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Book Review: Climbing the Coconut Tree by S. C. Karakaltsas

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Climbing the Coconut TreeClimbing the Coconut Tree by S.C. Karakaltsas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A majority of my reading comes from the mystery, thriller, and historical fiction genres. Occasionally, I step outside these realms to sample new authors or topics. Climbing the Coconut Tree is one of those occasions where it’s not the typical read for me, but it absolutely has elements of mystery and focuses on a specific historical period. I saw the author’s book reviews and interaction via blogs, social media apps, and websites and decided to give something new a chance. I’m glad I did!

The novel is based on real-life events from ~75 years ago in the Pacific Ocean when cultures were clashing and emerging in a world very far from my own. The author, and many characters in the book, are Australian. An island’s population has been drastically impacted by the various wars and visitors over the years, but in particular in recent periods. The story chronicles the life of several who try to protect what they can, balancing the true purpose of non-natives being on the island against those who want to take back what is theirs and others who were made promises about a better life. Tragedy ensues, and readers are left quite curious to learn more about what really happened so many years ago between the Chinese, Japanese, natives, and other visitors.

When I began the book, the most apparent thing to me was how well the author assembles descriptions of either people or settings. Much of the first portion has minimal plot, so we focus on what a few key people think about the island and what’s happening in the world around them. We get to know the mindset of the characters and create a vivid picture in our minds of the location we probably have not ever seen, nor might not ever see. By midway, the plot evolves slowly until we see the growing tension among the various classes and populations. Karakaltsas weaves a light but powerful level of drama within the words she chooses to tell the story. By three quarters of the way through, the mystery elements kicked in and I found myself intrigued to learn what really happened on the island. I won’t say anymore, so that I don’t spoil any plot lines.

I’m glad I went in to this one knowing nothing about the history of the place. It might’ve ruined the story for me if I already knew the outcome. It’s sparked some interest in the reality of the situation, so kudos to the author for inspiring readers to want to learn more about the events. I look forward to seeing more from this writer, as she has a strong handle on turning real-life events into tales that entertain and awaken her readers.

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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: A Charm of Finches by Suanne Laqueur

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A Charm of Finches (Venery, #2)A Charm of Finches by Suanne Laqueur
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If there were ever a review that I found difficult to write, it would be for a book written by Suanne Laqueur… simply because she is such a phenomenal writer, and I know I will never do it justice. A Charm of Finches is the second in the Venery series, and the second book I’ve read from the author to date. While nothing will ever surpass the first one, this comes very close. This is not a book for everyone. It addresses many topics which will be awkward, painful, invasive, and too raw for those who prefer something lighthearted. But at the same time, Laqueur is such an intense and powerful writer, every moment is packed with beauty and emotion that will make any and all readers cry. If you do not bawl while reading this, you need to speak with someone about getting your tear ducts repaired.

Okay, the facts: a multi-day gang rape of a young teenage boy, death of someone’s family, survival after Auschwitz, divorce, suicide attempts, new love, discovery of homosexuality, addressing fears head on, psychology / art therapy for the truly physically and mentally abused… BUT, forget what the story deals with and focus on the path that our beautiful and tragic characters take to climb deep into a hole and thrust themselves through the pain to find the one ray of shining hope. It doesn’t come easily. It doesn’t always happen. But when it does, your heart will feel such an immensity of relief, you don’t ever want to put the book down.

But you have to. Not because it’s not a page-turner. It absolutely is. But you can only handle so much reality at once. I might never complain about anything again after seeing what others have gone through. While some of this is fiction, there is a huge component of truth. This has happened to people. Probably people you’ve met. But you never knew. And now, an amazing author can deliver it, and while what Laqueur has dropped in our laps, though some of the best writing I’ve read in years, is probably minor compared to what victims truly experienced. Laqueur has given us gift in this series… a way to understand people we might not know in person.

