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review 2017-06-08 03:20
Orphan Island - A Review

When the bell rings it signals “the changing”.  One child arrives at the island and the eldest leaves.  It’s always been the way …

 
“Nine on on island, orphans all,
any more ...
the sky might fall"
 
ORPHAN ISLAND by Laurel Snyder
 
The children on the island do not know why they are there or why they must leave when their time comes.  That’s just the way things have always been.  The green boat arrives with a young child and the eldest must leave, always a boy for a boy and a girl for a girl.  Then the next eldest moves up to take care of the new arrival, teaching them the ways of the island and how to be as self sufficient as possible until it is their time to leave. 
 
The island is an idyllic place to live; nothing there would ever hurt you – even the wind would not let you fall off a cliff, the snakes do not bite, the bees do not sting and the fishing net is always full.  Really, the only thing to remember is not to take the last of anything.  If you pick the last fruit then no more will grow.  It’s the way of things on the island, the rule to follow – like the changing. 
 
But what would happen if one of the children decided not to leave?  Would the sky really fall?  Jinny didn’t think so and she knew that she was not ready to leave the island for the unknown fate the green boat represented, not even if it meant being reunited with Deen, who left the year before.
 
This was an enchanting and captivating story that had me turning the pages until I got to the end.  I don’t have too many one-day reads these days and this was such a lovely book to read on a quiet, overcast afternoon (and I have to confess to a bit of cover love as well).  Ms. Snyder captures the voices of various children on the island with perfection, ranging in age from (I’m guessing) three to just pre-pubescent, that in itself is admirable.  I had fun trying to figure out some of the terms the children has come up to name common objects.  Just what are “poms” and “sweet snaps” exactly?  I did manage to figure out “ersters” and “ink fish”!  She also gave me a totally believable community of children living in isolation on their own mysterious island.
 
This is a YA novel and possibly because of my jaded and decidedly not YA mindset I kept looking for a lesson in the pages of this book.  I am sure there is a wise lesson in there somewhere, I just couldn’t put my finger on it because I was so busy enjoying the story … I think I didn’t want to look too deeply.
 
When I came to the end the story felt somehow finished and not at the same time.  It wasn’t a cliffhanger but there was so much more I wanted to know.  What happened to Jinny in particular and on the island in general?  Who was Abby?  What’s the deal with the green boat?  I am hoping there will be a sequel – or better yet, a prequel, but if not – a little mystery in life is a good thing.
 
Loved this one so definitely 5 stars.
 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from her website)
 
Laurel Snyder is the author of six novels for children, “Orphan Island,” “Bigger than a Bread Box,” “Penny Dreadful,” “Any Which Wall,” “Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains OR The Search for a Suitable Princess,” and “Seven Stories Up.” She has also written many picture books, including “Charlie and Mouse,” “The Forever Garden,” “Swan, the Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova,” “Inside the Slidy Diner,” Good night, laila tov,” “Nosh, Schlep, Schluff,” “The Longest Night,” “Camp Wonderful Wild,” and “Baxter, the Pig Who Wanted to Be Kosher.”
 
In addition to her books for children, Laurel has written two books of poems, “Daphne & Jim: a choose-your-own-adventure biography in verse” (Burnside Review Press, 2005) and “The Myth of the Simple Machines” (No Tell Books, 2007). She also edited an anthology of nonfiction, “Half/Life: Jew-ish tales from Interfaith Homes” (Soft Skull Press, 2006) A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a former Michener-Engle Fellow, Laurel has published work in the Utne Reader, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Revealer, Salon, The Iowa Review, American Letters and Commentary, and elsewhere.
 
She is an occasional commentator for NPR’s All Things Considered, and she teaches in the MFAC program at Hamline University, but most of all, she is a mom.
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review 2017-06-07 22:05
Emma in the Night - A Review

One night, after an argument about a cheap necklace, two sisters disappear – three years later one returned.

