Categories
Fiction Science Fiction Thrillers

Supplant (Book Review) by Shane M. Toman

Thank you so much to DartFrog Books for the review copy of Supplant by Shane M. Toman in exchange for a paid feature and review! All opinions are my own!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Supplant
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Shane M. Toman
  • Publisher & Release: Dart Frog Books, June 2021
  • Length: 292 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ yes if it sounds up your alley

Here is the book blurb:

Chicago, 2071: a city divided by corporate and government districting.

Supplantation, the insertion of animal genes into human DNA, was once the most sought-after elective procedure in the nation. However, due to its horrible side effects, it was quickly banned and vilified, relegated to the black markets of the underground.

Now, the city is beset by a serial killer who uses his supplanted genes to commit his crimes, and supplantation is once again thrust to the forefront of everyone’s consciousness. Meanwhile, amidst the media and political firestorm, corporations have begun pushing new genetic research, setting off a chain reaction that could threaten the lives of unsuspecting citizens.

Zen, a legal executive for a private security firm, and Mik, an Army veteran turned butcher’s apprentice, must face a hidden world and fight a powerful enemy that will stop at nothing in pursuit of scientific progress.

This is a fast paced, futuristic thriller.  I think at it’s heart the book is about government corruption, freedom of speech and control over our bodies.  How out of control will things get in another fifty years? “Supplantation” is the insertion of an animal gene into the human body.  It was outlawed due to horrible birth defects caused by the process, but remained on the black market.  With the presence of a serial killer with poison dart frog genes, the city of Chicago is going crazy and calling for the outright criminalization of supplanted humans, even though most of the supplants are benign.  Heck I would love to have the vision of a hawk!

This book portrays a pretty interesting social statement through news segments as well, that reflects how polarized America is right now.  An entire group of (mostly harmless) people can be completely condemned, hunted, and marginalized due to the actions of a few.  The newscaster was a real piece of work; like so with any liberal news source.  I liked the serial killer aspect even though it was never a major plot point, it served to add enough gratuitous violence to polarize the city and also show how deep the government corruption ran.

The characters are a likeable bunch.  Mik is a retired Army veteran who was supplanted for military reasons, then spit out by the system.  Zen is a strong Chicago born lawyer who gets past an abusive husband and recognizes the wrongness happening in the prison system.  The prisoners… honestly I really liked Jose and Sean.  Jose could have done anything but he decided to try to be a hero in his own right.  There are so many characters but honestly I liked them all, and the switching view points made the book feel very fast-paced.  I always harp on multiple view points if the voices aren’t distinct – but these really are. Even without the names I would be able to tell who the chapter was about.

So – fact paced, thriller aspect, a heist, futuristic medical experiments, fun character banter and strong characters, and one of those excellently open endings that let me imagine how things ended for various characters.  I’m in! All in all – I would recommend for fans of X-men type medical thrillers, and stories where characters fight corruption.  There are fairly graphic references to drugging, rape, a human body part scarecrow, and military flashbacks, so maybe be wary of those things.  I enjoyed this one and once again thank the publisher for the review copy!

 

Categories
Fiction Suspense Thrillers

The Photographer (ARC Review) by Mary Dixie Carter

Another day in July, another great book!

Thank you so much to Minotaur Books for the advanced readers copy and press box for The Photographer by Mary Dixie Carter! I believe that I won this in a Shelf Awareness giveaway and am duly grateful and read it as soon as I could!

My favorite thing about ARCs is when there is an author or editor letter! In this case, even before reading the book, the executive editor had me excited for it! Her letter to the readers exuded genuine excitement and I really believe that every book deserves an editor to gush like so!

My main takeaway from the book is this question: in the theme of creating the images and digital content that we want to see, versus what we want others to see … What are we actually creating?

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Photographer
  • Series: N/a
  • Author: Mary Dixie Carter
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books, 05/25/21
  • Length: 304 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟for psychological/suspense fans!

Here is the book blurb from Amazon:

Mary Dixie Carter’s The Photographer is a slyly observed, suspenseful story of envy and obsession, told in the mesmerizing, irresistible voice of a character who will make you doubt that seeing is ever believing.

WHEN PERFECT IMAGES

As a photographer, Delta Dawn observes the seemingly perfect lives of New York City’s elite: snapping photos of their children’s birthday parties, transforming images of stiff hugs and tearstained faces into visions of pure joy, and creating moments these parents long for.

