Featured

Guess Who

⇒RELEASE DAY REVIEW (almost): Fame and fortune turn out to be a lot less fun than anticipated for a TV detective when he awakens in a room full of strangers, handcuffed to a bed – with a dead man in the tub. ⇐

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Hanover Square Press, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

by Chris McGeorge

SmellRating2

(3.66 stars – Goodreads rating)

Publish Date: September 18, 2018, by Hanover Square Press

Genre: Thriller / Mystery

Format: Kindle Edition

Pages: 368 pages (Hardcover)

#GuessWho  #NetGalley

Guess WhoTime was escaping from the room. They were standing in an hourglass, with hands out trying to catch the sand.

I don’t know if you’re anything like me, but reading a book that I am not enjoying makes me angry! I feel obligated to finish it – especially if I have promised a review, but I’m never happy about it.

So I guess you know by now what my emotion is as I write this review. To put it mildly, I didn’t care for this book. To put it less mildly, @#$%^&*()_(*&^%$#!!!!!!!!!!!

If you’ve seen the movie Saw, you’ve already experienced (a much better version of) this book. But besides the fact that it seemed derivative and unimaginative, ultimately, you discover that it was also extremely unrealistic and improbably in its execution! I don’t want to be more specific because, spoilers.

Trust me, I REALLY HOPE I HAVE THE UNPOPULAR OPINION HERE!

It doesn’t give me any kind of pleasure at all to hand out low ratings for books that an author has obviously toiled long and hard over. It pains me. But this book pained me too, so tit for tat.

Was his really a wasted life – only half lived? Maybe this was to be a fitting end.

OK, so let me stretch past my anger and at least tell you what Guess Who is about…

Morgan Sheppard rose to celebrity status on the wings of a scary event in his youth. His teacher was found hanging in his own classroom, and Morgan gave the police information to solve the case. From there, he became TVs “Resident Detective”, with his own show, fans, and substance abuse issues.

When he suddenly finds himself waking up in a strange hotel room handcuffed to the bed, at first he thinks its just another night of partying gone a little wrong. But when he sees that there are five other people in the room with him – strangers – and a dead man in the bathtub, things start getting real.

Sheppard is then forced to put his over-hyped (nonexistent?) detective skills to work to find out why they’re all there and who killed the man in the tub. Does he? Do they all live? Who put them there? Honestly, in the end, it really isn’t all that interesting – even though it sounds like it should be, and I hate that it wasn’t.

I didn’t care about these characters at all. The most interesting one was the girl called “Headphones” who only spoke a handful of times. Maybe that’s why I liked her – she was the least annoying (and the least transparent).

The writing was clipped and, at times, disconnected. I know this is an ARC, but I felt like I was reading the first draft. Initially, the dual timelines flowed and brought more depth to the story, but that effect fell apart toward the end, making the story feel disjointed and, at one point, like you had entered a different (almost better) story altogether.

I felt like I labored through the second half of the book – already knowing who the perpetrators were and just waiting for the MC to realize it. Turns out, surprise! I was right and the denouement was easily apparent, but more than that – it wasn’t even interesting getting there.

If you have read Guess Who and enjoyed it, please tell me why you did so that maybe I can see it in a different light. I don’t think I’ll change my mind, but I welcome the different perspective.


About the Author

PictureCHRIS MCGEORGE

Twitter

Chris McGeorge has an MA in Creative Writing (Crime / Thriller) from City University London where he wrote his first crime novel Dead Room for this thesis. He constantly told stories from a young age, whether they took the form of comics, short stories or scripts.

He is a lover of Golden Age crime, like Christie and Conan Doyle, leading his crime stories to be a mix of the old and the contemporary. He likes weird and wonderful plots, with plenty of intrigue and twists. 

His often coherent ramblings about everything pop culture can be found on his blog Festival of Blood and occasionally he produces the Sarcasmicast podcast with a group of friends.

(Bio from www.dhhliteraryagency.com)



 

image001_1514946317787

Advertisements
Featured

Everything I Never Told You

⇒SHELF-DISCIPLINE SEPTEMBER is well underway with my fourth off-the-shelf read this month – a haunting story of one family’s unraveling after one member goes missing.⇐

by Celeste Ng

SmellRating4
(3.82 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published November 13, 2014, by Blackfriars

Genre: Fiction / Contemporary

Format: Paperback (Trade)

Pages: 292

#EverythingINeverToldYou #ShelfDiscipline #CleartheShelves #ReadWhatYouOwn

In September I committed to reading only (ok, mostly) books from the shelves in my house. I need to do this because books deserve to be read AND because, frankly, I don’t have room to buy/store any more books! 

Everything I Never Told Youdifferent has always been a brand on his forehead, blazoned there between the eyes. It has tinted his entire life, this word; it has left its smudgy fingerprints on everything.

Some readers classified this book as a mystery, but I think of it as exactly the opposite. The first line of the book is:

“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.”

That’s the very first line. No opportunity for second-guessing or questioning. It’s right there. Spoiler Alert! And that’s how most of this book plays out. In fact, sometimes we know a little too much – things that would make the characters look better to us if we didn’t know. But that’s not what Celeste Ng is trying to do with this book. She wants us to see this family for who they are, and Lydia death for what it was. Was it all just a mistake? You decide.

And Lydia herself — the reluctant center of their universe — every day, she held the world together.

Lydia Lee is her parents’ favorite child. They don’t even hide that fact. Her mother wants her to be a doctor; her father wants her to be popular. When the Lees discover Lydia missing from their NW Ohio home, they soon discover that what they thought they knew about their beloved daughter couldn’t be further from the truth.

The Lees are a typical American family in the 70s/80s. There is a mom, a dad, two daughters, and a son. They live in an average house on an average street and they drive average cars. The father teaches and the mother takes care of the house and the children. Maybe not very exciting, but typical.

