Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta

 Jace Wilson is an ordinary kid.  When he is dared to jump from the top of a rock quarry, he foolishly agrees.  But, he is not at all sure that he is capable of it.  In order to test his mettle, Jace goes to the spot alone and jumps off.  His descent is not the most terrifying part of his experience, however.  The dead body he finds is.  In this opening chapter of Those Who Wish Me Dead, Michael Koryta, sets the pace for a thrilling ride through Jace’s fight for his life.
            As if the dead body was not enough, Jace hears the Blackwell brothers, the murderers, trying to find him.  He is fortunate to escape with his life.  The Blackwell brothers know who Jace is, however, and are ready to kill him.  Jace needs protection, so he goes “off the grid” at a wilderness camp for troubled young men.  Jace, who has always been well behaved, has to find a way to fit in with the other campers. He also builds a relationship with Ethan, the man in charge of the camp who will teach Jace survival skills.
            The Blackwell brothers are not giving up on finding Jace.  They trace him to the wilderness program and in order to get Ethan to bring the boy back, they burn down Ethan’s house and attack his wife.  From there, it is a race to see if the Blackwell brothers can succeed in their mission to kill Jace or whether Jace can manage to survive.
            Fast paced and thrilling, Those Who Wish Me Dead was a great read.  The characters were well drawn and the little survival lessons in the book were great.  Ethan was a strong character and he was well matched to the task of fighting the Blackwells.
            My only criticism is that the bad guys seem just a little too evil and omnipresent.  In some ways, they were not just thugs, but rather like preternatural assassins coming to get this young witness.
            Full of interesting plot twists (including a major one at the end that I did not see coming), Those Who Wish Me Dead, was an action-packed page-turner.  I loved it.

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

Monday, July 21, 2014

Thornbrook Park by Sherri Browning

Eve Kendal has been battered by circumstance.  Though she married for love, her family thought that she was marrying beneath her station.  They disowned her for marrying Ben, an army captain, instead of an earl.  However, the couple is able to forge a new life in India and they are quite happy—until a natural disaster results in Ben’s death.  Eve expects to be able to live on her widow’s pension and the savings that she and Ben have accumulated.  When the money is not forthcoming, Eve decides to return to England and count on the largesse of her friends.  Such is the setting for Thornbrook Park by Sherri Browning.
            In 1906, there was not much choice for financially strapped women but to impose upon their friends for help (unless they were ready to work as a governess), so when Eve writes to her friend, Sophia, she is pleased to be offered a place to stay at Averford House.  Averford House is the dower house that is near to Sophia’s estate, Thornbrook.  When Eve arrives she is delighted to relax in comfort—until a commotion on the hall alerts her to the presence of Captain Marcus Thorne, Sophia’s brother-in-law. 
            Marcus is haunted by his past as a soldier and suffers from frequent black rages.  He is able to control these through forays into the prizefighting ring.  When he loses a fight, he returns to Thornbrook, drunk as can be.  In the throes of a flashback to the war, Eve ministers to him and seeks to provide comfort.
            Flash forward and both Marcus and Eve are at Thornbrook.  Lady Sophia, who wishes that Marcus would marry her sister, Alice, threatens their budding romance.  This would keep the family close by and provide that any children from the union would remain near.  In addition, Eve needs to solve the mystery of her missing funds.  She seeks the help of a lawyer, who is mysteriously murdered.  Her quest to find out about her money, as well as to honor Sophia’s hope that Marcus marries her sister, forms the rest of the novel.
While I found Thornbrook Park to follow a predictable romance novel formula (boy meets girl, obstacle, obstacle, life threatening event, happily ever after), there is one thing that Browning did quite well.  When Marcus and Eve sleep together and are ruining Sophia’s plan to get her sister, Alice, married off to Marcus, both characters do the right thing—and confess their relationship.  While this led to complications for the both of them, they did it anyway.  This avoided “the great misunderstanding that can be solved with a conversation” that is present in a lot of romance novels.  I found that quite refreshing.
            The rest of the novel is pleasant, if not predictable.  The last third of the book, in particular, follows the standard romance novel arc with an appearance by the villain and a blessed event.  There were no surprises there.  If I had to grade Thornbrook Park, I would give it an average grade.  It was nothing remarkable, but it was a fun diversion.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.  Regina

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Miting by Dee Yoder

Leah is seventeen and Amish. Like many her age, she has lots of questions, but the temporary flight of freedom known as rumspringen is not the answer for her. She does not desire Englisher fashion, all-night parties, movies, or lots of boyfriends. Leah is seeking to understand her relationship with God, to deepen and broaden her faith by joining a Bible study hosted by an ex-Amish couple. She wants to know why Amish life is the only lifestyle her family accepts, why the church has so many rules, and . . . most disturbing, how godly men can allow her best friend to be abused in her own home. In the pressure-cooker environment of church and family, Leah is not allowed to ask these questions. When finally she reaches the breaking point, she walks away from the Old Order Amish life that is all she has known. Though adapting amiably to the Englisher world, Leah is tormented with homesickness. Returning to the community, however, entails a journey of pain and sorrow Leah could never have imagined. The miting--shunning--that will now be Leah's unendurable oppression every day is beyond her most devoted attempts to believe or understand. All the bishop and her family ask is that she abandon her practice of reading the Bible. Is that a price she is willing to pay?

