Tuesday, August 25, 2015

{Review} THE BEAUTIFUL BUREAUCRAT by Helen Phillips

ISBN #: 978-1627793766
Page Count: 192
Copyright: August 11, 2015
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.


A young wife's new job pits her against the unfeeling machinations of the universe in this dazzling first novel Ursula K. Le Guin hails as "funny, sad, scary, beautiful. I love it."

In a windowless building in a remote part of town, the newly employed Josephine inputs an endless string of numbers into something known only as The Database. After a long period of joblessness, she's not inclined to question her fortune, but as the days inch by and the files stack up, Josephine feels increasingly anxious in her surroundings-the office's scarred pinkish walls take on a living quality, the drone of keyboards echoes eerily down the long halls. When one evening her husband Joseph disappears and then returns, offering no explanation as to his whereabouts, her creeping unease shifts decidedly to dread.

As other strange events build to a crescendo, the haunting truth about Josephine's work begins to take shape in her mind, even as something powerful is gathering its own form within her. She realizes that in order to save those she holds most dear, she must penetrate an institution whose tentacles seem to extend to every corner of the city and beyond. Both chilling and poignant, The Beautiful Bureaucrat is a novel of rare restraint and imagination. With it, Helen Phillips enters the company of Murakami, Bender, and Atwood as she twists the world we know and shows it back to us full of meaning and wonder-luminous and new.

Charlene's Review:

Normally, this would be where I deliver a short synopsis of my own, but honestly, I can’t. I’m not entirely sure what I read. Or why. The sheer strangeness was the only constant, and while I understood the outcome, most of the surrounding details of the novel did not actually play into it. I finished it, mainly because I kept hoping it would all make sense to me. It never did.

A very short novel, but not very entertaining for me. Perhaps true sci-fi readers would get more out of it, but I just did not.

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

Sunday, August 23, 2015

{2015 Amazing Book Race Challenge Review} THE FIRST FIFTEEN LIVES OF HARRY AUGUST by Claire North

Lupe's Review:

It's not often that I am truly blown away by a book, so much so, that as I sit alone at home and close it, I still say "Wow" out loud to no one. This does that. It was closely reminiscent to The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell, with the whole ability to come back in another life, but in this case, Harry August comes back as himself over and over, and has to relive his past time and time again. He always sees his mother die, always finds the Chronus Club and always befriends Vincent. Their friendship (which is an immensely complicated and unhealthly codependent one) is one of true beauty. Combine this with the fact that suddenly members of the Chronus Club and, by and large, others with the ability to die and come back, are vanishing or worse, not being born at all, Harry is tasked at the deathbed of one of his lives to find out WHY the world is ending so much faster than it should. This is a fantastic work of time travel, historical fiction, mixed with some quantum physics. I wasn't sure what I expected this novel to be, but what I was given was so much better. I was given hearbreak and sadness, with a mix of awe and reverence. I am saddened that this is a library book and that I have to turn it in, since I would re-read this in a heartbeat. So I will have to make this a staple on my bookshelf instead. Really, this was a wonderful work and I feel like I need to go and think about it a bit more.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

{Review} 100 DAYS OF HAPPINESS by Fausto Brizzi

ISBN #: 978-0525427377
Page Count: 384
Copyright: August 11, 2015
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books

(Taken from book flap)

Imperfect, unfaithful but lovable Lucio Battistini has been thrown out of the house by his wife and is sleeping in the stock room of his father-in-law’s bombolini bakery when he learns he has inoperable cancer. And so begins the last 100 days of Lucio’s life as he sets out to right his wrongs, win back his wife (the love of his life and afterlife), and become the kind of father he’d always imagined. From helping his hopelessly romantic widowed father-in-law find love, savoring the joys of lifelong friendship and brotherhood, to rediscovering - as if for the first time - the streets of his beloved Rome, Lucio spends the next three months becoming the man he’s always meant to be. Most of all, he enjoys every last moment on earth. In 100 wistful, touching, and often hilarious chapters - one for each of his remaining days - 100 Days of Happiness is a love letter to family, romance, and life itself - reminding us all of what matters most.

