Categories
Fiction Young Adult

ARC Review: Hood by Jenny Elder Moke

  • Title: Hood
  • Series: no. stand alone
  • Author: Jenny Elder Moke
  • Publisher & Release: Disney – Hyperion, June 9th 2020
  • Length: 320 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ for fans of the genre!

Thank you so much to Disney Book Group via NetGalley for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

Hood is actually the first Robin Hood retelling I have ever read.  It follows Robin & Marien’s daughter, Isabelle, as she learns her parents’ true identities and discovers her place in the world.

Here is the summary from GoodReads:

You have the blood of kings and rebels within you, love. Let it rise to meet the call.

Isabelle of Kirklees has only ever known a quiet life inside the sheltered walls of the convent, where she lives with her mother, Marien. But after she is arrested by royal soldiers for defending innocent villagers, Isabelle becomes the target of the Wolf, King John’s ruthless right hand. Desperate to keep her daughter safe, Marien helps Isabelle escape and sends her on a mission to find the one person who can help: Isabelle’s father, Robin Hood.

As Isabelle races to stay out of the Wolf’s clutches and find the father she’s never known, she is thrust into a world of thieves and mercenaries, handsome young outlaws, new enemies with old grudges, and a king who wants her entire family dead. As she joins forces with Robin and his Merry Men in a final battle against the Wolf, will Isabelle find the strength to defy the crown and save the lives of everyone she holds dear?

I don’t know much about the actual historic time period but rotten kings and dashing outlaws and overcoming oppression always attracted me to the Robin Hood story.  Even with little to no historical knowledge, Hood makes a great story.  I loved seeing Isabelle grow in confidence and strength, and was so happy when she made a few choice excellent bow & arrow shots.

The characters are great, I never felt too attached to any of them but they are a witty, loyal bunch of mixed talents. The banter in Hood is definitely note worthy.  Isabelle’s romance probably could have been left out – I didn’t see any context to it – but the Robin and Marien love story was PERFECT. Truly perfect.  What a pompous ass Robin was 😂

The pacing was very well done as well, plenty of action spread out so that I never got bored.  I read the book in two sittings and enjoyed it fully.  Between the plot itself, the characters, and the absolutely excellent ending, I would definitely recommend this one to young adult readers and fans of these types of legends.

I docked the star for a tad bit of repetitive language and for not feeling the romance aspect at all.

Have you read it? Want to discuss it? Drop a comment below!

Categories
Contemporary Fantasy Middle Grade Young Adult

ARC Review: Dwarf Story by Professor W.W. Marplot

  • Title: Dwarf Story
  • Series: no – stand alone
  • Author: W.W. Marplot (G.D. Marplot)
  • Publisher & Release: Waxing Gibbous Books – June 30, 2020
  • Length: 404 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ for younger readers!

“I found a dwarf, and there is something funny growing in my yard”

So begins the story of Arty & Co! Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

First, Arty finds a sweaty, bearded ax-swinging warrior Dwarf scaring his dogs. Soon enough, Emma, Cry, and other middle-school friends also find fairy creature—Elves, Spriggans, Pixies, and a hoped-for Dragon—crashing into their normal homework-doing, backpack-carrying, phone-charging schooldays

Why are these magical beings here? What should be done? Is that ax sharp? Can Pixies be given aspirin? Arty, with his friends—and spying jerks and questionable strangers with long names—follow the clues and try to find out, even as things turn dark and dangerous. The mythical beings take sides.

The Gwyllion, that legendary Old Woman of the Mountains, has a sinister plan that will turn the neighborhood into a fantasy battleground.

Thank you so much to Books Forward for my copy of Dwarf Story! Arty woke up one morning and found a dwarf, thus starting a scientific adventure. Or an artistic adventure if you ask Emma. An awesome adventure if you ask Cry. The three friends each find their own fairy and have to navigate a war as an ancient force returns to reclaim Long Island!

This is a super cute middle grade fantasy, mixing modern with fantastic. There are dwarves, pixies, libraries, old books, giants, cell phones and a bit of everything for every reader.  The advertised age range is 9-14 and definitely qualifies as a “clean read” – AKA something I would personally hand a Catholic 10 year old.  There is also a good amount of basic learning in the story, an intro to some of  the Irish legends and fairy folklore in general.

Arty and Emma are the two main characters.  Arty is more scientific, and Emma artistic.  The book includes a lot of learning and more informational bits that are well tuned to younger readers.  Arty spends a lot of time reading books as he is putting the pieces together to learn about what’s happening with the fairy folk.  Some parts of this honestly might drag for some kids, and there are whole chapters where literally nothing happens, and the characters are complaining of being bored.  Generally with younger kids I would say axe all of this “boring” content, but it still reads quickly with short chapters, even at over 400 pages.  This is where I knocked the stars off the rating – a slightly older kid would be more tolerant of this where I can see a 9 year old maybe flipping until something exciting happens.

