Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Practical Navigator by Stephen Metcalfe

Michael Hodge is a struggling contractor living in Southern California raising his autistic son, Jamie, on his own. When his long-absent wife Anita returns unannounced wanting--Michael isn't sure what--a reconciliation? A new relationship? Her role as their son's mother back? Michael must decide whether to give her a second chance or protect his son from more hurt. Meanwhile, a burgeoning relationship that could be heading towards love is put on hold while Michael reexamines his feelings for this woman who abandoned them years earlier.

This story is based on a construction work by the name of Michael Hodge; a single father trying to guide himself and the people he loves through the threacherous seas of life.  His son Jamie suffers from Aspergers and is on the autisum spectrum.  His wife, Anita Beacham Hodge, the mother of Jaime, is an alcoholic suffering with depression.   

Michael goes throughout his everyday life trying to make the most of it.  Suddenly, out of nowhere, after seven years, his ex-wife comes back into their lives. Now their lives are going through one event after the next.

I think the message of this novel is trying to send is that even if their are crashing waves and stormy seas, soon it will calm.  That life is about ups and downs, the laughter and the tears.  Even though this book is not what I would normally read, I think it gives a better understanding of how life works. I did enjoy reading it and it was written well,.   I believe one could learn from reading The Practical Navigator.  A person can be a navigator, getting from one pace to another through life.

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

Monday, September 12, 2016

Saving Abby by Steena Holmes

Finding out you are pregnant is supposed to be the most joyous time in a woman’s life.  Certainly, after many years of trying, Claire is over the moon to be expecting with her husband, Josh.  However, when a surprise diagnosis makes the baby’s healthy delivery uncertain, Claire and Josh must decide how to navigate the future when it is not guaranteed. Saving Abby, by Steena Holmes, investigates the difficult road to motherhood for Claire and the depth of a mother’s love.

Claire and Josh both work as children’s’ book creators.  Josh does the story and Claire creates the illustrations.  On a trip to Europe, they plan out adventures for the main character of their book, Jack, to take in future books.  Their idyllic trip is marred, however, by Claire’s headaches.  She promises to get them checked out by her friend and doctor, Abby.

When the devastating diagnosis is given, Claire is faced with the choice to save her own life or the life of her unborn child.  Complicating her decision is the fact that she gave up a child for adoption years before, and she is determined to have a different experience the second time around.
I wanted this book to work for me, but it just didn’t.  First, there are the names.  Abby is the name of Claire’s doctor.  There is nothing wrong with Abby, but the title of the book is Saving Abby.  I kept wondering if her doctor was going to get sick.  Also, the main character of the children’s books the couple writes is a boy named Jack, and the child Claire gave up for adoption’s name is Jackson.  I found myself, not confused, so much as irritated by the name issue.

Far more annoying was the relationship Claire has with her doctor, Abby.  The objectivity and professional manner that a doctor would have with a patient was entirely missing here.  Claire lied to Abby about her symptoms because of the relationship she had with her.  Abby spent the entire book telling Claire that she would be fine and her baby would be fine—ad nauseum.  There were few to no discussions of survival rates, major complications, and consequences to taking too much or too little medication.  Abby just kept guaranteeing she could save Claire and the baby. She promised everything would be fine—and within five pages, it was not.  It felt like a bait and switch.

There are a lot of loose ends in this story that did not add to the overall main arc.  The previous adoption, Claire’s mother’s love life, and the marital problems of the doctor were all thrown in and not sufficiently fleshed out.  Each storyline felt thrown in.

Finally, while some of the characters felt fleshed out and real, many of them felt like thinly created, flat cutouts.  Claire’s husband served to be the voice that made the ethical dilemma front and center, even if he was always striking exactly the same note.  The restaurant owner was the warm mother figure.  The doctor’s husband was the failing husband.  I think the question of medical ethics and life decisions is one that deserves to be explored.  I am just not sure that Saving Abby contains the depth that the subject requires.

