Monday, February 22, 2021

Book Review: THE INITIAL INSULT by Mindy McGinnis

 

The Initial Insult (The Initial Insult, #1)The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mindy McGinnis is an "auto-buy" author for me --- meaning: I will read anything she writes because I am a huge fan of her talented writing and a masterful storytelling.

This story, THE INITIAL INSULT, is one that left me shaking my head at the end.

Did I like it? Did I love it? Did I hate it? I had to take a few weeks just to process what I'd digested.

It's a complicated story (which I love). It's a weird/unique story (which I love). It was exceptionally written (love). The timeline was nonlinear (which I personally struggle with oftentimes). This is the first of two books, and plotlines are not yet resolved (which is hard for me, because I'm an impatient person). I listened to an early audio edition that was read by a non-human voice (which I disliked). Side note: I've noticed a lot of other reviews give Mindy less stars on the review because of the awful synthetic audio, but that is NOT Mindy's fault, for heaven's sake! So that in no way influences this review. And rest assured, the finished audio book for sale to the general public is recorded by a professional narrator.

However, I do think that this is the type of story that is better served by a visual copy of the book because of the timeline jumps, point-of-view shifts, and unusual name pronunciations.

Overall, I loved this complicated and unusual story of teenage revenge, and I look forward to the next book!

Thanks, Mindy, for another great rollercoaster of a story.


[I received an early audio copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for free in exchange for an honest review. This is no way influenced my opinion.]

View all my reviews

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

IWSG: Making Friends in the Blogosphere

The purpose of The Insecure Writer's Group is: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!



February's Question: Blogging is often more than just sharing stories. It’s often the start of special friendships and relationships. Have you made any friends through the blogosphere?

My Answer: Oh, yes! The online writing community is excellent. I met my long-term critique partners online, and I've made many wonderful friends and acquaintances because of blogging. Additionally, groups like this one, The Insecure Writer's Support Group, give writers -- new, veteran, young, old -- a great place to start connecting and interacting with other authors. Alongside blogging is Twitter. Once you become familiar with some of the common writers' hashtags -- such as #WritingCommunity #AmWriting #MSWL #WriteTip #IWSG -- you can connect with the vast writing community there, too.

How about you? Have you made friends through the blogosphere?



Monday, January 11, 2021

Book Review: YOU HAVE A MATCH by Emma Lord

 

You Have a MatchYou Have a Match by Emma Lord
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

YOU HAVE A MATCH by Emma Lord is a fun adventure, exploring the ups and downs of friendships, family, and first loves.

Initially, I wanted to read this story because this publisher (Wednesday Books) puts out quality books, and I was intrigued by the premise. YOU HAVE A MATCH is well-written and engaging from page to page, and I found myself walking on the treadmill longer than I had to because I wanted to finish a scene or chapter. My only real criticism of the story is based on a personal pet peeve of mine: I hate it when an entire problem (or plot) could be resolved by simply talking to someone rather than keeping an issue secret. I wanted to yell at the main character: JUST TALK TO THEM! But that was honestly my only issue with this book. And even with that, I still looked forward to returning to the story each time I'd left it.

Thanks Emma Lord for a terrific story!

Some of my favorite passages from the story:

"Living in that moment-in the adrenaline rush of seeing something magical and knowing you only have a small window to capture that magic ... photographing nature and landscapes ... You never know exactly when the magic is going to happen. There's nothing quite like the rush of getting to hold that magic still and keep it forever-allowing something so big to feel so intimate and personal because a part of you belongs to it, and a part of it belongs to you."

"It was always too good to last. Like when you're in a good dream, but you know you're dreaming. I was here on borrowed time."

"Confidence blazes through me, making me feel like I could snap fire into existence, strike lightning at will, control the tides."


[I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influenced my opinion.]

View all my reviews

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Book Review: WRONG ALIBI by Christina Dodd

Oh, boy. I love a good thriller. So I jumped at the chance to read an early copy of this one. Scroll down for my complete reveiw.




Wrong Alibi

by Christina Dodd

On Sale: 12/29/20

ISBN: 978-1335549594

Publisher: Harlequin Trade

368 Pages





Description from Publisher: 

Perfect for fans of Lisa Jewell, New York Times bestselling author Christina Dodd delivers an all-new thriller, featuring a bold and brash female protagonist.


WRONG JOB

Eighteen-year-old Evelyn Jones lands a job in small-town Alaska, working for a man in his isolated mountain home. But her bright hopes for the future are shattered when Donald White disappears, leaving her to face charges of theft, embezzlement—and a brutal double murder. Her protestations of innocence count for nothing. Convicted, she faces life in prison…until fate sends her on the run.


