“A Burning”–Review

Good evening, bloggers! I hope you’re well and enjoying some good books. Honestly, I’ve been doing my best, yet I’ve been in a reading slump. I’ve received advance copies of upcoming titles, so I’ll do my best to get around to them.

In the meantime, Happy Pub Day to A Burning, by Megha Majumdar! Set in modern day India, this story revolves around three people whose lives become entwined following a terrorist attack.

After leaving a careless comment regarding the attack on Facebook, Jivan—a young Muslim girl from the slums—is arrested on suspicion of executing the terrorist attacks. PT Sir—Jivan’s former gym teacher—accidentally gets involved in a right-wing political party, only to learn that Jivan’s situation can further his career and future. And then there’s Lovely, an aspiring actress who becomes Jivan’s alibi, but it may cost Lovely everything she worked toward, should she help Jivan.

While I recommend this book for those who enjoy political themes, I wasn’t really into this one, as much as I wanted to like it. I could go into the topic a bit, yet I feel I’ll spoil it. I suppose I was hoping for a bit more, yet I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I’d say check it out, if you’re interested. Feel free to post your comments. Happy reading!

*I received this early copy, in exchange for an honest review.

About the author: Megha Majumdar is an associate editor at Catapult in New York City, where she works on both books and the magazine (catapult.co). She grew up in India and studied anthropology at Johns Hopkins and Harvard. She lives in Brooklyn. Follow her on Twitter.

“Hollywood Park”–Review

We were never young. No one told us who we were or where all our parents went. They would arrive like ghosts, visiting us for a morning, an afternoon. They would sit with us or walk around the grounds, to laugh or cry or toss us up in the air while we screamed. Then they’d disappear again, for weeks, for months, for years, leaving us alone with our memories and dreams, our questions and confusion…

In his memoir, Hollywood Park, Mikel Jollett describes his childhood in a commune in California, a commune he was always told was an orphanage, a school. But why couldn’t his parents always be around? And why all the strict rules? What started as a respite for drug addicts and alcoholics eventually turned into the notorious cult, Synanon. The leader, whom Jollett called The Old Man, told the kids they didn’t need parents, that they were to be known as “Children of the Universe.” Every member had to shave their heads, the men had to get divorces, including vasectomies, and so forth. These people were supposedly going to change the world and all that nonsense they were fed. There was physical and emotional abuse.

Even though Jollett’s parents finally took him and his brother, Tony, out of the cult when they were still small, their lives came with years of struggles. While his brother dealt with his constant anger and neglect, Jollett was forced into an adult responsibility to take care of his unfit mother. While the brothers were growing up and growing apart, Jollett describes his struggles with suppressed anger, addictions, and nearly hitting rock bottom.

While I first thought this book was going to talk more about the cult, I liked the story of the author’s life after it. It’s well-written and made me want to know more. For years, the author believed he never could be capable of happiness, to be be loved, or to love. He puts the reader in his shoes from his boyhood to adulthood, with constant struggles, perseverance, and making peace.

I admit, at times, I had to stop in between some paragraphs or chapters because I’d get a bit emotional. But isn’t that what a great read is supposed to provide? For those who are fans of The Airborne Toxic Event—I recently checked out their music, which is pretty cool—check out this amazing memoir. Feel free to post your comments. Happy reading!

*I received this copy from Celadon Books, in exchange for an honest review.

About the author: Mikel Jollett is the front man of the indie band, The Airborne Toxic Event. Prior to forming the band, Jollett graduated with honors from Stanford University. He was an on-air columnist for NPR’s All Things Considered, an editor-at-large for Men’s Health, and an editor at Filter magazine. His fiction has been published in McSweeney’s.

“The New Husband”–Review

Good afternoon, bloggers! I hope your reading is serving you well. Here’s a description of my latest read, which I highly recommend:

What makes Simon Fitch so perfect?

He knows all her favorite foods, music, and movies.

Her son adores him.

He was there when she needed him most?

He anticipates her every need.

He would never betray her like her first husband.

The perfect husband. He checks all the boxes. The question is, why?

Almost two years after her husband’s betrayal and mysterious disappearance, Nina is starting over with Simon Fitch. Simon has been her hero in her devastating times. A great provider, a father figure to her son and daughter, a supportive partner, he’s everything Nina hoped for. Despite it all, she still can’t shake the betrayal of her first husband, Glen. What, exactly, happened to him?

