Thursday, October 19, 2017

{Review} A TANGLED MERCY by Joy Jordan-Lake

ISBN #: 978-1477823668
Page Count: 462
Release Date: November 1, 2017
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Goodreads Summary:

After the sudden death of her troubled mother, struggling Harvard grad student Kate Drayton walks out on her lecture—and her entire New England life. Haunted by unanswered questions and her own uncertain future, she flees to Charleston, South Carolina, the place where her parents met, convinced it holds the key to understanding her fractured family and saving her career in academia. Kate is determined to unearth groundbreaking information on a failed 1822 slave revolt—the subject of her mother’s own research.

Nearly two centuries earlier, Tom Russell, a gifted blacksmith and slave, grappled with a terrible choice: arm the uprising spearheaded by members of the fiercely independent African Methodist Episcopal Church or keep his own neck out of the noose and protect the woman he loves.

Kate’s attempts to discover what drove her mother’s dangerous obsession with Charleston’s tumultuous history are derailed by a horrific massacre in the very same landmark church. In the unimaginable aftermath, Kate discovers a family she never knew existed as the city unites with a powerful message of hope and forgiveness for the world.

Mandy's Review:

A Tangled Mercy is a complex novel. Kate's mother has died leaving her bereft of family. Sarah Grace, Kate's mother, made it difficult for Kate to know her. Stuck in the past, Sarah Grace couldn't focus enough on the present with Kate to give her a solid foundation of love and happiness. After Sarah Grace's death, Kate decides to go where her mother was from, Charleston, and see if she could find some posthumous way to connect with Sarah Grace. Kate continues her mother's search into the attempted Denmark Vesey slave revolt of 1822 wondering how it connected to their family. What's finally revealed is both sad and happy.

The novel focuses mainly in the year 2015 and Kate's research but does flashback to 1822, allowing the reader to get to "know" the events of the attempted revolt. One of the main characters in 1822 Charleston is Tom Russell, the slave-blacksmith who fashioned the weapons of the revolt. My heart ached, as it always does, reading about slaves and everything they had to go through.

If I had an issue with this book it would be the scene with the photographer. First, I don't believe it was necessary to the story; the flashback Kate had from it could've been developed in a different way. Secondly, all the responsibility of what happened was laid at the feet of the white person. None of the responsibility was laid on Gabe, who should've been taught, or realized, two things: 1.) You don't get near or mess with a stranger's things no matter how curious, or what color, you are and 2.) Knowing the type of world you're being raised in, Gabe should've known better than to reach into his pocket for his toy. The fault of the situation should've been represented equally between the two sides and it wasn't.

Despite that, the novel was well-written and captivating. It didn't feel too lengthy as some novels do that are over 300 pages. I would recommend this to my history-loving fiction readers making sure to mention the one point of my discontent.

* An ARC was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

{Review} WITHOUT FEAR OR FAVOR by Robert K. Tanenbaum

ISBN #: 978-1476793221
Page Count: 384
Copyright: August 15, 2017
Publisher: Gallery Books

Goodreads Summary:

Butch Karp and his wife Marlene Ciampi must stop a radical organization of armed militants bent on the cold-blooded murder of uniformed on-duty police officers. 

When a cop shoots down the son of a respected inner-city Baptist preacher, the community rises up in anger and demands to have the officer prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. But there's something more than a call for justice at work here: a plot to bring down the city s police force through a conspiracy so vast and malicious only Butch Karp and his band of truth-seekers can untangle it.

Mandy's Review:

I could not finish this novel. I got about halfway through, reading every word, when I just couldn't do it any more. I skimmed my way through the second half just so I could see how it ended.

I understand that when a writer writes about racial events, slurs and derogatory remarks will be used. I expect that. Otherwise, the subject matter wouldn't feel real. There are slurs, derogatory remarks, and hatred for other races depicted in this novel. Okay, fine. I can deal with that. The way it was written, though, reminded me of a poorly written and directed 80s film.


