Monday, April 20, 2015


ISBN #: 978-1627791830
Page Count: 240
Copyright: November 4, 2014
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; First Edition

Book Summary:
(Taken from Goodreads)

Hilariously imagined text conversations—the passive aggressive, the clever, and the strange—from classic and modern literary figures, from Scarlett O’Hara to Jessica Wakefield.

Mallory Ortberg, the co-creator of the cult-favorite website The Toast, presents this whimsical collection of hysterical text conversations from your favorite literary characters. Everyone knows that if Scarlett O’Hara had an unlimited text-and-data plan, she’d constantly try to tempt Ashley away from Melanie with suggestive messages. If Mr. Rochester could text Jane Eyre, his ardent missives would obviously be in all-caps. And Daisy Buchanan would not only text while driving, she’d text you to pick her up after she totaled her car. Based on the popular web-feature, Texts from Jane Eyre is a witty, irreverent mashup that brings the characters from your favorite books into the twenty-first century.

Kathy's Review:

If our favorite literary characters, or authors, could text, what would they say? The author imagines these conversations throughout the history of literature, beginning with Greek mythology and ending with Katniss and Peeta in “The Hunger Games.” Extremely funny, and spot-on with keeping with the particular character’s quirks or infamous scenes from the books in which they live, Texts is smartly imagined.

Admittedly, I didn’t know a LOT of the literary references in the book. They were still funny, but I think some of the nuance went over my head. There were several jokes relating to Daisy Miller that I didn’t get because I had never heard of this character, but I could still tell that it was stuffy British lit from back in the day and that Daisy had some haters who thought she was a tramp.

The philosophical stuff was funny – basically, some of the crazy-yet-brilliant thoughts of some of the past writers were reimagined into texts and came off as you’d imagine.

Some of my favorites were Miss Havisham’s texts (Great Expectations) reminding all that she was jilted at the altar; Emily Dickinson texting from inside her bedroom to someone on the outside of the door; and Peter Pan as the ultimate druggie, texting Wendy and asking her to come party with him. Surprisingly, some of the more modern literary references were my least favorite. Babysitters Club came along after I was too old to be reading that stuff, so I skipped right over that one. Even Sweet Valley High, of which I was an ardent fan, wasn’t one of my favorites.

This will take you just about an hour to get through, and I’m sure that if you enjoy reading, you’ll be amused at this inventive way to retell their stories.

*A physical copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

{Review} A GHOSTLY UNDERTAKING by Tonya Kappes

ISBN #: 978-0062374646
Page Count: 304
Copyright: February 24, 2015
Publisher: Witness; Reissue Edition
Series: Ghostly Southern Mysteries (Book 1)

Book Description:
(Taken from Amazon)

A funeral, a ghost, a murder . . . It's all in a day's work for emma lee raines . . .

Bopped on the head from a falling plastic Santa, local undertaker Emma Lee Raines is told she's suffering from “funeral trauma.”   It's trauma all right, because the not-so-dearly departed keep talking to her. Take Ruthie Sue Payne—innkeeper, gossip queen, and arch-nemesis of Emma Lee's granny—she's adamant that she didn't just fall down those stairs. She was pushed.

Ruthie has no idea who wanted her pushing up daisies. All she knows is that she can't cross over until the matter is laid to eternal rest. In the land of the living, Emma Lee's high-school crush, Sheriff Jack Henry Ross, isn't ready to rule out foul play. Granny Raines, the widow of Ruthie's ex-husband and co-owner of the Sleepy Hollow Inn, is the prime suspect. Now Emma Lee is stuck playing detective or risk being haunted forever.

Mandy's Review:

I'm always up for a good mystery involving murder, ghosts, and surprises. Sometimes it's nice to just read a book for enjoyment instead of trying to figure out what the author's trying to convey.

Emma is in an unusual situation. Her sister, Charlotte, and she run one of the local funeral homes. It was previously managed by their parents, but their parents have decided to move away, travel, and leave the funeral home in the hands of their daughters. All goes well until Emma has her incident with the plastic Santa Claus.

