Book Review: Everything I Knew to be True by Rayna York

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Title: Everything I Knew to be True
Author: Rayna York
Publisher: Toad Tree Press
Publication Date: May 12, 2019
Genre: YA Contemporary Fiction

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Purchase Links:
https://linktr.ee/rayna.york

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Everything I Knew to be True
Rayna York
Toad Tree Press, May 2019
ISBN 978-1-9990951-0-9
Trade Paperback

From the author—

It was never easy for Cassie and her mother, struggling to make ends meet in their tiny apartment in The Bronx, but they had each other and that was enough. When her mother dies suddenly from an aggressive form of cancer, Cassie is forced to finish high school in California while living with the wealthy family of her mother’s closest friend—a women she never knew existed.

Living with the Stantons is the complete opposite of what she’s used to—the massive house, a father figure, and Cody, the spoiled, insanely good-looking son with the bedroom across the hall.

Broken with grief and struggling to fit in, Cassie meets Mila, a female powerhouse that helps her cope with a hidden past, the overwhelming present, and a shared experience no one should have to endure—a nightmare they both thought was over.

Warning: Although this book is classified as Young Adult, the author recommends it for mature readers due to explicit language.

Being a teenager is hard enough but how much worse must it be when you’ve lost your mom, the only parent you had, and then get shipped off to people you don’t know in a place that’s so different from your home? Cassie is—was—a normal teen but now she doesn’t even understand what “normal” is.

I had so much sympathy for this young girl who is faced with more upheaval than anyone can take gracefully and then even more is piled on when Cassie learns about secrets in her mom’s past that affect her directly. She’s lucky, though, that her mother’s friend and her family are so caring and that they welcome her into their home, offering it to her for her own.

While heartache and troubles certainly run through this story, I thought it was much more than that. It’s also a story of a girl’s psychological and emotional growth and how the people around her can make such a journey one that’s buffered by compassion. Nicely done, Ms. York!

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2019.

About the Author

Rayna York grew up with hippie parents that liked to adventure, so being the new kid was always a challenge. Where change was the norm, books were her constant–a way to escape. As an adult, many careers came and went, but writing has always been her passion. Everything I knew to be true is her first published novel.

Author Links:

Website // Goodreads // Facebook // Instagram

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Giveaway

$25 Amazon gift card

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Book Review: Surviving Doodahville by Ashley Fontainne and Lillian Hansen

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Title: Surviving Doodahville
Authors: Ashley Fontainne and Lillian Hansen
Narrator: Rebecca Roberts
Publication Date: May 24, 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Southern Fiction, Romance

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes

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Surviving Doodahville
Ashley Fontainne and Lillian Hansen
Narrated by Rebecca Roberts
RMSW Press, May 2019
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the authors—

The summer of 1983 – the era of big debt, big hair, and big dreams. Seventeen-year-old Kassandra Lawson is excited about starting her senior year of high school. She has a crush on a local hunk, and her best friend, valley girl extraordinaire Liz Hendricks, insists on helping her snag the hot guy – for sure!

July starts out uneventful for Kee and her parents. Her father, Kevin, is a partner at a CPA firm, and her mother, Gail, works as a secretary at the police department. The small family lives an idyllic life in sunny Hacienda Heights, California.

1983 also brings upheaval and strife for the Lawson clan. A death in the family forces Kevin and Gail to make the painful decision to pack up and move to Kevin’s hometown of Daltville, Arkansas.

Each faces daunting challenges adapting to their new life. Gail and Kee aren’t quite sure they can handle the culture shock. They encounter social and racial issues they never faced on the West Coast, strange food, weird dialects, odd customs, and wicked secrets that have the potential to destroy their family.

More than just a coming-of-age story, Surviving Doodahville explores family bonds, racial barriers, and just how much a person is willing to sacrifice for others. The tale is full of humor, action and a touch of mystery, making it a fun romp into the past.

Well, dagnabbit. I made it all the way to the last chapter with nary a sniffle and then I turned into a near-sobbing wretch 😉

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Rising high school senior Kee and her parents are living the California dream so when circumstances lead Gail and Kevin to decide to move to Daltville, Arkansas, she’s devastated and pretty sure life is over. Then again, fate has a way of making one take a second look and Kee soon thinks her parents’ betrayal doesn’t hold a candle to another pair of betrayals.

