Tear Me Apart by J.T. Ellison. Book Review.

91f9xaq1ewlThis is a typical suspense novel about a 18 year old in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant. Because of this, it comes to light that neither her mother or father are her biological parents. This leads into a kidnapping and murder mystery that connects to correspondence between two teenage girls in a mental hospital.

Unfortunately the writing style is rather flat and, although this can be quite common in this kind of novel, the characters are two dimensional and the dialogue is a bit awkward. I found myself skimming quickly through the book in order to finish it and being reluctant to pick it up.

The premise is intriguing but halfway through the book you have pretty much  figured out everything. In a good mystery suspense the reader is  often lulled into thinking they have solved the plot and then comes the twist. It can be a variation on what the reader has surmised or it can come completely out of left field. This book went with the first  style but it  was a bit weak on surprise and punch. I found quite predictable.

It’s an easy beach read with an interesting basic plot if you’re  just looking for something relaxing.

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Beware That Girl by Teresa Toten. Book Review.

Teresa Toten is the author of a remarkable book I have previously reviewed, The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B. This novel is quite different in style and substance.

Toten certainly  knows how to use plot twist in creative ways. The book veered off into unpredictable situations that built the tension of  this psychological  thriller exponentially. The first third of the book was rather slow but the last third was riveting.

Toten reveals just enough about the two main characters, Olivia and Kate, to build our curiosity and suspense as the story progresses. These girls are in their senior year and aiming for Yale University. We know that something has happened to both these girls to damage them deeply in different ways. We know that they are both keeping secrets. We know that they are both afraid. We know that something isn’t quiet right with the handsome Mr. Mark Redkin who takes an interest in them.

The author cleverly reveals snippets of Kate’s life that makes us question whether she is the hero or the villain in this drama. She uses people. Does she care for them at all? The answer is as complex as the plot itself.

My major criticism of this book would be that the dialogue clunks in places and seems artificial and flat at times. As well, there are moments when the point of view is muddied. Although this is a suspense novel, character plays a major role and believable dialogue is essential. The two brilliant girls did made some very stupid choices.

Although it doesn’t have the genius of 13B, I think this would make a great suspense movie with the right script writer and director. All in all, it was a very enjoyable read.

 

Refuge Cove by Janet Dailey. The New Americana Series. Book Review.

Refuge Cove is a 291 page romance. This gentle suspense love story is for adults and young adults.
Emma, lonely schoolteacher, has been tricked into leaving her home and career, travelling to Alaska, and entering a sham of a marriage by a con artist named Boone. When his evil intentions become clear, Emma sets his trailer on fire and flees for her life. John Wolf sees her crawling across the bog and rescues her starting a complicated and suspenseful chain of events involving his estranged, strange, family.
Although the story evolves slowly there are enough foreboding incidents to alert the reader to upcoming drama and danger. Janet Dailey connects a complicated and highly dysfunctional family in surprising ways leading some to reconciliation and some to punishment. It is a satisfying conclusion. Love and heroism save the day and readers  who crave a happy ending will smile as they close the last page.

Isabella’s Heart by Diane Merrill Wiggington. Book Review.

Isabella’s Heart is the second in the award-winning Jeweled Dagger Series. Like the first book, it is a lighthearted humorous romance that takes place in the 1700s. It contains just enough historical reference to establish time and place and provide an anchor for societal expectations and events. In spite of a few anachronisms, the author succeeds in bringing the reader into this colorful world.

Isabella is the daughter of Angelina, the heroine of the first book, Angelina’s Secret, and has inherited her gutsy, defiant personality. In this story, Isabella sets out to save her twin brother from kidnappers. They share a special psychic connection which allows Isabella to see through the eyes of her brother Charles. Although there is a significant amount of romance, it is a nice variation to see the focus of this story centered on a sibling relationship.

Like her mother, Isabella is no slacker when it comes to combat. She is also insightful, brave, clever, and more than a little reckless. I don’t want to give too much of the plot away but this is a fun, swashbuckling, fast-paced adventure with a kick ass heroine. It’s a great beach read or holiday break.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Smoke by Catherine McKenzie. Book Review.

