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Underneath by Anne Goodwin

Underneath by Anne Goodwin | Book Review

Title: Underneath
Author: Anne Goodwin
Published: 
May 25, 2017 by Inspired Quill
Genre: Psychological Thriller
How I got the book: I received a free digital copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:

He never intended to be a jailer …

After years of travelling, responsible to no-one but himself, Steve has resolved to settle down. He gets a job, buys a house and persuades Liesel to move in with him.

Life’s perfect, until Liesel delivers her ultimatum: if he won’t agree to start a family, she’ll have to leave. He can’t bear to lose her, but how can he face the prospect of fatherhood when he has no idea what being a father means? If he could somehow make her stay, he wouldn’t have to choose … and it would be a shame not to make use of the cellar.

Will this be the solution to his problems, or the catalyst for his own unravelling?

My Review:

rp-first-thoughts

I read and reviewed Anne Goodwin’s debut novel Sugar and Snails and enjoyed it. When she contacted me about this thriller, and I love thrillers, I was excited to give it a shot.

rp-plot

We follow the first-person point of view of Steve, a man who buys a house and tries to get his life in order. He meets Liesel and they hit it off right away. She moves in with him and together they decide how they should use the cellar. The cellar is used for a few reasons as Steve tries to fix it up. It isn’t until Liesel gives him an ultimatum: They have kids together or she leaves, that Steve decides to use the cellar as Liesel’s own “home.” He doesn’t want kids, but he doesn’t want to lose Liesel.

It’s an interesting premise for a story and I was intrigued by it. However, it was pretty slow-going in the beginning. Nothing really happened until 150 pages into the story and, at that point, there were only about 100 pages left. Still, we did get flashbacks into Steve’s childhood which showcased how he grew up without a father and potentially why he never wants to be a father himself.

rp-characters

The characters were developed well. I felt for both Liesel and Steve and their own inner problems. Liesel wanted kids after her career didn’t work out and Steve just wanted a simple life with the girl of his dreams and it took a sudden turn for the worst.

Liesel was a go-getter from the beginning. When she decided she wanted something, she went for it as best as she could. This included Steve, her career, and then wanting kids. I loved that about her, but since we were in Steve’s head, I knew that Liesel could do better than him. Still, they had a cute relationship with one another.

To be honest, I couldn’t relate to Steve that well. I didn’t care for him as a character, even though he was the main protagonist and antagonist. I sympathized with him for his childhood, but that was about it. There was just something about him that turned me off from him.

rp-writing-style

The story is told to us in parts as opposed to chapters, which isn’t a bad thing. However, there were no timestamps or dates to indicate where we were and when. Time jumps were used an extra space in between paragraphs and flashbacks had a page break, but that was it. This made it a little confusing to read, but the author does write well regardless.

rp-overall

This was a good read, but I do wish the timeline was a little clearer and I felt more for Steve. Still, it was interesting, especially the ending. It makes you wonder what actually happened and whether your interpretation of the book was real or not. In that sense, it was cleverly written.

Underneath by Anne Goodwin gets…
3 Stars3 out of 5 stars

Favorite Quote:

“You’ve got to be prepared to fight for what you believe in.” –Anne Goodwin, Underneath

Underneath by Anne Goodwin comes out May 25, 2017. Preorder the book today!

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Madam Tulip by David Ahern

Madam Tulip by David Ahern | Book Review

Title: Madam Tulip
Author: David Ahern
Published: 
April 2016
Genre: Mystery
How I got the book: I received a free digital copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:

Out-of-work actress Derry O’Donnell is talented, professional, just a little psychic… and broke. Spurred on by an ultimatum from her awesomely high-achieving mother, Derry embarks on a part-time career as Madame Tulip, fortune teller to the rich and famous. But at her first fortune-telling gig – a celebrity charity weekend in a luxurious castle – a famous rap artist mysteriously dies.

As Derry is drawn deeper into a seedy world of fashion, millionaires, horses and cocaine, she must race to save her best friend from jail and a supermodel from being murdered. Her efforts threaten to destroy her friends, her ex-lover, her father and herself.