Charlene's Review:

Lucio Battistini is your average husband and father. He loves his wife, but he cheated, and she summarily throws him out. As he is pondering his next step, he is diagnosed with liver cancer. Given a very short 3 month prognosis, he sets out to make every day count. He starts a journal with his intentions, the first being " Get Paola to forgive me." The remainder of the novel chronicles his remaining days as he sets out to reclaim his wife’s love, and truly live for the first time in his life.

I think we have all seen movies or heard stories about the cancer diagnosis and how the patient tries to squeeze in every last item on there bucket list. This is what I was expecting when I opened the pages of 100 Days of Happiness. In theory, I suppose that is what this is, but in a more personal, heartwarming way. This novel is about relationships, and what love really looks like in its most selfless forms. It’s about the ties that we have made and the people we have known.

The simplicity in which Lucio lives out his last days is what struck me as most beautiful. What could have been a sad, depressing tale actually caused me to wake up to the everyday things we take for granted. Lucio’s father-in-law likened it to this: "When all is said and done, Lucio my lad, the true meaning of life is nothing more than taking a bite out of a hot doughnut."

Go ahead, take a bite.

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

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

{Review} AUNT DIMITY AND THE SUMMER KING by Nancy Atherton

ISBN #: 978-0670026708
Page Count: 240
Copyright: April 14, 2015
Publisher: Viking

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Cozy mystery lovers’ favorite paranormal sleuth is back with her twentieth otherworldly adventure

It’s June, the roses are in bloom, and the small English village of Finch may be in big trouble. Two cottages are for sale, but something—or someone—is driving buyers away. Has a developer targeted Finch? Will property values skyrocket? Will a wave of wealthy weekenders drive out the longtime locals?

Lori Shepherd has a lot on her plate—a brand-new baby daughter, her father-in-law’s impending nuptials, and a visit from her dreaded aunts-in-law—but she refuses to stand back and watch while big money destroys her beloved village. Lori suspects that a local real estate agent is illicitly lining her pockets at Finch’s expense, but before she can prove it, she’s sidetracked by a chance encounter with an eccentric inventor. Arthur Hargreaves, dubbed the Summer King by his quirky family, is as warmhearted as the summer sun. In his presence, Lori forgets her troubles—and Finch’s. Lori snaps out of her happy trance when a series of unsettling discoveries shakes her faith in Arthur Hargreaves. She stumbles across a detailed map of Finch in Hillfont Abbey. An ancient feud between Finch and the Hargreaves family comes to light. Arthur appears to be making secret deals with the shady realtor. Is the Summer King as kind as he seems?

With Aunt Dimity’s otherworldly help—and her new baby girl in her arms—Lori mounts a crusade to save her village from the Summer King’s scorching greed.

Mandy's Review:

What an adorable, fun novel.

Finch is a town where everyone knows everything about everyone ... and they talk about it to anyone that'll listen. It really is a well-run community where participation in annual events is expected. And, as with any small town, they're in a long-time feud with a neighboring village. Lori finds out about all of this during her dual investigations.

One of Lori's investigations concerns the empty houses cropping up in Finch. She begins to think someone is purposefully keeping people out of Finch when the empty houses are perfectly suited for living in. Speaking with Finch's real estate agent doesn't do anything to alleviate Lori's fears. Lori is determined to get to the bottom of the housing situation and get new families integrated into her little community.

The other investigation Lori is conducting involves the Summer King. During a morning walk, Lori and her baby take an overgrown path. What they find is a unique, quirky man with a wreath on his head. Arthur, the Summer King, intrigues Lori and she determines to find out more about him ... and to find out why nobody has ever mentioned him to her before.

