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

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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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Purchase Links:

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

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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Follow the tour:

July 5

July 6

YA Obsessed– Review
Downright Dystopian– Guest Post (author)

July 7

Hauntedbybooks13– Review & Favorite Quotes
thebookdragon– Q&A

July 8

Here’s to Happy Endings– Guest Post (blogger)
Literary Meanderings– Guest Post (author)

July 9

July 10

Kristin’s Novel Cafe– Review
Such a Novel Idea– Guest Post (author)
YA Book Divas– Guest Post (blogger)

July 11

Never Too Many To Read– 10 List
Library of a Book Witch– Guest Post (author)

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GIVEAWAY:

Prize: 1 finished copy of

A VOID THE SIZE OF THE WORLD

Enter here.

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Book Review: Tangle of Strings by Ashley Farley

tangle-of-strings-tour-banner

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Title: Tangle of Strings
Series: Sweeney Sisters #4
Author: Ashley Farley
Publication Date: December 2016/January 2017
Genres: Southern Fiction, Women’s Fiction

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Goodreads

Purchase Links:

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Other books in the series:

her-sisters-shoes-2     lowcountry-stranger-2     boots-and-bedlam

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tangle-of-stringsTangle of Strings
Sweeney Sisters #4
Ashley Farley
Leisure Time Books
Print December 2016, Ebook January 2017
ISBN 978-0998274119
Trade Paperback

From the author—

A nearly tragic accident leads to a discovery that rocks the Sweeney family’s world.

Some families never resolve conflicts. Not so with the Sweeneys. Their sense of family, their love for one another, and their willingness to forgive have always triumphed and brought them back together. Until now. The latest crisis threatens to tear the family apart and crumble the foundation that has always proved itself rock solid.

At the heart of the matter are sixteen-year-old Annie Bethune and her boyfriend, Cooper. At stake are their dreams for the future. As to these dreams, no one in the family holds back when asserting an opinion.

Annie soon begins to feel like a puppet on strings with all those she loves telling her what to do. When those strings become tangled and a family feud develops, Annie, unable to bear the pressure, runs away. Straight into the arms of danger.

That’s an interesting title, isn’t it? I can see two ways of interpreting it—the tangle of strings represents the tangled web resulting from lies and poor choices or perhaps it’s an allusion to the various threads of life, both everyday and unusual, that so often create chaos at some level. I’ll leave it to you to decide once you’ve had a chance to read Tangle of Strings.

Ms. Farley continues the story of Annie who came to be a part of the extended Sweeney family with all her emotional baggage but who found a haven with this loving group of people. At the center of this family are three sisters—Jackie, Faith and Sam—who are typical siblings with their squabbles, their worries and, ultimately, their love for each other and everyone else in their circle. Annie could not have found a safer or more welcoming home.

Escaping her past is not so easy, especially when her mother, Heidi, comes to town. Heidi, who abandoned Annie as a child to pursue her dream of stardom, is one of those narcissists who see nothing beyond their own perspective. She has no understanding of how badly she hurt her daughter and behaves as though Annie should welcome her back with open arms, something this teen is not willing to do, and fleeing from her mother leads to a very bad car crash.

Emotions run high as one issue mingles with more, leading to what can be considered a real crisis. A troubled young romance, Annie’s accident and resulting injuries, Heidi’s unwanted intrusion into Annie’s life, a pair of criminals and, above all, Annie’s and Cooper’s unplanned pregnancy put so much pressure on this young girl and her surrogate family that it’s almost certain relationships and feelings will change. As in so many family situations, everyone has his or her own opinion about what needs to be done and too many forget that pushing their own agendas doesn’t really help. In fact, they come close to being that stereotypical family that can be really overbearing while the intentions are well-meaning. When all is said and done, though, the story boils down to an exploration of the relationships between parents and their children, biological or not, and the importance of truly listening to one another.

Tangle of Strings is another fine episode in Ms. Farley’s engaging series but I do suggest the series be read in order because each book builds on the one before and it’s the best way to fully understand the Sweeneys and other people in their lives. I’m sorry to say this appears to be the end of the Sweeney family saga but Ms. Farley has at least left us with the possibility of future installments and I’ll be very happy if that happens.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2017.