It's this konk on the head that allows Emma to see the ghosts of the recently departed. Ruthie being the most recent, Emma thinks she's starting to have episodes of the "funeral trauma" again until Ruthie convinces Emma she was murdered. Emma, now intrigued, decides to help investigate Ruthie's death ... especially when the local law enforcement office, Jack, subpoenas Emma requesting she not bury Ruthie until the official investigation is over.

Sticking your nose in where it doesn't belong can get you into trouble, as it does with Emma. There's someone in town that's not happy with Emma playing junior detective. Will Emma be able to help Jack solve Ruthie's murder before someone close to Emma goes to jail?

There were parts of the story that moved just a bit too fast for me and I feel like some important elements may have been left out but overall I did enjoy this novel. I have a lot going on in my life right now and reading something just for the pure enjoyment of it was refreshing. It helped me to escape my head for a while, which is something I was sorely needing. If you're looking to escape and visit a new place for purely recreational purposes, then I would recommend beginning this series.

*A physical copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, April 17, 2015

{The 2015 Amazing Book Race Challenge Review} NOT MY FATHER'S SON by Alan Cumming

ISBN #: 978-0062225061
Page Count: 304
Copyright: October 7, 2014
Publisher: Dey Street Books
Lupe's Review:

I listened to this as an audiobook, narrated by Alan Cumming himself, and I have to say, it was so much better that way. Being able to hear the tiniest inflections in his voice, feel, really FEEL what he is saying, made this such an immersive story. You're able to chuckle with him when you hear his voice smiling and get teary eyed and cry for him when you hear him speak so solemnly about his childhood, and even much of his adulthood.

His foray into what happened to his grandfather, the trigger from his father that makes him so introspective on himself, parallel in a way that only a Hollywood story should. Unfortunately, this was no glamorous Hollywood life. Alan's childhood and adulthood were marred by his father, Alec, and just listening to his story was enough, at times, to just make my heart break. I have always liked him as an actor and musician. He is just so versatile and just, well, GOOD, that you never would have expected all the obstacles he had to face. His personal life alone (being bisexual and his HEAVY advocacy of LGBT rights) were nothing compared to his childhood personal life. He was able to overcome so much adversity from his father, so much angst. And to be able to tell it so truthfully, without hindrance and without hiding anything, I think is a true testament to his character.

Read this. If you don't ever read another memoir again, read this one. I promise you won't regret it.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

{Review} SMALL MERCIES by Eddie Joyce

ISBN #: 978-0525427292
Page Count: 368
Copyright: March 10, 2015
Publisher: Viking

(Taken from book flap)

An ingeniously layered narrative, told over the course of one week, Eddie Joyce’s debut novel masterfully depicts an Italian-Irish American family on Staten Island and their complicated emotional history. Ten years after the loss of Bobby—the Amendola family’s youngest son—everyone is still struggling to recover from the firefighter’s unexpected death. Bobby’s mother, Gail; his widow, Tina; his older brothers Peter, the corporate lawyer, and Franky, the misfit; and his father, Michael, have all dealt with their grief in different ways. But as the family gathers together for Bobby Jr.’s birthday party, they must each find a way to accept a new man in Tina’s life while reconciling their feelings for their lost loved one.

In unflinching but lyrical prose, Joyce shows us one mother’s struggle to keep her family together and preserve the memory of her son. Following Gail as she moves from the corner offices of white-shoe Manhattan law firms to the blue-collar gin mills of the outer boroughs, Small Mercies reveals a different New York, one that exists in the hearts and minds of its inhabitants.

Presented through multiple points of view, Small Mercies explores the conflicts and deep attachments that exist within families. Heart-wrenching and profoundly relatable, Joyce’s debut is a love letter to Staten Island and a deeply affecting portrait of an American family.

Charlene's Review:

Small Mercies is a haunting story of a family in the aftermath of the loss of Bobby, their son/brother/spouse, on 9/11. Mr. Joyce paints a picture with his words: A picture of life before, and life after. 10 years later, Bobby’s widow announces to his mother, Gail, that she has met a new love, and Gail must find a way to tell the family, all of whom are still grieving.

