Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Weight of the World: the prequel by A.D. McClover

Weight of the World is the first of a 2-part series featuring Stephon St. Claire aka Saint. Saint is an ambitious, self-motivated dreamer who sees the world for what it is; the haves and the have-nots. His three-year stint in prison for selling cocaine within 1000 feet of a school zone left him feeling abandoned, angry and alone. With the mounting pressure of raising two infant sons that were both born while he was incarcerated, Saint needs to come up with a new master plan for his life. 

Blessed with the gift of gab he trades in the drug game for the underground world of “managing escorts”, which some may refer to as pimping. With his main girl Amanda by his side, things start to look up. 

The money is flowing but it’s too much for one man to handle so he solicits the help of his first cousin Ant. On the way to achieving his ultimate goal of providing a better life for his kids and of course himself; greed, envy and back-stabbing enter the picture. Will Saint rise to the occasion or crumble under pressure? 

The author is serving time in a Florida prison and the story starts out like a long letter from your favorite inmate. I originally struggled with how every other sentence ended in an exclamation point. The story revolves around Saint, who gets out of jail, meets Amanda the first day who agrees to pack up all her belongings and go with him on the road. They go to Atlanta where they get the hotel clerk to quit her job to join Amanda who’s working at a gentlemen’s club while Saint manages their money. Saint then gets a third girl working at the club to join them on their travels after one conversation.

It was at this time that I decided to suspend belief, stop finding the holes in the story and just go with the story. And what do you think happened? Yup, I enjoyed the book. Once I accepted that although the author’s bio states that “his graphic and startling tales are all actually based on his life and the life those he knew in the streets”, the ‘re-telling’ are just the highlights with no substance whatsoever. 

I can see how some details can be true to life but it’s also obvious that the story is based on fantasy. A fantasy from someone serving time All in all, I am not saying that this not a good book, it just needs to find the right audience. AND I wouldn’t be completely opposed to reading his sequel “The World I Once Knew”. McClover has the talent and with some coaching once he gets released, I expect him to become a very successful author.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Roberta

Friday, March 9, 2018

Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson

Growing up, Kate Priddy was always a bit neurotic, experiencing momentary bouts of anxiety that exploded into full-blown panic attacks after an ex-boyfriend kidnapped her and nearly ended her life. When Corbin Dell, a distant cousin in Boston, suggests the two temporarily swap apartments, Kate, an art student in London, agrees, hoping that time away in a new place will help her overcome the recent wreckage of her life.

Soon after her arrival at Corbin’s grand apartment on Beacon Hill, Kate makes a shocking discovery: his next-door neighbor, a young woman named Audrey Marshall, has been murdered. When the police question her about Corbin, a shaken Kate has few answers, and many questions of her own—curiosity that intensifies when she meets Alan Cherney, a handsome, quiet tenant who lives across the courtyard, in the apartment facing Audrey’s. Alan saw Corbin surreptitiously come and go from Audrey’s place, yet he’s denied knowing her. Then, Kate runs into a tearful man claiming to be the dead woman’s old boyfriend, who insists Corbin did the deed the night that he left for London.

When she reaches out to her cousin, he proclaims his innocence and calms her nerves--until she comes across disturbing objects hidden in the apartment and accidentally learns that Corbin is not where he says he is. Could Corbin be a killer? What about Alan? Kate finds herself drawn to this appealing man who seems so sincere, yet she isn’t sure. Jet-lagged and emotionally unstable, her imagination full of dark images caused by the terror of her past, Kate can barely trust herself, so how could she take the chance on a stranger she’s just met?

A completely engrossing story. The type of book that you can’t wait to pick up again to start reading where you left off. It’s better if you can do it in one sitting or at least over a weekend. The story starts out when Kate, having already suffered past trauma with a psychotic boyfriend is thrust into a new situation which has her questioning her sanity and even her luck in attracting psychos.