ARE MADE OF BEAUTIFUL LIES

But when Delta is hired for Natalie Straub’s eleventh birthday, she finds herself wishing she wasn’t behind the lens but a part of the scene―in the Straub family’s gorgeous home and elegant life.

THE TRUTH WILL BE EXPOSED

That’s when Delta puts her plan in place, by babysitting for Natalie; befriending her mother, Amelia; finding chances to listen to her father, Fritz. Soon she’s bathing in the master bathtub, drinking their expensive wine, and eyeing the beautifully finished garden apartment in their townhouse. It seems she can never get close enough, until she discovers that photos aren’t all she can manipulate.

^ And oh WOW can Delta manipulate photos  I would definitely not want anyone with those skills taking pictures of me or my family!!  It was so interesting to read about the programs and ways that light and photography can be manipulated.  I am not sure how much is real but I’m sure there is similar technology out there.

This is just such a delightfully strange book.  It reminded me immensely of One Hour Photo – remember Robin Williams creeping out those parents but he was just a sort of creepy, really lonely old dude who was probably harmless?

In contrast, Delta Dawn is the high profile photographer of the elite and wealthy in this novel.  I don’t think she is intending harm but she is one of those memorable, strange, “just why” type of characters that makes me wonder what deep-rooted issues she has from her childhood.  There are hints about it, such as growing up in Disney housing with busy parents and living a very fictitious childhood, bur I really just wanted to know WHY!

A character remarks that Delta could in fact have a very wonderful and normal life, but that’s not what she wants.  (P.S. what actually happened to that character)?? She is pretty and smart and an absolutely elite photographer, but that wouldn’t make a good suspense novel now would it?

The complicated dynamic of the Straub family was interesting to see as well, there was a lot of dysfunction that allowed Delta to come in and start manipulating.  I liked how much detail was paid to the old dog in the house too, I just wanted to hug the poor dude.

Anyway- definitely recommend this one to lovers of psychological suspense, suspense in general, and anyone looking for a quick moving summer read.  The twist wasn’t huge but it did the trick for me to come to a solid 4!

Categories
Fiction General Fiction Literary Fiction

We Are the Brennans (ARC Review) by Tracey Lange

Thank you so much to my partner Celadon Books for the advanced copy of We Are the Brennans! This is a complicated family drama that explores life in a large Irish family, the effects of shame and secrets, poor decisions, and how much love holds everyone together at the end of the day.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: We Are the Brennans
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Tracey Lange
  • Publisher & Release: Celadon Books, 08/03/21
  • Length: 271 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🍀🍀🍀🍀 Sure for fans of family dramas

Here is the Book Blurb from Amazon:

In the vein of Mary Beth Keane’s Ask Again, Yes and Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s The Nest, Tracey Lange’s We Are the Brennans explores the staying power of shame—and the redemptive power of love—in an Irish Catholic family torn apart by secrets.

When twenty-nine-year-old Sunday Brennan wakes up in a Los Angeles hospital, bruised and battered after a drunk driving accident she caused, she swallows her pride and goes home to her family in New York. But it’s not easy. She deserted them all—and her high school sweetheart—five years before with little explanation, and they’ve got questions.

Sunday is determined to rebuild her life back on the east coast, even if it does mean tiptoeing around resentful brothers and an ex-fiancé. The longer she stays, however, the more she realizes they need her just as much as she needs them. When a dangerous man from her past brings her family’s pub business to the brink of financial ruin, the only way to protect them is to upend all their secrets—secrets that have damaged the family for generations and will threaten everything they know about their lives. In the aftermath, the Brennan family is forced to confront painful mistakes—and ultimately find a way forward, together

The synopsis does a fantastic job of summarizing the story.  What happens after one generation’s morals and misgivings seeps down into the lives of their children?  Is running away the answer to a terrible event, and what will it take to bring everyone back together?  I think the author drew a lot on her own family experiences to make this story work, I don’t feel like it’s something that can be well written without growing up in a large Irish family yourself.

The characters are really everything in this novel.  Mickey is the father, suffering from early dementia, and it was always his job to take care of the family.  The mom is now deceased but I got the impression that she made up a lot of medical ailments for attention, to the point where it nearly ruined Sunday, the daughter’s, life.  Shane is the youngest child and has some kind of developmental disorder that took up even more of the siblings’ time and attention, but they all rallied around him as kids. 

Now as adults, Sunday took off to California in a hurry, and the two remaining middle brothers (5 siblings total) as well as Sunday’s ex, an adopted family member more or less, are left to shoulder the family responsibility.  They are also managing near financial ruin while expanding their pub business. Enter Sunday coming home in the midst of all of this after a drunk driving crash …. and you have the beginning of We Are the Brennans.