Buy link Smoke

This story focuses on two women who were once best friends, Elizabeth and Mindy. Elizabeth has been trying for years to get pregnant and when Mindy complains about her unwanted pregnancy, angry words are exchanged. The story begins when Elizabeth’s marriage is on the brink of collapse.

The plot focuses around an out-of-control fire that is threatening the town and very close to Elizabeth’s dream home. Elizabeth is an arson investigator and disagrees with her supervisor’s opinion on the cause of the fire. Was it teenagers or was it the homeowner? One teenager, Mindy’s son, refuses to say anything in his own defence when the son of the town diva accuses him of deliberately starting the fire.

The story is filled with all the drama of competitive shallow women. Neither Elizabeth nor Mindy belong in the social circle of money and exclusivity. The loss of their friendship for the last year has left them both vulnerable and lonely.

Elizabeth needs to cope with the dissolution of her marriage, her growing loneliness, conflict with her superior over the fire investigation, meddling in-laws, and the impending destruction of her home and possibly the entire town.

I found the sections on fire containment fascinating. One scene where a telephone was left behind to record the surging fire was particularly vivid and unsettling. I would have liked a bit more nitty-gritty about the experience for the firefighters.

This is the kind of novel that a book club would enjoy reading and discussing. McKenzie’s writing style is easy to follow and engaging. Her characters are relatable and the situations are believable. I appreciated the way she echoed the town’s drama with the expanding fire. The smoke pervaded the lives of the townspeople as the controversy grew. It provided a powerful echo of the interpersonal conflicts.

        

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Inferno by Dan Brown. Book review.

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Click here to buy Inferno (Robert Langdon)

In order to enjoy Inferno, you need to have an interest in history, architecture, and art as a good third of the book is focused on one or more of these. Fortunately, I do enjoy reading about these subjects although I felt at times less would have been better. Most of it is essential to the plot and intricately woven into the mystery.

There were moments where I felt the plot stumbled. In chapter 9 or 10, I laughed out loud because it was so unbelievable. Sienna went next door to find clothes for Langdon. While looking around, Langdon accidentally spilled a pile of newspaper articles about Sienna that basically told her entire life story. Later on in the novel, this is explained. However, Langdon is intelligent enough that he should have wondered why this “here is her life file” was sitting there. In the same scene, he googled himself to see if there was any news about his disappearance. Since google was available, the pile of life story clippings wasn’t necessary. It would’ve been much more believable if he had googled the doctor’s name instead of finding the clippings.

Three times, by chapter 9, we are told of Langdon’s visions/hallucination about the gray-haired lady surrounded by dying and dead bloody bodies. “Seek and you shall find” is repeatedly told. Instead of building suspense, I started to feel bored by the repetition. Unfortunately, it was even repeated a few more times after that. As well, the description of the underground lagoon where the virus was located became less and less suspenseful and more and more irritating as the novel progressed.

In chapter 16, when Sienna decides that Langdon is being pursued by his government with orders to kill him, she continues to help him. Why? He has done nothing to show her he is innocent of crime. He has no memory. However, why would she even believe it was the government after him since her friend, the doctor, was callously and unnecessarily gunned down in the hospital. Neither of these things made sense to me. This too is explained later on. However, Langdon should have been suspicious about this odd behavior.

In chapter 22, when discussing death masks, Brown mentions Shakespeare’s. This threw me because this is hotly contested. It has not been widely accepted that the death mask found in Germany in the 1800s is authentic. This made me wonder about all the other facts shared by the author. It would have been better to leave out something so controversial.

Other than these little jolts, the plot progressed well. It was suspenseful and interesting. While the biological solution to overpopulation was not original, it suited the story and gave more dimension to both characters and plot. It is, in fact, a logical and humane solution to what is an unavoidable crash of the human population overcrowding and destroying the planet and all life forms on it.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Tough Guy with a Soft Heart: Author Darrell Bain Three Random Questions Interview

Darrell Bain writes humor, adventure, mystery, science fiction, suspense and thriller novels for adults, as well as short story collections. He has about 50 books in print! Yes, that’s not a misprint.