But the Lee Family is also atypical. They are a mixed Chinese-American family, and James Lee and his mixed children have been ostracized and criticized simply for not being white. Marilyn Lee is white, but she hasn’t escaped the claws of judgment and separatism either. As the only female in several math and science classes, she struggled to pursue her dreams of becoming a doctor in a world that wasn’t quite tempered for that kind of ambition.

So, on these shaky foundations, the Lee family balances their days at work, school, and home with no help or support from neighbors, colleagues, or friends. Reading about how alone this family is made me really appreciate how much support I get from friends, family and even my never-met associates on social media. Come on Lees, no friends? Really?

…she hadn’t realized how fragile happiness was, how if you were careless, you could knock it over and shatter it.

This is my second Celeste Ng book. The first was Little Fires Everywhere and I rated it a high 5 stars. Everything I Never Told You is just as well written and intriguing. The characters are entirely fleshed out – like people you’ve met before, or seen in your class, at your job, or in your family. And their tragic story will make you sad, angry, bitter, sympathetic.

Everything… is not entirely about Lydia’s death, nor is it a whodunit. There’s no long drawn out search or big community coming-together rally to plea for Lydia’s return. It wasn’t that type of town and the Lees weren’t those type of people.

Instead, it’s a story of the character of a family with their own special set of trials and triumphs. It’s about lives overloaded with love, lives going unnoticed, and lives hovering somewhere in between. It’s a showcase of all the mistakes and all the second tries that happen behind closed doors.

It’s also a display of what love looks like in several different forms. How that love infiltrates the hopes, desires, and expectations we all have for those we care about. And it’s a journey of self-discovery for each and every family member. When the scales tip, each person is forced to reevaluate in order to try to restore the balance.

I rated Everything I Never Told You a strong 4 stars. The characters are flawed and the story isn’t sunshine and roses, but both truly draw you in. And for 292 pages, you are shuffling through an earlier century with them uncertain about everything that you thought you knew about the world too.

Brava, Celeste Ng, again.


About the Author

celestengWebsite

Goodreads

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

Celeste Ng is the author of the bestselling novels Everything I Never Told You and Little Fires Everywhere. Celeste grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Shaker Heights, Ohio, in a family of scientists. Celeste attended Harvard University and earned an MFA from the University of Michigan (now the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan), where she won the Hopwood Award. Her fiction and essays have appeared in One Story, TriQuarterly, Bellevue Literary Review, the Kenyon Review Online, and elsewhere, and she is a recipient of the Pushcart Prize. Currently, she lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

(Bio adapted from Goodreads)

image001_1514946317787

 

Featured

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

⇒SHELF-DISCIPLINE SEPTEMBER continues with this peculiar story about unconventional people with unusual abilities.⇐

by Ransom Riggs
SmellRating3
(3.9 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published June 7, 2011, by Quirk

Genre: Fiction / Fantasy / YA

Format: Paperback

Pages: 382

#MissPeregrinesHomeforPeculiarChildren #ShelfDiscipline #CleartheShelves #ReadWhatYouOwn

This month I finally committed to reading some of the books that I swear are more than colorful decorations on my bookshelves. I need to do this for my own sanity, and maybe one day I will be able to say that yes, I have in fact read most – if not all – of the books I own. A girl can dream!

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, #1)Sleep is not, Death is not; Who seem to die live.

You may already know the story of the X-Men. People with genetic mutations that give them superhuman abilities. Shunned by common society, some of them gather at Professor X’s school in order to hone their abilities. The school is a safe haven for them – a secure location where they are free to be themselves without threat from the outside world.

Miss Peregrine’s peculiar children are gathered together for some of the same reasons – to protect themselves from outsiders who don’t understand their gifts, but also from other, darker, things as well.

House you were born in, Friends of your spring-time, Old man and young maid, Day’s toil and its guerdon, …

Here’s the blurb:

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow – impossible though it seems – they may still be alive.

They are all vanishing, Fleeing to fables, Cannot be moored.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

The story was just meh to me. The pictures were, by far, the most interesting and captivating things about the book to me. While the premise of the story is an intriguing fantasy, the pictures scattered throughout its pages are – for the most part – real. And creepy.

A note in the back of the book verifies that they’re authentic:

All the picture in this book are authentic, vintage found photographs, and with the exception of a few that have undergone minimal postprocessing, they are unaltered. They were lent from the personal archives of then collectors, people who have spent years and countless hours hunting through giant bins of unsorted snapshots at flea markets and antiques malls and yard sales to find a transcendent few, rescuing images of historical significance and arresting beauty from obscurity – and, most likely, the dump.

There were peculiar children, threatening creatures, mysteries, hints at romance, and a few scares along the way; however, I realized as I neared the last chapter that I’d be required to read the sequel and maybe further to feel like I’ll receive any resolution to the story.

The story is X-Men, mixed with elements of  WWII and time travel. If those themes interest you, this could be the book for you. The book is well written and has a thread of suspenseful tension woven through it from beginning to end. The book has gotten a lot of buzz, won several awards, has spent a good while on the Best Sellers list, and was even adapted into a feature-length movie. I think I would have enjoyed it a bit more if it were a standalone novel.

The sequels include Hollow City (2014), Library of Souls (2016), A Map of Days (Pub date Oct 2, 2018), and a prequel Tales of the Peculiar (2016).

Read an excerpt of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Courtesy of TeenReads.com) HERE

Or see info on the 2016 movie directed by Tim Burton HERE


About the Author

Ransom RiggsRANSOM RIGGS

Website

Instagram

Twitter

YouTube

“HI, I’M RANSOM, and I like to tell stories. Sometimes I tell them with words, sometimes with pictures, often with both. I grew up on a farm on the Eastern shore of Maryland and also in a little house by the beach in Englewood, Florida. I started writing stories when I was young, on an old typewriter that jammed and longhand on legal pads. When I was a little older I got a camera for Christmas and became obsessed with photography, and when I was a little older still my friends and I came into possession of a half-broken video camera and began to make our own movies, starring ourselves, using our bedrooms and backyards for sets. I have loved writing stories and taking photographs and making movies ever since, and have endeavored to do all three, in some form or another. These days I make my home in Los Angeles with my wife, fellow novelist Tahereh Mafi.”

