Turtles All The Way Down by John Green

TITLE:                    Turtles All the Way Down (2017)

AUTHOR:               John Green

GENRE:                  Young Adult Fiction

PAGE COUNT:       320

Re-Print:                June 11, 2019

RATING OVERVIEW [Overall: ★★★★.★ (4.5)]
Story: ★★★★★
Writing: ★★★★★
Characters: ★★★★
Appearance: ★★★★

AMAZON DESCRIPTION:

THE INSTANT #1 BESTSELLER IS NOW AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK!

FEATURED ON 60 MINUTES and FRESH AIR

“So surprising and moving and true that I became completely unstrung.” – The New York Times

Named a best book of the year by: The New York Times, NPR, TIME, Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Entertainment Weekly, Southern Living, Publishers Weekly, BookPage,A.V. Club, Bustle, BuzzFeed, Vulture, and many more!


JOHN GREEN, the acclaimed author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, returns with a story of shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.

Aza Holmes never intended to pursuethe disappearance of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Pickett’s son Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

MY 2 CENTS / THE CRITICAL POINTS:

I knew nothing about this book, other than what was stated in the Amazon description, when I started reading it. It was a book club selection and probably one I wouldn’t have picked for myself otherwise. With that said, I am very glad I read it. I enjoyed it way more than I expected to.

STORY (★★★★★): In a nutshell, this story is about Aza Holmes, a young girl who suffers from a mental disorder that keeps her trapped in an inward spiral of her own thoughts, as she struggles to live a normal life. We get to see a glimpse into Aza’s life, watching/reading as she learns new things about herself and life, pushes her best friend away, finds love, looses love, and fights internally to decide what is right and what is wrong.

There is also a secondary storyline weaved throughout Aza’s story, that is of the missing billionaire. Ok, maybe it isn’t so much about him, but more about the two sons he has left behind; Davis and Noah. Davis, a long-lost friend of Aza’s and Noah, his little brother, are living in a mansion alone because their mother abandoned them when they were younger and their father has disappeared.

John Green is a wonderful storyteller. He knows his characters inside and out. The way he writes Aza is so detailed its as if he is literally in her head. Or, maybe it’s the other way around. The way he ties the two storylines together is seamless and beautiful. I think there could have been more about the missing dad, allowing us to relate to that family a bit more, but he gave the reader, and Aza, just enough to understand what the boys were going through and how to react.

WRITING (★★★★★): John Green’s writing style is fluid and easy. His chapters flow from one to the other with little, if any, breaks. Everything feels cohesive and complete. I think I read this one over a five-day period in about three sittings. I have no complaints about his style and would definitely pick up another book. In fact, I have my eyes on Paper Towns next.

CHARACTERS (★★★★): I loved the characters of Davis and Noah, honestly, I wanted to get to know them more. Aza, the lead character, was very well written, but I couldn’t relate to her in any way. Her anxieties and OCD behaviors were so realistic and well developed, but her constant negative self-talk and obsessions with her inner thoughts drove me a little crazy. Maybe that was the plan… maybe the author wanted the reader to feel a little trapped in Aza’s constant thought spiral, trapped so that we could experience what she feels. However, for me, her thought spirals were the reason I’d put the book and take a break. I needed a little time away from the negativity, second guessing, and often disturbing thoughts.

APPEARANCE (★★★★): I have the paperback, and it is a pretty simple cream-colored cover with large black lettering and an orange spiral. Again, I probably wouldn’t have picked this one up and read it, if it hadn’t been for book club, the cover just doesn’t really pull me in. The cover just doesn’t do justice to the story inside.

FAVORITE QUOTES:

“Your now is not your forever.”

“Anybody can look at you. It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.”

“No one ever says good-bye unless they want to see you again.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

John Green
(Photo from Author Amazon Page)

John Green is the award-winning, #1 bestselling author of Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with David Levithan), and The Fault in Our Stars.

His many accolades include the Printz Medal, a Printz Honor, and the Edgar Award. John has twice been a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize and was selected by TIME magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.

With his brother, Hank, John is one half of the Vlogbrothers (youtube.com/vlogbrothers) and co-created the online educational series CrashCourse (youtube.com/crashcourse). You can join the millions who follow him on Twitter @johngreen and Instagram @johngreenwritesbooks or visit him online at johngreenbooks.com.

John lives with his family in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Also by John Green

Click on the cover image to read the book’s description and purchase your copy!

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The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager #BookReview

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TITLE:      The Last Time I Lied

Paperback Release Date: April 2, 2019

AUTHOR:               Riley Sager

GENRE:                 Thriller

PAGE COUNT:       370

RATING OVERVIEW ★★★★.75
Story: ★★★★★
Writing: ★★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Appearance: ★★★★


AMAZON DESCRIPTION:

In this New York Times bestselling thriller from the author of Lock Every Door and Final Girls, a young woman returns to her childhood summer camp to uncover the truth about a tragedy that happened there fifteen years ago.

Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. But the games ended the night Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin into the darkness. The last she–or anyone–saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings–massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. When the paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale, she implores Emma to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor. Seeing an opportunity to find out what really happened to her friends all those years ago, Emma agrees.

Familiar faces, unchanged cabins, and the same dark lake haunt Nightingale, even though the camp is opening its doors for the first time since the disappearances. Emma is even assigned to the same cabin she slept in as a teenager, but soon discovers a security camera–the only one on the property–pointed directly at its door. Then cryptic clues that Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins begin surfacing. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing mysterious threats in the present. And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale and what really happened to those girls, the more she realizes that closure could come at a deadly price.

