book reviews

The Safe Room: Review

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I was invited to read and review this book by the publisher. Needless to say, when I got the email inviting me to read The Safe Room I was super excited. I had read The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro and really enjoyed it, the opportunity to read her newest book (or so I thought) was thrilling. I was a little dismayed when I logged onto goodreads and noticed that the original publication date was 2002, hmmm must be a reprint. But that does not change the fact that The Safe Room was a really good read and a book I would highly recommend.

This story starts out following the life of Lee, an idealistic 27 year old who lives with her grandmother in an old house in Lexington that was a pivotal point in the underground railroad many generations prior. This book also tells the story of Sarah, the daughter of an abolitionist, through her diary entries. The two women’s stories begin to intersect part way through the book with the introduction of a (possible) ghost in Harden House; that of Silas- a runaway slave living in Harden house and awaiting the fate of his two brothers (also runaway slaves).

It took me until about 26% of the way through this book before I was really into it. But once more of the plot was introduced, I was hooked. I read the rest of the book in a day because it was so difficult to put down. I still can’t decide if this was a truly masterful work, as it wasn’t quite as polished as The Art Forger but it is still a book I would highly recommend.

The Safe Room deals with issues of race throughout the story, but does so in a way more unique than that of the typical pre-civil war era story. The race issues dealt with in this book were also that of modern day. There are parallel race issues going on throughout the story between Lee, in the present day, and Sarah, in the 1850’s and 60’s- whether all white people are the same in their racism towards blacks. I won’t reveal anything more about the race issues in the story, as they are truly what make the story beautiful, but just know that there is a lot more than meets the eye in terms of race in this book.

The characters in this book were really quite wonderful. I felt by the end of the book as if I truly knew the characters, especially Sarah and Lee. Although there were times when I thought the characters reactions were not exactly realistic or that they were not acting the way I expected them to, I realize now that is what made the characters all the more dynamic. The relationships between the characters were also quite beautiful and there were a few relationships (I won’t give anything way), that I wish could have ended differently.

The writing in The Safe Room was consistent with the Shapiro’s style, although not quite as polished. There were a few times where the perspective would shift from Lee to Trina in the middle of a chapter and I would find myself confused as to who’s perspective it was. This occurred more at the beginning of the story as once I was able to recognize the character’s style of thinking, shifts were easier to follow.

In the end, The Safe Room by B.A. Shapiro is a truly beautiful take on a ghost story that deals with serious issues and portrays characters that are extremely likable and easy to relate to. I would highly recommend this book for those with an interest in the underground railroad, tasteful ghost stories, or just beautiful stories.

I received this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Circle of Stones: Review

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When I first finished this book I thought to myself, “what a good book”. Yet, the more I really thought about the book, the more faults I found in the book.

This story follows Nik and Jennifer, along with a barrage of other characters who interact with the main characters or are in some way related to Nik and Jennifer’s story. While Nik, an extremely talented art student, is in Vancouver visiting his grandmother, a heavy drinker with Parkinson’s disease, he receives an urgent message from the love of his life, Jennifer. Nik is forced to cut his visit short and fly back to see Jennifer, but when he arrives home he finds Jennifer, a beautiful and talented dancer, missing leaving no trace of where she went. Thus begins the story of Nik, searching across Canada for the love of his life.

As the reader follows Nik and Jessica’s story, they meet a host of other characters, big and small. Each chapter is from a different characters perspective, whether it’s Nick’s grandmother or a misunderstood teenage artist. While I thought that the array of characters was really interesting and unique, I also found it very frustrating. It’s not often that authors choose to have the story of the main character told through the eyes of someone they met on the street or through brief glimpse and incomplete story lines, so I thought that was incredibly interesting. I loved being able to glimpse the actions of the main characters through the eyes of other, minor characters who would only portray their view for the chapter. The part that I found so incredibly frustrating about that style was that not enough closure within the minor characters’ stories. I would have liked to have read more about each minor characters story, or had less of their personal stories to begin with so that I was not left wanting more.

The main reason that I wanted more from each minor characters’ chapter was because Suzanne Andrew did such an amazing job of creating relatable characters. Many of the characters within the story are facing real life challenges that impact many real life people throughout the world and they react to the situations in ways that I would expect most people to act. I loved reading about the struggles the characters were facing and how they overcame or coped with those struggles.

This is one of those books that reads like a Hallmark movie, so Hallmark take note, this would make a fabulous movie for your channel. And please have it end the same way because (not giving anything away) the ending was lovely.

