island

Book Review: Outside In by Doug Cooper

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Why This Book 
In early 2017, I had drinks with a former colleague when we discussed my goal to publish a novel that year. She had grown up with someone who published a book and offered to introduce us. I said ‘sure’ and never actually contacted the guy. Months later, I signed a contract to publish my book, then realized I never followed through, so I sent a message, we chatted a bit, and I thought… I should read Doug Cooper‘s book: Outside In. I got hold of a copy, it sat on the shelves for a bit, but I decided I wasn’t allowed to buy/download another book in 2018 until I finished everything I already owned… hence how this one got picked for January!

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Plot, Characters & Setting 
Brad Shepherd is a middle school teacher whose student overdoses in class. As part of the Administration’s way to handle the student’s death, Brad’s out of a job. He heads to Put-in-Bay, Ohio to meet a friend and have a summer off, where he can party for a little bit and find his new life path. When he arrives, a life he never knew, or perhaps had forgotten, begins to surround him: he’s quick to fool around with a bunch of women, drink himself silly and experiment with a range of drugs. Over the course of the summer, he makes several mistakes and finds himself going off into a darker oblivion. His family re-surfaces, and a friend has an accident, which helps re-structure his course, but life is definitely going to be different in his future.

Key Thoughts 
For starters, I’ll say the book is a very realistic portrayal of what could happen in this environment. It’s not something I’m familiar with, but based on tons of movies, other books and conversations that touch on these subjects, I’d comfortable stating it is accurately written. That said, it is not an environment I would ever want to be in, nor did I like ANY of the characters in the book. They were a mess, indulgent, immature and frustrating. BUT — that’s the point and they belonged being that way for the story. Cooper brought out my inner ‘angry man’ attitude over people who behave like this, so major kudos to him for a brilliant portrayal of his character set.

The writing has quality and brings to life both the background and the tone you need to be successful in a book like this one. While there are some plot points, e.g. the death of the student, the move to the island for the summer and the results of some of the drug overdoses, it’s essentially a story about a group of experiences people have while drinking and taking various drugs. It’s of course larger than just that simple observation, but you have to be comfortable reading about this side of life to enjoy the book. It’s not going to be ideal for everyone, but it definitely has a large audience to work with. Once you get beyond drugs/drinking, you start questioning how we make choices, our fears, what makes us fall for another person, how does someone guilt you into doing things…

The dialogue and narration provide all the details readers need to know what’s going on in the main character’s head; you will hear his voice, see his actions, know the reasons (most of the time) and follow along on his journey. Sometimes you’ll think he’s stupid and full of fault, others you’ll know he’s suffering from a tragedy and just floating around without any anchor. For those reasons, it is pretty obvious that this has happened and continues to happen to people going through this stage of life. The sum of the parts equal the whole for me with this book. It’s a solid read, full of a wide range of situations and thought-provoking ideas. I think if I had gone through something like Brad did, I’d probably like the book even more. I ended up around 3.75 stars.

Summary 
I’m curious to read his other novel, The Investment Club, about a group of people in Las Vegas going through some life experiences at the Blackjack table. It seems this is the realm the author writes in… that space where the group of people interact in ways we can all relate to, but not nearly as far into the depths… and I’m confident when he hits on topics that are more pertinent to me, I’ll be really invested in the novel and have an entirely deeper connection to the author and his work. For now, I’m glad I read this one and look forward to reading more.

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.
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Review: A Likely Story

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A Likely Story4 out of 5 stars to A Likely Story, the 6th book in the “Library Lover’s Mystery” series, written in 2015 by Jenn McKinlay. A good continuance in the cozy series and a quick read. Basic, but fun. Fans will enjoy it, but seemed a tad bit shorter and less complex than usual. I’ve been reading lots of NetGalley approved thriller and suspense requests lately, which meant I needed something lighter for a few days. I’m a fan of Ms. McKinlay and had purchased a few of her books last month to insert between electronic-reads. It was time and I’d missed this series a bit. I am only 1 book behind now in this series — until she catches up! And I can’t wait to read more.



Plot, Characters & Setting


Lindsey, Briar Creek’s town librarian, has taken a boat with Sully, her on-again / off-again boyfriends, to drop some books off for the reclusive Rosen brothers. Stewart and Peter, in their 70s, have lived on a small island off shore for their whole lives, but rarely come off or let anyone else on. Lindsey is one of their exceptions in this small Connecticut town. When she arrives, Stewart doesn’t greet her at the dock and she’s forced to walk up to the house. Unfortunately, the pathway is always booby-trapped, so she and Sully have to be careful to avoid the traps the Rosens have set for all other guests. When they arrive, poor Peter Rosen has been shot dead and Stewart is missing. They notice the Rosen boat, which had been docked just outside, was now missing. Did Stewart kill his brother and run off, or did he escape from an unknown killer? The cops investigate. Lindsey tries to figure it out on her own, as usual.

