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Review: Parker Field by Howard Owen

[ 0 ] April 25, 2015

parker field book coverReviewed by Melanie Kline

Les, a former minor league baseball player in his seventies who does not seem to have any enemies, is shot with a high powered rifle and is lying in a hospital bed clinging to life. It is discovered that an addled former military man, now homeless, has broken into a vacant condo and shot him. Les’ sort of adopted son decides to investigate and figure out why anyone would want to harm such a quiet, harmless man.

Willie Black is a newspaper man, heavy drinker and three time loser in the marital game. Listening to Les’ buddy, Jimmy, talk about the old days and the team members and a team groupie, not so affectionately called Fannie Fling, Willie decides to do a piece on the old starting line up of Les’ old team, the Richmond Vees. He soon discovers that a number of the old guys are dead. Their deaths, in some instances, were rather premature and in others, somewhat suspicious.

Connecting with the younger sister of one of his boyhood friends, Cindy Peroni, Willie heads out to interview the kids, widows and ex-wives of some of the deceased as well as the one other remaining Vee. What he discovers brings him to death’s door and the solution to a puzzle he didn’t know existed.

There are too many characters in Parker Field and names being mentioned throughout. And because a lot of them are baseball players, they also have nicknames. About 25 or 30 pages into this, my head started to spin. I found it next to impossible to keep everyone straight and spent a lot of the story completely lost as to what was going on.

I wouldn’t recommend Parker Field to anyone as I did not enjoy anything about it and found the storyline entirely too difficult to follow. I believe that the book has great potential if it were rewritten minus many of the extra characters and events that are not relevant to the actual storyline. I was very disappointed as I was really looking forward to reading this book.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ 

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by The Permanent Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Huntress Moon & Blood Moon by Alexandra Sokoloff

[ 0 ] April 25, 2015

huntress moon book coverReviewed by Amanda Schafer

In Huntress Moon, FBI Agent Matt Roarke is preparing to meet with an undercover cop-friend when he witnesses that cop being murdered on a busy street. What was most puzzling about it, though, was the woman who did it…her eyes were piercing and she didn’t look like someone who would just push a man in front of an oncoming bus. Roarke begins the process of trying to find this woman and discovers that she is also connected to a few other random, but very gruesome, murders across three states. Slowly, his worst thoughts are proven: they have a female serial killer on their hands.

She kills the bad guys. She knows they are evil and she has to fix things before they can do more harm. In her travels she comes across a man and his five year old son and discovers that the boy sees bad things as well. Knowing she must take care of this situation, she ends up letting the FBI get closer to her than she planned. But she has to stop the bad from happening no matter the cost.

blood moon book coverIn Blood Moon, Roarke continues his chase for this woman…who he now realizes is connected with the reason he joined the FBI. She is the lone survivor from an unsolved 25-year-old murdering spree. While she continues her own vigilante murdering spree, the FBI is faced with the possibility that after 25 years, the man who murdered her family is out there murdering people again. As they try to catch both of them, Roark can’t help but grow more and more connected to her. Can he keep her safe? Can he find justice for them both?

These are the first books I’ve ever read by Sokoloff, and they are very out of my typical genre, but they were amazing!! I couldn’t put them down and was ready to purchase the third in the series immediately, only to realize it’s not out yet! {I will buy it when it’s released though!} I love cop shows on TV and these two FBI thriller books don’t disappoint at all. The details were amazing without being gory and the story really didn’t have any “low points” where I got bored. If all of Alexandra Sokoloff’s books are like this, I’ll definitely be reading more of her novels!

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Amanda lives in Missouri with her engineering husband, two sons, and one daughter. In between homeschooling and keeping up with church activities she loves to read Christian Fiction, Women’s Fiction, and any Chick-Lit. She never goes anywhere without a book to read!

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Thomas & Mercer. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Giveaway: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

[ 9 ] April 24, 2015

invention of wings book coverI have a copy of The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd to give away!

Open to US residents only

About the book

Sue Monk Kidd’s #1 New York Times bestseller The Invention of Wings, now available in paperback, is a magnificent novel about two unforgettable American women. Writing at the height of her narrative and imaginative gifts, Kidd presents a masterpiece of hope, daring, the quest for freedom, and the desire to have a voice in the world.

Hetty “Handful” Grimké, an urban slave in early nineteenth-century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimké household. The Grimké’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday in 1803, when she is given ownership of ten-year-old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty-five years, as both strive for lives of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.

As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.

Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimké, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.

This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.

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Review: The Damned by Andrew Pyper

[ 3 ] April 24, 2015

the damned book coverReviewed by Sarah Lelonek

The Damned by Andrew Pyper is everything I love about horror, suspense, and fiction all wrapped up in one, well-written, self-contained package. I have been interested in near death experiences (NDEs) for many years, and have actually reviewed a non-fiction book on the subject for this web site. Pyper’s tale of an NDE gone wrong not only took the stereotypical light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel experience to a whole new level, but he managed to make the story seem so real that I felt like I was reading a something based on a true story rather than all-out fiction.

Danny Orchard died on his 16th birthday while trying to save his twin sister Ashleigh, only Danny managed to come back from the other side, except he didn’t come back alone. When Danny died, he did have a pleasant experience, and he managed to capitalize off of this experience in the form of a novel. However, his life since his first brush with death has been lonely, but he hasn’t exactly been alone. Ash has been a part of Danny’s life since he returned from beyond the land of the living. She’s a ghost who will go to extreme measures to make sure Danny remembers that she is alone on the bad part of the other side.

