Sunday, July 27, 2014

{Review} SAFE WITH ME by Amy Hatvany

ISBN #: 978-1476704418
Page Count: 352
Copyright: March 4, 2014
Publisher: Washington Square Press

Book Description:
(Taken from Amazon)

The screech of tires brought Hannah Scott’s world as she knew it to a devastating end. A year after she signed the papers to donate her daughter’s organs, Hannah is still reeling with grief when she unexpectedly stumbles into the life of the Bell family, whose fifteen-year-old daughter, Maddie, survived only because Hannah’s daughter had died. Mesmerized by this fragile connection to her own daughter and afraid to reveal who she actually is, Hannah develops a surprising friendship with Maddie’s mother, Olivia.

The Bells, however, have problems of their own. Once on the verge of leaving her wealthy but abusive husband, Olivia now finds herself bound to him in the wake of the transplant that saved their daughter’s life. Meanwhile, Maddie, tired of the limits her poor health puts upon her and fearful of her father’s increasing rage, regularly escapes into the one place where she can be anyone she wants: the Internet. But when she is finally healthy enough to return to school, the real world proves to be just as complicated as the isolated bubble she had been so eager to escape.

A masterful narrative shaped by nuanced characters whose delicate bonds are on a collision course with the truth, Safe with Me is a riveting triumph.

Mandy's Review:

When I find a dual-themed novel, I also find that those themes tend to clash. Instead of a cohesive story, the dual themes often times battle each other to be noticed. Safe with Me is a dual-themed novel, but this is an exception to the norm. The dual themes actually work together to form a cohesive plot.

Take the first theme: the donation of a liver. You see and experience each participating person's emotional journey from this transaction. Hannah's grief over losing her daughter is palatable, but you can also feel her hesitant satisfaction about being able to do something good for another family. Olivia experiences unadulterated joy at her daughter, Maddie, finally being the recipient of a liver and escaping the clutches of death, but Olivia also feels sorrow and heartache over another mother losing her child so that Maddie could live.

Then you have the second theme: domestic abuse. There are many reasons why people stay in abusive relationships. Perhaps they feel they have no other option. Perhaps they feel as if they couldn't get far enough away from the abuser to feel safe. Perhaps they're perpetually optimistic that the abuser will change. Whatever the reason, the person is not stupid as many of us would think. And while we would say what we'd do differently, it's a completely different scenario when you're the one in the situation. I think Amy captured the emotions and drama of this relationship realistically.

The novel flowed well and each chapter was a specific character's voice, so the reader gets to know the three main characters in this novel: Hannah, Olivia, and Maddie. The only minor issue I had was with the title. When I read a novel, I look for how the title ties into the plot. It's just one of my things. I couldn't find how Safe with Me tied into this plot. Is it referring to Hannah and Olivia's friendship, Hannah and Seth's friendship, Maddie and Noah's friendship, Olivia and James' marriage ... ??? I just don't know. But, like I said, this is a minor issue and just one of my quirky things that I like to do while reading. Overall, I rather enjoyed this novel and would read it again.

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

Friday, July 25, 2014

{Review} THE FORGOTTEN ROSES by Deborah J. Doucette

ISBN #: 978-0991121106
Page Count: 250
Copyright: February 20, 2014
Publisher: Owl Canyon Press; 1st Edition

Book Description:
(Taken from back cover)

Rebecca Griffin has everything she could ever want - or so says her big-hearted, opinionated Italian-American family. But now her marriage is unraveling and her teenage daughter is hurtling toward self-destruction. While Rebecca struggles to hang onto her husband and save her daughter, she learns of the mysterious death of a young woman long ago at a local prison. As Rebecca's mother, Eva, reveals their family's connection to the girl, Rebecca is drawn into the story - it haunts her. A search for answers takes Rebecca from her small idyllic New England town, to the congested streets of East Boston and the tight-knit Italian neighborhood where most of her family still resides. As she tries to dig up the facts of the young girl's life and violent death, the puzzle pieces in Rebecca's life begin to take shape and she faces the difficult truth about her husband, Drew. Rebecca, her troubled daughter, Dana, and an enigmatic figure from the past, unknowingly embark on a collision course one desperate autumn night when the answers they seek come to light in the most forgotten of places from the most innocent of messengers.

Charlene's Review:

All Rebecca has ever truly wanted was a family. Her husband is distant and her oldest daughter is rebelling, and all Rebecca can do is try to hold on. Focusing on her real estate job, Rebecca stumbles upon a mystery involving a local family, a family member, and a local prison. As she digs deeper into the mysterious happenings, her own life spirals out of control, until one fateful night that changes everything.

There is a lot of story within these pages. Suicide, murder, familial connections, and dysfunctional relationships. I think what I appreciated the most was the way Ms. Doucette portrayed Rebecca and her family. I felt a real connection to the ebbing and flowing of the personal relationships within their home. You can feel the tender angst of a woman that is watching her family fall apart, and seemingly, having no way to stop it. You witness the impact on the youngest daughter, an innocent bystander to the family drama, and you watch as the mystery starts to unravel and Rebecca starts to find her own way out of her isolation.

My only disappointment was the ending. There is excitement and answers in the last chapters, but so much is still left unsaid. I would have loved to know more about certain aspects, but I’ll limit my commentary to avoid any spoilers. That said, the evolution of Rebecca was well worth the read, and I would heartily look forward to reading more from Ms. Doucette. She has a fluid writing style with descriptive abilities that make her pages shine.