In the end, if the author writes another book that continues the stories of the minor characters, I will gladly pick it up and read it, but if the authors next books are similar in style to this one with no closure for the minor characters, I will be staying well away.

I received this book for review purposes via NetGalley.

I received this book for review purposes via NetGalley.

Dead Until Dark: Review

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Since Dead Until Dark is technically a romance it’s not exactly my cup of tea. But since it was cheap on Audible and I was in the mood for something different, I decided to give the Sookie Stackhouse series a whirl. And I’m glad that I did as Dead Until Dark provided a very entertaining listen while folding laundry.

First I’ll talk about the story itself before delving into the audiobook aspects. The first story in the Sookie Stackhouse series provides drama, mystery, romance, and a touch of humor to create a cute little book. The story follows Sookie as she is seduced by a vampire at work, gets tangled up with a killer, and deals with her own “disability” (she can read minds). Sookie deals with everything thrown her way like a champ, dishing out her southern wit/sass at anyone who stands in her way.

I really enjoyed Sookie as a character. For a romanced lady in a romance novel, I thought that she had pretty good principals. I didn’t feel like she was a slut during most of the book and I thought that she acted realistically. I also really enjoyed her sass and southern witt, both of which added good entertainment factor to the book.

Charlaine Harris writes in a style that makes a perfect audiobook. I can’t exactly vouch for how well the book reads when you’re reading it to yourself, but her writing style definitely suits an audiobook format. I didn’t have any trouble keeping up with what was going on or how the characters were feeling/acting.

Now- onto the audiobook portion. I thought that the audible narrator did a fantastic job reading this book. She had a southern accent that was perfectly suited for this story. She did a really good job of reading the book, but because of her accent I could only listen to the book for so long at a time before it began to get cloying.

The only thing that would have made this book better for me is if there had been no sex in it at all, but I understand that this is technically a romance and thus must have sex scenes in it. In the end, I would recommend this book for those looking for a classic southern romance, with some fantasy, humor, and a little bit of a mystery thrown in for good measure.

Watersheds of World History: Review

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I set out to read Watersheds of World History very enthusiastically, but have to admit that I was a little disappointed in the overall book. While I still enjoyed reading the book, I was left wanting more.

John L. Taylor starts out by introducing the reader to the Fertile Crescent and the start of civilization. The story then continues all the way up through the Second World War, touching on the most important world events throughout history. Honestly, this book is a good overview of things of historical importance, but I was left wanting more.

The author states in the preface that: “There are no footnotes in this book, no maps, no references, no images, and no dates to memorize. The text is simply a clear summary of basic information available to everyone in hardcover and internet encyclopedias.”… Now, I can see how some readers might enjoy that aspect of this book as world history reads just like a story, but as an avid nonfiction reader I found that style of book to be unfit for my tastes. I was uncomfortable reading a book without any references, footnotes, or maps and because the majority of information in this book was information I already knew, I didn’t find myself wanting/needing to look up any further details.

On the back of the book the author states “to be enjoyed by everyone but especially by those who have little or no background in world history”, which definitely is a demographic I would recommend this book to. Watersheds of World Historyis a literally just a summary of basic world history information, talked about briefly and simply. I would definitely say that this book will not be appreciated as greatly by those with a solid background in world history, although they might be able to appreciate the storytelling aspects.

Alright, enough with the information bashing and onto the author’s writing itself. I found that Taylor did a really nice job of conveying information to the reader in an easy to understand manner. He does a good job of portraying the information in a logical format and one that would be easy to follow for readers of many ages and backgrounds. The information in this book does read just like a story, allowing the information to be absorbed by the reader without them having to focus on learning all of the facts.

The other point that I feel I should note is the formatting of this book. Some of the paragraphs in this book were bolded while others were just normal text. I found myself confused as to what the bolding of certain paragraphs was for, as I couldn’t find any noticeable pattern between the bolded paragraphs. Maybe that was just a fluke with my review copy though.

Although I found myself disappointed with the amount and quality of information in this book, it wasn’t altogether a bad book to read. I would have been happier reading this book before I’d read monstrous accounts of world history as this would be the perfect introduction book to get people interested in world history. I would recommend this book to younger audiences or those that haven’t read much about world history.

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Sorrow Bound: Review

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While Sorrow Bound by David Mark is the third book in a series, it certainly proves itself as a standalone book. This story had me hooked right from the get-go, with palpable characters, frantic plot, and marvelous storytelling.

