Posted in book reviews

The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald

The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonaldThe Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald
Published by Gallery Books on February 5, 2019
ISBN: 1501184008
Genres: General (Adult) Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 368
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-half-stars

This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.

Synopsis

In the vein of Big Little Lies and Reconstructing Amelia comes an emotionally charged domestic suspense novel about a mother unraveling the truth behind how her daughter became brain dead. And pregnant.

A search for the truth. A lifetime of lies.

In the small hours of the morning, Abi Knight is startled awake by the phone call no mother ever wants to get: her teenage daughter Olivia has fallen off a bridge. Not only is Olivia brain dead, she’s pregnant and must remain on life support to keep her baby alive. And then Abi sees the angry bruises circling Olivia’s wrists.

When the police unexpectedly rule Olivia’s fall an accident, Abi decides to find out what really happened that night. Heartbroken and grieving, she unravels the threads of her daughter’s life. Was Olivia’s fall an accident? Or something far more sinister?

Christina McDonald weaves a suspenseful and heartwrenching tale of hidden relationships, devastating lies, and the power of a mother’s love. With flashbacks of Olivia’s own resolve to uncover family secrets, this taut and emotional novel asks: how well do you know your children? And how well do they know you?

I received this book for free from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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My Thoughts on The Night Olivia Fell:

The love I have for my daughters exceeds anything else found on this earth. If you ask Thing 1, she’d tell you I love my children more than most other parents love theirs… to the point that it gets annoying and suffocating at times!

Thing 1 and I are especially close and she knows my biggest fear is to get “the call.” Even if you’re the type of parent that spends 20 hours of your 24 hour day complaining about your teenager, you know and fear “the call.” It’s the one that causes your stomach to drop before you even pick up the line, the one that changes your life forever, the one where a complete stranger tells you your child is seriously injured — or dead.

It’s every parent’s worst fear.

Thanks to some past events in my life, I suffer from PTSD. My particular trauma involves harm to my children and so this fear is even more magnified for me (probably why I get all suffocate-y sometimes).

It’s probably also why The Night Olivia Fell was such an emotionally gut-wrenching, roller-coaster ride of a story for me!

Don’t get me wrong, I loved every minute of it… But it was hard to get through. I saw so many similarities between Olivia and Abi’s relationship to my relationship with Thing 1 that it all felt way too personal and real!

Abi and her daughter are obviously super close and Abi loves Olivia fiercely. But then comes the night Olivia falls… suddenly, Abi has to come to terms with the fact that maybe she didn’t really know her daughter at all.

Not only does she have to keep processing that bit of life-altering, earth-shattering news, but her daughter’s pregnant, the police refuse to believe the fall wasn’t an accident, and Abi’s life is just all around spinning out of control! She’s built her entire adult life around Olivia and now she’s gone. Even if she does find out what happened that night, how does she go on???

Final Thoughts:

I’ve got to tell you, this book gave me chills! (And nightmares.) I definitely recommend it for anyone looking for a good suspense novel featuring relatable characters and a totally believable plot!

What do you think? Have you read The Night Olivia Fell? Have a suggestion for my next read? Leave me a comment below!

four-half-stars
Posted in book reviews

Wings of a Flying Tiger by Iris Yang

This may be the weirdest review I’ve ever written. Probably not for anyone reading it, but definitely for me personally.

Why? I’m glad you asked!

Okay, you probably didn’t, but I’m gonna tell you anyway…

I’m not normally big on war/battle scenes outside of the fantasy genre. I have no idea why, but give me a smoked orc, a decapitated goblin, burnt elf flesh – even a highly bloody GOT battle – and I’m all in! But a real life battle scene? Machine guns, fighter jets, human vs. human in a horrific and pointless war??? Nope. Can’t do it.

But of course, that’s exactly how Wings of a Flying Tiger began — with a jet fighter shoot out and a pilot seeing his best friend being shot out of the sky while trying to parachute to safety… right before his own plane is brought down! This is NOT my kinda thing!!

So why did I love this book SO much???