(Bio taken from ransomriggs.com)



 

image001_1514946317787

Featured

Sweetheart (Archie Sheridan & Gretchen Lowell #2)

⇒SHELF-DISCIPLINE SEPTEMBER continues for me with my third off-the-shelf read this month – a twisted thriller featuring a truly unique and seductive serial killer.⇐

by Chelsea Cain

SmellRating4
(4.05 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published September 2, 2008, by Minotaur Books

Genre: Fiction / Crime Thriller

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 325

#Sweetheart #ShelfDiscipline #CleartheShelves #ReadWhatYouOwn

This month I finally started reading some of the books that I swear are more than colorful decorations on my bookshelves. I need to do this for my own sanity, and maybe one day I will be able to say that yes, I have in fact read most – if not all – of the books I own. What? A girl can dream!

Sweetheart (Archie Sheridan & Gretchen Lowell, #2)He had been happy for a minute, he thought. That was his mistake.

It has been a while since I read Heartsick, the first book in the Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell series. But even though there has been a long stretch of time in between my reading of these two thrillers, anyone who meets Gretchen Lowell would find it hard to forget her.

But that’s something that Archie Sheridan clearly already knows. He’s never been able to forget Gretchen – even after she abducted him, held him as her prisoner for 10 days and carved him up pretty good during that time too.

But now he’s back. Back at work, back at home with his ex-wife, Debbie, and his kids, and back hunting down the next sadistic killer in town. Gretchen’s in jail and life can finally get back to normal. Sure. Sure, it can. <laughs villainously>

The drills did not take into account Gretchen Lowell. She was predicatable. She would kill until someone stopped her.

I refuse to give anything away with this review, so there are no spoilers (even though this book is 10 years old), but I’m not giving it away if it’s in the blurb, right? I think the best summary of Sweetheart comes from Chelsea Cain’s own words from her website:

Serial killer Gretchen Lowell escapes.  ’Nuff said.

Yes, indeed. With just that one sentence, Cain says enough to let us know that the ish is about to hit the fan in this book. 

Archie is just a teensy bit obsessed with Gretchen, still. And her escape not only puts him back between her crosshairs, but it also endangers his family and anyone else he’s close to.

Sin is rearely without complication.

Sweetheart is the second book in its series and one that I had been meaning to read for a very long time. Gretchen Lowell is a scary-as-hell, uncommon enemy. She is cunning and is 100% invested in the long-game. Archie Sheridan is… complicated. He’s dealing with a healthy dose of PTSD from his last encounter with Gretchen, The Beauty Killer, and really can’t be held accountable for his own actions. (That’s me making excuses for some of his crazy choices in this book).

No excuses for Susan Ward, the headstrong young news reporter who’s preoccupied with Archie and with seeing one of her stories on the front page of the Portland newspaper. She makes some dumb decisions in this book and I’m more than a little mad at her because of them. <insert salty side-eye here>

It’s fast-paced, definitely thrilling, and packed with characters that will attach themselves to you on so many different levels. They’re smart and stupid, loyal and deceptive, perfect and flawed, innocent and dangerous.

Fans of crime thrillers – especially those featuring prolific serial killers – should definitely not miss this series. I’m looking forward to reading the next book, Evil at Heart.

Interested in the series but haven’t read Heartsick yet? Read an excerpt (courtesy of ChelseaCain.com): HERE


About the Author

CHELSEA CAIN

Website

Twitter

YouTube

Chelsea Cain is the New York Times bestselling author of the Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell thrillers HeartsickSweetheartEvil at HeartThe Night SeasonKill You Twice, and Let Me Go. Her book One Kick (August, 2014) is the first in her Kick Lannigan thriller series. Her book Heartsick was named one of the best 100 thrillers ever written by NPR, and Heartsick and Sweetheart were named among Stephen King’s Top Ten Books of the Year. Her books have been featured on HBO’s True Blood and on ABC’s Castle. Cain lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and daughter.

(Bio adapted from Goodreads)



 

image001_1514946317787

Featured

The Dinner

⇒SHELF-DISCIPLINE SEPTEMBER starts off for me with this dark dinner party of unlikely antiheroes.⇐

by Herman Koch
Translated by Sam Garrett
SmellRating4
(3.22 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published February 12, 2013, by Hogarth

Genre: Fiction / Adult Contemporary

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 292

#TheDinner #ShelfDiscipline #CleartheShelves #ReadWhatYouOwn

This month I’ll be finally committing to reading some of the books that I swear are more than colorful decorations on my bookshelves. I need to do this for my own sanity, and maybe one day I will be able to say that yes, I have in fact read most – if not all – of the books I own. What? A girl can dream!

The DinnerWhen people get a chance to come close to death without having it touch them personally, they never miss the opportunity.

Every month or so, my friends and I get together for a fun little dinner party. We prepare our own food and share it around a table that is overflowing with laughter, life stories, and goodwill. And, oh yes, wine. There’s always wine!

After reading this book, I am so thankful for those cheerful parties and each one of my affable friends.

Only one time did something run amiss at one of my parties – an uninvited person crashed the party and uneasiness threatened to suck all of the air out of my normally welcoming home. It was uncomfortable for a time, but my wonderful friends managed to salvage the night and we laughed about it later.

Unfortunately for the characters in The Dinner, the only laughing being done is somewhat sinister and there is absolutely no salvaging of this strange summer night in Amsterdam.

Unhappiness can’t stand silence – especially not the uneasy silence that settles in when it is all alone.