It’s not all emotionally-wrecking behavior. There are moments of levity. Laqueur captures those early new relationship feelings when we don’t trust ourselves that someone can love us. She highlights what we do wrong and what we do right when trying to share our love through both physical and mental methods. Whether she’s comparing fellow members of a rape-survival group to the Easter Island statues protecting us from anyone getting in or out, to the flight of a finch or a lark, you will connect with this author.

The only reason someone shouldn’t read the book, or doesn’t like it, is if he or she can’t handle the topics. Other than that, this is a finely crafted, must-read book for true literary fiction fans who can immerse themselves in the world of people you will grow to love like family. But do it the right way… buddy read it with a friend, like I did. Nina and I carried each other through this book for a few days. Almost chatting like two awkward teenagers who share a language no one else understands. It was the words we didn’t say that explained our mutual feelings… and that’s exactly what happens in the book, too… it’s what the author purposely doesn’t say that shows how awesome she is and how she should be on the top of the charts for all to see. I don’t often praise this highly, but this is a series that I will never forget, and I will always recommend.

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BTW, thank you to Sophie @ Beware of the Reader for recommending this book — she has changed my life!

Check out The Cozy Pages review to see what Nina thought of our buddy read!

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: What’s in a Name? (Volume 2) by Sally Cronin

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What's in a Name? Volume 2: Stories of Life and RomanceWhat’s in a Name? Volume 2: Stories of Life and Romance by Sally Cronin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sometimes the second book in a series or multi-volume collection of short stories doesn’t live up to the first. I can say with certainty that’s not the case with volume 2 of ‘What’s in a Name?’ by Sally Cronin. In this collection of stories of life and romance, following names that start with the letters K through Z, Cronin delivers a plethora of immersive, delightful, and intense characters.

I truly don’t know how she manages to pack such distinct and complex drama in a story that’s usually under ten pages. From the first few lines to the closing words, I was drawn in by each of the tales in this collection. There is something about the power an author chooses in certain words which helps create the proper ambiance for a setting, draw out the intrigue in the plot, and ignite a reader’s passions.

From the descriptions to the connections between a few of the stories (not in terms of characters but themes and approaches to decisions), Cronin provides us with a bevy of situations to consider… how would we react if such a problem found its way into our lives? Would we get revenge? What kind of sacrifices could we live with? What does love mean when it comes with strings?

I highly recommend both collections, as you’ll see some growth and evolution from volume one to two. Now I’ll have to look over her canon of other books to see what might be something else I want to read.

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In case you missed last week’s review of volume 1, check it out here.

ABOUT SALLY CRONIN -- Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life.
My name is Sally Cronin and I am doing what I love.. Writing. Books, short stories, Haiku and blog posts. My previous jobs are only relevant in as much as they have gifted me with a wonderful filing cabinet of memories and experiences which are very useful when putting pen to paper. I move between non-fiction health books and posts and fairy stories, romance and humour. I love variety which is why I called my blog Smorgasbord Invitation and you will find a wide range of subjects. You can find the whole story here. Find out more at https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/about-me/

Her Latest book: Tales from the Irish Garden
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2
Blog: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com
LinkedIn: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/sallycronin1
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sgc58
MeWe: mewe.com/i/sallycronin

Book Review: What’s in a Name? (Volume 1) by Sally Cronin

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What's in a Name?What’s in a Name? by Sally Cronin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are many topics that will draw my attention to a book. In Sally Cronin’s collection ‘What’s in a name?’ I found a whole bunch that piqued my curiosity: short stories, genealogy, and how first names are chosen. On top of that, it’s the first volume in this series, which means I have another to read soon. Now this made my weekend!

Cronin shares ~20 short stories covering the letters A through J in volume one. She lists a male and a female name for each letter, then contributes a story ranging from five to ten pages each. Short, but not simple, and I mean that in a good way. Cronin packs an immense amount into each brief tale… whether it’s personality traits, complex plots, or comparisons between two people over different periods of time, I found everything from nuggets of glory to hilarious banter.

One of my favorite aspects of this work was the varying time frames, locations, and genres of each short story. Cronin deals with normal life events, everything from death to pregnancy, marriage to sickness. How she manages to pack such a punch with so many characters in so few pages is astonishing! I kinda want a sequel to cover what ends up happening to many of the people we’ve met.

