Book Reviews

Book Review: The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

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The Family UpstairsThe Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell was one of my favorites so far this year. I’ve read several of her other books, and for me, this one is the best yet. I devoured the book in two chunks, one larger read in the afternoon and the other shortly before bed. I couldn’t fall asleep for at least an hour as my mind continued to process everything that had happened in the complicated and messy (in a good way) tale.

There are 3 main voices in the novel: Lucy, a runaway/homeless mother of two; Henry, the son of a former rich couple who fell for a scam; and Libby, a 25-year-old girl who inherits a house from the biological parents who committed suicide nearly a year after she was born. As the stories unravel, we begin to understand some of the connections between the three protagonists; however, in true Jewell fashion, what you know is not quite what you know. The lines are blurry, the connections are misleading, and the identities often change. If you just look at the shell of this book, Libby is a sweet and wonderful girl in search of the truth, Henry is quirky and possibly a little crazy, and Lucy is either truly down on her luck or causes her own pain time and time again.

That’s only the beginning. Lucy acts the way she does because of what happened to her as a child. We don’t know all the details, but it’s easy to judge her in the beginning. While I still think she should’ve been partially punished for some of her actions, all-in-all, she definitely suffered more than any human should. Libby is 100% faultless… and she’s the kind of girl I’d like to be friends with (before or after the money, in case you were wondering!). Henry… well… that’s complicated. Sometimes, he seems very attractive. Others, I think he might try to kill people because his brain is just a little different than the rest of ours. Was he a victim of his circumstances? Was he properly punished? Do we truly know the whole story, or only the parts he wanted to share with us?

This was the kind of book that leaves you puzzled in a good way. There is a lot left to a reader to decide. Jewell has written a defined ending, and we know what happens to everyone, but… there’s some doubt as to which version of the truth we want to believe. The relationships between Phineas, Lucy, Henry, Finn’s sister, the various moms and dads living in their lives, and the people they meet along the way are dark and deceptive. It’s a perfectly complex family drama that really hit the sweet spot for me.

Of course, there were a few areas I wasn’t 100% thrilled with, e.g. where did Julian go? why did Henry Sr. have so many strokes? how did no one discover the murders going on? I can suspend that bit of disbelief, but overall, it was inconsequential to the whole of the story for me. The writing style and tone are superb, thus I can only trim away a partial star. 4.5 from me… and I’ll definitely be reading more of the author’s novels in the future.

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

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Book Review: Thirsty for Water by N. N. Light

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Thirsty for WaterThirsty for Water by N.N. Light
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thirsty for Water is a short story by N. N. Light that was published in 2014. I’ve read other non-fiction books by the author, but this was my first fiction piece. It will not be my last. From the beginning, the story captivates your heart. Juliet is in class, disinterested in hearing about a village in Africa, yet her teacher groans on about it. While trying to ignore everything, Juliet is stunned when a 7-year-old boy appears on her desk. He’s tiny, almost magical, and wants to know why she doesn’t care about his village. It’s time for the heartstrings to be pulled… as in this tale, Juliet learns why it’s so important to help others who are in trouble and need your support.

N. N. Light achieves a lot in this quick read. Without being pushy or direct, the author shows readers how they can help when so many people around us are in need. Juliet is your stereotypical teenager (not everyone is like her, but we definitely know the type) yet she grows on you with each line. Learning a valuable lesson is an important part of life, and I’m glad there are stories like this one to help make it even easier. I do enjoy Light’s writing style — simple, effective, descriptive, personal. Kudos for a well-written and memorable story.