Another issue I had was the attempted shooting of Officer Kim. The crime scene was investigated the night it happened. No trace of a bullet was found and the window Kim was standing beside when being shot at wasn't broken by a bullet. They concluded the window wasn't open because the residents were ordered to leave the windows shut to prevent dirt and dust coming into the complex. Okay, cool. My issue? I don't think the crime scene analysts did a thorough job. Maybe it's because I watch too much Criminal Minds or NCIS but not once (unless it was said in the second half of the book I skimmed through) did they use a computer simulation program to play devil's advocate on where the bullet could have gone. I just think there was a missed opportunity there.

And, dear God, the acronyms. I kept thinking about the readers who aren't as familiar with them as I am. If a person isn't familiar with law enforcement lingo, they'd have NO CLUE what DA, DAO, BOLO and ADA meant. I know this is a long shot because it seems that everyone is familiar with these terms ... but what if they're not?

For me, the story progressed too slowly and it seemed the writer stayed in his head too much. He wrote it in a way that was familiar to him because he lives with these characters. He knows them. I think he needs to take a step back and re-read his work with the view of knowing nothing about any of his characters. I bet he would rewrite some chapters to make it more accessible to his readers' imaginations.

*An ARC of this novel was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

{Blog Tour: Review} SUGAR PINE TRAIL by RaeAnne Thayne

ISBN #: 978-0373803682
Page Count: 384
Release Date: September 26, 2017
Publisher: Harlequin Books
Summary from Goodreads:

Librarian Julia Winston is ready to ditch the quiet existence she's been living. She's made a list of new things to experience, but falling for Jamie Caine, her sexy military pilot neighbor, isn't one of them. Julia's looking to conquer life, not become the heartbreaker's latest conquest. But when two young brothers wind up in Julia's care for the holidays, she'll take any help she can get—even Jamie's. 

Happy to step in, Jamie reveals a side of himself that's much harder to resist. Not only is he fantastic with kids, he provides the strength Julia needs to tackle her list. She knows their temporary family can't last beyond the holidays, but the closer she gets to Jamie, the more she wonders if things could be this merry and bright forever…

Mandy's Review:

Sugar Pine Trail is one of those quick, easy reads where what you expect to happen happens. Julia has taken over ownership of her parent's Victorian mansion and has rented out the upstairs set of rooms to a man who needs a place to stay for a few weeks while his condo is being finished.

Jamie has agreed to rent the rooms sight unseen on the recommendation of his sister, an acquaintance of Julia's. When he arrived at the house, Julia shows him his rooms and gives him his set of keys. Jamie's first impression of Julia wasn't very favorable. Julia seemed a bit stodgy and uptight, not Jamie's type of female at all.

Over time, Julie and Jamie see different sides of each other. What they see about each other causes some unwanted affections to begin growing. Eventually, unknown to each other, they fall in love but are determined to not let the other know because they each have something in their past that's difficult for them to get over ... something that they believe has caused them to not deserve the love and affection of another.

If you're a fan of Harlequin romances, then this book is for you. Heck, this series is for you. Although this book is number seven in the Haven Point series, this novel can be read as a stand-alone. I've never read the first six books of this series and I was able to follow along just fine. There were relationships mentioned in this novel, though, that I figured were part of the first six novels and it kind of made me want to go back and read them.

Oh, and if you're one of those who don't enjoy a bunch of sex scenes, then have no fear. There was really only one scene in this novel and it was VERY mild compared to some others I've read. This was more geared towards romantic feelings rather than sexy romantic romps.

Sugar Pine Trail was a very sweet story that I enjoyed despite its predictability.

*An ecopy was provided by Little Bird Publicity via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review for this tour.

Saturday, September 23, 2017


ISBN #: 978-0812989144
Page Count: 213
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: June 6, 2017

Goodreads Summary:

Alan Alda has been on a decades-long journey to discover new ways to help people communicate and relate to one another more effectively. If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? is the warm, witty, and informative chronicle of how Alda found inspiration in everything from cutting-edge science to classic acting methods. His search began when he was host of PBS's Scientific American Frontiers, where he interviewed thousands of scientists and developed a knack for helping them communicate complex ideas in ways a wide audience could understand--and Alda wondered if those techniques held a clue to better communication for the rest of us.