Along the path, she meets an older woman determined to buy up all the houses on the surrounding islands. Lindsey wonders what’s lurking beneath the surface besides investment properties. She encounters two antique dealers from half way across the country, who claim to be there at Peter’s request to help sell some of the belongings. But Lindsey knows them as hoarders with money, so she isn’t buying it. As she investigates, her friends join in the fun and danger. Lindsey makes some enemies, but she’s asked to help by the lead cop who was injured in one of the booby traps. And as Lindsey’s searching the house, someone breaks in and captures Lindsey and Sully. Who is this person and what is going on in the Rosen household?

Lindsey of course solves the case, although she’s almost shot in this one. A few new family members show up, the mystery of the old houses on the island comes out and Lindsey makes a decision between Sully and Robbie, who is also back from NYC with some interesting news about changes going in on his life. What’s a girl to do? Besides help Beth through her new romance and Mary and Ian when something new pops up in their lives, too. All in good fun, Lindsey says… but she wants a break, too!



Approach & Style


I read the paperback version, which was about 300 pages long. It had some recipes, some commentary and a new short story from the author, which took up another 50 pages.

Similar to other books in the series, it’s narrated by a third person with perspective set only on Lindsey. Minimal violence. Nothing overtly sexual other than a little light kissing between some characters.

Took me less than 3 hours to read over the course of 2 days. Finished it more quickly than usual, probably due to it having less characters than previous ones.



Strengths


Lindsey is a likable protagonist. She’s not too simple or silly. She’s not too dramatic or controlling. She seems like your average everyday gal who gets thrust into murder. Between her friends and her colleagues at the library, you get a bunch of side-stories that always make you laugh and feel connected with her as a character. I enjoy her relationship with Milton, and in this book, things with Ms. Cole take a new turn. The plot of the mystery, once it unwinds, is good. It has some family drama and other connections to the past which were a nice highlight. There’s a suspenseful chase scene in the house with the criminal at one point where I kept turning the pages as I really thought Lindsey was either gonna catch him or get killed!



Concerns


Lindsey still seems caught up between Robbie and Sully. I’m a Robbie fan. But she’s leaning towards Sully in this one. And just as it appears she made a choice between them, news comes in at the end of the book which could change everything. I’d really like her to make a choice and stick with it for a few books, letting the other character go for a while, so we have an opportunity for a little change.

While the plot had some good parts to it, it seemed to grow more complicated only near the end. The first half of the book was very light and at times, I wasn’t very excited over what happened other than the fact one of the brothers was missing and could be alive/dead or the killer/victim. That kept me going, but I think the other characters should have been more prominent to make this more complex and intriguing.



Questions & Final Thoughts


It was a good read. Nothing extraordinary, nothing bad. I enjoyed it. I’ll keep reading the series. The 7th book has been out in hardback for a few months, but I’ll wait until November until the paperback release. Not in any rush. I may switch over to another of her series about hats and murders in London.



About Me


For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write 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 also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can 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. Vote in the poll and ratings. 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.

View all my reviews

Review: Lord of the Flies

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Lord of the FliesBook Review
3 out of 5 stars to Lord of the Flies, a coming-of-age novel written in 1954 by William Golding, who was a Nobel Prize winner. Most people have either read this book during middle/high school (in America or Great Britain), or have heard of it because of its cannibalism story line. But wait… it wasn’t really cannibalism — huge exaggeration to set straight, right from the beginning. But let’s back up… At a time of war, a group of teenage boys are in a plane that crashed onto an isolated and jungle-like island. They are forced to grow up quickly when they have no food, water or shelter at their disposal. It’s a story about how to take care of yourself in the jungle when you have nothing but raw supplies. The novel is full of themes from loss of innocence to the differences between savagery and civilization. It asks the question what type of a person are you — a leader or a follower? The story charts the actions of the teens as they grow up, hunt for food, build shelter and learn how to work together. They divide into opposing teams, trying to see how is the best leader. They learn to help each other and watch others dies. They run out of supplies and food, questioning whether to eat meat, hence where cannibalism comes from. But it’s not a major story where they choose to do it and eat an entire body to survive, that’s a different book! I read the book once and tried a second time, but what I realized is that the world today is a very different place. While I appreciate the themes and characters being brought to life in this novel, it didn’t have as strong an impact on me as it has for others. I think it may be the kind of novel that is best read when you are a teenager, as it helps with understanding things are the same today as they were 75 years ago, in terms of growing up and learning how to work together. When you’ve got a classic like this one paired up against something like The Hunger Games, it’s a tough choice. They deal with the same sort of context in terms of “survival of the fittest,” but one is a dangerous game and another is an accident. I like them both, but I’d choose The Hunger Games, even tho it’s probably less well-written. Teen angst, lessons to be learned, education versus playtime, all great concepts both books addressed, but the difference is when a book almost goes out of the way to try to teach me something versus it naturally happening. I still believe it’s a good book, and it should be read, but if it were written today, I don’t think it would be as popular.



