It Came from the Sky

This alien story comes from As You Wish author Chelsea Sedoti. Unlike the magical world in that book, this one stays perfectly in our magic less realm.

Gideon likes doing science experiments in the shed. One day, while working a 40032347._SY475_seismograph, his brother causes his test to go awry and making a big explosion on their parent’s farm. At first, the white lie covers up the danger of explosion but then it morphs quickly into a tale of extraterrestrial beings. Gideon, at first, fights this misconception but gives in when he sees it as a sociological experiment and one that gets him into MIT.

I enjoyed the main voice being someone who is not neurotypical. Gideon never has it all together. His thought differently than his friends and his voice will resonant with many readers. The author makes no big deal about this aspect of his character by labeling and bringing attention, Gideon just is without expectation.

The rest of the characters. However, are all flat. Despite this, I loved Ishmael. He is a lovable oaf and this plays off Gideon’s seriousness well. Other characters don’t fare so well. The sister seemed out of place and really didn’t interact with Gideon so the readers didn’t really get to know her or her motivations a well.

Story-wise, I was at first intrigued about the hoax. I enjoyed aliens in history including the variety of hoaxes and misconceptions. So thigh splayed in my wheelhouse. But the book pivots making a villain out of a Multi-Level Marketing CEO. Comparing the characters hoaxes seemed a little extreme. I’m not big into MLMs and know for most people it’s just a pyramid scheme gone wrong. But I know friends who have made it a business and who will be mighty pissed at this idea. There are many an example of modern cults that might have been a much better match in gravity. But I wonder if the author moved away from religion on purpose as that might cause even more bad attitudes from parents than calling out their Mary Kay or Avon.

While the first half of the book pulled me on, I was unsatisfied with the ending. There wasn’t a big enough payout. The main character makes some introspective changes but nothing but the punishments for the hoax is pretty nonexistence. I wanted to see how do you handle that? What would actually happen in the real world if these kids had been caught?

Overall I was disappointed in It Came From the Sky having read As You Wish. While there are some good aspects to this tale, the ending of the hoax leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Publication Date: August 1

I received an ARC from the publisher for review; all opinions are my own.

Bonus: As You Wish

As You Wish is a cautionary tale about getting what you want especially at an age where you don’t even truly know what you want.
In Madison, a small town outside of Rachel (UFO headquarters) Nevada, each citizen gets a wish on their 18 birthday. The wishes run the gambit of normal things such as love and money, but many wishes are deeper like keeping their As-You-Wish-Chelsea-Sedotifather’s business running. Eldon is about to turn 18 and he doesn’t know what to wish, but everyone else seems to have an idea. Eldon must decide who he is and how he wants to change his life.
Sedoti hows what it’s like to be a teen and adds something huge on top of their normal lives (rather akin to picking a college and choosing a path of study). The novel chronicles how each teen deals with this immense privilege/chore reaching back into the town’s history as well as present-day stories. We see a variety of wishes and dreams and how they work out for each person. This lets us into each person’s head or just a bit proving, once again, we don’t know what’s really going on inside someone.
While I did call Eldon’s wish before he ever decided what he wanted, I was pleasantly surprised by the ending. The ending backs up one of the morals of the books and I was really pleased with how it turned out.

Lies Lies Lies

The title gives you the idea of a gruesome crime novel. Instead, this is a family drama where deceit is the standard in a couple’s relationship which leads to an accident that changes their lives forever.

Simon and Daisy have an idyllic life with their daughter Millie. It wasn’t easy getting to that point as Daisy went through several trials of IVF. But then Millie was born and they Lies Lies Lies (1)tried to be happy with their little family.  One day, Simon decides he wants another child and then life starts to spiral out of control. The big climax happens after their friends’ anniversary party where little Millie, a ballet prodigy, must pay for her parents’ sins.

You spend the first third of the book despising the main characters. The husband, an alcoholic, is set up as the big bad, but as you read about the wife and her deceits and secrets, you don’t like her either. You don’t like them so much that when family tragedy strikes, you don’t care how it affects them. You only care for the poor daughter who seems to be used only as a pawn. Her character isn’t developed much  past her ballet performance and birthday party, and the daughter spends most of the time in the background.