BOOK TRAILER:

MY 2 CENTS / THE CRITICAL POINTS:

You probably recognize the author’s name, Riley Sager. I recently reviewed his book Final Girls, which I loved. It was the first book in a while that I actually gave a 5 out of 5-star review. Well, he did it again with The Last Time I Lied. It was amazing.

STORY (★★★★★): This story follows Emma, who at the age of 13 goes to summer camp at Camp Nightingale and bunks with three other girls who end up going missing and the camp is shutdown. This book takes place 15 years after that event and Emma is now an accomplished artist in New York City who secretly paints the three missing girls into all of her paintings, hidden under layers of paint.  Basically, she suffers from anxiety because of this tragic event that happened during her childhood and she uses her art as a form of therapy.

During her art show, at the gallery, Franny the owner of the camp shows up and asks her to return to camp for the camps re-opening. She wants her to come and be an art instructor at the camp. Emma eventually decides to go hoping for closer, and also hoping to maybe do a little investigating and find out what happened to the three girls.

WRITING (★★★★★): The pace of this story is great. It’s a very fast read, I think I finished it in just a few days.

The structure is interesting, it jumps back and forth between the past and present a lot. This allows us to not under understand what Emma is going through today but also what she experienced 15 years prior and how that colored her world as she grew up.

This book was so much fun to read. Sager is great at putting suspicion on so many of the characters making it hard for the reader to trust anyone. Usually I can figure out ‘who done it’, but with this one I didn’t know the end until the twist happened and the answers are given.

I really like how Riley Sager writes and I love his vivid settings and descriptions. He uses a lot of similes in his comparisons that just paint a wonderful picture for the reader. I love his plot twists and the big reveals – like in Final Girls, the reveal in this one really surprised me.

I love how Riley Sager is able to tie up all the loose endings by the end of the book. It makes for a very clean story with no plot holes, which I like when it comes to single story books as opposed to series. In a series, I want to be left with a cliffhanger until the last book.

CHARACTERS (★★★★★): There are so many characters that I wanted to trust, but couldn’t. You even find out things about the lead character, Emma, that make you question whether or not she is the “good guy” or the “bad guy”.

Since this book is told from the perspective of a female character, there are a number of scenes where the author, being a man, could have really messed up. However, Sager is really good at writing from the female perspective and capturing the emotions that come along with the events that happen throughout the story both in the past as well as present day.

APPEARANCE (★★★★): The cover, designed by Alex Merto with photograph by Aaron Smith, is beautiful and haunting, although the photo doesn’t look like the character of Emma.

FAVORITE QUOTES:

“Sometimes the only way out is through.”

“My future is quite literally a blank canvas, waiting for me to fill it.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Riley Sager is the pseudonym of a former journalist, editor and graphic designer. Now a full-time author, Riley’s first thriller, FINAL GIRLS, became a national and international bestseller and was called “the first great thriller of 2017” by Stephen King. Translation rights have been sold in more than two dozen countries. His second book, THE LAST TIME I LIED, was a New York Times bestseller. His latest novel, LOCK EVERY DOOR, which is currently on my TO READ LIST, was an instant New York Times, Publishers Weekly and USA Today bestseller. A television adaptation is being developed by Paramount TV and Anonymous Content.

A native of Pennsylvania, Riley now lives in Princeton, New Jersey. When he’s not working on his next novel, he enjoys reading, cooking and going to the movies as much as possible. His favorite film is “Rear Window.” Or maybe “Jaws.” But probably, if he’s being honest, “Mary Poppins.”

Check out my YouTube channel and the video review below… and make sure you hit subscribe so you never miss a video.

ALSO BY RILEY SAGER:

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The Outsider by Stephen King ~ Book Review

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TITLE: The Outsider (June 4, 2019)

AUTHOR:     Stephen King

RATING OVERVIEW ★★★★.★ (4.5)
Writing: ★★★★★
Story: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Appearance: ★★★★

AMAZON DESCRIPTION:

Soon to be an HBO limited series starring Ben Mendelsohn!

Evil has many faces…maybe even yours in this #1 New York Times bestseller from master storyteller Stephen King.

An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is discovered in a town park (WARNING – IT IS VERY GRAPHIC). Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens—Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon have DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems iron-clad.

As the investigation expands and horrifying details begin to emerge, King’s story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can.

* Disclosure: Some links within this post are affiliate links, which means I’ll get a small commission if you purchase. I only recommend products/books/tools I use and love!

MY 2 CENTS / THE CRITICAL POINTS:

There has been so much talk about and praise giving to this book that I just had to read it and see if it lived up to the hype. In my opinion, yes… YES it does. I’m a huge King fan, but I’ll be the first to admit that some of his recent work, I’m talking in the last few years, hasn’t really been my favorite. This one however, I really loved this book. It is a classic good vs. evil story and yet it is still completely original and has the natural clearly Stephen King feel.

WRITING (★★★★★): Stephen King can weave words together like a spider weaves a web. His words are beautiful, haunting, freakishly terrifying, and they trap the reader like an unsuspecting fly never letting go until the spider is done with him.

The Outsider has an uneasy realness quality about it. It’s the same feeling you get when reading the Mr. Mercedes novels. Its less about the things that go bump in the night and more about the unexplainable murder mystery and wondering just how much of it could really happen. It isn’t until late in the novel that King introduces his signature supernatural twist. I won’t lie, I was waiting for it. I even predicted who the killer really was. I’ve read enough Stephen King to know there is always more to his stories than just the reality we live in and if you’re looking for them, he leaves breadcrumbs – or clues – along the way.