 
EMMA IN THE NIGHT by Wendy Walker
 
Cassandra and Emma never had things easy growing up with a mother who displayed classic signs of narcissism.  One day they were loved and the next could be frightening in the neglect they suffered.  They soon learned how to keep their mother happy but in turn she learned how to play them against each other.  Then both girls disappeared on the same night.  Emma’s car and shoes were found on the sand by the ocean, but no signs of Cass could be found and nothing was missing from her room.  Could the girls have disappeared together or were they the victims of two random, but coincidental abductions?
 
The FBI psychologist assigned to the original case suspected something else was at play but trying to convince others almost caused her to lose her job.  When Cass returned demanding action to find her sister, Dr Winter saw her second chance to set things right.
 
This was a twisty-turny tale of a severely dysfunctional family.  It was obvious from the time that Cass returned that things were not as they seemed.  As I read more and more of the story I developed plausible outcomes … and then changed my mind again and again.  Despite my multiple guesses I still got the ending wrong but that’s a sign of a good psychological thriller, right?
 
While I enjoyed this book there were times I felt it could have moved along at a slightly quicker pace; the story is told from multiple points of view so some of it was repetitive.  When I got to the end I couldn’t get past the feeling of “well that could have all been prevented with one phone call”
 
Emma in the Night releases on August 29th, 2017 and while I certainly would not hesitate to recommend this book to friends, I cannot quite rate it among the top books I’ve read in this genre.
 
I’d like to thank the publisher, St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley for my copy of the book, sent in exchange for an honest review. *
 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from her website)
 
Wendy Walker is a former family law attorney in Fairfield County, Connecticut who began writing while at home raising her three sons. She published two novels with St. Martin’s Press and edited multiple compilations for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series before writing her debut psychological thriller, All is Not Forgotten. Her second thriller, Emma In The Night, will be released August 8, 2017.
 
Wendy earned her J. D., magna cum laude, at the Georgetown University Law Center where she was awarded  the American Jurisprudence award for her performance in Contracts and Advanced Criminal Procedure.  She received her undergraduate degree, magna cum laude, from Brown University and attended The London School of Economics and Political Science as part of her undergraduate studies.
 
Prior to her legal career, Wendy was a financial analyst at Goldman, Sachs & Co., in the mergers and acquisitions group. She has also volunteered at the ACLU, Connecticut Legal Services and Figure Skating in Harlem where she served on the Board of Directors for over twelve years.
 
Wendy is currently writing her third thriller while managing a busy household.
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review 2017-05-31 22:50
The Only Child - A Review

The story of Frankenstein’s monster has captured the imagination of readers of almost two centuries, not only because of the story itself but also it’s back story.  It has also been retold in many forms.  With this one Mr. Pyper hits it out of the park.

 
THE ONLY CHILD by Andrew Pyper
 
Lily Dominick was six years old when, as she looked on, her mother was brutally murdered.  The trauma caused her recollections to be hazy … she recalled only a monster knocking on the door to kill her mother and her six year old self being rescued by a white creature.  The incident still haunts her dreams and may well have led to her career choice as an adult where she is Dr. Dominick working as a psychiatrist with the worst of the worst criminals in New York’s Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Centre.  At work it sometimes seems to her she can read the mind of the incarcerated.  One morning she walks in to interview a man known only as Client 46874-A and claiming to be 200 years old.  For Lily he is an enigma; she can’t get a read on him and she feels as if he is looking into her mind instead of the other way around.  Then he throws Lily totally off balance when he claims to have known her mother and what happened to her so many years ago.
 
The next day Lily awakens to the news that Client 46874-A has escaped.  Driven by clues he leaves for her and the need to discover if he can truly help her solve the riddle of what happened on the night her mother died Lily sets out to find him and hopefully the truth.
 
Mr. Pyper takes his reader along on Lily’s quest as she travels across Europe picking up more and more information about not only “Michael”, as she named the mystery man, but about herself as well.  And for Lily the truth does indeed turn out to be stranger than fiction.
 
“The Only Child” is a well-written page-turner.  I would expect nothing less from Mr. Pyper.  This book is not only a psychological thriller with it’s share of the paranormal but is extremely entertaining in it’s explanations of the basis of not only “Frankenstein” but also “Jekyll and Hyde” and “Dracula”.  Within the context of the story it had me nodding my head and thinking “Oh yeah … makes sense”.
 