WRONG NAME

Evie's escape leaves her scarred and in hiding, isolated from her family, working under an alias at a wilderness camp. Bent on justice, intent on recovering her life, she searches for the killer who slaughters without remorse.


WRONG ALIBI

At last, the day comes. Donald White has returned. Evie emerges from hiding; the fugitive becomes the hunter. But in her mind, she hears the whisper of other forces at work. Now Evelyn must untangle the threads of evidence before she’s once again found with blood on her hands: the blood of her own family…


“This is Dodd at her brilliant best.” —Booklist (starred review) on Strangers She Knows


Dodd's twisty suspense will have readers turning the pages and keeping the lights on at night.


About the Author:

New York Times bestselling author Christina Dodd writes “edge-of-the-seat suspense” (Iris Johansen) with “brilliantly etched characters, polished writing, and unexpected flashes of sharp humor that are pure Dodd” (ALA Booklist). Her fifty-eight books have been called "scary, sexy, and smartly written" by Booklist and, much to her mother's delight, Dodd was once a clue in the Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle. Enter Christina’s worlds and join her mailing list at www.christinadodd.com.


My Review:

I LOVED THIS BOOK!


The opening pages hooked me right away, and I started reading faster to find out what was going to happen. I loved the setting of Alaska.


There were only a couple of things that bothered me. There were a lot of switches in the points-of-view, and . . .


[SPOILER]

. . . the sex between Zone and Petie was hard to buy into.


Other than that, I LOVED this book!! 


Christina Dodd masterfully brought all the pieces together for a very satisfying resolution.


Some of my favorite lines from the story:


"Outside, the storm roared. Inside, cold swallowed the heat with a greedy appetite."


"So much better than her last job, the one that led to her conviction for a gruesome double murder."



[I received an early copy of the book for free from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influenced my opinion.] 

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

IWSG: Most Productive Times for Writing

The first Wednesday of the month is time for the Insecure Writers' Support Group post!



This Month's Question: "Are there months or times of the year that you are more productive with your writing than other months, and why?"


My Answer: Pre-pandemic, yes. Pre-2020, sure. But boy, oh, boy, 2020 has been way too stressful for me to be highly productive with my writing. So, I suppose I am most productive when I can find a sense of peace and calm within my mind and spirit. Going to the mountains helps me with this. Avoiding social media helps me. Listening to music helps. And reading inspiring nonfiction books definitely helps me find the right head space to be more productive with my writing. I'm currently working through THE ARTIST'S WAY by Julia Cameron. I say "working through" because it's more than a book to read. It is a 12-week program to help artists attain a higher level of creativity, but it is hard work. I've found it quite challenging (this is my third attempt to complete the program), but this particular time through, I'm recovering a sense of myself and that has been enlightening and calming. I'm excited to write and revise, again. I'm ready to be productive, again. We all need a little help sometimes finding our way back to the path, leading to our own true north.


How about you? When is your most productive time for writing?


Wednesday, November 4, 2020

IWSG: Why Do You Write?

Over the years, I've found THE INSECURE WRITER'S SUPPORT GROUP to be such a great community. I look forward to the monthly posts to connect us. I encourage you to visit the website and join the group!




This Month's Question: Albert Camus once said, “The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.” Flannery O’Conner said, “I write to discover what I know.” Authors across time and distance have had many reasons to write. Why do you write what you write?

My Answer: I write because I love telling stories. I love creating worlds, characters, plots, and twists. I love creating. I love exploring all of the possibilities. I've always been a curious person, and as a writer, I can ask as many questions as I want. Then I can explore, hunt, and find the answers to those questions.


How about you? Why do you write?




Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Book Review: THE MIRROR MAN by Jane Gilmartin

Such a fascinating premise! Scroll down for my complete review.


The Mirror Man

Author: Jane Gilmartin

On Sale Date: October 20, 2020

ISBN: 9780778309642

Publisher: MIRA

352 pages


Description from Publisher:

The offer is too tempting: be part of a scientific breakthrough, step out of his life for a year, and be paid hugely for it. When ViGen Pharmaceuticals asks Jeremiah to be part of an illegal cloning experiment, he sees it as a break from an existence he feels disconnected from. No one will know he’s been replaced—not the son who ignores him, not his increasingly distant wife—since a revolutionary drug called Meld can transfer his consciousness and memories to his copy. From a luxurious apartment, he watches the clone navigate his day-to-day life. But soon Jeremiah discovers that examining himself from an outsider’s perspective isn’t what he thought it would be, and he watches in horror as “his” life spirals out of control. ViGen needs the experiment to succeed—they won’t call it off, and are prepared to remove any obstacle. With his family in danger, Jeremiah needs to finally find the courage to face himself head-on.