STORY (★★★★): The Outsider is a crime novel with a classic Stephen King supernatural twist. Because it comes in at just 560 pages, this one is rather easy, quick to read. It is well paced and definitely one I would recommend to anyone who loves crime thrillers.

Stephen King is great at making you relate to his stories. In The Outsider, he pulls you in right from the beginning with the introduction of a horrific crime that has been committed against an eleven year old boy. Immediately it activates the readers sense of sympathy and compassion for the family involved and the town in which the boy lived. It makes you biased against the man they have in custody before you even know if he is guilty or innocent. King makes you feel like the world he has created could be your own.

Like most King novels, there were no weak elements in this story.

CHARACTERS (★★★★★): King has put together a great cast of characters in this one. Like other books, many of his characters are just normal people experiencing the horrific crime that has taken place and King allows us to watch through their eyes. There is even a character from the Mr. Mercedes trilogy that makes an appearance, to help with the investigation. That was really cool. I love when he ties his novels together showing us exactly what world or King universe, they are playing in.   

APPEARANCE (★★★★): I love the cover! It is stunning.

FAVORITE QUOTES:

“People had the mistaken idea that Poe wrote fantastic stories about the supernatural, when in fact he wrote realistic stories about abnormal psychology.”

“Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

“Dreams are the way we touch the unseen world, that’s what I believe. They are a special gift.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His first crime thriller featuring Bill Hodges, MR MERCEDES, won the Edgar Award for best novel and was shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger Award. Both MR MERCEDES and END OF WATCH received the Goodreads Choice Award for the Best Mystery and Thriller of 2014 and 2016 respectively.

King co-wrote the bestselling novel Sleeping Beauties with his son Owen King, and many of King’s books have been turned into celebrated films and television series including The Shawshank Redemption, Gerald’s Game The Shining, It, and the list goes on.

King was the recipient of America’s prestigious 2014 National Medal of Arts and the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for distinguished contribution to American Letters. In 2007 he also won the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America. He lives with his wife Tabitha King in Maine.

Check out my YouTube channel and the video review below… and make sure you hit subscribe so you never miss a video.

Also by Stephen King…

I can’t list them all, but below are a few of my favorites. Just click on the cover photo to read the description and order your copy!

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Stalking Jack The Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco ~ Book Review

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  • Title: Stalking Jack the Ripper
  • Author: Kerri Maniscalco

RATING OVERVIEW: 4.25 STARS
Writing: ★★★★
Story: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★
Appearance: ★★★★★

AMAZON DESCRIPTION:

Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord’s daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.

Against her stern father’s wishes and society’s expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle’s laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.

The story’s shocking twists and turns, augmented with real, sinister period photos, will make this #1 New York Times bestselling debut from author Kerri Maniscalco impossible to forget.

MY 2 CENTS / THE CRITICAL POINTS:

I’ve always been fascinated with the minds of serial killers. Not in a creepy way, but in a ‘how could anyone possible do that’ sort of way. My mind tries to understand that which cannot be understood… With that said, I’ve read a number of books about Jack the Ripper and I’ve even played his final victim in the play, The Belles of Whitechapel by Wayne Miller. So, when someone asked me to read and review this book, I jumped at the opportunity.

WRITING (★★★★): Maniscalco’s writing style is detailed and fluid. I love how easily I was swept away to the late 1800’s while Jack the Ripper was roaming the streets. Although, at times, the story seemed to drag, bogged down by unnecessary scenes, it didn’t distract me from the over all story. I loved Maniscalco’s style and am eager to read more.

STORY (★★★★): Audrey Rose, our heroine, is a member of high society expected to attend tea, brunch with the ladies, and accept her place in society as an uneducated woman. However, Audrey Rose doesn’t accept that. She has a passion for knowledge and a curiosity for forensic science. Sneaking behind her father’s back, she studies under the tutelage of her uncle, spending many days elbow deep in the viscera of the latest cadaver.

The author leads us down a few paths, making the reader question who the killer, Jack the Ripper, really is. I’ll admit, I made a couple wrong guesses, but I got it right on my third try about half way through the book. If you pay attention, the clues are there.

CHARACTERS (★★★★): The book has a small cast of primary characters, the two main characters being Audrey Rose and Thomas Cresswell. We’re also introduced to Audrey’s Uncle Jonathan, her brother Nathaniel, her father Lord Edmund Wadsworth, her Aunt Amelia, and her cousin Liza with a few other thrown in throughout the story.

Audrey Rose isn’t your typical 1800’s lady, but I found her to be fun, feisty, and all around relatable. Like many teenagers, she often acts without thinking, she jumps to conclusions, and she puts herself in dangerous positions. She is strong willed and brave. It’s that bravery and courage that I enjoyed the most about her character. The way she didn’t care about blending in… fitting in… she was who she was and she didn’t care what other people thought about her.

Thomas Cresswell, who fancies Audrey Rose from just about the moment he spots her is the devilishly handsome, smooth talking, bad boy. Or at least that’s what he wants you to believe. I loved the way that he and Audrey play off each other. There is chemistry between them from the start, but back in the 1800’s it wasn’t proper to act on emotions so there is also a lot of restraint. That push and pull of emotions is fun to read.