Despite the lulls in action, the pace and exciting bits are pretty well even throughout the book.  The end was a bit anticlimactic, with the biggest battle occurring mostly off-page, and the ultimate fight almost entirely glazed over in another characters recap of the action.  I understood how we were mostly just following Arty’s role, and the puzzle involved, but I would have liked to be in on more of the battle action even as a bystander, or another “Mary” chapter.

The characters split the chapters to tell what happened throughout, and I did like them all.  It was told in a 1st person POV but they were talking directly to the reader at times.  This is a great format for engaging kids too.  The other thing I liked is that the kids really did seem to act their ages (around 13) and I would recommend most for that middle-school aged group.

Overall I think kids will enjoy this, and it is entirely age-appropriate for any reader.  A great intro to fantasy and fantastical creatures that could really encourage kids to keep reading in the genre.

Thank you again to Books Forward for my advanced copy!! The book releases on June 30th and I would preorder now if I had kids!!

Categories
Fiction Paranormal

Book Review (and tour stop!): Gisela’s Passion by Astrid V.J.

  • Title: Gisela’s Passion
  • Series: Elisabeth and Edvard – prequel. Reads fine as a standalone.
  • Author: Astrid V.J.
  • Publisher & release: New Wings Press, November 2019
  • Length: 312 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ more than likely

Today is my Instagram tour stop!! Thank you to the author and BookFox tours for the electronic copy to share with you guys!  If you head on over to http://www.instagram.con/onereadingnurse you can find my entry point to the giveaway for a signed copy.

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Ever since she can remember, 18-year-old Gisela Winry has wanted to dance. Her strict father sees dancing as the path to immorality, licentiousness and debauchery. Devastated at his wrath after she secretly auditions and wins the title harvest queen of Ylvaton, Gisela turns to her best friend, Hilarion, who proposes a path she cannot take. With their friendship broken, Hilarion retreats to the solace of the forest where he lets his hatred and jealousy fester.

Meanwhile, Gisela meets Vincent, a young nobleman seeking to escape his dead brother’s shadow. Will Gisela be able to uphold her family honour and get to do the one thing she’s always been passionate about? Will Vincent’s chance encounter with the lovely harvest queen from a tiny village become more meaningful than earning his father’s approval? And will Hilarion fight for the love of his life or give in to the darkness within him.

Immerse yourself in the life of the common people of Vendale in this prequel to the Siblings’ Tale. Gisela’s Passion is the retelling of a lesser-known Slavic folk tale which is better known in its incarnation as a French ballet.

Romances in any form are usually not my go-to reads, but Giselle (the folktale and ballet) is a tragedy above all else. I’m glad that I gave it a shot!

Gisela loves to dance and is otherworldly in her talent. All she wants is to be the harvest queen at the festival, to have one chance to do something of her own before settling into domestic life.  Her father has a hatred of debauchery though and is more concerned about choosing her husband and having the vineyard tended.  Women were property in that era and not much more.

The writing felt like a stage play at times. It is vividly descriptive of the sun and sights and scenery, as well as people’s actions.  I am sure this was intentional and very well done.  Other than one (pretty cringey) sex scene the book is clean and pretty straightforward.

If you have read the Elisabeth and Edvard books and read this as a prequel, the ending makes sense I think.  I hadn’t read them and found myself confused at the sudden mention of elves, mages and magic at all at the end of the book.  I knew there were spirits involved but the magic hadn’t been mentioned prior to the ending and it came as a shock.

At the end I wish Gisela would have quit making excuses for the men, even in the old world I think women deserved a LOT better.  This is a gorgeous retelling of the ballet / folk tale.  Whether you like romance, tragedy, theatre or ghosts, I would recommend this to pretty much anyone.

Here is the link to the book on Amazon:

Categories
Fiction Suspense Thrillers

ARC Review: The New Husband by D.J. Palmer

  • Title: The New Husband
  • Author: D.J Palmer
  • Publisher: St Martin’s Press
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Release date: 4/14/20
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐ maybe

Happy slightly late book birthday to The New Husband!  My advanced copy came through a giveaway not associated with the publisher, but all opinions are my own, as always.

Here is the description from GoodReads:

Nina Garrity learned the hard way that her missing husband, Glen, had been leading a double life with another woman. But with Glen gone―presumably drowned while fishing on his boat―she couldn’t confront him about the affair or find closure to the life he blew apart.

