A Beginning at the End

Mike Chen shows life after the end of the world in A Beginning at the End, a refreshing change from many dystopian stories.
Six years ago, a pandemic of the flu killed of the majority of the world’s population. People have already begun to rebuild even though they are still haunted by the past. Brought together by serendipity, a pop star in hiding, a single dad and a wedding planner find themselves entangled as their lives move forward. But it seems the virus may be making a comeback. How these three newfound friends handle a new global scare?
mediumI have always wanted to read a book set after people escape the apocalypse and start new lives. Most books end at some plateau where they can live without much danger. But what does that look like? I was excited to see that Mike Chen had thought ahead to that and gave us a world somewhat close to ours but also so very different. In fact, I was less interested in the back stories of the characters. While they were needed to truly understand the characters, I was focused on the survivability of now. I needed to see the characters let go of the past and look to the future.
Chen’s work is easy to read. It’s not fluff but is relatable to everyday readers in both writing structure and the characters. Readers will see something about themselves in the four main characters that will encourage them to find out how they handle the post-world and threat of further virus outbreaks. Chen creates wonderfully fulfilling characters even though most of the character’s relationships could be called way before the ending.
A Beginning at the End is a story about what happens after the apocalypse but doesn’t land on the troupes of zombies or supernatural aspects. This focuses on each human and their own choices. As a reader, now I want to read his other works!

 

Publication Date: January 21
I received an ARC from the publisher; all opinions are my own.

Big Lies in a Small Town

Big Lies in a Small Town is typical Diane Chamberlain; the kind of typical you always enjoy from her.
Morgan is serving time because of a drunk driving accident that left a young woman injured. But, surprisingly, she finds herself out after serving her minimum sentence. There is a caveat: she is being released to do work on an old mural as part of her parole. The mural is old and nasty, but she must restore it before the gallery opens in just a few short months. Morgan must learn painting restoration while being distracted by the story of the artist Anna Dale who, who according to the townfolk, went crazy and disappeared.
As usual, the author gives readers a story they can take to their hearts. The female51b5l6oQQdL._SY346_ protagonists are quickly accepted and loved, and you just want to see happiness with in their tragedies. Morgan is no exception. Big Lies is a double whammy; you latch onto to Anna Dale as well as Morgan as the book switches between present and past. Your heart is doubly torn apart as both women share center stage.
Chamberlain is queen of emotional twists. While I called one, I did not see the other coming and that delights me. Chamberlain always has at least one present for the reader. A present that moves you and causes you to see the characters in a different light.
There are a few small issues. The townsfolks claim not to know what happened to Anan Dale as if she just disappeared but there is no way the historians of the town missed the articles of the events that caused her disappearance. No one would have just said that was just her going crazy. The second issue is my own. The book ends and I needed to know what happened to Morgan. Chamberlain implies with this ending that it doesn’t matter, but it does to me. I have come to love Morgan and I feel a need to know exactly what happens to her.
Big Lies returns to the more traditional set up of Chamberlain (that’s not to say The Dream Daughter wasn’t amazing; it was, in fact, superb). This novel is women’s fiction at its height looking into the things women face and how we have to deal with them.

Publication Date: January 14, 2020
I received an ARC from the publisher; all opinions are my own.

Husband Material

I slogged through 70 percent of this book bored and ready to give up. Husband Material was as basic and stereotypical as many other romances. But then, luckily, Emily Belden added a little extra to make the story stand out.
9781525805981_TS_PRD (1)Charlotte is a 29 year old widow who has kept her secret for the last five years. But the past comes back to haunt her when her husband’s ashes suddenly show up at her apartment after a fire at the mausoleum he was placed. Suddenly Charlotte finds her life more complicated and confusing than she ever imagined.
The first chapter was pretty funny, and I was looking forward to hijinks that would ensue when the ashes arrived. But quickly I saw, that instead of being funny, Charlotte is rather petty and bitchy. She complains about everything in life. She mentally slays the interns working but when she overhears them talking about her, she gets into a tizzy. What should have endured you to her makes you roll your eyes. Why should I feel bad for someone who thought even worse of the people who were talking about her?
And that becomes the biggest problem with the book. Not the predictable plot or weird and improbable dating app the character wants to make, but Charlotte is so unlikable. She wants to keep her widowhood a secret but gets snippy wen people don’t treat her