APPEARANCE (★★★★★): The cover is beautiful. We have a clear image of what Audrey Rose looks like, although, I’ll admit she isn’t the girl I was picturing as I read the book. We also get a visual of her world, the dark streets of Victorian-era London. I think the cover artist did a beautiful job.

FAVORITE QUOTES:

“Roses have both petals and thorns, my dark flower. You needn’t believe something weak because it appears delicate. Show the world your bravery.”

“Fear is a hungry beast. The more you feed it, the more it grows.”

“In my spare time I flay open bodies of the deceased. Two of whom were victims of leather Apron. The scent that hung in the room would drop a man to his knees, and I aided my uncle during the postmortems while standing in gelled blood. Whatever you have to show us won’t be too much for my stomach to handle, I assure you.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kerri Maniscalco grew up in a semi-haunted house outside NYC where her fascination with gothic settings began. In her spare time she reads everything she can get her hands on, cooks all kinds of food with her family and friends, and drinks entirely too much tea while discussing life’s finer points with her cats.

Check out my YouTube channel and the video review below… and make sure you hit subscribe so you never miss a video.

Also by Kerri Maniscalco

Becoming the Dark Prince

In this irresistibly-priced short story, catch a glimpse of the inner struggles and triumphs that drive Stalking Jack the Ripper‘s endearing but troubled hero.
Enigmatic, brooding, and darkly handsome, Thomas Cresswell has always been the one mystery Audrey Rose has never been able to fully solve. As brilliant partners in crime investigation, they understand each other perfectly…

but as young lovers, their passionate natures have led to both euphoria and heartbreak throughout the Stalking Jack the Ripper series.
This novella features a collection of scenes that takes place during and after the pair’s horrifying Atlantic voyage in Escaping From Houdini. Experience new and familiar scenes from Thomas’s unique point of view, including an intensely personal look into his plea for Audrey Rose’s hand in marriage.
With a romance for the ages, Audrey Rose and Thomas reach the conclusion to their epic, irresistible partnership in their final adventure, Capturing the Devil.


Hunting Prince Dracula

In this New York Times bestselling thriller, bizarre murders are discovered in the castle of Prince Vlad the Impaler, otherwise known as Dracula. Could it be a copycat killer…or has the depraved prince been brought back to life? FEATURES BONUS CONTENT EXCLUSIVE TO THIS PAPERBACK EDITION!

Following the grief and horror of her discovery of Jack the Ripper’s true identity, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has no choice but to flee London and its memories. Together with the arrogant yet charming Thomas Cresswell, she journeys to the dark heart of Romania, home to one of Europe’s best schools of forensic medicine…and to another notorious killer, Vlad the Impaler, whose thirst for blood became legend.

But her life’s dream is soon tainted by blood-soaked discoveries in the halls of the school’s forbidding castle, and Audrey Rose is compelled to investigate the strangely familiar murders. What she finds brings all her terrifying fears to life once again.


Escaping From Houdini

Audrey Rose and Thomas Cresswell find themselves aboard a luxurious ocean liner that becomes a floating prison of horror when passengers are murdered one by one…with nowhere to run from the killer.

The #1 bestselling series that started with Stalking Jack the Ripper and Hunting Prince Dracula continues its streak in this third bloody installment…. Embarking on a week-long voyage across the Atlantic on the opulent RMS Etruria, Audrey Rose

Wadsworth and her partner-in-crime-investigation, Thomas Cresswell, are delighted to discover a traveling troupe of circus performers, fortune tellers, and a certain charismatic young escape artist entertaining the first-class passengers nightly.

But privileged young women begin to go missing without explanation, and a series of brutal slayings shocks the entire ship. The strange and disturbing influence of the Moonlight Carnival pervades the decks as the murders grow more and more bizarre. It’s up to Audrey Rose and Thomas to piece together the gruesome investigation before more passengers die before reaching their destination. But with clues to the next victim pointing to someone she loves, can Audrey Rose unravel the mystery before the killer’s horrifying finale?


Capturing the Devil

In the shocking finale to the bestselling series that began with Stalking Jack the Ripper, Audrey Rose and Thomas are on the hunt for the depraved, elusive killer known as the White City Devil. A deadly game of cat-and-mouse has them fighting to stay one step ahead of the brilliant serial killer—or see their fateful romance cut short by unspeakable tragedy.

Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell have landed in America, a bold, brash land unlike the genteel streets of London.

But like London, the city of Chicago hides its dark secrets well. When the two attend the spectacular World’s Fair, they find the once-in-a-lifetime event tainted with reports of missing people and unsolved murders.

Determined to help, Audrey Rose and Thomas begin their investigations, only to find themselves facing a serial killer unlike any they’ve encountered before. Identifying him is one thing, but capturing him—and getting dangerously lost in the infamous Murder Hotel he constructed as a terrifying torture device—is another.

Will Audrey Rose and Thomas see their last mystery to the end—together and in love—or will their fortunes finally run out when their most depraved adversary makes one final, devastating kill?


The Friar’s Lantern by Greg Hickey (Book Review)

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Title: The Friar's Lantern
Author: Greg Hickey
ISBN-13: 978-1733093705
ISBN-10: 1733093702
Paperback: 224 pages
Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars

RATING OVERVIEW ~ (Overall: ★★★ (3.33)
Writing: ★★★ Story: ★★★ Characters: ★★★


AMAZON DESCRIPTION:

You will judge a man of murder.

Choose-your-own-adventure makes a comeback in The Friar’s Lantern.