 Seventeen year old Leah is curious about the Bible and in her search to better understand God, she joins a Bible Study group without the knowledge of her family. It is through this group that she learns that God is not the one dictating all the specific rules that her order says they have to follow. I have always been fascinated by the Amish and this book offered great insight into their world. It explains how each order’s beliefs and customs can vary depending on their head Bishop. Some orders will even allow indoor plumbing, phone and propane use, and so on. Other orders, including Leah’s which is a Old Order, are very strict. For example, Leah’s order dictates that they cannot use buttons on their dresses, the specific types of curtains they can put on their windows and that no flowers can be planted on their yard.
Leah’s family eventually learn about her Bible Study group and forbids her to continue attending since per Amish beliefs, church leaders are the only ones allowed to interpret the Bible. Leah insistence on continuing to read the Bible and the problem it caused for her and her family eventually forces her to leave her family and friends behind. Although it breaks her heart, she wants the freedom to learn more about God. This results in the “miting” or shunning by her people. She does attempt to come back due to her extreme homesickness but quickly realizes that she cannot stay with her newly acquired knowledge of what the Bible is stating versus what her church dictates of their followers. Yoder did a great job of exploring the heartbreak that comes with each of Leah’s decisions. This book has two great things going for it; not only is it a compelling story but it also offers an inside look into the Amish culture for anyone who has ever been curious about their beliefs and customs.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.  Roberta

Monday, July 14, 2014

Dark Moon Series - Name a Werewolf Contest!

How would you like to have a chance for a character YOU named be in a popular new series soon to be published by Dark Feed Press with GMTA Publishing? 

Sounds like a dream come true, right? 

Well here is your chance, read below to find out how you can be a part of this amazing new series soon to be released! 

Like the Dark Moon Series Facebook Page and tell us the story behind why you are choosing that name you're submitting.  

On August 12th, 2014 we will choose a winner at random and the name you've chosen will appear in our next book "Dark Harvest."

  RULES: The name can not be a celebrity name or contain curse words.  We retain the right to use the character as it pertains to the story. This means they could have a short run (two book minimum) or a long story arc. Who knows how that character will develop. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Farm by Tom Rob Smith

Atmospheric and creepy, The Farm by Tom Rob Smith, is a twisty thriller that takes you on a quest to find the truth within a family—and dares you to discover who is telling the truth.
         Daniel is a young man living in London. He is somewhat of an underachiever, and he has distanced himself emotionally from his parents.  When his parents retire to a farm in Sweden, Daniel contents himself with occasional phone calls to maintain contact with his parents.  Sweden, after all, is his mother’s homeland, and Daniel envisions them having a bucolic life on the farm.  This assumption is challenged, however, by a harried call from his father.
         The phone call claims that Daniel’s mother is mentally unstable.  She is developing conspiracy theories—seeing things in ways that are psychotic.  His father has had her committed.  As Daniel rushes to the airport, he is told that his mother has been released from the hospital.  As his anxiety heightens, he receives a phone call from his mother, telling her that she is on her way to him.  He is cautioned that she will run away if Daniel tells his father, and thus, the strange tale of Tilde, Daniel’s mother begins.
         Upon her arrival, she uses artifacts to lay out a case against the men that live in the town where her farm is located.  Her primary target is a neighbor of the farm, Hakan Greggson, who Tilde is convinced is trying to send her secret messages of disapproval and disdain.  She is concerned for Greggson’s missing daughter, Mia, and takes great lengths to prove her theories.
         The question that you are left with as you read The Farm is:  Is Tilde crazy?  Are her assertions correct? Normally, I would devour this type of novel, trying to figure out if her assertions were true.  I think that if her thoughts and conclusions made logical sense, The Farm would have been a great book.  Unfortunately, I thought she was completely crazy and most of the book read like the ravings of a nut.  I was not able to form an attachment to Tilde as a wronged person, so I did not experience the tension I would have if I had believed her. Though in the end she is somewhat vindicated, the overemphasis on her ravings and the lack of development of other characters made this book more of a slog than an enjoyable experience.  None of the other characters are really fleshed out, and I did not understand the motivations for their actions and thoughts.  So, I had to rely on Tilde. 
         Hardcore thriller readers would probably enjoy The Farm, but I am ready to find another book and get into the mind of a more lucid character.
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Regina

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams

Manhattan, 1964. Vivian Schuyler, newly graduated from Bryn Mawr College, has recently defied the privilege of her storied old Fifth Avenue family to do the unthinkable for a budding Kennedy-era socialite: break into the Mad Men world of razor-stylish Metropolitan magazine. But when she receives a bulky overseas parcel in the mail, the unexpected contents draw her inexorably back into her family’s past, and the hushed-over crime passionnel of an aunt she never knew, whose existence has been wiped from the record of history.