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

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Dungeon House (Lake District Mystery #7) by Martin Edwards

The magnificent Dungeon House and gardens overlook Cumbria’s remote western coast with its mix of beaches, dunes, and fells, Roman ruins, and nuclear plant. Twenty years ago the wealthy Whiteleys called it home. But not a happy one. Malcolm Whiteley had begun to disintegrate under financial and emotional pressures. He suspected various men in their social circle of being his wife’s lover. After a disastrous party for the neighbours, Lysette told Malcolm their marriage was over. Sadly an old Winchester rifle he had been hiding was at hand….

Fast forward to today. Hannah Scarlett’s cold case team is looking into the three-year-old disappearance of Lily Elstone whose father Gray had been Malcolm’s accountant. The investigation coincides with yet another disappearance of a teenage girl: Shona Whiteley, daughter of Malcolm’s nephew Nigel, who now lives in the Dungeon House despite its tragic history. As Hannah’s team digs down into the past, doubts arise about what really happened the night Malcolm killed his wife and 16-year-old daughter Amber, then himself.

Most of the people once close to the Whiteleys still live nearby. And one Joanna Footit, and her secrets, now returns from London. While Hannah leads the complex police inquiries, it is her lover, historian Daniel Kind, who supplies Hannah with the lead that unlocks the whole. Does it come too late?

If you're a Columbo fan, stop reading my review.  This book is for you.  

Now, for the rest of you, this was the most surprising read of this summer.  I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review, and it was bound in yellow.  There was no front cover to reveal anything about the contents.  I never read the the blurb on the back of the book.  I just opened it and delved in.  I was immediately spellbound.

The writing is smooth and transitions throughout the book nicely, even during time elapses.  You forget that you're reading and just become lost in the story.  

The characters are incredibly well-formed, which is surprising since there are so many of them.  This is a large group of people that we're getting to know!  Edwards has one of those rare talents of making you care about a person in as little description as possible.  From the moment you meet them, you get a feel for them.  You judge them, but you judge them the way that they've been written.  Though you could sit back and form your own opinions of them, you won't want to until later in the story.  The beginning of the book is just sitting back and watching the chaos.

There's more mystery to this book than first meets the eye.  It's intricately designed so that just when you think you have something figured out, you suddenly realize that you've only scratched the surface of what really happened.  The characters who you've prejudged in the beginning, according to Edwards' writing, have to be judged all over again.  No one is what they seem.  The more you read, the further you fall into a world of deception and treachery.  

If you enjoy mysteries, this one is deep.  It's easy to dive into and at the end of it you have a sense of completion and resolution.  

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

Friday, September 2, 2016

Test Drive (Body Shop Bad Boys #1) by Marie Harte

Johnny, Foley, Sam, and Lou are the rough and tumble mechanics of Webster's Garage. These reformed bad boys are used to living fast, but it's the women in their lives who take them from zero to sixty in a heartbeat.

Johnny Devlin's a charmer with a checkered past. He has had his eye on scorching-hot bartender Lara Valley for ages, but she's rejected him more than once. That doesn't mean he won't come to her aid when some dirtbag mauls her. When she asks him on a date as a no-strings-attached thank you, he can't say no. And then he's saying nothing but hell, yes.

Test Drive is smoking hot! It's full of the steamy romance and humor that I have come to love and expect from Marie Harte's books. It's also a spin-off of Harte's McCauley Brothers series ( which I adored!) and features characters who work at Del's garage and the bar that we caught glimpses of in that series. There were even some mentions of the characters from those books and some appearances from Del, Mike, and Colin. But as much as I loved the McCauley Brothers series and never thought it possible.... I think that I actually love this one even more!

