Tag Archives: Amazon Vine

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: 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: 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: Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard

Distress SignalsThe 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

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Review: The American Girl by Kate Horsley

The American GirlIt 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

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Review: Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay

Disappearance at Devil's RockThinking her fourteen year-old son Tommy is spending the night at one of his best friend’s house, Elizabeth Sanderson in disturbed to receive a phone call saying her son has gone missing. As the shock sets in, Elizabeth can’t help but feel that history is repeating itself. Tommy’s father vanished in the night years before. Could it be that her son has followed in his father’s footsteps?

The answers are far more compelling and interesting than that and they make this book one that was, at times, next to impossible to put down. Add in an element of the potential supernatural and you’ve got the another winner from Paul Tremblay — an author who after reading just two of his books has been put onto my “must read anything he writes list” and whom I eagerly seeking you his back catalog.

Paul Tremblay’s Disappearance at Devil’s Rock starts with a heck of hook and doesn’t let up until the final page is turned. The question of how well you really know your kids and your family haunts every page of the novel and drives much of this superlatively told, suspenseful mystery. Like his earlier haunting A Head Full of Ghosts this is one of those novels that defies categorization beyond “a really good book that everyone should read.” Continue reading

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Review: The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

The Heart Goes LastMargaret Atwood’s latest novel The Heart Goes Last has some intriguing ideas but I’m not sure they all necessarily add up to a satisfying reading experience. Like many of her books, the setting is a near future dystopian one with our protagonists Stan and Charmaine living in their car and surviving on the meager earnings Charmaine earns as a waitress. When they’re giving the opportunity to trade in this life for something akin to a romanticized 50’s sitcom version of life, the two agree.

But there’s a price to be paid and a dark side to the agreement. Every other month, the couple spends time separated and locked up in prison. The other month is spent in freedom and doing various jobs within the community based on their skills. The couple is supposed to have little or no contact with the other couple that lives in their house while they’re in prison, but a seemingly change meeting between Charmaine and the other man who lives in their house begins an affair that will begin to change the dynamic of things.

The Heart Goes Last has an intriguing hook and set-up, but the farther I got into the novel, the less I found myself enjoying it. Part of it is that the deeper we get into the novel, the less likeable these characters become. And while there are some interesting twists to the situation that Stan and Charmaine find themselves living in (one early twist finds Stan falling in love with a woman who left a note behind, simply by imagining her, only to late find out that note was written by his wife for her lover), I felt like the novel lost a lot of its early momentum by the mid-point. It does pick up a bit at the end, but that’s not before I felt like I had to wade through a hundred pages that make me care less and less about the characters and what was going on.

Despite all that, Atwood still has a wonderful grasp of language and composes some utterly beautiful and haunting sentences and passages. But that isn’t enough to make this novel live up to its early promise.

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

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