Wings of a Flying Tiger by Iris YangWings of a Flying Tiger by Iris Yang
Published by Open Books on May 20, 2018
ISBN: 194859806X
Pages: 254
Source: Open Books
Goodreads
five-stars

This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.

Synopsis

World War Two. Japanese occupied China. One cousin's courage, another's determination to help a wounded American pilot.

In the summer of 1942, Danny Hardy bails out of his fighter plane into a remote region of western China. With multiple injuries, malaria, and Japanese troops searching for him, the American pilot’s odds of survival are slim.

Jasmine Bai, an art student who had been saved by Americans during the notorious Nanking Massacre, seems an unlikely heroine to rescue the wounded Flying Tiger. Daisy Bai, Jasmine’s younger cousin, also falls in love with the courageous American.

With the help of Daisy’s brother, an entire village opens its arms to heal a Flying Tiger with injured wings, but as a result of their charity the serenity of their community is forever shattered.

Love, sacrifice, kindness, and bravery all play a part in this heroic tale that takes place during one of the darkest hours of Chinese history.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.

I received this book for free from Open Books. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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My Thoughts on Wings of a Flying Tiger:

I’m going to try my best to write a spoiler-free review, but it’s going to be tough. There’s so much I want to say about this book! At the same time, I don’t want to give too much of the story away or ruin any twists.

Let’s get this out of the way first – This book takes place during an incredibly brutal war. There are LOTS OF TRIGGERS: rape/sexual assault; extreme violence and lots of dead bodies; in-depth depictions of war scenes and horribly cruel crimes. But if you can make it through all that, you’re probably going to add Wings of a Flying Tiger to your favorites!

The Story:

While the violence is horrific, the story itself is compelling, well-written, and super fast-paced! I found myself pausing so my heart had time to slow down.

Yes, the story takes place in a war. Yes, it’s gruesome. Yet it’s also filled with hope, love, and joy.

The main character, Jasmine Bai, leaves school to travel home to convince her parents to leave Nanking before the Japanese invade. But her warning comes too late and she finds herself in the middle of Japanese-controlled territory! She ends up taking refuge at an all-women college inside the International Safety Zone, a 2-mile stretch that’s supposed to offer safety to the surviving civilians. But the Japanese military doesn’t obey the rules of the zone for very long!

Just when it seems Jasmine’s life might regain some level of safety and “normalcy,” her life is shaken up yet again when she and her cousin come upon a Flying Tiger (an American pilot volunteering to fight for China against the Japanese) named Danny.

The Characters:

The characters in Wings of a Flying Tiger are part of what keeps the story flowing at such a fast and engaging pace. They’re so well-written it’s hard not to find yourself completely enthralled with them, wondering what’s going to happen next and how they’ll get out of their current predicament.

Jasmine and her cousin, Daisy, are sweet and innocent in the beginning of the novel and somehow manage to maintain some of that in the most brutal of situations. Daisy especially seems sheltered from the harshness of the war as the two girls go through life just trying to survive.

The Fighting Tiger, Danny, is suffering from PTSD (obviously not referred to as that in the book) and struggles with nightmares while at the same time being anxious to get back to the fight after his plane is brought down. If I talk too much more about Danny, I’m afraid I’ll ruin some things so I’ll just end right there on him.

There are plenty of other supporting characters, good and bad. Everyone I either loved or hated.

Final Thoughts:

This was an incredibly hard book to read. Not because the story, writing, characters, or anything like that was “bad,” but because the story, writing, characters, and scenes were so good! The story takes place in the middle of a war, while Japanese soldiers are committing the most horrible atrocities imaginable — and the author doesn’t back down from that. She writes it in all its horridness. Normally, I can’t stomach this stuff…

So I cannot believe how much I loved this book. The entire time spent reading I either cried, laughed, experienced joy, pain, relief, fear, love or hate. And I felt emotionally spent by the time I reached the end. But sometimes, the best books just do that you!

What do you think? Have you read Wings of a Flying Tiger?

