Those People

42041520Those People looks at the idea of how far you will go to be rid of horrible neighbors.
Welcome to Lowland Way, the perfect home for the upper middle class. Everything here is idyllic and makes for the perfect place to live. This resident’s world is turned upside down when a lower class family member inherits the house on the corner. The homeowner has no respect for his neighbors selling cars from his front yard; playing loud music keeping the home next door’s baby wake; being generally rude when spoken to. When disaster strikes, everyone in the neighborhood is a suspect. Who is cruel enough to actually harm their neighbor?
The chapters include the testimony of the characters then looks back from the dangerous event that happens on their street. This unique set up gives your insight in both what the characters though when the even occurred while giving the reader the background to understand their statement to their police. The characters are not exceptionally long moving the story along at a great pace, keeping the reader guessing and getting them invested in the cast of characters.
Those People works well thought out its first twist. But Louise Candlish overreaches including a second twist instead of dealing with the plot she had created. This second twist ended up having no pay off for the overall plot and just seemed a little too extra. I wasn’t satisfied with the ending as it seemed that no one really put anything on the line.
Those People keeps you on your toes and engaged with the character though the ending isn’t overly satisfying.

Publication Date: June 11
I received an ARC for review; all opinions are my own.

 

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The Summer We Lost Her

 

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The Summer We Lost Her promises emotional investment but instead delivers unlikeable characters without any depth.
Matt and Elise Sorenson head to the Adirondacks to sell Matt’s family home. This will be their first chance for quality time in quite a while. Elise is competing in dressage with her eyes on Rio Olympics. Matt is a lawyer who mainly raises their daughter while Elise is off training and competing. The two week getting the cabin ready will be a chance to get away from it all and focus on family. Elise decides, without Matt, that their daughter will attend day camp while they work on the house causing tension as the balance of power shifts when she returns from her latest competition. Their idyllic summer comes crashing down when Gracie doesn’t come home from camp and the Sorensons must deal with every parent’s worst nightmare.
The book struggles. The plot doesn’t actually happen until about halfway through. You spend the majority of the time getting to know the highly unlikable Elise and her husband. As the story goes on, Matt isn’t perfect either but you mostly feel sympathy for him and Gracie. For example, Elise rags her daughter about sucking her thumb but never pauses to understand the under lying psychological cause of the behavior (to be fair the author ignores this as well). I honestly didn’t care about her Olympic aspirations and wanted her to fail.
The publisher suggests this book to fans of Jodie Picoult; I don’t agree. The story is never really deep. The inclusion of the characters past doesn’t add much to the overall story. Tish Cohen writes Matt’s experiences with his grandfather and Elise’s love for Dressage without really getting to the bottom of the desire of the characters. Cohen presents Elise as poor with a troubled youth but Elise has natural talent and a coach who gives her everything she needs so I could not empathize with her at all. Matt’s past built up to what would be the twist (it’s not a twist really, just a surprise) but it wasn’t shocking especially from Matt’s recollections of the past. The author fails to truly delve into the idea that Elise wants her daughter to be perfect to erase her own mistakes. There was every opportunity in to delve deep into the characters but the author only ever scratches their depths. There is no true heart there like in Picoult’s novels. The end is too tidy and unemotional just like the rest of the book.
The Summer We Lost Her has the bones to be a great story, but the author stops herself from truly diving into these characters and her situations. The best 100 pages are when the daughter is gone because that story is exciting and there is emotional tension, but whenever Gracie is with her parents, everything falls flat.

