New Book Review: These Vicious Masks

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Rated 4 of 5 stars

The first book I’ve read by Shanker and Zekas…and its pretty damn good! I really enjoyed the historical aspects of this story which made it even more interesting. It was a time that I wasn’t completely aware of and the culture of the characters are so different from most YA novels. There’s some love, some fighting, some paranormal, some mystery…a little bit of everything. There were a few cons to go along with the abundance of pro’s (hence, the four star rating). So let’s get into it…

PROS – The main character Evelyn is written beautifully. She’s sassy, yet traditional. She’s got a fire in her and a desire to grow and do more with her life even though in the time she is living, a woman is to find a well off husband and ride his coattails until they die…miserably, most likely. Thank goodness for women’s rights, yeh? Anyway, Evelyn has a dismal existence with matchmaker parties and forced swooning until she meets Mr. Braddock…the dark and brooding, gentleman that stays far from society for the most part. Once they meet, her distrust for him grows. They are polar opposites. Luckily, she has a best friend in Mr. Kent, her constant comedic relief and confidante. He would be a potential suitor if only his family wasn’t horrible and hated her guts.

The characters are written well. I found Mr. Kent to be especially complex and delightful. Overall, the story was character-driven and revolved around the mystery of who took Rose, Evelyn’s sister, and how they were going to get her back. Now comes the paranormal. You only catch glimpses of it in the beginning of the story but soon…you’ll see the full scale of paranormal abilities. That’s when it gets interesting.

CONS – The writing can be a bit dramatic at times. I rolled my eyes on a few occasions when I realized it was a bit over the top with some explanations and in some fighting scenes.

Other than that, the book is solid and definitely gives me late 1800’s, X-Men vibes. Needless to say, I’ll be checking out the second book, These Ruthless Deeds.

Raging Book Reviews Recommended!

*Purchased with my own money.

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New Book Review: Station Eleven

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Rated 3 of 5 stars

This post apocalyptic novel by Emily St. John Mandel was an easy going read. I ultimately liked the way she peppered information throughout the story that linked characters. There were some things I enjoyed and some that I kinda didn’t. So we’ll start with the enjoyable parts…

I liked the easy going nature of the writing and the character’s relationships with one another. The scenes were written with graphic intensity and I pictured every town, vision and life of the characters. I didn’t enjoy the constant bouncing around from present day to past in addition to the point of view from various characters. I got lost on more than one occasion on whether the story was in the present, past or just a thought in the present. There were way too many characters and relationships to follow. After putting the book down for a few days, I was completely lost when I picked it up again and the names started pouring into the story. There wasn’t anything completely “stand out” about any one character. The main character (I think) is Kirsten but there were moments in her life that were missing and we never got those tidbits to fully understand how she came to be this bad ass knife thrower. So I didn’t feel close to her by the end of the story. I felt the closest with Clark because he had a pretty good backstory (not without its own holes mind you) but he was definitely likable and easy to follow his trajectory throughout the story. I always wondered why Jeevan’s storyline was a part of the book…I just didn’t understand what I was supposed to get from his storyline? Maybe someone who has read it can help me…

Anyway, I thought the story shows that the author has great writing skills but maybe the layout of the story was not the best. Too many characters. Not enough focus on key characters. Interesting idea but execution was not breathtaking. The end was the best as all things came together but wasn’t too exciting.

Raging Book Reviews

*Purchased with my own money.

New Book Review: The Alchemist

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Rated 5 of 5 stars

I took my time reading Coelho’s well-known novel, The Alchemist. It definitely makes you think about your purpose in life, your goals and whether you have lived up to your fullest potential. It causes you to question the things in your life as necessary, luxury or just a placeholder for not doing what you really want to do in life. I found the story of the boy journeying to his “personal legend” to have many similarities to my life and my quest to find my purpose. I continually work towards something but have yet to grasp fully what my own personal legend is. I think I have an idea, but like the boy, did not know exactly. Freedom and understanding is the purpose but getting there can take people down many lanes. I enjoyed this novel immensely and will likely read it again when I feel that I’m either straying from the path or questioning whether life can be better.