Have you ever read a book that had all the stuff you hate reading, yet loved the book anyway? Leave me a comment below and thanks for stopping by my little corner of the internet!

five-stars
Posted in book reviews

The Curse of Judas by Cynthia Brandel

The Curse of Judas by Cynthia BrandelThe Curse of Judas by Cynthia D. Brandel
Published by Amazon Digital Services on October 31, 2018
Pages: 112
Source: the author
Goodreads
four-stars

This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.

Synopsis

After generations of advancement, the human race had thought they were invincible. That was until the revenant made their presence known. The humans that survived the culling must pay to survive.

The cost......their blood. The source of life for all living things.

The Covenant (a pact between the humans and the revenant) was made at the end of the war. In order to maintain power and to ensure the continuation of the human race (the food source of the revenant), the Consulate (a group of higher class humans living in the upper city) was formed. Their main job was to maintain order and to work as a go-between for the humans and the revenant.

Persephone Black (Phoebe) lost her mother when she was born and she had never known her father. She and her Pappy made a living on the outskirts of the revenant city where the poor and desolate are numerous. Every month, Pappy would give blood in place of Phoebe (his way of silently rebelling against the revenant). Persephone had kept her head low and remained unnoticed for her entire life. She was content working as a junior gardner at the nursery as long as it meant her and Pappy's continued survival within the city walls.

"As long as Pappy has a roof over his head and food in his belly, then I couldn't complain."---Persephone Black

As fate would have it, Phoebe wouldn't be able to go unnoticed for much longer. She caught the attention of Cassius, a revenant (one of the sons of Judas) and was summoned by him (through the use of the Consulate) to the tower.

Phoebe would learn more about the revenant than most other humans. Cast into a world that she was not yet ready for, Phoebe would do anything to survive.

But she would soon learn that sometimes the cost of survival is more than a person could bear.

The Curse of Judas is a post-apocalyptic adventure interlaced with biblical prophecy and religious innuendo centered around the story of Judas Iscariot.

Judas's betrayal of Jesus was preordained, but his death (his suicide) was of his choosing. When he ascended he was rejected by Peter at the gates of heaven, but when he descended into hell, he was rejected there too. Being rejected from both the higher and the lower kingdoms, Judas was forced to roam the middle kingdom (the kingdom of man). Neither alive nor dead, his spirit was forever cursed.

Judas was the first revenant, a being that lives off the blood of humans. Although he was neither alive nor dead, Judas still maintained a likeness of his humanity. His betrayal of Jesus led to him being cursed and a shift in the divine plan for humanity's future.

Persephone Black would be cast into the fray when she meets a son of Judas. Her existence is both a blessing and a curse for the revenant. If the secret of her birth ever came to light, the world of the revenants would turn on end.

I received this book for free from the author. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Buy on Amazon

My Thoughts on The Curse of Judas:

This was a book I “knew” from the description, I was either going to love it or hate it.

When the story opens, you quickly find out vampires are real-ish. The legends we all grew up with had their basis in facts. The creatures the vampire legends were based upon, the Revenant, are done hiding. They want to rule – and a truce has been established between the humans and the revenant.

Similar Premise to…

If you’ve read the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris, or watched True Blood, this will sound familiar to you. I’m doing the buddy read with Shelbi at What’s My Page Again?, so I really couldn’t help noticing the similarities in how the revenants thought and behaved, as well as how they felt about being “out” in the world.

In Charlaine Harris’ world, vampires “came out of the coffin” and wanted to mainstream (live among the humans), so they drink synthetic blood and only drink from “willing” humans. (Yes, I know that’s not a great explanation, but it gets my point across.

But in the world of The Curse of Judas, they want to feed off of humans, and, in order to be allowed to survive, every human must “donate” a pint of blood every month.

So the similarties pretty much end between the two series once you get past the fact they’re both pretty gothic in nature and both involve vampire type creatures coming out of hiding after centuries.

What I enjoyed/hated about The Curse of Judas…

The world is gritty and the characters are living in survival mode, which brings out the best and worst in people. I loved it! I pictured this super dark city where Phoebe really stands out like a light, at home, and at work. Phoebe is an amazing person who takes care of her adopted father and stands up for her friends, even when she’s terrified.