While the family is getting their lives back together, Nina’s daughter, Maggie, can’t help feeling suspicious. Simon is too good to be true. Something’s not right with him. She can’t stand the sight of him, as well. She’s not buying his sweet, caring side. Even though she can’t prove his true colors to her mom, she’s determined to get him out of the picture. At the same time, she truly believes her father is alive. But how can she prove it? Simon is too good and intends to keep Nina wrapped around his finger.

This story provided great suspense. It really wasn’t what I expected, to be honest, and I’m glad. This is one of those stories about the reality of obsession, control, and the consequences of ignoring the warning signs. I was less than halfway toward the end of the book and I actually stood up until 4:30 a.m. to finish it. I was dying to know how it was going to go down. Great work to the author. Feel free to post your comments. Happy reading!

*I received this early copy, in exchange for an honest review. The New Husband will be available on April 14, 2020.

About the author: D.J. Palmer is the author of numerous critically acclaimed suspense novels. A former e-commerce entrepreneur, D.J. Palmer now resides in New Hampshire and is currently at work on a new book. He also is the author of Saving Meghan. For more info, click here. You can also find him on Twitter.

“You Are Not Alone”–Review

51BAlJAMJcL._SY346_Good afternoon, bloggers! I’d recently finished reading You Are Not Alone. While I feel the story and suspense were decent enough, I’m not quite sure I liked this book all that much. Here’s a quick description:

You probably know someone like Shay Miller. You probably don’t know anyone like the Moore sisters. Shay thinks she wants their life. But what they really want is hers. She’d die for them to like her. She might have to…

While waiting in the subway station, Shay Miller suddenly witnesses a woman throw herself into an oncoming train. Ever since that traumatizing moment, Shay has been too afraid to ride the subway, let alone approach the subway station. Her mind is constantly on the mystery woman who decided to end her life and why. Feeling that she could have helped the woman, Shay feels guilty. When she attends a memorial service to pay her respects to the woman, it is then that Shay meets sisters Cassandra and Jane Moore. Observing their glamorous lifestyle and beauty, Shay knows she wants to fit right in with these two women. After all, Shay leads a lonely life. She’s sharing an apartment with a friend and his live-in girlfriend who wants her out. She’s in-between jobs and doesn’t have close friends. The Moore sisters, on the other hand, provide comfort and the confidence she’s needed all along.

Yet their friendship seems just too good to be true.

With the Moore sisters keeping a close eye on her every move, Shay comes to terms with the fact that she just might be in danger. Why did the sisters befriend her and what are their real motives? And what did it all have to do with the woman who committed suicide?

As I’ve mentioned, the suspense was decent enough, but I feel it all went on too long. Some of the backstories of the other characters were good, yet I wasn’t sure where it all would lead. Toward the end, I was starting to understand. Some scenes did perk me right up, but then it wasn’t long before I wasn’t feeling the suspense that much. I’ll admit that the twist was surprising. I still gave it three stars for the story’s description, but I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the authors’ previous book, An Anonymous Girl. Despite my opinions, I encourage you to check out the book, especially for those who’ve read and enjoyed the authors’ previous novels. The book is available now and feel free to post your comments. Happy reading!

About the authors: Sarah Pekkanen is the internationally-bestselling author of The Wife Between Us and An Anonymous Girl, cowritten with Greer Hendricks. A former investigative journalist and feature writer, her work has been published in The Washington Post, USA Today, and many others. Find her on Facebook and Twitter. For more info, click here.

Greer Hendricks is the coauthor of the New York Times bestseller The Wife Between Us. Prior to becoming a novelist, she spent over two decades as an editor at Simon & Schuster. She obtained her master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University, and her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Allure, and Publisher’s Weekly. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and two children. Find her on Twitter. For more info, click here.

“My Dark Vanessa”–Review

41N27wrCq8L._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Hello bloggers! My apologies for my being behind on book reviews, but I’ll do my best to catch up. In the meantime, one of my recent reads was Kate Elizabeth Russell’s debut, My Dark Vanessa.

In the year 2000, 15-year-old Vanessa Wye starts a new year at her school. While she’s always been the type who liked being by herself—even when she was always advised to get more involved in extracurricular activities—things gradually change for her when she’s drawn to Jacob Strane, her 42-year-old English teacher. The more often she starts spending time with him after class lectures, including her working with him for the school’s literary magazine, the closer they are to giving in to temptation. During their affair, suspicions arise on school grounds. Students are gossiping, the staff are concerned yet seem to look the other way, and Vanessa and Strane are wondering if they ought to continue with their affair.