My Review:

rp-first-thoughts

If you know me, you know I like mystery. So I didn’t really need to think twice about this one when the author had asked me to review it.

rp-plot

Derry O’Donnell is trying to make her way as an actress with minimal success. Inherited from her ancestors, she’s a little bit psychic so she decides (with a little push from her friend) to become a fortune teller part-time. By doing so, she meets a few new people as clients and ends up getting herself into some trouble.

This is a new take on a murder mystery, for me, as the protagonist uses her psychic powers to help her along the way. It did remind me of the TV show Psych, except Derry, known as Madam Tulip, tends to see things by accident sometimes. Still, she uses that to her advantage to figure things out.

I thought it was an interesting take on a mystery and the psychic powers were put to good use, especially since her visions weren’t always completely clear.

rp-characters

I enjoyed following Madam Tulip around as the protagonist. She had a good head on her shoulders and even though she wasn’t a detective it was a classic who-dun-it story.

I also loved her father as well as her friends Bella and Bruce. Bella wasn’t in it too much as she got herself into a bit of trouble, but Bruce was a great supporting character as he helped Madam Tulip figure things out. Even her father, who is a bit out there, did his best to help out, despite not fully understanding the situation.

Each character was crafted wonderfully and they all were unique from one another with a variety of personality.

rp-writing-style

I found the author’s writing style easy to read and follow. The pacing of the novel was well done and I didn’t find any inconsistencies in tense or anything.

My only minor complaint was that there was something going on with Madam Tulip’s parents. While bits and pieces were explained about that I wasn’t sure what exactly it had to do with the storyline. This is the first book in a series so maybe more will be explained later, but for now, I found as though it wasn’t really needed.

rp-overall

This was a good, enjoyable read. I loved the characters and the overall plot and murder was well thought out and executed. I would recommend this book to anyone slightly interested in it and I’m sure I’ll be reading the second book in the future.

Madam Tulip by David Ahern gets…
4 stars book review 4 out of 5 stars

Favorite Quote:

“I can only make the promise. You have to decide if you want to trust me.” –David Ahern, Madam Tulip

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Snap, Cackle, and Pop by Carol Kearney

Snap, Cackle, and Pop by Carol Kearney | Book Review

Title: Snap, Cackle, and Pop
Author: Carol Kearney
Published: 
April 2016 by Wallace Publishing
Genre: Fiction
How I got the book: I received a free digital copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:

Snap, Cackle and Pop introduces us to Cathy, a 54-year-old woman who has everything her heart desires. A big house, a new car and a husband who adores her. But what does Cathy do when the life she knows and loves is destroyed in eight minutes?

Thrown into turmoil, Cathy has no choice but to go back home to live with her elderly parents, Stan and Joan. There she finds herself back in her old bedroom with the poster of Donny Osmond still tacked to the wall and a glitter ball still hanging from the ceiling.

My Review:

rp-first-thoughts

When the publicist reached out to me about this one, I wanted to say yes not only because the novel sounded like an interesting romance-get-back-on-your-feet type of book, but also because the author has passed away recently. I read and reviewed this book in her honor.

rp-plot

We follow Cathy as her husband, Tom, divorces her after 30-something years of marriage. They have and adult daughter together and it turns out Tom had been lying to her for 13-plus years. He was living a double life which causes Cathy to lose her home and car and forced to move in with her elderly parents, who are pretty much crazy.

Cathy becomes depressed as she wonders why Tom wouldn’t want her. She feels like a bad wife, she’s self-conscious about her weight, and she doesn’t want to be living under the same roof as her bickering parents. Still, that’s pretty much all there is to it.

The book is about 300-pages long and it’s not until about page 215 that things start to turn around. We learn a lot about Cathy and her life, but it takes her a really long time to get over things and finally move on. Because of that, there isn’t much “plot” going on.

rp-characters

I felt as though the characters were well-crafted. Cathy goes through a mourning period with her divorce and it isn’t until something drastic happens to her that she realizes she’s moping around too much and needs to change things. It’s a good turning point, but for the first 200-or-so pages, Cathy just whined most of the time, which got a bit old.