 I adore how the characters are rough around the edges but you just can't help but love them and know that they are essentially good despite being able to throw down with the best of them. Johnny has a tough exterior and some commitment phobia's but he also has a tenderness not only when it comes to Lara and her nieces but apparently for women in general. He may have had a play boy past but he doesn't make promises he can't keep and he never tries to lead anyone on. He treats the women at his father's strip club with respect and like extended family. It's no wonder that Lara is beyond herself when she finds out he's just as pretty on the inside as he is on the outside. He's not perfect but who wants that anyhow? He is caring and thoughtful and hilarious. I loved all the corny sexual innuendos he kept throwing out. The chemistry between him and Lara was amazing and I think that they seem so perfect for each other. 

I have a feeling that the other books in this series will be based on the other guys in the garage and I am ecstatic! I can't wait to hear their stories and see how these tough men will deal with falling in love. I definitely recommend Test Drive to romance fans who love a guy who's tough yet caring and easy on the eyes ;-) 

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

Monday, August 29, 2016

Shadow Eyes by Dusty Crabtree with Giveaway!

Iris thought she could ignore the shadows…until they came after everyone she loved.

Seventeen-year- old Iris Kohl has been able to see both dark and light figures ever since a tragic incident three years ago. The problem is, no one else seems to see them, and even worse…the dark figures terrorize humans, but Iris is powerless to stop them. 

Although she’s learned to deal with watching shadows harass everyone around her, Iris is soon forced to question everything she thinks she knows about her world and herself. Her sanity, strength, and will power are tested to the limits by not only the shadows, but also a handsome new teacher whose presence scares away shadows, a new friend with an awe-inspiriting aura, and a mysterious, alluring new student whom Iris has a hard time resisting despite already having a boyfriend. As the shadows invade and terrorize her own life and family, Iris must ultimately accept the guidance of an angel to revisit the most horrific event of her life and become the hero she was meant to be.

My thoughts - - Crabtree's debut will keep you up late immersed in a world of secrets, shadows and mystery. Not only are the characters modern and realistic, but they are bright,  unique and palpable.  What drove me to keep turning the pages beyond the great writing and characters, though, is the purpose of discovering what happened to Iris in her past to give her this rare affinity to see the shadows.

How Iris adjusts her life with the shadows, the glowing light figures and the addition of peer pressure is a testament to her inner-strength.  Her friends really are great support for her and although sometimes teens will do as teens do, there are many messages within Shadow Eyes to relate to the teenage reader.  However, as an adult, I found myself enthralled with the storyline and can't wait for the next in the series.  And just a warning - big cliffhanger! Love em and hate em! Dusty Crabtree has ensconced herself firmly in the young adult genre and I can't wait to see what she has in store next!

Dusty Crabtree loves a good story, but she also loves young people. These two loves are evident in all parts of her life. She has been a high school English teacher since 2006 and a creative writing teacher since 2014. She's also been a youth sponsor at her local church for as long as she’s been teaching. She feels very blessed with the amazing opportunities she has to develop meaningful relationships with teens on a daily basis. With her love of reading in the mix, becoming an author of young adult books was just a natural development of those two passions in her life. She lives with her husband, Clayton, in Yukon, Oklahoma, where they often serve their community as foster parents.
Check out Dusty’s blog 
Find her on facebook 
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Follow her on Instagram – dustycrabtree12
Check out Shadow Eyes on Goodreads 
View the book trailer at Shadow Eyes Book Trailer 

buy Shadow Eyes on Amazon or other major online bookstores like Barnes&Noble and Apple (print will also be available on Amazon by the release date – 9/2/16)

Monday, August 8, 2016

Gathering Storm (The Halcyon Saga Book 1) by Toni House

If there’s one thing Maddie knows well, it’s a life of excess. Doted on by her wealthy father and grandfather, there’s nothing she’s ever wanted for in life. 

But her beloved grandpa’s health is failing, and that means everything she knows and loves is about to be thrown off course. In the midst of fighting her growing feelings for a boy who works there, she uncovers a dark secret about her stepmother…one that threatens to unravel the entire family. 

