Book Reviews: Stray Our Pieces by Jason Graff and Runway ZomBee by J.A. Watson @JasonGraff1 @WaldorfReaders @JollyFishPress

Stray Our Pieces
Jason Graff
Waldorf Publishing, October 2019
ISBN 978-1-64370-012-0
Trade Paperback

Stray Our Pieces by Jason Graff is Realistic Fiction, but it feels more like a Memoir of a stay-at-home-mom/wife. Gloria has absolutely no ambitions right now. No desire to be Super Mom. She doesn’t keep their home spic-and-span or super organized. Neither is the kitchen her place to shine.

Gloria isn’t so much bad at household chores and duties as she is so completely uninspired, in general, that her days are spent physically doing nothing. Well, maybe rushing through the bare minimum, on a great day. Mentally, she seems to be almost consumed by her own inadequacies. Not to the point of addressing them, more along the lines of looking for someone, or something, to blame.

Her story is not shared straight through. Rather, the time-line fluctuates, allowing the reader to see the younger, happier, energetic and inspired Gloria compared to the adult she allowed herself to become. In a roundabout (but definitely right) way, we learn about Gloria’s past and begin to understand her newfound place in the present.

I’ve not read many books that weave a world without a life-changing event. A plot around people who, from the outside looking in, seem to be the perfect picture of normal cannot be easy to create. But, regular, every-day living where there may be pain and aching emptiness, alongside joy and contentment, is certainly easy to understand and relate to.

Reviewed by jv poore, March 2020.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Runway ZomBee
A Zombie Bee Hunter’s Journal
J.A. Watson
Jolly Fish Press, March 2018
ISBN 978-1-63163-165-8
Trade Paperback

Raksha’s parents, although proud of their daughter’s ambition, were adamant: two separate, summer-long activities are out of the question. The Science Squad project is essentially a grand-finale. Earning their final badge is important, but the possibility of advancing to the final competition in Hawaii is especially enticing. And Raksha is definitely down with learning more about the Zombie fly/bee infestation…however gruesome the observations may be.

Entirely on the other hand, this admittedly out-of-the-blue fashion camp seems simply serendipitous. True, she could attend another time. After all, she meant to sign up for the fall in the first place. But, if she sticks with the summer session, she will also have a chance to finesse a new friendship with Shonda.

She will do both. Secretly.

Having a best friend like Hannah certainly helps Raksha juggle her double duties; but things quickly become complicated. Raksha is fully aware of the fact that Mari Gonzalez, fellow Science Squad Member and Archnemesis, loves to see her fail. She has no idea that the petty teen would stoop to sabotage.

There is so much to love in this Science-y, Middle-Grade marvel. Written in field-journal format, complete with self-corrections, this catchy little caper makes a quick read. Raksha may have gotten herself into a tight spot, but she is resilient, cunning and all kinds of creative getting out.

And, now I know about zombie-fly infection of honeybees and why that matters.

Reviewed by jv poore, February 2019.

Book Review: A New Place, Another Murder by Christa Nardi @ChristaN7777 @SDSXXTours

************

Title: A New Place, Another Murder
Series: A Sheridan Hendley Mystery #1
Author: Christa Nardi
Publication Date: June 22, 2018
Genres: Mystery, Cozy

************

Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Amazon // Indiebound

************

A New Place, Another Murder
A Sheridan Hendley Mystery #1
Christa Nardi
CreateSpace, June 2018
ISBN 978-1-7218369-1-8
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Sometimes you need to be careful what you wish for.

Pretty much settled into her new home in Appomattox with Brett and his daughter, Sheridan longs for something to keep her busy.  That is, until Maddie and her new friend are framed for theft and murder.  Not quite the distraction she had hoped for, but she’ll turn over every rock to prove their innocence.  In the process, she learns about the powerful Buchanan family and the history of the local community.  Will the truth come out before the person calling the shots takes Sheridan and Maddie out of the picture?

You never know what will draw you to a particular book or series; in my case with A New Place, Another Murder, it was the setting in Appomattox County because I’ve frequently driven through there on my way from Richmond to visit family in Roanoke. And, of course, there’s an awful lot of history there.

As for the storyline, Ms. Nardi has crafted a good one with fully-fleshed characters and a puzzling mystery that was credible and not too easy to figure out. It’s also a story of a blended family and how nice things can be when the family members actually like and trust each other, something that doesn’t always happen when a new parent figure steps in.  When Maddie and Alex are targeted as the possible thieves and a man has been killed, Sheridan dives in out of necessity because Maddie’s dad, Brett, is on the state police force and has to stay out of it, being her dad.

The main characters come from a previous series that I haven’t read but that didn’t matter too much as it was easy to connect with them in their new surroundings even though I didn’t know the details of their backstories. Brett doesn’t discourage Sheridan’s sleuthing skills, which is a nice touch, and Sheridan does have some experience so her investigation comes naturally. While I found the pacing to be a bit too slow for my liking, I did enjoy this book.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2020.