An eccentric scientist tells you he can read your mind and offers to prove it in a high-stakes wager. A respected college professor exacts impassioned, heat-of-the-moment revenge on his wife’s killer – a week after her death – and you’re on the jury.

Take a Turing test with a twist, discover how your future choices might influence the past, and try your luck at Three Card Monte. And while you weigh chance, superstition, destiny, intuition and logic in making your decisions, ask yourself: are you responsible for your actions at all?

So choose wisely – if you can.


MY 2 CENTS / THE CRITICAL POINTS:

Let me start by saying that I received a free copy of this book for my honest impartial review… That is what I mean to give here.

WRITING (★★★): Lets first address the fact that Hickey has chosen the very difficult task of writing a “choose your own adventure” style novel. This concept allows the reader to make decisions throughout the story which then determine the path the characters take. I grew up reading choose your own adventure stories as a kid and have loved them ever since. In fact, my current work in progress is also an interactive adventure novel. If I’m being honest, the main reason I agreed to read and review The Friar’s Lantern is because I wanted to see how he tackled the meticulous mapping of his story threads. His method, I believe, was very different from my own. This is an ambitious novel structure for any author and the fact that he successfully completed his story is impressive.

As for the quality of Hickey’s writing, although it is clear that he is extraordinarily articulate, I felt that some of his descriptives felt forced. Many of his sentences were so long that by the time I reached the end of the stringed together adjectives, I forget what it was he was originally explaining.

“…The stadium, Ozymandian on the bitumen shore, is beset to the north by woodlands, and here the hard blacktop, the steel girders and thick slabs of concrete devolve into dirt and dead yellow leaves and broken branches overhung by untrimmed trees and dotted with tangled bushes. The little laboratory remains as a mere afterthought, its wearied face shrouded by the sallow, emaciated branches of a willow tree, devoid of leaves even now in mid-May, the tree dead or dying as its limbs sag down on despair to scratch the top of the building.”  

Unfortunately, because of the wordy writing style, I think I enjoyed the idea of this novel more than the actually story itself.

STORY (★★★★): The concept of the story is intriguing… How do our choices effect our outcomes and do we really have free-will? The main problem I had with this story, aside from the wordiness of the sentences, was the ending. It felt rushed… or rather pre-determined as if he wrote the book knowing the concept and the ending. With the “choose your own adventure” style, I felt that there should have been something more. I didn’t feel as if my choices were really leading the story, it was more that the story was leading my choices.

CHARACTERS (★★★): Honestly, as the reader, you are the main character. With that said, I imagine trying to include any sort of arc or character development had to be hard for the author. The character doesn’t really seem to grow or change throughout the story. However, it does provide for the wonderful opportunity, when reading the story for the second time, to make different choices based on the previous outcome.


AUTHOR BIO

Greg Hickey is the author of the INDIES Book of the Year-nominated novel Our Dried Voices and an award-winning screenwriter. He is also a former international professional baseball player and coach and current forensic scientist and endurance athlete. He lives in Chicago with his wife, Lindsay.

Check out my YouTube channel and the video review below… and make sure you hit subscribe so you never miss a video.


Also by Greg Hickey

Our Dried Voices

In 2153, cancer was cured.
In 2189, AIDS.


And in 2235, the last members of the human race traveled to a distant planet to begin the next chapter of humanity.

Several hundred years after their arrival, the remainder of humanity lives in a utopian colony in which every want is satisfied automatically, and there is no need for human labor, struggle or thought. But when the machines that regulate the colony begin to malfunction, the colonists are faced with a test for the first time in their existence.

With the lives of the colonists at stake, it is left to a bright young man named Samuel to repair these breakdowns and save the colony. Aided by his determined friend Penny, Samuel rises to meet each challenge. But he soon discovers a mysterious group of people behind each of these problems, and he must somehow find and defeat these saboteurs in order to rescue humanity.


The Supernaturals by David L. Golemon (Book Review)

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TITLE: The Supernaturals

AUTHOR: David L. Golemon

RATING OVERVIEW
Writing: ★★
Story: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Appearance: ★★★★★

OVERALL: (4.5)

AMAZON DESCRIPTION:

Named One of Riffle’s Ten Best Haunted House Books of All Time

Built at the turn of the twentieth century by one of the richest and most powerful men in the world tucked away in the pristine Pocono Mountains, Summer Place, a retreat for the rich and famous, seems the very essence of charm and beauty, “a scene borrowed from a wondrous fairytale of gingerbread houses, bright forests, and glowing, sunny meadows.”

But behind the yellow and white trimmed exterior lurks an evil, waiting to devour the unwary…

Seven years ago, Professor Gabriel Kennedy’s investigation into paranormal activity at Summer Place ended in tragedy, and destroyed his career. Now, Kelly Delaphoy, the ambitious producer of a top-rated ghost-hunting television series, is determined to make Summer Place the centerpiece of an epic live broadcast on Halloween night. To ensure success, she needs help from the one man who has come face-to-face with the evil that dwells in Summer Place, a man still haunted by the ghosts of his own failure. Disgraced and alienated from the academic community, Kennedy wants nothing to do with the event. But Summer Place has other plans…

As Summer Place grows stronger, Kennedy, along with the paranormal ghost hunting team, The Supernaturals, sets out to confront…and if possible, destroy…the evil presence dwelling there.

MY 2 CENTS / THE CRITICAL POINTS:

WRITING (★★★★): Although a bit slow and repetitive at times, I feel like David Golemon is one of the best haunted house storytellers I’ve read in a long time. I was on the edge of my seat most of the time and even when the story slowed down, at no point was I ready to give up on it. He is descriptive and captivating and makes you feel what his characters are feeling. This is not the book to read at night in a large, dark house by yourself.