 Originally from London, she agrees to switch apartments for the summer with Corbin, her distant cousin living in Boston. As soon as she arrives to Boston, she finds out that the next door neighbor was killed the same day her cousin left for London. Although her cousin denies having known her, Kate soon finds out that they were actually involved in a relationship. The story then focuses on the search for the killer with all the main characters narrating from their point of view. Each character is fully drawn with their own intriguing back stories. A very satisfying read. You will recommend and even pass the book along for the next person to enjoy.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Roberta

Friday, November 24, 2017

Upper East Side Girl by Bernard F. Conners

One of the things Parker Livingstone loves about his apartment at 822 Fifth Avenue is that it reminds him of the vanished mother who left it to him. The old building seems almost immune to the passage of time: its foyer, its furnishings, its etiquette are from another era. And once Parker discovers an out-of-service elevator with room to sit and write, he finds he can escape from the present completely. Not so at his job as a junior literary agent, where he faces a demanding boss and an intrusive coworker.He features them both as characters in his novel, the theme of which is his great preoccupation: time.Parker believes that time ultimately renders everything meaningless, and that the present is just an illusion. When Parker meets Sarah, however, he suddenly sees his future.She is all he has ever wanted in a woman: charming, beautiful, smart, confident, cultured.But she is elusive: a chance meeting in the Park, a picnic in the old elevator, and then she is gone again. As Parker's boss and coworker grow increasingly suspicious - demanding to see his manuscript Parker grows increasingly paranoid about losing his job and obsessed with his mystery woman. Who is she? Why are his neighbors silent on the matter? Where does she disappear to? And what might he have to forfeit to be with her? Upper East SideGirl is a moving portrait of a man in love and in crisis, as well as a thoughtful meditation on the nature of time itself." 

When I received this book, I was really surprised at how thin it was and I was a little skeptical whether the story would be very good or not. Once I started reading Upper East Side Girl however I found I was really into the story after the first 10 pages and I hated to put the book down when I had to. I love how Mr. Conners gave a lot of detail to the scenes and the characters. By describing the look of the apartment building I could see it in my mind as if I was there. The way Mr. Conners detailed the characters I felt like I knew them just as well as “Parker.”

I loved how suspenseful the story was and how fast the story seemed to move. Usually it takes me between 4 days-1 month to finish a book, I was able to finish this book in 3 days. Every time I thought I knew what was going on or what would happen next, I always found that my guess was off and I really enjoyed that. I love when a story can keep me guessing and interested throughout the entire book.

     I have never read any of Bernard F. Conners books before, but I loved this book and think he did an amazing job with this novel. I plan to read his other books now and I hope they are just as great as this one was. I liked how short all the chapters were, I knew that if I had to put the book down that I could finish a chapter beforehand and not worry about being in the middle of one. I think that short chapters are great for those readers who love to read but have short attention spans. 

I liked that the novel felt like a vintage type. To me it felt like I was reading a vintage story, but at the same time it could be set in today’s time as well. Out of a 10 I give Upper East Side Girl by Bernard F. Conners a 9 and Mr. Conners a 9 as well. I can’t wait to read more of his stuff!

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Tiffany

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Survivor's Guide to Family Happiness by Maddie Dawson

Three women, three lives, and one chance to become a family…whether they want to or not.

Newly orphaned, recently divorced, and semiadrift, Nina Popkin is on a search for her birth mother. She’s spent her life looking into strangers’ faces, fantasizing they’re related to her, and now, at thirty-five, she’s ready for answers.

Meanwhile, the last thing Lindy McIntyre wants is someone like Nina bursting into her life, announcing that they’re sisters and campaigning to track down their mother. She’s too busy with her successful salon, three children, beautiful home, and…oh yes, some pesky little anxiety attacks.

But Nina is determined to reassemble her birth family. Her search turns up Phoebe Mullen, a guarded, hard-talking woman convinced she has nothing to offer. Gradually sharing stories and secrets, the three women make for a messy, unpredictable family that looks nothing like Nina pictured…but may be exactly what she needs. Nina’s moving, ridiculous, tragic, and transcendent journey becomes a love story proving that real family has nothing to do with DNA.

Nina Popkin wants to know about her past.  The death of her adoptive mother sends her on a search for answers about her birth mother and the circumstances of her adoption.  Who does she take after?  Who does she look like?  And the most important question of all—to whom does she belong?  In The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness, author Maddie Dawson explores what it means to be a family and how one woman ends up building her own.