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Off they go to what can only be called a stereotypical Southern backwoods town complete with racism, secrets, years-long feuds, overblown morality…and a tremendous amount of charm and possibilities. Kee soon finds that high school in this redneck town isn’t entirely terrible and her small family can help bring about some major changes.

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Romance and friendships blossom in Surviving Doodahville but, at times, I couldn’t help feeling a kind of superiority that these Californians exhibited towards their new neighbors. It was a bit like Kee, Gail and Kevin were the shining examples for goodness and light and that Daltville could only be lifted from its darkness by these more enlightened transplants. Still, a number of the townspeople were good solid citizens and very likeable indeed so I didn’t think the “preaching” was overdone. Truthfully, back in the early 80’s, a lot of what is wrong in Daltville was also wrong elsewhere and still exists today. Now, as in those days, good people matter and can make a difference.
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Side note: The cover is very appealing but I’m puzzled by the sign that reads “DooDah Ville”. Which is correct, DooDah Ville or Doodahville?
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Rebecca Roberts is new to me as a narrator and I was impressed by her performance. Ms. Roberts has a very pleasing tone and does accents/dialect really well. Most of all, she’s believable as a teenaged girl and she added a great deal to my enjoyment of this book.
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Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2019.

About the Authors

Award-winning and International bestselling author, Ashley Fontainne, is an avid reader, becoming a fan of the written word in her youth, starting with the Nancy Drew mystery series. Stories that immerse the reader deep into the human psyche and the monsters lurking within us are her favorite reads.

Her muse for penning the Eviscerating the Snake series was The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Ashley’s love for this book is what sparked her desire to write her debut novel, Accountable to None, the first book in the trilogy. With a modern setting to the tale, Ashley delves into just what lengths a person is willing to go to when seeking personal justice for heinous acts perpetrated against them. The second novel in the series, Zero Balance, focuses on the cost and reciprocal cycle that obtaining revenge has on the seeker. Once the cycle starts, where does it end? How far will the tendrils of revenge expand? Adjusting Journal Entries answers that question—far and wide.

The short thriller entitled Number Seventy-Five touches upon the dangerous world of online dating. Number Seventy-Five took home the BRONZE medal in fiction/suspense at the 2013 Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards.

The paranormal thriller entitled The Lie won the GOLD medal in the 2013 Illumination Book Awards for fiction/suspense. A movie based on this book, entitled Foreseen, is currently a feature film available on video-on-demand from Amazon.

Ashley delved into the paranormal with a Southern Gothic horror/suspense novel, Growl, which released in January of 2015. The suspenseful mystery Empty Shell released in September of 2014. Ashley teamed up with Lillian Hansen (Ashley calls her Mom!) and penned a three-part murder mystery/suspense series entitled The Magnolia Series. The first book, Blood Ties, released in 2015 and was voted one of the Top 50 Self-Published Books You Should Be Reading in 2015 at http://www.readfree.ly.

WebsiteTwitterFacebookGoodreads

Lillian Hansen is the proud mother of Ashley Fontainne and a grateful daughter of parents who raised her to love and respect the principles upon which America was founded. Lillian is the granddaughter of a brave young woman who immigrated to the United States from Denmark at the age of 18 without speaking any English, who built a career, a family, and became a proud U.S. Citizen.

Lillian values the diverse, life-enriching experiences squirreled away in her memory banks and is fond of all four-legged critters, especially cats. Lillian lives in Arkansas and Surviving Doodahville is her third novel.

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About the Narrator

After a career in finance, Rebecca Roberts became inspired to pursue her childhood dream of becoming an actress. Her ingenuity and ardent desire brought her to voice-acting which has rapidly grown into her thriving audiobook narration and production company, Atlantis Audio Productions. She has narrated and produced over seventy audiobooks for indie authors and major publishing houses. Rebecca delivers her stories with a mature and intelligent style characterized by a believable tone, and versatility in creating memorable and individual characters with her various accents and vocal qualities. In short, she narrates with her whole heart. Rebecca is a native Floridian, proud mother to three sparkling children, and wife to the man of her dreams.