STORY (★★★★): I liked how Golemon brought the modern twist of reality television into his traditional haunted house story. It did get a bit repetitive, the same haunting events happened over and over throughout the book… the doors pushing in, loud banging noises, a misty black entity, and the animals in the woods surrounding the house going a bit mad. However, I still loved this story.

When I picked up the book, recommended by a friend, I was expecting to enter a haunted house and be scared. I wasn’t scared, nor did I enter the house never to leave. The story takes you to a number of locations before you’re even allowed inside the house with ‘The Supernaturals’ a group of ghost hunters that have gathered to not only seek out, but to kill, the entity haunting Summer Place.

CHARACTERS (★★★★★): I’m a huge fan of books where the characters have powers. That can mean vampires, shifters, or witches. It can also mean, as in this book the power to dream walk, possession, and to feel or sense the spirits and ghosts among us.

I loved each of the characters that, by the end of the book, were known as The Supernaturals; Professor Kennedy, John Lonetree, Jennifer Tilden, Leonard Sickles, George Cordero, Julie Reilly, Harris Dalton, Jason Sanborn, Kelly Delaphoy, and Detective Damian Jackson.

APPEARANCE (★★★★★): The cover is beautiful. The house looks creepy and the wispy tendrils of light floating around it are ominous. This book was given to my by a friend, but had I seen it on the shelf at the bookstore, I would have picked it up.

QUESTION: My only question is this, why has this book not been turned into a movie yet?

FAVORITE QUOTE: “Now tell me I don’t know how to throw a Halloween party.” ~ Professor Gabriel Kennedy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

David L. Golemon was born and raised in Chino, California. He come from a family steeped in military history, from the Civil War through to Vietnam. He raised three children, Shaune, Brandon and Katie Anne. After spending many years in Loveland, Colorado, he now makes his home on Long Island, New York.

Check out my YouTube channel and the video review below… and make sure you hit subscribe so you never miss a video.

Also by David L. Golemon:

In the Still of the Night: The Supernaturals II

Set in the world of The Supernaturals, one of Riffle’s Ten Best Haunted House Books of All Time, In the Still of the Night, a supernatural thriller from New York Times bestselling author of The Event Group series David L. Golemon, will make your Halloween extra spooky this year.

Event: A Novel (Event Group Thrillers Book 1)

In the summer of 1947, an unidentified object crashed in Roswell, New Mexico. There were no survivors. Now it’s happened again. But this time, two creatures have emerged from the wreckage alive . . .

Empire of the Dragon (Event Group Thriller)

230 B.C. – The first sovereign emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, has consolidated his ultimate power with battles against the last of the dissenting tribes of China. With one last province to take, he knows he will be pitted against the one man he fears–his mysterious half-brother, Li Zhang, leader of a peaceful province to the north. The new Emperor’s goal was to murder Li Zhang for the secrets he has kept from the world that would give Qin Shi Huang the power to strike beyond the borders of ancient China. The power over earth, water, fire, and air. After a fierce battle by the Great Wall of China, Li Zhang used the powers of Air Bending to escape with his many villages into the expansive and brutal Gobi Desert. There, Li Zhang and his nation will vanish from the histories of not only the First Emperor, but of China itself.

The Mountain: An Event Group Thriller

In 1863 a meeting takes place between legendary war leaders–a secret alliance that will never show up in any American history books. A clandestine arrangement has been struck for a single chance to heal a war-torn nation. The mission is to bring the greatest prize in the world back to American soil-remnants of pre-history’s greatest ship and most startling mystery. The prize may lie on a mountain top inside the fierce Ottoman Empire, yet the men who seek it are only days away from trying to kill one another.

Carpathian: An Event Group Thriller

Rumors of the seemingly magical victory that allowed the Exodus of Israelites from Egypt have resonated through the archaeological world for decades. Now evidence has been discovered that points to a new explanation of how the ancient Hebrews destroyed the unstoppable army of Pharaoh with a tribe of warriors who disappeared a generation later, after the destruction of the City of Jericho, taking with them the most valued treasures of a people without a homeland.

Auggie and Me by R.J. Palacio

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Auggie and meTITLE: Auggie & Me
AUTHOR: R.J. Palacio

RATING OVERVIEW
Writing: ★★★★★
Story: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★
Appearance: ★★★★★
Overall: ★★★★★ (4.5)

GOODREADS DESCRIPTION:
Auggie & Me gives readers a special look at Auggie’s world through three new points of view. These stories are an extra peek at Auggie before he started at Beecher Prep and during his first year there. Readers get to see him through the eyes of Julian, the bully; Christopher, Auggie’s oldest friend; and Charlotte, Auggie’s new friend at school. Together, these three stories are a treasure for readers who don’t want to leave Auggie behind when they finish Wonder.

Buy the book HERE

MY 2 CENTS:

WRITING (★★★★★): Palacio is a wonderfully talented author. She is an artist in the way she created the world around Auggie in Wonder, and the three short stories in Auggie & me are no different.

STORY (★★★★): Auggie and me contains three different short stories; The Julian Chapter, Pluto, and Shingaling.

The Julian Chapter is all Julian – the boy who is Wonder is portrayed as the bully. In this short story we really get a glimpse of who Julian really is, what drives him to behave the way he does, and even the remorse he feels when he realizes what he has done wrong.