Autho photo_Emily Belden_final

Emily Belden

with kid gloves mentally chewing them out because she was dealing with her widow hood. No one knows to help her and when they finally do, she doesn’t take help graciously.
The saving grace is that the book throws you a curve ball and Charlotte gets called out for her horrible behavior. Charlotte finally begins to grow and because a somewhat more likable as she deals with the superb twist that Belden created. While, it doesn’t work perfectly, it really gave the book depth and made me happy to have read the book.
Overall, the book isn’t that great but, by the end, I enjoyed see how Charlotte finagled her precarious position.

Publication Date: Dec 30, 2019

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

Good Girls Lie

I was happily surprised by how much I enjoyed Good Girls Lie. Typically, I find boarding school stories droll but this was a truly exciting thriller. Ellison_GoodGirlsLie_FinalCover
After the devastating loss of her parents, Ash Carlisle leaves her home in England to attend a prestigious all girl boarding school in the United States. Goode comes with all the typical high school drama but there is more lurking behind the corners of this historic school. Ash tries to keep her head down but when her roommate dies horrifically, Ash knows there will be no escape from her past.
I was highly engaged on this story. It’s not your typical boarding school story or even a mean girl thriller. Each chapter egged me on trying to guess what each character was hiding. I loved guessing even when I was wrong and loved, even more, the twist I never saw coming. I was disappointed that in the end, the story ended so quickly from its build up. Luckily, each character is given a conclusion keeping away from pesky loose ends that annoy me so as a reader.

JT Ellison Author Photo credit Krista Lee Photography - vertical

J.T. Ellison

The writing isn’t overly complex but J.T. Ellison gives the overtures needed to keep the reader engaged. The only true issue is that the perspectives and narration changes between chapters in a jarring way. The goal is clearly to hide certain aspects of the characters and keep the reader from knowing everything at once, but there is one perspective in particular that causes me to stop reading because it clashes and I have to realize it’s an entirely different narration even though it’s so similar to another.
Good Girls Lie is more than just your typical girl’s boarding girl story. Packed with deceit and twists, Good Girls Lie is tense story about identity and the way we react to our environment.

Publication Date: December 31, 2019

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

The Ronan Scrolls

The Ronan Scrolls is a companion piece to the Dragon Master Trilogy that gives enduring a look into the scientific side of magic.
Ronan the Traveler seeks answers after his brother is burned at the stake for seeing the future. In a world where dragons roam and witches are real, even having the sight is seen as madness and dangerous. But Ronan cannot agree. He will travel all of Antebellum knowing his brother cannot be the only one who can see the future. The scrolls herein relay that story.47870311._SX318_
I truly enjoyed the Ronan scrolls. Ronan believes he can use intellect to understand magic and this unique perspective endears you to him. Like many characters of the same situation, you do not pity him for the loss of his brother, instead, you cheer on his adventure to help himself deal with his own pain. Whether or not you should look at magic scientifically is a question presented here but you absolutely want Ronan to find the answer because surely there is life is a mix of magic and science.
Katie Cross chooses a fun narrative structure to tell Ronan’s adventures. Past an introduction, the novella is truly Ronan’s tale, each portion written by the character himself. While it limits the whole perspective in some ways that might be fur frustrating, it is that frustration one needs to understand to truly appreciate Ronan’s journey. Cross does well with the “diary” form of writing moving the story along without giving too much away.
While this reads best for those who are familiar with previous entries in the series such as Flame and Flight, this is also an intriguing novella that can be a bridge for new readers. I encourage readers interested in magic to dip their toes in the Dragon Master world with this work and then see the world bloom in the full novels. For avid fans, this is a must.
Overall, The Ronan Scrolls is a refreshing addition to Cross’s work looking at magic with a scientific slant.