Raging Book Reviews Highly Recommended

*This novel was purchased with my own money.

New Book Review: Hope to Die

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Rated 4 of 5 stars

I’m a huge fan of Alex Cross so my opinion is a bit bias. I love the tough but family oriented professor/detective created by Patterson. He’s been able to build many relationships and stories with such a layered, engaging and intellectual main character. This book does not disappoint!

When a madman sets his sights on Dr. Cross’ family and steals them away leaving only pictures of their dead bodies…he goes into a winding spiral into suicidal, homicidal and mental anguish. He has everyone searching for the madman…except the madman’s identity changes frequently. He can’t get a handle on WHO he is and moreso, WHERE he’s taken his family if they are still alive as he hopes. With a killer who leaves no witnesses and a mind hellbent on being the perfect criminal (up against the perfect foe…Dr. Cross)….Cross has a lot to learn about what motivates this criminal.

As a listener, the narration was spot on and both narrators were excellent. I loved the tone of their voices and the distinction between the two story lines kept me on task. Very good read!

Raging Book Reviews Recommended!

*Audiobook purchased with my own money.

New Book Review: She’s Not There

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Rated 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed Joy Fieldings approach to a topic that can make a mother cringe just thinking about it. Kidnapping a child can make any parent feel a little queazy and paranoid, right? Anyway, the story starts with Caroline, a mother of two daughters, and her husband driving to a Mexico resort for their anniversary. As they arrive, she sees that her husbands friends, her bestfriend and husband, and her brother and his wife are all there to celebrate with them. Due to a lack of babysitter, they brought their kids to Mexico with them on their anniversary. At this point in the story, I was like…what? Who does that? You don’t bring kids on honeymoons, bachelorette parties or anniversary getaways! Like, come on! That’s not romantic AT ALL. I digress. During the beginning of the story, you meet Caroline’s two daughters, one is older, roughly 5 years old while the other is still an infant. The five year old is incredibly bratty and mouthy. Throughout the story I just wanted to give her a good spank on the rear. The infant is completely opposite…very mild mannered and happy.

As the final night of the trip unwinds, the couples schedule for an anniversary dinner celebration. The kids are left sleeping in their beds while Caroline and her husband, Hunter, attend the dinner and agree to check on the children every 30 minutes in case they wake. Everything seems fine until the very end of the night…during the final check…their sweet infant is missing from her crib! Their older daughter was still asleep nearby and the hysterics bring everyone to their suite. Cops are called and manhunt is underway. This is the beginning of hell for Caroline.

As a reader, we journey through her personal thoughts and feelings. Her distrust, her feelings of inadequacy. We see her constant railroading by the people around her. She is emotional damaged and mentally on the edge of breaking when a call changes everything.

I enjoyed this novel by Fielding because it was a constant stream of realism. This is something that could happen to anyone. When the reveal happens, it is not quite what I expected in totality but suspicions were in the general area.

Raging Book Reviews Recommended!

*This was an audiobook purchased with my own money through Audible.

New Book Review: Cut

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Rated 3 of 5 stars

Peele’s novel, Cut, gives the reader a dose of mystery hidden behind the main scene of a great friendship. Sarah Golden is a well sought after transplant nurse that discovers a fraudulent and potentially deadly plot of a high powered couple “buying” their way higher on the transplant list. When bodies and bruises add up, Sarah teams up with her comedic friend, Jackie Larsen, a stay-at-home mom yet former nurse. They find ways to dig deeper into what’s going on with the rich and powerful being able to circumvent the waiting list. They must be careful because when the rich want a problem to go away, there’s no extent they won’t go to hide their transgressions.