With the focus on the family, instead of the terror attack, this is a new twist on a fateful day. Perhaps the most humbling of all. When the cameras faded and the stories died, the families were left to find a new normal. Small Mercies is a look at the reality of survivors of 9/11 and how they must learn to live as the casualties of an act that took America’s innocence. The guilt of the family "business" , the unspoken words, the wishful thinking, and the unspeakable grief of a mother are all demonstrated in a heart-wrenching novel full of real, raw emotion. The true beauty of this story is the flawed, hurting characters that cling desperately to each other, every bit as much as they suffer alone.

I have read many books on the subject of 9/11 and Small Mercies is one of the best, as it reflects not on the horror and destruction of that day, but the ability of the human spirit to rise from the ashes.

5 out of 5 stars!

*A hardcopy of this novel was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

{Review} SMILE NOW, CRY LATER by Paul MacDonald

ISBN #: 978-1507525449
Page Count: 248
Copyright: January 12, 2015
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Series: Chuck Restic Mystery

Book Description:
(Taken from Amazon)

Chuck Restic is a man without a purpose. A 20-year career working in the risk-averse world of Human Resources for a large corporation has left him comfortably numb... but so incredibly bored. There has to be more to life than trying not to get sued. Chuck finds an escape in an unlikely form when he begins moonlighting as a private detective. He's not your typical PI (he prefers a passive-aggressive approach over the old-fashioned fisticuffs kind) but he is amusingly effective at solving crimes. And at last he is able to apply that HR experience -- the same one that gives him so much consternation -- to a finer purpose.

This first book in the series has Chuck venturing out of the confines of his Los Angeles skyscraper in search of a missing colleague. The trail leads him from the shady underworld of Armenian mobsters to the billion-dollar land developments that serve as the lifeblood of the city. Murder lurks at every turn. The Chuck Restic Mystery Series is a fun romp that mashes traditional mystery with a scathing send-up of Corporate America, and delivers a fresh take on the classic Los Angeles detective novel.

Shelley's Review:

This book grabs and holds your attention from page one.  The author throws in number of subplots and twists that makes this  book appeal to a wide variety of people.  Something for everyone!  I really look forward to another installment of Chuck Restic Mysteries.  Kudos Mr. Macdonald!

*A physical copy of this novel was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, April 13, 2015

{Review} SAGA OF LYN: THE REAWAKENING by Aric Carter

ISBN #: 978-1941469002
Page Count: 238
Copyright: July 26, 2014
Publisher: Aric C. Carter
Series: Saga of Lyn

Book Description:
(Taken from back cover)

Tavernkeeper Tegain Hostler's life is one of well-oiled routine, revolving around his tavern and his beloved wife and daughter. When a mysterious stranger destroys his tavern and his family, Tegain joins forces with his friend Karl Dunmire, a trader with a military past, to seek justice. Karl sells Tegain a rusty old sword that has hidden powers, and their quest turns deadly as they begin to encounter demons from their world's past that now threaten its future.

Mandy's Review:

Before even reading the book, the reader is wondering who Lyn is and who/what is being reawakened. At the start of the book, an event happens that (slight spoiler alert) isn't addressed during this portion of the series.

Tegain is a portly man who has taken over the family business of managing the tavern, the Hooded Lantern. He has never had a need to leave his home and travel the country, so he's unaware of what lies in the surrounding country. That all changes one night when a stranger comes in and kills everyone inside the tavern before burning it to the ground. Tegain, the only survivor of the attack, is lying outside on the ground contemplating life without his wife and daughter when Karl shows up on the scene.

A former Captain Marshal of the Royal Waymen Dragoons, Karl is now a trader traveling around from town to town trying to sell his wares. Helping Tegain escape from a greedy councilman gets Karl thrown into jail, where Karl finds some unexpected allies. Knowing his past, the guards solicit Karl's help in fighting the monsters that seem to have reawakened from centuries past.

