Skip to main content

What I'm Reading

My reviews of other author's work

Results May Vary

by Bethany Chase

If you scroll down, you'll find my review for this author's debut title "The One that Got Away," which I thoroughly enjoyed. Her second book did not disappoint. It was also beautifully written.

Since high school, it’s always been Caroline and Adam. In their 30s, the married couple is the envy of all their friends. Adams is an expert on all things Caroline and lovingly dotes on her. Caroline thought she knew everything about Adam, too, until she accidently stumbles upon nude photos of him with a man. The door opens wider to reveal her husband is not who she knows him to be. The story follows Caroline as she deals with the charade Adam has made of their marriage, and her attempts to come to peace with those lies.

On Goodreads, one reviewer called the book a ‘fluffy’ read. I take offense to that comment, not only on behalf of the author, but as a reader as well. Fluff is, as defined by Merriam-Webster:
       1. down
       2. something fluffy <dandelion fluff>
       3. something inconsequential

I don't equate emotional stories as any of these, and frankly, to call a realistic story of a woman coming to grips with not only her husband’s infidelity, but also his sexuality, a fluffy story, well, in my opinion, you might as well call all fiction fluffy. Still, I'm trying to figure out the reviewer's barometer for fluffiness. Would they consider a paranormal adventure or vampires-in-love to be more or less fluffy? 

I empathized with Caroline as she rediscovers who she is without Adam at her side and timidly treads the waters of a new relationship. What I loved most about this book, besides sentences that literally made me sigh aloud, and as a writer made me envious, were the few times my toes got to curling and butterflies danced in my stomach. 

Toes curling and butterflies dancing—Ah ha! Clearly that is the fluff here. 

I consider Results May Vary women's fiction, and typically women’s fiction cannot be confused with romance titles, but there is some romance building within the story. Perhaps it's what pushed the reviewer's fluffy limits. Or perhaps she/he simply prefers a gritty plot with guns, secret agents and drug cartels. Whatever the case, Results May Vary was told in a realistic fashion and not in an overly dramatic (aka sappy) way, as true romance stories can be, and personally, I thought this book’s subject was the opposite of fluffy. I thought it rather thought provoking.

The same reviewer claimed Caroline's husband, Adam, was poorly developed and hard to figure out — only I thought Chase portrayed Adam clearly as a man who lived his life as a lie to accommodate his overbearing father’s biddings, a lie he convinced himself of. And a good portion of the book is spent describing his quirks, from painstaking letter writing, to always wanting to be right—all things Caroline once found endearing about him.

Women’s fiction seems to move at a slower pace than most fiction, but I found that for the most part, Results May Vary moved at an easy, enjoyable pace because the writing was spectacular. However, there was a chapter to two where Caroline entertains a wealthy classmate in hopes to gain sponsorship funds for the museum she works at—as the significance to the overall story seemed minor, it could've possibly been cut. Still, it was interesting and didn't distract from my my overall feeling about the book. Because, as I might have mentioned before, it was extremely well written. It really, really was.

Find it on Amazon: Results May Vary


YOU

by Caroline Kepnes

Bookstore clerk Joe Goldberg is in love, but the object of his passion, Guinevere Beck (Beck to her friends) has no idea how obsessed with her he really is …

Throughout the story, Joe refers to Beck as You, as if he’s speaking directly to her, though actual conversation between them happens infrequently at best.

Joe is smart, well-read and likable, but he's also a delusional psychopath with a superiority complex. The entire story takes place inside his head, and we get to see the inner workings of his obsession. Sometimes, his obsession doesn’t seem so crazy. Sometimes Joe seems like a sweet, deserving guy who only hungers desperately for that special someone in his life.

Beck is a sloppy, penniless, self-centered, grad student living alone in New York City. She has a sexual addiction and daddy issues. Joe knows all this because he follows her around, spies on her in her apartment from across the street, and steals things from her. He hacks into her email, follows her on social media, and keeps a box of her items in his apartment. Joe accepts and understands her, probably better than she understands herself.

Beck is charismatic, but also a terrible flirt, a tease, and quite an accomplished liar. She plays head games with everyone, including Joe. They have a relationship, and it seems to be the best times of their lives. For all intents and purposes Joe appears to have Beck's best interests at heart. According to him, he is the perfect guy for her.

But for Beck, being happily in love isn't possible—it's too stationary.

The conundrum of this story is, who will you empathize with? Joe or Beck?

