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Review: What Doesn’t Kill Her by Carla Norton

[ 6 ] December 25, 2015

what doesn't kill her book coverReviewed by Bethany Kelly

What Doesn’t Kill Her by Carla Norton, the sequel to thriller novel The Edge of Normal, is a continuance of Reeve LeClaire’s story.

After Daryl Wayne Flint—Reeve’s captor—escapes from the Washington State psychiatric hospital where he is serving his sentence, Reeve must again face her traumatic past. Believing that she knows Daryl better than anyone else, Reeve reaches out to the FBI agent—Milo Bender—who handled her case after her rescue and offers her help in capturing him. Although Agent Bender is retired from the force, he and Reeve work together with the authorities to apprehend Daryl. What they didn’t expect to find was information on a long list of victims and an accomplice from Daryl’s past. Determined to find Daryl before he can hurt anyone else, Reeve and Bender go on a manhunt that will put them both in danger.

Meanwhile Daryl, who is still obsessed with his ‘little cricket,’ leaves a bloody trail behind while searching for Reeve’s whereabouts. In this intriguing and incredibly exciting ending to Reeve’s story, Reeve learns to fight back in order to conquer her biggest fear.

This novel is written in two points of view: Reeve’s and Daryl’s. The reader gets a unique look into how Reeve deals with Daryl’s escape while also getting to experience the mindset of a psychopath and his process of searching for his target. The reader also gets to know the reasoning behind the decisions that both Reeve and Daryl make and what drives them both. Although Norton did a fantastic job giving the point of view of a psychopath in The Edge of Normal, it is so much better in this novel because the reader gets to experience things directly from Daryl’s point of view.

The one downside to this novel is that the ending is predictable. However, with that being said, the story is wrapped up in a neat little bow and there aren’t really any loose ends left over like there were in The Edge of Normal.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this novel and would read it again even knowing how it ends.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Bethany Kelly is currently getting her MFA at Goddard College and has a BA in English. She is a writer, editor, and stay-at-home mother and wife who spends her spare time (when she has some) reading and cooking.

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

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Review: Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

[ 3 ] December 24, 2015

every last word book coverReviewed by Nina Longfield

What does it mean to be normal? At what point can we stop hiding our true selves to allow others to know our idiosyncrasies? Can we keep our friends once they know we are not perfect? Tamara Ireland Stone addresses these and many more teen angst (or ‘life angst’) questions in her lovely novel Every Last Word.

Samantha (Sam) McCallister is your standard sixteen year old, on the surface. To the casual observer in the school hallway or cafeteria, Samantha is popular, pulled together, appropriately funny, a member of the elite Crazy-8s, and is someone to envy. Sam knows different. The Samantha she presents to the world is like a costume worn throughout the school year. In the summertime, away from the Crazy-8s, Sam is relaxed, in control, and self-assured. Amongst her friends, Samantha is hiding a secret; she has purely-obsessive OCD and is repulsed by the dark thoughts that seem to appear from nowhere.

With the new school year, Samantha does something unexpected and makes a new friend. Caroline is vastly different from the Crazy-8s. Caroline calls her Sam. She listens and seems to read Sam. Caroline introduces Sam to a secret society that comes together over words. As Sam explores this new group, she learns to express herself through her written words.

Every Last Word is a novel that transcends its genre. Tamara Ireland Stone has crafted a well-written novel showing the complexities of life. Her characters are engaging. Samantha (Sam) McCallister is a wonderful character. She is fun, young, and not perfect no matter how hard she tries to be. It is easy to feel empathetic for Sam’s plight; she fears losing her long-time friends but begins to question whether the Crazy-8s are true friends.

Every Last Word is not about OCD. It’s a book about healing, learning to live, learning to forgive one’s self, and mostly learning to accept one’s self and know that no one is perfect. Every Last Word is a story for anyone, no matter their age, dealing with doubt, negativity, and a need to fit in. This is a novel about finding one’s voice, taking pleasure and comfort in words, and a discovery of the value of true friendship.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Nina Longfield is a writer living in Oregon’s fertile wine country. When she is not reading or writing in her spare time, Nina enjoys hiking in the hills surrounding her cabin.

Review copy was provided by Disney-Hyperion. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Coal Thief by Alane Adams

[ 3 ] December 24, 2015

the coal thief book coverReviewed by Alyssa Katanic

The morning is cold. There is no coal left to warm the stove. The 20’s were a hard time for many people, but Georgie’s friend has an idea of how to get what they need to stay warm. Georgie had his misgivings, yet he followed his friend’s lead and climbed up into the coal car of a train to throw down the coal.