I was a little upset to find out that this was the 20th book in this series. It wouldn't have upset me if I didn't absolutely love how this book draws you in and makes you forget how much time is passing. I want to read every single one of these novels. My absolutely favorite part is the blue book Lori pulls down off the shelf on occasion. I'm not going to tell you why. You'll have to read the book to find that out for yourself.

If you're looking for a cozy mystery that's a fun read and doesn't have any coarse language, then this is the book (and possibly series) for you.

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

Thursday, August 13, 2015

{Review} PRETTY IS by Maggie Mitchell

ISBN #: 978-1627791489
Page Count: 320
Copyright: July 7, 2015
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; First Edition

(Taken from book flap)

The summer precocious Lois and pretty Carly May were twelve years old, they were kidnapped, driven across the country, and held in a cabin in the woods for two months by a charismatic stranger. Nearly twenty years later, Lois has become a professor, teaching British literature at a small college in upstate New York, and Carly May is an actress in Los Angeles, drinking too much and struggling to revive her career. When a movie with a shockingly familiar plot draws the two women together once more, they must face the public exposure of their secret history and confront the dark longings and unspeakable truths that haunt them still. Maggie Mitchell's Pretty Is beautifully defies ripped-from-the-headlines crime story expectations and announces the debut of a masterful new storytelling talent.

Charlene's Review:

Leading a fairly reclusive life, Lois is never far away in thought from her former life. A teacher and writer, Louis penned a novel based on her experiences as an abducted child. As the novel hits the big screen, the only person that shares the original experience, Carly May, or Chloe Savage, as she is now called, is chosen to act in the movie, bringing the girls full circle from their life-time attempt to escape the memory of the kidnapping. When a mysterious stranger appears to know a little too much about the past, Lois must confront her worst fears, in order to survive.

I found the story fascinating, as we began to learn of two girls from different backgrounds specifically "chosen" by the mysterious "Zed". In two months of captivity, we glimpse the obscure, but mostly kind, treatment of the captives, and their increasing dependency and love for their captor. We watch, through alternating accounts, the effect of Zed on the girls maturity and future. And we bear witness to the psychological trauma that haunts them throughout their adult life.

Pretty Is left me with more questions than answers. I would have loved to see more development regarding Zed, while planning his abduction; from the mysterious Sean, to explain his sinister intentions; and even from the girls, as they aged, although if they were left with no motivation from Zed, that would most definitely leave them confused as to what really did happen to them.

This was a perfectly adequate psychological thriller that I believe could have been phenomenal with a bit more information. The writing style was engaging and the premise riveting. Overall, I enjoyed it, but was left wondering what truly happened.

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

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

{Review} GHOST CHASER: THE CURSE OF STEEL by Dedrick Frazier

ISBN #: 978-1478750741
Page Count: 248
Copyright: February 13, 2015
Publisher: Outskirts Press

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Life is a tragic comedy. And then we die.

In a world that rarely allows for second chances, Dorian Steel has found himself with just such an opportunity. Orphaned as a baby and later incarcerated as a teen, his life has been anything but happy or normal. Now, the visions have started. The nightmares of a dark presence have brought him no peace, but rather an ominous warning. The demons from a past he does not know will not die. Still, that's only the beginning of his troubles. Hell is coming with razor-sharp claws.

A loner by nature, Steel prefers to keep his head low while creating works of art as a landscaper, but he cannot escape the ugly truth that you don't always get to choose your destiny--sometimes it chooses you. The psychic abilities that have been a curse in his eyes are stronger than he realizes and more important than he could ever imagine. He is a man riddled with guilt for his past mistakes and he does not let himself forget them. As a personal punishment, Steel keeps himself from the one woman that can make him happy, but that will change when his nightmares become reality. Soon, his fears and desires will collide. An ancient evil draws near. Andras is the god of quarrels. He is a pure-bred demon that was reared from the very flesh of Lucifer, but even Hell won't have this abomination.