Peele does a great job of building the relationship between Sarah and Jackie. They have funny and comfortable conversations about the case, their relationship, men and a host of other topics that really shows the reader there is a strong bond between the two characters. Jackie was a star in this story and probably the only character I truly liked. Her personality shines in the dialogue and her willingness to help her friend and a good cause. Sarah came across as strong but overshadowed by her friend, Jackie, on many occasions in the story. Her back story wasn’t strong enough to carry the story. So the book turns from Sarah being the main character to the reader feeling as though Jackie is the main character. This isn’t a bad thing, of course, since Jackie is more likable and memorable because of her family, her nursing background, etc. but it does throw the reader off slightly on whether you should get comfortable with Sarah or care what’s going on with her multiple dating escapades (which many times came off as forced). It’s very clear that the story was written by a nurse because there was an abundance of detail on anything dealing with nursing in the story, not so much medical but how patients are cared for, the questions asked, the camaraderie of the nursing staff etc.

Now to the other characters. You meet, Sergio, and you will know pretty quickly that he is handsome since everywhere he goes in the story, it is mentioned and women are throwing themselves at him constantly. He has a sour attitude along with his mate, Amanda. Sergio and Amanda are the antagonists in the story and they fulfill their duty well. You will despise them and question them constantly throughout the story.

I enjoyed this story. With a little more descriptive writing to couple with the excellent dialogue the story could be a homerun. I’ll caution readers that this is a very different kind of murder mystery. You will not have a real “murder” scene typically found in a murder mystery. The mystery is based on a hunch by the main character and is built throughout the storyline. So don’t go into this novel with a typical expectation based on the title. This is a character driven mystery, almost cozy in nature.

Raging Book Reviews Recommended

*This book was sent by the publicist for an honest review.

New Book Review: Darktown

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Rated 5 of 5 stars

Darktown by Thomas Mullen put me into a dizzying head spin and a full blown emotional rollercoaster ride. The first 20 pages had me so seething mad that I had to realize that it was a story of fiction and I should probably calm down. I wasn’t going to find an “Officer Dunlow” in my town…well, not by that name anyway. The story gripped me from the very beginning and never let me go. I was emotionally on the edge of my seat for hours and felt real, palpable tension while reading this book.

So let’s get on with the synopsis. In Atlanta, the first black police officers are given badges, guns, training and a bunch of obstacles to overcome, racism being one of the tallest hurdles. The book is set in the 40’s and it shows the state of race relations to full scale with racial slurs, discrimination and the constant brow beating of black and brown people in a southern state. As a reader, this will boil you. You will hate what is happening and the general climate of the time….which is a good thing. If you don’t feel sickened, then you probably have racism, bigotry or just a general problem with having sympathy or empathy.

Anyway, two of the eight officers are walking their beat in Darktown (the slang term for the all black neighborhood) when they see a white man crash into a light pole, drunken at the wheel. After stopping him, they find a young black girl in the passenger side, clearly beaten but not asking for help. The man drives off when he realizes he was pulled over by cops that had no real power to arrest him. Later, they find the young girl dead. This spawns so many storylines in this book, you’ll be wondering who did what and why for most of the story. Excellent tension, suspense and overall unfolding of a mystery.

In the end, the story is gratifying. It may not be ideal but it definitely wraps up all the storylines and gives credibility to things that happened earlier in the story. I enjoyed every second of this story as a reader and hated/loathed/despised many of the characters (which is a sign of a powerful writer). This story will stay with me for a very long time. Raging Book Reviews Highly Recommended!

*Book was purchased with my own money. Grab a $7 copy of your own with free shipping on Book Depository using my affiliate link HERE. (I get a couple cents for sending you, so thanks for keeping the blog running….)

New Book Review: Dark Matter

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4 of 5 stars

I found Blake Crouch’s, Dark Matter, to be an enthralling read! It had me sitting on the edge of my seat, wondering what I would do in the same situation and questioning what type of integrity I really have. This novel touches on scientific quantum studies, individuality (or lack thereof), emotional ties, psychological and post traumatic stress as well as a host of other really deep mental mysteries.