I think the staples of Irish family drama are secrets – check.  Shame – check.  Irish Catholics covering up bad decisions – check. Maybe some undercover or shady business – check.  What set this one apart to me was the strength of the characters, the sibling bonds, the size of the hearts capable of forgiving and moving forward together after the secrets are aired… and who inadvertently saves the day at the end.   The writing is also very smooth and flows well from chapter to chapter despite the different view points, and I do like how each character’s voice is so distinct.

The ending left a lot of things open to interpretation but the main storylines were wrapped up – and this may be added in the final copy but I think it could have used an epilogue.  Give us a glimpse of how everything settled 10 years down the road.  Did true love or duty win out? Did everything work out for better or for worse?  How did the one little boy make out with the family changes? I don’t mind having these questions at the end but I would have 5 starred it with an epilogue.

Celadon puts out some very distinctive literary fiction, I would recommend for fans of family dramas, general fiction, and literary fiction!

Categories
Contemporary Fiction General Fiction

Pulse by Judy G. Walters (Book Tour & Review)

Thank you so much to Kate Rock Book Tours and Judy Gaman for having me on the book tour for Pulse! I received a wonderful signed paperback in exchange for an honest review and feature, all opinions are my own!

This is a fast paced medical drama that reminds me of Scrubs mixed with Life in the ER.  I couldn’t put it down and ended up reading it in two sittings!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Pulse
  • Series: Vital Signs, #1
  • Author: Judy G. Walters
  • Publisher & Release: 64 Squares Publishing, 06/4/21
  • Length: 291pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡for fans of medical and family dramas!

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

The world has no shortage of moral ambiguity, especially in the emergency room. Dr. Jackson is the emergency room physician who seems to have the big house, beautiful wife, and an impeccable reputation as one of the most respected emergency physicians in Dallas. As the author peels back the layers, Dr. Jackson’s life isn’t so perfect after all. Filled with unique twists, complex medical cases and personal issues, Pulse proves that there is always more to the story! Pulse is the first book in the Vital Signs Series

Coming to you in between shifts to say that I totally flew through this book. I loved the bond that the ER staff have, whether they are joking about Dr Elohssa (😂😂😂) or kicking butt saving lives. Most of the patients and case studies are pretty realistic, the characters feel real, and there is more than a little moral ambiguity to go around.  

I could totally plug myself into that team and go to work with them any day!  The drama and teamwork, friendship and friendly rivalries, joking and tears, people just needing ten damn minutes to ourselves after a code … it’s real!

Dr Jackson is a leading emergency medicine physician but his home life is a mess. His wife is absolutely crazy and I loved his daughter.  The main characters are pretty complex, as in Dr Jackson and his daughter, while the rest are pretty shallow.  They’re nice, smart, a great team, and I’m rooting for them, but we don’t get too much into the rest of the team.  In future books maybe! I definitely want to see more of the other characters based off the glimpses in Pulse.

The home life vs work balance is the other thread in the book. No one is perfect but no one deserves a life of torture either, and there is little room for error and distraction in medicine.  I was really hoping Dr Jackson and BJ ( daughter) would be able to get away from the abusive wife. BJ is a strong young lady and I loved the father daughter parts.

I just love medical dramas. I was at 1000 stars until the big event – and in the vein of honestly I’m going to bluntly say that the big event didn’t work. It just did. Not. Work. Seriously ***** the terrorist, at a mall in Texas? Why? I found it hilarious but I guarantee someone is going to call it offensive.  I want a different catastrophe (Jacqueline could have caused a car accident trying to run Elizabeth off the road? Yeah? Literally anything else)!! so badly, but the results were the same, and I loved the ending anyway. I still totally recommend the book though! Thank you again for having me on the tour, all opinions are my own ❤

Categories
audiobooks Fiction Suspense Thrillers

Bring Me Back (Book Review) by B.A. Paris

I was lucky enough to receive a box of summer paperback releases from St. Martin’s press, and one of the books inside was Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris! I actually read this one back in May and feel like I owe the book a little more love than I originally gave it!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Bring Me Back
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: B.A. Paris
  • Publisher & Release: St. Martin’s Press, June 2018 (Rereleased by St Martin’s Paperbacks March, 2021)
  • Length: 352 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟 yes for fans of quick paced thrillers… But not those who are professional thriller readers

Here is the synopsis off Amazon:

She went missing. He moved on. A whole world of secrets remained―until now.