Pluto is about Chris – Auggie’s oldest friend. Because of their mothers’ friendship, Auggie and Chris had been friends since birth. It wasn’t until Chris’ family moved away that he started to see Auggie as different… he started to pull away… It was interesting to see, through Chris’ eyes, how a friendship with Auggie might be difficult at times. However, when friendship wins… and kindness prevails… it is a beautiful thing.

Shingaling was about Charlotte. This story, although I enjoyed it, was the least about Auggie then the other two. It centered around Charlotte and the ‘girl drama’ that was happing around her. Honestly, it is the same as the girl drama happening in every elementary and middle school around the world. Probably every High School too. I have to admit, I’m glad to have my school days behind me. I enjoyed learning about Charlotte, and Summer who was a pivotal character in this story. The lesson of Choose Kindness was very strong in this story.

CHARACTERS (★★★★): I loved learning more about Julian, Chris, and Charlotte. These three short stories not only showed us their relationships with Auggie, they also showed us how the interact with other kids, what they are like inside and outside of school, and what is going on in their minds throughout the things that happened in Wonder. The character development in Auggie and Me built upon what we learned in Wonder and succeeded at enhancing the connection the reader has with each character.

APPEARANCE (★★★★★): The cover of Auggie & Me is the perfect fit with the original Wonder cover. The simple blue background with the minimalist character illustrations is eye catchy and inspiring.

FAVORITE QUOTES:
“Good friendships are worth a little extra effort.”

“Sometimes it’s good to start over.”

“One mistake does not define you, Julian. Do you understand me? You must simply act better next time.”

“If you want to be a star, you have to be willing to work harder than everyone else to achieve your goals and dreams! The way I see it, a dream is like a drawing in your head that comes to life. You have to imagine it first. Then you have to work extremely hard to make it come true.”

Check out my YouTube channel and the video review below… and make sure you hit subscribe so you never miss a video.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

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wonderTITLE: Wonder
AUTHOR: R.J. Palacio

RATING OVERVIEW
Writing: ★★★★★
Story: ★★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Appearance: ★★★★★
Overall: ★★★★★ (5)

GOODREADS DESCRIPTION:
NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE STARRING JULIA ROBERTS, OWEN WILSON, AND JACOB TREMBLAY!

Over 6 million people have read the #1 New York Times bestseller WONDER and have fallen in love with Auggie Pullman, an ordinary boy with an extraordinary face.

The book that inspired the Choose Kind movement.

I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.

August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.

“Wonder is the best kids’ book of the year,” said Emily Bazelon, senior editor at Slate.com and author of Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy. In a world where bullying among young people is an epidemic, this is a refreshing new narrative full of heart and hope. R.J. Palacio has called her debut novel “a meditation on kindness” —indeed, every reader will come away with a greater appreciation for the simple courage of friendship. Auggie is a hero to root for, a diamond in the rough who proves that you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.

Buy the book HERE

MY 2 CENTS:

WRITING (★★★★★): I LOVED THIS BOOK!!! It is a truly amazing story with a profoundly important message – Choose Kindness!

I read this book because my son wanted to see the movie and I suggested we read the story first. Within the first couple of chapters, I was hooked. It took us only a few days to finish the book and we were both on the edges of our seats the whole time.

I cried… a lot!

Palacio has a beautiful way of capturing the emotion in what’s happening throughout the story. Her writing style is fluid. Wonder can be easily read by young children and still enjoyed by adults. Not an easy task for a children’s author to manage, but Palacio pulled it off seamlessly.

STORY (★★★★★): Wonder is the story of August (Auggie) Pullman, a young boy who has a congenital facial abnormality. Do to his unusual appearance, he has had to deal with a range of reactions from people he meets and others who just noticing him passing by. Kids he encounters, as well as many adults, are cruel. They use hateful, hurtful language, often displaying their disgust without trying to hide it. However, it is important to know – if you are letting your child read this book – that goodness does win in the end. Readers will learn a valuable lesson on choosing kindness and should find Auggie’s story to be both inspiring and emotionally moving.

It is hard to read a story about suffering, especially the suffering of a child. The way the character of Auggie Pullman has suffered all his “life” is devastating. Yet, he keeps a positive attitude in the face of bullying, ridicule, pain, loss, and humiliation. There are days that I wish I was as strong as he is.

This story started the Choose Kind movement and honestly, I believe it should be required reading in all elementary and middle schools across the country and around the world. We could all learn something from Auggie Pullman.

CHARACTERS (★★★★★): Auggie Pullman is the epitome of kind-hearted and selfless. Not only do I feel that the author gave us a completely fleshed out lead character, she successfully brought to life Auggie’s parents, sister, and the school staff and other children around him. There wasn’t a single character that I didn’t feel I got to know, understand, and relate to.

APPEARANCE (★★★★★): The cover of Wonder is simple and powerful at the same time. I’m not sure who designed it, but the minimalist illustration of August (Auggie) Pullman’s face on the cover is perfect.

FAVORITE QUOTES:

“I think there should be a rule that everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives.”

“Courage. Kindness. Friendship. Character. These are the qualities that define us as human beings, and propel us, on occasion, to greatness.”

“Kinder than is necessary. Because it’s not enough to be kind. One should be kinder than needed.”

“When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.”

* * * * *

Check out my YouTube channel and the video review below… and make sure you hit subscribe so you never miss a video.