Despite the shocking things Joe does to gain Beck's favor, I hoped the two of them would have their happily-dysfunctional-ever-after. (I pictured them a milder version of psycho soulmates Mickey and Mallory Knox of "Natural Born Killers") Knowing Joe's insanity and violent nature, wanting a happy ending seems to defy logic, and not to mention my own sanity, but Joe is so cleverly written, I never knew if there was a line he wouldn’t cross. Each time Beck flakes out on him, I felt for Joe. Unfortunately, he will do the unimaginable to keep her.

In one scene, Joe is annoyed at finding out Beck took one of his books without asking his permission. Oh the irony!

For me, this was an engaging, riveting read. If you don’t mind some dark, perverse dysfunction in your fiction, I highly recommend.

I can't wait to read the sequel, Hidden Bodies!

Find it on Amazon YOU

Jazz Baby

 by Been Weeks

I really was looking forward to reading this book, but I was tentative to start it based on the cover. It just isn't all that appealing to me, but I'm glad I didn't let that hold me back.

Weeks did a phenomenal job with the mood and dialogue of this story. Dramatic scenes were skillfully written, and at times poetic. The whole time reading, I felt as if I'd traveled back in time and was dropped deep in the heart of the south during 1920s prohibition era.

Jazz Baby, aka Emily Ann Teegarten, was an interesting character to say the least. I was a little confused as to what age she was, because at the beginning of the story, she has her first period. That could put her anywhere's between 10 and 15 years of age. I'm thinking (and hoping) she was at the higher end of that gap as she was quite a bold and licentious young teen. Damn, that girl was up for anything. And I mean anything! I didn't expect the story to be erotic, but it is - only it's done in a fashion that is more suggestive than explicit. This element made reading it all the more entertaining for me.

Weeks canvases quite a lot of territory with Emily Ann, taking her through a gamut of dangerous and lewd situations as well as a few sweet, tender moments, all of them unique experiences for the young protagonist who seems to learn on the fly.

Because of what feels like authentic Mississippian dialogue of that era, speech and thoughts are in no rush, and were often lengthy and expressive. The book strolls along, at a slow pace. Despite this, the verbosity gives invaluable tone and color to the setting and its characters, and I wouldn't change any of it.

As much as I loved the book, I have a few complaints. One is the length of the chapters. There are only 18 of them, but they were long which is not particularly reader-friendly. At times, I was intimidated by this, and when I didn't have a long stretch of time to read, this prevented me from picking it up until I did. My one other complaint is a few instances of redundancy, where the characters are talking about something, which is clear to the reader, but Weeks still has Emily Ann spell it out for us, too. For instance:

    Jobie's voice came real low and soft, a thing I ain't too awful sure I really even heard. "That fat man did it, didn't he?"
Pig, he meant.


As Pig is the only fat man depicted in the story, adding a narrative statment like Pig, he meant is unwarranted.

Despite some minor criticisms, Jazz Baby was a well-told, rich and colorful adventure—Definitely a 5-star read—and I am looking forward to reading more by this author in the future.

Find it on Amazon: Jazz Baby

The One that Got Away

by Bethany Chase

I hate to admit what a picky reader I’ve become since I started writing, but I can’t help it. When I’m reading for pleasure, it’s a curse that I can no longer ignore poor sentence structure, plot problems and the like. So, when I come across a book that I cannot find any real flaws with, I am happy. And even more elated when the book far exceeds my expectations.

The One that Got Away was a pleasure to read. The writing style is witty, fluid and cohesive, and the metaphors inventive. It’s an emotional read with just the right amount of romance, sexual chemistry, and introspection. It kept me engaged the whole way through. I wouldn't say it was a funny book, but I did laugh out loud a few times.

31-year old Sarina Mahler is an independent woman, creative and driven, and I liked reading about her career in architecture, but it was the emotional side of this story that resonated with me. I was torn with Sarina when she has to make a really hard choice about whether she will stay with sweet, comfortable, crinkled-eyed Noah or dare to take a chance with the gorgeous swimming champion Eamon Roy — the one who got away. It’s hard to say goodbye to someone you love, even when you know they are not right for you.

If I had a complaint about this story, the only one would be that I wish there was more Eamon in it. Sarina is intoxicated by him, and as the reader, I got caught up in it. And that was wonderful, but a few times in the book, and especially towards the end of the story, there was a long lapse in his appearance. What can I say? I missed him.

I’m happy to note that author is writing another book, an offshoot of this one. I know I’ll be looking for it.

Find it on Amazon: The One that Got Away

Big Little Lies


by Liane Moriarty

This book floated around my house for the last few months, and as it wasn't a library book and not borrowed from anyone needing it back, there was absolutely no rush to read it. And so it sat… It took a TBR reading challenge to make me crack open the cover, but it was great writing that kept me engrossed.