 

Publication Date: December 18

I received a copy from the author for review; all opinions are my own.

Trace of Evil

trace-of-evilTrace of Evil gets a solid 3.5 stars. I enjoyed the story but any of the writing elements could be tightened.
Natalie is a rookie cop working on her first murder investigation, a collection of cold cases. But when one of her friends is killed in cold blood, Natalie must navigate the reality of the world without forgetting those that suffered in the cold cases.

I loved the story. I was pulled in from the moment they celebrate Grace’s death anniversary. Natalie was a character that didn’t hide much so you were able to really get into her head. The story then unfolds with witchcraft, abuse of nature, murder, and lies. How Natalie deals with each of these are shadowed by Grace so I was glad to see here come full circle by the end of the book.

The writing itself needs some work. The biggest issue is the pacing. The author throws in way too much background information slows the story and keeps the suspense for building up. I skimmed over many paragraphs because I wanted to stay with the rhythm. The other issue was there was a lot of creative freedom that ignored police procedure. A classic example is Natalie handling voodoo without gloves even though she knows it is evidence.
Alice Blanchard has a lot of potential. I want to read more of her work and see her grow into an author.

 

Publication Date: Dec. 3

I received an ARC through teh publisher; all opinions are my own.

Just Watch Me

Just Watch Me is Jeff Lindsay’s latest novel after bidding his infamous character Dexter Morgan behind
Riley Wolfe gets his thrills from thefts and disguises. But Riley isn’t your typical con man; he’s not running Ponzi scheme or such. Riley goes big, ripping a statue right from its anchors at its unveiling. But he’s getting bored; the thrill diminishes after each scheme. Then Riley finds his big get: the Crown Jewels of Iran. It will take all great foresight and a master talent of disguise to make this master robbery work; Riley salivates at the challenge.
This book is an easy read. And I don’t mean it’s simply written or flippant. Lindsay pulls you in and wraps you into the scheme too. The reader is a passive by standard that is privy to each thrill and twist of Riley’s brain. Lindsay also ensures that the reader starts to understand a little about the way he is. His antihero isn’t just some evil cliché. I was just-watch-mequite impressed with the imagination and thought that went into this book flipping each page as fast as I could.
I only have two issues with the book. the first concerns a major point in his robbery; I just couldn’t spend disbelief enough to see that it would work. The second is that I don’t like Riley, But I am mesmerized by the people he becomes. I shouldn’t call this an issue as I don’t think we are supposed to like Riley right off. Instead, we are to respect the talent it takes to pull off his cons.
The author leaves Dexter behind except for one misstep: the main character talks about the “dark” that overtakes him when he kills. Luckily, it doesn’t follow the main story but the side plot of Riley’s childhood. Other than that, Riley stands on his own without being too much like Dexter. Riley’s maladjustedness focuses more on deceit and theft for a set of all new adventures (I’m sure Riley Wolfe will ride again).
Over all, Lindsay lures you away from the Dexter legacy, allowing Riley Wolfe to stand on his own two feet. The author creates a new kind of adventure following a sociopath with a talent for extravagant cons. While, I’m not fond of Riley as a character, I can’t help but be amazed at what he pulls off when he sets his mind to it.

 

Publication Date: December 3

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

Book Club: I’m Not Dying With You Tonight

 