About the Author

Ashley Farley 2Ashley Farley is the author of the bestselling series, the Sweeney Sisters Series. Ashley writes books about women for women. Her characters are mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives facing real-life issues. Her goal is to keep you turning the pages until the wee hours of the morning. If her story stays with you long after you’ve read the last word, then she’s done her job.

After her brother died in 1999 of an accidental overdose, she turned to writing as a way of releasing her pent-up emotions. She wrote SAVING BEN in honor of Neal, the boy she worshiped, the man she could not save.

Ashley is a wife and mother of two college-aged children. She grew up in the salty marshes of South Carolina, but now lives in Richmond, Virginia, a city she loves for its history and traditions.

Ashley loves to hear from her readers. Feel free to visit her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ashleywfarley or twitter.com/ashleywfarley.

Catch up with Ashley

WebsiteGoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram

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Follow the tour:

January 21st: Launch

January 22: Reading Is My SuperPower & Katie’s Clean Book Collection

January 23: Christy’s Cozy CornersMel’s Shelves, & Zerina Blossom’s Books

January 24: Mythical Books & Falling Leaves

January 25: The Silver Dagger Scriptorium & Nicole’s Book Musings

January 26: Buried Under Books

January 27: Grand Finale

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A Few Teeny Reviews

thrice-the-brinded-cat-hath-mewdThrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d
A Flavia de Luce Mystery #8
Alan Bradley
Delacorte Press, September 2016
ISBN 978-0-345539960
Hardcover
Audible
Unabridged Downloaded Audio Book
Narrated by Jayne Entwistle

From the publisher—

In spite of being ejected from Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy in Canada, twelve-year-old Flavia de Luce is excited to be sailing home to England. But instead of a joyous homecoming, she is greeted on the docks with unfortunate news: Her father has fallen ill, and a hospital visit will have to wait while he rests. But with Flavia’s blasted sisters and insufferable cousin underfoot, Buckshaw now seems both too empty—and not empty enough. Only too eager to run an errand for the vicar’s wife, Flavia hops on her trusty bicycle, Gladys, to deliver a message to a reclusive wood-carver. Finding the front door ajar, Flavia enters and stumbles upon the poor man’s body hanging upside down on the back of his bedroom door. The only living creature in the house is a feline that shows little interest in the disturbing scene. Curiosity may not kill this cat, but Flavia is energized at the prospect of a new investigation. It’s amazing what the discovery of a corpse can do for one’s spirits. But what awaits Flavia will shake her to the very core.

My favorite pre-teen sleuth (although this is not a series targeting young readers) is back home in England at her beloved Buckshaw but her return from Canada is not a completely happy one what with her father lying very ill in the hospital. At loose ends, Flavia goes in search of something to occupy her mind and a dead body is just the ticket. As precocious as ever, Flavia sets out to prove that this was murder but she’s unprepared for a shattering event. Not precisely a cliffhanger, this event makes me want the next book yesterday.

As always, narrator Jayne Entwistle is Flavia de Luce to a “T” and kept me captivated from beginning to end.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2016.

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michelangelos-ghostMichelangelo’s Ghost
A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery #4
Gigi Pandian
Henery Press, October 2016
ISBN 978-1-63511-069-2
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

A lost work of art linking India to the Italian Renaissance. A killer hiding behind a centuries-old ghost story. And a hidden treasure in Italy’s macabre sculpture garden known as the Park of Monsters… When Jaya’s old professor dies under eerie circumstances shortly after discovering manuscripts that point to a treasure in Italy’s Park of Monsters, Jaya and her brother pick up the trail. From San Francisco to the heart of Italy, Jaya is haunted by a ghost story inexorably linked to the masterpieces of a long-dead artist and the deeds of a modern-day murderer. Untrustworthy colleagues, disappearing boyfriends, and old enemies—who can Jaya trust when the ghost wails?

Jaya Jones is one of the most appealing protagonists I’ve come across in recent years and each book is better than the last. She’s an academic, an historian interested in unique artifacts, and she loves chasing after treasures even though she’s usually reluctant at first. In short, Jaya is a modern-day Indiana Jones, just not quite as much over the top, and I love her for that. Adventure is just around every corner and I happily go along with her on every treasure hunt.  Of course, there’s a mystery or two or three to be solved, including the question of how her former professor died, and having her brother and his girlfriend along this time adds to the entertainment. Oh, and the cherry on top is the secret romance between Jaya and Lane, the man with a thieving past. All in all, Michelangelo’s Ghost is a tale not to be missed.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2016.