Darrell Bain: Actually, it is a misprint. I did have more than 60 books in print, but a few months ago I withdrew all my books from one publisher, about 20 of them. Some I am going to allow to remain permanently out of print, another publisher has picked u a dozen or so of them, and I’ve self-published two and will have two more self-published within a month or so. A few I am looking for another publisher for.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Darrell. According to Amazon, you have published eight books in 2016 in the year is only half over. That’s more than one book a month. How is this possible?

Bain: All but two of these are re-edited and re-published again with new covers by Twilight Times Books.

Ferrante: Do you work on more than one book at a time? 

Bain: Yes, most of the time I am working on two or three at once.

Ferrante: Do you get feedback on your books before they are published?

Bain: On some now, but in the past, no.

Ferrante: How much do you write in a day?

Bain: Right now I’m lucky to get a page done because of back problems. I’m having surgery in about 6-8 weeks, the sooner the better. Prior to that, I wrote until I got tired, usually about 5,000 words but sometimes as much as 10 or 15,000 words a day.

Ferrante: You’ve worked in the medical field, do you draw upon this in your novels? Which ones? You’re also a Vietnam veteran. How does this affect the topics you choose and your style of writing?

Bain: Yes. Medics Wild was drawn entirely from my medical experience in Vietnam. The Long Way Home used a lot of my microbiology and hematology experience, as did Alien Infection and a number of others. The military background in some of my novels, e.g. the Apertures Series, is drawn from 13 years service. I can’t really say it affects the topics I choose. Most are drawn from some everyday experience that sparks my imagination.

Ferrante: Your book, Samantha’s Talent, was written with Robyn Pass and The Y Factor was written with Stephanie Osborne. What are the logistics of co-writing a book?

Bain: It depends on the co-author and the book. Most of the ones were books I was either stalled on or had more and better ideas I wanted to get on with. Robyn was different. It wasn’t really a collaboration since she didn’t do any of the writing but she did help edit it and provided some useful ideas, enough that I listed her as co-author and gave her a % of my royalties.

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 Click here to buy Samantha’s Talent

Ferrante: How do you research for your science fiction novels?

Bain: The same way as or any other novel. I try to get the science right and history right and any other background right. I can’t say I always succeed but I do try my best.

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 Click here to buy The Y Factor (Cresperian Book 2)

Ferrante: Which was the most difficult book for you to write? Why?

Bain: The Melanin Apocalypse. The writing wasn’t difficult but I knew in advance that I would get a lot of flak and be called a racist, a white supremacist and other names. I put a lot of research into it and still one reviewer said the science was ridiculous. Not true. Every bit of it was possible and is becoming more possible every day. I had to really put some thought into the subplot and was called an anti-Muslim bigot, too. Nevertheless a science fiction reader’s club picked the book to debate and I did some radio interviews as well.

Ferrante: Out of all the books you’ve written, what is the one you’re most proud of?

Bain: Now that’s a hard one to answer. If I had to be pinned down, I suppose I’d pick Savage Survival. The idea for it bloomed in my mind one night fully plotted and the book practically wrote itself. On the other hand, I’m really proud of the two books I’ve written as tributes to two really unusual dachshunds we’ve owned (or that owned us, I’m not sure.) One, Doggie Biscuit! followed the life of Biscuit, the most intelligent, people-oriented dogs I’ve ever even heard or thought about and the book followed his life faithfully, other than exaggerating a few true events for humor or dramatic purposes. The other, Bark! was about Tonto, a runt of the litter who was cross-eyed, had only one testicle and was afflicted with the doggie version of Aspergers Syndrome. He also had ADHD. He went his own silly way, marching to the tune of a different drummer than other dogs. He would spend hours arranging garden hoses left lying in the yard around the porch steps into a pattern only he knew the meaning of. He was a tool user and made his own tool for a specific purpose, which is supposed to be impossible for a dog, but not for Tonto. He was fascinated by water and…but read it yourself. It’s out of print right now but you may be able to find some used print copies. I plan on bringing it back as soon as possible, even if I have to self-publish. If any publishers are reading this, please take note. And I can’t write any more about either dog right now because I’m crying over them again, as I’ve done many times in the past. Damn. I knew I’d do that as soon as I thought about Biscuit or Tonto.

Ferrante: Aren’t you running out of ideas? How do you keep generating new topics for books?