I read I’m Not Dying with You Tonight as part of The Big Library Read. This global book club ensures anyone who wants to read the book club titles can though the digital library for a certain period of time.
This novel is an interesting collaboration; the women , one black and one white, worked together to spin a narrative to encourage discussion about race, police action and our perception of the world.
It’s just another Friday night for Lena. She’ll hit the school football game and then meet up with her Im-Not-Dying-With-You-Tonight-e1564125646558older boyfriend. For Campbell, this night is a terror already. She’s been in town six weeks and made no friends and is working at the football concession stand with a bunch of people who aren’t helping. When a fight breaks out, racial relations across the town spiral out of control and these two girls from very different backgrounds must manage to make it out together.
From a literature standpoint, the story seems highly contrived and nothing flows organically. That is because this is a statement book; putting the characters in this position is more important that how it flows. I was disappointed to not understand the town more and see the larger picture of the societal relations. Readers are left with just one perspective to understand why the whole town is on fire.
To be honest, this story is nothing unless you talk about it and that is the authors’ goal. The reader sees racism and stereotypes from both sides. Facing these head on, you see the main characters act on this and then see what ramifications their actions have. The authors, Gilly Segal and Kimberly Jones, leave it up to the reader to understand why these views are held by the characters; they lead no discussion themselves.
The book comes with book club questions. But I challenge readers to go beyond that. As a society we need this mass discussion because once the problems and issues are brought to light we can make changes. And we need change in our society. I hope this book can be one step towards true change.
As a literary tale, I’m Not Dying with You Tonight, isn’t that great. But as a force for change? If people take it seriously, then it can be a great tool.

The Deep

The Deep is the result of work by many voices. The book written by Rivers Solomon is inspired by the work of clipping. which was inspired by yet someone else’s work. Because editor Navah Wolfe saw a beautiful vision, this multifaceted art project exists.
Yetu is the historian. She holds the memory of the Wajinru, merfolk who evolved from solomonr-deepusthe African slave women who were thrown overboard pregnant. Once a year, Yetu shares these memories, the pain with her tribe; this is The Remembrance. Yet she doesn’t exist outside these memories and this year Yetu makes a choice that will change her own life and the lives of her people.
Click below to listen to The Deep by the clipping. Because this book is so entwined with the song, you cannot truly appreciate what has been done with this novella and how it has beautifully captured (mostly) the themes and moods from the song. This is art within itself.
The novella can easily be broken down into three parts. The first is a lyrical presentation to the characters, the location and their situation. There is beauty in the writing here; Solomon has written their own song. As a reader, go with the rhythm as the plot and story will be explained more in the second section.
The second portion takes Yetu away from the collective and here is where the reader truly understands what the Remembrance is, what it contains and why it is important. The third section wraps up the modern fable but doesn’t pack as much of a punch as the past two sections.
My only true negative issue is that it is too short. Not too short as in I needed more, too short as something huge was given and built and then-Snap!- resolved. The third section crescendos with a flat fall and everything is suddenly and simply fixed. There was no true fallout to the events beyond Yetu and the population, while remembering their past, seemed to forget their present. Maybe this was a way to say there is no simple answer for the real world parallels the book follows but it felt weak on a literary level.
Overall, The Deep is a lyrical, moving, and crosses culturally lines many other novels cannot. This is also multifaceted art. While this book starts from one song, clipping. has created new music based from this book that will be released simultaneously with the book. This brings this project full circle and will touch you emotionally whether you respond more to written or vocalized word.

Publication: November 5
I received a copy from the publisher for review; all opinions are my own.

 

 

She’s Out

After I finished the sequel to Widows, I swore I was done with the series. But Lynda La Plante pulled me with a great concept. Dolly has done her time in prison, done good for other and has plans to open a home for foster children. Meanwhile, Shirley Miller {21ED394E-BE5D-4562-8BBD-FDE33210E75E}Img400brother is plotting revenge for her death. Sadly, the story quickly changes. Dolly gets the raw end ad everything with the brother Mike falls apart. You end up with a heist story that makes no sense and is written poorly.
She’s Out is written like TV where short scenes can convey a lot of info and keep interest. But books can’t just be three lines about what’s going on in one area and then move on to another. We need something to sink our teeth in. This style runs the ending. The heist is sped through quickly and the reader doesn’t have time to soak in what’s going on. It loses any excitement or thrill. The ending is just sad and no way satisfying.
That being said, I enjoyed getting to know the characters. The women aren’t just cookie cutter stereotypes and the author pushes their boundaries. That works well. In fact, it’s the best part. I honesty wanted more for each character that they ever got in the ending.
She’s Out isn’t my style of heist stories but I can see how it good TV when the author originally created the content.

Published: Oct 29
I received an ARC through NetGalley; all opinions are my own.