The best part of Lies Lies Lies is that the author uses twists and unreliable narrators to keep you from seeing what’s coming. Adele Parks uses these situations to help redeem the characters and while it didn’t work for me, it gave depth to charters that at first seem flat stereotypes.  Plus, Parks turns the idea of a love triangle upside down with a violent gleam.

Overall I wanted to like this, but as I got to the ending, I was disgusted at the characters again. The book is cautionary, reminding us we can become the worst people we already imagine we might be.

 

Publication Date: August 4  

I received an Arc from the publisher; all opinions are my own.

The Lost City

The Lost City is a fun, engaging novel kicking of The Omte Origins series.

Ulla (half-human/half-troll) has earned an internship in Mimirin taking her from her country home. Or what she has called home for many years: she had been left by a woman who might or might not be her mother and raised by strangers. Ulla believes this internship with help her find out more about her family but when she gets there things The Lost City - Cover Art (1)get more complicated. She has to babysit her adopted sister as well as a troll who has memory loss.  Her story becomes wrapped in this girl’s, and Ulla faces danger and questions she could have never imagined.

I enjoyed the novel. I loved the troll world and it coexists with the human world. I loved Ulla and how she looked like a troll no some beautiful superhuman.  Her story of trying to find her family is compelling and I was on her side the entire time.

The story is light-hearted and not overly dark. It’s an easy read. It is a great true YA read while also entertaining adults. There is a weird seemingly required love triangle that I didn’t like but overall the story is interesting and compelling.

While this is an offshoot of another series, it stands on its own. When I first started I had no idea there were other stories. As I got about halfway in, something in the back of my head was telling me I was missing something. I couldn’t put my finger on why I felt I should have read the others first.  While I feel that way personally, overall it’s an easy introduction to the world and, for newbies like me, gets people interested in the other novels.

I didn’t get the title and its importance to this specific section of the story. They mention a lost city here and there but it didn’t push the story forward and really only mattered at the end.

All that being said this is a fun story and I would encourage fantasy fans who like their stories on the lighter side to read it. I, personally, am going to be looking into the books that came before because I enjoyed this so much.

A note if you read on e-book: this is one of those that ends at 90 percent and has several post scripts sections.  This isn’t a flaw of the book just a heads up as I hate getting that far and then the book “suddenly” ends.

 

Publication Date: July 7
I received an ARC from the publisher; all opinions are my own.

The Woman Before Wallis

The Woman Before Wallis is the fictionalized story of Thelma Morgan who had an affair with Edward, Prince of Wales before he abdicated his throne for Wallis Simpson.

The daughters of an American diplomat, Thelma and Gloria Morgan were stars of New York social scene in the early 1920s and both married into wealth and privilege. Gloria married Reggie Vanderbilt and Thelma to a viscount who she later leaves for Edward, 9780778361022_TS_SMPthe dashing Prince of Wales. The girl’s perfect lives are dashed by Gloria’s custody trial. Gloria is sued by members of her late husband’s family on charges of negligence, unfit parenting, and homosexuality, and Gloria needs her twin’s support more than ever. But as her sister gains international notoriety, Thelma fears that her own dreamlife will end.

I had a hard time getting into this book. While the book is lynch pinned around the Vanderbilt trail, the story is told in rotating time periods. It is only about halfway through the book that the scandal comes to light for the readers in a way that draws them in. It also takes this long to get through Thelma’s previous two husbands and get to her relationship with Prince Edward. These two stories are what drew my attention, and I feel the author spent too much time on the past events that could have efficiently been told in a more succinct manner.

The other issue with the novel is the historical parts are left to the Author’s Note. The outcome of the trail and Thelma’s relationship with Edward isn’t concluded within the story and that’s a loss especially with it being a historical fiction novel. I would have expected the novel to have the history and give the closure to the stories Bryn Turnbull set up.

I’ve been hard on this book, but I did enjoy a portion of it immensely. I enjoyed reading about Thelma and Edward and how she worked with him and kept him on an even keel. I enjoyed the bond between the two sister and Thelma’s great sacrifice for Gloria.

But over the entire good portion is trapped between boring prose and a lack of a true conclusion.

 

Publication Date: 7-21-20 

I received an ARC from the publisher all opinions are my own.

No One Saw

No One Saw is a captivating story following two detectives as they search for a missing child that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

A Baywood daycare becomes the center of tragedy when five-year-old Emma disappears. Her grandmother says she dropped her off but her teacher never saw her. It’s up to A.L. NoOneSawCoverMcKittridge and Rena Morgan to go through the testimonies of those involved. Can they find out who is lying in time to save the child?