About the Author:

Jane Gilmartin has been a news reporter and editor for several small-town weekly papers and enjoyed a brief but exciting stint as a rock music journalist. A bucket list review just before she turned 50 set her on the path to fiction writing. Also checked off that list: an accidental singing career, attending a Star Trek convention, and getting a hug from David Bowie. She lives in her hometown of Hingham, Massachusetts.


My Review:

Fascinating premise but bland delivery. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed this book, and I do recommend it for the interesting premise alone . . .

However . . . 

Page after page, I found myself wanting. I wanted more of a creepy vibe. I wanted more tension. I wanted more plot and character development. And in the end, I wanted more from the main character. If the ending had been stronger, I could’ve overlooked the other issues, but as is, the ending made me overthink the earlier page-by-page issues, and I found myself feeling disappointed.

Spoiler: I didn’t want him to just save himself, I wanted him to take down the bad guys one by one and save the world from being replaced by clones. Instead, he basically negotiated a deal only to save himself, his son, and his dog.



[I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.]

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Book Review: ABOVE ALL ELSE by Dana Alison Levy

 

Above All ElseAbove All Else by Dana Alison Levy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I LOVED this book! I'm not a climber. I have no desire to be one, but I loved every page of this journey as two best friends worked toward their goal of climbing to the summit of Mount Everest.

While reading the story, I highlighted a gazillion passages that I intended to share in this review - but there are JUST so many great lines - read the book!

The reasons I didn't give this book 5 stars instead of 4 include: the constant repetition about Rose's mom not being with them; the idea that an implant is good enough protection when having sex (it protects from pregnancy but not STDS); and concepts that seemed too adult for a YA book: Sherpas living in poverty and Nepali-owned tourism companies. (There are sex scenes and use of crude language - so if that bothers you, be forewarned, but these details did not diminish my rating.)

I was especially glad that by the end of the book the characters came to learn that life is "less about the summit and more about the journey."

Bottom line:
Dana Alison Levy's writing is terrific, the character arcs are fully realized, and the non-linear plot of ABOVE ALL ELSE kept me fully engaged. I look forward to reading more of her books!


[I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influenced my opinions.]

View all my reviews

Monday, October 5, 2020

Book Review: CONFESSIONS ON THE 7:45 by Lisa Unger

Oh . . . I love twisty complicated thrillers! Scroll down for my complete review.




Confessions on the 7:45

by Lisa Unger

On Sale: October 6, 2020

Publisher: Park Row

ISBN: 978-0778310150

368 pages



Description from Publisher:

From master of suspense Lisa Unger comes a riveting thriller about a chance encounter that unravels a stunning web of lies and deceit.


Be careful to whom you tell your darkest secrets…


Selena Murphy is commuting home from her job in the city when the train stalls out on the tracks. She strikes up a conversation with a beautiful stranger in the next seat, and their connection is fast and easy. The woman introduces herself as Martha and confesses that she’s been stuck in an affair with her boss. Selena, in turn, confesses that she suspects her husband is sleeping with the nanny. When the train arrives at Selena’s station, the two women part ways, presumably never to meet again.


But days later, Selena’s nanny disappears.


Soon Selena finds her once-perfect life upended. As she is pulled into the mystery of the missing nanny, and as the fractures in her marriage grow deeper, Selena begins to wonder, who was Martha really? But she is hardly prepared for what she’ll discover.


Expertly plotted and reminiscent of the timeless classic Strangers on a Train, Confessions on the 7:45 is a gripping thriller about the delicate facades we create around our lives.


About the Author:

Lisa Unger is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author. With books published in twenty-six languages and millions of copies sold worldwide, she is widely regarded as a master of suspense. Her new release is CONFESSIONS ON THE 7:45.


Unger’s critically acclaimed books have been named on “Best Book” lists from the Today show, Good Morning America, Entertainment Weekly, People, Amazon, Goodreads, and many others. She has been nominated for, or won, numerous awards including the Hammett Prize, Macavity, Thriller Award, and Goodreads Choice. In 2019, she received two Edgar Award nominations, an honor held by only a few authors, including Agatha Christie. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, and Travel+Leisure. She lives on the west coast of Florida with her family.x


My Review:

GREAT WRITING! Fascinating story. 

The truth of the matter is we've all become skilled con artists when it comes to posting on social media. Why is that? What are we lying (or pretending) about in our lives, wanting so desperately to convince others of? Quote used in the book from George Orwell's 1984: "If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself."


While I did like this book, I disliked the disparagement of marriage, the fictional misuse/exploitation of the "Me Too" movement, and the sex scenes right at the start of the book. These are obviously my personal tastes. Not everyone will feel the same way about these topics. Additionally, there is a lot of cussing and use of the f-word in the story - so if that offends you, be forewarned.


