Book Review: A Void the Size of the World by Rachele Alpine


Title: A Void the Size of the World
Author: Rachele Alpine
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: June 20, 2017
Genres: Mystery, Young Adult


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A Void the Size of the World
Rachele Alpine
Simon Pulse, July 2017
ISBN 978-1481485715

From the publisher—

A haunting novel about a girl who must face the consequences after her actions indirectly lead to her sister’s disappearance.

Rhylee didn’t mean to kiss her sister’s boyfriend. At least, not the first time. But it doesn’t matter, because her sister, Abby, caught them together, ran into the dark woods behind their house…and never came home.

As evidence mounts that something terrible has happened to Abby, no one wants to face the truth. Rhylee can’t bring herself to admit what she’s done: that she is the reason her sister ran away. Now Tommy, Abby’s boyfriend, is the prime suspect in her disappearance, and Rhylee’s world has been turned upside down. Slowly, Rhylee’s family is breaking—their lives center on the hope that Abby will return. Rhylee knows they need to face the truth and begin healing—but how can they, when moving on feels like a betrayal? And how do you face the guilt of wishing a person gone…when they actually disappear?

Just how responsible is one person for the actions of another? That’s a tough question and it’s at the heart of A Void the Size of the World. While it’s true that Rhylee was wrong, on so many levels, to kiss her sister’s boyfriend, should Rhylee feel that’s Abby’s disappearance is entirely her fault?

It would be easy for the reader to point fingers at Rhylee and, if other characters (besides Tommy) knew what she had done, they certainly would blame her but is that really fair? Yes, Rhylee let her hormones get the best of her but she’s a teenager and we all know what hormones and emotions are like at that age. A huge part of growing up is learning how to control and contain such things but such self-discipline doesn’t come easily and we need to cut this girl some slack. More importantly, she needs to cut herself some slack but that’s a much, much harder thing to do when the guilt is so overwhelming.

While Rhylee isn’t the most likeable protagonist I’ve come across, other characters show their warts, too, and her little brother, Collin, is the only one I liked much. Maybe it would be better to say that I just didn’t feel them very much even though I knew the devastation that had come into their lives. I’m not sure where the disconnect came from but perhaps being continually bombarded by grief and anger and guilt can naturally cause a sort of withdrawal.

On the whole, this book left me just a little dissatisfied but one thing in particular stood out to me as a good thing. Some might say the author didn’t play fair with the ending but I strongly disagree; I won’t say anything further about this because it would be a spoiler. Suffice it to say, Ms. Alpine left me thinking 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2017.

About the Author

Rachele Alpine is a lover of binge watching reality TV, dogs, knitting, gummy peaches, and lots and lots of coffee!
One of her first jobs was at a library, but it didn’t last long, because all she did was hide in the third-floor stacks and read. Now she’s a little more careful about when and where she indulges her reading habit.
By day she’s a high school English teacher, by night she’s a mom and wife, and she writes during any time she can find in between!

Rachele lives with her husband and son in Cleveland, Ohio, but dreams of moving back to Boston, the city she fell in love with while attending graduate school there.


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Book Review: Ruthless by Carolyn Lee Adams

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Title: Ruthless
Author: Carolyn Lee Adams
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: July 14, 2015
Genre: Mystery, Thriller



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Carolyn Lee Adams
Simon Pulse, July 2015
ISBN 978-1481422628

From the publisher—

Ruth Carver has always competed like her life depends on it. Ambitious. Tough. Maybe even mean. It’s no wonder people call her Ruthless.

When she wakes up with a concussion in the bed of a moving pickup trick, she realizes she has been entered into a contest she can’t afford to lose.

At a remote, rotting cabin deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Ruth’s blindfold comes off and she comes face-to-face with her captor. A man who believes his mission is to punish bad girls like Ruth. A man who has done this six times before.

The other girls were never heard from again, but Ruth won’t go down easy. She escapes into the wilderness, but her hunter is close at her heels. That’s when the real battle begins. That’s when Ruth must decides just how far she’ll go in order to survive.

Back home, they called her Ruthless. They had no idea just how right they were.

When you read a book description saying it’s about a young woman being held against her will by a serial—what, killer?—you kind of know what to expect, right? Wrong, oh so very wrong. Ruthless is a book that has all the chills and thrills you could possibly want. Cozy-only readers need to avoid this one but you can’t go wrong if you love a really intense psychological thriller.