Tom was the perfect antagonist. He was nice enough, but you still feel so much hatred towards him. Louise, their daughter, and Jane, Cathy’s friend, were great additions to help give Cathy those extra pushes.

Cathy’s parents made the story, I think. They’re elderly and a tad crazy and they added a lot of comedy to the writing. Cathy was not only trying to get a grip on her own life, but she was trying to keep an eye on her parents at the same time.

rp-writing-style

The writing style was simple and easy to read. Most sentences were short and to the point. However, I felt as though there was a lot “telling” in the story and not enough “showing.”

While the beginning was pretty slow with Cathy feeling sorry for herself, the ending finally came and it went by too fast. Cathy meets a new guy and things seem to work out, but we don’t see enough of this new guy to get to know him and really feel happy for Cathy that she’s moved on from Tom.

rp-overall

This was a good read. I enjoyed the characters a lot and Cathy has a great background story. My only complaint was that she was whiny for so long and when the book had to end somewhere, everything came at me at once within the last 80 pages or so.

While it was just okay for me, it’s still a funny read and an interesting twist on the typical “romance,” so I would recommend it to anyone who reads the blurb and thinks, “This sounds good.”

Snap, Cackle, and Pop by Carol Kearney gets…
3 Stars3 out of 5 stars

Favorite Quote:

“Constance chimes in every corner of the room so that no negative spirits can get in. The problem is they are already in and living inside me.” –Carol Kearney, Snap, Cackle, and Pop

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Unpacked Sparkle by Patrick A. Roland

Unpacked Sparkle by Patrick A. Roland | Book Review

Title: Unpacked Sparkle
Author: Patrick A. Roland
Published: 
November 2016 by Az Publishing Services, LLC
Genre: Memoir
How I got the book: I received a free digital copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Summary:

Over a year ago, I left a Mariah Carey concert in Las Vegas after six songs. I had gone on the trip as a present to myself for turning forty. But I couldn’t enjoy it. I was high on multiple drugs, but mostly crystal meth, and extremely drunk. I had been this way the majority of the year and a half since my partner Pack had suddenly passed away.
I found him dead on the bathroom floor one January morning while I was getting ready for work. The police told me I had no rights in my own home and asked me to leave. This was before gay marriage became legal. Life as I knew it changed instantly.
His family pretended I didn’t exist. They mauled our home the day he died, leaving it a ravaged mess. I was kicked out of that home. I was also disinvited to his funeral. In eight days I lost everything that mattered. Not even the law protected me from this.
So I got high in an effort to shoulder the pain. It didn’t work. I carried the heavy weight of unresolved complicated grief and addiction on my back. It was like an elephant. A large, unwieldy elephant that wanted me to die.
No longer able to participate in anything that mattered and unwilling to bear this burden anymore, I went back to my hotel room on the twenty-sixth floor of a casino and looked out on the sparkly lights below. I wanted to be in the light. So I opened the window and decided to jump.
But God intervened. My mother had somehow found me. Help came and I surrendered to the powerlessness of my situation. I asked God to help me. I stayed and I fought and I learned how to love myself. I put on a pair of sparkly shoes I had bought for that barely attended concert and I walked in to the rooms of Crystal Meth Anonymous. I had bought the sparkly shoes hoping Mariah would see me in the audience. Though she didn’t get the chance, you did. You all embraced me and my sparkly shoes. They have become my calling card of experience, strength, and hope.

My Review:

rp-first-thoughts

I found this book to be interesting right away because I love a good memoir, especially uplifting stories about hope and how others overcome obstacles in their lives. After interviewing the author, I definitely wanted to read the book.

rp-plot

This story is about the author going through recovery from the untimely death of his partner, his addiction to drugs and alcohol, as well as him being mentally ill with bipolar.

