Category Archives: ARC

Review: Who Killed the Fonz by James Boice

Who Killed the Fonz?In the late 80’s and early 90’s, fondly remembered television series of the past received made-for-television reunion films. James Boice’s Who Killed the Fonz feels like it could be a long-lost reunion movie for the cast of one of my all-time favorite shows, Happy Days.

Beginning in 1984 (the year that Happy Days finally ended its epic run), Who Killed the Fonz finds Richard Cunningham at a crossroads in his Hollywood career. While he’s had success as a writer, including an Oscar nod, he can’t quite get his dream project off the ground. When his agent tells presents him an offer to make write a Star Wars clone, Richard is less thrilled. However, it’s either write the movie he doesn’t want anything to do with or face the end of chasing his dreams in Hollywood.

Then, Richard receives a call from Milwaukee that his old friend, Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli had died in an motorcycle accident. Seems that Fonzie flipped off the front of his bike on a bridge, plunging to his death in the icy waters below. Richard goes back to Milwaukee for the first time in twenty years to bury his old friend and to consider what the next stage in his career will be. (Marion moved out to Hollywood with Richard and Laurie Beth years ago after Howard passed away and they left the famous house to Joanie and Chiachi).

Billed as an 80’s noir thriller, Who Killed the Fonz is a loving homage to the classic series. Boice clearly knows his Happy Days lore, sprinkling in a few nostalgic flashbacks to classic episodes and moments from the series run as Richard comes to terms with the Fonz’s death and that he hasn’t been back to see his old friends in two decades.* He even has Fonzie’s funeral take place at the same funeral home used in the “Fonzie’s Funeral” two-parter late in the run of Richie episodes. Continue reading

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Review: Oh My Stars by Sally Kilpatrick

Oh My StarsNeither Ivy Long nor Gabe Ledbetter could have predicted the chain of events that led them to serve as Mary and Joseph at the drive-through nativity in the small town of Ellery, Tennessee.

A published romance author, Ivy has suffered writer’s block since her husband passed away and plans fell through with their foster child. Gabe has returned home from Memphis, with a failing marriage and a looming malpractice suit.

So, when a baby is left in the drive-through Nativity, neither Ivy nor Gabe expected they would become her care givers. Nor could they predict the impact this little girl would have on their hearts. Could this be a Christmas present or miracle to help them both move on from their past and maybe find a new love — not just for the little girl, but for each other. Continue reading

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Review: The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

The Wife Between UsAbout two-hundred pages into The Wife Between Us the unreliable narrator notes that there are three sides to a marriage — his side, her side, and the reality of the situation.

This thought occurred to me long before Vanessa pointed it out to her readers. I also found myself wishing that the cover blurb and marketing materials hadn’t teased that there were twists contained within the pages of the story and that we’d question everything being related by the narrator. It would have made the surprises much more unexpected when Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen begin pulling the rug out from under us and playing with our assumptions.

After her husband divorces her, Vanessa is left trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered life. She is apparently obsessed with the woman who will soon be marrying her husband and will do anything in her power to warn his next wife of the secrets she hid before, during, and after her marriage. Vanessa teases tidbits to come that led to the demise of her relationship as well as the truth of what was really happening in her life and her marriage. Continue reading

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Review: The Last To Let Go by Amber Smith

The Last to Let GoAfter acing her sophomore year finals, Brooke is looking forward to a fresh start. Transferring to a new high school across town with more AP options, Brooke has her path to college and the world mapped out.

But life takes an abrupt turn when she arrives home at her apartment to find flashing lights, sirens and her mother arrested, charged with the murder of her father. Lashing out at those around her and the world, Brooke must try to find a new way under a new reality. It helps that she’s falling in love with a new girl at her new school even as she struggles to hold her family together.

Told from the first person point of view of Brooke, The Last to Let Go is a complex, dark and enthralling young adult novel. Brooke’s dogged determination and belief in her mother’s innocence and desire to have things go back to the way they were drives much of the tension early in the novel. And while it’s clear that Brooke is lashing out at people and not behaving well, readers are treated to the internal struggle and justifications Brooke has for her behaviors. It doesn’t help that her family has secrets and many of those are about to come to light.

A coming of age story, Brooke’s raw, emotional storytelling captured my interest from the first page. Amber Smith’s prose sweeps you in, capturing the emotions and conflict of what Brooke feels. This is a confidently told story that deals with some big real-world issues.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received an ARC of this book as part of the Amazon Vine program.

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Review: Artemis by Andy Weir

ArtemisAfter the runaway success of The Martian, it would have been easy for Andy Weir to publish his grocery list and have it race to the top of the bestseller list.

Instead, Weir made fans wait what seemed like an eternity for his sophomore effort, Artemis. Good things come to those who wait.

While not as immediately engaging as The Martian, Weir’s Artemis avoids a sophomore slump by delivering an entirely new narrator and story. Set in the near future, Artemis introduces us to Jazz, a citizen of the lunar colony Artemis. Jazz wants to help guide tours of the lunar surface, but while she trains for that role, she makes ends meet by running the lunar black market. This leads her to a complicated plot to pull off what should be a perfect crime and earn a reward that will see her set for life. Continue reading

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Review: Machine Learning by Hugh Howley

Machine Learning: New and Collected StoriesIn an afterword to one of his stories, Hugh Howley suggests that the sci-fi trope of AIs rising up and going to war against humanity probably won’t be the way things really happen. Instead, he sees how AIs could go into battle with each other, with humanity being little more than ants in the /8956-9battle between intelligences. We’d be a distraction and little else..*

Several stories in his short-story collection, Machine Learning, delve into this question with varying degrees of success. One memorable story finds humanity falling because of an oversight involving a Roomba. Other stories look at what will happen when we have artificial lifeforms and people begin to fall in love with them and engage in a romantic relationship.

Howley’s stories (collected together by theme) show a wide range. Howley includes a story he thought was long lost from his website as well as several short stories set in his popular Silo universe. If you’re a fan of the Silo universe, those stories alone make this a must-read collection.

Howley also offers an afterword to the stories, giving us a bit of insight into the creation of the stories or further reflections on some of the central themes and questions raised. Using the afterward to address these questions allows the reader to go into each story fresh and without having anything of what’s to come given away by a well-intentioned introduction.

If you’re a Howley fan, this collection is a worthy addition. If you’re not, this collection is a nice way to dip your toe in and see why Howley is one of the more respected writers in the business today (though I will warn you that having a familiarity with his Silo universe lends more enjoyment to that section of stories).

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

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Review: Vengeance by Newt Gingrich and Mark Early

Vengeance (Brooke Grant #3)On what should be the happiest day of her life, Major Brooke Grant’s world is shattered when a terrorist sets off a car bomb just seconds before she walks down the aisle. Seems that Brooke has ticked off the terrorist leader, the Falcon, who has declared a jihad on Brooke for events in a previous installment of this series. And while a fluke saves Brooke from destruction, the Falcon’s bomb is able to wipe out her friends, family and the president of the United States all in one fell swoop.

The Falcon then decides to make sure the United States knows what it’s like to feel terror and uses a high-profile Arab reporter to issue a threat to wipe out three U.S. cities with nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, several U.S. citizens are seized for possible connections to the plot, putting an Islamic Congressman in a precarious position and the newly installed U.S. president wanting to make sure that the U.S. hits back and hits back hard. Continue reading

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