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Giveaway

Surviving Doodahville Ebook
Runs July 21st to 28th⎮Open internationally

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Book Review: Murder from Scratch by Leslie Karst

Murder from Scratch
A Sally Solari Mystery #4
Leslie Karst
Crooked Lane, April 2019
ISBN 978-1-68331-953-5
Hard Cover

Murder from Scratch is the fourth in Leslie Karst’s Sally Solari mystery series.  As many of you may know, Sally is a chef-owner of a high end popular restaurant Gauguin.  However, lately she has been having problems with her staff, including her cook.  Feeling like she just can’t deal with any more problems, Sally hears from her father that her cousin Evelyn’s mother has recently died and Evelyn, who is blind, needs a place to stay for a while.  By this Sally’s father means that Evelyn should stay with Sally.  Grudgingly, Sally agrees.  But, as it turns out, Sally and Evelyn are kindred spirits.  Evelyn is an excellent cook and teaches Sally’s chef a new recipe or two and she is fun to be around.  Also, to Sally’s surprise, Evelyn can navigate around very well and with minimal help using her white cane.  In fact, when they go to the house Evelyn shared with her mother to get some belongings Evelyn needs, she discovers some things are not in their usual places.  Like most blind people, Evelyn and her mother kept things in their home in the same place at all times so that Evelyn could find them.  Discovering that things had been moved was very disconcerting and supported Evelyn’s belief that her mother had not overdosed on her own but that someone murdered her.

Anxious to find out what really happened, Evelyn and Sally begin to investigate which has its difficult moments particularly since they are two women trying to get information from fellow chefs in a competitive and male-dominated field.  But, unwilling to give up, they push on putting themselves in danger from someone who is determined not to be discovered and willing to do anything to make sure Sally and Evelyn do not succeed.

Reviewed by Melinda Drew, July 2019.

Book Review: Blood and Wisdom by Verlin Darrow

Blood and Wisdom
Verlin Darrow
The Wild Rose Press, June 2018
ISBN: 978-1-5092-2086-1
Trade Paperback

Failed therapist Karl Gatlin, now a California private investigator with a small practice and lots of contacts, is asked to look into threats and a headless body. The request is by a former fellow student. Client Aria Piper, now the leader of a growing spiritual center, is naturally disturbed by the events, apparently aimed at intimidating her. She believes the perpetrator is the leader of a nearby cult and she wants Gatlin to make the threat go away. If he’s unsuccessful, she could lose her property and her livelihood.

Because the author is a psychotherapist, Gatlin’s interview of his client devolves into an exploration of motivations as much as it covers prior activities and leads. The novel is rich in both, plus an impressive cast of characters, on both sides of the law, from gang-bangers to bad cops to suspicious students, clients and business members. They all have to be sorted out and Gatlin and his team of researchers, bodyguards and local cops all have to be vetted, one way or another.

Set in California with widely spaced sites, Gatlin spends a good many pages driving from place to place while admiring the scenery. There is no question the views are rich and varied and Gatlin is loath to drive anywhere without describing it in some detail. The unwinding course of the plot is deliberate, complicated and at times amusing. This is not a fast-paced, slam-bam shoot-em-up scramble. Oh, there are a few gun duels, lots of cogitation, some off-site hacking and it all comes together in the end with a clever resolution. Readers should just be prepared for a fairly long and winding road to trail’s end.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, December 2018.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: Spirit Wind by Marilyn Meredith

Spirit Wind
Tempe Crabtree Mystery Series #18
Marilyn Meredith
Marilyn Meredith, March 2019
ISBN 978-1092112086
Trade Paperback

Tempe Crabtree’s eighteenth adventure is a winner. She’s back, in all her righteous stubbornness, determined, as always, to not only solve the crime in front of her, but to protect the innocent as well. This time she’s forced to also deal with the persistent resistance of her husband, Pastor Harry Hutchinson, who expected the pair would spend a couple of weeks relaxing at a coastal resort. But he also is experienced dealing with his wife’s often abrupt changes of direction.