Now, a year and a half later, Nina has found love again and hopes she can put her shattered world back together. Simon, a widower still grieving the death of his first wife, thinks he has found his dream girl in Nina, and his charm and affections help break through to a heart hardened by betrayal. Nina’s teenage son, Connor, embraces Simon as the father he wishes his dad could have been, while her friends see a different side to him, and they aren’t afraid to use the word obsession.

Nina works hard to bridge the divide that’s come between her daughter and Simon. She wants so badly to believe her life is finally getting back on track, but she’ll soon discover that the greatest danger to herself and her children are the lies people tell themselves.

So yes – the book opens with Glen vanishing off his boat, the family dog adrift alone on the lake and blood everywhere.  Then we have a very slow approximately 175 pages to learn all about Nina, Simon, and the kids Maggie and Connor.  I don’t even remember those pages and I read them yesterday, if that says anything.  The last 200 pages though were absolutely blisteringly fast – and even though, even my HISTORICALLY TERRIBLE at guessing the plot actually guessed EVERYTHING way ahead of time… It was an interesting ride.

One of my biggest shockers was to find out that the author, D.J. Palmer, was a man.  I honestly thought it was a woman because he does a pretty good job at writing in a teenage girl’s head.  Maggie, the 13 year old daughter, carries the first person POV in her chapters and they were my favorite part.  Nina, the mother, might be blind and making questionable if not outright stupid life decisions, but that girl is smart, trusts her gut, and handles herself remarkably well for someone that age.  She was bullied by just about everyone and not only handled it with grace, but turned out quite alright.

The narrative/plot goes from a small amount of gaslighting to murderous psycho level pretty quickly.  I love my psychos as much as the next person and Simon was definitely certifiable.  I am relatively new to domestic thrillers but getting the hang of them, and this one falls in the predictable range.  If I can predict it, it’s predictable, trust me.  I was still interested in finding out how things happened but every single gaslighter box was checked.  Isolation, manipulation, kids targeted, and then where does Glen (the ex husband) fit into things?

You’ll have to read it to find out.  Other than the boring and forgettable start, my other issue was that it was hard to tell how much time was passing between chapters sometimes.  The whole span of the book is only a few months but things seemed to spiral RATHER quickly.

The last voice we hear in the novel is Maggie’s, and among other things she tells us not to judge people unless we are in their shoes and faced with their decisions.  After spending almost 400 pages judging Nina and everyone else, I had to laugh.  Nina was tough and brave at times, I’ll give her that.

I think the newer you are to domestic psychological thrillers, the more you’ll enjoy this.  If you like very good doggies there is one of those too. That said… A ⭐⭐⭐ for me.

Thanks for tuning in!

Categories
Fiction Historical Fiction

ARC Review: Call of the Raven by Wilbur Smith, with Corban Addison

Thank you so much to Bookish First and Zaffre Books for the ARC of Call of the Raven in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.

This is a prequel book to Smith’s Ballantyne series, that introduces Mungo St. John and gives him a bit of an origin story.  While I have not yet read anything else by Smith, after reading this I am going to start keeping my eyes out for this other books!  I also mention this because while the book is superbly written, I can not distinguish what Smith vs Addison wrote.

Here is the description from Amazon:

The son of a wealthy plantation owner and a doting mother, Mungo St John is accustomed to the wealth and luxuries his privilege has afforded him. That is until he returns from university to discover his family ruined, his inheritance stolen and his childhood sweetheart, Camilla, taken by the conniving Chester Marion. Fuelled by anger, and love, Mungo swears vengeance and devotes his life to saving Camilla – and destroying Chester.

Camilla, trapped in New Orleans, powerless to her position as a kept slave and suffering at the hands of Chester’s brutish behaviour, must learn to do whatever it takes to survive.

As Mungo battles his own fate and misfortune to achieve the revenge that drives him, and regain his power in the world, he must question what it takes for a man to survive when he has nothing, and what he is willing to do in order to get what he wants.

An action-packed and gripping adventure by bestselling author, Wilbur Smith, about one man’s quest for revenge, the brutality of slavery in America and the imbalance between humans that can drive – or defeat – us.

I love historical fiction set in the Civil War and reconstruction era, although this is set a little earlier in the 1840s.   The slave trade has been illegal for maybe 30 years and it didn’t quite have the effect on slavery that the American leaders hoped – aka there is still an illegal trade, and breeding for profit became more prominent.  This is the setting to which Mungo St. John returns from Cambridge to his father’s Virginia plantation.  A corrupt banker has murdered Mungo’s father, seized the plantation and sold the slaves, and is about to visit even more atrocities on Mungo’s lover, Camilla.