In 2017, Vanessa is a hotel concierge. Although she and Strane are still in contact, everything is complicated. And it all gets worse when Vanessa finds out that Strane has been accused of sexual assault by Vanessa’s former classmate. With the story of the assault blowing up all over social media and the news, Strane’s reputation is tarnished. Now Vanessa has to decide: speak up about her past affair to save lives, or stay silent for the sake of Strane. Matters become difficult as she thinks back to everything that started the whole mess. Vanessa feels she can’t betray Strane. After all, he was the first man to make her feel special. Yet he was downright manipulative, implying that his actions were her fault. It all makes Vanessa wonder if Strane was never the man she thought he was.

This is a highly recommended read, in my opinion. I can’t speak for other readers, but I didn’t feel the least bit sorry for Strane. Actions lead to consequences and that was the risk he was willing to take. The affair may have been consensual, yet this charming teacher knew how to make this young, naïve girl feel at fault for his actions. Then came the scare tactics, whether Vanessa chose to confess her affair or to keep quiet. I have many more opinions on this topic, but I’m afraid I’ll spoil the story, so I’ll just advise you to read the book and decide how it all could have gone down. Feel free to post your comments. Happy reading!

*I received this early copy in an Instagram giveaway. All opinions here are my own.

My Dark Vanessa will be available on March 10, 2020.

About the author: Kate Elizabeth Russell was born and raised in eastern Maine. She holds an MFA from Indiana University and a PhD from the University of Kansas. My Dark Vanessa is her first novel.

Reading Challenge

Good evening, bloggers! I know it’s been awhile since my last post, but it’s good to be back. I thought I’d bring up this year’s Goodreads reading challenge. I believe I aimed for 50 books, this past year, but I got around to about 30 books, I believe. This year, I’m aiming for the same goal. Since this month is almost up, I’ve already read four books. Not bad, huh? Here’s what I’ve read, so far:

The Darkness, by Ragnar Jónasson.

It Would Be Night in Caracas, by Karina Sainz Borgo.

Pretty New Doll (Pretty Little Dolls, #3), by Ker Dukey and K. Webster.

The Perfect Plan, by Bryan Reardon.

Anyone else taking part in a reading challenge? If so, what books have you read or would like to read?

Happy reading!

“The God Game”–Review

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You are invited!

Come inside and play with G.O.D.

Bring your friends!

It’s fun!

But remember the rules.

Win and all your dreams come true.

LOSE, YOU DIE!

While they are skeptical, Charlie and his friends—Vanhi, Peter, Kenny, and Alex—take on a game controlled by a mysterious AI that claims to be God. With the help of their phone screens and high-tech glasses, the teens’ realities become a virtual world of creeping vines and mythical creatures. If a task is accomplished, the teens are rewarded expensive tech, revenge on high-school tormentors, and cash flowing from ATMs. It all is too good to be true. After all, it’s just a game, even if the game claims to be a higher power.

Yet it isn’t just a game. When they’re asked to perform unthinkable tasks, testing their boundaries, and so forth, Charlie and his friends wonder if it all is worth it. Then the game gets greedy. Worship me. Obey me, it says, or it will reveal everything about their lives and ruin them forever. There’s no way out of the game. Or is there? And is the game telling the truth when it says: Win, win big. Lose, you die?

While I enjoyed the conflict of this mysterious game testing the boundaries of the main characters—as well as their morals—and practically pitting them against one another for the sake of accomplishing their personal goals, I’m not sure how I felt about the story. The characters’ personal conflicts were worth reading, but I feel that some chapters didn’t really pull me in. Some moments had me wanting a bit more, while others were dragging on for me. The ending surprised me a little, but I guess that’s all I can say. No matter, if this book’s description catches your interest, I encourage you to check it out, especially readers who are into PC games or video games of any kind. Just out of curiosity, would you play this game? Feel free to post your comments. Happy reading!

*I received this copy from St. Martin’s Press, in exchange for an honest review.

*The God Game will be available on January 7, 2020.

About the author: Danny Tobey is the author of The God Game, on sale January 7, 2020, from St. Martin’s Press. He is a fifth-generation Texan and a graduate of Harvard College, Yale Law School, and UT Southwestern medical school. Harvard gave Danny the Edward Eager prize “for the best creative writing.” He wrote and edited the Harvard Lampoon and was anthologized in The Best of the Harvard Lampoon: 140 Years of American Humor. Danny’s first novel, the sci-fi fantasy thriller, The Faculty Club, came out from Simon & Schuster. Danny is a noted expert on Artificial Intelligence. In 2019, the Library of Congress gave Danny the Burton Award for his work on AI and the law. Find him, also, on Facebook.