The plot revolves around the murder of a parent during a school fundraiser night — Pirriwee Public, an elementary school in Sydney, Australia. We go into the story knowing someone has been killed, but whom and how he or she was killed is yet to be revealed. It's a big book, 460 pages, but quick, short chapters make it less intimidating, and in no time, the story drew me in. 

Moriarty developed interesting characters with humor and realistic traits. The main characters, Jane, Madeline and Celeste were vivid and likable. These ladies have very different personalities and financial situations but are brought together by having children in the same Kindergarten class. Beautiful Celeste is rich. Plain Jane is young and single and feisty Madeline is remarried and dealing with turning 40 and a hormonal teenager. Madeline's antics had me laughing aloud many times. Little tidbits of insights are offered by a cast of lesser characters. The various perceptions were often amusing, like a game of 'Telephone' where the message becomes garbled after being passed along through a line of many. 

Big secrets begin to pile up. Kids are being bullied at school. Parents are pointing fingers and signing petitions. Pain and fear are masked by pride and insecurity. Two-thirds through, there were so many balls up in the air; I wondered how the author was going to resolve the numerous conflicts. As I got closer to the end, the tension mounted nicely, and eager to finish, I stayed up much later than I wanted, reading into the a.m. hours (A true sign of a good read!). I had some of it all figured out… but there was a surprise I hadn't expected. 

The clamor surrounding the murder mystery was an almost humorous twist on a story that dealt mostly with serious and realistic topics everyday people face, not only as parents, but also in life. 

This was a really good read, and I look forward to reading Liane Moriarty's The Husband's Secret. 

Find it on Amazon: Big Little Lies



Monster in His Eyes

  by J.M. Darhower

I enjoy a sexy read at times, but I don't typically read erotica. Going into the dark erotic, Monster in His Eyes, I anticipated a lot of sex, but I got so much more than I expected. Ignazio ‘Naz’ Vitale is a rich and powerful man. A man of little words, Naz veils his ‘work’ with guarded silence. Unsuspecting 18-year old Karissa Reed becomes the focus of his attention, and swept off her feet, she becomes a willing participant in his dark, secretive world.

The sexual chemistry between Karissa and Naz was exciting. Even as I cringed at how rough the sex was, I was fascinated. Their relationship was mostly void of romantic exchanges — no bearing of souls or overly tender moments — even so, it is clear that some kind of love existed there, but it swirls under a much darker emotion — perhaps power, need, anger?

It is easy to imagine how Karissa got swept up in Naz’s lavish and singular attention, but I was leery of how almost immediately Naz tells Karissa that she is special. I wanted to know why — Was it because her young naiveté or her willingness to succumb to him, no questions asked? I was afraid the author wouldn’t answer this question, but as the story plays out, this is answered, in full. I have to admit; I hadn’t predicted anything like what happens, and it made for a great twist. 

Naz consumes Karissa, but she doesn’t realize this until she’s too far in. 

    "He’s a whirlpool of darkness, and I feel myself getting sucked deeper and deeper into the depths of his abyss. I’m drowning in him."

…I ate you alive, sweetheart. You never had a chance.

It’s been a while since I found a book I didn’t want to put down. Monster in His Eyes is that kind of story. The pace was quick and the storyline engaging. Despite a few minor typos, and an over-saturation of the word peculiarly, an adverb the author seems peculiarly fond of, this was a fantastic read. I’ve read time and time again that literary agents frown on prologues and epilogues, but this story shows how they can and do work. The opening played on my curiosity and closing made me crave the continuation of the story. I eagerly look forward to reading the next installment, “Torture to Her Soul.”

Find it on Amazon: Monster in His Eyes 

The Summer of Letting Go

  by Gae Polisner


This is a really great, character-driven YA story that deals with forgiveness, healing and the question, what happens to the soul after our bodies no longer exist?

15-year old Francesca (Frankie) Schnell’s 4 year-old little brother, Simon drowned. Frankie has lived the last four years of her life in the shadows of his death, in grief and with remorse. With summer here once more, she avoids the beach where he was last seen alive. Her mother has withdrawn, forgotten that Frankie exists. Her dad is secretive, and Frankie suspects he is having an affair with the neighbor.

Frankie is crushing on her best friend’s boyfriend, Bradley. She has never kissed a boy, and thinks she never will. Plagued by the oppressive weight of her brother’s death, she feels undeserving of any good things.