Tegain's escape puts him into even more danger from creatures he never knew existed. Thankfully, one of the items Karl sold to Tegain is a unique piece helping him in ways Tegain never expected.

Overall, I enjoyed this beginning to the Saga of Lyn series ... with some exceptions. The first being Vyckie's importance to the telling of this story. The story could've been told without her and, in turn, the two thieves. If her purpose was to re-start Tegain's heart and help him realize he could love again, well ... I think it was unnecessary. I won't say why because it'd spoil part of the story, but the reader will easily recognize why Vyckie's role wasn't needed. The other exception to my enjoyment of this book was the way Karl spoke. It was very distracting. I'd be in a flow, just reading along, and then Karl's part would show up and I'd have to stop and take time to read what he was saying. Want an example?

"Aye, this be true. Ye be not havin' the trainin' of the Dragoons. Ta be a Dragoon be not trainin' alone. A true Wayman be without fear. He be ridin' inta battle knowin' he be dead already. His actions be not tempered by fear of death. Ta be a Dragoon be but an attitude taken about yourself, not just trainin'," Karl voiced to Jeri and the entire company of men.

Maybe the above isn't distracting to you, but it was to me. Too much usage of the word 'be.' If you can work your way through that, the Saga of Lyn: The Reawakening is a pretty decent start to a promising series.

*A physical copy of this novel was provided by the publicist in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, April 11, 2015


ISBN #: 978-0143126843
Page Count: 544
Copyright: December 30, 2014
Publisher: Penguin Books

Book Description:
(Taken from back cover)

When the sixth Earl Fitzwilliam died in 1902, he was the richest man in Britain. His fortune came from coal-a lifeline to the thousands who worked in the family's coal mines. The earl also left behind four sons, and the family line seemed assured. But was it?

Set in the aristocratic splendor of the era popularized by Downton Abbey, Black Diamonds tells the story of the Fitzwilliam's spectacular decline: of fights over inheritance, rumors of lunacy. a tragic connection to the Kennedy's, violent deaths, illicit love, and a class war that literally ripped apart the local landscape.

The demise of the Fitzwilliams is chronicled in this riveting account of aristocratic decline and fall, set in the grandest house in England. With the novelistic flair on display in her New York Times bestseller The Secret Rooms, Bailey has written another irresistible narrative history.

Lupe's Review:

Being the huge history nut that I am (I majored in History in college and have always been fascinated particularly with English History) I was, at first, unsure if I would like a novel that seemed to not have all the pieces. You see, the Fitzwilliams destroyed pretty much everything. They were secretive and very protective of their privacy. It made writing this novel that much harder, I'm sure, for Ms. Bailey. But the vast amount of research that she does do is so worth reading. What I loved about this was that the author took the family, and put them in the larger scale of economic and political stresses of the world around them. We begin in the late 1800's and end up in the present, where even now, the owner of Wentworth House is reclusive and private, but not, as you would think, a Fitzwilliam. The downfall of this rich, coal mining family is told beautifully and tragically, stories of grandeur and folly, love and hate, and above all, power and prestige. Among all that, you have class power struggles, two World Wars (of which, men from the family fought on the front and the home was utilized for war purposes) and the fight for aristocracy's  prominence and relevance in a time of it's demise.

Beautifully written, we get to travel in time and through time with one of England's grandest families, from their rise to their unfortunate and very tragic downfall. It's hard not to feel sorry for them, trying to keep their place among England's finest, even when everything is against them (aristocrats, that is). While I felt for the Labour cause (because I always want the underdog to succeed, and in this case, it was sorely needed) the loss of this history hurts. But, alas, that is the pain for a history major. And why it is called "history" to begin with. It is something no longer there, but rich and vibrant. England (and Europe as a whole) has had one of the most vibrant histories ever recorded and there is still so much to learn. I was very pleased with this book and the writing. Ms. Bailey has another book, The Secret Rooms, which I would love to discover and devour, much like I've done here.