Banished from the lakes of fire, Andras seeks to take the land that God made for man as his own--a second Hell. Hoping to unleash his thirty legions of demonic souls upon an unsuspecting human race, nothing short of complete annihilation will satisfy him, but there is one problem. A group of hunters has exiled the son of Lucifer to a dark, mountainous terrain in another dimension using a sacred and mystical weapon known as a Keris--a small curved dagger made centuries ago in Indonesia. In order for his reign to come to fruition, Andras must escape this prison.

Shelley's Review:

Ghost Chaser: The Curse of Steel by Dedrick Frazier  was an intriguing read.  Dorian Steel, the main character, represents the type of person that everyone knows. He is a victim of unfortunate circumstances, with no permanent home as a youth, and subjected to the foster care system.  A system that unfortunately fails him and he leaves him to fall in with the criminal element.  After he has paid for his crimes, he returns to Mystic, the town he grew up in, to ask Father John for advice.    He is tortured by images and demons that seek to destroy him and all that he holds dear.

Father John has had dealings with the demons haunting Dorian; unfortunately believing they have been destroyed in the past. Dorian enlists the help of Carmen Calliente, a friend and part of his foster family.  Dorian realizes he has feelings for Carmen and she becomes his adversary. In his attempt to help Dorian and Carmen, Father John is killed by the all too familiar demon.

Dorian experiences hallucinations, premonitions and is hunted down by the images of people he believed were friends.  No one and nothing is as he has believed and he eventually comes face to face with the demons in the timeless fight of good versus evil.

Mr. Frazier has created a thought provoking work of art.  The story is fascinating and draws the reader in to the point of searching their own beliefs.  Great book; people will be waiting anxiously for his next literary quest.

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

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


ISBN #: 978-1942255048
Page Count: 300
Copyright: May 21, 2015
Publisher: Bats in the Boathouse Press

Book Description:
(Taken from Amazon)

Bad luck and worse choices—that’s Irene. She’s been a widow half her life and now splits her time between waitressing at the Rise and Shine cafĂ© and singing in an oldies cover band. And she’s having an affair with a married man—something that even her eclectic, super liberal family can’t condone. She’d be the first one to admit she has faults, but she’s not a bigot. The genetic pool in her nuclear family spans the globe. And it’s not that she’s prejudiced against people with disabilities but that doctors and wheelchairs give her the heebie-jeebies. So when a cute guy in a chair keeps showing up in the restaurant, she’s clumsy, awkward and strangely drawn. Can Irene let go of the past or is she too emotionally broken to find a future worth the risk?

Mandy's Review:

First, I love that the Lacland novels intertwine but not so much that they can't be read as stand-alone novels. If you've not read a Lacland story before and wonder where it all begins, have no fear! Begin where you want, but if you're a little OCD like me you can begin with Releasing Gillian's Wolves.

Irene's family is very close-knit and unique. With their genetics covering quite a few minorities, Irene's family is an easy target for racist groups. Having those experiences, you'd think Irene would be cognizant of another person's differences and be sensitive to that person. Not entirely true. Meeting an attractive guy in a wheelchair throws her for a loop and Irene has a tendency to offend him time and again.

I found Irene's lack of a verbal filter, and her cluelessness when she offends, to be somewhat overdone. At times she seems to be uncaring that she's offended a disabled person. Also, she's been widowed for half her life and she's held on to anger and hurt for the entire time. We're talking about 20 years here. So much so that she couldn't talk about her dead husband to their son in present day. Maybe it's just me, and maybe I get over things quicker than others, but I think 20 years to be a bit excessive. Surely in 20 years' time she could have found several opportunities to buck up and share memories with her son about his father. I don't know ... like I said, maybe it's just me.

Despite Irene's roughness and lack of sensitivity, I really did enjoy this novel. The small-town atmosphere really does draw you in and makes you want to get to know the characters in the novel. I would love to see what happens with Irene's son in the future.

Please don't let my negative comments turn you away from reading this. It's a quick read that will keep you company on a lonely night. Give it a chance.

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