Review: What You Left Behind by Samantha Hays

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Title: What You Left Behind

Author: Samantha Hayes

Pages: 309

Genre: Crime/Thriller

ISBN: 9780804136921

Publisher: Crown Publishers

Rating: 3-Stars

Read: May 2015

Two years after a terrifying spate of teenage suicides, the remote village of Radcote has just begun to heal. Then a young man is killed in a freak motorcycle accident and a suicide note is found among his belongings. When a second boy is found dead shortly thereafter, the nightmare of repeat suicides once again threatens the community.

This is the second installment of the Detective Inspector Lorraine Fischer’s series. I haven’t read the first book, but I was able to read this story as a standalone. The book begins with D.I. Lorraine Fischer’s visit to her sister Jo in the remote village of Radcote, where a series of apparent teenage suicides are happening. Lorraine soon learns that there is more to this vacation than it meets the eyes. She arrives in town with her daughter Stella to find her sister Jo having an extra-marital affair, and her nephew Freddie acting moody and withdrawn. When another teen suicide happens shortly after Lorraine’s arrival, the detective can’t help but start her investigation into what is happening in Radcote.

What You Left Behind is one of those books with a fantastic premise, but gets lost somehow half-way into the story. There were too many subplots and red herrings. The characters were a bit dull, the dialogue was boring and clunky, and although towards the end the novel perks back up leading to a surprising finale–overall this book didn’t do it for me.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

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3 star

Review: Landfall by Ellen Urbani

Landfall-CoverTitle: Landfall

Author: Ellen Urbani

Pages: 304

Genre: Contemporary Historical Fiction

ISBN: 9780988265776

Publisher: Forest Avenue Press

Rating: 4-stars

Read: May 2015

In a car laden with supplies intended for hurricane victims, Rose and her mother catapult off the road onto the shoals of the Black Warrior River in Alabama, killing an unidentified storm survivor. To escape the scene, Rose, orphaned by the crash, laces the dead girl’s sneakers onto her own feet and cannot bring herself to take them off. When she learns she shares not only shoes but a name and a birth year with the Jane Doe, Rose embarks upon a guilt-assuaging odyssey to retrace the girl’s last steps…

Ellen Urbani’s second novel Landfall is a beautifully written tale of two girls, their mothers, and the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. The book is written from the  alternating perspective of these two teenagers, Rose and Rosebud (Rosy), who share the same name and birth year. The book describes how their destinies merge, and develops into a surprising twist and unexpected ending.

At first I wasn’t sure I was going to like this book, but Urbani’s writing is gorgeous, her voice is convincing, and the characters are well developed. I really liked the way the author researched the events that took place after hurricane Katrina, and how she was able to weave those details in the story. After finding out the author came from a healthcare background, I understood why she took her time describing with great details the passages at the Superdome and the events at the Crescent City Connection Bridge.

The story is not necessarily a happy one, but I definitely recommend this book for its fascinating historical accuracy, beautiful vernacular, and rich and well-developed characters.

I’d like to thank Edelweiss for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This book is scheduled to be published in August 2015.

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5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

Teaser Tuesday

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by A Daily Rhythm where anyone can play along.

This is how it goes:

  • Open a random page of a book you are currently reading
  • Share two “teaser” sentences from anywhere on that page
  • Avoid spoilers
  • Share title and author so others can add the book to their TBR list.

moonstone coverThis week’s Teaser Tuesday sentences were extracted from the book The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. This is a book I have been meaning to read for quite some time. This is the third classic book I’m reading for another challenge–The Classics Club Challenge.

I’m in the very early chapters of this book, and I’m loving it so far. I’m curious to see how this story will unfold.

“A strange gentleman, speaking English with a foreign accent, came that morning to the house, and asked to see Mr. Franklin Blake on business. The business could not possibly have been connected with the Diamond, for these two reasons–first, that Mr. Franklin told me nothing about it; secondly, that he communicated it (when the gentleman had gone, as I suppose) to my lady.”

If you liked this teaser, add this book to your TBR list on:

goodreads

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Take Me With You by Catherine Ryan Hyde – Audiobook Review

Take me with youUnabridged: (10 hours and 34 minutes)

Author: Catherine Ryan Hyde

Narration: Jeff Cummings

Release Date: 07-22-14

Publisher: Brilliance Audio

Rating: 4-Stars

Listened: May, 2015

August Shroeder, a burned-out teacher, has been sober since his 19-year-old son died. Every year he’s spent the summer on the road, but making it to Yellowstone this year means everything. The plan had been to travel there with his son, but now August is making the trip with Philip’s ashes instead. An unexpected twist of fate lands August with two extra passengers for his journey, two half-orphans with nowhere else to go. 

I absolutely LOVED this book. A beautiful and moving story that really brought tears to my eyes. Although the story is simple, and almost improbable with no intricate plots or twists, it is a warming and emotional story of an alcoholic science teacher who’s been sober for almost two years, and two young boys who live with their single dad in a less than desirable environment.

When August stops at a mechanic shop to get his RV tuned-up for a road trip, he meets Seth–an inquisitive twelve-year-old, and his younger brother Henry. From there, they take off on a transformative journey that none of them were ever expecting. A simple story of love, bonding, recovery, trust and friendship that will remain with you for a long time.

This is another feel-good book by Catherine Ryan Hyde, and definitely worth reading or listening to. The narration by Jeff Cummings was perfect, and added a beautiful tone to this lovely story.

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5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Ari Dante Cover

Title: Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Author: Benjamin Alire Saenz

Pages: 368

Genre: YA

ISBN: 9781442408920

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers 

Rating: 4-Stars

Dante can swim. Ari can’t. Dante is articulate and self-assured. Ari has a hard time with words and suffers from self-doubt. Dante gets lost in poetry and art. Ari gets lost in thoughts of his older brother who is in prison. Dante is fair skinned. Ari’s features are much darker. It seems that a boy like Dante, with his open and unique perspective on life, would be the last person to break down the walls that Ari has built around himself.

But against all odds, when Ari and Dante meet, they develop a special bond that will teach them the most important truths of their lives, and help define the people they want to be. But there are big hurdles in their way, and only by believing in each other―and the power of their friendship―can Ari and Dante emerge stronger on the other side.

I decided to read this novel after I joined Caught Read Handed’s Blogger’s Book Club. This was the novel featured for the month of May, and I’m so glad that I decided to join that book club.

Quite often I start reading a book without ever reading previous reviews, and many times I don’t read the book jacket—If a book has a good title and a good cover, then I’m bound to give that book a try. So, this was the case of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Not only this book has an interesting title, but it also has a great cover to go with it.

This is such a beautifully written novel by Benjamin Alire Saenz, and it completely took me by surprise. Saenz prose is magical! This book was such a pleasure to read, and I loved the two characters—Ari and Dante. A coming-of-age story with a twist; The author captured the angst and despair of a fifteen-year-old in a simple, but by no means simplistic way.

I loved how he tackled the topics of sexuality and puberty, and how he questioned traditional roles without making it too dense. In fact, this is a beautiful story of love, friendship, acceptance and discovery.

“The problem with my life is that it was someone else’s idea.”

I definitely recommend this book to pretty much anyone with an open mind.

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5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

Review: Storm Rising by Rachael Richey

Storm RisisngTitle: Storm Rising (NightHawk Series)

Author: Rachael Richey

Pages: 288 (Kindle format)

Genre: Romance

ISBN:9781628307665

Publisher: Wild Rose Publishing

Rating: 4-Stars

Read: April 2015

Frontman of the grunge rock band NightHawk, Gideon Hawk has had enough of the rock star life. He is jaded, disillusioned, and haunted by the memory of an unresolved heartbreak…

The book starts with Abigail Thomson (Abi) attending the funeral of her mother, and from then on you get a sense that something really bad happened in Abi’s life to explain her troubled relationship with her father and her estranged mother. While at her parents’ house, Abi makes a discovery that will lead to a series of life-events and twists changing the course of Abi’s life forever.

Gideon Hawk is this 29-year-old sexy rock star who is just about done with the fame and limelight of his rock star life. After declaring he is leaving his band–while on tour in the U.S.–Gideon flies back to England in hopes to reconnect with Abi and somehow bring some resolution to an unresolved heartbreak that separated them ten years earlier.

