Category Archives: ARC

Review: Stepping on Cheerios by Betsy Singleston Snyder

Stepping on Cheerios: Finding God in the Chaos and Clutter of LifeFull disclosure: I’m probably not the intended audience for this book.

Betsy Singleton Snyder is a Methodist pastor with four children, including a set of triplets. Stepping on Cheerios is reflections on finding time for God and the divine even when your deep in the midst of parenting.

And while I’ll admit there were some observations that Snyder makes that are specific to women and mothers, there are also some universal themes of parenting and the chaos that can come with it here. With easy-to-relate-to stories, insights and Biblical tie-ins, this book was a nice devotional for my wife and I. And while we only have one toddler at this point in our lives, it’s easy to recognize ourselves in the stories related by Snyder.

As a parent, I found this book to be a nice reminder that we’re not the only parents who have our highs and lows. And it’s nice to be reminded that even in the midst of a Cheerios, Legos and other bits of childhood, we need to find time for God and that we’ve been given a great responsibility and joy in raising our daughter.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received an ARC of this book from the Vine program in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Coming Up For Air by Miranda Kenneally

Coming Up for AirEver since she dipped her toe into a pool, Maggie has been obsessed with being the water. Driven to be one of the best swimmers in her state and country, Maggie is training hard for her final year of high school and her college career as well as a shot at the United States Olympic team.

But in between keeping her grades up and swimming laps, Maggie can’t help but wonder if she’s missing out on something. Namely, dating, guys, relationships and the logistics of making out. As Maggie ponders this situation, she begins to see her best friend and fellow swimmer, Levi in a new light. So Maggie proposes that Levi teach her the basics of making out before she graduates from high school.

What could possibly go wrong? Continue reading

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Review: Lockdown by Laurie R. King

Lockdown: A Novel of SuspensePrincipal Linda MacDonald wants Career Day at Gaudalupe Middle School to be memorable. But as she frets over the language of her introductory speech, little does she know what will unfold on this day and how truly memorable it will be for herself, the students and the participants.

Laurie R. King’s Lockdown bills itself as a novel of suspense. And like a film by Alfred Hitchcock, King gets us to invest in her characters to help build and ratchet up the tension until it finally reaches a boiling point. And when it does, King not only earns the payoff, but has a few well foreshadowed surprises for readers as well.

Alternating between multiple viewpoints and characters, King invests the world of Gaudalupe Middle School with several potential scenarios, slowly building to the (seemingly) inevitable outcome and the lockdown of the title. Leading up to an event that is taken from today’s headlines, King gives readers multiple options of who and what might be the trigger for the events of Career Day. Continue reading

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Review: The River at Night by Erica Ferencik

The River at NightLooking for a different kind of vacation, Wini, Pia, Rachel, and Sandra book a whitewater rafting trip in an isolated region of Maine. Each of the women is seeking to escape an aspect of her life, whether it’s Wini coming to terms with the dissolution of her marriage and the death of her brother or Sandra never quite getting over how quickly Pia jumped into bed with one of her ex-boyfriends. Maybe a long weekend away from the modern world will help things.

Or everything could go horribly, horribly wrong.

What starts out as an adventure vacation soon becomes a fight for survival among the four friends.

Taking a page from Deliverance, Erica Ferencik’s The River at Night delivers a taut, page-turning tale of survival among the four friends (and their tour guide). Stuck out in the middle of no-where the group must overcome nature and each other to find their way home. And it won’t be easy because there are a number of obstacles along the path standing between them and civilization.

If I’m being a bit vague with this review, it’s for a reason. There are some nice surprises and turns of the story that you’re better off discovering for yourself. And like the bend of a river, it’s more fun to be surprised about what’s ahead than have every moment of the trip mapped out. The novel spends a good quarter of its length establishing the characters and the details of their lives before beginning to put them through an emotional and physical ringer.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received a digital ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Goodbye Days by Jeff Zetner

Goodbye DaysCarter Briggs knows about the power of the written word. Not only can he entertain and touch his three best friends with his stories and jokes but a simple text message to them could have been a factor in the auto collision that took their lives.

Wracked with guilt and hurting from the loss of the fellow members of the Sauce Crew, Carver faces the difficult task of trying to move forward with his life. It doesn’t help that the twin sister of his one his friends and a high-powered judge and father to another friend hold Carver responsible for the death of his friends. And both want to see Carver “pay” for his actions.

Jeff Zetner’s Goodbye Days chronicles Carver’s journey to come to terms with the death of his friends and the impact it has not only on him but those around him. Carter’s witty, self-aware narration is honest, authentic and, at times, utterly raw. Zetner ably captures the conflicting emotions Carver experiences, including several panic attacks that send Carver looking for help beyond what his family and friends can offer. Continue reading

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Review: This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

This Is Where It EndsAs the winter semester begins at Opportunity High School, most of the student body is assembled in the auditorium for the principle’s welcome back message. There are a few exceptions to this from the track team preparing to defend their state title winning streak and the two guys trying to break into the principle’s office to get a look at their permanent records.

A few minutes after ten, the doors to the auditorium are bolted shut and the first shots ring out. Former student Tyler has something to say and he’s going to say it to everyone gathered at the business end of several guns and multiple rounds of ammo.

For the next hour, This Is Where It Ends puts readers in and around Opportunity High School, watching events unfold through the eyes of multiple narrators who all ask the same question, “How did this happen here?” As the story unfolds, we find out just what drove Tyler to plan and carry out the attack on his classmates, teachers, and administration as well as feeling the desperation of those in and around the school as they struggle to survive Tyler’s attack.

The opening pages of This Is Where It Ends channel the confusion and terror of a high school shooting incident. But it’s once Tyler settles in and begins to demand that the student body listen to him now that the novel slowly begins to lose its focus. As the possible step stones to this event are slowly uncovered, Tyler more like a comic book villain while the characters around him spend a lot of time wondering if they could have contributed to or stopped this attack somehow. Included in the narration are Tyler’s ex-girlfriend, his sister and the girl he sexually assaulted on prom night. And while these characters offer different insights into who Tyler who then and is now, it never quite gels into something more. There’s also a great deal of teenage angst thrown in along the way that feels a bit out of place at times in the story that’s unfolding.

The novel also isn’t helped because it feels like it’s working too hard to make the adults appear as useless and ineffectual as possible. As the shootings begin, the track team is outside training for the upcoming season. The track coach is less effective at finding a way to address the situation and calm the fears of his team than one of his students (who happens to be Ty’s ex-girlfriend and is a member of the ROTC). I’m not asking that the adults be superheroes that can somehow magically stop the rampage that Ty goes on, but it would be nice to feel as if one or two of them was somehow portrayed as having a bit more sense.

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Review: Everything You Want Me to Be by Mindy Mejia

Everything You Want Me to BeHenrietta Hoffman (better known as Hattie in her small town) wears a lot of hats. Whether it’s honor’s student near the top of her senior class, the loving daughter of her parents or the dutiful girlfriend. But does anyone really know the REAL Hattie Hoffman?

Mindy Mejia’s Everything You Want Me to Be examines a year in the life of Hattie Hoffman as she struggles to find out the role she really wants to play in life. The big problem is that just as Hattie is figuring out who she wants to be, she meets an untimely end under suspicious circumstances. Continue reading

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