Category Archives: review

Review: Lie to Me by J.T. Ellison

Lie to MeWith 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
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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.

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Review: Final Girls by Riley Sager

Final GirlsReading Final Girls, I found myself more intrigued with who Riley Sager really was rather than if any of the characters in the novel would make it to the final page. I’m not sure if that says more about me as a reader or more about the book itself.

Honestly, it’s probably a bit of both.

Billed by Stephen King as the “first great thriller of 2017,” I went into Riley Sager’s Final Girls with a lot of hope. Quincy Carpenter is one of three women in the United States who is the sole survivor of a tragic, horror-movie-like massacre. Unable to recall any details about the attack, Quincy has spent the last decade moving on with her life, including a live-in boyfriend and starting her own cooking blog. But when one of the three “final girls” (named after the girl in the slasher film who makes it the ending credits) dies and another appears on Quincy’s doorstep after years of hiding, Quincy soon begins to question everything about her life, both the and now. Continue reading

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Review: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good LifeIn this world, there are only so many f*cks one person can or should give, argues Mark Manson. And determining which things are worth giving a f*ck about and which ones are is an important and necessary distinction.

Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck will not only help you determine which things are important to care about and put your passion behind but will also give you steps to determine if what you’re giving a f*ck about is really worth it. Manson even argues that failure, rejection, and pain are all part of being a better human being — provided that we take the time to learn from those setbacks.

On many levels, a lot of what Manson asserts in this self-help book isn’t breaking a lot of new ground. Instead, it’s a reminder to make sure you’ve got your priorities in the right places and that the things you give a f*ck about are really worth giving a f*ck about.

With its attention-grabbing title, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck isn’t exactly subtle. But it’s real, honest and authentic advice from Manson, delivered in a straightforward, readable and compelling style. His arguments and ideas will linger with you after you’ve read each chapter and the book — and that’s a good thing. It’s almost one of those books that demands to be read again in the near future to make sure the tune-up up Manson lays out is really working.

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Review: Orange Blossom Special by Sally Kilpatrick

Orange Blossom Special“As everyone had long feared, it was Tennessee football that finally killed Jerome Malcolm.”

With an opening line like that one, how could I possibly resist Sally Kilpatrick’s Orange Blossom Special?

The short answer is that I couldn’t.

When her husband of sixty year passes away, Edie Malcolm discovers that he has some very specific thoughts on how he and his estate should be distributed. In addition to leaving behind funding for two neighborhood friends to pursue a college education, Jerome wants to be cremated and have his ashes sprinkled in three places – the Ryman, General Robert Neyland’s grave and the orange and white checkerboard of the University of Tennessee end zone. And Jerome wants his wife, sister and the two college scholars to complete the scattering together.

So, the four of them pack into Jerome’s orange and white checkerboard painted hearse with Jerome safely stored inside a Carmen Miranda cookie jar and set out to fulfill his final wishes. Continue reading

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Audiobook Review: Doctor Who and the Horror of Fang Rock by Terrance Dicks

horroroffangrockFor some odd reason, I never picked up a copy of “The Horror of Fang Rock” during my Target novel collecting days. Whether it’s because the bookstores I frequented didn’t have a copy or there were other books that got my hard-earned cash instead, I don’t know.

So, I came to the audio version of the fourth Doctor and Leela adventures without any memories of the original on the printed page.

And I’ve got to admit, this one was pretty well done. Adapting his own script, Terrance Dicks creates a bit more backstory for some of his characters and gives the reader some context as to the social norms and assumptions of the day. These additions give a greater depth to how some of the characters interact over the course of the novel.

And while his adaptation of “Horror of Fang Rock,” doesn’t necessarily create a larger canvas for the story like “Day of the Daleks” or “The Auton Invasion,” “Fang Rock” still feels a bit more substantial than others from this era that simply feel like Dicks is adapting the shooting script for the printed page.

The audio version of the story adds an extra layer of tension to the already tense story, thanks in large part to the performance of Louise Jameson. While the actress who brought Leela to life has been a fixture in the Big Finish range, this is her first Target novel reading. Based on the work she’s done here, I hope it won’t be her last. Jameson reads the story like we’re gathered around a camp fire and she’s sharing a scary tale with us. Jameson wisely doesn’t try to offer her imitation of each actor from the original broadcast but instead creates her own performances for each of her characters. It goes without saying that her Leela is a highlight of this novel.

 

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Review: Camino Island by John Grisham

Camino IslandWhile John Grisham still reliably delivers page-turning legal thrillers, he still likes to challenge himself and his readers with novels that occasionally go against the “typical” Grisham grain.

But while Camino Island isn’t a typical Grisham legal thriller, it does have the feel of what Grisham does so well in the pages of his legal thrillers. In this case, it’s not a young lawyer with his or her ethics being challenged or figuring out how to fight the system for the underdog. This time Grisham turns his sights upon the publishing world and the lucrative world of book collecting.

Camino Island
starts off at a sprint with four thieves stealing four rare F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts from the Princeton library.

Once the manuscripts are stolen, Grisham then introduces us to one of the high stakes players in the world of book collecting and his lucrative business. Continue reading

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Review: The Identicals by Elin Hildebrand

The IdenticalsWhen Eleanor Roxy-Frost and Billy Frost decide to go their separate ways, they decide to divide everything equally. This includes their twin daughters, Tabitha and Harper.

And so, at the age of seventeen, the sister play a game of rock/paper/scissors to decide who “wins” and gets to go with Billy and who “loses” and has to go with their mother. Decades later, the outcome of that game casts a long shadow over the lives of the estranged twin sisters.

When their father passes away, the sisters are forced back into each other’s orbit. Harper lives on Nantucket, where she’s done everything from landscaping to package delivery to being an unwitting drug mule. The last position has granted her a bit of infamy on the island (and the ire of the drug cartel she unwittingly helped bring down), but not nearly as much as the latest news that she’s having an affair with her father’s married doctor.

Tabitha lives on Martha’s Vineyard with her rebellious teenage daughter, Ainsley and works in her mother’s sinking boutique (based on her mother’s line of clothing and an infamous dress designed years before). Referred to by an ex-boyfriend as “a piss-poor parent,” Tabitha blames Harper for everything that has gone wrong in her life, including the death of her infant son, Julian, fourteen years ago. Continue reading

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