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Coco’s Nuts by Tyler Colins

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Coco's Nuts (Triple Threat Mysteries Book 3)Coco’s Nuts by Tyler Colins
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Coco’s Nuts is the third book in the ‘Triple Threat Mysteries’ series written by Tyler Colins. I previously read the first two books in the series and noticed the author has signed on with a new publisher, updated the covers, and launched two more books in the series. It’s time to catch up before I fall behind, as these are full of witty characters, memorable stories, and tons of wonderful descriptions. Let’s chat about Coco’s Nuts and the random body parts we find with tattoos on them…

First off, the title and the cover. Can you get any more eye-catching? Are they bombs? Is the author playing with the word coconut? Is it about eating fruits and nuts, being crazy nuts, or leaning toward that all-too-familiar and funny euphemism? Before reading the book, I didn’t know… after reading it, I can say with hilarity, it’s all three! I love when an author can be both serious and amusing in his/her books. Tyler Colins has a great balance of delivering snappy dialog and natural conversation. At times, there are breaks in conversation and questions being ignored (to be later responded to), matching how people really engage with one another. I like the reality of this world.

It takes place in Hawaii, and let me tell you… Colins knows how to visually create a scene. Between the descriptions in the narrative and the add-ons when someone is speaking or physically doing something in a scene, you kinda feel transported to this fictional place. I like that immersive feeling, and it’s not always included in these genres of books. Often a mystery is entirely about the mystery, but Colins ensures there is just as much ambiance and background to make you feel part of the story.

Of the three private eyes, we tend to follow JJ the most. In this caper, she’s much stronger and more pushy than the last two. The girl knows how to solve a crime, even if the client only hired the agency to prove she wasn’t guilty of murder. The ladies know that in order to do that, they need to find the guilty party. And it isn’t easy! There are a few victims and a couple of different killers / lawbreakers in this edition. Buddy, the beautiful female truck driver who’s accused of murder, isn’t all we think she is, which makes the plot even murkier and layered. I like those types of stories, as you never know what you’re getting yourself into. In this one, each chapter unfolds like a clue… we think we have a lead only to find out it opens up another murder or subplot. Then, they all come back together. You have to really keep yourself focused to know who stole Coco’s Nuts!

Kudos to Colins for another splendid entry in the Triple Threat investigations. I look forward to getting to know our main characters even more, as Colins continues to drop details left and right, but we always wonder what they’re doing when they’re not present in the chapter. I suspect there is something big coming in the next book, which I’ll be reading next month. Thanks for the opportunity to get lost in another good book, Ms. Colins… 4.5 stars for this caper.

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Tempted by Mr. Wrong by Jacquie Biggar

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Tempted by Mr. WrongTempted by Mr. Wrong by Jacquie Biggar
Tempted by Mr. Wrong, a novel published in 2017 by Jacquie Biggar, is the first romantic suspense book I’ve read in a very long time. I previously read another novel in a different genre by this author but wanted to sample something at opposite end of the spectrum [of a normal read for me] this week. I love suspense but the romance stuff is fairly new to me. In the end, it was quite a winner. Let’s dive into the review…

Tammy-Jo, better known as TJ, has a bad track record with men. She had a bit of an illicit affair with a stepbrother, Jason, in her late teens (parents had only just married) but her father chased him away, causing a family drama that wouldn’t end for years. TJ married another guy to help out her father, as they went into business together… but what type of business was it exactly? We don’t know in the beginning, yet something seems foul as the husband ends up dead. We know it’s bad when TJ looks guilty and someone attacks her to collect missing evidence. As Jason helps protect his stepsister, almost ruin his own career, and stops her father from interfering again, he realizes he still loves her. But how does she feel about the man who hurt her all those years ago?

From the get go, readers know this isn’t just a sappy love story; no offense intended to readers who want that… I only mean… this has a whole lot more going on. Murder. Stalking. Revenge. Power struggles. All the typical suspense and mystery elements which kept me highly intrigued. TJ is a complex woman. At first, she seemed spoiled, but as you got to know her, she was heartbroken. Her father is controlling. Her stepmother is developing dementia or Alzheimer’s. Her husband was a jerk. Jason is all she has left, and it’s been a decade since she saw him. Right there… the hook to want her to win. I fell, and I think most readers will too. She’s multifaceted and grows on you quickly.