The story starts off harmlessly enough. Paul Lohman and his wife Claire meet his brother Serge and Serge’s wife, Babette, for dinner at a swanky restaurant. It’s not just a casual night out, there’s something they all need to talk about. A discussion about both of the couples’ sons needs to be had. But that’s not why Paul is annoyed. He seems to be bothered by… everything: The choice of restaurant, the waiter describing the food, even the guy who comes into the bathroom next to him. Claire is cautious too because Babette had been crying before they even reached the restaurant, and for other secret reasons as well. Serge, who is on the political trail to become the next prime minister is his usual confident and demanding self, with something else lying just under the surface. Uncertainty? Anger? Fear? Yes.

By the time dessert is served, the gloves have come off and their lavishly prepared dinner has become only a bothersome backdrop to a frightful new reality. One in which everything they each know is threatened by the actions of people that aren’t even present at the table.

Happiness needs nothing but itself; it doesn’t have to be validated.

The Dinner was not at all what I was expecting. Reading a book like this – one that defies your assumptions and charges down the road less traveled – is what most of us look for from this form of entertainment, right? But as the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for.

This was definitely a dark path and the people I met upon it are not the sort you want to run into after the sun goes down.

I can say, thankfully, that I could not relate to any of these characters. They each had something dark and foreboding about them that made them monstrous in their own right – our unreliable narrator, Paul, the chiefest among villains. His unrelenting negativity and criticisms left a figurative bad taste in my mouth before their dinner had even begun. And Serge, his charismatic brother is the kind of smarmy politician that sours any event. Babette the weepy sister-in-law who constantly interrupts the meal with emotional outbursts may be the most normal out of them all because Claire, Paul’s wife, eventually reveals that her moral compass is dangerously off-kilter.

Koch tells a cheerless but magnetic story where something obviously ominous is hovering over the dinner table at all times. As we start to learn what that “something” is, it’s clear that the darkness isn’t only present at the table, but within these characters and their relatives as well. I was left searching for even one redeeming character among them all – maybe Valerie, the daughter/niece that is hardly mentioned? Maybe her autism gives her position that is apart from and above all the rest of them, so that’s why she has no place in the story (or at the table).

The Dinner is not humorous or endearing in any way. It was a very good read, but maybe not an enjoyable one, if that makes any sense. However, it did make me consider mental health issues much more seriously. By the end, I felt grateful for all the dinner parties I’ve been to that ended only with hugs, more laughter, and takeaway boxes.

Read an excerpt of The Dinner (courtesy Goodreads): HERE


About the Author

Herman KochHERMAN KOCH

Website

Herman Koch (born 1953) is an internationally bestselling author. The translation rights of The Dinner (2009) have been sold to over 55 countries, which is unprecedented for a modern Dutch novel. The Dinner has been adapted into several international stage plays and into a Dutch and Italian movie. The US movie adaptation of The Dinner released in 2017, starring Richard Gere and Laura Linney. Summer House with Swimming Pool (2011) and Dear Mr M. (2014) are international bestsellers as well.

His latest novel The Ditch is enthusiastically received upon publication, and already declared a ‘vintage Koch’.

(Bio adapted from Goodreads)


 

image001_1514946317787

Featured

The Forbidden Place

⇒RELEASE DAY REVIEW: Something sinister is lurking in the mire of Mossmarken and it will take one woman’s curiosity and another’s memories to unlock some dark and deadly secrets. ⇐

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Grand Central Publishing, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

by Susanne Jansson

SmellRating3

(2.5 stars – Goodreads rating)

Publish Date: September 04, 2018, by Grand Central Publishing

Translated by Rachel Willson-Broyles

Genre: Crime Fiction / Mystery

Format: Kindle Edition

Pages: 352 pages

#TheForbiddenPlace  #NetGalley

The Forbidden PlaceSomething had pulled her in this direction, maybe for years. Something that she hadn’t listened to on a conscious level, but still somehow had followed. Like a yearning from the underground. A call from within.

OK, so I wanted this book to be so much more than it is. It is a crime mystery/thriller that has whisperings of something sinister and creepy underneath the surface. It is not a horror story, but I’m thinking that maybe it would have been better if it was.

Here’s the blurb:

In the remote Swedish wetlands lies Mossmarken: the village on the edge of the mire where, once upon a time, people came to leave offerings to the gods.
Biologist Nathalie came in order to study the peat bogs. But she has a secret: Mossmarken was once her home, a place where terrible things happened. She has returned, at last, determined to confront her childhood trauma and find out the truth.

Soon after her arrival, she finds an unconscious man out on the marsh, his pockets filled with gold–just like the ancient human sacrifices. A grave is dug in the mire, which vanishes a day after. And as the police investigate, the bodies start to surface…

Is the mire calling out for sacrifices, as the superstitious locals claim? Or is it an all-too-human evil?

A long time ago, people were sacrificed out there. And there’s always been talk about how people vanish without a trace around Mossmarken.

Although this is not a horror story in the true sense of that genre, the underlying tone of the story is dark and definitely includes paranormal phenomena from beginning to end. That’s the part I liked.

I wish I could say that I enjoyed the rest of it as much as I anticipated a truly creepy resolution. But neither of those things panned out for me with The Forbidden Place. The paranormal nuances were tossed off as kookery and the human antagonists just weren’t as interesting as they were set up to be.

It is not a bad book. The story flows and the characters develop along lines that make sense for each of them. The setting is atmospheric (I learned more about a bog than I really ever really wanted to know) and the ultimate resolution isn’t a dead giveaway (no pun intended).

Three stars for a book that is good, but lacking just a little bit of spark that would have made it really good.

Hear an excerpt of The Forbidden Place (via SoundCloud): Click here


About the Author

Susanne Jansson

Website

SUSANNE JANSSON was born in 1972 in Åmål, Sweden. She later moved to Gothenburg to work in advertising and then to New York to study photography. After returning to Sweden, she worked as a freelance photographer while studying journalism, and for the past twenty years she has been combining her work as a photographer with being a freelance journalist focusing on reportage and profile stories in areas such as culture, film, theatre and literature. She has also written crime short stories for weekly magazines. The Forbidden Place is her debut novel. Jansson lives with her family in Lerum outside Gothenburg.