Finn and Layla are young, in love, and on vacation. They’re driving along the highway when Finn decides to stop at a service station to use the restroom. He hops out of the car, locks the doors behind him, and goes inside. When he returns Layla is gone―never to be seen again. That is the story Finn told to the police. But it is not the whole story.

Ten years later Finn is engaged to Layla’s sister, Ellen. Their shared grief over what happened to Layla drew them close and now they intend to remain together. Still, there’s something about Ellen that Finn has never fully understood. His heart wants to believe that she is the one for him…even though a sixth sense tells him not to trust her.

Then, not long before he and Ellen are to be married, Finn gets a phone call. Someone from his past has seen Layla―hiding in plain sight. There are other odd occurrences: Long-lost items from Layla’s past that keep turning up around Finn and Ellen’s house. Emails from strangers who seem to know too much. Secret messages, clues, warnings. If Layla is alive―and on Finn’s trail―what does she want? And how much does she know?

A tour de force of psychological suspense, Bring Me Back will have you questioning everything and everyone until its stunning climax.

I’m going to start with the bad, then move to the good with this review! So the reason that I don’t recommend for “professional” thriller readers is that a TON of reviewers are saying that they guessed the ending, it was ridiculous, not suspenseful at all, etc… and I can kind of see that.

It is a slow burn at first, with a lot of romantic backstory and not much happening. I am someone who can never guess the twist, and even though it was more of a slower suspense novel with the thriller part coming towards the end, I did 100% not see the twist coming.  Am I stupid? I don’t know. I had a bit of trouble staying engaged with the book at first, before it got interesting.  It has the short chapters that are easy to flip through quickly though, then first alternates between “now” and “before”, then between Finn and Layla

IMG_20210512_170934_942

I liked the part about the Russian Dolls, although it seemed overused.  I also did like how totally, absolutely ludicrous the ending was… I didn’t think it was believable, but it was definitely crazy.  I didn’t say I liked the ending/twist itself, just again how out in left field it was 😂

I didn’t love the characters either, but that’s pretty normal in a suspense/thriller.  It’s always the husband, right? Hmmm.  The characters were better on audio, the narrators did a LOT for their personalities.

I listened to some of the book on audio and fully enjoyed listening to Kevin Hely and Cathleen McCarron.  They both made their characters sound like total psychopaths. The audiobook is about 8 hours long and was released through Macmillan Audio at time of the book’s original release.

Stable people don’t go around leaving little Russian dolls for others to find

B.A. Paris, Bring Me Back

Overall, yeah I would recommend for anyone looking for a quick, easy to read summer suspense novel.  I hear a lot about B.A. Paris’ novel Behind Closed Doors as well, so I am interested in that which is widely called a stronger read


Meet the Author (from Amazon)

Photo of BA Paris from Amazon

B A Paris is the internationally bestselling author of Behind Closed Doors, The Breakdown, Bring Me Back and The Dilemma. Having sold over one million copies in the UK alone, she is a New York Times bestseller as well as Sunday Times bestseller and a number one bestseller on Amazon and iBooks. Her books have been translated into 40 languages. Having lived in France for many years, she and her husband recently moved back to the UK.

Her fifth novel, The Therapist is out in **July, 2021**

-Amazon description. Release date edited
Categories
Contemporary Fiction Young Adult

The Sea Is Salt and So am I (Book Review) – by Cassandra Hartt

Thank you so much to Roaring Book Press via Bookish First for the finished copy of The Sea Is Salt and So am I! Book received in exchange for an honest review – all opinions are mine!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Sea Is Salt and So am I
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Cassandra Hartt
  • Publisher & Release: Roaring Book Press, June 8th 2021
  • Length: 374pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟✨ for fans of YA contemporary

Here is the Synopsis from Amazon:

I’ll Give You the Sun meets Normal People in Cassandra Hartt’s The Sea Is Salt and So Am I, a stunning YA contemporary debut that asks if the secrets we keep and the people we love can change who we are.

West Finch is one hurricane away from falling into the sea.

Yet sixteen-year-old Harlow Prout is determined to save her small Maine hometown. If only she could stop getting in her own way and find someone, anyone, willing to help. But her best friend Ellis MacQueen “fixes” problems by running away from them—including his broken relationship with his twin brother, Tommy. And Tommy’s depression has hit a new low, so he’s not up for fixing anything.