“There is only one law on this Earth, the law that gives the strong and wealthy power over the weak and poor”

The book is amazingly action packed as soon as Mungo returns to America.  How does he exact revenge on the banker, Chester Marion? Through a complicated and somewhat diabolical scheme that entirely ruins Chester’s life.  Nothing seems to quite go Mungo’s way though and we get to see the anti hero develop.  Mungo does heroic things like set a whole ship full of slaves free, but then later on becomes a notorious slave trader after his original plan of harvesting ivory comes to a pretty tragic ending.  If he had known the entire time that Camilla was alive, I almost wonder if things would have been different?

“I am not cut out to play the hero”

“A man like you can play any role in life he chooses”

Mungo is a walking contradiction, one of those gray characters that I know I should hate, but ended up loving or at least appreciating. He is a hero but also an evil murderous bastard, with a quick temper and also a deeply routed sense of love and commitment. Or just a sense of revenge.  Revenge is the preeminent theme throughout the book.  Camilla is another interesting character, her choices and actions are interesting as ones that at times required some thought as well. I didn’t care as much for her chapters but she gives us the perception of a domestic slave with liberties once she gets to New Orleans.  Without her I would have had a lot less to think about, and honestly because of her, I wanted to be the one torturing Marion at the end.  She is one of the single things that gives readers a reason not to hate Mungo.

I know back in whatever grade that  I learned about the slave trade, but this book gave me a lot to think about that I either had forgotten or just never thought about.  Things like: how exactly are the slaves transported? How are they rounded up to begin with? Why were the African chiefs involved in selling out their own people? How were the slaves fed on the ships? How did the sailors entertain themselves while sailing and dealing with the deplorable conditions?  In what ways were the British involved in trying to put down the trade?

A lof of these questions are answered in ways that aren’t for the squeamish, but I mean I am pretty sure that 99% of it actually happened.  This is pretty well researched historical fiction and while the answers made me cringe at times, as we said, Mungo is no hero but he does the best he can.   One other reason that Mungo constantly made me think was that despite his actions, he really didn’t seem to see much of a difference between skin colors and was constantly able to use this to his tactical advantage when dealing with other white men.   I also love reading about piracy and pirates and life onboard ships, and Call of the Raven offers plenty of that as well.  Do we mention that Raven is actually the name of Mungo’s own ship that he eventually acquires for the ivory trade?

I loved Tippoo and Wisi as well and even Fairchild, the poor brute.  This book really boasts a great cast of characters and as I said, absolutely nonstop action.  Mungo VS Marion is going down as one of the best chase and arson and murder scenes I have ever read.  I really can’t wait to read the Ballantyne series at some point, it has been added strongly to my list.  If nothing else Smith and Addison are flawless story tellers and kept me compelled throughout the novel

I say definitely read it if you are a fan of historical fiction, but not if you have delicate sensibilities and can’t handle a morally gray/black character.  There are some parts that are hard to read but I don’t think that ignoring the atrocities of the time period does anyone any favors, and reading Call of the Raven was a great exercise in morality, critical thinking, and would offer a wonderful discussion in characterization if anyone is interested.

“What in God’s name-”

“God has no interest in this”

The book releases in April so preorder it now of it sounds of interest to you!

Disclaimer: all quotes came from an advanced reader’s edition and are subject to change prior to publication.  All quotes WILL be checked against a final copy and edited or removed as necessary at that time.  Thank you again to Bookish First and Zaffre books, all opinions are my own.

Categories
Fiction Suspense Thrillers

ARC Review: The Wife Stalker by Liv Constantine

Thank you so much to Harper Books and GoodReads for the giveaway win of The Wife Stalker by Liv Constantine!

Here is the description from GoodReads:

Breezing into the tony seaside paradise of Westport, Connecticut, gorgeous thirtysomething Piper Reynard sets down roots, opening a rehab and wellness space and joining a local yacht club. When she meets Leo Drakos, a handsome, successful lawyer, the wedding ring on his finger is the only thing she doesn’t like about him. Yet as Piper well knows, no marriage is permanent.

Meanwhile, Joanna has been waiting patiently for Leo, the charismatic man she fell in love with all those years ago, to re-emerge from the severe depression that has engulfed him. Though she’s thankful when Leo returns to his charming, energetic self, paying attention again to Evie and Stelli, the children they both love beyond measure, Joanna is shocked to discover that it’s not her loving support that’s sparked his renewed happiness—it’s something else.

Piper. Leo has fallen head over heels for the flaky, New Age-y newcomer, and unrepentant and resolute, he’s more than willing to leave Joanna behind, along with everything they’ve built. Of course, he assures her, she can still see the children.

Joanna is devastated—and determined to find something, anything, to use against this woman who has stolen her life and her true love. As she digs deeper into Piper’s past, Joanna begins to unearth disturbing secrets . . . but when she confides to her therapist that she fears for the lives of her ex-husband and children, her concerns are dismissed as paranoia. Can she find the proof she needs in time to save them?