When I started reading this novel, I thought it would be like any other horror book–decent with a hint of the mundane. I was very mistaken. Pyper’s writing style is to reveal just enough about each character to keep you hooked until the next big reveal. The setting, Detroit and parts of New England, played a great contrast off each other to show the horrors of Danny’s past mixed with the small pleasures of his present. Every chapter and scene played off of each other to weave together a brilliantly written story filled with an eerie quality that leaves you feeling unsettled after each reading session.

Due to the nature of this story, I would not recommend this book to younger readers, as it can be graphic and intense as the story progresses. However, I have no problem recommending The Damned to any adult reader who has any interest in contemporary horror and the supernatural. Be warned: Pyper’s writing style may leave you unsettled enough that when you are finished reading, you regret turning off the light.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Sarah Emily Lelonek has a BA in English Literature from Kent State University. She is currently enrolled at Tiffin University in their Master’s of Education program. She enjoys traveling and gaming while on breaks from working on her novel.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Simon & Schuster. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Win Friends and Customers by Lawrence J. Bookbinder, Ph.D

[ 1 ] April 23, 2015

win friends and customers book coverReviewed by Sarah McCubbin

Have you ever noticed that some people are just naturally good at making friends, can sell just about anything and are liked by nearly everyone? Then there are those who are just plain awkward and for whom a basic conversation seems like a victory. Years ago, when I found myself in the awkward camp, I remember thinking that the art of conversation was a bit of a mystery.  Eventually, I realized that listening to other people and asking questions about them was so much easier than contrived topics or defaulting to the weather.

Due to my own struggle, my interest was piqued when I came across the book, Win Friends and Customers: Relationship and Business Success from Empathic Acknowledging by Lawrence J. Bookbinder, Ph.D. As a clinical psychologist for over 30 years and an expert on the topic of empathetic acknowledging, he seeks to help people improve their conversation skills and relationships by becoming more intentional about the way they listen and respond to other people.

Without a background in psychology, I found myself struggling when I first started reading. Written in strong clinical terminology, it felt cumbersome despite being relatively short. I was unfamiliar with the term “empathetic acknowledging” and it was not clearly defined as the book commenced. Given that this is a book on communication, I didn’t expect to feel bogged down as I read. Nonetheless, I’m glad I read it. Eventually I figured out that empathetic acknowledging is a form of responsive listening whereby you give the reader verbal cues to indicate empathy or interest in their problems, experience or important situation. Using a wide variety of situational examples, Dr. Bookbinder presents the benefits and potential disadvantages of empathetic acknowledging. Its primary expectation is that someone will hear you and let you think out loud but not offer advice or try to direct your decision making. He suggests that this form of listening includes many benefits including emotional closeness with loved ones, successful handling of customer complaints, good relationships despite lifestyle differences and conflict resolution. With so many benefits, it is applicable to nearly everyone.

Despite its strong clinical overtones, I appreciated the insight offered by Dr. Bookbinder. Many of his tips are easy to implement and simply require more intentionality. I think the suggestions he offers would help anyone who find themselves struggling to connect in relationships or would like to improve the quality of their communication.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Sarah McCubbin is a homeschooling and foster mom in NE Ohio where she resides with her husband and 7 children. In addition to reading great books, she enjoys gardening, traveling and blogging at Living Unboxed.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Cadence Marketing Group. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: No Parking at the End Times by Bryan Bliss

[ 2 ] April 23, 2015

no parking at the end times book coverReviewed by Carrie Ardoin

If I had to sum No Parking at the End Times up with one word, that word would be BORING. I was very intrigued by the premise – books about cult religion and how it affects those within it are almost always worth a read – but this novel portrayed very little about the cult itself, and more about the family it affected. And I would have been fine reading about this family if there was anything interesting about them at all.

The voice of the story is Abigail, a teenage girl who along with her twin brother Aaron has been whisked away from her North Carolina home by her parents to worship in California at the feet of Brother John. Brother John has proclaimed that the world will be coming to an end, but of course, this does not happen. What does happen is that Abigail’s family is forced to live in their van in California, because her parents sold everything else they owned to give to the church.

Abigail, as a main character, has a distinct lack of personality. Her whole life is basically centered around Aaron, and trying to make sure he is keeping out of trouble. At least Aaron is mad, and at least he is trying to do something about their situation. All the reader really knows about Abigail is that she likes to run. Even in flashbacks to their life before moving, we don’t see anything of Abigail enjoying her life or having any friends of her own. I understand that she is an introvert, but she seems to shun getting to know anyone else besides her family.

There is actually no real conflict in the novel. Abigail and Aaron don’t yell or get into fights with their parents, and most of the time their parents kind of seem to forget they exist. Even the introduction of Aaron’s street kid friends couldn’t make events more interesting, because all the kids seem to be stereotypical, down to their sad stories and “wild” personalities. A sort of villain affects the kids very late in the story, but even this is rather glossed over and the effects of his actions are very predictable.

I just couldn’t form any sort of connection with any of these characters, and that is unfortunate because the beginning of the book offered a bit of promise. It just didn’t deliver on the potential of the synopsis.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

Carrie runs the blog Sweet Southern Home, and is a stay at home wife and mom to one little boy. When she’s not reading, she’s usually watching Netflix with her husband, playing outside with her son, or baking. Her family would describe her as sometimes annoyingly sarcastic, but mostly lovable. 

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by HarperCollins Publishers. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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