In the wake of the town’s latest devastating storm, Tommy goes out for a swim that he doesn’t intend to survive. It’s his unexpected return that sets into motion a sea change between these three teens. One that tests old loyalties, sparks new romance, and uncovers painful secrets. And nothing stays secret in West Finch for long.

Exquisitely honest and shimmering with emotion, The Sea is Salt and So Am I is a captivating multi-POV story that probes the depths of what it means to love and trust—both ourselves and others.

I’m going to open this with one of my infamous OneReadingNurse medical rants: Don’t stop taking your psych meds or antidepressants (or any other medication) just because you feel better!! I wish Tommy had gotten lectured a LOT harder on page for this.  Also parents: for f*cks sake don’t trust that your teenager is taking their meds, the lack of parental oversight in this book had me so frustrated as a medical person!

Anyway! It’s really a decent book though and takes a good look at mental health and why teens shouldn’t think everything is their fault. It explores how our actions affect those around us. There is great description and scenery, a small town atmosphere, and a silly dog named Goose sho is only 6 but everyone seems to write off as ancient. Why do they keep saying a 6 year old dog is ready to drop dead of old age!?  They are all environmentally conscious too and have to consider both sides of an issue surrounding a protected bird species.

This book focuses on three teens in a Maine town that is one storm short of being lost to sea, and the lifelong attention-seeking competition between them. There are twin brothers and a then a girl that entered the picture about 5-6 years prior to the start of the book, and they just constantly swing attention seeking behaviors back and forth through poor life decisions, making each other’s lives miserable, and refusing to be happy for each other. Like typical teenagers, they have no concept of “the big picture” and believe that the entire world, and all of the others’ life decisions just revolve around them, are caused by them, etc.

This is what the competition looks like: One brother lost a leg, and the parents spent a fortune on a running blade…so the other brother probably started feeling bad, and said well I’ll eventually bottom out and kill myself. Fast forward to now and I swear it’s a competition. “Oh yeah? Well I’m going to crash a car”. “I’ll top you by going off my meds again.” “Well I’m going to ruin your relationship and engage in risky sexual behaviors like picking up a random person at Friendly’s” … (These are not actual quotes from the book). The two brothers just. never. quit. Then Harlow is trying to fix everyone and everything but is so self absorbed, and each one thinks it’s their fault that the others are behaving as such. The other part is that their parents all seem too wrapped up in other things to be paying half enough attention and its one big confusing  summer in West Finch.  That said though, I think Harlow is probably the most likeable of the three.

The real issue though? None of these kids should be, or feel, responsible for each other.

There is a lot of vague writing concerning the teens’ back story, which is why i dropped so many stars – I don’t like when authors vaguely hint at things and expect us to make significant connections.  The connection I made was that all three teens are terrible people, secretly in love, and in competition for both parental and friendly attention. I never figured out the animosity between Harlow and Tommy that led up to the Ruby thing, but it seems like they’ve been picking at each other for years until it ended in outright sabotage.

One other huge issue was that God should be capitalized in text, even when *cringe* used in the slang. I think it appeared 2-3 times and I’ve never seen it lowercased like that. I don’t know if the author meant is as a slight but it comes across as such.

Ultimately: this is a good and probably important YA read, I know a lot of people are focusing on mental health these days so it’s a well timed book.  I can recommend it as an honest look at mental health, keeping secrets, and trying to come of age.

Categories
Adventure Dystopian Fantasy

Flame Riders (ARC) by Sean Grigsby

Thank you so much to Angry Robot for the early digital copy of Flame Riders by Sean Grigsby! This is a fast paced military fantasy, that is book 3 in a series but can be read as a standalone.  All opinions are my own!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Flame Riders
  • Series: Smoke Eaters, #3 
  • Author: Sean Grigsby
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot, 06/22/21
  • Length: 320 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟 for fans of military fantasy and action stories

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

The third and final instalment in Sean’s rip-roaring ‘firefighters meet dragons’ fantasy series

In the final instalment of the Smoke Eaters series, the New United States Army has taken over and America has devolved into a full-on dragon apocalypse. Smoke eaters are banned and have gone into hiding to avoid being held prisoner by the soldiers.

Guiellermo Contreras is a private in the NUSA, and when he’s accused of potentially being a smoke eater upon pain of death, he escapes and sets out to find the heroes who disappeared years before. But what he discovers is that the NUSA has been working on something unthinkable, and it’s going to take more than a few smoke eaters to stop them.

First off I just want to say that I may increase my initial rating once I’ve read the first two books!

