Monthly Archives: November 2015

Review: You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

4 1/2 Stars

Full disclosure: I was already a fan of Felicia Day.  I fell in love with her web series, The Guild (which I just finished binge watching (again) over the holiday) and followed her through Geek & Sundry, Table Top and other webisodes.  When I saw that she’d written a memoir, I couldn’t wait to read it.  I definitely wasn’t disappointed at all.  It was a really fun read and it was definitely easy to see how her personality developed and she went from home schooled, awkward kid to full on Internet Geek Celebrity.

If you’re not a geek yourself, you may not understand some of the references, but that really shouldn’t take away from her story.  Most of us can relate to that wanting to belong and that feeling that you get when you find a group of people where everything just clicks.  Where your weirdness and oddities aren’t looked at strangely but are just accepted and welcomed.  That’s not just something that geeks share with other geeks, it’s something that people share with one another.  We all want to have that feeling of belonging.

There was a section of the book where I seriously went “OMG I did that too!  That was totally me!”  Felicia played World of Warcraft and as someone who also played the same game, I got every single reference and I understood exactly what she was talking about.  That the relationships that you had with those other avatars were as real as any friendship that you could have with someone face to face.  You may never meet that person, but the friendship and relationship that you have is every bit as real as that of your best friend from first grade.

The way she wrote this memoir reminds me a lot of her writing for The Guild series.  I really enjoyed the fun of her writing and could see her sitting there in front of the camera just telling her story in her sweet, somewhat awkward way.

There were definitely lessons that she learned that all of us can take something from them and learn ourselves.  Her story wasn’t always sunshine and unicorns.  Felicia went through a lot of adversity and continues to face it today.  But her resilience and power to overcome the hurdles in her life was pretty inspirational.  I was surprised by her story and of where she came from and what she’s had to go through to get to where she is today.  It’s a story that will resonate with a lot of people.  I definitely recommend this to anyone with a little bit of geek in them.

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Filed under Biography/Memoir

Review: The Short Drop by Matthew FitzSimmons

3 1/2 Stars.

I chose this title as my Kindle First for November.  For book lovers with Amazon Prime membership and you don’t already know about the Kindle First program, go look it up.

Ten years ago, Suzanne Lombard disappeared without a trace.  Her father, Benjamin Lombard, was a senator at the time, but now he is the vice-president and running for president.  It’s nearing the anniversary of her disappearance and her story is still a national obsession.  No one has given up on Suzanne, especially not Gibson Vaughn, her best childhood friend.  Now a legendary hacker and former marine, Gibson is approached by the former head of Benjamin Lombard’s security team with an offer that he can’t refuse.  A chance to bring new life to the investigation into Suzanne’s disappearance.

Soon they discover conspiracies and secrets surrounding Benjamin Lombard.  Each layer that is uncovered reveals yet another set of mysteries, ultimately leading them to discover what really happened to Suzanne a decade ago.  Each twist brings a new turn.  Filled with suspense you never know what’s going to happen next.  What is the truth and what lengths will the other side go to make sure that it never sees the light of day?  Gibson always needs to keep one step ahead or he risks not only never finding out what happened to Suzanne, but his own life and the lives of those he loves.

There was a lot of suspense and a lot of twists and turns in this book.  Many of them were a complete surprise and I really didn’t see them coming.  There were a few that became pretty obvious as the book went on, but they were still well done and the dots were well connected when the story was finally revealed at the end.  I like how it was tied up for the most part.  I do with it had gone on a bit longer so that a few more loose ends were tied up, especially in regards to George Abe and his team.

The character development was very well done and it was very easy to empathize with Gibson and he was a very believable character.  Most of the secondary characters received the same attention and didn’t feel like cardboard cutouts.  I understand the backstory of Gibson’s ex-wife and how his family fits into the puzzle, but it was one of the loose ends that never truly got tied up in the end and it really bothered me.

If you want a fast moving plot with lots of action, lots of suspense and twists and turns.  Pick up The Short Drop and I don’t think you will be disappointed.


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Review: Unintended Consequences by Marti Green

2 Stars.

Nearly twenty years ago, the body of a child was found, burned beyond recognition, in the woods of Indiana.  George Calhoun was arrested and charged with the murder of his daughter.  His wife testified against him.  A jury found him guilty and sentenced him to death.  He’s stated from day one that it wasn’t the body of his child that they found in the woods, that it couldn’t have been her.  But he refused to tell them why.  He’s always said that the body in the woods couldn’t have been his little Angelina, but he never gave any proof or any other explanation other than his staunch denial that it was her and that he never did anything to harm his daughter.