The story follows Detective Aector McAvoy as he discovers the slain bodies of some young women. Originally attributing the killings to drug dealers, the police department quickly changes their minds as more details of the killings (and more killings) shed new light on the case. McAvoy sets out to stop the killer, all the while dealing with his own problems at home.

The characters in this book are absolutely tangible. I felt as if I was living right there with them, throughout the pages of the book. The love and loyalty that the characters expressed for each other was easily identifiable throughout the story. I felt as if the characters were all real people, people that I knew in real life. Throughout the story I enjoyed reading more about the lives of the characters because of how real they felt.

The plot of Sorrow Bound was fantastic. Fast moving and deep, the plot carried me away like a swift river, not letting me go until the final pages. There are plenty of plot twists throughout the book and many parts that will leave you guessing, glued to the pages until you find out what happened. This book definitely contains a masterfully woven plot.

Mark certainly understands how to write a good police procedural or thriller. There wasn’t a part of the story where I was confused or unsure as to what was going on as Mark smoothly conveyed information to the reader in a clear manner. I will definitely be looking for more works written by David Mark.

I would highly recommend this book for those looking for a good police procedural or thriller. I wouldn’t go with this book if you’re squeamish about dark and depressing topics, although it’s a highly good read.

The Lazarus Curse: Review

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A fantastic mystery set in London that masterfully blends natural science, the cruelties of slavery, and voodoo into a heart pounding adventure that will leave the reader chilled to the bone.

The Lazarus Curse follows Dr. Thomas Silkstone as he finds himself smack in the middle of a deadly adventure when he asked to catalogue the specimens brought back by an ill fated expedition to the new world. When an important journal disappears and the only remaining member of the expedition party is murdered, Silkstone is thrown into a mystery that will expose him to the cruelties of slavery and the cruelties of people that spans the world.

This story is one that will haunt the reader long after the pages have finished turning. Exposing the reader to not only the cruelties of slavery in England, but to the wickedness of the human being, The Lazarus Curse is a book that will have the reader turning away from the story in horror and eagerly awaiting more in equal parts.

This is the first book that I have read by Tessa Harris and I have to say that I really enjoyed her style of writing. She writes in a manner that is descriptive, without being overly so. Her descriptions of London and the horrors that befell the characters were vivid and easily pictured, yet it was easy to imagine all of the extra pieces without her having to explicitly state what everything looked like exactly. Harris also writes passages of immense action in a smooth and easily followed manner. At no point during the story was I at a loss as to what was going on, the author definitely understands how to paint a clear picture with her words.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in fascinating stories that masterfully blend the world of natural science with that of slavery and voodoo. The Lazarus Curse is a fast paced story that will not disappoint.

I received this book for review purposes via NetGalley.

The City: Review

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I was a little apprehensive when I first began reading this book. I’d read quite a few Koontz books prior to reading The City and the start of this book just didn’t feel like a typical Koontz story. After I got about a third of the way through the book however, that feeling changed greatly. The intrigue picked up and I found myself sucked into the story and the characters.

This story centers around a man, Jonah Kirk, as he recants some strange goings on that happened in his childhood. Johan Kirk’s childhood was tumultuous to say the least. Although able to find escape in piano and music, Kirk dealt with a disappointing father and rather sinister mystery involving some pretty shady people. Although at the beginning of the story I found myself wondering when the mystery and excitement would pick up, it quickly does, carrying the reader along on a journey through a few scary years in the life of a young boy.

The characters in this book are all dazzling. Even when I wasn’t able to relate to the characters (which didn’t happen often), I still found myself lapping up the descriptions of their everyday lives. All of the characters were realistic and spellbinding, reminding me of those people you encounter in everyday life that just seem magical for some reason.

The writing in this book wasn’t exactly typical Koontz writing style, but that doesn’t mean that the writing wasn’t enjoyable to read. The writing in this book seemed so much deeper and more elaborate than a typical Koontz novel, which just added to the spellbinding element of the story. I definitely enjoyed reading the writing in this book.

I would highly recommend this book for those interested in reading books featuring bewitching characters and a marvelous storyline. While it’s important to go into this expecting something a little different than the typical Koontz novel, this book still delivers a marvelous read that can be enjoyed by many.

I received this book for review purposes via NetGalley.

Inside The Criminal Mind: Review

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Inside the Criminal Mind provides a fascinating and insightful look into the inner workings of the criminal. This book touches on the mentalities that apply in a general way to all criminals and then explains in more depth in relation to each criminal type (whether it’s burglars or pedophiles).

