After 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.
In 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.
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
An interesting take on young adult tropes, Moonhead and the Music Machine is one of the more bizarre and intriguing graphic novels I’ve read in recent memory.
Joey Moonhead is aptly named — he and his family have moons for heads. Trying to find his place in high school, Joey struggles between his parents’ expectations and his desire to fit in. When the school talent show comes up, Joey invents his own instrument and shocks his peer by not only playing but being pretty good at it.
Filled with things only a graphic novel can do, Moonhead and the Music Machine is an immersive, entertaining experience. On one level, it would be easy to zip through the story but doing that doesn’t allow for really taking in the various panels and visuals created by Andrew Rae. And while the story itself isn’t exactly a new one, Rae’s take on the coming of age young adult story is intriguing enough to make spending time with Joey Moonhead worth it.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received an ARC of this book from the Amazon Vine program.
With Gone Girl casting a huge shadow across the literary world, it seems like we get a potential “next Gone Girl” hitting the shelves every week.
On the surface, J.T. Ellison’s Lie to Me could be classified as another book trying to be the “next Gone Girl.” But that would sell her new psychological thriller short.
Ethan and Sutton Montclair appear to have a perfect life. Successful writing careers, the nice house, a perfect marriage. But if you pull back the layers a bit, things aren’t quite as perfect as they seem. Sutton is being harassed by a book blogger with an ax to grind, Ethan’s got a severe case of writer’s block and their marriage is on shaky ground from Ethan’s one-night stand and the death of their infant son. When Sutton vanishes one morning, leaving a note for Ethan not to try to find her, suspicion begins to fall firmly on Ethan. The discovery of a burned body that could be Sutton only ratchets up the scrutiny from the authorities and the media.
Ellison does a nice job of layering the tension in Lie to Me. As she peels away the layers of the Montclair marriage, we find out that neither Ethan nor Sutton is quite as innocent or as sweet as they portray themselves to the outside world.
While most of the novel is third-person narration, Ellison includes the occasional chapter from the first-person perspective of the mastermind of things. Determining who is speaking and what their vendetta is against the Montclairs really drives much of the novel
That is until we get the big reveal and things kind of go off the rails a bit.
I won’t ruin anything for anyone. But I can honestly say the first two-thirds of this novel had me gripped, intrigued and not able to turn the pages fast enough to see what development would come next. And then we get to the big reveal and I couldn’t help but roll my eyes a bit. I wanted to make the jump with Ellison, but I just couldn’t.
That’s not to say that Lie to Me isn’t a good novel. It is very good. It’s just not a great one. And that’s a shame because, as I said, the first two-thirds of it are completely compelling.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received an ARC of this book as part of the Amazon Vine Program.
Full 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.
Principal 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
Carter 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
The runaway success of “Gone Girl” has created a new sub-genre in the mystery/thriller section. It seems like every other book that comes out these days cover blurb touts it as being in the “same vein as ‘Gone Girl.'”
And while there have been a few books that have come close to capturing the page-turning intensity of Gillian Flynn, there have been more than a few that felt like pale imitations of the original.
For the first third of “Distress Signals,” it feels like Catherine Ryan Howard has tapped into the same vein Flynn did with “Gone Girl.” Only to see it all fall apart the more Adam Dunne digs into the disappearance of his fiance, Sarah. Continue reading
It seem like a lot of the mystery novels I’m drawn to these days feature an unreliable narrator (or narrators in the case of The American Girl). Whether this is due to the success of novels like Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train has encouraged publishers to jump on the unreliable narrator bandwagon or that it’s just that I’ve become more aware of this particular narrative hook, I’m not sure.
What I do know is that, at this point, it takes a lot to make an unreliable narrator story stand out to me.
Kate Horsley’s The American Girl was able to do that. Well, at least it was able to do that for the first hundred or so pages. Continue reading