Publication Date: June 4

 

Stoker’s Wilde

Stoker’s Wilde is a fun look into the friendship/rivalry of Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde.
Stoker is living a normal life when his friends drag him into a killing perpetrated by a stoker's wildewerewolf. Bram cannot believe until he sees it himself. Once the event is over, Bram is believes but is also relieved that all the drama is over. But when he moves to London and marries the fiancé of a homosexual acquaintance (Wilde), Bram finds that there is evil all around. But worst of all? He must put up with Wilde to defeat the evil chasing him.
Stoker’s Wilde is similar to last year’s Dracul. It tells the story that inspired Dracula and sheds light on Stoker’s early life. Both books are very in style and tone. Though it’s written in correspondence, Stoker’s Wilde is lighter reading with more modern language and less wordy. Stoker’s Wilde also focuses on a wider range of Stoker’s life and acquaintances. Though I didn’t like the story as much as Dracul, I found it an easier read.
The best part of the novel is the reference to other vampire pop culture. The book incorporates other vampire lore and gives it a base to stand on. My favorite was the reference to the morticians Wolfram and Hart. I didn’t like that it didn’t look into actual lore and why it existed. For example, there was no reference to why stake through the heart killed vampires. This was actually done by people when they dug up bodies that looked bloody. This wasn’t to kill them but to pin them to the ground and keep them from rising. This is why the legend exists.
Overall, Stoker’s Wilde was a fun read and encouraged me to read up more about Stoker’s time at the theater.
Publication Date: May 9, 2019

Bonus Review: Dracula

Dracul is written in the same style as the original title but adds some light to how Bram Stoker was inspired for Dracula.
Bram Stoker was a sickly youth. But everything changed when Nana Ellen arrives. At draculdeath’s door, Bram is cured by Nana Ellen and inspires a search into the woman herself and how she healed him. With his sister and brother, Bram travels a strange path that leads him to Dracul and the world of vampires.
The prose style matches that of the original Stoker title. This means there is superfluous wording and a tendency to over-describe each moment and place. This makes the exposition difficult to get into. Once the action starts happening, it easier to follow along as the tension rises perfectly.
I enjoyed the novel’s slant: explaining where Bram’s ideas came from. According to additional information included in the book, some things were based on Stoker’s notes as well as research into his own lives. In fact, it seems many characters are based on real people outside the family.
Overall, this is a wonderful tale that fits into the Dracula lore beautifully. I enjoyed the actual story here than in the spiritual counterpart Stoker’s Wilde. While that one was an easier read, its story was overly whimsical and not very deep.

Publication Date: October 2, 2018

I received free copies of these books for review. All opinions are my own.

The Night Window

The Night Window satisfyingly concludes Jane Hawk’s story. While the lead up is not overly exciting, the ending is well done.
Jane has been fighting against the Arcadians, a techno-terrorist group who had her husband killed. On the run, she is trying to prove the depth of the conspiracy that has overtaken the United States and, eventually, the world. Finally, she has what she needs to bring them down; the data regarding who is an Arcadian and who is on the Hamlet (kill) List.night window
The Night Window is a huge improvement over the last two books in the series. Jane is moving forward and actually getting somewhere. This material isn’t filler; it’s actually part of the story. That being said, Koontz does create an adjacent story that becomes the stereotypical man-hunting-man quest that just drags down the pacing. The beginning of this sub-story started off wonderfully; it was an imaginative and fun way to recap what had happened in the last four books. But then it dragged out into a story that didn’t have any impact on the overall arc of the novel.
The ending is perfect. The conclusion makes sense and is the only way the situation could have been countered. While there is plenty of blood and violence, the solution is cerebral and very satisfying using the Arcadian’s tech against them.
I wish the cast of characters has been better integrated. There are characters I really liked that only got a one sentence write-off in this book. Unlike Odd Thomas, this series makes no sense as to why it suddenly dumps characters that were helping her. This is unfortunate; I was rather invested in them.
The Night Window ends Jane’s saga and ends it well. It was about time as the third and fourth entries in the entries were meandering and underwhelming. While I enjoyed the first two novels and was investing in Jane, Dean Koontz overreached and drew out her story for too long.
Publication Date: May 14
I received an ARC from the publisher; all opinions are my own.

Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale

Ink_UMCTW_1_FINAL_COV_HR_no cropsUnder the Moon: A Catwoman Story details the dark life of Selena Kyle. After dealing with abuse and poverty, Selena finds herself having to take care of her own interest.
Selena doesn’t feel like she belongs anywhere. At home, her mother lives with a man who hits her mother and her. At school, she is outcast, friends only with those on the fringe. She also has a crush on Bruce Wayne, who is just as cruel to her as the others. After her stepfather causes her cat to die, Selena takes off and meets with a group of teens who give her a place to belong and excitement (the good kind).
I wasn’t big on how the book was broken in tiny sections. While there is a lot of ground to cover, nothing ever goes too deep. Though the book allows us to empathize with Selena, I don’t feel we ever got to truly see her deal with her emotions. the story jumps from plot point to plot point. It did make me cry at one point though as I am a cat girl myself.
Weirdly, enough, I had the opposite problem with Under the Moon that I did with Mera: Tidebreaker. Whereas the romantic story there fit with the themes, Bruce’s inclusion Ink_UMCTW_1_FINAL_INT_HR_no crops-145 here did nothing but make me angry. In fact, readers are supposed to see Bruce as a nice guy; he is anything but. He can’t belittle someone around his friends and help them in private and have true, positive feelings for them. Here, Bruce was just like everyone else, and I did not root for her relationship with him. It is just a continuation of the patterns Selena is trying to break from.
I did like the art as well as the color scheme. Isaac Goodhart creates a lovely and expressive view of the world Selena lives in. The color scheme was atypical but worked perfectly for the piece. The moon shadow cast really drove home the title and feel of the story.
Overall, I enjoyed reading about Selena’s life and how she became the epic cat burglar of Batman fame. But it left a bad taste in my mouth in regards to Bruce Wayne.

 

Publication Date: May 7

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

The East End

Publisher Summary

THE EAST END opens with Corey Halpern, a Hamptons local from a broken home who breaks into mansions at night for kicks. He likes the rush and admittedly, the escapism. One night just before Memorial Day weekend, he breaks into the wrong home at the wrong time: the Sheffield estate where he and his mother work. Under the cover of darkness, their boss Leo Sheffield — billionaire CEO, patriarch, and owner of the vast lakeside manor — arrives unexpectedly with his lover, Henry. After a shocking poolside accident leaves Henry dead, everything depends on Leo burying the truth. But unfortunately for him, Corey saw what happened and there are other eyes in the shadows.9780778308393_RHC_PRD

Hordes of family and guests are coming to the estate the next morning, including Leo’s surly wife, all expecting a lavish vacation weekend of poolside drinks, evening parties, and fireworks filling the sky. No one can know there’s a dead man in the woods, and there is no one Leo can turn to. With his very life on the line, everything will come down to a split-second decision. For all of the main players—Leo, Gina, and Corey alike—time is ticking down, and the world they’ve known is set to explode.

Told through multiple points of view, THE EAST END highlights the socio-economic divide in the Hamptons, but also how the basic human need for connection and trust can transcend class differences. Secrecy, obsession, and desperation dictate each character’s path. In a race against time, each critical moment holds life in the balance as Corey, Gina, and Leo approach a common breaking point. THE EAST END is a propulsive read, rich with character and atmosphere, and marks the emergence of a talented new voice in fiction.

 