If you’re looking for something fun, clever, and easy-to-digest in short samples, this is definitely for you. I recommend it for those interested in learning about how personalities sometime echo the name chosen for an individual… and perhaps vice versa. Kudos to the author for finding a new fan… and I’ll be reading volume two next month, so be prepared!

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Book Review: Focus Lost by Doug Cooper

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Focus LostFocus Lost by Doug Cooper
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Doug Cooper is not afraid of a challenge when it comes to his plots and characters. In his latest book, Focus Lost, due to be released next month (yes, I got an early copy!), he tackles another set of complex human emotions that many of us have experienced but usually only in the privacy of our own immediate life circle. Add the fame and fortune of the art world and Hollywood, then you’re entire existence is on display for the public and your ‘adoring’ fans to admire, impugn, and question. And Cooper gets it all right in this intense ride.

The three central characters–Levi, Eva, and Gabe–represent the actor, the agent, and the artist. Yes, they represent a whole lot more, but in this case, we’ll start there. Gabe’s a photographer who accidentally takes a few photos of Levi and his 17-year-old film co-star having a romp on the beach. Given Levi’s in his 30s and playing her father in the next movie, it’s quite compromising. Gabe’s sister sees the photos and decides to take action. Eva, Levi’s agent, is called upon to find the photos. Thus, an elaborate scheme has begun, except… it actually began much further back. You’ll have to read to find out what I mean by that.

All three of our main characters have siblings or parental figures who met some sort of tragedy. They’re bound together in a way without knowing it. Levi’s younger co-star has an odd reaction to the photos becoming public, what game is she playing? Eva plays both sides against one another, what’s she truly after? Gabe appears to be innocent but makes a few less-than-proper decisions, what is really going on? Ultimately, Gabe’s sister is the one we should all feel the emotional tugs for. She may have done something wrong, but it was for the right reason, and she’s just a teenage girl who hasn’t had enough life experience yet to know the implications of her actions. Eva should know better, but she’s had some painful experiences that have taught her to look out for number one. Levi, while he’s suffered, is your true stereotype of a golden boy-turned-egomaniac. But he’ll surprise you with his final play near the end of the book. I wasn’t expecting some of his decisions!

By now, you either love this plot or know it’s not for you. I’d urge you to give it a chance as you will see a different side of life, but it also has a sentimentality running through the story and the words like a small stream that will eventually open into a large body of water. In other books I’ve read by Cooper, he tackles sex, drugs, and the intensity of the partying lifestyle. While there are touches of those elements in here, it’s more driven by an inner desire to succeed despite what hand life has dealt you. The characters aren’t very likable, but they’re not meant to be. They’ve been jaded for years, and Cooper drops tons of memories and past events to show us what’s made them who they are today. Between the author’s descriptions and his actions, I felt fully engaged and connected with the characters’ choices. Agreeing with them is a different thing. That’s solid writing!

I found myself unable to put the book down on several occasions. Each chapter builds upon the last by showing us what’s unfolding in the primary characters’ mindsets. Since we follow a few of them around, we know when they’re making wrong decisions based on what someone else has just done. But we can’t stop them. We’re drawn in at this point. We are invested. Well-crafted and clever are the two words that quickly come to mind about this book. We’d all like to say we wouldn’t change when fame knocks on our door, but is that a true statement? How far would you go to protect your reputation or survive in a society that quickly shreds you for the littlest of mistakes?

Kudos to Cooper. Definitely my favorite of his books so far. I’m glad to get in early on this one and spread the word. High-recommendation!