As I read closer and closer to the end I began to formulate my own theory about Lily and Michael so I was quite pleased to discover that I was at least half right.  Despite that, the reveal caught me by surprise.  I had hoped for a different outcome but the ending suited the story.  Not wanting to have to include a “spoiler alert” I do want to mention that there was one scene at the end of the book which wrapped up the story so extremely well that I still pause to think about it a few days after I’ve closed the cover – so well done Mr. Pyper.
 
* I’d like to thank the publisher, Simon and Shuster, and Netgalley for providing me with the book at no charge in exchange for an honest review.*
 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from his website
 
Andrew Pyper was born in Stratford, Ontario, in 1968. He received a B.A. and M.A. in English Literature from McGill University, as well as a law degree from the University of Toronto. Although called to the bar in 1996, he has never practiced.
 
Andrew’s creative writing teaching experience includes terms at Trent University, the University of Toronto, and, currently, Colorado College. Last year he won the Grant Allen Award for contributions to Canadian crime and mystery literature.
 
He lives in Toronto.
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review 2017-04-10 16:57
Elvis the Gunslinger - A Review

It’s a Wild West tail tale with a twist – baseball and cricket have not been invented, nary a human to be found, dogs instead of horses and cats rule.

 
ELVIS THE GUNSLINGER by Romey Connell
 
According to the book blurb if you were to cross John Wayne and James Bond you would get Elvis the Gunslinger.  To all appearances he is a gentlecat rancher but the truth is he is a government agent – the best of the best.  After a night spent putting out a mysterious fire in his dog barn and chasing down the feline culprit Elvis’ partner Frank shows up announcing they are leaving on the train ASAP to take on a case.  The son and daughter-in-law of millionaire cat Morris Pusserschmott IV have been kidnapped and Fatscat, the meanest, smelliest outlaw in the west is the prime suspect.  Elvis and Fatscat have history so who better to get to his hideout compound and see that justice is done.
 
Elvis is a hard drinking, hard loving lawman but that never gets in the way of his clever clue solving skills.  And like any good G-man he always gets his man!
 
This fun read got off to a bit of a slow start for me.  I found myself rolling my eyes at the beginning – you really need to suspend reality for this book – but soon enough I was caught up in the elaborate kidnapping scheme, the witty repartee between Frank and Elvis, the twists and turns of the case and the very creative characters Mr. Connell has written about. 
 
I enjoyed the case, the chase and the resolution of the story but one of the dangers when anthropomorphizing cats is walking the fine line between making them too true to their feline nature or giving them too many human qualities.  In this case Mr. Connell leaned a little to the latter.  I was expecting more of a “cat tale”.  This would have been a good read if the characters were human and, granted, replacing them with cats made it imaginative and often humorous but it would have been more fun (for me) with a few more cat-like moments and behaviours.
 
Overall, once I got used to the cat characters, this was a fun read.  Definitely intended for a late teen to adult audience.  3.5 stars for this one and if pushed would lean towards rounding up to 4 because it was creative and the story picked up in the last half of the book.
 
* I won this book in a contest by the Purrington Post, so would like to thank them for sending me this book at no charge with no expectation of a review *
 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from his Amazon author page)
 
The oldest of four children, Romey Connell grew up in a suburban waterfront community in the Baltimore/Annapolis area, and moved with his family to their nearby horse farm at the age of 14.
 
He graduated from the Auburn University School of Business in 1985 and the Cornell Law School in 1988, whereupon he moved to Atlanta, Georgia.
 