I was happy that I hadn’t called it from the beginning as it makes for a fun mystery. So many of these stores are cliché but this one stands out from the many I have read about child abduction. This one keeps you guessing as the story twists and turns.

The author does a great job of allowing newbies to understand their place in the series. This could be a standalone I was provided with everything I needed from the first book but at the same time, it would be a great compliment continuing threads from the original.

Usually, I enjoy character building and seeing the detective’s lives outside of the case, but  Beverly Long paces the story so well and grips you in the experience that these stories did nothing but take you out of the danger and added nothing to the plot. While I like the two main characters, something about their conversation and relationship seemed off as well. (Maybe that is something I am missing from not reading the first book.)

With great pacing and little wasted space, No One Saw is a thriller that I would recommend to anyone who is interested in cases from the procedural perspective.

Publication Date: June 30

I received an ARC through the publisher for review; all opinions are my own.

A Week at Surfside Beach

This collection of short stories delves into various family and friend relationships written with a light hand.

Pierce Koslosky Jr doesn’t get fancy with the writing and he doesn’t need to. The stories cover184890-mediumtackle some dark issues and the less complex writing helps those ideas stay front and center. It is easy to read and hard for the reader to become confused.

There are a few stories I really enjoyed. My favorites include “The Inflatable Dragon” and “Little Town of Surfside Beach”. The first is a story about a man rebelling against his body and running away from a retirement home. Things are a little different than he imagined they would be. As someone with a chronic illness, I felt the fight in John and loved him immensely. The secondary story is a Christmas story and delves into the religious meaning of Christmas.

I enjoyed others but there were others that bothered me for various reasons. I felt like some ideas weren’t pragmatic and realistic but I had to remember that duplicity is part of our world. The only true criticism is that some stories stopped short of reaching their potential; they just fall off without bringing our story to a meaningful and emotional close.

Overall, I would not suggest you read this at the beach for a fun, light time. But I would recommend it to those who are tired of the many insipid beach stories that flood the shelves.

 

Publication Date: June 9

I received an ARC for review; all opinions are my own.

The Kingdom of Liars

This debut novel is a lengthy tale set in a new fantasy world. While the basic story is enjoyable, the author takes you on several side roads.

Michael is a Kingman, a family designated to serve the king. But he and his siblings are outcasts after their father killed the young prince.  While Michael’s siblings move on in image_processing20200302-48-1qdvrygthe world, Michael feels a deep desire to clear his father. But there is a rebellion on and the moon is breaking into pieces around them. In a world of magic and intrigue, Michael is in way above his head.

This book is massive. The bare-bones are good.  A young man wants to save his family and learns magic. He makes a deal with a High Noble to do so and help him try to solve this layered in mystery. Did his father actually kill the young prince and deserved to die when Michael was just a kid? The twist feels good as I hadn’t expected it. I liked the author thinking outside the box.

But the secondary stories seem to take over. His friends cause a variety of issues that don’t add to the main story and seem like video games side quests. So much of the content just takes up space and wastes time. Several branches don’t affect the overall story or ending at all.

But where I really needed more info it wasn’t there. I needed more information about the rebels and the politics at hand. I needed to know more about the moon and why people weren’t more distraught in its destruction.  I wanted to know more about the magic system.  So much content could have been replaced for a shorter and more precise story.

Author Nick Martel is setting up and epic fantasy saga but the first book is too clunky and often loses my attention. While I might be interested in the base story, I’m not sure I’d be willing to wade through such a thick and overly wordy tome again.

 

Publication Date:  June 23

I received an ARC from the publisher; all opinions are my own.

The Bitter and Sweet of Cherry Season

An almost tender look at the pitfalls of life, The Bitter and Sweet if Cherry Season explores addiction, family, and regret.

Hope returns to a place she isn’t sure she has actually been. The Orchard House has been in her family for some time and it’s the only link to family she has left. With her mother dead and her boyfriend abusive, Hope is praying that her estranged aunt will take her and her daughter in. It is at the Orchard House Hope learns what family truly is and that you can’t run away from the past.