You can check out the Movie Trailer here:

https://youtu.be/Ob7fPOzbmzE

The Selection by Kiera Cass

Selection

TITLE: The Selection
AUTHOR: Kiera Cass

RATING OVERVIEW
Writing: ★★★★★
Story: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Appearance: ★★★★★
Overall: ★★★★★ (4.75)

 

 

AMAZON DESCRIPTION:
Fall in love—from the very beginning. Discover the first book in the captivating, #1 New York Times bestselling Selection series.

Prepare to be swept into a world of breathless fairy-tale romance, swoon worthy characters, glittering gowns, and fierce intrigue perfect for readers who loved Divergent, Delirium, or The Wrath & the Dawn.

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape a rigid caste system, live in a palace, and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon. But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her, and competing for a crown she doesn’t want.

Then America meets Prince Maxon—and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

Buy it HERE on Amazon! 

THE CRITICAL POINTS
I didn’t make the choice to read this book, my daughter did. She picked it out of a hundred other books in the school library while deciding which book to write her book report on. She isn’t a big reader, and I knew automatically that she wasn’t going to finish such a large book on her own. So, we made it our latest Mother/Daughter book club selection and read it together. To be honest, I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did.

WRITING: Kiera Cass’s writing style is very easy to grasp. She is fluid, moving from one scene to the next perfectly. It’s almost as if she were writing the story for screen, rather than a book shelf. She keeps her language simple, so that younger readers would easily understand the story and everything going on within the world she has created.
Her world building is left more to the reader’s imagination than laid out through her descriptions and although I can see how some readers might not like that, I personally love it.

STORY: The story is not unique, as girls we’ve all read Cinderella… A prince falls in love with a common girl who is poor with nothing to give but her heart. However, The Selection puts a twist on the classic and brings in a more modern reality show ‘The Next Bachelor’ feel. At first, I didn’t think I would enjoy this, but it turned out to be a fun twist leading to a lot of character development and choices right away.

I also feel like this book has a lot of good life lessons for the younger female readers to include, how to stand up for yourself (see favorite quote below).

APPEARANCE: I’m not sure who designed the cover, as the cover artist’s name wasn’t listed on the copyright page, but it is truly stunning.

MY FAVORITE QUOTE:
My favorite quote comes from a conversation between America (the lead) and her friend Marlee. America basically asks Marlee how to handle the other girls – we all know someone who falls into this category – the MEAN GIRLS.

Marlee’s response, and my favorite quote, is: “I ignore it. I know one girl at home who gets so irritated when she can’t bother you, she just ends up sulking. So, don’t worry,” she said. “All you have to do is not let them know they’re getting to you.”

Check out my YouTube channel and the video review below… and make sure you hit subscribe so you never miss a video.

https://youtu.be/jVIQrgBcMro

Wake by Lisa McMann

TITLE: WAKE
AUTHOR: Lisa McMann

RATING OVERVIEW
Writing: ★★★★
Story: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★
Appearance: ★★★★
Overall: ★★★★ (4)

AMAZON DESCRIPTION:
Not all dreams are sweet.

For seventeen-year-old Janie, getting sucked into other people’s dreams is getting old. Especially the falling dreams, the naked-but-nobody- notices dreams, and the sex-crazed dreams. Janie’s seen enough fantasy booty to last her a lifetime.

She can’t tell anybody about what she does — they’d never believe her, or worse, they’d think she’s a freak. So Janie lives on the fringe, cursed with an ability she doesn’t want and can’t control.

Then she falls into a gruesome nightmare, one that chills her to the bone. For the first time, Janie is more than a witness to someone else’s twisted psyche. She is a participant….

Buy it HERE on Amazon! 
THE CRITICAL POINTS

WRITING: This is a quick read. The style is unique in that it is broken down by date and time instead of chapters. It starts when Janie is a little girl and moves quickly with large breaks in time. Then, as she gets older and starts high school the breaks in time become smaller and smaller until they are hours or minutes apart. The result leaves the reader feeling like a voyeur, peaking in on Janie’s life. It is a very effective style for this story, but I don’t think it would work in every situation.

STORY: I picked this book up at a used bookstore, with no idea what it was about. When I read the back cover, I was instantly intrigued. As an author, about six months ago, I outlined a story idea that had to do with entering other people’s dreams. So, finding a book that dealt with the same topic, although very different, was exciting.

Overall, I think the story was interesting. You can empathize with Janie, as well as the other characters. You’re emotionally invested as a reader and want to know how Janie and Cabel will get out of their crappy home life situations and where the story will take them. There is a twist… which I will not give away… but it allows you some closure. If there were a stand-alone book, it would work. However, it isn’t and I’m very excited to read book 2 (FADE) which I had to order online. Book 3 (GONE) was available at the used bookstore and I picked it up when I bought this one. So, I’ll be reading that one soon enough.

APPEARANCE: There are two covers for this book. I have the simple back cover with the floating pillow and purple text. I love the simplicity of this cover – it was the reason I picked up the book in the first place. The second cover (see above) probably wouldn’t have caught my eye. I may have missed out on this book all together.

MY FAVORITE QUOTE: “Your seat adjustor you ass. We have to pull them together. It’s a bench seat. As you can see.”

I’m not really sure why this is my favorite quote. It just made me laugh really hard when I read it. I suppose it was just the perfect line to show the true Janie and how comfortable she was in that moment. There are other lines, ones with more emotion, more sentiment, more… just more, but this one made me laugh.

Check out my YouTube channel and the video review below… and make sure you hit subscribe so you never miss a video.

https://youtu.be/zSrvcuhzqcc