About Me


For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write 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 also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can 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. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

View all my reviews

Review: The Tempest

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The Tempest Book Review
3 of 5 stars to The Tempest, a play written around 1610 by William Shakespeare. Ever wonder where the word prosperous came from? Or did Shakespeare name the lead character in this play Prospero as a nod to the word prosperous? They are one in the same… sort of. Prospero’s been cast off onto an island and wants to restore a life for his daughter. Thru trickery and imagination, he succeeds in a manner of speaking, and though it’s a troubled path, he learns his lessons in the end. I really do like this play. I’ve seen it on stage and it was well-produced. It’s one of his somewhat-more-famous plays, but it’s not as well-liked in popularity, if that makes sense. As always, its highly creative, but to me, it’s a bit of a compilation of all his other plays over the years. Written in the last 5 years of his life, it’s one of his final pieces, which may explain why. The characters are vivid. The action is mostly clear. But I felt it lacked a driving force like the others. I didn’t so much care whether he was successful until the end. I think because it is more ethereal and aesthetic than full of huge substance, I might have been in the middle. I only read this one once, so I’m due for another read.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write 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 also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can 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. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

View all my reviews

Review: And Then There Were Nuns

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And Then There Were Nuns
And Then There Were Nuns by Kylie Logan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3 stars to Kylie Logan‘s And Then There Were Nuns, her fourth installment in the League of “Literary Ladies mystery” series. When one of your all-time favorite stories is Agatha Christie‘s And Then There Were None, you feel compelled to read any books that appear to follow in its footsteps, especially if they are part of an existing mystery series you already enjoy reading, hence why I selected this one earlier in the week. While it followed the original storyline, and had its own new interpretations, I found a few too many parts in need of work. It kicked off with a great premise and a few deaths but then disappeared into a poorly formulaic distraction — still worth a read if you’re a fan of the author and the series, but not an ideal introduction for someone new to the series. Let’s dive into the specifics…


Story

Bea runs an historic inn on Ohio’s South Bass Island near the Great Lakes and the Canadian border having moved there after escaping a stalker when she lived in New York City. She belongs to a reading group with several friends who often help one another with their various businesses and relationships, this time Chandra’s persistent attempts to deliberately annoy them. This month, they’re reading a non-mystery book when Bea is asked to help a friend provide meals for a group of ten nuns who are staying in another converted mansion. When her friend is called out of town, Bea takes the lead to ensure the nuns have everything they need while on their retreat, but soon finds one of them dead on the beach from a whack to the head. When another one dies, Bea and her friends start to see the resemblance to Christie’s classic mystery novel and reluctantly determine they’re back on another case.

Hank, the police sheriff Bea initially disliked, soon recruits her to be the lead for him on the investigation given it’s a small town and she already has a connection to the nuns. Bea manages the care for the guests at her own inn, deals with her friends’ problems and attempts to investigate the case of the disappearing and dying nuns. In the end, she avoids being killed in an accident meant for someone else and narrowly misses being shot by the murderer; however, she solves the case and the criminal is carted off to prison with little lasting impacts. Throw in a few guests on a genealogy quest and a bird-watching hunt, and you’ve got all sorts of kooky characters this time.

For a fun side story, Levi, the man she has flirted with in the last three books, wakes up in her bed in this fourth installment, leading us to believe something happened in between to push them into accepting their growing attraction to one another. But it doesn’t last when each reveals the secret reason why they had been holding off from dabbling in the relationship waters. At least we’re finally getting to connect the spoiler bread crumbs that were dropped along the way in the earlier books.


Strengths

1. The setup for the story kicked off with an intriguing plot. Ten nuns invited to a retreat by a leader who suddenly can’t show up himself. The caretaker of the mansion also is mysteriously called out of town and needs Bea to help watch over the nuns. The nuns claim not to know one another but soon start revealing some have interesting connections to each other. Reader love this stuff. It provides lots of guesswork and a myriad of options to develop a complex story.

2. We finally understand the chemistry and concerns with a Bea and Levi match up. Getting some of the backstory was helpful, but it was also brilliant to only provide some explanations to understand why they both came to the island. We still have the mystery of what happened to each of them prior to arriving which I suspect will come out in a future books.

3. The character of Hank is growing on me. He’s not so gruff anymore and he’s becoming more real. I was frustrated with him in the earlier books given his on again / off again relationship with Chandra and dismissal of Bea and the girls.


Suggestions

1. The plot devolved near the end. (SPOILER ALERT) I understand the backdrop is Bea’s bed and breakfast, but the murderer can’t always be the mysterious guy staying at the Inn. It undermines Bea’s intelligence if she never picks up on it until the end, and it sets up too repetitive of a storyline. The author needs to find a way to better use the people who stay at the Inn and who already live on the island.

2. The story stopped following Christie’s plot a third of the way through the book. I know you can’t kill off more than two or three of the ten characters without reality stepping in to have police surround the remaining nuns 24/7, but when one of the nuns is not really who she says she is, you can’t abandon the entire plot line to cater to a story that is completely different. It was still a good story, and provided many laughs and drama, but I felt like it was a bit disconnected.


Final Thoughts

I was a little disappointed in the plot of this book, perhaps because it didn’t live up to the real Christie story or perhaps because sometimes not every book in a series can be top notch. I’m hoping it bounces back in the next installment because I really like the characters and the setting for the series. I’d still encourage readers to read this book if they’re committed to the series as many good things happen to evolve the characters and add complexity, but if you focus on the plot too much, you may not love it.

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