In the beginning, I really struggled to keep track of the large cast of characters, but I relaxed into it, and trusted that the author would guide me along the path and help me remember who was who throughout the story.


Unger is certainly a master at suspense, embedding creepy little elements to keep the reader fully engaged, such as: "But when she looked out her bedroom window just before turning out her lights to sleep, his car was still there."


Like solving a jigsaw puzzle, Lisa Unger slowly gives the reader one piece at a time, out of order but meticulously filling in the whole picture so it all makes sense at the end. And I was happy that this story had a satisfying ending.


I enjoyed this complicated and twisty thriller from Lisa Unger, and I look forward to reading more books written by her!



Some of my favorite lines from the book:

"The girl didn't know what she was saying. She was a mouse. And the mouse was so afraid that she was looking to the cat for love."

"The truth like a wildfire that burned everything in its path. One that destroyed but also cleansed. And then from the ash, new life."

"Write it, said Beth. When we narrate our experience, we take control of it. And in controlling the story of our past, we can create a better future."



[I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, which in no way influenced my opinion.]

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Gone Hiking

Time for a reboot. No cell service, no internet, no drama - just breathing in the peace of nature. Here's a picture of where I will be:




Book Review: SMASH IT by Francina Simone

This book has such an AWESOME cover! It immediately drew me in. Scroll down for my complete review.

 

SMASH IT!

By Francina Simone

On Sale: September 22, 2020

INKYARD PRESS

ISBN: 978-1335146502

368 pages


Description from the Publisher:

Olivia “Liv” James is done with letting her insecurities get the best of her. So she does what any self-respecting hot mess of a girl who wants to SMASH junior year does…

After Liv shows up to a Halloween party in khaki shorts—why?—she decides to set aside her wack AF ways. She makes a list—a F*ck-It list.

1. Be bold—do the thing that scares me.

2. Learn to take a compliment.

3. Stand out instead of back.

She kicks it off by trying out for the school musical, saying yes to a date and making new friends. Life is great when you stop punking yourself! However, with change comes a lot of missteps, and being bold means following her heart. So what happens when Liv’s heart is interested in three different guys—and two of them are her best friends? What is she supposed to do when she gets dumped by a guy she’s not even dating? How does one Smash It! after the humiliation of being friend-zoned?

In Liv’s own words, “F*ck it. What’s the worst that can happen?”

A lot, apparently.



About the Author:

Francina Simone believes in one thing: authenticity. She writes YA stories full of humor and hard life lessons with sprinkles of truth that make us all feel understood. Her craft focuses on stories about girls throwing caution to the wind to discover exactly who they are and what it means to love. Francina is also known for her BookTube channel, where she discusses controversial topics in books.






My Review:

SMASH IT by Francina Simone paints a fascinating picture of life as a teenage girl -- a girl who just wants to have the guts to be herself. While I was never into the theater scene, I certainly was a girl who wanted to be myself. Problem was . . . figuring out who exactly that was! Simone does a great job of exploring that idea within the pages of SMASH IT.


One way the main character tries to find herself is by stepping out of her comfort zone and auditioning for the school play. (You don't have to be a theater buff or a teenage girl to enjoy this book!) The process allows her to meet new people and have experiences she would have missed out on otherwise.


I'm not a huge Shakespeare buff, so a lot of the references within the story were lost on me. But this didn't diminish my ability to enjoy the story line. Another element that was lost on me was much of the slang. I don't know if it was because I'm from a different region of the country or because I'm older or because I'm white, but nonetheless, I had fun extrapolating the intended meanings.


There are a lot of sexual themes and a few scenes in the book - but when you're trying to figure out who you are and how to grow into yourself and love yourself - your sexuality plays a significant role in that process. The author did a fabulous and thoughtful job with this topic.


Because she's working on finding herself, she creates a "F*ck It List" to help her overcome her insecurities. So, obviously, be forewarned if you have a huge aversion to cuss words; they are used a lot in this story.  But also, keep in mind, her list serves a terrific purpose. Here's an example of it:

1. Be bold - do the things that scare me.

2. Learn to take a compliment. 

3. Stand out instead of back.


Page after page, I found myself smiling because:

Simone is a great writer with an ability to fully immerse the reader within the story world.


Some of my favorite lines from the story:


"I look like the freak who has no social shame. The truth is I have too much social shame. So much shame that it seeps out of me like fresh cut garlic on the back of the tongue."


"I'm not uncool, but I do these uncool things as if I'm addicted to self-sabotage."


"I don't drink -- I think alcohol is nasty. Like, who chooses to drink that burn-your-throat-flavor when you could drink a smoothie? I'd rather die fat than from liver problems."


"If I'm going to stand out, then I have to start standing on my own."




[I received an early copy for free from the publisher via Net Galley. This did not influence my opinion.]