Monday, February 20, 2017

Review: The Last Night at Tremore Beach by Mikel Santiago

Blurb from Goodreads:
What starts out as an idyllic summer holiday on the Irish coast soon becomes a living nightmare with unpredictable consequences for a world-renowned composer and his family in this chilling psychological thriller.

Recently divorced and in the middle of a creative crisis, Peter Harper decides to take shelter on Ireland’s scenic and isolated Tremore Beach. But after he is struck by lightning one stormy night, he begins experiencing terrible headaches and strange dreams. As the line between his dreams and reality begins to blur, Peter realizes that his bizarre dreams may be a warning of horror still to come…
My Review:
Guys, I just didn't like this one.  Almost the entire time I vacillated between DNF and not.  I also found myself skimming the last 30% like whoa, I just wanted this to be over. This was supposed to be some sort of thriller but it was really just about Peter, who was supremely unlikable and self-absorbed, and his "premonitions." The blurb is accurate - poor famous Peter moves to the remote coast of Ireland, gets struck by lightning and then starts having horrible dreams that he interprets as premonitions of violence to come.  I won't tell you the ending but this book was just so disappointing - no depth, so many tangents and frankly, kind of boring.  There are so many better options out there that I would skip this one.

The Last Night at Tremore Beach came out earlier this month on February 14, 2017, and you can purchase HERE. Hopefully you have better luck with this one than I did!
I closed my eyes, and could see the vision so clearly in my mind. Even nightmares had a way of fading with the morning, becoming a vague recollection that evanesced in the coming hours o days. But no this one. This image was fresh and clear in my mind. This was no simple nightmare.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Review: The Art of Us by Teri Wilson

Blurb from Goodreads:
Harper Higgins, art history professor and Vincent van Gogh scholar, doesn’t need a man. She needs an artist. Fast. The art show she’s counting on to secure her tenure is in trouble. So when she collides with a ruggedly handsome man carrying a basket of violets on a rainy night in Boston, she thinks she’s found her miracle. Cynical, brooding ex-soldier Tom Stone can paint. And he’s quite good. He just needs Harper’s artistic touch.

But once she talks him into pretending he’s a long-lost descendant of van Gogh, the trouble really begins. As the art opening draws near, their identities—both real and imagined—hang in the balance. The student becomes the master as Tom teaches Harper that passion is its own work of art…
My Review:
I had pretty high expectations for this one after loving my last read by Teri Wilson, Unleashing Mr. Darcy.  While this definitely didn't wow me like that book, I still love the characters that this author creates; they are so complex and unique to contemporary romance. The Art of Us is a book with an interesting premise - drawing on some of those tropes we know well but also introducing new feelings.  Harper is curating an art show for the college where she works and when her star artists ends up in jail, she's left scrambling to find someone to replace him. Enter Tom, the swoony and mysterious veteran that started painting as therapy after he returned from Afghanistan. Although Harper is reluctant to tell anyone Tom's real story, and that didn't quite make sense to me considering how awesome his story was, her reluctance to tell the truth ended up with them spending a lot of time together in preparation for the show. As with Unleashing Mr. Darcy, Teri Wilsons love of dogs was also on full display in The Art of Us, which I once again appreciated. This book is definitely quirky, but it mostly works.  I found it a bit slow at times but I still can't wait to read more form this author.
The Art of Us came out last year, and you can purchase HERE.
But in that moment, she wasn't thinking of the art show, Dr. Martin or Archer, sitting in his jail cell down in New York. She wasn't even thinking of Lars Klassen waiting in the wings to steal her promotion right out form under her. She wasn't thinking about Rick and how she'd never felt quite good enough for him. She wasn't thinking about her father or all the other men her mother had brought home. A laundry list of men who'd let Harper down, time and time again. 
Her thoughts centered around one man, and on mean only. The man whose hands had created those gorgeous paintings. The man standing beside her, watching, waiting, with those unreadable frosty eyes of his.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Review: Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach

Blurb from Goodreads:
In this sharp and clever debut novel of suspense, a young woman—presumed dead—leaves a series of clues for her twin sister, which leads her on a scavenger-hunt-like quest to solve the mystery of her disappearance.

Ava Antipova has her reasons for running away: a failing family vineyard, a romantic betrayal, a mercurial sister, an absent father, a mother slipping into dementia. In Paris, Ava acquires a French boyfriend and a taste for much better wine, and erases her past. But two years later, she must return to upstate New York. Her twin sister, Zelda, is dead.