Dani Trumbull is an attorney for the Help Innocent Prisoners Project (HIPP) and no matter how many times she tried to put George Calhoun’s case aside and tell him that he didn’t qualify.  There was no evidence, no DNA, nothing.  But what if the story was true?  What if that little girl wasn’t Angelina?  How could she sit back and let an innocent man go to his death if there was the chance that he could be innocent.

The plot was convincing enough for me to go ahead and add it to my TBR pile.  I was sad when it just didn’t live up to my expectations.  The plot was pretty solid and I did like the twist of why George Calhoun wouldn’t or couldn’t say why he was so steadfast in his belief that he did not kill his daughter.  It was unexpected.  Usually these types of plots are based on DNA material, eye witness testimony or a jail-house snitch.  So I did appreciate a new take on a plot device that has been used quite frequently in many legal thrillers.

What I couldn’t appreciate were all of the sub-plots and side stories that seemed to bog down the story.  What was with all the secretive actions by Eric Bergman?  Where did that lead?  There was so much filler that it really took away from the story.  And there were a few places where you simply had to suspend belief completely.

Many of the characters were just unnecessary or unbelievable.  Some I couldn’t connect with or empathize with at all.  I liked George Calhoun and I did like Dani, but that’s pretty much where it ended for me.  I just couldn’t get invested in anyone else or even what they added to the plotline.  The end was good, but I’m not sure if it was worth slugging through everything that came before.  Not a bad read, but not a great one.

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Review: The Trinity Game by Sean Chercover

3 Stars

Daniel Byrne has a tragic background.  Orphaned nearly from birth and taken in by his Uncle, Tim Trinity.  He’s raised by his uncle who is a tent revival preacher, a grifter and a con-man.  He runs away in his early teens and seeks sanctuary with the Catholic diocese of his neighborhood.  He goes to God looking for a miracle and turns his back on his girlfriend, his boxing career and his uncle to enter the seminary.  Fourteen years later he’s now an investigator with the Office of the Devil’s Advocate, working directly with the Vatican.  His job is to investigate reported miracles and to approve or deny them.  After 771 cases, he’s yet to find his miracle.  But his next assignment proves to be much different.  Is this the miracle he’s been looking for?  And if so, why is it manifesting in his con-man uncle, Reverend Tim Trinity?

Reverend Tim Trinity is not a man of God, he’s not even sure if he’s a believer anymore.  But something is working through him and he’s beginning to believe that the voices he hears and the tongues that he’s speaking in are coming directly from God.  He begins to speak in tongues during his sermons and when they are listened to later by experts, it’s found that he’s actually speaking backwards and what he’s saying is nothing short of amazing.  He’s able to predict with 100 percent accuracy everything from lottery results and horse races to impending disasters.  This ability has raised flags everywhere from the Vatican to the gambling dens of Las Vegas.  Most of them want to silence Trinity and make this phenomenon disappear.  Others want to believe that there is a miracle at work here and God is speaking to them through this former sinner.  One thing quickly becomes clear, there are people who will stop at nothing to make Reverend Tim Trinity disappear.

There is a lot of action and suspense built into this novel and it does go along at a fairly fast pace and I think that’s exactly what this story needed.  Just when you stopped to catch your breath, something else happened and you were off and running again.  For the most part, the characters were fleshed out very well and it was very easy to get a picture of them in your mind.  It was easy for me to relate to Daniel.  He isn’t a perfect priest, his belief is flawed, just like he is.  I think that really lends to the authenticity of what the author was trying to accomplish.  The true message doesn’t come until late in the novel and while it’s not a new message, it’s one that resonates and unfortunately one that always gets lost in the war of souls.

There were still too many loose ends for me and too many things left unexplained for me to bump this to 4 stars.  I don’t know if this was intentional.  This is the first book in a series and I think it’s always hard to review series books because there is always so much left unsaid and unfinished.  But I’m fairly sucked in so I’ll probably be picking up the next book sometime soon.

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Review: Médicis Daughter by Sophie Perinot

4 Stars

Thank you to NetGalley for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.  Médicis Daughter will be released on December 1, 2015, and I highly recommend this book to any lover of historical fiction.  Especially anyone interested in the Valois dynasty or Catherine de Medici.