When Phoebe’s best friend, Val, is hurt, Phoebe does everything she can to ensure Val and her little brother aren’t killed or kicked out of the city. Unfortunately, this has disastrous consequences for Phoebe and her Pappy – but she never regrets her decision. She stands by it and doesn’t back down from it.

Too often in this type of story, I’ve seen where the heroine is whiny and complains about the consequences for their actions. But Phoebe owns up to everything she does. Her only regrets seem to come from when others get hurt because of her. She owns up to it though and I really felt connected to Phoebe throughout the story. Her fear, pain, worry (both for herself and others) was real for me and made me cry at times.

While I really enjoyed reading this book, I wish it was longer. There were pieces I wish would have been explored further. For instance, how and why the revenants first made their appearance and about the war that took place afterward. Something that would’ve made it longer automatically would be the times where it just stated a character felt something, instead of describing it (like they were unsettled, but there was no description of what that looked like).

Side rant:

The thing I loved the most about the story… it’s BELIEVABLE! I love fantasy, so I’m all about dragons, mages, wizards, dwarves, elves, etc. But I need to be able to believe those things are actually possible and that the world they’re happening in could exist. The stakes need to feel real!!! (Sorry, I just finished a book that took place in the “real” world and I found it completely unbelievable… but you’ll hear about that later in the week, so I’m gonna shut up about it now…)

This is a quote from Phoebe in the book, where she’s kind of re-examining the world she’s been raised in, a world where many families couldn’t eat a meal together:

Pappy once told me that there was a time when families stuck together, weathered every storm and every trial together as a unit, but that was a long time ago. That was before the revenant–a time when humans were favored by God. We were his children and we had misbehaved. I’d guessed the revenant were God’s way of punishing humans for their sins.

Phoebe, The Curse of Judas

This is a world in which I can see the revenant existing. It’s not so different from our own world and I could picture it all clearly.

To Wrap it all up…

I really liked The Curse of Judas and I can’t wait for the next book to come out!!! I recommend it for anyone that enjoys a good vampire story (where the vamps don’t glitter).

Have you read The Curse of Judas? Any thoughts on my thoughts?? Leave me a comment below! Thanks for visiting

Thanks for visiting and happy reading! 🙂

four-stars
Posted in book reviews

The Autobiography of Satan

The Autobiography of SatanThe Autobiography of Satan: Authorized Edition by William A. Glasser
Published by Open Books on February 21, 2017
Pages: 161
Source: Open Books
Goodreads
three-half-stars

This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.

Synopsis

This is the story of Satan's many struggles, across the history of Human existence, to unshackle the Human mind, and open the gates to forbidden knowledge.

From the moment of his first emergence as a single spark in the dimness of prehistory, to the more enlightening force into which he evolves across the full span of human existence, Satan, as he now clearly illustrates, has been urging human beings to open their eyes to the world around them, and to continue seeking, with unfettered minds, for ultimate answers, yet to be found. To do so he must struggle against the persistent attempts to stifle that urge by the "spoon feeders," as he calls them, individuals who have insisted, within every age, and often with a bloody fist, that they, and they alone, are the possessors of the only beliefs that every human being should accept and live by, without question. As Satan traces the history of their many attempts to stop human beings from thinking for themselves, he also takes his readers on a search for the ultimate source of all evil in this world. Readers will obviously enter the book with the standard concept of Satan as a supernatural figure of evil. They will leave the book, however, with a better understanding of how such mind-twisting concepts have been used to keep people away from the "forbidden" knowledge that lies beyond the borders of entrenched beliefs.

I received this book for free from Open Books. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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My Thoughts on The Autobiography of Satan:

Poor, pitiful Satan. He’s been so misunderstood and gotten a really bad rap all these centuries. And he’s stayed so quiet and continued to take the blame for all the evil in the world, but is it really fair? He believes it’s high time we all hear him out!

Similar to the Screwtape Story?

