Tuesday, May 31, 2016

review: my best friend's exorcism by grady hendrix

Abby was a poor, friendless kid attending a private school on scholarship when Gretchen arrived at the school. Not knowing Abby’s outcast status, Gretchen is the only one to show up for Abby’s birthday party. The two are inseparable after that; that is, until one night when Abby, Gretchen, and two of their classmates take LSD and Gretchen is never the same.

Set against the backdrop of the late 1980s when stories of satanic cults were dominating the headlines, My Best Friend’s Exorcism is a fairly comedic horror story. Grady Hendrix incorporates plenty of snark into the scenes as well as numerous 80s pop culture references (each chapter title is a song title) which keep the tone light even as Gretchen torments her friends and family. The writing is superb, but it’s the strength of Abby’s character that really makes the plot work. Many teenage girls would let the friendship end, but Abby is determined to fight for and then save her friend. The retrospective nature of the story and the ages of the characters create an authenticity for a story that leaves one wondering if Gretchen was really possessed or if this was all part of the satanic ritual abuse scare.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Quirk.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

review: the house of bradbury by nicole meier

After a less than successful debut novel and splitting with her cheating fiancé, Mia Gladwell discovers Ray Bradbury’s house is for sale. Although her perfectionist older sister is less than impressed with the outdated home, Mia knows it’s the place for her and buys the house with the financial assistance of her ex-fiancé. The money ends up coming with a string though—Carson wants Mia to house the fresh out of rehab star of a movie he’s making. It’s initially rough-going, but Mia and Zoe soon bond over the mysterious sketches being left outside Mia’s home.

The incorporation of Ray Bradbury’s life, novels, and home created an excellent backdrop for a novel about a writer, but Mia didn’t do much writing as she focused on Zoe and Zoe’s troubles. The female relationships in The House of Bradbury were fantastic, but the inclusion of some attempts at romance for Mia distracted from the meaningful female-oriented scenes. Fortunately, the hints at romance were not prevalent even if they were a bit forced.
4/5
Review copy provided by the publicist, BookSparks PR.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

review: perfect timing by laura spinella

Perfect Timing has one of the most perfect opening scenes a book could have with Isabel and Rico waking up to a DJ at the radio station where Isabel works reporting the latest hijinks of a rock star Isabel would rather not think about. As the plot unfolds, it becomes clear why Isabel would rather not think about Aidan Royce, but he may also be the only man who can help Isabel out of a career crisis when the radio station’s new owner demands a quick and substantial ratings increase.

Perfect Timing shifts between the past and the present so that the history of Isabel and Aidan comes in small chunks and allows the reader to slowly realize the importance of Aidan to Isabel and why they are no longer in contact. The time shifting also made it possible for Laura Spinella to leave some questions about the past unanswered until just the right moment to drop the bombshells that marvelously twisted the plot. The ending didn’t quite do the rest of the book justice, but everything leading up to the end was fantastic.

About the audiobook: Laura Spinella’s Perfect Timing is read by Rachel Fulginiti who is an incredible narrator. Her inflections made it easy to differentiate between characters as well as dialogue versus narration. It runs almost 13 hours and was released January 2016 by Ideal on Dreamscape Audio.
4/5
Review copy provided by Audiobook Jukebox.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

review: me before you by jojo moyes

After the café where Louisa Clark worked closed, her job prospects were not good. She tried working at a chicken processing plant and being a home energy adviser, but did not experience success in those roles. Being a care assistant for a quadriplegic is pretty much her last choice (having declared she won’t work anywhere that would give her dad a heart attack), but Lou interviews for the job after being assured she won’t have to wipe anyone’s bottom. Lou soon finds herself working for a curmudgeonly, but attractive man who pushes her beyond her comfort zone.

As Lou says toward the end of Me Before You, this is not a conventional love story; it might not even be a love story at all. As the title states, this is a novel about putting me before you, which is to say the characters are supremely selfish. And yet, it works. The selfishness and self-absorption just makes the characters seem realistic when it would have been easy for Jojo Moyes to turn them into wonderfully self-sacrificing people given that one of the central characters is disabled. What Me Before You really does is show how the choices a person makes also affect the lives of the people around him or her. It is a powerful novel.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Penguin.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

review: deep dark by laura griffin

Laura Griffin’s Deep Dark is another excellent addition to the Tracers series, especially with its return to the Delphi Center as a focus. This time around the Delphi Center helps the Austin Police Department via the computer skills of Laney Knox who has a very personal connection to the current case. Although she’d rather stay far away from Reed Novak and the others, she does want her friend’s killer to be caught. Laney is able to provide key information about the security holes in a dating website all the victims have in common.

As usual, Griffin strikes the right balance between suspense and romance in Deep Dark. The evolution of the romance is wonderfully organic as both Laney and Reed resist getting involved with each before finally uniting. The plot here is complex without being overly complicated and the killer is not predictable.
5/5
Review copy provided by the author.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

review: the tender mercy of roses by anna michaels

When a disgraced former police detective finds the body a rodeo circuit star, she ends up uncovering long held family secrets. The Tender Mercy of Roses had many of the right elements for a great novel, but the predictability of the murder mystery combined with the overly flowery descriptions made it a less than compelling read. Another distracting factor was how the deceased Pony Jones came across as much younger than the 26 years of age she was stated to be.
3/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Gallery Books.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

review: between a vamp and a hard place by jessica sims

Between a Vamp and a Hard Place plunges Lindsey and her best friend/foster sister/business partner, Gemma, into a sexy, but dangerous world when they discover a vampire while searching for antiques in Venice. The vampire, Rand, is immediately drawn to Lindsey because of her very rare blood type—she is delicious and he wants to feed. Initially, Lindsey is having none of that, but is eventually drawn in by Rand’s charisma which ends up putting her in danger when other vampires start coming after Rand. The snarky fun never stops in this intelligent paranormal romance that includes elements of suspense. The only thing lacking is the world-building as there’s nothing to indicate Lindsey and Gemma live in a world with vampires, but readily accept the presence of Rand.
4/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Pocket Books.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

review: spinster by kate bolick

Why does “spinster” have a negative connotation when there is no real equivalent for an unmarried man (“bachelor” is certainly not negative)? Kate Bolick examines the word “spinster” and the five marvelous women she thinks of when she thinks of the word. In this memoir/biography (for Bolick examines her own spinster life alongside the women she admires), Bolick delves into the legal restrictions that were imposed on single woman in the United States while also exploring how some women forged their own way in the framework of her own life experiences. There are times when Bolick lives with a romantic partner as well as times she is single. She writes of her fears of ending up “a bag lady” as she discovers one of her idols very nearly did. Bolick’s story is yet to be completed, but Spinster concludes by coming back around to the word she started with and a desire “to offer [spinster] up as shorthand for holding on to that in you which is independent and self-sufficient, whether you’re single or coupled.”
5/5
Review copy provided by Blogging for Books.

Monday, May 2, 2016

review: red flags by tammy kaehler

Racecar driver Kate Reilly has a knack for getting involved in murder investigations, but this time she’d really rather not be involved as the victim is a cousin who hated her. Although Kate is trying to build a relationship with her father, the rest of his family want nothing to do with her and go so far as to accuse her of Billy’s murder. Despite Kate’s desire to stay away from the murder investigation, she keeps being pulled in because of the ties Billy and his death have to racing. Throughout the lively plot that includes plenty of racing action, Kate keeps her head even while hobnobbing with celebrities or being assaulted in a warning to stay away. This unconventional cozy mystery perfectly combines the mystery elements with family relations and romance as well as Kate’s dedication to her career.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publicist, MM Book Publicity.