Reader Review

The East End is neither well described nor summarized in its official blurb. This book isn’t really a thriller but a thoughtful look into the lives of both the rich and the poor in the Hamptons. How does one handle a closeted life if you are rich and must put on a good show? How does one handle the stress of teenage life without money and a good support system? How does one handle having children when you are stuck between a rock and a hard place? These are questions Jason Allen tries to answer in The East End.
Corey is poor and lives with his alcoholic mom and, until recently, her abusive ex. In an effort to control something in his miserable life, Corey sneaks into homes for a thrill. One night Corey sneaks into the wrong home. He finds himself overseeing an overdose of drugs that will not only tie him to his mom’s rich employer but one of the daughter’s friends as well. How each of the three deals with the death will dictate how their futures will turn out..
The novel spends a lot of time inside the character’s head. Allen spends a considerable amount of time going through their thought processes and reliving their history. There are bursts of action but because it’s so cerebral, it isn’t a typical thriller. I enjoyed seeing how this event was a coming of age story for Corey and that is where it is so powerful—not because of the suspense.
That being said, I really didn’t care much for Corey otherwise, and I didn’t like any of the other characters. The author seemed to be trying to get across that no one is perfect but the characters didn’t have enough good characteristics to balance. Corey’s mom tries to evolve but never does. Her chapters seem to just stretch the story out. I wasn’t invested in Angelina. While I felt for her family situation, her history soured her for me.
Where Corey’s chapters are the best thematically, it is the first few chapters of Leo‘sperspective that is the best mechanically. Allen does well with the erratic vibe of the character as he snorts and gulps his way to oblivion.
Overall, The East End doesn’t live up to the HR hype. It’s not a typical thriller and fails at trying to be one. When you look at what it is, a cerebral look into the variety of lives in the Hamptons, you’ll enjoy it more and truly understand the story the author is telling.

Publication Date: May 7

I received a book for review from the publisher all opinions are my own.e

King of Fools

The Shadow Game #2

In the sequel to Ace of Shades, Amanda Foody ramps the violence and danger for the story’s protagonists.
In New Reynes, City of Sin, Levi and Enne have gotten away from the Shadow Game with their lives intact. But their infamous actions will both hinder their new lives while at the same time driving their status in the North Side gangs. With the senator dead, Levi works with an estranged member of the donna who holds his life in her hanKing-of-Foolsds. If Levi can ensure this family member wins, then Levi will win his freedom in return. Enne finds herself building her own gang of women from the ground up and must combine both who she was with where she is now and show everyone who she can be.
While this is not as good as its original, I enjoyed reading the story of Enne’s growth. I loved to see her take her past and fit into her present to make a better future. Instead of foolishly trying to reinvent herself, she molds aspects of her life into one whole. I was a little disappointed that she wasn’t a bit stronger where Levi is concerned but their romance is a driving force of the story.
Levi’s was less enthralling this time around. He second guessed himself at every moment and seemed to put away his humanity. But his lack of balance was filled out by the addition of Jac’s perspective. It was great getting to know him and see his own story.
Overall, the political game and gang wars was less compelling than the Shadow Game but Foody seems to be steering the finale back to the game and enthralling all those encapsuled in the gang war.

 

Publication Date: April 30

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

The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe

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I loved The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe. Even though it’s about gold mining by boat, this is a story about the human race’s future and not their past.
Poe and Call are out on the deck during the evening while there mining ship travels down river. Call is Poe’s best friend and soul mate but his life is cut short when he is killed by raiders, savages that left their civilized town to strike out on their own. Poe channels her revenge into building armor and weapons or the boat; she will find a way to kill every last raider. Usually, Poe stays behind on these voyages but her captain has something different in mind on the next outing: they will collect the gold and she will go with the ship to insure that it comes to no harm. Poe finds herself conflictingly on the water once again. Will she be able to make it up to Call? What kind of leader will she be? And who is spying on her?
Alley Condie always takes you deep into her world and immerses you in the story. By blending past events and give them a future glaze, Condie has created a new world that isn’t just a mimic of other dystopian fiction. Placing them in a river environment gave our characters new challenges instead of rehashing old clichés.
I loved the character of Poe. Poe is not your typical captain of this genre. She is not arrogant or uppity. While she fights to be a strong captain, she has doubts. She second guesses herself and others. It is this inner dialogue that makes you like Poe. There is more than just revenge here; she also wants to be a good captain to her crew.
My only criticism is the ending. It is the same one from Matched and Atlantis: you never see them put their world back together. These stories are how they get away from the danger and the damage. But never do we get to see the world these characters create.
Overall, I loved the book and would encourage everyone to read it.