In his wry and wise voice, Alda reflects on moments of miscommunication in his own life, when an absence of understanding resulted in problems both big and small. He guides us through his discoveries, showing how communication can be improved through learning to relate to the other person: listening with our eyes, looking for clues in another's face, using the power of a compelling story, avoiding jargon, and reading another person so well that you become "in sync" with them, and know what they are thinking and feeling--especially when you're talking about the hard stuff.

Drawing on improvisation training, theater, and storytelling techniques from a life of acting, and with insights from recent scientific studies, Alda describes ways we can build empathy, nurture our innate mind-reading abilities, and improve the way we relate and talk with others. Exploring empathy-boosting games and exercises, If I Understood You is a funny, thought-provoking guide that can be used by all of us, in every aspect of our lives--with our friends, lovers, and families, with our doctors, in business settings, and beyond.

Mandy's Review:

I don't usually agree to read non-fiction books because I often find them boring. The only reason I agreed to read this one is because of the author. I remember watching M*A*S*H with my grandfather. Hawkeye, played by Alan Alda, was one of my favorite characters in the television series. I knew he portrayed his character with sarcasm, humor, and wit so I was curious to see how he wrote his books.

If I Understood You is an interesting read. Alan explains how simple improvisational exercises can help a person become more empathetic and a better communicator. The 'Mirror' exercise teaches two people to become so aware of each other that their actions become simultaneous. The 'Yes, And' exercise, my favorite exercise of the book, teaches you to take what a person gives you and add to it. The exercises, and there are more than just the two I mentioned, are simple yet challenging. It is a little difficult to believe they produce such amazing results, but I guess one won't know until one actually tries them.

Towards the end of the book, I felt like the same point was being repeated in different formats. The first 3/4 of the book was informative, thought-provoking, and insightful. I can see where these scientifically-proven improvisational exercises can help a wide range of individuals, from corporate executives to salespeople to teachers to two people in a relationship. I plan on trying some of these exercises with my husband to see if they'll make us more in sync and better communicators.

If you enjoy learning new methods of becoming a better person and communicator, I would recommend this book. I would especially recommend this book to you entrepreneurial types who have just started your own business. If you think you'd like to try it but don't have the time, don't fear. The book is less than 200 pages (minus the Acknowledgements and Index) so it reads quickly. Enjoy!

*A hard copy was provided by the publicist in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, September 22, 2017

{Review} SIRACUSA by Delia Ephron

ISBN #: 978-0399165214
Page Count: 304
Publisher: Blue Rider Press
Release Date: July 12, 2016

Goodreads Summary:

New Yorkers Michael, a famous writer, and Lizzie, a journalist, travel to Italy with their friends from Maine—Finn; his wife, Taylor; and their daughter, Snow. “From the beginning,” says Taylor, “it was a conspiracy for Lizzie and Finn to be together.” Told Rashomon-style in alternating points of view, the characters expose and stumble upon lies and infidelities, past and present. Snow, ten years old and precociously drawn into a far more adult drama, becomes the catalyst for catastrophe as the novel explores collusion and betrayal in marriage. Set on the sun-drenched coast of the Ionian Sea, Siracusa unfolds with the pacing of a psychological thriller and delivers an unexpected final act that none will see coming.

Kathy's Review:

This book is told from the perspective of the four adults in the novel. Each of them provides pieces of the plot, as well as their own skewed version of the truth. Each of the four narrators is not exactly a saint. Lizzie still harbors feelings for Finn; Finn picks up random women in bars after his wife and child go to bed; Michael is cheating on Lizzie; and Taylor is a next-level helicopter mom who has mentally damaged her child, Snow, with her overprotectiveness. Each of them see themselves through a filter where they aren't necessarily responsible for their own actions. They blame the others.

Siracusa takes us through a chain of events that occurs while the two couples are vacationing together in Italy. Alternating chapters with varying POVs, we see the same scenes but with additional information layered on from the various narrators until we finally have the whole picture.

It's hard to talk about what happens in the story without revealing major spoilers, but it revolves around Michael cheating on Lizzie, and Snow's fondness/obsession/crush on Michael. I was surprised by the plot twist, just as the book summary promised. I enjoyed the writing, and I liked reading the different perspectives. I come away from the book not really liking any of its characters, but still intrigued and fascinated by the plot. It's an interesting way to unfold a narrative.

*A physical copy was provided by the publicist in exchange for an honest review.

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