Enter exuberant and sweet, 4-year old Frankie Sky who forces Frankie to take notice of him with his daredevil stunts. To keep young Frankie safe, she accepts the position of mother’s helper for the little guy and quickly finds herself taken with him. The more time she spends with him, though, the more Frankie Sky reminds her of her deceased brother, Simon. Not only do her brother and Frankie Sky look alike, but also they are the same age, and particulars about the boys’ birth and death are inexplicable. Believing these facts cannot be mere coincidences and that there is an unearthly, spiritual connection between the two boys, Frankie sets out to understand the intangible message she is sure Simon is sending her.

But Simon died while on her watch. Taking care of busy Frankie Sky will make her face her greatest fears  — can she keep him safe? Can she get it right this time?

I loved the essence of this book. It was an easy read and hit all the marks of a solid story. Highly recommend!

Find it on Amazon: Summer of Letting Go


 

The Bronze Horseman

  by Paullina Simons


I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when I started this, but prior to picking it up, I was caught in a downhill reading slide brought on by severely lackluster books. I enjoyed some books, but nothing hit me. Nothing inspired me. Nothing moved me.
The Bronze Horseman was my deliverance.

This is a very long and angst-ridden saga, but if you are a hopeless romantic who enjoys stories about undying love and seriously challenged relationships, read it. The couple’s devotion to each other is so beautifully woven into the words; I could not help being moved. The love story of Tatiana and Alexander was convincing and so tragic, I was held captive. I found it almost impossible to put the book down. I haven’t read a book with this much gusto in a very long time.

The story takes place in Russia, 1941 with the announcement that country is going to war with Germany. The air is fraught with frenetic activity; people are rushing to gather supplies and staples to survive. Not so for Tatiana, a 17 year-old Russian girl. In spite of being put to the critical task of getting her family’s provisions, she gets a late start and finds all the stores sold out. What does she do? She soothes herself with ice cream—sitting to rapturously devour it in the midst of her problem! After reading the first two chapters, I was convinced Tatiana was lazy and naïve. My interest only perked up when Alexander, a 23 year-old Soviet Red Army lieutenant, openly admires her from across the street. Mesmerized by her, he helps her find supplies for her family.

The first half of this saga was devoted to the unquestionable temptation between Tatiana and Alexander. Alexander harbors a few secrets, ones that alter their ability to be together. One of them is Tatiana’s older sister, Dasha. She has already hooked up with the gorgeous soldier. Alexander is her boyfriend. Forsaking her own heart’s desire for her sister’s happiness, Tatiana denies her feelings for Alexander. This was the most frustrating part of the story. At times, this love triangle comes off as an improbable and convenient plot conflict, but it is easily forgotten because the attraction between Alexander and Tatiana is a delicious and irrepressible force. The author teases us with slight touches, meaningful glances, and occasional poignant meetings between the two. No kissing, no sex, and yet, the scenes between them are full, rich and tantalizing.


We get a dreary, hard look at war-torn Leningrad, and its suffering people—millions died; many starved and froze to death. War and love change Tatiana into someone we can admire, but my heart soared whenever Alexander showed up with extra rations to share with her and her family. He wanted nothing more than to make sure she was safe and taken care of. He is somewhat hardened by his circumstances, but his concentration and patience with Tatiana is divine. His complete devotion to her are the stuff dreams are made of.

Thankfully, we are granted a full reprieve from the sadness and despair with surprisingly detailed love scenes … ones that went on quite a long time, and left me admiring Alexander’s, er, ah… enthusiasm and stamina! Seriously ladies, you'll wish you had an Alexander in your life! Tatiana was loved much, and so thoroughly.
"It's impossible," she muttered stroking him gently. "You will kill me."
"Yes," Alexander said. "Let me. Open your legs.”
After this torching, hot reunion, the lovers are wretched apart, over and over again. The repeated sequences of calm serenity followed by bruising, total upheaval had me biting my nails. The premonition of chaos is ingrained into the soul of this story, and if you’ve read this far, you WILL NOT be able to stop reading. You MUST know how this ends!
"Tania … God, I'm done for, aren't I?" Alexander whispered hotly. "Done for, forever."
I come away from this story feeling encouraged and renewed, in spirit and in writing. My downward slide has stilled, and my faith restored. Yes, there are books out there that will stay with you, long after you finish reading them.




Lost in the River of Grass

  by Ginny Rorby
A YA story I recommend!

A read Lost in the River of Grass in 3 days. For the first time in a long while, I enjoyed a story without getting stalled by the writing. As an author, I admit, I am a tough critic when it comes to writing styles, but Rorby's style pleased all my senses, and this tale about two teens stranded in a dangerous nature preserve, had me captivated as it effortlessly unfolded. 