The Constantine sisters are back with another psychological thriller! Joanna is aggressively forced out of her family life by Leo’s new love interest, Piper, who has a shady if not murderous past. Joanna will do anything to protect her children from this monster, and the story unfolds.  I think the jacket description of the book is way too wordy, it would have thrown me off of the book if I wasn’t familiar with the author duo.  If it sounds flaky just give the book a chance anyway!

The characters are likeable enough.  I love big Greek families and it was fun to see Leo’s  interact a little bit.  Joanna seems like a dedicated enough parent, Piper seems crazy and entirely insensitive, and what is going on with Leo? He seems like a total ass with how he treats Joanna.  Leo’s kids are fun too, they seem realistic for their ages and I enjoyed reading Stelli’s antics.  Evie’s love for books and Nancy Drew is something I can all relate to!  Joanna carries the first person POV, which alternates with Piper’s chapters told in the third person.

Some parts of the book do feel like “too much” even after all the facts. There is no way someone would get a child abuse citation just for swatting a kid’s butt. People are so crazy (but that’s the point of the book)!  I found myself thinking back on the Joanna butt-swat  episode and I think it’s supposed to reflect back on Piper, who is the one supposedly hurting at least one of the kids.  The whole thing feels extremely unfair to Joanna.

This entire book lives for the twist. I was a little dumbfounded and confused until it hit me that … no spoilers but let me just scream UNRELIABLE NARRATORS at you!! They are my favorite psychological thriller trope and the last couple chapters, especially the last sentence of the book, had me shell shocked!

I read the entire book in two days then went back and re-read some parts to see if I missed any obvious clues.  The twist & reveal were sudden but well done, and the answers aren’t necessarily given so I got to make my own conclusions at the end.  I kept looking for redeeming characteristics for certain characters and really just…well… the character changes at the end were just too little too late for me. I’d love to discuss my conclusions with anyone that’s read it.  I appreciate the open ending though and wish those children the best!

There isn’t much to have a OneReadingNurse Medical Rant about.  The only bit that shocked me was… so the father is going to freak out over a slight fever (not really a fever) but not be concerned when everyone says Stelli looks pale?  When he’s constantly complaining of stomach aches?  Wouldn’t Leo start suspecting something?  It could have been a false lead in the book (I honestly don’t know) but I imagine Stelli’s complaints would have been taken more seriously especially since Leo knew Piper had started dosing him with something “natural,” and Leo said multiple times that the kid was a trouper and only complained when things got really bad.

Anyway anyway, I enjoyed the book quite a bit.  The Wife Stalker reads quickly and I think it is a great summertime novel for anyone who enjoys psychological thrillers.

Thank you again to Harper Books for the giveaway ARC in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.

Categories
Fiction General Fiction Suspense

ARC Review: The Way You Burn by Christine Meade

Thank you so much to Books Forward for the advanced copy of The Way You Burn by Christine Meade! The book was received in exchange for an honest review, and all opinions are my own.

Here is the description from Amazon:

When David approaches his New Hampshire cabin one cool October night to find it engulfed in flames, he knows his girlfriend Hope set the fire. At least, he’s pretty sure he knows.

David first decides to upend the creature comforts of his post-collegiate life and try roughing it for a year after he inherits two acres of land and a rustic cabin from his deceased grandfather. Life at the cabin proves to be more difficult than expected, however, and it all starts with the woman he loves—Hope—whose dark past is written in the twisting pink scars covering her body. Their relationship is challenged after his car slides through an intersection one dark night and, later, his realization that someone is out there, watching him through the trees.

Over the course of five seasons, David struggles to maintain his relationship with Hope. Ultimately, in an attempt to understand the sacrifices she has had to make, he decides to rewrite their story. In doing so, he explores the lessons he’s left with–after everything he thought mattered is gutted or burned away—and the surprising bits of wisdom he finds in the ashes.

Those years right after college are when a large percentage of new adults are off in the world learning how to be successful and happy humans.  As a 30 something year old this is my favorite coming-of-age group to read about, as it is easier for me to relate to.  David is the main character and he decides to leave his parents house to go live in the New Hampshire cabin that his recently deceased grandfather left him.

David has recently met a young woman named Hope, who has some obvious physical scarring caused by burns.  Before too long he gets  glimpses of her inner issues in the form of small manipulations, but he lets her get away with it due to a certain level of naivety.  A large portion of the book is about David learning some of Hope’s past, then he has to balance her traumas with the need to set boundaries with her behavior.  This is difficult for adults of ANY age and eventually… well … you can see in the description that she burns his home down.  I felt like David made {mostly} good decisions as he learned his lessons.