The first thing that came to my mind when I began reading The Autobiography of Satan, was C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. Screwtape Letters is one of my favorite Lewis books and I saw a lot of similarities between the two.

The Screwtape Letters are the correspondence between two demons regarding winning the fate of one Christian. But The Autobiography of Satan is Satan’s side of every story ever told about him in every religion. (Although, he seems to go back to the Garden of Eden story more than any other.)

And he claims we’ve gotten him ALL wrong.

Like the demons, who believe their side is the “right” side in The Screwtape Letters, so Satan believe he’s the hero in his own story in his autobiography.

Satan’s side of the good vs. evil story…

So Satan transcribes the “real” story to his scribe, Wag, who I assume is some lower level demon. When I realized that W.A.G. is the initials of the author, I laughed out loud.

As Satan retells stories of himself throughout the ages, his tales are broken up by conversations between him and Wag. These conversations were some of my favorite parts of the book! Wag isn’t exactly happy with being chosen to record Satan’s story, and he doesn’t seem to find it all that interesting either… and he’s not quiet about it!

The whole book centers around our perceived reality of good and evil, and Satan’s trying to convince the world that they’ve misjudged him. He’s just trying to open up our minds and give us all the knowledge we’re missing out on! There’s a lot of history and myth surrounding his background and he just wants to set the record straight!

As he says at the start…

Your distorted sense of me has persisted for much too long now, and to your own detriment, I might add, for it has been used incessantly to scare you into an unquestioning state of submission. There have been far too many twisted accounts of me, both mythic and legendary — and all, of course, unauthorized.

Satan

Turns out, he really doesn’t like being portrayed with horns and a tail all the time, either!

Who’s going to enjoy this book…

While I really enjoyed this story, it’s not going to be for everyone. If you’re the type to take things a little too seriously, you’re probably not going to like this book. But if you enjoy a bit of satire and a good dark comedy, this is definitely going to be right up your alley!

There were times when I felt like I got a little too bogged down in a history lesson, but I actually appreciated the detail and it totally fit with Satan’s personality. After all, this is his chance to finally defend himself (and get rid of that horrible image of a red being with horns and a tail) and he needs to make sure we understand exactly where he’s coming from!

I wasn’t really a huge fan of the ending. I’d rate it a full 4 stars if the last chapter just wasn’t there, honestly. But with it, it’s a 3.5 from me.

So I recommend The Autobiography of Satan to fans of The Screwtape Letters and anyone who enjoys a historical satire.

So those are my thoughts, what do you think about The Autobiography of Satan? Have you read it? Leave me a comment below!

three-half-stars
Posted in book reviews

The Seeker's Stone (DNA in the Deep #1) by Kelly S. Epperson

42203484Title:  The Seeker’s Stone
Author: Kelly S. Epperson
Publication Date: October 2018
Genre(s): Science Fiction Chapter book for kids 7-13
Length: 66 pages

Description:

Staring down the ladder into the rock’s dark interior, Emily and John wonder what they’re getting themselves into…
An hour ago, Emily and her brother John found themselves stuck with summer science camp instead of summer fun. Now, they’ve discovered the mysterious Seeker’s Stone, an intelligent ship that calls herself Catie.
When Catie transports them to the world of cells and DNA, they plunge into more adventure than any of them bargained for. Menacing enzymes, ferocious viruses, and monstrous predators lurk among the wonders of DNA, cells, and life beneath the waves. Can three friends find the strength, wits, courage, and teamwork to survive and escape the monsters of the deep, or will they become another link in the food chain?