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the-stranger-gameThe Stranger Game
Cylin Busby
Balzer + Bray, October 2016
ISBN 978-0-06-235460-0
Hardcover

From the publisher—

When Nico Morris’s older sister mysteriously disappears, her parents, family, and friends are devastated. But Nico can never admit what she herself feels: relief at finally being free of Sarah’s daily cruelties.

Then the best and worst thing happens: four years later, after dozens of false leads, Sarah is found.

But this girl is much changed from the one Nico knew. She’s thin and drawn, when Sarah had been golden and athletic; timid and unsure, instead of brash and competitive; and strangest of all, sweet and kind, when she had once been mean and abusive. Sarah’s retrograde amnesia has caused her to forget almost everything about her life, from small things like the plots of her favorite books and her tennis game to the more critical—where she’s been the last four years and what happened at the park on the fateful day she vanished. Despite the happy ending, the dark details of that day continue to haunt Nico, and it becomes clear that more than one person knows the true story of what happened to Sarah. . . .

There isn’t anything more devastating than the disappearance of a child, the not knowing and the endless questions, but how much worse is it when a family member is not entirely sorry that child is gone? Nico is a normal young girl who misses Sarah and yet can’t help feeling relief that she doesn’t have to contend with her sister’s bullying and meanness anymore but, of course, that natural reaction is loaded with guilt. How Nico and her parents cope and her feelings of inadequacy because she can’t fill the gaping hole are an engaging study in how the ones left behind handle…or don’t…such a terrible scenario. When Sarah miraculously returns, Nico’s search for the truth ratchets up the tension and leads to almost unbearable suspense.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2016.

Book Review: Lowcountry Stranger by Ashley Farley

Lowcountry StrangerLowcountry Stranger
Sweeney Sisters #2
Ashley Farley
Leisure Time Books
ISBN 9780986167270
Ebook, July 2016
ISBN 9780986167263
Trade Paperback, May 2016

From the author—

There’s a stranger in town. And it’s no coincidence when she shows up uninvited at a Sweeney family wedding. All eyes are drawn to this urchin who seems to have washed in with the tide. Before the night is over, the doe-eyed waif charms young and old with her street smarts and spunky personality. For better or worse, Annie Dawn is here to stay.

The memorable Sweeney sisters from Her Sister’s Shoes have returned with more suspense and family drama to hold you spellbound until the dramatic conclusion. As she approaches the next stage of her life as an empty nester, Jackie is torn between expanding her fledgling design business and spending these last precious months with her boys before they fly the coop. Her own worst enemy, Sam is terrified of making a commitment to Eli Marshall, handsome police officer, true love of her life. Her resolve is tested when a ghost from her past shows up after nearly two decades. Faith nurtures her seven-year-old daughter who is recovering from the trauma of her abusive father. Is the threat in the past, or is there more danger on the horizon? The sisters seek guidance from their mother, Lovie, a true Southern matriarch who shows them how to respond to adversity with grace and dignity.

Things are heating up in the Lowcountry. The Sweeney sisters remind us, once again, that being a part of a family is about more than sharing the same DNA.

In August of 2015, I read Her Sister’s Shoes and made the acquaintance of three sisters—Faith, Sam and Jackie—and found them to be appealingly normal with their individual stories adding up overall to a strong tale of what family can and should be. At the time, I hoped to see more of these ladies and others in their wider circle and, lo and behold, here they are again.

The lush lowcountry marshland of South Carolina is the setting for the wedding of Faith and Mike, much anticipated by all including Faith’s little girl, Bitsy. Bitsy is still suffering some trauma from her father’s deadly attacks nearly a year earlier and Sam is happy to watch Faith and Bitsy find a safe haven in Mike even as she resists making the same kind of commitment with Eli. Meanwhile, oldest sister Jackie is caught up in her own concerns, as usual, and mother Lovie’s recent peculiar behavior has all her daughters worried and thankful that Captain Mack Bowman is in her life.

When a young woman shows up at the wedding, she’s a stranger yet oddly familiar and her physical appearance is completely inappropriate in both clothing and hygiene. None of the family recognize her or know why she’s at the wedding but they’re astounded at an exchange they see between this teen and Bitsy. Thus begins a story full of drama and twists and turns that will send this extended family’s lives upside down and sideways, always leavened by love and loyalty. Annie Dawn will be the catalyst for change in the family dynamics.