Tempe, a deputy sheriff in Bear Creek, California, a small Sierra Mountain community, is enticed to visit Tehachapi and stay at the Stallion Springs resort. An acquaintance, one Lorna Collins, a ghost hunter, whom Hutch was less than enthusiastic to hear of again, was searching for the ghost of a lost female prison inmate.

Tempe, not unfamiliar with the spirit world, due in part to her Native American heritage, sympathized with the aims of her friend, not for a moment suspecting there were unholy forces abroad in Tehachapi. Almost from the moment they arrive the couple is embraced by a local detective. the ghost hunter and a strange spirit manifestation.

The story moves along apace, evokes the physical area and several intriguing and disparate characters. As usual, Tempe efficiently and realistically blends her well-developed policing skills with the sensitivity of her awareness of unseen forces around us.

This is a fine, highly satisfactory and enjoyable novel of murder, manipulation, the history of the area and it blends the known and the unknown with judicious balance and at a good pace until the final explosive resolution.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, May 2019.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: Wrong Light by Matt Coyle—and a Giveaway!

Wrong Light   
A Rick Cahill Novel #5
Matt Coyle
Oceanview Publishing, December 2018
ISBN 978-1-60809-329-8
Trade Paperback

Rick Cahill is a San Diego private eye. He comes out of the hard-bitten lonesome cowboy tradition, one who spends a lot of time second-guessing himself and even agonizing over missteps and mistakes. But he is wedded to Truth. When he takes on a client, most of the time that client is law-abiding and honest–mostly.

Cahill’s history is, however, checkered and as a result, his new client, a radio talk-show host, with a sultry, warm voice that promises much in the dark hours of the night, does not immediately receive the kind of intense attention one usually expects from a PI in these novels. He needs to respond to a former contact or client whose demands for attention are fraught with intense danger for Cahill from the very beginning and Cahill’s activities and plans to protect the talk-show host are frequently interrupted by this other, persistent, obligation.

The novel is well-paced although Cahill’s sarcasm and jaundice occasionally drag the reader away from the main narrative. There are probably too many verbal cracks, tongue-in-cheek observations and philosophical bon mots than needed to fill out our perceptions of the main character, but the persistent drive of the narrative will overcome that minor difficulty, as it will slice over the occasional repetitious language.

With those minor caveats, I recommend the novel for fans of the hardboiled, down at the heels, persistent and upright investigator, one who feels deeply his past mistakes and missteps.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, March 2019.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

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To enter the drawing for a print copy
of Wrong Light by Matt Coyle, just leave a
comment below. The winning name will
be drawn on Monday night, April 1st.
This drawing is open to the US and Canada.

Book Review: Pairing a Deception by Nadine Nettmann

Pairing a Deception
A Sommelier Mystery #3
Nadine Nettmann
Midnight Ink Books, May 2018
ISBN 978-0-7387-5063-7
Trade paperback

The heroine of this story, Katie Stillwell, is on the brink of taking her Advanced Sommelier exam, a difficult test which only a talented few are able to pass. At the same time, she, accompanied by her boyfriend, John Dean, a detective in the Napa Valley, are attending a wine festival where Katie will pour wines for attendees at one of the seminars. Almost immediately things begin to go awry. A young woman causes a scene at the hotel front desk, and then another one involving the major presenter, Master Sommelier Hudson Wiley, who will be one of Katie’s judges when she takes the test.

It isn’t long before the young woman is found murdered outside Hudson’s door, and Katie and her detective friend are on the case. And then, as Katie and John come closer to discovering the murderer, Katie becomes a target.

For the wine aficionado, there is a lot of information packed into this novel. Each chapter begins with a pairing suggestion for wine of specific varietals, and flavor notes are often indicated. For this reader, the information so imparted held the most charm, and hey, I learned how to pronounce sommelier. (sam-all-yay) I have to admit I thought the motivation for the crime a bit weak, and some of the characters hard to care for. Katie and John, however, are well fleshed out and likable, the writing just fine, and the setting interesting. The Santa Barbara wine country sounds like a great area to visit.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, December 2018.
Author of Five Days, Five Dead, Hereafter and Hometown Homicide.