My review:

The Seeker’s Stone is a humorous book that is both fun to read and educational. It begins with two siblings, Emily and John, basically begging their dad not to make them go to science camp. But their dad had won Emily and John’s spots at the camp through a contest and he insists they will have a great time. (Not to give away the ending, but something I found really funny was that by the end they’re calling home basically begging to be allowed to stay!)
Shortly after Emily and John’s father drives away from the camp, Emily and John (mostly John) make a wonderful discovery – The Seeker’s Stone!
My kids loved The Magic Tree House series and also The Magic Schoolbus television show. The Seeker’s Stone is very similar to those, so pretty much if you like that type of entertainment, you’re more than likely going to enjoy this book. There’s a lot of learning that could happen through this series, but it’s not presented in a “teachy” way, which I liked. Overall, the book has a really upbeat, funny, and even sarcastic vibe to it.
There’s a twist at the end of the book that actually shocked me a bit, which was good, but the ending seemed a little far-fetched and sort of Disney cartoonish to me… Then again, it’s a kids’ book so that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just that reading it as an adult, it took me out of the story.
So my overall impression of The Seeker’s Stone is that it’s definitely worth picking up for fans of The Magic Tree House series.
My rating:  4.0/5.0

I received a free review copy of this book from the author. This in no way influenced my review.

What do you think? Have a suggestion for my next read? Leave me a comment below!
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Posted in book reviews

Loving Day by Mat Johnson – Book Review

Well, I finally got to check Mat Johnson‘s Loving Day off of my “To Be Read” list!
23164956
Loving Day is funny, serious, light-hearted, deep, uplifting and slightly offensive all at the same time… Basically, I loved it!
It’s a satirical story about Warren Duffy, a biracial man who recently divorced overseas, and has come back home to Philadelphia following his father’s death in order to sell his father’s house — a possibly haunted, possibly condemnable, most definitely flammable, mansion in the ghetto. He’s not home long before finding out he has a “casually racist” teenage daughter named Tal. Despite his outward appearance of a white man, Warren views himself as black and really acknowledges only that side of himself. When Tal (who may have more problems than Warren himself does) comes to stay with him, he somehow manages to get involved in a cult/school filled with teachers and students struggling with the same identity issues.
As an incredibly light-skinned mixed chick who grew up in a very white neighborhood in West Virginia, this book hit home on so many levels! I struggled with race, identity, and where I “belonged” all through my childhood and Loving Day captured a lot of that in Warren and Tal’s journey. This is probably the first book I’ve read that seems to perfectly hit on what it’s like to be bi-racial in America.
As a child, I was in a school system where there were never more than three bi-racial students (including me) all through my elementary, junior, and high school years. The number of black students could be counted on my fingers. I was a bit of an outcast… too white to be accepted by the black kids and too black to ever be accepted by the white ones either. Somehow, the other mixed kids didn’t seem to have it so bad. It was in high school that I realized it’s okay to be mixed, as long as you look black… If you’re skin is so light that most people passing you on the street assume you’re white, the assumption is that you can’t be trusted.
So I already knew I was going to love this novel by the second page, when I read:

I’m not white, but I can feel the eyes of the few people outside on me, people who must think that I am, because I look white, and as such what the hell am I doing here? This disconnect in my racial projection is one of the things I hate. It goes in a subcategory I call “America.” … I hate that because I know I’m black. My mother was black — that counts, no matter how pale and Irish my father was. So I shall not be rebuked. I will not be rejected.

Warren Duffy, at the beginning of Loving Day, was dealing with some of the same emotions I felt as a child.
As the novel goes on you meet some hilarious, truly lovable characters that help him on his journey to come to terms with and define his own identity, instead of allowing others to define it for him. Just when you think you’ve got the supporting cast in this book figured out, you learn something new about them you’re suddenly seeing them differently. (I’m dying to tell you all about them, but I want you to read the book and… well, spoilers! So if you read the book (or have already read it) shoot me a message and let’s talk about One Drop, Roslyn, Spider, Sunita, or Tosha!?!?!)
It’s hard to find a book that deals with such tough, emotional issues as Loving Day does (race, death, surprise parenting, etc.) and manages to have you laughing throughout, but somehow Mat Johnson pulls it off.
As far as ranking goes… I’m torn between a 4 and a 5 so I’m saying 4.5. My hesitation on a straight 5 is because it was hard to read the terms “mulatto” and “Oreo” so many times. I’m aware that’s because of my own past negative experiences and it’s hard for me to see the words in any way other than racist… even when they’re not specifically being used that way. I’ll definitely be reading it again in the future though!