(Bio taken from http://ahlanderagency.com)


 

image001_1514946317787

Featured

Spinning Silver

⇒This is not your grandma’s fairytale! Naomi Novik spins a new tale of Rumpelstiltskin that starts out as silver but ends up as pure gold.⇐

by Naomi Novik
SmellRating5
(4.35 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published July 10, 2018, by Del Rey

Genre: Fiction / Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 466

#SpinningSilver

Spinning SilverBut of course a Staryk king would want a queen who really could make gold out of silver, mortal or not. The Staryk always came for gold.

When I was a child, I imagined that unicorns lived in the woods behind my grandparents’ house in the mountains of Asheville and that fairies made little mushroom houses in the tall grass.

I imagined all their magic could be shared with good little girls like me (smirk) if only I believed hard enough and if I was nice to wild animals. I even wanted to grow wings like a fairy!

Then I watched movies like The Last Unicorn, Legend, and The Dark Crystal and I realized that the world of fantasy can be a dark and scary place.

Of course I was afraid. But I had learned to fear other things more: being despised, whittled down one small piece of myself at a time, smirked at and taken advantage of.

In Naomi Novik’s second fairy tale retelling (The first is Uprooted, a reimagining of Beauty and the Beast), the author puts a new spin on the classic tale of Rumpelstiltskin in a very original way.

Originally this story has nothing to do with rainbows or pixies – none of the niceties of fairyland. The Brothers Grimm told a tale of a greedy miller who pawned his daughter off to an equally greedy king with the promise that she could spin silver thread into gold – something that she really had no clue how to do.

The king locks her inside three progressively larger storage rooms filled with straw and threatens her life unless she is able to spin the straw into gold by morning. Each night she is rescued by a vertically-challenged, opportunistic man who collects her jewelry as payment for performing the task. The final night, she’s out of baubles, so she barters away her first-born child in exchange for the little man’s spinning services in order to save her own life.

Years later, her first born child is born and little dude comes to collect his due. She is only given a reprieve when he tells her that if she can guess his name in three days, then he will let her keep her child. After two days of incorrect guesses, one of her servants overhears the little man singing a song bragging about his impending dinner to be made of the queen’s child and in the song he lets slip his name. The servant drops the dime on the little man to the queen, and she fronts him out in front of the whole court with his name: Rumpelstiltskin! <cheers, claps, bowing, curtseying, thank you, thank you>.

You were challenged beyond the bounds of what could be done, and found a path to make it true.

So that was how the Brothers Grimm framed their story. Naomi Novik kept a lot of the symbolism of the original tale, but her reimagining takes a totally different spin. See what I did there?

Spinning Silver is the story of three women with inner power that they didn’t even realize they had:

MIRYEM – The daughter of a Jewish moneylender who realizes that she is better at the job than her dad is. Maybe too good. Suddenly she’s swept up in the icy cold world of the Staryk (think Game of Thrones White Walker) changing silver coins into pure gold. With her life always under threat, Miryem has to balance protecting herself and her beloved family back home in a town so small it doesn’t even have a true name.

WANDA – The daughter of an abusive town drunk, Wanda becomes responsible for her two brothers and her own survival during a harsh winter. Her strength of character and some old-fashioned good luck propel her into an uncertain destiny, but one that she embraces more than the cruelty of the life she once knew. Seriously, the development of this character is so endearing – she can’t be overlooked as one of the book’s true champions.

IRINA – The daughter of a duke who is only interested in increasing his household in money and in position. And if he can use Irina to do that, then all the better. But when he gives her in marriage to the demon-possessed tsar, Irina has to do more than learn how to rule and protect a kingdom; she has to learn to save her own life.

These are the three heroines of the story, but there are other characters that contribute heavily to the story and make these women successful. And then there are the bad guys who are indeed bad, but they have a reason. Or a motive. Or a defense. You decide. Either way, I love to hate them, and then I hate to love them.

But I had not known that I was strong enough to do any of those things until they were over and I had done them. I had to do the work first, not knowing.

Spinning Silver is one of those books that I really wanted to read the moment it was released; however, due to a clump of NetGalley ARCS that released in July and August, I wasn’t able to get to it until now. It became available at my local library, so I snatched it up and finally read it in three days.

And now that I’ve read it, I wish I could have slowed it down and savored it more.

I love the classic fairy tales, but often retellings can be hit or miss. This one is a hit. Although it is a reimagining of the classic Rumpelstiltskin, it earns its own identity – building a unique world with strong characters and more than one terrifying antihero.

Things I love: The originality built into a story that we thought we knew; the multiple POVs; the internal strength of the heroines that seems to come from genuine heart, not trumped up attitude; the fact that there is no clear right and wrong action for the characters to be goaded into by the reader; that sometimes even the enemies surprise you.

This book is worth a re-read (in the future when my TBR list no longer resembles a literal mountain) and it has made me add Novik’s Uprooted to that pile in hopes of finding another 5-star read.


About the Author

Naomi NovikNaomi Novik

Website

Twitter

Tumblr

Naomi Novik was born in New York in 1973, a first-generation American, and raised on Polish fairy tales, Baba Yaga, and Tolkien. She studied English Literature at Brown University and did graduate work in Computer Science at Columbia University before leaving to participate in the design and development of the computer game Neverwinter Nights: Shadows of Undrentide. Her first novel, His Majesty’s Dragon, was published in 2006 along with Throne of Jade and Black Powder War, and has been translated into 23 languages. She has won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel, and the Locus Award for Best First Novel. The fourth volume of the Temeraire series, Empire of Ivory, published in September 2007, was a New York Times bestseller, and was followed by bestsellers Victory of Eagles and Tongues of Serpents.