Romey has been married to his lovely wife, Gretchen (an extremely talented artist and photographer), for fifteen years and they are blessed with two wonderful children, Jerry (13) and Jamie (11). In 2010, after EyeWonder was sold, Romey left the working world for a while, so that he could spend as much time as possible with his family. They live in the Lake Claire neighborhood on the east side of Atlanta. Though spending time with family is foremost these days, Romey’s interests include travel, sports, the outdoors, beer and food, not necessarily in that order. He firmly believes that you should be wary of persons who do not get along well with children or animals. Romey is a fan of nearly all genres of music, although he is partial to those in which the artists actually play instruments, and he considers dancing all night to be the greatest form of recreation.
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review 2017-04-05 03:33
A Change of Heart - A Review

Urban fantasy is not my usual go-to genre, but tempt me with vampires and I can be convinced to give one a try.  The bonus is that the vampires in this one are bloody and brutal – just the way I like ‘em.

 
A CHANGE OF HEART by Mark Benjamin
 
Gabriel Harper could be the poster boy for the fellow they kick sand on at the beach.  Smart and nice doesn’t always cut it and the bullies soon found he was an easy mark for their fun.  Escaping from one such attack by diving behind a dumpster Gabriel never thought it would change his entire world.  That’s where he came across the dying Lucas, one of “The Royals” in the vampire community.  Lucas had never procreated but with his dying gasp he decided to turn Gabriel.
 
Alone and not knowing what was happening to him Gabriel navigates, with the help of a strange voice in his head, what it takes to be a vampire and the reader is introduced to a very unique world of vampires and the Silver Legionnaires – those who hunt them.
 
When Gabriel and three of his friends are unexpectedly yanked from their everyday lives and into the fortress of the Legionnaires life becomes very uncomfortable for Gabriel.  Although he is a “hybrid” no one knows his secret, so how does a new vampire live among those determined to eradicate them.  As the story progresses the reader realizes that things are not happy in either camp and, while each community is determined to rid themselves of the other, a little extra spice was added because each community also had traitors within their midst.  Would the vampires and the Legionnaires destroy each other or would they be destroyed from within?
 
This was a fairly lengthy book and just as I thought things could be moving ahead at a little faster pace Mr. Benjamin threw in a twist I was certainly not expecting.  Well done as it certainly gave me my second wind.
 
This book starts out with a bang.  Mr. Benjamin definitely drops you right into the middle of the action and then just as you feel you need to catch your breath he the reader back to the norm … Gabriel’s world as a college student.  From that point on the book follows a pretty straightforward time-line.  While the book is written in the third person each short chapter is headed with the name of the character that the chapter features.  I have no problem reading in this manner but the book has an overabundance of characters to keep straight and, rather than helping, the chapter headings seemed to make it more difficult to keep the minor characters straight.
 
I did enjoy this book.  It was, in my opinion, a very original take on the vampire tale while still staying true to the nature of the beast.  It also gave me a vampire protagonist I couldn’t help but like without making him too “twilighty”.  I did feel that some of the characters had rather juvenile reactions to certain situations considering their twenty-something age bracket but this is book one in “The Royal Blood Chronicles” so I am going to assume the characters mature as the series progresses.  I am also going to assume that I received an ARC because the book could have benefited from a last fine-tooth-comb edit.
 
I would definitely pick up the next one because I am curious as to where the story is going to go.
4-Stars for this one.
 
I would like to thank the author for providing me with the book at no charge to read and review.  This in no way influenced my opinion.
 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from his amazon author page
 
Mark Benjamin is the author of two books - one, in an adult urban fantasy series, The Royal Blood Chronicles; and the second, a short story. Devouring all books he could get his hands on from an early age, he managed to ruin his eyesight by reading (when he should have been asleep) under his bedcovers with a torch (video games had no say in his bad eyesight...okay, maybe a little). His love of books translated to a passion for writing, which he began aged ten (he still has his first juvenile novel to this day). Currently working for a national bank, his dream job is to be a full-time author, a path he fully took when he sent a sample of his work to a ten-week introductory fiction course funded by an American foundation and conducted worldwide in 2010. Out of the 15 available slots, one was his out of hundreds of thousands of applicants (okay, perhaps a slight exaggeration, but it was advertised in the national dailies). When not writing his third book or planning literary world domination, Mark enjoys spending time with his wife, entertaining his under one-year old daughter, playing on his Playstation (AnnA) and reading (obviously).
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