This is an easy read.  Molly Fader doesn’t use overly fancy language or sentence 9781525804557_PRD2_proofstructure and this keeps the story moving. But the flow is blocked when the author halts aspect of the plot unnecessarily drawing the twist until the end. It becomes frustrating to almost get the story and then changed lanes again. It does give the reader time to guess what might be happening ad lets the reader’s mind wander. In the end, the mystery is heartfelt and unique but the ideas are wrapped up in a couple of chapters without much true emotional exploration.

And that’s what disappoints me most. The book’s tone is too light for the material included. The book never gets really explored the ideas. The author tells us that the characters feel guilt and shame but we really don’t see how it has affected them. The only exception is the daughter Tink. Fader does a wonderful job showing how violence can affect children and how love can be the answer to many an issue.

Overall, the story is interesting but written without a true depth of emotion. I didn’t really feel the characters; I was just told how they feel. The Bitter and Sweet of Cheery Season is sweet in tone without truly examining the bitter.

 

 

Publication date: June 9

I received an ARC for review; all opinions are my own.

Lies That Bind

The Lies that Bind is gut-wrenching and touching as well as frustrating and enraging.

Cecily is trying to keep her mind off her break up with her ex-boyfriend Matthew. One of her distractions is at a local bar where she meets the most wonderful and polite guy. She takes him home but they don’t have sex. He is proving to be sweet and unusual and that just endears her more. She begins to fall for him but she doesn’t know that just because he seems perfect, he isn’t really a mess underneath.OIP

The last two novels by Emily Giffin have been a disappointment. I couldn’t bring myself to care about the main characters and the magic of her previous novels was gone. The first half of this book goes back to her classic books that brought in readers: an engaging story and anxiously waiting to see what happens when the other shoes drops. But unlike some of her earlier novels, the other shoe drops in such a way that it turns you off of the book as a whole.

Even without reading a summary of the plot, readers know as soon as they see the book is set in 2001, that 9/11 will be a prominent feature in this story. As the romance builds, the reader is anxious to see what happens when the story clashes with this real-life event. Giffin creates a juicy story that bucks every expectation.

Unfortunately, the twist doesn’t follow through in-depth. The characters make bad choices, you can see one twist coming, and many other plot points are just thrown in without any real meaning. By the end of the book you like none of the characters, and I was just pissed off such potential was wasted on the drivel that was the ending.

Overall, The Lies That Bind is at once classical Giffin mixed with the lesser work she has done of late. I wanted this book to bring me back into her fold, but at this point, I’m getting to the point where I leave her books behind.

 

Publication Date: June 2

I received ab ARC from the publisher; all opinions are my own,

 

Hollywood Park

Hollywood Park is an amazing memoir of life affected by poverty as well as the results from living in a cult. The Airborne Toxic Event frontman shares his life story and how that affected the band and its music

I really enjoyed Mikel Jollett’s writing style. The book reads in terms of developmental language. That’s just a fancy way of saying that the beginning is written in a childlike manner and matures as he does. There is no pretentious look back at childhood through Printan adult lens, just his remembered experiences that he would reconcile later. This gives realism to each section and connects with the reader on a deeper level.

Jollett writes with honesty, not glossing over his own issues and how they impact his life. As an adult, he starts to use those childhood experiences to be a better person. He doesn’t subscribe to the idea that his life was messed up so he didn’t have to be better.  These chapters are the most intense because Jollett bears his soul and those who have battled emotional abuse will truly empathize with him and his journey to healthy relationships. As someone with a narcissist mom, I was brought to tears with sadness but also inspired for my own life.

Hollywood Park is accompanied by an album by the same name, a soundtrack if you will to the memoir. While they are great as separate pieces, it is hard to truly appreciate one without the other. The written and sung word becomes a dance of truth and humanity. This combination makes for an insanely moving and emotional experience. But it doesn’t end there.

This book gives readers a different perspective into The Airborne Toxic Event songs. As Jollett writes, you see “Sometime around Midnight” come to life. When you listen “to “Hell and Back”, you can see the issues with his mom you never saw before.  This book transcended being just a memoir showing a boy’s pain and how he deals with as a man; it becomes an experience that affects several senses. I haven’t seen anything that married music and prose so well since The Deep.

I would recommend this memoir to fans of the group, fans of memoirs, and people who enjoy a true literary experience.

 

I received an ARC from the publisher. I streamed the album through Spotify. All opinions are my own.