(Bio taken from Naomi’s Website)



 

image001_1514946317787

Featured

The President Is Missing

by Bill Clinton and James Patterson
SmellRating4
(3.98 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published July 4, 2018, by Hachette Audio

Genre: Fiction / Political Thriller

Format: Audible Audiobook

Narrators: Dennis Quaid, January LaVoy, Peter Ganim, Jeremy Davidson, and Mozhan Marnò

#ThePresidentismissing

The President Is Missing by Bill ClintonTake out the leader, and the rest of the pack panics.

Back in 2001, a little show called 24 hit the small screen. Jack Bauer, expertly played by Kiefer Sutherland, as a member of LA’s Counter-Terrorist Unit (CTU) “raced against the clock to subvert terrorist plots and save his nation from ultimate disaster” – as IMDb puts it. And I was there for every second of it!

There were plots and sub-plots, bad guys, good guys, bad guys who became good guys, good guys who became bad guys, good women, bad women, and worse women… and in the middle of it all, there was Jack Bauer just trying to save the country from destruction over and over again. It was easily one of my favorite shows.

So it was no surprise when, later, another little show called Scandal rocked my world. Once again, it was a highly skilled team (lead by one amazing person) rescuing us from devastation. This time Olivia Pope, played dynamically by Kerry Washington, advised the hell out of everybody in the White House and beyond, managing crises that threatened all sorts of highly ranked officials, including the president himself.

So why wasn’t I into reading this book at first?

Primarily, I think that I assumed that it wouldn’t be any good. #Truth. I mean, really – a fiction novel written by a former president? Pass. I was initially less than interested. It didn’t even tickle my reading radar at all.

Then, one morning while I was dressing to go spend a day of vacation on the beach in Hilton Head, I watched an interview with Bill Clinton and James Patterson about the book, its storyline, and why they wanted to write it. By the end of the interview, I was sold.

They both spoke about including authentic action in response to real-life scenarios that are very genuine threats to national and international security. And Patterson mentioned that he consulted with Bill Clinton specifically to make it as detailed as possible and to get all the facts right. I love authenticity in books. It says to me that even though a story may be fictional, the author cares enough about it to get it right.

After reading this book, I am glad that I saw the interview and totally satisfied with my decision to change my mind and check it out. It is – at its essence – a James Patterson book. If you’re familiar with his writing style, you will feel his touches and patterns throughout the story.

However, I was also distinctly aware of President Clinton’s experienced voice weaving within the narrative, especially (and not surprisingly) in the character of President Duncan. Duncan is the president that Clinton aspired to be and that I wish we had today. Strong, but flawed; brave, but cautious; powerful, but compassionate. The story shows us all these sides of a heroic leader who is battling threats to his command on both foreign and domestic fronts.

When the mountains and molehills all look the same, campaigns and governments devote too little time and energy debating the issues that matter most to our people. Even when we try to do that, we’re often drowned out by the passion of the day.

Here’s a little of the plot without spoilers: President Duncan faces one of the most difficult weeks in his life. He is asked to attend a congressional hearing that will decide if he is to be impeached, he is also notified that a cyber terrorist is planning to detonate an Armageddon-level attack on the United States, and a chronic infirmity of his is once again rearing its deadly head. Duncan knows there is a mole within the White House, and it’s one of his most trusted Circle of Eight. He must figure out who he can trust before the cyber-terrorist strikes and plunges the entire nation back into the Dark Ages.

The Wild, Wild West, this cyberterrorism. This new, scary frontier. Anyone sitting on a couch in his underwear could undermine the security of a nation.

It’s set in real time over the course of 4-5 days with a large cast of sufficiently fleshed-out characters. There’s a lot of political instruction (not the most enjoyable), a lot of misdirection (entirely enjoyable), and multiple points of view which keeps the action interesting and fluid.

The President is Missing is heavy on the patriotism, equally involved with explanations of certain key members of all three branches of government and their duties, and reverently appreciative of how indispensable the secret service is to the protection of our nation’s leaders – none of which I ended up minding even though it seemed to slow the action down significantly at times. I could really feel Clinton’s expertise and admiration in those chapters and it made me appreciate his in-depth contributions.

Despite an epilogue that came across as a bit long-winded and too patriotically “preachy” (but on its face was meant to inspire and unite us – I could practically hear Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” playing in the background during the president’s speech), I enjoyed this book and have already recommended it to others who also enjoy James Patterson, political fiction, and a few select friends who really enjoy a good thriller with a stealthy terrorist plot!

Listen to an excerpt of the audiobook here.

Buy it here: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Google Play


About the Authors

Image result for james patterson and bill clintonBill Clinton and James Patterson

JP Website

Clinton’s Twitter

Patterson’s Twitter

William Jefferson “Bill” Clinton (born William Jefferson Blythe III) was the forty-second President of the United States, serving from 1993 to 2001. Since leaving office, Clinton has been involved in public speaking and humanitarian work. He created the William J. Clinton Foundation to promote and address international causes, such as treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS and global warming. In 2004, he released a personal autobiography, My Life.

James Patterson has created more enduring fictional characters than any other novelist writing today, with his Alex Cross, Michael Bennett, Women’s Murder Club, Private, NYPD Red, Daniel X, Maximum Ride, and Middle School series. As of January 2016, he has sold over 375 million books worldwide and currently holds the Guinness World Record for the most #1 New York Times bestsellers. In addition to writing the thriller novels for which he is best known, he also writes children’s, middle-grade, and young-adult fiction and is the first author to have #1 new titles simultaneously on the New York Times adult and children’s bestseller lists.


 

image001_1514946317787

Featured

New or Old – That Smell is Incredible

Welcome to my book review blog. Thanks for dropping in!

The only important thing in a book is the meaning that it has for you.

–W. Somerset Maugham

Whenever I get a new book, or mooch an old book, or borrow a book from the library, for that matter, I bring it close to my nose… and inhale.

Sometimes the smell is crisp and warm, almost woodsy. Other times it’s ancient and musky, like well-worn furniture. Either way, it’s a great smell. Remember that episode of Gilmore Girls where Rory is showing Anna (future Yale student) around the library and she picks up a book and smells it? Yes, just like that: #bibliosmia.

