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An Eye for an Eye by Caroline Fardig


4 Stars

While I’m not usually an avid reader of “intense” thrillers, there’s something wonderful about “accidental detective” stories, the tales of people who bring unique characteristics to a case. Fardig’s heroine, Ellie Matthews, is just such a person: she’s highly trained and highly skilled due to her work as a professor of forensic science, but she’s also just reluctant enough that we don’t have to sit through backstory involving their years on the force and the resulting drinking problem they’ve overcome.

Part of the fun of an accidental detective story is that they don’t have instant resources at their fingertips, not that those resources always help the police solve the case, either. But part of the fun of Fardig’s take on the grizzly murder of a young college student is that we also don’t have to sit through the usual “stay out of our case” mess that a lot of these stories rely on. (As if any detective in his right mind would walk past a seasoned forensic science teacher and refuse to speak to them, let alone pick their brains?)

Fardig’s novel is fun for the reasons I mentioned above, but only fell microscopically short for me for two reasons: first, there was a lot of narration that I felt kept me from getting really pulled into the story, and second (inexplicably, since there was so much narration!) I also never really felt like I knew the characters the way readers of book one in this series did. I was often lost for just a split second, and had to remind myself that I have not read the first Ellie Matthews novel.

I strongly recommend this book, but also highly encourage readers to start with book one!


REVIEW: Dead to Them by Smita Bhattacharya


I personally cannot stomach violent horror films, programs, or books. It’s not that I don’t want to love them, but much like falling off the high dive or taking that first massive plunge on the roller coaster, I don’t enjoy the feeling of watching through my fingers to see what will happen next. Depictions of violent demises are also just not for me, no matter how relevant or well-written they are.

I was pleasantly surprised by Bhattacharya’s psychological thriller, Dead To Them, because I got to enjoy the twists and turns without the bloodshed. This book was one non-stop trip through the interwoven lives of a woman who’s gone missing, and every single character could have had a reason for taking part in her disappearance, even as they had every reason to love her and worry about her.

But it begs the question: if so many people are this worried about Moira, WHO was the one who did her in?

This is a stellar example of a book that lets you think you know who did it, only to find out a chapter later that this character was the LAST person who would ever harm her. Or was he/she? What are we capable of when our comfortable, prosperous, solidly reputed lives are at stake?

The fact that this book happens to be set in India is incidental, although the author does a great job of bringing the readers into the culture and dynamics at play. Small references to “maybe she was raped and killed” as though this is a commonplace threat for women, as well as “I’ll call you a cab, it should be safe” serve as a poignant undercurrent of what life is really like for the very NON-fictional women in India, especially the ones who go missing.

Dead To Them is available now on Amazon.

REVIEW: Pride Must Be a Place by Kevin Craig


As the young people say, “Oh, all the feels…” (Wait, do the young people still say that?) This book was incredible. Besides the stellar writing and spot on, distinctive voices–which honestly, I have a right to expect from an author–the depth with which Craig paints this whole story is incredible.

Tackling one of the most iconic concepts in sexuality (namely, being open about your preferences or choosing to keep your sexuality to yourself out of a sense of self-preservation), Craig handles the topic in an engaging but still unheavy way. It’s astounding that someone can write about something as terrifying as living a lie to protect oneself with the finesse that the author uses.

Anyone with even a shred of compassion for their fellow human beings can identify with the struggles Ezra, Alex, Nettie, and even Will face. This book paints the picture that not all circumstances are black and white, and not all prejudices are what we might believe. As a veteran secondary school teacher with a soft spot for those who face unique battles, it warms my heart to know that I can point readers to this book.

To find out more, click here.

REVIEW: Prairie Fires by Caroline Fraser

5 Stars

This was a hard book to read, only because I absolutely adore all-things Laura Ingalls Wilder. I’m no scholar of her life and story, but that’s only because I devoured the books (both as a child and again as an adult). I did watch the biography that was made of her life a few years ago, and it hurt to see some of the truths behind her pleasant, insightful adventure stories.

This book rips the veil and exposes the truth, one that perhaps Wilder herself never meant to share. However, it’s important in 2018 that we know and understand what was really at work in life the of a frontier-girl and her family.