Alane Adams does a beautiful job of expressing Georgie’s story with beautiful language and an excellent illustrator. Some of my favorite aspects of Adams telling of The Coal Thief is her gentle way of fleshing out peer pressure, being “caught” by Dad and how Georgie’s father handled his son’s misdeed, the father’s generosity, the Father’s love and good example set for his son, and Georgie’s admiration of his hard working dad.

With the perfect combination of a great story of father and son, told in beautiful language and expertly illustrated, The Coal Thief by Alane Adams is not to be missed.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Alyssa Katanic is a wife and homeschooling mother of 7 children under 11 years old. She loves reading and collecting great books to share with others and knows that one can never have too many!

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

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Merry Christmas!

[ 3 ] December 24, 2015

 

merry christmas dogs
Hope your stockings are filled with lots of wonderful books!
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Review: The Seafront Tearoom by Vanessa Greene

[ 3 ] December 23, 2015

seafront tearoom book coverReviewed by Poppy Johnson

As The Seafront Tearoom begins, the main character, Kat Murray, is working on building a life in Scotland. Kat is a single parent to her toddler son, Leo. Leo’s father, Jake, is involved but not very present in Leo’s life and Kat has to manage affairs mostly on her own. Unfortunately, she is unable to secure a decent job to make ends meet and ends up taking a job as a tearoom reviewer. Taking the job also means she has to leave Leo with Jake more often.

Enter French Seraphine Moreau, a well-off socialite without a career or any direction. Seraphine agrees to take a nanny job with her father’s friend, Adam, – whose wife passed away – and help care for his daughter, Zoe.

The story progresses as Kat, Charlie (another female character), and Seraphine develop a deep friendship and review tearooms; Charlie and Pippa (sisters) develop a better relationship; Kat considers letting her guard down with Adam; Charlie and Euan develop an initial connection; people make raspberry tarts, and Kat finds out about some family secrets. Overall, the story has a relatively satisfying ending.

The characters, although believable, are a bit predictable and plain vanilla. The end pages of the book offer a few well-meaning recipes, and some discussion questions regarding the story line and themes of the book for possible group discussions. The author writes believable story lines and dilemmas, but some of the problems that are presented as show-stoppers are just random everyday issues most people in relationships have to deal with over time. I’d recommend this book to all ages, although it may get slightly confusing with the initial introduction of the multitude characters.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

After a decade of working in several NYC law departments and teaching, Poppy decided she enjoyed writing full-time. She currently works as a freelance writing consultant, and lives with her husband and sons on the East Coast.

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

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Review: Ashley Bell by Dean Koontz

[ 2 ] December 22, 2015

ashley bell book coverReviewed by Neriza Billi

Back in 1999, after numerous attempts, I gave up reading any Dean Koontz book. I could never seem to follow and appreciate his style, especially the way he mixes mystery, fantasy and science fiction set in today’s time. Still, I decided to give Ashley Bell a try; me being more mature now and all. So glad I did; I never regretted a single minute of that decision.

Ashley Bell is not the protagonist in this book, Bibi Blair is. Bibi is a 22-year old author who was told that she would only have one year to live. But to everyone’s astonishment, Bibi woke up one morning completely cured. As a way to celebrate her recovery, her parents arranged for her to meet Calida, a masseuse-diviner. With Calida’s help, Bibi found out that she was cured because she needed to save another life – Ashley Bell’s. Fully intent on doing what she was asked, Bibi raced against time to find and save Ashley; while trying to outwit dangerous men hell-bent on stopping her.

This is a story with so many layers, and they are all seamlessly connected. Even if I know that the author mixes a lot of genres, I was still blown away by how he has managed to do it with this story-line. Couple of times, I had to put the book down, pause and shake my head in wonder. Everything and everyone centers on smart, courageous and willful Bibi; including myself as a reader. I never wanted to take my eyes off her in fear that she is not the character that I’ve believed her to be.

There is one part of the book that I cannot seem to understand though. I felt there was too much background information given about Bibi’s Navy-Seal boyfriend, Paxton. When the book started, he was away on a mission, without any contact with Bibi. I understand that it helped in showing their deep connection and Bibi’s resilience. However, these chapters with Paxton seemed like intermissions, disrupting the reader’s concentration on Bibi.

Nevertheless, the intermissions did not stop me from loving this book. So glad to add Bibi Blair to my list of heroines, albeit she is the only one from Kafka Land.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Neriza Billi works a regular 9-to-5 job in Stockholm where she resides with her husband. In addition to reading, she enjoys travelling and curling up with a glass of good wine.

Review copy was provided by Bantam Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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