The first most obvious thing that I encountered in the book was Meade’s use of the second person narrative.  It was a bit hard to get used to reading David’s letters in this form but it put me right into his head as he tried to do his best with the situations he encountered.

I am going to brush over the setting too and just say that David’s land sounds absolutely gorgeous.  Meade does a great job describing the changing colors of the leaves, the pond’s eco system, and the other sights, sounds, smells, and weather phenomena of the woods.  I grew up by a river and can relate to the effects of water and a fishing hole on the soul.

The book has a small suspense element as well which I really enjoyed.  David keeps finding a mysterious horse tied up in the woods among other small oddities, and he is convinced that someone else is living in his proximity.  This is actually a great storyline, no spoilers though.  I believe that this storyline is used to show how David’s maturity level grew to allow such a tasteful handling of tbe situation.

So obviously the relationships in the book are David’s catalysts in personal growth.  My absolute favorite one is with an old man named Harold that David meets, befriends, and ultimately becomes the caregiver for.  Harold is an old timer full of stories and no judgement, who teaches David what love truly looks like.  Harold’s stories about women in the insane asylum, and his wife’s devotion to caring for them, gives David insight into some major historical women’s issues and a tool for understanding his own family’s secrets.

I can’t discuss Hope too much without spoilers but I just never liked her, despite the traumas of her past.  Even with institutionalized years she never developed good coping skills.  She drove me nuts controlling David in small ways, and my little nurse brain is over here thinking “this woman is a CNA? Is she hurting or controlling her patients like this?” It didn’t seem like a good idea for her to be a caregiver at all.  Speaking of: Hope’s mother is a nurse, and at one point the book states “two generations of nurses” – technically wrong, as it is illegal for non-licensed personnel to call themselves a nurse.  Small details but she should have written “two generations of caregivers”  or something similar.

Last but not least let me use that thought to  segue into the infamous OneReadingNurse medical talk portion of the review:  actually … Kudoes to Meade on her portrayal of the hospitalized character.  A fat embolism is a huge risk of orthopedic surgeries and she nailed it as far as a logical death.  The staff acted pretty realistically as well, although I was surprised that no one took down next of kin contact info.  I might have teared up during the funeral portion. I also think Meade did an amazing job portraying Harold’s descent into dementia and the additional services he needed, from basic forgetfulness to the lowest possible moment in the bathroom with David.   I don’t want to touch the mental health portions but it seems like it was handled tastefully, and I hope that Hope did or does  actually get the additional help that she needed.

Whew, that was a tough review because the book is so deep! Let me pull back and say that while the book handles some tough themes, it is superbly well written.  I would recommend it for anyone out of college at least, anyone that enjoys a good coming of age tale, and men or women alike trying to understand life’s complexities.

Thank you so much again to Jackie at Books Forward for the advanced copy! It releases 4/14 through She Writes Press so add it to your TBR now!

Categories
Fiction General Fiction

Book Review: Been There, Married That by Gigi Levangie

Thank you so much to St. Martin’s Press for the finished copy of Been There, Married That by Gigi Levangie!  I received a free copy (and a super cute press kit) in exchange for an honest review!

My first impression was that the book isn’t my typical genre at all, but it moved along quickly, held my attention, made me laugh, and I felt like it accomplished it’s goal as a satire to shed some ridiculous light on Hollywood’s … ridiculousness.  A quick Google search told me that Levangie was actually married to a big producer (of A Beautiful Mind) and wrote some successful screenplays herself, so I had to wonder….is any of this insider knowledge?  I bet some of it actually happened in real life and I played a little ‘wonder if it actually happened’ game while reading!

Alright let’s talk about the book: Here is the description from GoodReads:

When he changes the locks, she changes the rules.

Agnes Murphy Nash is the perfect Hollywood wife – she has the right friends, the right clothes, and even a side career of her own as a writer. Her husband Trevor is a bigshot producer, and from the outside it looks like they’re living a picture-perfect celebrity life, complete with tennis tournaments and lavish parties.

But the job description of a Hollywood wife doesn’t cover divorce, which is the way Agnes’ life is headed after she comes home one day to find her credit cards cancelled and the security passwords to get into her enormous LA home changed. Oh, and there’s a guy there whose job it is to tase her if she tries to enter…which she does. Needless to say, Agnes’ husband is dead set on making sure she loses big time, but Agnes isn’t the type to just lie down and take it. In a world of fremenies and hot nannies, personal psychics and “skinny” jello shots, Agnes may be losing her husband, but could that mean getting her own life back?