It’s one thing to find yourself in a terrible situation like this but Ruth Carver truly is a unique young woman, one who has no intention of going to her death quietly or of allowing her captor to be in complete control. She’s the woman I would hope to be in such circumstances while I know quite well I wouldn’t be. She’s not Superwoman, though, and has those moments when she just doesn’t think she can go on; it’s what she does with those moments that makes her so remarkable.

The brute that nabbed Ruth is vividly drawn and as menacing and evil as can be but I have to say the character that had the most effect on me, other than Ruth, is the ambience, the atmosphere, if you will, that creates the overall feeling of the darkness that is at the core of this man and of Ruth’s surroundings. Ms. Adams knows how to bring the reader into the scene with her words and, much like the intense cold in another wonderful book (Jenny Milchman’s Cover of Snow), this is what kept me riveted to Ruth’s battle with the evil that wants to consume her.

Looking for a nice peaceful read to while away a few hours? Not this one, not by any means, but if you want a story that might keep you up at night racing through the pages, you’ll want to read Ruthless.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2015.

About the Author

Carolyn Lee AdamsCarolyn Lee Adams is originally from the Seattle area, breeding ground of serial killers and those who write about them. She attended USC Film School and graduated with a BFA in screenwriting. RUTHLESS (Simon Pulse, Summer 2015) is her first novel. When she isn’t exploring the dark side of human nature in her writing, you’ll find her on stage as a stand-up comedian. Because those things go together.







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Book Review: Random by Tom Leveen

Tom Leveen
Simon Pulse,
ISBN 978-1-4424-9956-0

From the publisher—

Late at night Tori receives a random phone call. It’s a wrong number. But the caller seems to want to talk, so she stays on the line.

He asks for a single thing—one reason not to kill himself.

The request plunges her into confusion. Because if this random caller actually does what he plans, he’ll be the second person connected to Tori to take his own life. And the first just might land her in jail. After her Facebook page became Exhibit A in a tragic national news story about cyberbullying, Tori can’t help but suspect the caller is a fraud. But what if he’s not? Her words alone may hold the power of life or death.

With the clock ticking, Tori has little time to save a stranger—and maybe redeem herself—leading to a startling conclusion that changes everything…

Not guilty doesn’t mean you’re innocent.

That tagline says a lot about the story in Random, the concept that you can be guilty in a sense even if not technically speaking. In this case, Tori can’t admit to anyone, much less herself, that her own behavior contributed to the conditions that led a classmate to commit suicide. Tomorrow morning, she’ll be appearing before a judge to enter a plea to the charges against her; her parents are trying very hard to keep the family on an even keel but Tori’s brother, Jack, cannot bring himself to forgive what she has done or her attitude since.

Attitude is the crux of the problem because Tori is completely oblivious to the pain she caused Kevin, the boy who started high school alongside her with some hope and a good deal of apprehension, or perhaps it would be better to say she’s just about as shallow as a person can get. Sure, she’s upset about what’s to come tomorrow but not because of what happened to Kevin. She’s upset because (1) she’s being blamed, (2) her so-called friends, the people she was trying so hard to impress, are not reaching out to her and (3) everybody’s being mean to her, taking away her computer, making her use an old cellphone that <gasp> only makes phone calls, talking about her to the press. In short, Tori is living in a poor-pitiful-me world. Then comes the call from a stranger, the call that will demand much of Tori.

Tori is a very interesting character, largely because she’s so self-centered, so focused on what’s happening to her with very little concern for the people around her. When Jack tries to tell her how he felt abandoned by her when school was tough for him, she doesn’t get it. She also doesn’t get that Noah, her only remaining friend, cares a great deal for her or that Andrew, the guy on the other end of the phone call, might do something terrible if she can’t stop him. Actually, she does get that last part but she’s mostly concerned about how it will look if she’s connected to a second suicide.

Andrew himself is an enigma. Is he really about to commit suicide or is this a setup meant to harass Tori? At one moment, I empathized with him and, at the next, I thought he was really dicey, someone not to be trusted, then I’d bounce back the other way again. Jack, on the other hand, had my sympathies all along. He was a victim in more than one way and I truly understood why he felt as he did about his sister.

The real class act here is Noah, a boy who clearly cared about Tori and wished her well, a boy who would go to great lengths to make things a little better for her. Noah is a character I could love.

Will Tori finally understand why she’s in trouble, what she did to Kevin, or even just grow up a little and become a decent human being? The answers may or may not come but the tale of her very long night is worth putting up with this girl. I’d never read anything by Tom Leveen before but he has a new fan because he made me look just a little bit below the surface.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2015.