I feel as though there’s not much else I can really say about the story more than what the summary has already mentioned about it. It’s a sad story, but uplifting that conveys an important message that you should just read for yourself.

rp-characters

The main character is, of course, the author as he tries to regain control of his life after the death of his partner, Pack. Throughout the course of the story we not only learn a lot about the author, but we get tidbits about Pack as well, among his parents, Pack’s family, and various friends the author has met along the way.

I felt as though we learned just enough about everyone involved in the various situations. The characters were explained in a good way that we got a good sense of their personalities and how important they are to their roles in the author’s life.

rp-writing-style

I feel as though I know the author in real life. The voice was his own, as it should be, and I got the sense he was telling me his story over a cup of coffee in a cafe. It was personal and there weren’t any lulls in the story that jolted me out of it.

My only complaint was the timeline and the chapter headings/beginnings. The chapter titles were mostly song titles, which is cool since he loves music, but the timeline was jumbled. It would have made more sense to add the dates to the titles. Also because at the beginning to of most chapter, the author rehashed what had happened to Pack so it was just too repetitive.

rp-overall

I thought this was a good read. It was short around 200 pages, but the story got told and I didn’t feel as though anything was left out or that something was left untouched. It was an inspiring read and definitely something everyone should give a read.

Unpacked Sparkle by Patrick A. Roland gets…
5-Star Rating | Book Review5 out of 5 stars

Favorite Quote:

“I even forgave them, because continuing to hate them as they hate me gives them power.” –Patrick A. Roland, Unpacked Sparkle

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Descendants by Rae Else

Descendants by Rae Else | Book Review

Title: Descendants (Arete series book 1)
Author: Rae Else
Published: 
April 12, 2017, by Smashwords
Genre: Young adult urban fantasy
How I got the book: I received a free eARC from the author in exchange for honest review

Summary:

There are lots of stories about the children of gods. But what about those cursed by the gods, and their descendants…

El, a seventeen-year-old has inherited an ancient and deadly power. She loses control of it, causing a horrific accident, and becomes the prey of a secret organisation known as the Order.

Forced from her family and home, she hides in plain sight amidst the crowds of London, and is thrust into a world that she never knew existed; one full of Arete: beings who possess extraordinary powers like hers.

Arete are beings that can trace their lineage and powers from Ancient Greece. They claim their inheritance does not come from the gods, rather legend says they are descended from cursed beings, such as Medusa.

At the heart of their world is the kerykeion, the symbol that protects them from the humans and the humans from them. El is trapped between two factions, one that has built an empire around the kerykeion and another that is determined to bring it down.

As she is drawn deeper into the conflict, the only way to find the truth is to take matters into her own hands, and the line between friend and foe becomes dangerously blurred.

My Review:

rp-first-thoughts

I was excited about this book when the author reached out to me. I love a good fantasy once in a while and the there was some talk about mythology, which was something I used to be really into. So, I decided to give it a go.

rp-plot

17-year-old El, the protagonist, is gifted with powers from her descendants. She loses control of it one day causing the death of an innocent. It’s because of that The Order is able to trace her and is out to get her.

El lives with her grandmother and has to leave to live with her estranged mother. Not having much of a choice, she goes. There, she meets a lot of people from a Rebel group as well as the son of a man from The Order. Soon, El isn’t sure which side is the “right” side or the “good” side. She’s unsure of who to trust and, because of that, the events of the book spiral out of control.

It’s an interesting concept, with a fun twist on their powers, but I felt as though I’ve seen it before. The protagonist doesn’t know who to trust and ends up flip-flopping back and forth between what’s right and what’s not.

rp-characters

I’ll be blunt: there wasn’t much character development. Individually, I enjoyed most of the characters. However, as we got to the end of the book (which is around 230-or-so pages) there was a change of heart for everyone, but I never saw it coming.

For example, El was reluctant to go with her mother, Anna, because she didn’t know her. She was given up as a baby and hadn’t seen her since. Then something happens to Anna and El acts like her and her mother were best friends and she’s defeated by it.