Additionally the cover art is absolutely stunning for all three books.

This is a fast paced novel that occurs after some kind of apocalypse brought on by dragons, and apparently a Phoenix had something to do with it as well.

There is a ton of action and many fun fighting scenes where sci-fi and fantasy cross paths for hi tech battles of smoke eaters vs dragons.  I would have liked more info on the experiments being done and technology used by the two forces.

I liked the team of characters and banter quite a bit. Brannigan and Happy were my two favorites, although I couldn’t really get behind Guillermo (the main character). He had a good start and end but lost me in the middle after he kept freezing up and putting his teammates in danger. Brannigan was absolutely hilarious and I kind of definitely want to go back and read his book.

One thing that Grigsby did well was create a lingo and sense of team for the smoke eaters, using terms like “scaly” to refer to a dragon and there is a definite sense of cohesion within the crew.

There was some pretty coarse language as well but not too much more than I’d expect in a military based book.

My main thing was that while the book definitely could work as a standalone, there is no background to know why there are dragons everywhere, how they got there, or who the heck all the returning characters are.  I would definitely recommend for anyone looking for a hi tech fantastical military adventure, but would probably recommend reading the trilogy to meet the full cast of  heroes first.

tforces.thank you again to Angry Robot for the early read!!

Categories
Contemporary Fiction General Fiction Literary Fiction Suspense

ARC Review: The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz (and a word on bullying)

Thank you so much to Celadon Books for the ARC of The Plot in exchange for an honest review! I participated in the Little Free Library drive and then requested on #NetGalley so I could finish reading! Here is my review, a little meet the author blurb at the bottom, and then my Real Talk on author bullying!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Plot
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Jean Hanff Korelitz
  • Publisher & Release: Celadon Books, May 11th 2021
  • Length: 336 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 sure for fans of suspense, fiction, publishing!

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Hailed as “breathtakingly suspenseful,” Jean Hanff Korelitz’s The Plot is a propulsive read about a story too good not to steal, and the writer who steals it.

Jacob Finch Bonner was once a promising young novelist with a respectably published first book. Today, he’s teaching in a third-rate MFA program and struggling to maintain what’s left of his self-respect; he hasn’t written―let alone published―anything decent in years. When Evan Parker, his most arrogant student, announces he doesn’t need Jake’s help because the plot of his book in progress is a sure thing, Jake is prepared to dismiss the boast as typical amateur narcissism. But then . . . he hears the plot.

Jake returns to the downward trajectory of his own career and braces himself for the supernova publication of Evan Parker’s first novel: but it never comes. When he discovers that his former student has died, presumably without ever completing his book, Jake does what any self-respecting writer would do with a story like that―a story that absolutely needs to be told.

In a few short years, all of Evan Parker’s predictions have come true, but Jake is the author enjoying the wave. He is wealthy, famous, praised and read all over the world. But at the height of his glorious new life, an e-mail arrives, the first salvo in a terrifying, anonymous campaign: You are a thief, it says.

As Jake struggles to understand his antagonist and hide the truth from his readers and his publishers, he begins to learn more about his late student, and what he discovers both amazes and terrifies him. Who was Evan Parker, and how did he get the idea for his “sure thing” of a novel? What is the real story behind the plot, and who stole it from whom?

My Thoughts:

This is a slow burning story that starts out detailing Jacob Finch Bonner’s sad writing career, and his cynicism towards it. I think his ranting about student writers was hilarious and probably pretty accurate, I can’t even imagine.  Jake is a great character, a bit of a troll himself but he felt so real to me.

One cool thing I will say first is that as a Plattsburgh native who spent some time in the Cooperstown/Oneonta/Cobleskill area, I freaking love the setting in these towns 😂 Why Yes, I *have* been to the Price Chopper in that town, thank you!

As we start learning about “The Plot”, the mystery develops when Jacob loosely steals an idea from a now deceased former student. The book then took on a bit of a tribute aspect to the greatest plot ever written (cue Tenacious D music) *THIS IS JUST A TRIBUTE* heh heh.

But…then… An internet troll attacks Jacob. It seems pretty benign at first then gets more serious. Thus begins my favorite aspect of The Plot which is a mocking but also kind of true conversation about the publishing industry, reviewer culture, and people trolling authors. The damage it can do (even though it really shouldn’t), and how Jacob and the legal team handle the issue. I dropped the book and clapped when his publicist was ranting about GoodReads trolls and author morale, because someone finally said it.  What is the industry coming to??