This is admittedly a different age. When Wilder’s works were first published, the frontier was romanticized and the displacement of an entire race of people–and the subsets of their different tribes–really wasn’t given much thought. Now we know what horrors were inflicted and the role that whites and their government played in their demise. To see the frontier life as anything other than the rape of a culture and the destruction of an entire people–even if it’s seen through the eyes of an innocent child–is a disservice to both society and history.

Reading this important work was for me much like reading Harper Lee’s original work. Go Set a Watchman was the book that her editors and publisher thought shouldn’t have been published, and I’ve yet to finish it since I’m such a die-hard fan of To Kill a Mockingbird. In the same way, reading Prairie Fires will tell you much of the story that you never wanted to know, the real truth behind Pa and Ma and their happy trek across uncharted territory.

But it’s important to know the truth. The book was filled with insight and a deeper understanding of both Wilder and her family, as well as a better knowledge of life in that era. The “glossed over” tales like almost starving to death in the winter and being attacked by a host woman with cabin fever make more sense now than they did in her books; discovering that she never wanted to be a teacher but made that sacrifice because it was ripped away from her sister made me love Wilder even more.

This book only adds another layer to the story, but it’s not for the romantic or the faint of heart. This book is only for those readers who truly want to know what the frontier really held for some members of our society.

REVIEW: The Siren Chronicles Book 1

5 Stars

Of all the supernatural main characters in any great YA series, mermaids are the best. They’re playful…or they’re not. They’re splashy…or they’re not. They sun themselves on rocks while they wait for Prince Eric to come around…or not. It all depends on the author, doesn’t it?

Douglas Sloan’s mermaids aren’t the “sun on the rock in the shell bra” variety of mermaids. Instead, they’re embroiled in a battle against evil forces, one that turns dark and deadly from the very first page. When a human scientist finds a mermaid washed ashore for the first time, it begins a world of discovery for  both of them. The Earthquest aspect to the storyline is fun and intriguing without all the preachy “look what you humans have done to my beautiful ocean” tropes of other mermaid tales.

Over all, it’s a dark but fun read, and as this is book one, the author seems poised to continue the saga. I can’t wait to see how it plays out!

REVIEW: Still I Rise – The Persistence of Phenomenal Women

5 Stars

For the record, I hate that I have to review this. WHY in 2017 do I still have to seek out and devour books about incredible women? We were supposed to have jet packs and flying cars and a cure for cancer by now, but instead, we’re going backwards into the Dark Ages of gender inequality every single day. My two daughters never had to be given books like “Important Women Who Achieved Great Things” to build them up, but here we are.

But now that this is our reality, I’m so glad this book is here. Every time someone uses “she persisted,” it’s another reminder that an old, rich, white A-hole tried to shut up an intelligent woman…and society whispered, “No.”

In Still I Rise, though, the author not only profiled women who were phenomenal but maybe not always household names, she weaves the tale of their own rising into the story. The focus isn’t just on greatness and achievements; in fact, it’s actually more about really awesome women who overcame a crap-pile that most people would have just drowned in.

At times, it felt like I was whispering behind my hands with the author, dishing on these women’s dirty laundry, but that feeling quickly went away when I remembered that these women owned their stories and–while maybe proud is the wrong word–they certainly weren’t ashamed. They’d risen, after all.

REVIEW: Musings of an Earth Angel by Suzanne Adams

Four Stars

It’s so tempting to dismiss a book with a self-righteous sneer and a couple of stars, but that’s not the job of a reviewer. When you take on the task of launching a book-centric blog and you agree to read books that others have recommended, you move on from just being a consumer who purchased and read a book, instead becoming someone who has to think of readers other than herself.

In this case, I would love to dismiss Musings of an Earth Angel as nothing more than a lot of New Age hokeydom with a pinch of Harry Potter or Mortal Instruments thrown in. But that wouldn’t be fair to the author, to the story, or to the process of book reviewing. So therefore, I’m able to acknowledge a few things about the book:

  1. No, it wasn’t my cup of tea, but the writing was solid and the storytelling was able to build in such a way that it held my interest.
  2. Yes, the topic of healing crystals and celestial visitors and empathic spiritual mentors makes me roll my eyes…but don’t other people do that to me when I bring up my religious faith? If the healing crystal and meditative mantra fit, honey, you own them…single-minded book reviewers be damned!
  3. There is action, self-reflection, and a definite path for the main character to take. If this type of fiction sounds interesting to you, I am certain you will enjoy the book.