El didn’t seem to have a mind of her own and neither did Luke, the son of an Order member. As soon as Luke told El The Order was the good side, El immediately joined him. Then something happened (no spoilers) and she immediately went back to the Rebel side. Luke was the same way. As soon as El went back to the Rebel side and explained everything to Luke, he immediately believed her. There was no gradual change of sides, nothing to hint that they were unsure of everything that they had previously known from their entire lives.

Just about everything that happened to El in this book hurts her and I know it was meant to hurt me too. But I wasn’t bothered by most of it because I didn’t have the time to really get to know the characters and care about them.

rp-writing-style

I enjoyed the author’s writing style. I got a good sense of the overall world and I thought the flow of the words on the page was nicely done.

Following up with the characters, however, the pace was too fast. I didn’t feel as though I could sit back and enjoy the ride and I couldn’t feel tense at the parts that were meant to be tense because everything happened too fast.

rp-overall

While the plot was interesting enough and the overall writing was good, the fast pace is kind of a deal-breaker for me. It kept jolting me out of the story as characters came and went in the blink of an eye, important plot points happened quickly, and then before I knew it, the book was over.

I’m interested enough in the sequel, but the overall book was just okay for me.

Descendants (Arete book 1) by Rae Else gets…
3 Stars3 out of 5 stars

Favorite Quote:

“When she’d been younger, they’d seemed like the only world she would ever need. Now she saw the blades of grass and needles of trees for the barbed wire they were. She would be confined to this prison again, to live in its shadows.” –Rae Else, Descendants

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Renaissance: The Nora White Story by Yecheilyah Ysrayl

Book Review | Renaissance: The Nora White Story by Yecheilyah Ysrayl

Title: Renaissance: The Nora White Story
Author: Yecheilyah Ysrayl
Published: 
July 15, 2017
Genre: Historical Fiction
How I got the book: I received a free eARC from the author in exchange for an honest review

Summary:

When seventeen-year-old NoraWhite successfully graduates High School in 1922 Mississippi and is College bound, everyone is overjoyed and excited. Everyone except Nora. She dreams of Harlem, Cotton Clubs, Fancy Dresses, and Langston Hughes. For years, she’s sat under Mr. Oak, the big oak tree on the plush green grass of her families five acres, and daydreamed of The Black Mecca.

The ambitious, young Nora is fascinated by the prospect of being a famous writer in The Harlem Renaissance and decides she doesn’t want to go to College. Despite her parent’s staunch protest, Nora finds herself in Jacobsville, New York, a small town forty-five minutes outside of Harlem.

Shocked by their daughter’s disappearance, Gideon and Molly White are plagued with visions of the deadly south, like the brutal lynching of Gideon’s sister years ago. As the couple embark on a frightening and gut wrenching search for Nora, they are each stalked by their own traumatic past. Meanwhile, Noralearns that the North is not all it’s cracked up to be and struggles to accept her prestigious family’s dark secrets.

Can Gideon and Molly overcome their disturbing past in time to find their daughter before it’s too late?

My Review:

rp-first-thoughts

I heard about this book through the author’s bio when she contacted me to do a guest post on my blog. I asked for more information and the book sounded intriguing with a little mystery twist to it.

rp-plot

The story follows Nora as she tries to follow her dreams. The novel takes place in the 1920s, so it’s hard for a young woman to go after what she wants, especially if she’s also black.

As her parents try to convince Nora that her dreams aren’t good enough, Nora decides to take fate into her own hands and leaves without a word. From there, we go back and forth between Nora and her parents following both as her parents try to find her and as Nora tries to make her dreams a reality.

It’s a great plot idea and the time period makes it all the more interesting.

rp-characters

While I enjoyed all the characters and they were all unique from one another, I felt as though I didn’t get a good chance to get to know them all.

Judging from the title, this story should be about Nora, but as the novel went on we learned more about her parents and less about Nora.