Lowcountry Stranger is essentially Southern fiction or comfort fiction, if you will, but there’s also enough suspense here to appeal to many mystery readers. Over the course of several books, not all involving the Sweeney sisters, I’ve become very comfortable with Ms. Farley‘s work. I always enjoy her storylines and, in particular, I’m drawn to her characters and the ways they interact with each other and cope with day-to-day life as well as various crises. In fact, they’re people I could see myself having as friends and the Sweeneys fall right into that. I really do hope we’ll see much more of this family in the future.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2016.

Book Review: The Secret Language of Sisters by Luanne Rice

The Secret Language of SistersThe Secret Language of Sisters
Luanne Rice
Point, February 2016
ISBN: 978-0-545-83955-6
Hardcover

Roo and Tilly are not only sisters, but best friends. Older sister Roo has a steady boyfriend, Newton, of two years standing, but is feeling like maybe their relationship needs to go away since they’re heading to different colleges next year. Tilly is in flux as are most fourteen-year-olds, unsure of her path in life and terminally impatient. Since their father died of a heart attack not long ago, she feels even more at sea because he taught her to feel free at night as the two of them went looking for owls in the dense forest near their seaside home in Connecticut.

Roo’s thing is photography. She has an amazing ability to catch shades of light and darkness and as the story opens, she’s taking what she hopes will be the last few great shots she needs for her entry in a prestigious competition for high school seniors. Tilly is waiting in her usual impatient mode at a local museum for Roo to pick her up. She sends multiple texts when Roo is a couple minutes late. Despite knowing that texting while driving isn’t smart or safe, Roo sends one to chill her sister’s impatience. When she looks up from her phone, she’s about to hit a dog being walked by an older woman.

Roo manages to avoid seriously injuring the dog (it suffers a broken leg), but her car flips, ending up in the salt marsh. When Martha, the owner of the dog approaches the car, Roo, hanging upside down and bleeding from her head, is more worried about the dog’s welfare than her own. After suffering an injury-induced stroke, Roo is unable to move or communicate, but is able to hear and understand everything around her. It takes a while before her condition, Locked-In Syndrome, is correctly identified and she’s moved to a Boston hospital where a specialist in the field from London works with her.

While Roo is making her painful, arduous way to recovery, everyone else in her life is a mess. Tilly blames herself, Nelson blames himself (he also texted her that afternoon), the press jumps all over the situation because of the driving while texting aspect and the girls’ mother, already grieving because of her husband’s death, can’t seem to avoid jumping on the blame Tilly bandwagon.

How Roo recovers, what happens between her and Nelson, how Martha’s own experiences while her sister died come into play as a healing aspect in Tilly and Roo’s re-connection and where everyone stands by the conclusion makes this an amazing read. The ending is realistic and satisfying. This is Luanne Rice‘s first YA novel and she has done a great job. I had to stop reading twice and wait a couple days before picking it up again because of the intensity. Granted the issue of texting while driving gets hammered on a bit too much, but that’s a very tiny quibble about a great book.

Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS, February 2016.

Teeny Reviews: The Sister Pact by Stacie Ramey, Home By Nightfall by Charles Finch, Powerless by Tim Washburn, The Ark by Patrick S. Tomlinson, and Merry Mary by Ashley Farley

The Sister PactThe Sister Pact
Stacie Ramey
Sourcebooks Fire, November 2015
ISBN 978-1-4926-2097-6
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Who holds your secrets?

Allie is devastated when her sister commits suicide-and it’s not just because she misses her. Allie feels betrayed. The two made a pact that they’d always be together, in life and in death, but Leah broke her promise and Allie needs to know why.

Her parents hover. Her friends try to support her. And Nick, sweet Nick, keeps calling and flirting. Their sympathy only intensifies her grief.

But the more she clings to Leah, the more secrets surface. Allie’s not sure which is more distressing: discovering the truth behind her sister’s death or facing her new reality without her.

I never had a sister and my brother and I were too far apart in age to be close when we were growing up—although that changed later in life—but I think losing a sibling through suicide must be so devastating it’s nearly impossible to recover. What an inordinate amount of pain and confusion the survivor must feel, especially as a teen! Ms. Ramey writes this story with an incredible empathy and understanding that brings it to life for teen readers but also for those of us well past those years.