Seriously though, who could possibly be this upset about the book? Who has access to Jacob’s house to leave threatening letters? What … Really … Happened… In the “fictional” plot? Read to find out, it’s a slow burn but I promise it’s worth it as Jacob starts tracking down the truth


Meet the Author: (from Amazon)

Jean Hanff Korelitz is the author of the novels YOU SHOULD HAVE KNOWN (adapted for HBO as “The Undoing” by David E. Kelley, and starring Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant and Donald Sutherland), ADMISSION (adapted as the 2013 film starring Tina Fey), THE DEVIL AND WEBSTER, THE WHITE ROSE, THE SABBATHDAY RIVER and A JURY OF HER PEERS. A new novel, THE PLOT, will be published on May 11th 2021. Her company BOOKTHEWRITER hosts “Pop-Up Book Groups” in NYC, where small groups of readers can discuss new books with their authors. http://www.bookthewriter.com


I also wanted to just touch on GoodReads trolling and the bullying of authors.  This is fully and solely my opinion and does not reflect that of the author or publisher in any way.

I think the main thing I want to say here is that Korelitz is pretty timely in satirizing this issue. It is out of hand.  Jacob (in the book) did the right thing at first by “not feeding the trolls”, not engaging, and hoping the troll would peter itself out – then the publisher’s legal team got involved.  Honestly I encourage authors going through these things to first  consider letting it go away on it,s own without feeding the fuel, and if it doesn’t, consider  seeking cease and desist letters from a lawyer against people slandering and bullying on social media. I also encourage reviewers to … Well.. Just stop this mob behavior and state your opinion, then let others form their own.  What happened to literary criticism?  Everyone is entitled to an opinion but that doesn’t entitle anyone to bully or attack.  I also would go a step further and put out there that publicists, publishers, merch companies, and other businesses should stop working with these bullies and stop seeking them as reviewers, and we can all try to bring the book world back to an appropriate level of civility and conversation. 

That’s my Real Talk for the night, what do you think??

Categories
Crime Fiction Suspense Thrillers

Book Review: Satan’s Gold by Michael Ray Ewing

Thank you so much to Bookish First and Michael Ray Ewing for my free copy in exchange for an honest review! It was also super nice that he signed the book!

Normally I am impeccable with these due dates but this arrived on it’s pub date, so I ended up pushing it back a bit.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Satan’s Gold
  • Series: A Tyler Jackson Thriller, #1
  • Author: Michael Ray Ewing
  • Publisher & Release: Grand Canyon Press, 03/10/21
  • Length: 301 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟 neutral

The entire financial world is networked, but banks have an Achilles’ heel

An elusive ex-CIA financial analyst known only as Daemon has stolen billions from the Russian Federation, and now he’s determined to plunder the richest prize of all-the U.S. Federal Reserve.

Only one man stands in his way-disgraced former FBI Agent Tyler Jackson, who is destroying all he loves in his feverish attempt to capture Daemon and prevent a worldwide economic collapse.

Jackson has been chasing Daemon for two grueling years. But can Jackson and Dixie, a female hacker wanted for unleashing a deadly computer virus, find Daemon before he makes his next big move?

If you like page-turning suspense and characters who would stop at nothing to achieve their objectives, read Satan’s Gold today.

I don’t think I’m smart enough to enjoy this book. A genius computer/financial hacker basically threatens to shut down America via bankrupting the Federal Reserve, and it’s up to ex FBI agent Jackson and his outlaw team of hackers and retired military to track the terrorist down.

I’m not sure exactly how the guy did it, because computer jargon, but I get that they are all really good at computer hacking and that the FBI and CIA are at odds.  There is a ton of fast paced action in this book and although I read it quickly and enjoyed the fast pace, I just felt this huge disconnect from the book itself.

I think it’s because I don’t understand one word of the computer lingo. I also see that this is a finished copy and honestly the typos are intense, mostly in people’s names…it would be ok for an ARC but all evidence points to this as a finished copy.  The names would change from Ralph to Ralf, Quentin to Quinten, Byrnes to Keynes… Etc… and there were typos by omission.  I will stick to my review policy and dock that star for a poorly edited finished copy.

The other thing is that there are SO many characters, I had to make a character map.  Some of them added something to the book and others just confused me.  I think Jackson, Dixie, Pavak, and O’Connell were a good team to start and hope that moving forward they stick together.

I think this would be a great movie though. I would cast Hugh Jackman and Raphaël Personnaz as Tyler and Alec, respectively.