So now you know I read old books and new – and I love them both equally. So if you’re here to just see reviews on all the hot new releases that everyone else is reading and blogging about, then you’re not in the right place. Sorry.

I do read selective New Releases, but I also have a lot of “Dusty Bookshelf” reads that I am committed to getting through in this upcoming year (I said that last year too), and a lot of books that people have recommended to me that I will finally get around to. The books I read/review won’t always be current, but they’ll always be interesting.

I prefer reading hardcovers or trade-sized paperbacks (there’s nothing like the feel of a book in your hands), but I also read several e-books and listen to a few audiobooks each month, so you’ll likely see reviews for publications in those formats as well.

Occasionally, when she lets me, my daughter and I will read her books together. She’s in 4th grade and has a bookcase full of chapter books that we work our way through whenever she’s not bogged down with school-assigned stories. When our read-along books are especially good, I’ll review those too under Daughter Read-Alongs.

I’ll also occasionally be featuring my favorite authors, book events in Georgia, upcoming new releases, links to free e-book deals, and throwback looks at my favorite childhood reads.

I’m a Goodreads member and belong to several groups there. The book cover pics I post will most often come from Goodreads along with mentions of their overall rating of each book. However, I do not – I repeat, NOT – allow the rating from “the masses” influence my personal opinion of any book I read. Reviews are my own individual thoughts and I am absolutely not receiving any compensation for anything I post here.

As you may have guessed, this is my first foray into blogging so I’m sure I have some kinks to work out. If something isn’t working or posting correctly, just bear with me and I’ll get it worked out. Eventually. ♥

Enjoy!

booksniffing

The Cha-Cha Babes of Pelican Way

⇒What do you do when your neighbors are dropping dead and the police are closing in on you? Well, you Cha-Cha, of course! ⇐

**Many thanks to Andrea at Smith Publicity and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

by Frances Metzman

SmellRating3

(3.25 stars – Goodreads rating)

Publish Date: June 21, 2018, by Wild River Consulting & Publishing LLC

Genre: Fiction / Cozy Mystery

Format: Kindle Edition

Pages: 451 pages

#TheChaChaBabesofPelicanWay

The Cha-Cha Babes of Pelican WayWe’re the amazing cha-cha babes who live on Pelican Way. We dance till we drop or they haul us off to jail. Do they dance in prison?

Celia found new life with her retirement community in Florida, and in particular with her two friends Marcy and Deb. They all Cha-Cha together and Celia has found the greatest freedom just from dancing and being with her new best friends. But when other residents start dying inexplicably, suddenly Celia and her friends find themselves in danger and the targets of a police investigation.

The Cha-Cha Babes of Pelican Way was initially engaging and seemed to be a kooky, off-beat mystery with characters that aren’t the usual mystery book personalities. But as the book went on, I found it a little repetitive and slow. Plus, I couldn’t shake the Golden Girl references that kept popping into my head. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I felt like these characters deserved to have their own personalities and didn’t deserve my constant comparisons to Dorothy, Blanche, and Sophia (Rose was kind of mixed up in there too).

Another negative for me was that these women were only in their sixties, but the impression from the story is that their age group is slow, decrepit, and basically at death’s doorstep (until they randomly broke out into the Cha-Cha or playing doubles tennis). That bothered me. I have plenty of relatives and friends in that age group who are very active and healthy and who aren’t on 1000 different medications for all kinds of ailments.

The ultimate mystery, however, was well thought out and clever, but by the end, I think my interest in the story had waned too much for me to get excited over the ultimate resolution. (Plus the daughter in the story, Allison, totally put me off and I couldn’t stand reading her chapters!) Errrggghhhh even now her disrespectful attitude makes me want to spit!

Three stars because, although it wasn’t the book for me, a certain audience might identify more with these characters and find it an enjoyable read; however, there are things about it that might keep me from recommending it to everyone.


About the Author

Frances MetzmanFrances Metzman

Website

Twitter

Award-winning author Fran Metzman is a graduate of the Moore College of Art and the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to publishing numerous short stories and co-authoring her first novel Ugly Cookies with Joy E. Stocke, she also teaches writing at various local colleges and universities. Her blog “The Age of Reasonable Doubt” can be found at Wild River Review, and deals with the mature (and sometimes immature) dating/ relationships and aspects of society that influence all relationships. Her short story “My Inheritance” was nominated for a Dzanc Books Award for Best of the Web. On February 1st 2012, a short story collection, The Hungry Heart Stories, was published. The stories feature tales of people in crisis, yearning for emotional sustenance, and where food occasionally intersects the empty spaces in their hearts.

(Bio taken from her website)



 

image001_1514946317787

The Other Sister

⇒RELEASE DAY REVIEW: Family ties get really messy in this psych thriller/mystery that will leave you guessing until the very last chapter. ⇐

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Grand Central Publishing, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

by Sarah Zettel

SmellRating3

(3.4 stars – Goodreads rating)

Publish Date: August 28, 2018, by Grand Central Publishing

Genre: Psychological Thriller / Mystery

Format: Kindle Edition

Pages: 380 pages (Hardcover)

#TheOtherSister  #NetGalley

The Other SisterShe had to be a good girl. Good girls didn’t hate anybody. Not their sisters or their mothers. And most especially not their fathers.

Trying to summarize this book sans spoilers is very difficult, so I’ll just include the official blurb:

Two sisters. One murder plan.

Geraldine Monroe is the bad sister. Reckless and troubled, she ran away shortly after the mysterious death of their mother twenty years ago.

Marie, on the other hand, has always been the good sister. She is the obedient daughter and a loving mother to her son.

Bound by blood and a need to right the past, Geraldine and Marie set a deadly plan in motion. When old secrets and new fears clash, everyone is pushed to the breaking point . . . and the sisters will learn that they can’t trust anyone, not even each other.

It’s worth noting how many times it turns out that the good sister is not as helpless as she looks. Or as good.