Even in a family of alcoholics, Zelda Antipova was the wild one, notorious for her mind games and destructive behavior. Stuck tending the vineyard and the girls’ increasingly unstable mother, Zelda is allegedly burned alive when she passes out in the barn with a cigarette. But Ava finds the official explanation a little too neat. A little too Zelda. Then she receives a cryptic message—from her sister. Just as Ava suspected, Zelda’s playing one of her games. In fact, she’s outdone herself, leaving a series of clues to her disappearance. Ava follows the trail laid just for her, thinking like her sister, keeping her secrets, immersing herself in Zelda’s drama. Along the way, Zelda forces Ava to confront their twisted history and the boy who broke her heart. But why? Is Zelda trying to punish Ava for leaving? To teach her a lesson? Or is she simply trying to write her own ending?
My Review:
I have to tell you that this was pretty depressing - it's a family with a multitude of secrets, all of whom are also alcoholics. When her twin is presumed dead, Ava descends back on the family home to complete chaos -- her absent father has shown up along with her ever critical grandmother and her mother has spiraled even further into dementia. No one in this family is helping each other and no one seems very concerned about her sister's death.  I just felt like the interactions were very unusual as well as the responses to events. I had a hard time connecting with this or suspending my disbelief for the events that occur. There is an underlying thriller aspect to this, which I did like but definitely a hard read.
Dead Letters comes out later this month on February 21, 2017, and you can purchase HERE.
Burned alive on the summer solstice. With the charred remnants in plain sight of half the windows in the house, where my mother can't help being reminded of Zelda, even with her brain half rotted and her liver more than half pickled. My sister couldn't have contrived a more appropriate death if she planned it herself. Indeed.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Review: Wicked Cowboy Charm (Lucky Penny Ranch #4) by Carolyn Brown

Blurb from Goodreads:
Josie Dawson is new in town, but it doesn't take a local to know that Deke Sullivan is trouble--in a smokin' hot package. He's sweet, sexy, and has charmed just about every woman in Dry Creek, Texas. Well, Josie won't be next. She'll keep her distance, even if he is great with babies and makes a mean cup of homemade hot chocolate. 
Deke Sullivan really is a one-woman type of guy. He just had to do a lot of looking to find that one woman. Now he thinks he's found her and he won't let a strong, sassy gal like Josie slip away. Just when he's wondering how to convince her he only has eyes for her, they get stranded in a tiny cabin during a major blizzard. If Deke can melt her heart before they dig out of the snow, he'll be the luckiest cowboy in Texas . . . 

My Review:
I was so excited for Deke's story after diving into this series last year and I can easily say it's my favorite! We get to know Deke really well in books 1-3 because he owns a ranch next to the Dawsons and is best friends with Allie, who is the star of book 1.  We know he's a crazy womanizer but I didn't fully understand him until I got to be inside his head a bit in this book and he was so much more complex than I realized.  It wasn't that he didn't want to settle down, he was just waiting for the right one.  And when he meets Josie, she is IT. I really love romances premised on being stranded (if done well) and this one was done so right! Perfect winter romance and I liked the change in the setting - kept the series from feeling staid while also still giving us a glimpse into past characters. I think this is the end of this series but there may be a spin-off, for which I am super excited!  

Wicked Cowboy Charm came out earlier this week on January 31, 2017, and you can purchase HERE.  I definitely recommend this series and this book if you love a good cowboy romance!  My review HERE of book 2 in this series, and HERE of book 3 in this series.
She slipped her hand under his. Yes, there were sparks and vibes and desire at his touch but there was something more that night and ti went much deeper than anything she'd ever known before.
And it felt so right.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Review: The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker

Blurb from Goodreads:
She was the first person to see me as I had always wanted to be seen. It was enough to indebt me to her forever. 

At a private East Coast college, two young women meet in art class. Sharon Kisses, quietly ambitious but self-doubting, arrives from rural Kentucky. Mel Vaught, brash, unapologetic, wildly gifted, brings her own brand of hellfire from the backwaters of Florida. Both outsiders, Sharon and Mel become fervent friends, bonding over underground comics and dysfunctional families. Working, absorbing, drinking. Drawing: Mel, to understand her own tumultuous past, and Sharon, to lose herself altogether. 
A decade later, Sharon and Mel are an award-winning animation duo, and with the release of their first full-length feature, a fearless look at Mel's childhood, they stand at the cusp of success. But while on tour to promote the film, cracks in their relationship start to form: Sharon begins to feel like a tag-along and suspects that raucous Mel is the real artist. When unexpected tragedy strikes, long-buried resentments rise to the surface, threatening their partnership—and hastening a reckoning no one sees coming.
My Review:
WHOA. I almost don't know what to say about this - I seriously was not expecting it to be so dark, so shattering, so real. Those are all good things BUT I admit that I am the type of reader who has to be in the mood and/or steeled to push on with such a book.  That being said, I read this when I was decidedly in not such a mood and I still loved this.  Certain passages were soul clenching beautiful. This was not at all what I expected but perhaps it was what I needed - a reminder of life that isn't easy or linear with fits and gasps and where not everything is ok. Be forewarned, be prepared but do not let this stop you from reading something so true about coming of age, about friendship, about something you never knew about before.

