by Elin Hilderbrand and I did enjoy it. Her ability to describe the area of Nantucket was magical. You could feel the warm sunshine and the salty sea breeze, taste the rich food and smell the flowers, it was like being transported to the area. Maybe it is because the author lives in the area, but you still need the gift of words to describe the place so visibly.

BUT..there is always a but...
I had a problem with the narrative during parts of the book, mostly in the first part. She would almost seem to stop the story in random places and write as if a narrator took over.." our girl did this " " our boy felt this.." and then it went right back to normal and you carried on with the story.

The story alternated from the viewpoints of both Mallory and Jake the main characters of 28 Summers. I liked the backstories that each told and was interested in what they did during the other 52 weeks of the year when not together. However, I never really understood exactly why they only spent three days a year together, there just didn't seem to be a valid reason why they could not have gotten together at some point over these 28 years. I also felt that the time they were together was written in a rather vague and short way. Where was the passion? I don't mean sex scenes, I mean here are two people who for 28 years made this date NO MATTER WHAT and all they did was eat Chinese and watch movies??? It seemed more like a " friends with benefits " situation instead of a true connection.

So with all that being said, I really did enjoy Hilderbrand's descriptive writing, the story was just a bit flat for me. Maybe I read too much into it. Maybe I should have just taken it for what it was, no questions asked. Maybe it would have seemed to have been a better story for me ( I think it had great potential ). This certainly won't be my last Hilderbrand book, I have already ordered another book by her to give her a second chance, and if I don't like that story...well it was at least another great escape to Nantucket for a few days!



 

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Tuned In Thursdays : Boy Release new haunting single " Fit Back In "


 

Swiss-German duo BOY return with their first new music since 2015’s We Were Here. Released by Groenland Records and SilverDoor Music, "FIT BACK IN" is an emotionally complex but typically bewitching teaser for their as yet unfinished, untitled third studio album. Showcasing their distinctive bittersweet style, with Valeska Steiner’s enviably charming vocals riding Sonja Glass’ delicately arranged composition, the song’s like running into an old friend you’ve not seen for ages and suddenly remembering just how much you’ve missed them.


"FIT BACK IN" opens with the lines “Feeling like a stranger in my city and my skin / Nothing around here reminds me of anything”, and while these may appear timely for a world overfamiliar with lockdowns, the song was written before Covid-19 arrived. Instead, it was inspired by the death of Steiner’s father, with whom she was particularly close, and the lyrics were written over the course of more than a year. If, however, this sounds like the premise for a sad song, think again. It’s instead a masterclass in finding hope in despair. 










Friday, May 28, 2021

Book Review: Where It All Lands by Jennie Wexler


 

GOODREADS SUMMARY:

A Sliding Doors -Esque novel reveals how our choices define us and how love can find its way no matter the road.

Stevie Rosenstein has never made a true friend. Never fallen in love. Moved from city to city by her father’s unrelenting job, it’s too hard to care for someone. Trust in anything. The pain of leaving always hurts too much. But she’ll soon learn to trust, to love.

Twice.

Drew and Shane have been best friends through everything. The painful death of Shane's dad. The bitter separation of Drew's parents. Through sleepaway camps and family heartache, basketball games, and immeasurable loss, they've always been there for each other.

When Stevie meets Drew and Shane, life should go on as normal.

But a simple coin toss alters the course of their year in profound and unexpected ways.

Told in dual timelines, debut author Jennie Wexler delivers a heartbreaking and hopeful novel about missed opportunities, second chances, and all the paths that lead us to where we are


TEE'S REVIEW:

Drew, a popular boy at school, and Shane, a quieter and a music prodigy, have been best friends for years. Stevie, the new girl in school, has trouble connecting with friends due to consent moving high schools due to her father’s coaching career. But she meets up with the two boys and they all connect over their love of music.


Both of the boys find themselves crushing on Stevie, and instead of fighting over her and ruining their friendship, they allow fate to make the decision on who will date her…by flipping a coin.


The story is told in a parallel timeline, almost like two stories with Stevie possibly dating each boy. Stevie and her relationship with Drew in the first half of the book and Shane in the second half. It plays out showing us that just one change can alter things tremendously. Seeing both sides of the story was interesting and kept you reading, the characters felt real and their emotions played well into the story.


The one thing I really disliked about the story was the instalove of the boys and Stevie. I really feel a relationship should grow, but this did not happen here. One of my favorite things about the book was the music of course, which plays a big part in the story.


There were triggering points in the book…infidelity, divorce, death of a character, etc. so if those bother you, take heed, they are in the story.


Where It All Lands is Jennie Wexler’s debut book and will certainly make you think. It is about first love, second chances, and friendship. If you take anything from this story, let it be that the choices we make matter in so many lives, so make good ones.