15-year old Andy takes almost 14-year old Sarah on a private tour of the Florida Everglades, but when things go wrong, they find themselves with no way out. They must walk 10 miles through the marshy wetlands of the Glades. Alligators, snakes, spiders.... oh my! Along with Sarah, I was creeped out by the dangerous creatures they encounter, but the scary wildlife element was fascinating! A sweet crush develops between the two young teens, but in survival mode, they sometimes do selfish things. I appreciated that the author maintained such realism, even down to the detail of physical injuries incurred by the characters. It was described in such a way, I squirmed with discomfort for them.

The conclusion was the only part that wasn't flawless. The speed of the rescue and recovery broke the perfect pace of the story. Despite it, this is a worthwhile read.





The Murder's Daughters

by Randy Susan Meyers

The Murderer's Daughters is about the unthinkable - One parent killing the other.

A young, jilted father kills his wife leaving his two daughters motherless. Remanded to jail, he also leaves them without any decent, loving family members to care for them.

After the horrific event, the book moves through the difficult lives of the girls, from orphanage to a foster home and into adulthood. Through life events, careers, relationships with men and family, Meyers reveals the varying ways these two sisters handle their family's ugly secret. Each struggles through the traumatic event in completely different ways, and these ways impact all aspects of their lives, including the relationship with their father.

Other than the actual murder, there aren't many truly climatic scenes in this story, but it is extremely well-written. That and the interesting, truthfulness of the inner battles of the characters, kept me reading. 

This is the second book of this author's I have read. With both, I noticed Meyer's seems to hold off on the "Yeah! She/He/They did it!" happily-ever-after endings, preferring to give her stories frank and realistic resolutions. This doesn't create an exciting end, but all loose knots were satisfactorily tied off. 


My review on Goodreads.com

Got Your Number

by Sophie Kinsella

If you've read the book and/or seen the movie Confessions of a Shopaholic, you know Kinsella's work. She's known for her grossly funny main characters and laugh out-loud moments.

I've Got Your Number is a quick, fun read done in Kinsella's quirky style with many funny moments. The fun begins when bride-to-be, Poppy Wyatt looses her engagement ring, and then her cell phone. By pure chance, she finds a perfectly good phone in a trash can. Business man Sam Roxton actually owns the phone, or at least his former, frazzled personal assistant did, until she ditched it. Desperate to be able to have a contact number people can reach her at if her ring is found, Poppy is resistant to give the phone back to Sam.

They make a conditional agreement - she is to forward all the emails and texts to him, and she must return the phone as soon as the ring is found.

After innocently snooping and reading his personal and business emails, Poppy notices Sam has a vast amount of unanswered correspondence. And when he does respond, he is often curt. She feels it is her moral duty to help the guy out… adding  her own twist of hugs and smiley faces — lending to a plethora of humorous phone and text conversations, and a satisfying end.

Entertaining, no stress, end-of-summer read. Only disappointment was having to wait to the very end for any type of romantic connection between main two characters.  Although I was pretty sure of a happy ending, Kinsella had me second guessing almost to the last paragraph just which way Poppy Wyatt was going to go.

Delirium

by Lauren Oliver 

A story about a futuristic world where 'love' is considered to be a disease. At 18, all are evaluated, and operated on to remove the disease.

Futuristic plots are normally not my thing, but I enjoyed the premise of this storyline - Love has been ruled a disease by the government. And to create a better, balanced nation, on teens 18th birthday, they receive an operation that will protect them from getting 'sick.' Imagine a world where you grow up believing love is a sickness and you can't wait until you're old enough to get the cure?

A little wordy at times, but I found the plot and action compelling. I enjoyed it very much, and am looking forward to reading the sequel.
SaveSave

Comments

  1. Hey, Suzanne, meant to respond on goodreads, but suddenly can't find the message there, so responding here. Thank you for the lovely review, and kind words! So glad you liked the book.

    gae

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Marriage is NOT beautiful

I can't take the credit for this, but the words are so true I had to share.

Keeping Claudia Update

Get your tissues ready

I found myself crying as I finished re-reading my edit copy of Keeping Claudia. These characters have come to mean so much to me, they're like family.

It looks like release will be… (fingers crossed) sometime in April. I really hope you guys will love this story as much as I do.

Your Song sung by Lee Mead (originally by Elton John) was a strong inspiration during the writing.

Author Fair

On Saturday April 9, I'll be taking part in the South Huntington Library Local Author Fair. Stop by and say hello. Authors will be chatting with readers and signing books from 1-4 p.m.

Who knows, maybe you'll find your next favorite book!