Great idea for a book overall, but execution and overall presentation felt like it needed work.  I would watch that movie though. Going with a fairly neutral 3🌟


Meet the Author!

(From Amazon): Michael Ray Ewing is the winner of the prestigious Emerging Writers Gateway Contest for best new crime thriller. Satan’s Gold was inspired by his work as a Bell Labs engineer on the United States Federal Reserve’s network, FEDNET. An avid mountain biker and resident of Arizona, Mike writes about people who risk everything for the sake of doing what they know is right.

Image: Michael Ray Ewing, Author
Categories
Dystopian Literary Fiction Science Fiction

Book Tour & Review: Composite Creatures by Caroline Hardaker

Thank you so much to Angry Robot Books (Caroline, Gemma, and Sam are good eggs!) for having me on the book tour for Composite Creatures, an exciting new book that releases on 04/13/21!  This is a low-key science fiction novel that is also a meditation on the future of healthcare ethics, growing up, growing older, and prioritizing what matters most

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

How close would you hold those you love, when the end comes?

In a society where self-preservation is as much an art as a science, Norah and Arthur Ratare learning how to co-exist in their new little world. Though they hardly know each other, everything seems to be going perfectly – from the home they’re building together to the ring on Norah’s finger.

But survival in this world is a tricky thing, the air is thicker every day and illness creeps fast through the body. And the earth is becoming increasingly hostile to live in. Fortunately, Easton Grove is here for that in the form of a perfect little bundle to take home and harvest. You can live for as long as you keep it – or her – close.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Composite Creatures
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Caroline Hardaker
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot, 04/13/21
  • Length: 400 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟✨  Yes for the patient readers

The Plot & Story: I honestly believe that the less you know going in about this book, the better.  Health in the UK is going drastically downhill in the future as the air itself causes cancer, the animals are all extinct, healthy life expectancy is pathetic… and the NHS is handing the reins over to a private company.   Enter an elitist group called Easton Grove, that promises health and happiness to those who can afford it, and pass all the tests.  

What exactly is this little bundle that Easton Grove offer?

Hardaker makes us wait, and wait, and wait, and wait, and wait……and wait for it.  Most of the reveal happens towards the end of the book so I definitely recommend this one for the patient readers.  In the meantime we get a lovely meditation on life, losing one’s parents, falling out from our old friends, and co-existing with our chosen company.  This one takes a good hard look at life’s hardships.  The question becomes – is it worth holding out so long for the answers?  It took until the very last page but I think so.

The characters: I also think that the less you know about the characters, the better.   Norah and Arthur seem like a good pair, except it again takes a very long time for the book to reveal how they got together.  I liked Norah a lot and really, really hated Arthur until almost the end.  I think Hardaker did that on purpose though, she waited until page 400 out of 400 to make me forgive him, in that she also showed Norah as a “Composite Creature”

What does that even mean? Well – read it to find out

The World: Think of a slightly futuristic, overly polluted London with toxic soil, a sky with no birds, and a generally gray atmosphere.  The book creates gorgeous reminisces of the past through artwork and Norah’s memories of her mother.  I will give Hardaker endless Kudoes for the imagery in the book.  Hardaker is a published poet and I think that shows in her debut novel quite a bit.

Miscellaneous: One other cool thing I noticed is that RJ Barker (you know I always rave about The Bone Ships) blurbed the book, so that’s awesome.

The only thing that I really didn’t like was that Hardaker made us wait, for EVERYTHING.  She would mention a name, or a conflict, or a story, and give us absolutely no background until much later in the book.  Luke and Aubrey were good examples of this – I spent half of the book feeling like I missed something, but eventually I realized that we would eventually learn what’s going on.  I didn’t feel like these smaller reveals were necessarily worth waiting for though, which is where I docked the 1.5 stars.  I would have liked an occasional “bone” from the author.

Overall: Definitely recommend for fans of twisty, meditative books, mysteries, speculative fiction, sci-fi, and strong character builds.  


Meet the Author:

Author and poet Caroline Hardaker in her workspace. Caroline has published several books, including Bone Ovation.

Instagram: @angryrobotbooks – @caroluna_writes_stuff

Twitter: @angryrobotbooks | @carolinehwrites

More Information can be found about the author on her website:

https://carolinehardakerwrites.com/about-caroline-hardaker/


There is also plenty of book tour left, so make sure to check out the following hosts on Instagram or on their blogs! Thank you again to Angry Robot for letting me participate and feature the book!

graphic: list of book tour, blog hosts