REVIEW: The Atheist and the Parrotfish by Richard Barager

4 Stars

This has got to be one of the most interesting (and potentially “what if”) premises I’ve read in a long time. What makes it even more enticing is the fact that it’s something we all should have wondered about: does a transplant patient take on more of the organ donor’s life than just the functioning body part? Is there a spiritual connection, or something happening at the cellular level that speaks to another level of life?

Of course, Barager’s highly-complex main character grapples with other issues. His atheism is almost an angry part of him. This isn’t a comfortably aware person at peace with his steadfast belief in the pattern of life. This is someone–face it, the stereotypical atheist from the headlines rather than the peace-filled but scientific mind–who feels rage in the presence of believers, jealous that they credit God with Dr. Cullen Brodie managed to do himself: save a life.

The author also briefly explores an undercurrent of the premise that most people probably don’t imagine: is the recipient of the donation “worthy?” Yes, there are committees to decide a patient’s best chances for long-term survival, and no one wants to think that their organs were donated to a serial killer. But the aging cross-dresser (who’s only recently admitted to himself who he really is) isn’t necessarily the best candidate for the organs, not because his chances of survival are minimal, but because…is this really the best we could do with a heart and two kidneys?

Woven throughout is a highly complicated and melancholy reconnection with an old love interest, one that is designed to rip at the threads that keep Cullen’s heart and mind locked inside a fortress of disbelief.  Spiraling the book even more is the fact that the recipient of the organs, already unstable and unsure of himself, is convinced that he has become part of the female donor, that her life is now intertwined with his.

It was a very interesting read, with the only drawback being the long, sometimes winding writing style the author uses for sentence structure. Some sentences required reading once or twice to get their full meaning, but after several chapters the style felt a lot more familiar.

Available now on Amazon: click here.

REVIEW: So Let It Be Written by Mark Eglinton

4 Stars

When I read a book and have a solid sense of how I felt about it, I still enjoy reading others’ reviews to see where I’m in line with their views and where I feel like they fall short. In the case of the biography of Metallica’s James Hetfield, I had my own definite feelings about both the artist and the book, but differed from a lot of reviewers.

A quick glance through the one- and two-star categories on Amazon will tell a very different picture than the book provided for me. I felt like I was getting solid background information, much of it gleaned from interviews the author conducted, and a good overview of both Hetfield and the band as a whole.

I can see where other readers may have been disappointed, though. This isn’t an in-depth tell-all that contains never before seen information on Hetfield. Instead, it’s a nice, definitive source of information packaged into one volume. The early days of his musical career, his critical successes and failures, his friendships and relationships… those are the kinds of details that are touched on rather than dissected under a microscope. For die-hard fans of the band who know the musicians’ names, birth dates, childhood pets’ names, middle school talent show performances, and more, this won’t be any kind of revelation.

Still, fans of the band or their genre as a whole will enjoy this short read.

REVIEW: Cloud Messenger by Karen Trollope-Kumar


I’m a sucker for travelogue stories about individuals going off to exotic locations with the best of intentions, only to become the student upon their arrival. That was certainly the feeling I got from Trollope-Kumar’s first person experience in Cloud Messenger.

As a Canadian medical student, Karen Trollope-Kumar went to India to study social and preventive medicine and met a young pediatrician named Pradeep. His dream of working in the Himalayan foothills captured her imagination, and the man captured her heart. They married in a Hindu wedding ceremony and pledged to share a life of service and spiritual growth.

In this poignant, heartwarming, and gently humorous memoir, Karen recounts an eleven-year chapter of their unusual lives. She and Pradeep worked as medical doctors in the Himalayas, first in a rural hospital and later in remote mountain villages. When disaster struck — an assassination, an earthquake, a political crisis — their ideals, their safety, and their relationship are put at risk.

The story is insightful and the writing is detailed, but more importantly, there’s never a sense of the “white savior” who’s come to the region to make the ignorant peasants learn the “right” way of caring for themselves. I felt the author’s reasons and actions were realistic, believable, and more importantly, well-intentioned. It was a delightful, enjoyable, but instructional read.

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