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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 debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I 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 – words and humor. 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 House at Riverton by Kate Morton

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The House at RivertonThe House at Riverton by Kate Morton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kate Morton came into my life just under 3 years ago. I don’t remember how, but I picked up one of her books and absolutely fell in love with her writing style, characters, and multi-dimensional storytelling abilities. After almost 3 years, I’ve finished reading all 6 of her books; it’s a tad amusing that the last one I read is actually the first book she wrote — The House at Riverton, or The Shifting Fog, as it was previously known. For me, she’s the queen of historical fiction when the focus is on ‘ordinary’ families in a world from ~ a century ago. The House at Riverton is no exception, and while not my favorite of her tomes, is quite a splendid novel very reminiscent of Downtown Abbey.

In this book, Grace is ~100 years old and dying very soon. She has a story and a secret about the past to tell her wayward grandson who’s gone missing after his wife died of an aneurysm. Through flashbacks and other POVs, we learn about Grace’s time as a maid and ladies maid in the Hartford family household. We witness conversations in the current period between Grace and Ursula, a film director telling the story of what happened when a family friend and renowned poet committed suicide in the 1920s at the Hartford estate. We find out who actually loved whom, and which family members shouldn’t have been trusted. All set against the gorgeous backdrop of the English countryside, it’s a powerful and emotional tale about fighting your desires and knowing when it’s time to give in.

One of the things that made this book so appealing is how similar it was to Downton Abbey. There’s a family torn apart by war. Girls cannot inherit their father’s estate. Love between classes is forbidden. Estates cost too much. A daughter must marry into a wealthy family to survive. But then it goes off on its own path with a murder, an affair, and a past indiscretion connecting two people who never knew until it was too late. Morton can weave the most elaborate stories to warm the heart. I feel such passion and connection with her words and imagery. I can think of no other author who evokes such lyrical enthusiasm and despair in a scene on multiple levels that overwhelm you and excite you at the same time.

While a majority of this book is amazing, there were a few areas that I struggled with… hence 4 stars. The beginning is a bit too slow; it takes time to develop characters, but Morton uses a few different techniques to foreshadow what’s to come in the future almost crossing that invisible line with audience. For example, there’s a paragraph ending a chapter that actually speaks to readers saying, “You think she should have done this, but no, instead, she does this… and this is why what happens to her later was so painful.” I paraphrased to not give away any spoilers, but you get the basics. Another concern I had was how certain storylines were left too open-ended for my taste. We know two characters re-connect 40 years later, but how / why. We know there was a blood relationship between two characters, but was it ever acknowledged? We know one character leaves a letter to another, but what happened with the gift she also left behind? Who was Lady Clementine and how did she fit into this family?

Some of those were loosely explained, but with a powerhouse like Morton, I expect everything to be properly tied together. I’m okay with vague, but there needs to be some clarity on what the ‘options’ are as opposed to just making a statement and never exploring the follow-thru aspects. That said, this doesn’t happen in her later books, so I think these were debut author style changes… and definitely ones I’m glad she eventually made. All said, it’s a must read. The book is slower than others, with less of a major climax, but fully immersive and extravagant in other ways. I am sad that it’ll be at least another year before her next one…

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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.

Download 3 of My Books For FREE This Month!

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November is a month to be thankful. I’m grateful to everyone who’s read my books and helped support me in the last year. I’m offering my first 3 books for FREE
on various dates through November. Happy Early Thanksgiving!
TEXT HERE (1)
 

Academic Curveball

Academic Curveball (Braxton Campus Mysteries #1)
  • Genre: Cozy / Light Investigative Mystery
  • Released 10/15/18 with ~275 pages
  • 1st book in a new series, 2nd book coming out 12/15/18
  • Download at Amazon for FREE 10/30 – 11/3
  • Description: When Kellan Ayrwick, a thirty-two-year-old single father, is forced to return home for his father’s retirement from Braxton College, he finds the dead body of a professor in Diamond Hall’s stairwell. Unfortunately, Kellan has a connection to the victim, and so do several members of his family. Could one of them be guilty of murder? Then he finds a second body after discovering mysterious donations to the college’s athletic program, a nasty blog denouncing his father, and a criminal attempting to change student grades so the star baseball pitcher isn’t expelled. Someone is playing games on campus, but none of the facts add up. With the help of his eccentric and trouble-making nana weeding through the clues, Kellan tries to stay out of the sheriff’s way. Fate has other plans. Kellan is close to discovering the killer’s identity just as someone he loves is put in grave danger of becoming victim number three. And if that’s not enough to wreak havoc on his family, everything comes crashing to a halt when his own past comes spiraling back to change his life forever. In this debut novel in the Braxton Campus Mystery Series, readers discover a cozy, secluded Pennsylvania village full of quirky, sarcastic, and nosy residents. Among the daily workings of Braxton College and the charming Ayrwick family, Kellan weighs his investigative talents against an opportunity to achieve a much sought-after dream. When this first book ends, the drama is set for the next adventure in Kellan’s future… and it’s one you won’t want to miss.
Academic-Curve-Ball-Promo-Hardback-Ereader