            Nina first meets her sister, a woman that she went to school with, and knew only peripherally.  The meeting does not go as planned, though, and Lindy (birth name: Poppet), has mixed feelings about meeting Nina (birth name: Kate).  Nina just seems so unstable—living in her dead mother’s condo, divorced, and too needy.  Through many attempts, the two decide to work together to find their birth mother and learn the secrets of their past.
            The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness is ultimately a book about creating a family for yourself.  Nina comes to accept her own flaws and the quirks of other people and is able to move forward in her life.  There is a subplot about Nina’s new romance with a newly divorced dad and his two teenage children.  Nina, the love-them-and-let-them-go type, becomes the de-facto mother to the kids and learns that parenting is not as easy as it seems.

            When Nina finally meets her mother, she is surprised to learn that she is a moderately famous musician.  Far from receiving the welcome she expected, Nina is faced with a woman who regrets her life choices and just wants a quiet existence.  While Lindy and Nina pursue answers from their mother, Phoebe, she has to decide how much of her past she wants to reveal.

            The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness had many appealing aspects.  I liked the relationship between Nina and her new boyfriend, the divorced dad, as well as the interactions she had with his children.  His daughter, Indigo, had the most vibrant characterization of anyone else in the book.  She was spirited, and I enjoyed reading about her growth. I also enjoyed Nina’s voice in the beginning of the book.  Her character was full of sharp quips and great personality.

            As the book continued, I became disappointed by the overly dramatic push-pull of the relationships in the book.  Nina was either pulling or pushing her sister, the mother was pulling or pushing the daughters, the teenager was pushing or pulling Indigo.  It was enough to give me whiplash, but it really just made for a tedious middle of the book.  In addition, when the big reveal for the circumstances of the adoption, I realized that there was no big reveal at all.  Most of it had been told in a prologue at the beginning of the novel, and the part that had not been revealed, was underwhelming.

            The theme of making your own family shone through loud and clear, but I wish there had been a little less push-pull and a little more actual drama.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Regina

Monday, October 9, 2017

Royally Roma (The Royals #1) by Teri Wilson

In this charming, modern retelling of the classic Audrey Hepburn film Roman Holiday, a royal prince tries to escape his hectic and rigid life and ends up leading a young graduate student on a chase through the Eternal City.

Julia Costa is too busy trying to complete her PhD while also holding down a full-time job as a private tour guide in Rome to keep up with celebrity gossip. So when she crosses paths with a real, actual prince, she mistakes him for a client and takes him on a daylong tour of the city.

Intrigued by the idea of spending time with someone who obviously has no idea who he is, and delighted at the prospect of a day free of royal obligations, Niccolo La Torre, Crown Prince of Lazaretto, acts on impulse and assumes the role of Julia’s client. He swears to himself that he’ll return to his royal duties after only half a day…but he’s having the time of his life.

Until Julia presents him with the bill. Since he snuck out of the hotel without so much as a dime, he tries to escape, only to discover that she won’t let him out of her sight until he can pay her back. She’s determined to get her money…and perhaps more from the handsome stranger she’s fallen for. 

With a nod toward the classic film, Roman HolidayRoyally Roma by Teri Wilson is a breezy, light-hearted romp through the streets of Rome and other Italian locales.  This sweet confection is the perfect escapist novel.

            Julia takes her job as a tour guide seriously.  A graduate student with a day job taking wide-eyed tourists around Rome, Julia is trying to escape the shadow of a family scandal that nearly ruined her life.  Add a disastrous relationship, and Julia is just trying to make do in the beautiful city she loves.  When a new tour goes terribly wrong, she is determined to stand up for herself and get the compensation she deserves.

            Niccolo La Torre, Crown Prince of Lazaretto, is tired of being the responsible prince.  While his brother recklessly parties and shames the family name as a playboy prince, Niccolo is left to uphold royal responsibilities and please his grandfather, the King.  Niccolo, faced with a schedule as daunting as it is boring, decides that he needs one free day where no one knows who he is.  When he sees Julia in a restaurant, Niccolo decides to pose as Julia’s client.  Now, if only he can make it through the crowded streets without being recognized or found by his princely security detail, Niccolo might just have time to fall in love.