Biggar developed the suspense quite well. I was all set to cast the villain, and in the end, it’s more open-ended until a final decision is made. Who exactly started all the trouble years ago? It may not be what you think it is… and that’s why I really enjoyed this book. It had so much of what I usually love to see in my reads, plus some extra. There’s one lengthy and detailed romance scene between two characters, which of course is super sexy and physical and all that fun stuff. Sometimes I closed one eye and skimmed (to kinda get the picture) and others I invested in the details. I think I feel like a voyeur when I read those scenes, so I revert back to a 15-year-old boy and giggle. But that’s just me, as I can definitely say they are written very well. There was heat, lust, attraction, and intimacy — all in a good way!

The dramatic opening scene really sets the tone, and from there, it keeps you glued to the pages. I think I devoured it in about 2 hours one afternoon. Having finished two novels by this author, I can safely say she crafts a superb story, writes with easy yet intelligent fluidity, and knows how to capture her audience. I’ll definitely be reading more from her, and perhaps I’ll learn to love the love scenes one day too! 🙂

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Winter’s Mourning by Janice J. Richardson

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Winter’s Mourning  (Spencer Funeral Home Niagara Cozy Mystery, #2)Winter’s Mourning by Janice J. Richardson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Spencer Funeral Home Niagara Cozy Mystery series is a warm, comforting, and multi-dimensional set of books. Although I’ve only read two of the four, I know it’s one of those that will remain in your head for a long time. Janice Richardson’s second book, Winter’s Mourning, is the latest read in my queue, and I highly recommend it for a variety of fans. Whether you like a light mystery, a cozy set of consistent characters, or the ability to learn about a job you’ll probably never have… this is something to take a chance on.

Jennifer is your typical girl next door, except she runs a funeral home. Well… now two of them because her competition is retiring and has extended an offer Jennifer can’t refuse. Thankfully, she’s made a few good hires (inherited a couple of bad ones too), and together, they can get both places ready to operate smoothly. Both fell into her lap unexpectedly, but the fun and pain that ensue have been a wonderful focal point for us readers. The story continues from the first book, so you probably should read them in order to get the most benefit. In this one, there are multiple ties to everything we learned in the previous tale, so be prepared for some suspense, shock, and good old-fashioned heartwarming and heartbreaking emotions.

While not a classic whodunit or major suspense series, this is the kind of book that should appeal to a wide audience. Readers get to know how a funeral home operates, share their emotions with characters who grieve and laugh during services (mistakes sometimes do happen!), and worry when a villain tries to remove Jennifer from the picture. Seeing how Jennifer reacts, along with her newfound friendships with the cops and local businesses, brings a smile to my face. It’s the kind of book where you just lose yourself, uncaring in which direction it goes, because you love the characters so much.

I find myself rooting for Jennifer no matter the situation but I also want to throttle her a few times when she pushes herself too much to help others. Few people are like her in real life, but I happen to know some generous, caring souls. We all need someone like Jennifer in our lives… and part of me wonder how much she’s based on the real life author, Janice Richardson. Although I don’t know her personally, we’ve shared a comment or two when reviewing similar books, and I get the impression she’s just as great. You won’t know until you check the books out, so give them a chance. It’s a perfect afternoon to relax and read, knowing all along, you’ll end up even happier… now I need to get my hands on book number three!

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Magnetic Reverie by Nico J. Genes

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Magnetic Reverie (The reverie, #1)Magnetic Reverie by Nico J. Genes
Let’s start this review by discussing the title: Magnetic Reverie. For me, it conjures images of elated happiness and strong, instantaneous attraction. In the first book of a new series by author Nico J. Genes, we find a woman torn between the love she has for her husband and the attraction she has to a woman she met in an airport and continued to dream about. Only… as time and the chapters pass by… we no longer know for sure which of these two relationships is the dream and which is reality.