This novel follows the young and beautiful Princess Marguerite, or Margot to her close friends and family, as she makes her way to the court of her brother King Charles IX in 1564.  She quickly learns the unspoken rules of the court and the terrifying machinations of her powerful family.

Margot becomes a pawn, used by her family to create alliances or to bring warring families to heel.  Her mother and her brother, the king, want to bring more power to their family and to increase the power of France.  Margot becomes an unwilling participant in their quest.

The young Princess soon finds herself falling in love with the powerful Duc de Guise, a member of the royal court and heir to the Lorraine family.  But despite their love for one another, he is not powerful enough for the King and his mother.  So Margot is bargained off to Henri of Navarre, leader of the Huguenots and in the eyes of the ruling powers of France, a heretic..

During this time, France is divided and a fragile peace had been achieved with the marriage of Margo and Henri of Navarre.  But this does not last.  The story culminates with the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre where thousands of Protestants were killed by rioting Catholics incensed by the marriage of their Princess to a heretic.  At the head of this revolt, and pleased with the outcome, are Catherine de Medici and the King of France.  Which side will Margot take?

This story is told in first person, from Margot’s point of view.  You are able to see life through her eyes and her emotions as she grows up in the court of her brother and used as a pawn at every turn.  I don’t normally enjoy first person narratives, but I found myself truly enjoying Margot’s voice as she grew from an awestruck young girl to a formidable Queen in her own right.

The research was meticulous and while this is historical fiction, you can tell that the author truly took the time to learn about the people she was writing about and the time that they lived in.  You were given a rich and descriptive display of what court life may have been like for Margot and her contemporaries.

I would definitely recommend this book to my friends and anyone who loves a good glimpse into what life was like back in the heyday of the 16th century.

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Review: The Heiress of Linn Hagh by Karen Charlton

3 Stars

Thank you to my Kindle Unlimited subscription for helping me find new-to-me authors and even more books to put into my TBR pile.  That’s how I came across this book.  I am a sucker for historical fiction and the plot had me interested enough to make it one of my 10 (yes, I almost always have 10 checked out at any given time!).  It was an enjoyable read for the most part.  The suspense well built up and even though I had half of the mystery figured out just over halfway through, it really didn’t take away from the story at all.  Sometimes I just like to have that confirmation of “YES!  I was right!” when I’m reading a decent mystery novel.

Detective Stephen Lavender has been called out of London to solve the mystery of the disappearing heiress from her locked room.  He and his partner, Constable Woods, travel North find out what has happened to young Helen Carnaby at the behest of her worried uncle.  The townspeople are suspicious and ready to blame the gypsies living on the grounds of Linn Hagh.  People are pointing to witchcraft and spirits and it’s up to Detective Lavender to find out what happened before it’s too late for both Miss Carnaby and for the town itself.  Helen’s siblings (half-siblings) are uncooperative and seem to care about nothing other than the inheritance that Helen was about to come into.

The characters were well-drawn and it was easy to conclude who was on the side of good and who was not.  George and Isobel Carnaby make you want to wipe your hands on your pants to get rid of their slimy nature.  They were both absolutely vile, unrepentant and irredeemable characters.  I enjoyed both Lavender and Woods, they had an easy camaraderie and were well suited as partners.  Even the bit characters were well thought out and put together.  I wish more time had been spent with the gypsies, but I can appreciate leaving them a bit mysterious because that’s exactly what they were, especially during this time in history.

Being that this is the first in a series featuring Detective Lavender, I can understand inserting other information into the story that will become relevant in subsequent novels.  But the storyline between Lavender and Magdalena Morales just seemed out of place.  And maybe this was more just personal taste, but I felt like it was more distracting than anything.  Maybe if more time had been allowed for it, I don’t know.

Fans of Regency mysteries and historical fiction will appreciate this book and I think that it would also appeal to other lovers of mystery novels.

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Filed under Historical, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller

Review: In Dark Places by Michael Prescott

3 Stars

In Dark Places is a pretty decent thriller about a psychiatrist who is on the verge of having technology that may finally be key in helping criminals who were victim of past violence to break the cycle and keep themselves out of prison and be productive members of society.  Her research brings her to Los Angeles where she has been given permission to try her treatment on a serial killer, Justin Gray.  A man who killed 5 teen-aged girls before being caught.  Dr. Robin Cameron wants to see if she can help Justin and maybe even cure him.  She’s also asked to take on a police officer as a test subject, a man suffering from what seems to be PTSD after being involved in a shooting where he took the life of another man.