Publication: March 26

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

The Lost Night

What if your best friend committed suicide while you were black out drunk? What if you had killed her and can’t remember? That is the premise of The Lost Night, a thrilling storying with some iffy characters.

Lindsay hasn’t seen her friends from college for ten years–since the night Edie committed suicide while they were all at a party upstairs. Lindsay doesn’t want to meet up with Sarah but something compels her. Sarah tells her that she always thought Edie was murdered. She also tells Lindsay that she wasn’t there that night. Lindsay is confused by this; she could swear she was there. This leads Lindsay to start and investigation of how Edie really died and what she

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might have had to do with night she couldn’t remember.

The Lost Night has great pacing. This is Andrea Bartz’s greatest asset; the story moves quickly. The story keeps advances  and a new piece of the mystery is constantly revealed. I love that it didn’t get hung up on philosophy or other life issues that didn’t have to do with the main story.

The pacing can’t make up for the fact that you don’t like the characters.  Lindsay was annoying and hippie pretentious. While her friends seem to have grown out of it, she hasn’t. While she doesn’t drink after her last black out, Lindsay still hides so much from herself. It is this search for herself that really brings out the bad in her friends that she had sugar coated.

That’s another issue. Her friends are all insufferable and cannot be the leading e of the college graduates of the time the author tries to paint. Once again, this is rich kid New York and they are all drinking and getting high and doing stupid things. It is only the fact that Lindsay thinks she killed Edie herself that keeps it moving. And, honestly, I hope she had.

While I can set aside a group of past unlikable characters, I couldn’t set aside the writing style. The author writes like a second grader who teacher keeps getting onto her for using cliché metaphor so she comes up with her own. It pulls you from the narrative instead of giving the main character a flavorful perspective.

The Lost Night moves quickly and doesn’t ask too much of you. But its writing style is amateur and her characters are unlikeable staling from the exciting and shocking premise. Overall I give The Lost Night two starts.

Publication Date: February 26

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

The Bird King

The Bird King is a colorful tale set in the times when Spain is expanding its land. Magic and luck fill this tale of adventure.
Fatima is a concubine to the sultan of Granada. She lives a pampered life as the Sultan’s favorite but has no freedom. She dreams of the world outside the palace. Placating her is her friend Hassan, a red headed scribe who has a magical talent.  Whatever map he draws become reality and Fatima has him draw her windows showing off the world she will never see. When a delegation comes to Granada to discuss the sultan’s surrender, Fatima makes a friend with the woman who comes with them. But soon Fatima finds out there are ears everywhere and Hassan is wanted for crimes against the Holy Church. Fatima breaks him out of the palace with the help of djinn. But what is next? Where will they go? How will they create a new start?
G. Willow Wilson (of Ms. Marvel fame) spins an intricate tale capturing the tales of djinn and magic. I was swept away with the imagery of lands I hadn’t seen a

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nd loved getting an inside look. It is the writer’s lush descriptions that pulls you into the world and the magic found inside it.
Unfortunately, the characters are flat. There isn’t much growth. Fatima finally breaks out of her self-importance at the very end of the book. While she does things that admirable, most of the time it is not because of a good heart and care for others; it is all selfishly motivated. She continues to act like a pampered palace dweller throughout the novel ever fully adapting to her surroundings. It is truly only her anger that motivates her and keeps her gong. She is brave but she doesn’t understand any life outside her own. The other characters are just as flat with very little, if any, character growth.

But the overall tale of magic and faith make the book worth reading. My favorite part is the last portion of book when magic is explored more in depth. It is here where you wish you had more insight into the characters and time in the magical lands.
Over all the Bird King is fantastical and magical but many of its characters fall short of the same magic

 

Publication Date: March 12

I received an ARC for review; All opinions are my own