Gathering Storm by Toni House was not what this reader expected.  Written in a very simple, straight-forward style, “Gathering Storm is the first installment in the Halcyon Saga, which is about the travails of an elite family at a crossroads:   

 The aging patriarch has taken ill just as his spirited grand-daughter is graduating from high school and poised to head off into her future -- while a mysterious entity is making moves to take over the family firm.  “Gathering Storm” reads largely like a set up for one of the primetime soap operas from the 1980s. 

Leading the Halcyon soap cast is the grandfather who built the family business from the ground up – turning it into a multi-billion dollar empire.  But he is old and sick, and none of the board has faith in JT, the son-in-law who has assumed the reigns and is attempting to move the company into new ways of doing business. 

Becca is JTs 2nd wife -- the impossibly evil, money-grubber whose sole occupation is conniving and getting her hair and nails done. 

And then there is Maddy – the apple of her grandpa’s eye.  She is the spoiled little rich girl with the prerequisite erratic flashes of good character and wisdom.   

Let’s not forget the hunky and noble hired help to challenge Maddy’s spoiled-rotteness and serve as the overall foil to the various shallow, pretentious and entitled young men within her social circle. 

Like any mystery, Gathering Storm” has a somewhat of a cliff-hanger ending that takes the story from annoying to downright sinister in its last few pages -- as Maddy is forced into a dangerous situation  with serious consequences (rape is implied).  

The surprising ending serves to catapult what had been a formulaic predictable tale into something that could actually be a more serious story dealing with America’s rape culture.  Perhaps this is fleshed out in the later installments, but the almost soap-opera aspect of most of the book serves to detract from its potential.

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

Friday, August 5, 2016

All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker

All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker begins with a rape.  Jenny Kramer, who had attended a party, ends up in the woods behind the house and violently attacked.  In addition to enduring a horrific rape, Jenny is marked by her attacker.  When she is found and taken to the hospital, her parents are given the option of a new treatment.  This drug will erase Jenny’s memory of the events after the party and give her a chance to return to a sense of normalcy.  Unfortunately, this drug and its effect on Jenny will impede efforts to bring the attacker to justice.  How can the attacker be arrested if Jenny remembers nothing?
            Dr. Forrester, Jenny’s doctor, helps her begin to uncover memories, and he deals with Jenny’s parents as well.  Basically, Dr. Forrester appeals to Jenny’s senses to remember the events of the horrible night she was attacked.  It is a therapy that he is also exploring with another patient, Sean, who has forgotten some of his warime memories in Iraq. 
            Jenny’s father is obsessed with tracking down the man who violated his little girl.  He badgers the detectives about a car seen in the area, about a remembered sweatshirt, and potential links to drugs.  When the clues begin to lead to Dr. Forrester’s son (among other suspects), he has to decide how far he will go to find the truth—and if he can handle it when the truth comes out.
            The premise behind this book was a promising one, and it drew me in right from the start.  I really wanted to know who committed this vile act and the connection to the science of memory was compelling.  Sean’s introduction and his connection with Jenny provided a great way of expanding the narrative and throwing in some red herrings.
            I did have a few problems with the book.  First, the narrator is unknown for the first part of the book.  It just did not work.  It was off-putting rather than intriguing, and his comments and point of view mired the novel rather than providing any truly compelling input. 
            I also did not like the overly dramatic endings to every chapter.  It seemed as though each one ended on a “cliffhanger” or with some overbearing portent of what was to come.  In a book with chapters that are not that long, it gets old rather quickly. 
            When the bad guy was revealed, I was not invested.  I am not sure why.  The book got bogged down in the marital issues between Jenny’s parents, her mother’s infidelity, and Sean’s recovered memory.  I think there was just too much going on.  It started to feel like a different book—rather than a fast-paced thriller.  The big reveal was completely unsatisfying.
            I wish All is Not Forgotten had lived up to the promise of its first few chapters.  I think some editing and paring down the various storylines would have made it a much better book.  

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