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Watching Glass Shatter

Watching Glass Shatter

  • Genre: Family Drama / Light Mystery
  • Released 10/8/17 with ~300 pages
  • Download at Amazon for FREE 11/4 – 11/8
  • DescriptionThe wealthy Glass family lost its patriarch, Benjamin Glass, sooner than expected. Benjamin’s widow, Olivia, and her 5 sons each react to his death in their own way while preparing for the reading of his will. Olivia receives a very unexpected confession from her late husband about one of their sons that could shatter the whole family. Prior to revealing the secret to her children, Olivia must figure out which boy Ben refers to in the confession he left her in his will. While the family attorney searches for the mysterious Rowena Hector whom Ben says holds the answers, Olivia asks her sons to each spend a week with her as she isn’t ready to let go of the past. When Olivia visits her sons, she quickly learns that each one has been keeping his own secret from her. Olivia never expected her remaining years would be so complex and life-altering, but she will not rest until her family is reunited after Ben’s untimely death. We all need family. We all want to fit in. We’re all a mix of quirky personalities. Will Olivia be able to fix them or will the whole family implode? What will she do when she discovers the son behind Ben’s secret? Check out this ensemble cast where each family member’s perspective is center stage, discovering along the way who might feel the biggest impact from all the secrets. Through various scenes and memories across a six-month period, you’ll get to know everyone, learning how and why they made certain decisions. Welcome to being an honorary member of the Glass family where the flair for over-the-top drama pushes everyone to their limits.
Watching-Glass-Shatter-Promo-Hardback-Ereader

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Father Figure

Father Figure

  • Genre: Family Drama / Mystery
  • Released 4/2/18 with ~400 pages
  • Download at Amazon for FREE 11/17 – 11/21
  • DescriptionBetween the fast-paced New York City, a rural Mississippi town, and a charming Pennsylvania college campus filled with secrets, two young girls learn the consequences of growing up too quickly. Struggling to survive in a claustrophobic, unforgiving world, they embark on a journey to overcome all the pain, disappointment, and horror of their experiences. Amalia Graeme, abused by her mother for most of her life, longs to escape her desolate hometown, connect with others, and fall in love. Contemplating an impending loss of innocence and conflicting feelings between her boyfriend and the dangerous attraction she’s developed for an older man, Amalia suffers devastating, life-altering tragedies. No matter where she turns, someone or something always steals her hope of finding happiness, protection, and love. Brianna Porter, a sassy yet angst-ridden teenager raised in New York City, yearns to determine her life’s true purpose, conquer her fear of abandonment, and interpret an intimidating desire for her best friend, Shanelle. All the confusion stems from desperately needing to find the father whom her mother refuses to reveal, but an unexpected discovery of a journal leads Brianna to a shocking revelation about her missing parent. Unfortunately, by casting the net to find him, she’s unleashed a tragic history that was meant to stay buried and might now completely change everyone’s futures. Through alternating chapters set two decades apart, each girl’s plight unfolds revealing the parallels between their lives and the subsequent collision that is bound to happen. In an emotional story filled with mystery, romance, and suspense, fate intervenes forcing someone to make a dreadful decision that will leave permanent scars.
Father-Figure-Promo-Hardback-Ereader