This is Rachael Richey’s first novel in the NightHawk Series. I really liked the way Richey weaved romance with a rock star twist. I was a huge Grunge music fan, and reading this novel brought back lots of memories of being a teenager and dreaming of rock stars. I have to say that it took me a few chapters to get into this book, but then—oh! Was I hooked? I read this book in one sitting, and I LOVED it. I’m looking forward to the next books in this series.

I’d like to thank the author for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

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Review: The Farm by Tom Rob Smith

the Farm

Title: The Farm

Author: Tom Rob Smith

Pages: 352

Genre: Thriller/Mystery

ISBN: 9780446550734

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Ratings: 4-Star

Read: April 16, 2015- May 2,2015 – I own a copy.

Daniel believed that his parents were enjoying a peaceful retirement on a remote farm in Sweden. But with a single phone call, everything changes.

“Your mother…she’s not well, his father tells him. She’s been imagining things – terrible, terrible things. She’s had a psychotic breakdown, and been committed to a mental hospital.”

Before Daniel can board a plane to Sweden, his mother calls: “Everything that man has told you is a lie. I’m not mad… I need the police… Meet me at Heathrow.”

When Daniel gets off the phone after talking to his mother, we embark in this amazing journey of lies, secrets and misconceptions through rural Sweden. Daniel is caught between his parents allegations against each other, and at times it is simply impossible to distinguish who’s telling the truth. There is so much more to this novel than meets the eye.

I read this book in a few days not because of lack of interest, but purely for lack of time. Smith does a fantastic job at building the suspense in this novel and weaving a compelling plot that is really a plot within a plot, full of twists and turns.

What I simply adored about this book was the fact that I had it all wrong. I never saw that ending coming.

I definitely recommend this book! This was my first novel by author Tom Rob Smith, and I simply LOVED it! I’m really looking forward to reading more books from him.

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5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

Wreckage by Emily Bleeker–Audiobook Review

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Unabridged (10 hours and 17 minutes)

Author: Emily Bleeker

Narration: Kristin Watson Heintz and Lucas Daniels

Release Date: 03-01-15

Publisher: Brilliance Audio

Rating: 2-Star

Listened: April, 2015

Lillian Linden is a liar. On the surface, she looks like a brave survivor of a plane crash. But she’s been lying to her family, her friends, and the whole world since rescue helicopters scooped her and her fellow survivor, Dave Hall, off a deserted island in the South Pacific. Missing for almost two years, the castaways are thrust into the spotlight after their rescue, becoming media darlings overnight. But they can’t tell the real story—so they lie… 

This novel follows the story of Lilian Linden and David Hall, survivors of a plane crash that landed in a deserted island in the South Pacific. After spending two miserable years on the island, they are finally rescued and reunited with their families–and so the lies begin…

The plot’s themes of survival, secrecy, tragedy and redemption are well written. The problem with this narrative was that although the characters were believable and complex; the story was quite predictable, and the ending was dull as if the author was too tired to finish the book.

Bleeker managed to keep the book suspenseful for a good part of the story. The descriptions of the crash and life on the island were detailed and interesting—It brought me back memories of the television show Lost.

The narrative structure followed a back-and-forth flow with parts written in present time and flashing back to the past. This structure worked well and explained the lies they had to tell reporters once they were back home.

Unfortunately, this is the first audiobook that I wished I had read the book instead. The narration was absolutely awful. Lucas Daniels and Kristin Watson Heintz were not a good choice for this book, and I felt it really hurt my audio experience. Although Daniels has a distinctive voice, it was more akin to a newscaster than that of an actor. Heintz’s voice was too monotonous, and she had a hard time sounding convincing when narrating male characters.

I do not recommend this book as audiobook. You’d be better off reading it.

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2 star

The Classics Club Challenge

Classic Book Pic

So I have just agreed to the Classics Club Challenge, and what it means is that I agreed to read 50 classic titles in 5 years (4/2015-4/2020). I think it is a great initiative to read amazing literary classics.

My list was composed of books I had heard of and never read; books you know you should have read and never got around reading it, as well as inspiration from Goodreads lists and the Big Book List.

I’m not planning on reading these books in the same sequence as I have listed. Some books will have a review available, and some will not, and there is no set number of books I plan to read in a year. I will be crossing them out as I’m reading them. I have already started the year on a Dante theme, so those books I took credit for and they will be crossed out.