A major side effect of any death is the discovery of the things you didn’t know about that person’s life and that’s the essence of Allie’s journey through all the pain and betrayal and the questions that go with any death but especially a suicide. Her trauma leads her down some dubious paths and I found myself both sad and appalled as I watched her struggle with truths she might not have wished to learn.

I’ve dealt with, and still am dealing with, a lot of grief this year and The Sister Pact has made it all just a tiny bit easier even though my “events” haven’t been due to suicide. Thank you, Ms. Ramey 🙂

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2015.

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Home By NightfallHome By Nightfall
A Charles Lenox Mystery #9
Charles Finch
Minotaur Books, November 2015
ISBN 978-1-250-07041-8
Hardcover

From the publisher—

It’s London in 1876, and the whole city is abuzz with the enigmatic disappearance of a famous foreign pianist. Lenox has an eye on the matter – as a partner in a now-thriving detective agency, he’s a natural choice to investigate. Just when he’s tempted to turn his focus to it entirely, however, his grieving brother asks him to come down to Sussex, and Lenox leaves the metropolis behind for the quieter country life of his boyhood. Or so he thinks. In fact, something strange is afoot in Markethouse: small thefts, books, blankets, animals, and more alarmingly a break-in at the house of a local insurance agent. As he and his brother investigate this small accumulation of mysteries, Lenox realizes that something very strange and serious indeed may be happening, more than just local mischief. Soon, he’s racing to solve two cases at once, one in London and one in the country, before either turns deadly.

The private detective I’ve come to know and love so well is back and in fine fettle as he balances his life between the occasionally seedy world of criminal activity and the aristocratic society he and his wife, Lady Jane, are part of. In this latest adventure, Charles Lenox is pulled in two directions, intrigued by the case of a missing celebrity but also needing to help his recently widowed brother in his grief and get to the bottom of a series of odd events in his childhood home.

Charles Finch is one of a handful of authors who, quite simply, never let me down and that holds true here. Lenox is a man who believes he can make a difference in people’s lives and he has great compassion in addition to intelligence and a perceptive mind. That’s the core of a truly good detective, don’t you think?

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2015.

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PowerlessPowerless
Tim Washburn
Pinnacle, October 2015
ISBN 978-0-7860-3653-0
Mass Market Paperback

From the publisher—

Nothing Can Prepare You. . .

It strikes without warning. A massive geomagnetic solar storm that destroys every power grid in the northern hemisphere. North America is without lights, electricity, phones, and navigation systems. In one week, the human race is flung back to the Dark Ages.

Nothing Can Save You. . .

In Boulder, Colorado, weather technicians watch in horror as civilization collapses around them. Planes are falling out of the skies. Cars are dead. Pandemonium and terror grip the Northern Hemisphere. As nuclear reactors across North America face inevitable meltdowns, the U.S. President remains powerless in a heavily guarded White House. From London to Boston to Anchorage, there is no food, no water, no hope. It’s every man for himself. . .and it will only get worse.

Survival Is Everything.

Only one man–army veteran Zeke Marshall–is prepared to handle a nightmare like this. But when he tries to reunite with his family in Dallas–across a lawless terrain as deadly as any battlefield–he discovers there are worse things in life than war. And there are terrible and unthinkable things he’ll have to do to survive. . .

I really do wish this hadn’t been written in present tense because it was an annoying distraction, not an enhancement to a story premise that I usually look forward to. I enjoyed this, in spite of the choice of tense, and in spite of the hyperbole in the book’s description (only one man is prepared to handle a nightmare like this? seriously?). Zeke is a character I came to respect and like very much and the depiction of the devastation is evocative and realistic.

I’m not a particular fan of the Department of Homeland Security but I can’t help but wonder…has any author presented them in a positive light? In Powerless, as in every other thriller I’ve read that features them, incompetence and obstructionism seem to be their strong suits and, to be honest, I’m tired of it. With all their failings, I just don’t believe that this agency is so completely wrong.

All in all, while I felt this was rather simplistic in spots, lessening the tension too much, I do recommend Powerless to anyone who appreciates a good disaster novel.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2015.

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The Ark 2The Ark
Children of a Dead Earth #1
Patrick S. Tomlinson
Angry Robot, November 2015
ISBN 978-0857664846
Mass Market Paperback

From the publisher—

Humankind has escaped a dying Earth and set out to find a new home among the stars aboard an immense generation spaceship, affectionately named the Ark. Bryan Benson is the Ark’s greatest living sports hero, enjoying retirement working as a detective in Avalon, his home module. The hours are good, the work is easy, and the perks can’t be beat.