Been There, Married That is a drop-dead hilarious battle of wills that will make you laugh out loud, cringe, and keep turning the pages to see what crazy disaster will happen to Agnes next…and how she’ll rise from the ashes

The book was hilarious at times.  Agnes and her friends and their lifestyles in general were so over-the-top and insane that it’s not something a normal, not insanely rich person could ever relate to.  Every already ridiculous outing whether it be lunch, book club, party, or divorce court, is already crazy, and Levangie adds an extra layer of “oh my god that can’t be real” on top of everything.  That led me to believe that the entire book is a satire, which essentially makes fun of a people or a lifestyle.  Agnes goes through a messy divorce with a super organized man, who goes crazy if his notepad is moved two inches to the right on the counter.  He draws battle lines in the house and has Agnes tased on the front lawn! It was just funny!

Levangie mentions (and makes of) a lot of Hollywood trends that are leaking into regular society as well.  Some that I noticed are excessive use of therapists and personal assistants,  weird Instagram and social media themes, dieting trends, rehab stints, food frenzies, and this great bit about having a baby’s gender reveal party when they are 40!  Hello people this is actually happening in “normal people” society as well!  Pop culture is crazy and I think it’s a little important to be aware of what messages are being sent down.  General extravagance, life coaches, and even pyramid scheme jewelry sales are a few other topics that are less serious and had me laughing throughout the pages.

The custody battle almost made me feel bad for their daughter, but Trevor Nash really didn’t need to have anything to do with a child, he just wanted to WIN the divorce.  Ok, I guess I felt bad for the kid even though she had everything she could possibly want, eventually she realized that she needed her mom. Then the courtroom custody portion was sad, it seemed to be the one reminder in the book that the main character was….. a human.   Agnes’ sister was a trip as well and so were the trio of South American workers in the house, it was hard to believe that any work actually got done. One other great character is Agnes’ dad,  he is clueless but loves her endlessly, and makes a few funny cameos.

One thing that I didn’t like was how Levangie used a lot of abbreviations and different slang terms used for places, things, and ideas, and there is no way that the average reader is going to know what any of it means.  It doesn’t affect the story at all but I feel like the language could have been less ‘insider-y’ at times.  The narrative was all over the place too at times, which kind of makes sense  for the way the main character’s brain worked.  The story did streamline more in the second half of the book but it was a bit hard to read at first.

Overall this is really a pretty good read. It is a hard one at times but I recommend viewing it as a satire, a joke, and reading the underlying themes however you will.  Was it insider? Did it happen or was it just Levangie having a good laugh at pop culture? The book released in early February so check it out if it sounds like something you’d enjoy! Thank you again to St Martin’s Press for the review copy! All opinions are my own.

Categories
Contemporary Paranormal Young Adult

Echoes Between Us by Katie McGarry

Thank you so much to BookishFirst and Tor/Forge Books for my advanced copy of Echoes Between Us by Katie McGarry! Synopsis from GoodReads:

Veronica sees ghosts. More specifically, her mother’s ghost. The afterimages of blinding migraines caused by the brain tumor that keeps her on the fringes and consumes her whole life haunt her, even as she wonders if it’s something more… Golden boy Sawyer is handsome and popular, a state champion swimmer, but his adrenaline addiction draws him to Veronica. A girl with nothing to live for and a boy with everything to lose–can they conquer their demons together?

I do not read a lot of young adult contemporary because as a 30 something year old, I can never identify with the characters or stories, and I am SO HAPPY to say that this is not the case with this amazing book.

First I just want to comment on the location: I originally thought that the book took place in Saranac Lake because of the TB hospital and note up front, but there is a portion of a real diary included in the novel from a patient at the hospital. The book actually takes place somewhere in Kentucky, but I still was jumping at home being mentioned in a book at all.

I loved the characters and the lessons they learned. Veronica is dealing with a brain tumor and believes that she is living life to the fullest… or is she just waiting to die? Sawyer is a popular kid who has a whole houseful of his own issues, and the unlikely couple end up empowering each other to confront their fears.

The book revolves around a school project that Veronica and Sawyer are doing together, to prove or disprove that ghosts exist. The themes about residual hauntings are absolutely beautiful, concluding that these are caused by emotions and events too powerful to leave the mortal world, and they can haunt a person in their day to day decisions. There may or may not be evidence of other ghosts in the story, but those are part of the fun of reading.

It is not a ghost story though, I thought it was shaping up to turn into one but it really isn’t, it is SO much more. The book deals with delicate and important themes like depression, alcoholism, enablers, addiction in general, and mortal illness. Poor little Lucy, Sawyer’s younger sister, seems to be the wildcard in the story and I just felt so bad for that little girl.