            If you can suspend your disbelief and accept a few flaws, you will enjoy Royally Roma.  There was definitely some insta-love between Niccolo and Julia, though there were a few measly efforts to make the relationship take a while to develop.  It really did not seem realistic that the prince would not be recognized just because he shaved his beard.  And my biggest problem was with the whole reveal of the two characters’ deepest secrets to one another—Julia revealing her family problem and Niccolo revealing his status.  The scene, long awaited, was over so quickly that I was left scratching my head and rereading.  All that build-up for so little drama!

            But really, I did not care all that much about the flaws.  I needed to read a lighthearted book, and Royally Roma delivered.  I would absolutely read other books in the series, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Regina

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

When editor Susan Ryeland is given the manuscript of Alan Conway’s latest novel, she has no reason to think it will be much different from any of his others. After working with the bestselling crime writer for years, she’s intimately familiar with his detective, Atticus P√ľnd, who solves mysteries disturbing sleepy English villages. An homage to queens of classic British crime such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, Alan’s traditional formula has proved hugely successful. So successful that Susan must continue to put up with his troubling behavior if she wants to keep her job.

This book was a delightful read. It starts out by introducing us to Susan, the editor of the hugely successful Atticus Pund series. Excited to receive the manuscript for what is to be number nine in the series, she dives right into the story that evening. This story is a murder mystery set in a typically idyllic English village. Imagine our (Susan and the reader’s) surprise when we get to the end of the story only to discover that the last chapters are missing. And right when Atticus is about to reveal who was the killer! Figuring out she’ll get the two missing chapters in the morning, Susan outlines her theories of who is the possible killer and there are enough suspicious characters to keep us busy.

 Unfortunately (spoiler alert!), the author Alan Conway turns up dead the next morning. This is where the second murder mystery starts, with Susan trying to find the missing chapters but ultimately figuring out that Alan’s death was suspicious. I won’t go into more detail so as not to spoil it for others but suffice to say, both endings, the fictionalized story and the author’s death were solved to my satisfaction. 

I’m sure this is not the first book with a story within the story but the writing really makes the reader feel as if there were two separate books. They each have a distinctively different writing style with more than half being the Atticus story. The reader ends up getting two great stories/mysteries for the price of one book!

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Roberta

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

He was the first person to inspire her, to move her, to truly understand her. Was he meant to be the last?

Lucy is faced with a life-altering choice. But before she can make her decision, she must start her story—their story—at the very beginning.

Lucy and Gabe meet as seniors at Columbia University on a day that changes both of their lives forever. Together, they decide they want their lives to mean something, to matter. When they meet again a year later, it seems fated—perhaps they’ll find life’s meaning in each other. But then Gabe becomes a photojournalist assigned to the Middle East and Lucy pursues a career in New York. What follows is a thirteen-year journey of dreams, desires, jealousies, betrayals, and, ultimately, of love. Was it fate that brought them together? Is it choice that has kept them away? Their journey takes Lucy and Gabe continents apart, but never out of each other’s hearts.

     Upon getting this book, I couldn’t wait to read this book. But upon reading the summary on the back cover I was a little unsure if I would like the story or not. I liked this story, but I had a hard time keeping it straight which character was “talking” at that point in the story. I found I could really get into the story every time I was able to pick it up. I was just a little confused on the characters each time and it would take me a little bit more time to read but I still enjoyed the book, I really liked the characters I found them to both interesting; both whenever they were together and as individuals.

     I really liked how the author organized the story and the way she made the story seem reminiscent to One Day (book & movie.) One of the things I do think would have helped me be able to follow the book easier is if there were sections/areas where it was mentioned who was supposed to be “talking” or “remembering.” I really liked the way the 2 characters intertwined over the course of 13 years; I found it an odd number, but figured maybe it could be Ms. Santopolo’s lucky number and that’s why she had written it that way. I really like the way Ms. Santopolo wrote the story, I just think it would have been easier to read if I knew which character was “talking” at that moment. I give The Light We Lost an 8 out of 10 and Jill Santopolo a 9 out of 10.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Tiffany