The story includes:

  • Multiple timelines
  • Two POVs (Marie & Geraldine, sisters)
  • Unreliable narrators (yes, both of them)
  • Unlikable characters – How many? Mostly all of them. Not kidding
  • Pervasive mysteries (yes, more than one) throughout that only become clear(ish) at the end
  • Numerous triggers for some including emotional abuse, drug abuse, rape, alcoholism

Blood’s thicker, isn’t it? Even when it’s spilled on the stairs and on the snow.

This book did not click all my boxes. As a fan of thrillers / mysteries, I usually am all for the sociopathic character who wreaks havoc throughout a town or family. And The Other Sister had that; however, there is also all kinds of other “crazy” going on in this story.

There are no likable characters. None. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. The father is controlling and terrible in all ways. The men around him are subservient tattletales. And the women around him – including our MCs – are weak and emotionally and/or mentally unhinged. And everyone – EVERYONE – lies, even to themselves! Who is there to cheer for?

I didn’t relate to anyone in this book. The “victims” only became so due to their own acquiescence. Even Geraldine, who is characterized as “The Rebel”, only rebels in fits and starts and never enough to purposefully effect true change – even though we are led to believe that that is the sisters’ plan. 

The MCs’ parents are both despicable in their own ways, and though I do feel pity for some of the other family members and friends for getting caught up in this sick, twisted web, pity does not equal likability.

I cannot, no matter how hard I’ve tried, make Outside understand what it is to be us.

Also, I felt like I was never invited into the story. I was an outsider the whole time – not knowing any of the secrets, truths, or motives until the very end. And even then I wasn’t sure of the “truth” I had been told. Feeling separated from both the characters and the story is not a winning combination. I toyed with a two-star rating, but I don’t want to discourage others who don’t mind stories that develop that way.

So… a reluctant 3 stars for a book that I really wanted to like much more than that rating reflects.

»»Listen to an excerpt (courtesy of SoundCloud): Click Here

Today is Release Day (Aug 28, 2018). Get it here: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound


About the Author

Sarah ZettelSarah Zettel

Website

Twitter

Sarah Zettel is the critically acclaimed author of more than twenty novels, spanning the full range of genre fiction. Her debut novel, Reclamation, won the Locus Award for Best First Novel. She has written eighteen novels and multiple short stories over the past seventeen years in addition to practicing tai chi, learning to fiddle, marrying a rocket scientist and raising a rapidly growing son.

(Bio adapted from Goodreads)


 

image001_1514946317787

Station Eleven

⇒A review of the book that will make you look at your entire life – and the flu – a lot differently. I will never take electricity (or Acetaminophen) for granted again.⇐

by Emily St. John Mandel

SmellRating4

(4.03 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published: September 9, 2014, by Knopf

Genre: Fiction / Apocalyptic Thriller / Science Fiction

Format: Audiobook

Pages: 336 pages (Hardcover)

#StationEleven

Station ElevenBecause Survival is Insufficient

The day before yesterday, I caught a cold. Yes, in the middle of a very hot summer, I caught a cold. Leave it to me. Normally, it wouldn’t be a big deal: Some hot tea, a box of tissue, and some soup and crackers = a time-tested remedy (and a great excuse for some extra reading time).

The only problem is that I had just read Station Eleven. So my minor sniffles ballooned into an anxiety-riddled plague of epic proportions that would, no doubt, have me wallowing on a gurney in some Godforsaken corner of a quarantined hospital ward within the next 24 hours. Thank you, anxiety. You’re such a friend.

Thankfully, I am not hospitalized, and my cold is just that – a minor inconvenience. But if anybody or any book could put the fear of a pandemic into you, it would be Emily St. John Mandel and Station Eleven.

Hell is the absence of the people you long for.

So, no, this isn’t a new book by any means; it has been around since September of 2014, but I had never heard of it. I know, I know. Shame on me. Yada, yada, I get it. Moving on.

I found out about Station Eleven through Anne Bogel’s podcast, What Should I Read Next. If you haven’t ever heard this podcast, you should definitely check it out. She matches readers with book suggestions based on their preferred genres and lists of faves and not-so faves. Anne mentioned that Station Eleven was one of her favorite books and she gave a short synopsis of it. I immediately knew that this book was in my wheelhouse. I was not wrong, and I have Anne to thank for pointing me towards an intense and captivating read.

The beauty of this world where almost everyone was gone. If hell is other people, what is a world with almost no people in it?

So here’s a blurb from Goodreads about the plot:

One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time—from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains—this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet.

The more we know about the former world, the better we’ll understand what happened when it fell.

I found this to be a thrilling apocalyptic novel that tells the story of the dismantling of society through the POVs of several main characters who are all connected in random ways after having survived the pandemic of the Georgia Flu (Georgia as in former republic of the Soviet Union, not Georgia the Peach State). Through their “I survived the Apocalypse” stories in the pre-collapse and post-collapse world, we realize what was lost and what was gained when most of the planet’s people died.

I love a well done apocalyptic novel and this one checked all of my boxes. I was totally invested and very disappointed when it ended, mostly because this wasn’t just a fight-or-flight, kill to survive, beat back the zombies sort of story. This book had heart and it made me really appreciate a lot of the things – and people – I casually take for granted every day.

Plus, this might be a great book to pull out when you think that everything is going to hell in a hand basket because it will make you realize that as long as we don’t have to poop in the woods or steal sheets from long-dead people we’re doing pretty well.

4 strong, bright stars and why isn’t this a movie yet?

Read an excerpt of Station Eleven (courtesy of NPR) here: EXCERPT


About the Author

Emily St. John MandelEmily St. John Mandel

Website

Twitter

Instagram

Emily St. John Mandel was born and raised on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada. She studied contemporary dance at the School of Toronto Dance Theatre and lived briefly in Montreal before relocating to New York. She is a staff writer for The Millions. She lives in New York City with her husband.



 

image001_1514946317787