The characters are fairly unsympathetic and for the most part, difficult to relate to.  You know that there’s something not quite right when you start to root for the convicted serial killer.  There were several times where I just wanted to smack Dr. Cameron upside the head and call her a naive idiot.  It’s okay to have an optimistic outlook and to believe in your research, but when all signs point in one direction and you’re stubbornly going the other way?  That’s just looking for trouble.

Some of the other characters have absolutely no redeeming qualities and others just seemed to be thrown in as an afterthought and lent nothing to the story itself.  There were also points where the point of view got lost, it reached a point where it was nearly impossible to figure out who was doing the talking.  But…

The story is fast paced and there are plenty of twists and turns throughout the book.  I didn’t see many of the twists that came about at all.  So definitely a thumbs up in that regard.  Too many suspense novels are formulaic to the point where you can guess what’s going to happen and who is going to do it.  I was surprised several times through the story with where the story arc went.  If you’re looking for a decent suspense novel with good twists, pick this one up.

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Review: Spotless by Camilla Monk

4 Stars

At first I couldn’t believe what I was reading.  It was so far fetched and so unbelievable I just couldn’t take it seriously.  And I believe that was exactly what the author wanted us to do.  This is a romantic comedy with action and suspense thrown in, but one that is tongue in cheek and is completely campy and outlandish.  I found myself laughing out loud and unable to put the book down.  It was a quick read and I was sorry to see it end, but heartened to know that there’s more to come from Island Chaptal and the OCD assassin, March.

Island (yes, that’s really her name) Chaptal is a geeky IT engineer who is socially inept and escapes into trashy romance novels, living out her fantasies.  Her boring and predictable life is interrupted when she comes home to her apartment to find a polite and cleanly professional killer sorting out her tax returns by year.  He is there to find out what she knows about a missing diamond that her mother seems to have stolen from an unsavory organization.  Island agrees to help him locate the diamond, not that she has much of a choice!

Soon, Island and March are crossing the globe from France to Japan trying to stay one step ahead of other parties who are looking for the same diamond.  Crossing and double crossing seem to be par for the course for the bad guys.  There are twists and turns galore and moments that are simply laugh out loud funny.  You can’t wait to see what else the author has in store for these two complete opposites who are inexplicably drawn toward each other.

At the beginning of each chapter is a quote from some trashy romance novel Island seems to love so much.  Each quote is funnier than the last.  Just like each situation that Island and March seem to find themselves immersed in.  Whether they are shooting up a strip club or blowing up a bad-guy lair with a bazooka with Twitter capabilities, you can’t help but smile at the utter outlandishness that this book brings.

If you’re looking for a campy action, comedy, socially awkward romantic comedy that doesn’t take itself too seriously but is a load of fun, you can’t go wrong with Spotless.  I’ve already put the second novel on my wishlist, just waiting for it to come out in a few months!

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Filed under Humor, Romance

Review: Life and Other Near-Death Experiences by Camille Pagán

2.5 Stars

Disclosure: I received this book as a Kindle First book, this in no way impacted my opinion of the book

Libby Miller is described as the eternal optimist.  She views life through rose-colored glasses.  But when her husband drops a bombshell on the same day that she’s given devastating news from her doctor, she realizes that those same rose-colored glasses that helped her get through her life have been blinding her.  Libby believes she now has nothing to lose, so she abandons her life in Chicago and runs off to the beaches of a small island off Puerto Rico for what she believes will be her last hurrah.  She tries to outrun and escape her past, her present and the undetermined future.  But things don’t always work out the way that she believes they should and in the end, that’s probably a good thing.  Libby has a choice to make, will it be the right one?

I had trouble identifying with Libby and I think a little more work could have been done in making her a more sympathetic and believable character.  She did redeem herself somewhat near the end, but there were many times where I just wanted to reach through and smack her upside the head for being a selfish twit.  Some of the supporting cast were somewhat flat and one dimensional, they were either way over-the-top (Paul) or they were almost a caricature (Jackie).  My favorite character was actually Libby’s love interest, Shiloh.  He was the person I could most empathize with and I really wish more time could have been spent with Libby and Shiloh.

I wish the book had been longer.  Everything was wrapped up neatly far too soon given everything that was actually involved.  I could have done without the stabbing with a fork and biting friends on the shoulder, but I did like that there was dark humor injected throughout the book and that it really didn’t seem to take itself too seriously even though several serious topics are discussed.  It was a good “light read” well suited for a day where you want to curl up and lose yourself for a couple hours.

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Filed under Women's Fiction