*A physical copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

{Review} Racist Man by Archer Cloud

File Size: 903 KB
Page Count: 16
Copyright: March 27, 2014

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Warning: This story’s theme revolves heavily around racism, including the beliefs and actions of the protagonist. The author does not condone racism in any way, and believes that such actions would be unacceptable in society. However, some may still find the contents of this book offensive. Please read with discretion.

Angry and bitter restaurant worker John Hu is an American minority who grew up on the dark rims of western society, and now, finally, God has coated his veins with strong bolts of superpowers. Stronger than a mammoth and faster than any car, he will turn his abilities into a funnel to distil the good from the evil…But he has a certain criteria – they must be of his kind.

John sees impurities based on the color of people’s skin, and anyone who dares to be otherwise will find themselves a corner that they cannot so easily crawl out of. He delivers a justice that no police can hand down, and he is almost free to do so.

However, there is another person more akin to John than he would like to think, someone who also shares his powers. And only she has the physical security to get close enough to John and alter his perception, not with her abilities, but with her heart (and hair) of gold.

Kathy's Review:

It’s hard to write a review for something so short, but I’ll give it a try. Racist Man would do nicely as a graphic novel rather than a written one. You can even see on the cover that it is done in an Anime style. And it could do with a title change. This is a superhero who has a slight bias toward Asians. He prefers to help only those of his same racial makeup. But this a racist does not make. Never in this book’s short grasp do we hear John utter any racial slurs, spew any hatred toward those with different colored skin … nothing.

After the buildup the author gave I was ready for something ultra offensive, but this short story danced around anything that could even remotely be construed as hurtful. And the above description doesn’t exactly match what I read. There is a female protagonist but her character is extremely underdeveloped.

If this were my story, I’d expand it, and play into the visual aspect of it. There’s tons of potential here. Make us see the villain who has consumed the pharmaceuticals. Make us understand what has brought John to this point.

*An ecopy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

{Review} SECRET SONG by A. R. Simmons

File Size: 783 KB
Page Count: 333
Copyright: November 15, 2013
Publisher: Acorn Moon Press

Book Summary:
(Taken from Goodreads)

Twenty-three years ago, two teenage drivers collided. Marie was on her way home, while Harold was fleeing from a robbery he and his cousin had just committed. When his car wouldn’t restart, he and his cousin stole the girl’s. Marie was never seen again. Inevitably, the boys were caught. His cousin, Wayne, was eventually executed. Harold got twenty-five years.

Now Harold has come home. He has been paroled. No one wants him in Hawthorn County, but he knows of nowhere else he can go.

Within days, Marie’s remains are discovered. Confrontations occur. He is released from his job because of public pressure. Then Harold becomes the target of persecution, dangerous persecution as someone tries to run him off.

Richard Carter is stuck with the investigation. He wishes as much as anyone that the ruined little man (for whom his wife feels compassion) would leave the county, but he does the job. His mind, however, turns to more serious crimes: a rash of burglaries (one ending in murder), home invasions (one involving sexual assault), and three disappearances. The vendetta against an ex-con who should have known better than to return to the scene of his crime takes a back seat for Richard—until it becomes attempted murder.

Kathy's Review:

Secret Song suffers from an ailment commonly known as Too-Many-Character-Itis. Symptoms include a multitude of characters, most of whom have no standout traits, a storyline that flip-flops from character to character, sometimes not identifying who we are following, and bouts of characters stuck in their own heads, musing on this and that.

When a book suffers from this ailment, it is tough for me, as a reader, to become invested. I’d like to sit and learn more about each character that the author wants me to care about, and then move on. Not that there’s not a time and place for a meandering plot -- the element of suspense definitely calls for it. However, I tried to tough through as best as I could, and there are some bright spots, for sure:

1. Attention to detail. Simmons paints a vivid picture, using very descriptive words around places. I wish this applied to the people, as well.

2. Mystery. I want to know what happened to the girl whose body is found at the beginning of the story and how it ties in to the current action. Like a good author, Simmons makes me wait. Once Simmons gives me the goods, the actions moves fast and furious.

3. The premise for an interesting story. I’m not saying it’s executed well but the premise is there.

I was disappointed in the way things turned out with this one. It seemed like the theme was going to be one of redemption and it didn’t turn out that way at all. Also, the Secret Song aspect of the story should have been shown in flashbacks or through the character’s own thoughts. It wasn’t fully explained what this was.

Good … not great, I’d say.

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

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Page Girls: Birthday Week Celebration! - Day 2

The Page Girls ( is a new online mag with an emphasis on books, cocktails, and female friendships. Each week, they publish a themed issue containing short stories, book reviews, personal and funny essays, videos, cocktail recipes, and more. Some sample issues include The Craziest Thing I Did For Love and LYLAS (Love You Like a Sister).

From July 21-25, The Page Girls is celebrating its first official “birthday week,” which means a giveaway every day plus other goodies.

Sign up for The Page Girls’ weekly newsletter to get notified about new issues, and be sure to follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

U.S. Only Giveaway

How beautiful are these customer letterpress coasters?! On one side there's The Page Girls' logo. The flip side has a recipe for a cocktail ... an essential for any girls night get-together. There is one set of these coasters up for grabs. Good luck!

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