About the Author

Christa Nardi is an accomplished author of cozy mysteries. Christa’s background is in higher education and psychology, much as her protagonist, Sheridan Hendley in the Cold Creek mystery series. She has always loved mysteries – reading them, writing them, and solving them. Christa is a member of Sisters in Crime.

Connect with Christa:

Website // Facebook // Twitter //
Bookbub // Amazon // Goodreads

************

Follow the tour here.

************

************

Giveaway

$15 Amazon Gift Card

Enter here.

************

Book Review: The Boy From The Woods by Harlan Coben @HarlanCoben @GrandCentralPub

The Boy From The Woods
Harlan Coben
Grand Central Publishing, March 2020
ISBN 978-1-5387-4814-5
Hard Cover

At the start of this novel we are introduced to the boy referred to in the book’s title.  Thirty years ago, Wilde, as he is now known, was discovered living in the woods in a rural area of New Jersey.  According to the police there was never any report of a missing child. No relatives ever came forward to claim him.

Intriguing as that opening of Coben’s new stand alone is, the novel moves to the present and concerns another child who has gone missing. Her name is Naomi Pines and she’s a teenager who attends a local high school in the town of Westville, New Jersey.   Matthew, a  fellow student, is concerned for Naomi’s welfare.  He’s contacted his grandmother, Hester Crimstein, a well-known New York criminal attorney to enlist her help.

Hester sets things in motion in the search to find Naomi, calling on the local police and contacting Wilde, who’d been befriended by Hester’s son David, Matthew’s father, years ago.

The relationships in this novel are complicated and there are a few more characters  to meet who are involved in a political plot pertaining to a candidate running for President of the United States.

I’m sure you’ll agree that this might be hard to keep track of,  but rest assured you are in the hands of a well known and loved Master.  Jump in…you’ll be glad you did.  I thoroughly enjoyed this and hope Mr. Coben will return to with a sequel so that we might learn more about the Wilde boy from the woods.

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, May 2020.

Book Review: Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith @ericsmithrocks @InkyardPress

Don’t Read the Comments
Eric Smith
Inkyard Press, January 2020
ISBN 978-1-335-01602-7
Hardcover

It’s tough for me to write a review for a book I love more than mochas. But, I can’t not share my ardent admiration of Divya, the sensational Glitch streamer in the center of Eric Smith’s spectacular Realistic-Fiction-YA, Don’t Read the Comments.

Initially, I find it incredibly cool that this high-school student enjoys playing almost as much as she treasures the comfort and camaraderie of her followers and fellow gamers. Impressive that she is making money while doing it. Intensely delighted discovering why.

The man she’d prefer not to refer to as her father, has happily taken everything they built as a family for himself. And his mistress. Divya’s mother is finishing classes and working two jobs, so the payments for trying and talking about gnarly new gadgets makes a significant difference. Her first con appearance might even allow for new furniture.

Bekah, Divya’s best bud and imperative part of D1V’s streaming success and popularity, has designed swag to sell. Appearing on a panel will broaden their audience, as well as put them in close proximity with current fans. It is a great opportunity.

Divya’s mother is not so sure. Pride and gratitude war with worry. Some of the comments she’s seen have been downright mean. Apprehension turns to angst as the trolls’ words turn from taunting to threatening. Harassment intensifies as the con date gets closer.

Even Bekah is ready to bow out. Disappointing, yes, but certainly something Divya understands. And yet, Divya already knows that she will attend. She will be scared and alone, but the trolls will not win easily.

There is one person that remains positive and supportive. If only he wasn’t a fan she’d bumped into online. Aaron is constantly dodging desk-duty at his mom’s medical practice to work on a new game he is creating. He is grateful, though a bit perplexed, that his father has been so supportive and willing to cover for him. His mom will not even listen. Perhaps if he had received any form of payment or contractual agreement from the “friend” he was working with, she would be a bit more open. And, maybe Divya and Aaron have more in common than moms that just don’t understand.

I dig how this book gets the typical teen as well as reaching students that truly have roles and responsibilities outside of school. I’ll be adding this to several classroom libraries.

Reviewed by jv poore, January 2020.

Book Review: A Bouquet of Rue by Wendy Hornsby

A Bouquet of Rue
A Maggie MacGowen Mystery #12
Wendy Hornsby
Perseverance Press, April 2019
ISBN 978-1564746078
Trade Paperback

If you’ve never been to France, Hornsby’s A Bouquet of Rue will prove a good substitute to getting a passport. Maggie MacGowen, a documentary filmmaker, has joined her fiancé, Jean-Paul Bernard, to prepare for their wedding, as well as make films for a French TV company. Maggie has contacts and family in France, so she is not without means, and Jean-Paul is an important person as well. Within a few days of Maggie’s arrival, however, it seems a teenage girl has gone missing, and a Muslim refugee is being not only bullied at school without the girl, Ophelia’s, support, but is being blamed for her disappearance. Maggie and Jean-Paul become involved because their semi-permanent house guest, Dr. Ari Massarani, also a Muslim refugee, teaches Nabi and comes to his defense.