By the end of the novel, I felt I had a good grasp on Gideon and Molly, but Nora was still somewhat of a mystery to me as was her friend, Lisa.

rp-writing-style

I was confused at the beginning of most chapters. Some chapters had headings such as which point of view we were in, but not all of them. Some chapters mentioned the year date, other chapters mentioned a location and one chapter even indicated the time. Some chapter headings didn’t say anything at all and I found this be really confusing. I couldn’t keep track of who I was supposed to be following or where I was.The author’s writing is beautiful. She captivates the dialect of the southern speak wonderfully

However, the author’s writing is beautiful. She captivates the dialect of the southern speak wonderfully and I found the description of each and every action and location to just roll off my tongue as I read.

rp-overall

The novel stands at about 150-pages long. I felt as though much more could have been done with it. By the end of the story, I realized book one seems to be a build-up for book two. Still, I’m interested in reading book two when it comes out.

Renaissance: The Nora White Story by Yecheilyah Ysrayl gets…
4 stars book review4 out of 5 stars

Favorite Quote:

“And the arts… could not exist without the continual growth of emerging talent.” –Yecheilyah Ysrayl, Renaissance: The Nora White Story

Renaissance: The Nora White Story by Yecheilyah Ysrayl will be available JULY 15, 2017.

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Afterlife by Matthew O’Neil

After Life by Matthew O'Neil book review

Title: After Life: Solving Science and Religion’s Great Disagreement
Author: Matthew O’Neil
Published: 
May 6th, 2016 by Ockham Publishing
Genre: Pop-Science
How I got the book: I received a free digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Summary:

What happens to us when we die? It’s a question that has been debated for centuries, moulded through time to fit our ever changing views.

Many religions teach that how we act in our life will determine where we will end up after life. If you follow religious teachings and adhere to their ethical standards, you will be rewarded and spend an eternity in heaven. If not, you will be punished and forced to spend forever in hell.

Modern science, however, will tell you a completely different story: fanciful, hopeful tales of an afterlife are both rationally explainable and lacking in evidence.

Theologian Matthew O’Neil demonstrates that the contemporary religious view of the afterlife is far from what our ancestors envisioned. Subjecting both original Scripture and contemporary faith to the rigours of modern science and rational philosophy, he seeks to answer one of humanities most famous puzzles: what happens After Life?

My Review:

rp-first-thoughts

Being a Sunday school teacher and an avid church-goer, I found the idea of this book to be quite interesting. Death is an interesting topic, one I’ve always thought heavily about and wondered about. I figured this would be a great read for me.

 

rp-writing-style

This book isn’t a novel, so I can’t really review its “plot” and “characters.” Therefore, this section will prove to be the main course.

I don’t know how else to explain this book other than it reminded me of a textbook. When I was reading this book, I felt as though I was back at school in some sort of religion course and this was an assigned reading material. I’ll admit, that feeling turned me off from the book a bit.

The prologue starts off explaining with how the author himself almost died when he was young. He had no memory of what happened to him when he was unconscious and simply wondered what happened to him in that time.

Each chapter talks about the various aspects of death and religion: Heaven, Hell, Resurrection, Soul, and then he gets into the science side of things. Using the Bible and textual evidence from science books and the like, the author explains his findings on what may happen to us when we die.

I felt as though there were more references to the Bible and such more than the author’s own words. He explained what those quotes meant to him and what he felt they truly meant, but I felt as though I was reading constant citations. Plus, there were footnotes. A lot of footnotes.

I’ll admit that when it comes to the science side of things, I don’t 100% understand it. I think that hindered my ability to get the full effect of this book and what it was trying to explain to me.

This book is meant to be informative, and it is, but because of the textbook-like mentality of it, I just couldn’t get as into it as I wanted to.

rp-overall

After Life is definitely educational and interesting. It’s a book I may come back to later to try to understand again. It’s a book I’ll recommend to my fellow church-goers. However, I just felt as though it wasn’t as entertaining and therefore, it had a hard time keeping my attention.

After Life: Solving Science and Religion’s Great Disagreement by Matthew O’Neil gets…
3 out of 5 stars

Favorite Quote:

“It is with this that we start our journey in a comfortable spot–eternal paradise in Heaven and why the Bible says there is no such thing.” –Matthew O’Neil, After Life: Solving Science and Religion’s Great Disagreement

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