Genes creates a torrid conflict in the first few chapters. Lana is leaving her country (Slovenia) to get married. Was it arranged or did she fall in love? She’s at the airport when a beautiful woman flirts with her for hours. It ends, and then readers are transported to Washington DC were Lana and Greg are happy but something is missing. Alternating chapters for a while, we learn that Lana has some amnesia and cannot remember her relationship with Claire. The story continues like this for a while, absorbing readers and sharing a tale of two different loves. It seems at first that this is a case of amnesia or dream states, but savvy readers will pick up on a few clues that tell you otherwise… and I’m not giving away any spoilers here, as the truth is a lot more complicated.

I enjoyed this story a lot. At first, I thought… it’s a bit like fantasy where I am lost in terms of what boundaries exist in this non-existent world. Genes clarifies several key ones, enough so I could focus on the dynamic and complex relationships. It suddenly became more about a woman in love with two different people, and how would she choose which one to commit her future to. When Lana finds out she’s pregnant, a whole new element of pain, love, confusion, shock, and intrigue develops. Genes keeps you guessing but mostly forces you to debate which love is stronger. For me, despite my concern over what was happening with the memory loss, I wanted Lana to be with Claire. There was an edge and strength in their relationship, where with Greg, it was solid, dependable, and comforting — that’s a great thing, but it was missing a tiny bit of spark which made me root more for Claire.

When the book ends, I found myself wondering — what’s next? There are answers but there are also questions. A choice is made, but a situation is still open. Will we ever learn what happens with the dreams versus reality? A curious book series, and one I look forward to continuing to read…

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Check out a post I shared last month about this book!

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: No More Mulberries by Mary Smith

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No More MulberriesNo More Mulberries by Mary Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

No More Mulberries is an international contemporary drama written by Mary Smith and published in 2009. The story focuses on Miriam, a Scottish midwife, who has married two men from Afghanistan during her lifetime. The tale unfolds by jumping time frames across different chapters to share the reasons why Miriam’s life has become what it is today. At times, her days have been heartbreaking, and at others, they have been an admirable source of strength. I chose this book because I’d seen many positive reviews and it fit the parameters for my month of international and/or autobiographical reads. Let’s chat more about this complex and wonderful story…

Miriam had a wonderful husband and life, but he passed away. She had a young son to raise in Afghanistan during a difficult period in the country’s history, especially for a red-haired Scottish woman with strong beliefs about how things should be. Knowledgeable in medicine, she won over some of the village, yet she always knew she was viewed differently. Then, she remarried and had another child with the second husband. At first, they had a strong love. Although she’d converted to Muslim, her husband, Iqbal was careful to find a balance between his beliefs and her beliefs. While he could be strict, he was by no means radical or excessively controlling of his wife. As tension rises between them, Miriam revisits her past to understand why her first husband died. Through the process, her eyes are opened about her own blame in the new marriage as well as as what truly happened to her first beloved.

The story is rich with a supporting cast who provide laughter, love, fear, and pain. Smith eloquently shares a culture and a lifestyle with her audience, some who may know little about the Muslim faith or Afghani culture. While I’ve read a few other books focusing on this part of the world, they tended to stick to the religious aspects of the Middle East rather than the social aspects. I was glad to experience a different side of the life through this story and the author’s wonderful ability to showcase both the good and the bad.

Questions of parenting, forgiveness, pain, tolerance, and curiosity quickly enter a reader’s mind. What will become of someone who defies her husband? Who will stand by you when you have no one else to trust? How do you ensure the village listens to your advice on bearing a child when the culture dictates the complete opposite solution? This novel helped me understand a different mindset, and while it wasn’t necessarily one I agree with or support, I found a balance of alternative ideas and options to push me to think more critically. It’s a great experience, and one we should all have when reading a book about something different than our own knowledge.

A great find, and something that would be a benefit for all readers with an open mind, a curiosity about life outside their own culture, and a small glimpse into the world that many know from the outside but little know from the inside.

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.