Bain: I don’t understand how any author can run out of ideas, especially a science fiction author. I’ll run out of life before I ever run out of ideas. My mother once said she thought I could write a story about anything. She asked me if I’d write her a romance and I did, Hotline To Heaven, although it is a rather unorthodox romance.

three random questions

Ferrante: If you were invited to be the main guest on a new run of the famous show “This Is Your Life,” what three people from your past would you love to see making a surprise visit on the show?

Bain: I assume that’s a TV show. The ones I’d most like to see are all gone now, but if they could be brought back to life, my Uncle, T.C. Masters would be the first one. He liked to write but had a big family to support and his businesses took up his time. I get tears in my eyes when I think of him. He was a peaceful, slow talking man but a literal, self-taught genius. Everyone who knew him loved him. The next would be my maternal grandfather. Mother always said I resembled him in my thoughts and actions, and like me, he was never satisfied to stay in one place. He was constantly moving his large family around. He like to write but couldn’t get anything published so he bought a printing press and published his own work. No one saved any of it but I’d dearly love to see some of what he wrote. T.C. talked about him a lot. And the last would be Travis, one of T.C.s brothers. He died young in automobile accident. He could tell the most fantastic, outrageous stories and make us kids believe him, but he was never mean.

Ferrante: What is one field or profession that you never pursued, but that you think you would probably have been quite good at?

Bain: A medical doctor. Even as poor as we grew up, I would have had a chance at it, and did when the army sent me to college to get a degree as a lowly PFC who dropped out of high school in the ninth grade because I had such high test scores but I blew it because of an amphetamine habit I had as a young man.

Ferrante: What is the most incredible weather event you’ve ever been through in your life?

Bain: My wife was driving as we were on the way home from a visit and ran into a sudden violent thunderstorm pouring down an enormous amount of rain. We were on a highway entering a town and couldn’t even see how to pull over the rain was coming down so furiously. Nothing to do but keep going and hope for the best. We got through the town and finally came out of it. We learned the next day that we’d missed being carried off by flood waters by about a minute, from eleven inches of rain in little more than a half hour. Incredible and we were lucky to get through it, much less miss the flood!

Darrell Bain’s book Alien Infection will be reviewed on this blog on Friday, December 9, 2016.

Click on the covers below to buy a book by Darrell Bain.

   

and there are more!

Alien Infection will be reviewed on this blog January 27, 2017.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

Note: the three random questions are from “Chat Pack – Fun Questions to Spark Conversations”.

Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antoinette by Sena Jeter Naslund. Performed by Susanna Burney. Book Review.

This novel is written from the point of view of Marie Antoinette beginning at age 14 when she was married off to the 15-year-old Dauphin, later to become King Louis XVI. Marie Antoinette has been groomed by her mother, the Empress of Austria, to be the perfect wife, obedient, cheerful, beautiful, and eager to bear children. However, things become more challenging than anticipated when Louis does not consummate the marriage.

Marie Antoinette, although genuinely eager to be a perfect princess and future Queen, behaves, in many ways, like a typical teenager. The author, Naslund, used Marie Antoinette’s letters as the major resource for her novel and as such, the young woman’s voice comes through with clarity and power. It is a voice that can be wearying on the listener but is both vivid and compelling.

Naslund writes in great detail of the sensual world Marie Antoinette experiences and interprets. The listener feels pulled into both time and place. I used an audiobook read by Susanna Burney whose story evolves impressively from that of an eager to please child to that of a mother and wife struggling for the survival of her family.

It is easy to condemn Marie Antoinette’s extravagances, especially her enormous gambling debts and expenditures on jewelry and clothes but, given an identical situation, many modern young women would behave in the same way.
In spite of her Habsburg lineage, Marie Antoinette is a woman ruled by her husband and country and therefore at the mercy of others. There is little mercy during the French Revolution.

Another perk of listening to the audiobook is the interview with the author after the novel is complete. This provides insight into the historical Queen and why the author chose to present her in this light. If you enjoy historical fiction, especially those that get deeply into the minds of the protagonist, you’ll love this book.

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BUY Abundance, A Novel of Marie Antoinette (P.S.)

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages