Book Review: General Fiction

Book Review: The Seasiders by A. J. Griffiths-Jones

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The SeasidersThe Seasiders by A.J. Griffiths-Jones

The Seasiders is a light mystery novel written by A. J. Griffiths-Jones in 2016 and published by Creativia, the same press where I’m published. I like to sample different authors’ books throughout the year to see what everyone’s styles are like. I always end up enjoying the books and this was no exception.

At first, the story is very simple. A husband and wife, Dick and Grace, own and operate a small b&b in the UK. Grace’s family originally ran the place, but once they retired the business transferred to their daughter. Dick does very little to help out. He does his best to build the foundation for an outdoor patio, but he breaks the cement all the time. He can’t use the booking system, and he is possibly afraid of the washing machine. Grace loves him, but part of her wants an escape. We meet a few of their guests and neighbors all the while knowing something weird is going on, just never quite certain what it is. By the end, the truth comes out in quite a twist and we are left wondering what really happened along the way. I’m being purposely vague so readers won’t feel any spoils nor try to guess for themselves. It’s a very different kind of mystery book, but still a good one to experience.

Griffiths-Jones relies on typical encounters between a husband and wife, neighbors, and guests at a hotel to tell this story. Through preparing a meal, checking in/out, running errands, or overhearing conversations, the plot unfolds and thickens. A guest goes missing. Money has been stolen. Police are investigating but they won’t say for what. It’s in the hidden details that readers must find the actual events that have occurred. It’s a careful and deliberate writing style to balance facts and missing facts. When a writer can do this and achieve a wonderful ending, it’s a sign of talent.

On the shorter side, probably more of a novella, it’s easy to digest in a couple of hours. Grab a cup of tea, perhaps a tasty snack, and sit by a fire this winter. Immerse yourself in each new character and try to figure out the connection to the plot. Sometimes it’s clear, others it’s not until the end. The author drops several red herrings, but there’s also a few solid clues you might miss. I enjoyed the descriptions as it painted a mostly clear picture of the setting, scenery and characters, but left enough for me to fill in the blanks as I saw fit in my connections to the book. That’s always my favorite style — not too detailed, but not too vague.

A lovely story, a few surprises, a good afternoon read to get familiar with the author’s styles and talents. I’m definitely glad I took this one and look forward to checking out her other books in the upcoming year.

Check out the author’s blog

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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. The debut book, Academic Curveball, in my new mystery series, Braxton Campus Mysteries will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. I read, write, and blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge –and multiple Readathons. 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: Sea Cliff by Mary Deal

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Sea CliffSea Cliff by Mary Deal

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sea Cliff is a very appropriate title for this book. Not only is Mary Deal’s story about a beautiful area in San Francisco named Sea Cliff, but it’s also the way to describe the main character’s emotions as she struggled with overcoming a haunting past and accepting love for a promising future. I’ve read many of Deal’s books before, and even though I don’t usually read in the love / romance genre, I read this one because the author is just that good of a writer. It did not disappoint on any level.

Main character, Rachael, is an author who finds inspiration in Matthew, a handsome guy she meets in a park. At first, she’s hesitant because he’s too forward and overly interested. She suspects ulterior motives, but pushes herself to extend her boundaries. She’s been emotionally and physically abused in the past which has left her unable to trust others. She lost both her parents, has a difficult relationship with her brother, and isn’t able to keep friendships all because of this pain. But life’s not all bad… she’s published two books, she’s inherited some money and a house, and she is starting to open up. As the story progresses, she lets Matthew in but not consistently enough resulting in several moments and interactions that leave them both uncertain of their future. After an emotional and turbulent event changes the course of their relationship for a few months, readers are never certain how it all might end up.

I daresay this isn’t a typical romance novel. While there are definitely large chapters and chunks of the book focused on the growing romance and subsequent roadblocks, it’s more a study in the life of a woman over the course of about 18 months as she goes through many changes to accept herself. There are several romantic scenes, but it’s not a huge piece of the action. It’s more of an emotional and psychological tale where we see the ebbs and flows of Rachael’s ability to open up. As she meets new characters and takes on bigger roles in her career, we see confidence and pain emerge. She struggling, and we root for her, which makes the story easy to read.

Deal is a very talented writer who can evoke emotion from her readers. I don’t want to give away too much more, but there’s a climactic event that truly tests Rachael (and Matthew) where as readers, we can’t decide what to feel or think… and we want to grab hold of someone and shake them for what they’ve done… but ultimately, we might be misunderstanding what’s really going on. There’s a little bit of suspense, a hint of ‘coming of age’ although Rachael’s already a fully grown adult, and a gripping saga about how to move on from damages. Deal pushes readers to explore how they’d react in some tough situations, then provides a calm relief where things seem to be okay. Only they’re not… and it takes a lot more to overcome something we didn’t realize was so powerful in the past.

Although I’m still not sure romance books are a go-to genre for me, Deal’s writing and style makes this a much more genre-crossing story for me that I’d be open to sampling a few others who tread the water in this realm. I’m thrilled with this book and the fact that I devoured it on a 3-hour train ride should show how true it is. I never wanted to put it down nor did I get bored of any plot or setting which I’d been worried about purely because of it being a non-norm genre for me. I should’ve known better… the genre might spook me a bit, but the author consistently delivers no matter what she writes. If you’re read her work before, but don’t read in this genre, it’s got props and strength – very worth the read. If you love romance and like a little extra, give this one a shot. It’s full of depth and hope, sorrow and worry… but the ups and downs the characters go thru are worth it. Solid read… definitely recommended.

View all my reviews

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. The debut book, Academic Curveball, in my new mystery series, Braxton Campus Mysteries will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. I read, write, and blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge –and multiple Readathons. 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: The Church Murders by Lisa Reynolds

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The Church Murders (Rory Murphy Mysteries #1)The Church Murders by Lisa Reynolds

If you’ve every perused the list of books I’ve read, you’ll quickly notice I tend to read A LOT in certain genres, but I also have very broad ranges and try to sample from them all. When I came across The Church Murders, the first book in the Rory Murphy Mysteries, by Lisa Reynolds, it sounded like a unique story. I know the blogger from reading and reviewing similar books, so I decided to purchase this one on Amazon earlier this month. When I realized it’s only ~60 pages and a short intro to the larger story, I slid it into a very busy October reading schedule and completed it yesterday.

To start with, for the plot and setting alone, I would recommend the book. As the author’s first book in the series, she’s working through a few approaches to get them set where she wants them (I’ve been there before!) and I appreciate all the effort going into making her voice and style perfect. Our leading sleuth, newly thrust into the role, is a disabled young gay man living in Ireland and then England (I believe). We learn a little of his backstory which essentially consists of an accident that left him in a wheelchair and feeling as if he’ll never find love. Out at a pub, Rory and his friends discuss a recent murder that occurred in a church. Rory was secretly in love with his caretaker turned friend, but the guy has a boyfriend already. Fast-forward a few weeks/months, Rory’s met someone and is finally relaxing a bit except a few more murders have occurred. He’s compelled to investigate them and works with his friends only to discover the killer might be one of them.

So… given this is a short novella intro, I don’t want to spoil much more of the plot. It combines elements of religion, sex, revenge, doubt, and love. What I saw in this book is the potential for a really strong series surrounding Rory and his friends. It’s one of the few where I’ve found a leading gay man, a leading disabled man, and a no-holds-back approach to discussing religion in a mystery book. I really liked these aspects and look forward to sampling more from the author. Given how short the first one is, I can easily say it was fully packed with twists and turns. If the author expands into longer novels from here, I think it will work out really well. This was a good story, but it definitely leaves you wanting more drawn-out action… so I’ll be picking up the next one in the series in the upcoming months to see how things progress!

If you want to check out more on the author and her blog which always has great posts, reviews, and other fun things… find her on Facebook and WordPress through these links. Thanks for sharing these characters with us, Lisa. I look forward to more soon.

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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. The debut book, Academic Curveball, in my new mystery series, Braxton Campus Mysteries will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. I read, write, and blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge –and multiple Readathons. 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: Missing – The Lady Said No by Jacquie Biggar

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Missing: The Lady Said NoMissing: The Lady Said No by Jacquie Biggar

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I stumbled across author Jacquie Biggar via her WordPress blog and/or Twitter account and learned she had published a lot of books. I perused the list and chose this one based on my normal reading preferences leaning toward mystery and historical fiction. In this novel, part of a series or collection of books, we focus on foul play leading up to a 1950s Kentucky Derby event. I get to combine two of my favorite genres — how fun!

August Grant (Gus) is the detective who’s called to a plantation home when the owner is found dead. It appears as if the man shot himself, and his wife is beside herself. She’s also in the arms of the local sheriff. The two policemen face off over whether it was murder or suicide. Gus soon meets a staff member at the plantation and has an intimate connection to her in the past. He also learns a secret about the end of their relationship that could change the future. As he pokes around, something’s also amiss with the upcoming horse race and everyone is more jumpy or angry than ever. Gus keeps pushing until he learns all the information he needs to find the killer and fix a wrong in his own past.

The story is on the shorter side but makes for a great introduction to the author’s writing style and perhaps the series if you enjoy the characters. Biggar is descriptive but also very focused on the plot, which is always important to me. I enjoyed the layers of this one as it kept growing more and more complex as the pages flipped by. It’s an easy read, less than 2 hours if you’re focused, given how she draws you into the plight of a few characters and the actual mystery. Although it takes place in the 1950s, there isn’t a lot of detail about the time frame which can be both helpful and not helpful. If you’re looking for a deep southern connection from the past, it’s on the lighter side, but it also makes for a good foray into the exploration of life at that time. The details that tell you the time frame are hidden in the decor, word choice, and character actions. No computers, no cell phones, no automated way to track a killer. Just good old fashioned common sense and questioning. I like it!

I look forward to reading more from the author’s vast publications… perhaps pushing my boundaries on some genres and reading in a new one. Kudos to the author for creating a wonderful book with lots of potential to tempt and tease readers on all she’s capable of. She’s a USA Today Best-Selling author. See her website site.

View all my reviews

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. The debut book, Academic Curveball, in my new mystery series, Braxton Campus Mysteries will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. I read, write, and blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge –and multiple Readathons. 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: An Exaltation of Larks by Suanne Laqueur

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An Exaltation of Larks (Venery, #1)An Exaltation of Larks by Suanne Laqueur

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Under normal circumstances, it’s easy for me to write a review directly after I’ve read a novel. Occasionally, the book is so strong, I need time to think about what I want to say. I only finished Exaltation of Larks, the first in the Venery series by Suanne Laqueur, last night but feel compelled to get some of my thoughts down before I have so many, I can’t organize a review. This book was recommended to me by a very generous blogger who wrote a stellar review of one of my books. Given how much she thought I’d like Laqueur’s work, I accepted the recommendation and got a copy of the book to read. I allotted it as an October read, slightly nervous that it was ~550 pages and I’ve been focusing on other genres lately. After 30 minutes in, I couldn’t stop reading it… and that’s just how it kept on going until I devoured the entire tome in 2 1/2 days.

Do not be fearful of the page count, or that it’s only the first in a series. I haven’t read the others (definitely will this year) but even if you only stopped at the first one, it would be the kind of read you always remember. It goes extremely quickly… I’m a quick reader but I was flipping pages so fast and connecting with the story on a different plane than normal. I’d read 25% before bed the first night and still wanted to keep going despite how late it’d gotten. I finished 50% the next day and then the final 25% before bed last night.

The book was written in a way that I couldn’t help but feel part of it. Between physical and emotional attraction to the main characters, a thirst for something ravenous to happen, a moment or two of crying in pain, and a recognition of things I have and might be missing in my own life, this book kept pushing me to want to climb inside the spine and become one with it. Those are some powerful words, images, and thoughts, but Alex, Val, and Jav are truly the kind of characters I navigate toward. Throw in a dysfunctional set of families, cliffhangers, over-coincidences (which ultimately I love), and a statement about the value of life, I am in awe of Laqueur’s plot and character development to the umpteenth degree.

I’m sure I’ll come back to write more… you don’t need me to describe the plot, just read the summary and you’ll get it. If you’re comfortable with LGBTQ stories, somewhat occasional graphic descriptions of intimacy, and language with multi-cultural references and speech, you will love this book. I bring these things up not as a warning, but as the primary reason this book was so phenomenal. It opens your mind to understanding physical attraction, chemistry, longing, and fear of taking an alternative step in life. It’s about deciding who you are and who you want to be versus what people think you should be or where you’re initially born.

I’m sure there will be more to come in the future, but this is what I’ve got left emotionally to say… just go read it.

View all my reviews

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. The debut book, Academic Curveball, in my new mystery series, Braxton Campus Mysteries will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. I read, write, and blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge –and multiple Readathons. 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: My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman

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I am usually good at knowing my ability to read a book in a genre other than ones I normally read. I’m not much of a fantasy or science-fiction guy. I loved Harry Potter, The Time Machine, Lord of the Rings, and Thursday Next, but when there’s a lot of room for wiggle in the structure, I’m less inclined to like it. It could be an amazing book, but it just doesn’t work for me as I question the boundaries and the influx of species I don’t understand. I never expected to find that in a Fredrik Backman novel… I read four of his others and just went on a splurge to order copies of everything he’d written. When I perused the description for My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, I went “uh oh” but continued on. About ten percent in, I knew I was going to struggle.

It’s not a fantasy book, but at least 50% of the story is based on metaphors and allegories where Backman tells us about the relationships of a kooky cast of characters who share residence in a large building full of apartments. Elsa is the 7-turning-8-year-old main character who’s been given a series of notes from her recently deceased and supposedly crazy grandmother. Through Elsa’s eyes, and her grandmother’s imagination, we learn some history and some current happenings that tie everything together. Her grandmother created a fantasy world of people and places to help teach Elsa a different way of looking at the world both near and afar.

In many aspects, the story is hilarious and adorable. When it sticks to real-life situations, I laugh and cry. When it tries to show the theory of how people relate to one another thru made-up places and monsters, I’m lost. It’s a bit of an immediate thing…. I hear/see the words about another creature or planet, and something sinks inside me. In movies, I love it. But in books, I usually do not. I also struggled at times because of the simplicity in some of the writing. While Elsa’s vocabulary is quite skillful, and her ways of dealing with people are more mature than most adults I know, the short and terse structure at times overwhelmed the plot for me.

So… my lesson is to be careful when going on a binge to read all the works from an author you love. While this hasn’t caused me to drop my opinion of Backman, it made me realize a story needs to work on all levels and elements to truly move or impact me. In this one, the fantasy took me out of the normal love I have for Backman’s style and character development to the point I found myself skimming way too often. I committed to reading it, and I did, but I probably only digested about 2/3 of the content because it just wasn’t keeping my attention.

I’m still gonna read more of his work and recommend him to others. Just not this book unless the reader is unlike me and loves the fantasy components. Given the good parts were a 5 for me, and the bad parts were a 1 for me, I settled on allotting 3 stars which in my world is still a good book. I recognize the skill and talent enough to say it’s a solid read with a select audience. Kudos to anyone who loved it, I wish I could be more open-minded in some of the genres I don’t often find interesting. Maybe one day!

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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. The debut book, Academic Curveball, in my new mystery series, Braxton Campus Mysteries will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. I read, write, and blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge –and multiple Readathons. 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: Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

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Author Fredrik Backman is in my TOP 5 writers of all time. I’ve read 4 of his books now, and they always have a profound impact on me. I’m hoping to finish reading them all this year which is why Britt-Marie Was Here made it to my September TBR. If you’re familiar with his work, it’s a combination of ‘A Man Called Ove’ and ‘Beartown’ in terms of the love of sport, the human condition’s intensity, and the desire for a different life. All in all, I gave it 4.25 stars as it was better than a 4 but I couldn’t round up to a 5 on this one.

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Britt-Marie is in her early 60s and has left her husband, Kent, after she caught him cheating on her via the other woman taking him to the hospital as he had a heart attack. Although she’s independent, Britt-Marie has been cared for too long by others to know exactly how to survive on her own. She succeeds on many levels when she moves to a town, Borg, not too far away from home to get her first outside-of-the-home job since she was a waitress right after high school and right before marrying Kent. In Borg, life is basically listless, scarce, and penniless. It’s been hit by a financial crisis and no one has money for anything. Britt-Marie does her best to find a way to make the move to a new job and a new residence something positive, but it doesn’t go very smoothly at first. In time, she evolves into a more open-minded individual, yet her core beliefs remain stalwart. She’s ornery but lovable, kind but too direct, thoughtful but not very worldly. It makes her human like the rest of us.

Backman’s style is usually on-point when it comes to connecting with his readers. This book is no exception; however, there were several sections with either translation issues (it wasn’t originally written in English) or a purposed attempt to write in a different manner from what he’s shown us before. Examples include frequent repetition of words or phrases that it became too obvious. Was it intended or just the translation — I’m not certain, but it caused me to stumble a fair number of times. Another concern was a general casualization (yep, I’m making up words) of some characters where I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to root for them or ignore them. The end result was some felt too similar while others felt strong but underused given their purpose in the story.

That said, the rest is amazing. I felt the connection between Britt-Marie and everyone she meets who changes her life. I saw the lackluster relationship with Kent but understood why she couldn’t leave him. I felt the pain of what her childhood resulted in when it came to how she viewed herself and let others view her. I adored the way she persistently nagged the unemployment office employee only to become the woman’s bright hope for the future. It’s only when an author is an innate talent can these types of well-embedded structures, depths, and life perceptions be truly integrated into a story. That’s where, how, and why Backman leads the race when it comes to producing truly remarkable stories.

 

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. The debut book, Academic Curveball, in my new mystery series, Braxton Campus Mysteries will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. I read, write, and blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge –and multiple Readathons. 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.