So here is my list:

Twain, Mark ~ The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Dumas, Alexandre ~ The Three Musketeers
Hugo, Victor ~ Les Miserable
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor ~ The Brothers Karamazov
Whitman, Walt ~ Leaves of Grass
Atwood, Margarete ~ Alias Grace
Blake, William ~ Songs of Innocence and of Experience
Swift, Jonathan ~ Gulliver’s Travels
Voltaire ~ Candide
Goldsmith, Oliver ~ The Vicar of Wakefield
Hawthorne, Nathaniel ~ The House of the Seven Gables
Haywood, Eliza ~ Love in Excess
Fielding, Henry ~ Joseph Andrews
Shelley, Mary ~ The Last Man
Eliot, George ~ The Mill on the Floss
Eliot, George ~ Middlemarch
Verne, Jules ~ From the Earth to the Moon and ‘Round the Moon
Verne, Jules ~ Around the World in Eighty Days
Cervantes, Miguel ~ Don Quixote
Bronte, Charlotte ~ The Professor
Bronte, Anne ~ The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Wharton, Edith ~ The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton
Wharton, Edith ~ The Age of Innocence
Stegner, Wallace ~ Angle of Repose
Woolf, Virginia ~ A Room of One’s Own
Woolf, Virginia ~ To the Lighthouse
Angelou, Maya ~ I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Ishiguro, Kasuo ~ The Remains of the Day
Cather, Willa ~ Death Comes for the Archbishop
Doyle, Arthur Conan ~ The Hound of the Baskervilles
Christie, Agatha ~ Murder on the Orient Express
Wilde, Oscar ~ The Canterville Ghost
Washington, Irving ~ The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang ~ Faust
Alighieri, Dante ~ Inferno
Alighieri, Dante ~ Purgatorio
Salinger, J. D. ~ The Catcher in the Rye
Heller, Joseph ~ Catch-22
Chandler, Raymond ~ The Big Sleep
James, Henry ~ The Portrait of a Lady
Smith, Betty ~ A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
O’Connor, Flannery ~ Wise Blood
Collins, Wilkie ~ The Woman in White
Collins, Wilkie ~ The Moonstone
Dickens, Charles ~ Oliver Twist
Dickens, Charles ~ Great Expectations
Austen, Jane ~ Mansfield Park
Tolstoy, Leo ~ Anna Karenina
Lowry, Lois ~ The Giver
Melville, Herman ~ Moby-Dick

What do you guys think about this challenge? Please feel free to leave a comment, and let me know if you’ve read any of these books and your thoughts about it. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

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Review: Don’t Turn Around by Caroline Mitchell

Dont-Turn-Around-Caroline-Mitchell

Title: Don’t Turn Around

Author: Caroline Mitchell

Pages: 318

Genre: Paranormal Thriller/Crime

ISBN: 9781909490970

Publisher: Bookouture

Ratings: 3-star

Read: April 21, 2015-April 24, 2015

As D.C. Jennifer Knight investigates a routine stabbing in the quiet town of Haven, she is shocked at what seems like a personal message from beyond the grave. When more bodies are found, Jennifer is convinced the killings are somehow linked.

What she discovers is more chilling than she could possibly imagine. The murders mirror those of the notorious Grim Reaper – from over twenty years ago. A killer her mother helped convict. Jennifer can no longer ignore the personal connection. Is there a copycat killer at work? Was the wrong man convicted? Or is there something more sinister at play?

In this book, Caroline Mitchell introduces us to D.C. Jennifer Knight a well-written and complex character. She is more than just a cop; she hears voices inside her head. Her paranormal abilities have helped her solve cases in the past, and she will have to rely on them one more time in order to solve a string of crimes and stop a killer.

This is book number one in the Detective Jennifer Knight crime thriller series, and it was also my very first book in the paranormal/crime/thriller genre. I truly enjoyed the plot and storyline.

This novel had some extremely creepy and scary moments that worked really well together, and still kept me very interested. I particularly liked the narrative from the serial killer’s perspective–chilling and well-written. A great glimpse into a murderer’s mind.

I definitely recommend this book, and my only wish was that there was a bit more romance weaved into this great story. I’m hopeful that the next books will explore the relationship between detective Jennifer and Will.

I’d also like to thank Bookouture and NetGalley for allowing me to read an early copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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3 star

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