The Animators comes out next week on January 31, 2017 and you can purchase HERE. I definitely recommend this one if you like something meaty and with depth about coming of age and friendship; this book is something so heart-wrenchingly true and not just hope glossed over as fact.
Because of TV, I was keenly aware that there were other places, bigger places, where words were said differently, where people moved more quickly. I imagined an outline of America with only a few bright points within, the rest a hazy, slightly sinister filler. The outline spoke very little to who I was, but God knows, volumes to who I wanted to be. Which was, in a word: elsewhere.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Review: The Signal Flame by Andrew Krivak

Blurb from Goodreads:
In a small town in Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains Hannah and her son Bo mourn the loss of the family patriarch, Jozef Vinich. They were three generations under one roof. Three generations, but only one branch of a scraggy tree; they are a war-haunted family in a war-torn century. Having survived the trenches of World War I as an Austro-Hungarian conscript, Vinich journeyed to America and built a life for his family. His daughter married the Hungarian-born Bexhet Konar, who enlisted to fight with the Americans in the Second World War but brought disgrace on the family when he was imprisoned for desertion. He returned home to Pennsylvania a hollow man, only to be killed in a hunting accident on the family’s land. Finally, in 1971, Hannah’s prodigal younger son, Sam, was reported MIA in Vietnam.

And so there is only Bo, a quiet man full of conviction, a proud work ethic, and a firstborn’s sense of duty. He is left to grieve but also to hope for reunion, to create a new life, to embrace the land and work its soil through the seasons. The Signal Flame is a stirring novel about generations of men and women and the events that define them, brothers who take different paths, the old European values yielding to new world ways, and the convalescence of memory and war.

Beginning shortly after Easter in 1972 and ending on Christmas Eve this ambitious novel beautifully evokes ordinary time, a period of living and working while waiting and watching and expecting. The Signal Flame is gorgeously written, honoring the cycles of earth and body, humming with blood and passion, and it confirms Andrew Krivak as a writer of extraordinary vision and power. 
My Review:
The entire time I was reading this, up to and including the last page, I  was waiting for something to happen.  I could half say I was bored but I was also just anticipating that there would be some message or some action or something that would turn this book around for me.  I liked the writing but the story was . . . a bit lacking. This really revolved around this place Dardan, Pennsylvania, which didn't totally fascinate me. It follows the Vinich family from the original purchase of the land through every single possible tragedy you can imagine.  So, I guess I could describe this book to you as the one where nothing happens but everyone dies. You may like this if you like incredibly slow stories with epic family minutiae.
The Signal Flame comes out today on January 24, 2017, and you can purchase HERE.
Dardan, Pennsylvania sits in the yawning cut of three mountains that long ago pushed away rather than collide as they rose, so that they came to resemble, in the topographic lines drawn later by the mapmakers, an unattached letter K.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Review: The Dry by Jane Harper

Blurb from Goodreads:
Luke Hadler turns a gun on his wife and child, then himself. The farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily. If one of their own broke under the strain, well...

When Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk returns to Kiewarra for the funerals, he is loath to confront the people who rejected him twenty years earlier. But when his investigative skills are called on, the facts of the Hadler case start to make him doubt this murder-suicide charge.

And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, old wounds start bleeding into fresh ones. For Falk and his childhood friend Luke shared a secret... A secret Falk thought long-buried... A secret which Luke's death starts to bring to the surface...
My Review:
I read this during an epic rain storm and subsequent flood and even with this interesting dichotomy, I could feel the heat and drought radiating off the pages of this book. Falk was infinitely likable from the beginning and I felt rather bad for him from the start.  He's a closed off individual but I didn't have a hard time connecting with him. This isn't nearly as gruesome as I thought it would be or which even the first few pages suggest - it's a bit rambling and bumbling but interesting. I figured out one of the mysteries pretty quickly but it didn't stop me from being invested. I hope this author writes more set in Australia because that made me the most curious.

The Dry came out earlier this month on January 10, 2017 and you can purchase HERE. I definitely recommend this one if you like an atmospheric mystery -- this seems like a common formula these days.  MC leaves childhood home after something devastating and returns decades later as a cop to solve the first mystery and a new one: sometimes they're intertwined.  Bust still, this worked and I liked the setting a lot.
Pale from birth with close-cropped white-blond hair and invisible eyelashes, he'd often felt during his thirty-six years that the Australian sun was trying to tell him something.
Imagination Designs