I found most of the book dealt with French customs, their food, their drink, their lifestyles⏤not so very different from their American counterparts. Perhaps they are even more concerned with money⏤or the lack thereof. And  both their family and their national attitudes are maybe more closed than Americans often are. The food and drink parts are a little overwhelming to one for whom food is fuel.

Was there a murder? Yes. Did I care? Not so much. More interesting was the spotlight shown on racial profiling and school bullying, apparently a world-wide problem with no resolution in sight.   But I would say this book takes a good hard look at it. Read, think, and learn.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, July 2019.
https://carolcriggercom.sitelio.me/
Author of Five Days, Five Dead, Hereafter and Hometown Homicide.

Book Review: This Story Is A Lie by Tom Pollock—and a Giveaway!

This Story Is A Lie
Tom Pollock
Soho Teen, August 2018
ISBN 978-1-61695-911-1
Hardcover

When a book begins with the protagonist having just dealt with a major panic attack by crushing a porcelain salt shaker with his teeth, you can expect what follows to be a bit strange. And what does ensue exceeds that description in spades. Peter Blankman, age seventeen, is a twin and a mad math genius. He’s also bullied unmercifully by three classmates at his English high school. His only protection is his older, by eight minutes, sister Bel who is no slouch in the brains department herself.

Peter has been dealing with irrational fears and panic attacks for as long as he can remember. His mother is a world famous scientist and his absent father a mystery. All Peter and Bel know is the tidbits their mother drops on occasion, but the overarching message has always been that Dad was utterly evil and the less they know, the better off they’ll be.

A few hours following his attack, he, Bel and Mom are off to the Natural History Museum where Mom’s to receive an award for her work. Peter does his best to hold it together, but as the moment approaches for things to start, he loses it and bolts, running recklessly down one corridor after another. When he runs out of gas, he tries to find his way back, only to stumble on a body leaking copious amounts of blood. It’s his mother and it’s all he can do to stay with her and try to stanch the bleeding.

In short order, Bel vanishes, Peter’s grabbed by Rita, who claims to be a friend of Mom and one of her co-workers. She rushes him out of the museum and into a strange car that follows the ambulance transporting Mom. Peter’s paranoia starts ramping up as the convoy heads away from the two closest hospitals. It spikes even more as he overhears snippets of code-like conversations and senses that something highly suspicious. Little does he know how right he is. He manages to escape, but with Bel missing, where can he go?

What follows is like going in and out of a series of Alice in Wonderland rabbit holes. Every time Peter thinks he has something figured out, reality, or what passes for it, pulls another rug out from him. He’s unsure who to trust, how much of what he’s learned about mathematics can be counted on, he’s unsure who’s real or telling the truth, and as pieces fall into place, he finds himself on ever more fragile ground. Many details are revealed in flashback chapters going back anywhere from five days to seven years prior to the current story line. By the end, Peter, Bel and the reader are all still trying to sort things out. That’s not to say the ending is bad or incomplete, just nicely twisted. If you like industrial strength creepy, this book is for you.

Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS, February 2019.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To enter the drawing for a print copy
of This Story Is A Lie, just leave a
comment below.
The winning name will
be drawn on Friday
night, March 1st.

This drawing is open to the US and Canada.

Book Review: My Whole Truth by Mischa Thrace

My Whole Truth
Mischa Thrace
Flux, October 2018
ISBN 978-1-63583-024-8
Trade Paperback

I’ve struggled with this review for a few weeks, because I was stunned. Speechless. Now, I accept the fact that I will never find and assemble accurate words to aptly address my deep desire for everyone to read this book. But, I can’t keep not telling you about My Whole Truth by Mischa Thrace. So…

Starting this story is a bit like having a bucket of ice-cold water dumped over your head. From out of nowhere. That steal-your-breath, shocking feeling, fused with white-hot anger, stayed with me. Quite frankly, still simmers. Perhaps, because this Realistic Fiction plot is so current, it is almost creepy.

The scenario certainly sets me off, but there’s a brilliant balance with the sincere and effortless strength and support that Seelie receives from her friends. And because they are adolescents, situations can only stay serious for so long. Even from her hospital bed, merely moments after being attacked, Seelie stays true to teens everywhere by easily ignoring simple ‘stay still and quiet’ instructions. And she calls her friends, not a parent. Although, she is not wrong there.

If everyone had a best bud like Lyssa, there would be no more bullying. The ultimate antihero, I couldn’t help but cheer a little bit whenever she stepped out of line. From the minute she arrived in the emergency room, all the way to the end of the tortuous trial, Lyssa stuck by Seelie’s side.

Whereas, Seelie’s mother stayed busy with her restaurant, as usual. Since she wasn’t in the hayloft at the time, Mom couldn’t be expected to actually know what happened anyway. She does recall that Seelie has always been rude to Shane, while seemingly everyone else in the entire town adores the judge’s son. And maternal ambivalence is only the tip of the iceberg.

Reviewed by jv poore, October 2018.