*A physical copy of this novel was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

{Review} FAILED MOMENTS by A. Robert Allen

ISBN #: 978-1505814675
Page Count: 244
Copyright: February 5, 2015
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

(Taken from back cover)

What do a biracial plantation owner, an Irish street fighter, and a daydreaming stock trader have in common? A first name? Or, perhaps, the ability to make catastrophic mistakes?

History is chock-full of failed moments, but what if, to fix your own mistakes, you had to right the wrongs of two other men long dead?

Tackling race relations from a unique perspective, Failed Moments, is a thought-provoking adventure through four centuries that questions the measure of a man not by his decision to do no harm, but his willingness to act on what is right.

Charlene's Review:

Patrick’s story begins in a hotel lobby as he waits for a date. Unbeknownst to him, he is actually in a coma and his date is his deceased aunt. As she explains the complexities of their reunion, Patrick is guided back in time to his former lives, where we follow him as he faces societal and racial discriminations. Patrick learns he must right the wrongs of those before him in order to move on to his final reward.

Reminiscent of Dickens' Christmas Carol, Mr. Allen reminds the reader that every action and decision we make causes a ripple effect on the future. Dealing with issues such as racism, social class , and reincarnation, Failed Moments is a sad testament to the worst of mankind, but also to the ability of man to undo the damage by choice and action.

This was a slower read for me, as it unfolds in stages, and I occasionally had to look back to make connections, but it definitely leaves the reader to soulfully question their own connection to the past. Failed Moments is a highly detailed, historically complex novel worthy of recognition.

*A physical copy of the novel was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


ISBN #: 978-0985365363
Page Count: 310
Copyright: September 30, 2014
Publisher: Dave Becker

Book Summary:
(Taken from Goodreads)

Fiery tornadoes cut through quiet forests. Balls of lightning burn everything in their paths. Earthquakes open chasms that swallow vehicles whole. Clement is reeling from a new onslaught of curses, and it all started the day a mysterious, giant woman arrived at Jenna's school.

Jenna Hamilton was just hoping for a normal sophomore year of high school. Instead she finds herself trapped in the middle of devastating plagues, mythical creatures, and a satanic plot to destroy the people she loves most. As she struggles to make sense of her little corner of the world, Jenna learns that the rest of the planet is dying and she may be the key to its survival.

Kathy's Review:

I reviewed the first book in this series, The Faustian Host, almost three years ago. So the details of the first book were a little foggy for me. This is a continuation, but it’s the next year, and this book centers around Jenna, who I don’t even remember from book one, to be perfectly honest. Jenna is part of the group of friends that figured prominently in TFH, most notably Tony.

Like the first book, the second one is fast-paced, chock-full of action, and also packed with literary and historical references that prove to be useful in the kids saving the world at the end, as it were. Some things don’t quite make sense to the reader, but I think for YA fare, the plot holes might be overlooked or simply forgiven because the story is so good. The author is clearly very well read, and his knowledge of history, as well as mythology, feeds well into this book.

At the end, there are more questions than answers, once again leaving the door wide open for the third book. The evil cult that just walks around the town harassing people is still out there and isn’t really neutralized at the end (sorry, spoiler alert). What will they cook up to try to destroy the world in book three? I guess we’ll have to wait and see. If the formula holds true, book three will feature another one of the group of friends as its main character. Who will it be?

*A physical copy of the novel was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


ISBN #: 978-1937546342
Page Count: 412
Copyright: October 3, 2014
Publisher: 48fourteen

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Love is destined to find her...
Dainy doesn't know that she is the lost Duchess of Jordinia, believed to have been assassinated fifteen years ago. Nor does she know that her uncle has implemented an illegal contest to seek her, offering her marriage hand as the reward!

Though at odds, three clashing rivals - including a noble giant, a forest dweller and a thieving rake - voyage together by woodland, prairie and sea to recover the lost royal, notwithstanding the assassins and spies at their tail. Soon, young Dainy is swept into a comically complex romantic quadrangle as each suitor competes to capture her heart.

Charmingly romantic and bursting with political intrigue, startling twists and vivid characters, readers of romance and fantasy alike will adore this original yet timeless tale of swashbuckling adventure and unlikely love.