At the start of the book, I wasn’t sure if I was going to entirely like it due to the slower start but it ramped up pretty quickly when I wasn’t expecting it. Then it never let go. As a reader, you journey with the main character through his own mental and emotional struggles but also into the world of science. I’m no science nerd but this book made me really interested in quantum physics and the capabilities of a multiverse. Anyway, before I start, nerding-out completely, let’s get a brief synopsis.

The book follows Jason Dessen, a professor at a local college, as he spends an evening with his wife, Daniela and son, Charlie. You feel the comfort between Jason and his wife immediately. They have a really great bond. Later, as Jason sits with his buddy whose just won a prestigious award at a local bar, he questions whether his life would be different if he’d moved forward with his scientific invention related to quantum physics. He wonders if he could have been an all-star like his friend. He brushes this off as a simple “what if” and begins his walk home. While on his way, he is ambushed by a masked man and his life changes forever from that point on. When he wakes, he is in a lab. The people are acting strangely and even though he doesn’t recognize any of them, they seem to know him quite well. This is the start of Jason Dessen’s journey back home to his wife and son.

The scientific appeal of this novel is sci-fi to the max. But the suspense is just as strong a motivating factor for the reader. You want Jason to win. To find his family. But then there’s an extreme twist that makes you go “what the…”. That’s when you know Crouch has pulled you deep into the rabbit hole.

Raging Book Reviews Highly Recommended

*This book was purchased with my own money. Purchase a copy with free shipping through my Book Depository affiliate link CLICK HERE

New Book Review: The Mothers

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4 of 5 stars

Brit Bennett wrote a breakout novel filled with heartbreak. She writes the story of Nadia Turner as a main character that has lost her mother and is in turn, always seeking out who she is in the shadow of her mother’s suicide. She questions why her mother would want to kill herself, wondering all the while whether it was Nadia who had made her mother hate her life by having a child too soon. Ironically, Nadia is faced with a similar situation at a young age and with the help of unlikely people, she makes a decision that will affect so many lives.

The story was a great, fast read when you get into the thick of her relationship with Luke, the preacher’s son and even more so with Nadia’s friendship with Aubrey. Aubrey is also damaged in her past by her own mother and she finds herself leaning on Nadia as her symbol of perfection and beauty. Her high hopes for Nadia are realized when she heads of to college in search of becoming a lawyer, travelling the world yet Aubrey doesn’t realize that Nadia is running from her past, her mother, herself.

The book is written from multiple perspectives throughout the book which I found particularly confusing in the beginning. There was not notation to let the reader know the narrator was switching from Nadia to Luke to the Mothers in the church. So many times, I’d read a few paragraphs completely lost until I got the gist of who’s point of view I was following. In the end, the book had really good conversation starters about women’s rights, youth rights, suicide, depression and so many other topics that I won’t say and spoil the story. Readers that value heartfelt, deep thought out drama will find this entertaining and a sure fire conversation starter. Great book club pick!

Raging Book Reviews Recommended

*Hardcover book was purchased with my own money. Use my affiliate link on Book Depository to get free shipping.

New Book Review: The Apartment

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2 of 5 stars

This novel took me entirely too long to finish. It was hard to identify with the characters and some of their decision making skills. Grey wrote a horror novel that had the attempt at being character driven yet the characters were not likable. The story is narrated through Steph and Mark’s point of view of the aftermath of a not so brutal home invasion that leaves the couple scared and paranoid. Then the couple finds a house swap site and take the first home in France that responds. Once they arrive at the house in France, they notice it is in a seemingly abandoned building. The apartment is in shambles and doesn’t look lived in. They stay due to their lack of funds. Mark had lost his job and they are pinching pennies. Weird things occur over their stay but nothing so gripping that a reader wouldn’t put the book down. There weren’t very many moments that tied me to the story, especially since Steph and Mark continually lie to each other which gets annoying. At some point, they need to have a meaningful conversation, yet that never happens. The end is lackluster. So meh and blah that you’re wondering if that was the payoff.

Raging Book Reviews Not Recommended

*book purchased with my own money (sadly)