But when a crew member goes missing, Benson is thrust into the centre of an ever-expanding web of deception, secrets, and violence that overturns everything he knows about living on the Ark and threatens everyone aboard. As the last remnants of humanity hurtle towards their salvation, Benson finds himself in a desperate race to unravel the conspiracy before a madman turns mankind’s home into its tomb.

Oh my goodness, I SO enjoyed this book! It’s got so many of the elements I look for in a good crossgenre—a nifty mystery with the ultimate locked room (can’t get any more locked room than a spaceship racing towards humanity’s hope of a new home), a man who loves his job as a detective (largely because it’s really, really easy), a dark scenario and yet some light humor and a potential end to our species. What more could a girl want?

These people have been floating around out there for something like 200 years and Mr. Tomlinson does an excellent job creating a believable but also intriguing setting which really is a character in itself. Benson is a likeable man and his detecting skills are on high alert now that he has a murder to work with. Can he solve the crime before his fellow travelers meet an untimely end? Well, yes, we know he’ll have at least some success because there’s a second book coming but his detecting is entertaining all the way.

The second book in this duology, Trident’s Forge, will be out in April 2016 and I can barely stand to wait. Time needs to move faster 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2015.

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Merry MaryMerry Mary
Ashley Farley
Leisure Time Books, September 2015
ISBN 978-0-9861672-3-2
Trade Paperback

From the author—

A young woman longing for a child stumbles upon a Christmas miracle. Investigative journalist Scottie Darden is photographing the homeless for her Lost Souls series when she makes a discovery that could change her life forever. Under a makeshift tent in subzero temperatures in a downtown city park, she finds a woman’s dead body with her infant child. Without her cell phone to call for help, Scottie makes the split-second decision to take the baby home. Her initial instinct is to provide the baby with food and shelter until her family can be located. But as her fondness for the baby grows, she finds herself facing a life on the run or worse—prison time for abduction. Curl up with Merry Mary this holiday season. A heartwarming story of the powerful connection between a caring soul and an innocent child in need.

I’ve been a fan of Ms. Farley‘s work for quite a while now but, for the first time, I have to say this one doesn’t work for me. I won’t go into a lot of detail because I think Merry Mary will appeal to others; suffice it to say I didn’t like Scottie and that’s pretty important when it comes to connecting with a story. Scottie seems to be unusually clueless and her behavior is senseless, particularly when she decides to take the baby home with her for some very thin reasons. There are also some noticeable plot holes.

At any rate, I think this is just a misstep for me personally and it certainly won’t put me off Ms. Farley‘s future books. In fact, the author is working on a full-length novel featuring Scottie and I’m looking forward to getting to know her better and, perhaps, understand her.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2015.

Book Review: Heard It Through the Grapevine by Lizbeth Lipperman

Heard It Through the GrapevineHeard It Through the Grapevine
A Dead Sister Talking Mystery
Lizbeth Lipperman
Midnight Ink, May 2013
ISBN 978-0-7387-3602-0
Trade Paperback

This is a fun read with a murder, a ghost and lots of clever and humorous bantering.

Early in the novel, Lainey Garcia returns home because her sister, Tessa, has been murdered. It’s a mystery where most of the townspeople had one reason or another to kill Tessa.

Ever since Tessa married her sister, Lainey’s one true love, the two sisters have been estranged. Now, Lainey is the only one who can see and hear Tessa. And Tessa has a lot to say, although she does not know who killed her. She asks her sisters to find out.

What I liked most about this book is its humor and wit. It’s also quite touching at times. The sisters begin to share their feelings and eventually discuss the events of what really happened between them nine years ago. The unfortunate flaw of the novel is a very detailed four-page sex scene that is so full of descriptions of body parts that it leaves no room for the reader to imagine or feel the passion.

This is the first novel in Lipperman’s Dead Sister Talking Mystery series. The second novel in the series, Jailhouse Glock, is out now and Mission to Kill, the third, will be out next year. Each book features Tessa’s ghost and shifts focus to one of the other five sisters. From the descriptions, it sounds like the author is continuing to do what she does best – writing smart humorous mysteries.

Reviewed by Constance Reader, June 2014.