The one part that I wasn’t quite thrilled with was Sawyer’s voice when we first met him, I don’t really like cryptic language that usually means a poor attempt at foreshadowing. Stick with him though because it ends up making sense, and he ended up being my favorite of the dual points of view.

I think Veronica and Sawyer have a great relationship though and their groups of friends are really, truly good friends, which is shown towards the end of the book. Their dad’s are also great characters, V’s dad is a big amazing papa bear and I loved him, then Sawyer’s dad at the end stepping up and taking care of his kids was a good message as well. I think this is a great book for young adults and teens (and even adults) to read. It made me really think about some of the aforementioned themes … I can’t get this residual haunting concept out of my head.

I would totally recommend this book to ANYONE, which is rare for me. It publishes January 14th so check it out if it sounds up your alley!

Categories
Contemporary Crime

Hands Up by Stephen Clark

Thank you so much to Stephen Clark for providing me with a free copy of his book in exchange for an honest review!

Hands Up is Clark’s second novel. It is a mix of police procedural, black lives matter activism, political, and social commentary – tackling the highly controversial topics of white on black shootings, police brutality, casual and overt racism, gang violence, complicated family ties, and confronting one’s own fears and biases.

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Officer Ryan Quinn, a rookie raised in a family of cops, is on the fast track to detective until he shoots an unarmed black male. Now, with his career, reputation and freedom on the line, he embarks on a quest for redemption that forces him to confront his fears and biases and choose between conscience or silence.

Jade Wakefield is an emotionally damaged college student living in one of Philadelphia’s worst neighborhoods. She knows the chances of getting an indictment against the cop who killed her brother are slim. When she learns there’s more to the story than the official police account, Jade is determined, even desperate, to find out what really happened. She plans to get revenge by any means necessary.

Kelly Randolph, who returns to Philadelphia broke and broken after abandoning his family ten years earlier, seeks forgiveness while mourning the death of his son. But after he’s thrust into the spotlight as the face of the protest movement, his disavowed criminal past resurfaces and threatens to derail the family’s pursuit of justice.

Ryan, Jade, and Kelly–three people from different worlds—are on a collision course after the shooting, as their lives interconnect and then spiral into chaos.

So the story is told from the three alternating points of view of Ryan, Jade, and Kelly, and the book puts us in Ryan’s head as his story is the only one told from the first person POV. Ryan is immediately painted as a bit of a crooked cop, then I found myself with a very neutral to indifferent attitude towards him throughout the rest of the book. The three characters are, as the synopsis says, essentially on a collision course.

The story and plot itself kept me rapidly reading throughout. I didn’t so much care for Kelly’s point of view except for how he seems to represent the circle of violence coming to an end. Then starting again. Uncovering how the shooting actually occurred and following the family’s quest for justice both seemed real enough. I could respect Regina (the victim’s mother) for originally not wanting to be in the spotlight, and Gail represented that loud minority of people who blow these things sky high. Regina was probably my favorite character in the whole book as she had some of the most reasonable lines and felt like the most relatable character to me.

The whole book from the family ties to the protests was pretty excellent until the romance aspect – I will not elaborate due to spoilers but even though I could tell and appreciate what the author was trying to do, it didn’t work for me. it didn’t seem plausible. Ryan doesn’t seem like the type who would be on such a moral high ground, then act with frank infidelity no matter how you spin it, then act on impulses like that? It worked for the plot but really threw me from reality to …. “really?”

Also regarding the ending of the book…would Ryan really trust Jade after all that happened? The ending just seemed so implausible that it dropped me from a five to about a three star rating. Still the book is important and feels very necessary in today’s world. It is a brave and diverse topic to handle and I think it was done well; both sides were represented with equal biases. One example is that the pastor in the book mentions that blacks are killing more blacks than white cops. The book recognizes where the real problems in society lie, and acknowledges that a few very loud people can absolutely blow up an issue that is definitely important, but maybe not the biggest overall thing that people are facing at the time.

Even with the ending throwing me off so hard, I think I can tell that Clark was a journalist because my mind is pretty clear on what issues are relevant to him. I feel like this review is a jumble but I fully encourage everyone to read this book. I have daily opportunities at work to examine my thoughts and feelings on various peoples and situations, but this book could be so important for those who don’t have that chance. Especially in America where there is so much debate over these issues and a sense of unity is needed more than ever.

Thank you again to the author for providing a copy of the book for review! Here are The author and the book’s social media links, and at least as of 11/21/19 the book is free on Kindle Unlimited so I would really encourage everyone to check it out!

https://twitter.com/StephCWrites

https://www.facebook.com/stephcwrites/

https://www.amazon.com/Hands-Up-Stephen-Clark-ebook/dp/B07X36LH8Z

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/47642331-hands-up?from_search=true&qid=awTpkHztaV&rank=3