Shelley's Review:

This book was confusing to say the least.  It was like Moses meets Anastasia Romanof.  Although the book is said by the author to be a timeless story, it was a hard read.  The swashbuckling part and the fact that it involved royalty and castles seemed as though it was in early times.  But the story of the lock that could only be opened by royal blood seemed beyond the time frame of the whole book. I was very disappointed by the whole book and if there is a Book 2, I would not purchase it.

*A physical copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, April 6, 2015

{Review} CATCH US IF YOU CAN by Marc Feinstein

ISBN #: 978-0991515318
Page Count: 474
Copyright: September 14, 2014
Publisher: Oldbrook Books

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Catch Us If You Can is a coming-of-age tale of small town but urban youth growing up in the late 1960s trying to untangle the answer to Bruce Springsteen's haunting question: "Is a dream a lie if it don't come true or is it something worse?"

It is 1967. In Oldbrook, where basketball is a religion and making the high school team is a confirmation, Gene Gennaro is sailing through his freshman year, blown along by the steady prevailing innocent winds of the time — sports, girls, and Rock & Roll. When a tragedy thrusts him into a new world forever rocked by the fateful day, he begins a journey through the berserk times. For Gene, the Summer of Love is a summer of healing, buoyed by The Beatles and basketball. The next three frenetic years of high school are a lifeline as unbreakable as the fidelity of his friendships with five basketball teammates; most of all, Reuben, his best buddy since before kindergarten, whose lifeline at times turns into the rope for a tug-of-war between fate and will, testing their classically loyal friendship.

Mandy's Review:

In the beginning we see that Gene has come back for his 40-year high school reunion. He and Reuben, Gene's best childhood friend, are walking through the old neighborhood reminiscing. Some memories are good and some are ... well ... not so good. It's one of these not-so-good memories that draws the reader into the novel. As the reader continues their exploration into Gene's memories of his high school years, it's expected that the story is building up to the climax of Gene's not-so-good memory that compels the reader to continue. And, while the climax is climatic in its own way, it's not really what I was expecting.

After I finished reading the novel, I sat and contemplated it for a day or so trying to figure out what the purpose of telling Gene's story was. It's not a light read that you can finish in an afternoon. It's focused around basketball, but Gene's not a main player. He mostly sits on the bench. What could be learned from this novel are two things: 1.) things are not always as they appear and 2.) life keeps moving on regardless of what happens.

Gene thought he knew his friends pretty well, especially Reuben. Reuben was portrayed as being everyone's conscious. He always fought for what was right. Reuben never participated in anything shady. Then, after a basketball game one day, Reuben goes berserk and Gene finds out that Reuben took a pill from one of their friends before the game. Gene believed Reuben to be the one friend that he had a relationship with where there were no secrets between them. Finding out that Reuben was hiding something was a wake-up call and growing moment for Gene. He realized, as we all do at some point in our lives, that even friends don't always reveal everything about themselves to others. Maybe it's because they're afraid of being judged or they feel guilty. Whatever the reason, nobody is 100% completely, openly honest with any other human and Gene learned that late in high school.

The personal tragedy that Gene went through was life-altering. To have so much ripped away from you in one moment was heart-wrenching. I'm not going to say that Gene dealt with that situation the best possible way, but he did deal with it a lot better than I would have expected him to.

Catch Us If You Can isn't one of those novels that you can rave about right away. Rather, it's a novel that needs to be thought about and discussed to contemplate the deeper meanings behind the story. I enjoyed this novel for that very reason.

*A physical copy of this novel was provided by the publicist in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, April 3, 2015

First Line Friday #12

First lines of novels can capture your attention, give you a clue to the character's past or present, set the stage for the entire novel, or more. First lines are extremely important and have a great responsibility. With that in mind, we'd like to welcome you to First Line Friday.

Lupe's Read
A crowd of thousands shifted nervously on the great lawn in front of Wentworth House, waiting for the coffin to be brought out. It was the winter of 1902.

Charlene's Read
"No picture. No name. No background," he whispered to himself as he realized none of this missing information mattered.

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