Samenow’s main point is that the criminal has a “criminal personality” which has been present to the relations of the criminal since they were young. Thus, one can potentially identify criminals as youths or can justify finding a criminal guilty (even if they plead temporary insanity) by using their past history to demonstrate that they have a criminal personality. This book does a fantastic job of explaining and using examples to demonstrate exactly what classifies as a criminal mind. Samenow illustrates, using quotes from criminals and those with a criminal mind, exactly what goes on in the minds of most criminals and how they feel about things.

While it’s obvious that the author stands behind his idea of a criminal personality, he recognizes that it doesn’t apply to all cases. Near the end of the book Samenow recognizes that there are actually people who commit crimes of insanity, who didn’t really have control over their actions due to their mental state. He points out that although that can happen, it’s extremely uncommon and is usually very easy to tell whether the person was actually in control of their actions. I appreciated that the author recognized other types of criminals, versus just focusing on those with a criminal personality, because there are always exceptions to the rule which needs to be recognized.

Samenow writes in a style that is very pleasurable to read. He writes in a manner that, while academic sounding, is still easy to follow and understand. There wasn’t a moment in this book where I was confused as to the point that the author was trying to get across as he is very clear in his message and intent. Samenow also brings examples of the criminal personality to life through actual stories and quotes from the criminals, bringing the message home to the reader.

I would recommend this book for those interested in psychology or understanding the criminal mind. This is a highly informative book that really makes me think about what shapes the criminal.

I received this book for review purposes via NetGalley.

Don’t Breathe a Word: Review

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Don’t Breathe a Word by Jennifer McMahon is definitely one of the most engrossing and disturbing books that I have read in a long time. I was unable to put this book down until I had read every page, and when I was forced to take a break, the story haunted me- pulling me back into the pages. Don’t Breathe a Word combines horrible people and things that go bump in the night into a twisted story that will haunt the reader long after the story is over.

This book alternates perspectives between Lisa, a young girl who disappeared, 15 years ago and Pheobe, the girlfriend of Lisa’s sister, in the present day. The chapters from Lisa’s perspective gave the reader information on the actual events of the days leading up to Lisa’s disappearance and the chapter’s from Pheobe’s perspective revolve around Pheobe and Sam (Lisa’s brother) trying to figure out what actually happened to Lisa, as there are some strange occurrences that seem to imply that Lisa is still alive and back from “the world of fairies”.

The plot in this book keeps the reader on the edge of their seat, wondering what is going to happen next. The parallel story-lines of the past and present intermingle nicely, creating lots of tension to keep the reader turning the pages. The plot in this book also throws out tons of plot twists, especially at the end of the book, ones that the reader will definitely not be expecting.

The characters in this book are all fabulous. Each of the characters acts in a relatively realistic way and it’s easy to imagine the characters as real people. Most of the characters have had traumatic experiences in their lives so it is easy to justify all of their actions and it is easy to understand why the characters act the way they do. The fact that all of the main characters faced some sort of horror throughout their life makes this book that much more terrifying, from a real world perspective.

When I first began reading this book I was unsure about the writing style. The sentences were simple and not quite descriptive enough for my tastes, yet the story quickly sucked me in. Once I was glued to the story I found the writing to be polished and easy to read, definitely perfect for this type of book.

I would highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in a book that will haunt you long after you’ve finished the story or for anyone who is interested in books involving scary, mythological creatures and real world villains. I will definitely be reading more by this author.

Stolen World: Review

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I’m not a huge reptile fanatic (in fact, I stay far away from reptiles) so this was a fascinating look into an area I am not very familiar with.

The story of reptile smuggling is a fascinating one. The history of reptile smuggling goes way back, with no sign of slowing down. It was fascinating to read about the ways that the smuggling has advanced and regressed throughout the years and the way that the government tries to stop the smuggling. It was also interesting to get some of the information straight from the guys who were bringing the reptiles into the United States from other countries and hearing their perspectives on the trade.

The writing in this book was pleasant to read. Smith does a really good job of illustrating the events to the reader in a way that allows them to feel as if they were actually there. The author also does a really good job of describing the characters in the story in ways that allow the reader to visualize the characters and feel as if they actually know the character. The author also writes in a good, journalistic style that is easy and pleasing to read.

I would recommend this book for those interested in reptiles, conservation, or smuggling. This is definitely one of those books that is a quick and informative read that can be enjoyed by many.