Berlin, 1914. Violet Schuyler Grant endures her marriage to the philandering and decades-older scientist Dr. Walter Grant for one reason: for all his faults, he provides the necessary support to her liminal position as a young American female physicist in prewar Germany. The arrival of Dr. Grant’s magnetic former student at the beginning of Europe’s fateful summer interrupts this delicate d├ętente. Lionel Richardson, a captain in the British Army, challenges Violet to escape her husband’s perverse hold, and as the world edges into war and Lionel’s shocking true motives become evident, Violet is tempted to take the ultimate step to set herself free and seek a life of her own conviction with a man whose cause is as audacious as her own.

As the iridescent and fractured Vivian digs deeper into her aunt’s past and the mystery of her ultimate fate, Violet’s story of determination and desire unfolds, shedding light on the darkness of her years abroad . . . and teaching Vivian to reach forward with grace for the ambitious future––and the love––she wants most.

I love the way Ms. Williams wrote this story; I think she has a knack for writing novels that will catch a reader’s attention within the first paragraph. I really loved reading this book and was a little sad to see it end.  I loved the characters “Vivian” and “Violet,” I felt like I could see myself a little bit in both of them and their particular situations. I also like the time frame that this story was taking place in.

 I felt like the chapters where “Violet” was a main character was pretty suspenseful and couldn’t wait to get to the next page just to see what would happen next. The chapters where “Vivian” was the main character I was quite curious to see what choices she would make concerning her life and her career. I didn’t really like “Violet’s” husband Lionel; I couldn’t stand him and the way he treated her. I understand why Ms. Williams made him that way though because how else would “Violet” have become such a strong character and be able to have secrets that would be hidden still for 50 years before “Vivian” would uncover them. I really enjoyed this story and this author; I give this book and Ms. Williams an “A+.”

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

Sunday, June 29, 2014

No Alligators in Sight by Kirsten B. Feldman

In this coming of age novel, Lettie and Bert squeak by in a tiny town on Cape Cod, one parent an alcoholic and the other absent. After a string of bad decisions on Lettie’s part, their father ships them to their barely remembered mother for the summer, where they will learn hard lessons about themselves, their family, and their future by way of the Florida swamp. Throughout Lettie keeps her biting humor flowing, her razor-sharp pen at the ready, and her eye on her quest for a “normal” life.

Leticia's mother abandoned her so long ago that she can't even remember what she looks like.  Lettie and her brother have spent their childhood growing up with an alcoholic father, Joel.  Life is less than perfect.  Lettie has daydreams about what her mother will be like.  When she's caught shoplifting, Joel decides maybe it's time for Lettie and her brother to spend a few weeks with their mother and see if the grass really is greener on the other side.  Things aren't what Lettie expects.

It's suggested to Lettie that she keep a notebook.  The main story is surrounded by Lettie's daughter finding the notebook and having questions about it.  This whole part was sort of boring and unnecessary to me.  

The main story is a strong study in human nature and growing up.  Through Lettie's eyes, we get to see her lifestyle with Joel as well as her lifestyle with her mother.  Everything is behind the scenes thinking, all from her point of view.  Now, as readers we can sit back and see that every situation isn't always how one person perceives it, but Lettie hasn't reached the maturity yet to do that.  She sees what she sees and that's all there is to it.  She doesn't begin as a character with empathy or compassion.  She's a normal teenager that feels the whole world is against her.  As we continue to read, we watch Lettie grow and learn who she is.  Not only that, we get to watch her realize that sometimes there's another side to the story and she doesn't always see things accurately.  The best part is that she finally starts to realize her parents are human, not just failures at what she thinks they ought to be.

Even if you aren't a 'character study' person, there's a lot to be found here.  Not one of the adult characters has a clue about raising children.  The cast of adults in Lettie's life is so unimaginable that I can't help but think there must be a grain of truth or reality that this was based on.  There's plenty of drama and action to keep you entertained.  Also, the story has a nice flow once you get past the beginning (the finding of the notebook by Lettie's daughter).  It's easy to pick up and just enjoy.  Actually, this is a great beach book.  You can sit back and relax with it and then later do a little processing.  

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