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Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Breaking Faith by E. Graziani

 

Breaking Faith high rez coverFaith Emily Hansen is the eighteen-year-old narrator with a lot of life to talk about in this gritty novel about family, mental illness, and addiction. All Faith wants is to be loved, to have a stable home, and to live without the need to “chase the dragon” – the heroin addiction that seemed to keep the Darkness at bay but ultimately led to her life on the street. As the story begins Faith appeals to other kids battling their own inner darknesses. Ultimately Faith wants to tell her story to show that there is hope and that she herself was pulled back from her ledge by an unlikely champion – the sister who she blamed for many of her problems.

 

 

Many thanks to the author for this review copy!

BREAKING FAITH is the hard hitting, roller coaster story of a girl from a dysfunctional family that just wants to be loved. Her mother is on drugs, her grandmother is frigid, and her two sisters are normal. As the middle child, Faith takes things a lot harder than the others, due to a murder she witnessed when she was just a child. She has the Darkness (what I feel to be depression and anxiety) inside her, and she turns to drugs to escape life.

The plot goes into stark detail about how easy it is to get hooked, especially when you feel like an outsider in your own skin. We see Faith as she struggles through school, experiences letdowns, and finally runs away. It is not a book for the faint of heart. Just as I thought things would finally go right for her, she falls back down the rabbit hole into the Darkness.

Graziani is known for her strong female leads, but this is the first time she has explored a plot like this. Faith is indeed strong, but as those who have battled depression or addiction, sometimes intentions are not enough to save you.

My heart ached for the girl as she existed, homeless, during a freezing Canadian winter. It seemed the world conspired against her until she was ready to give up. The author is adept at investing the reader into Faith’s story so as you read, her struggles become real, almost larger than life. One cannot help feeling devastated at how Faith gets so close to being loved, only to have it ripped away again. The plot turns are done realistically in the author’s capable hands – nothing is too removed from reality.

I yearned to be able to put my arm around this sad girl and tell her that everything was going to be all right. Sometimes it’s easy to take the path of least resistance; even though Faith showed early signs of strength, her circumstances made it easy to turn to drugs again.

This was an excellent read, with just the right touch of despair and joy. Graziani knows exactly what details to include so the reader never has that “suspension of belief” moment. As I read, I felt connected to Faith and her battles throughout the entire book. I can only hope that a girl who is struggling as Faith did, will read this and understand that there is love in the world for her. I also believe that there will be those who read this and gain strength from it.

Perhaps Graziani will be able to change lives with this book. I certainly hope so.

You can pick up your own copy here.

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

radium

The incredible true story of the young women exposed to the “wonder” substance of radium and their brave struggle for justice…

As World War I raged across the globe, hundreds of young women toiled away at the radium-dial factories, where they painted clock faces with a mysterious new substance called radium. Assured by their bosses that the luminous material was safe, the women themselves shone brightly in the dark, covered from head to toe with the glowing dust. With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” were considered the luckiest alive—until they began to fall mysteriously ill. As the fatal poison of the radium took hold, they found themselves embroiled in one of America’s biggest scandals and a groundbreaking battle for workers’ rights.

A rich, historical narrative written in a sparkling voice, The Radium Girls is the first book that fully explores the strength of extraordinary women in the face of almost impossible circumstances and the astonishing legacy they left behind.

Many thanks to NetGalley for this advanced reading copy!

From the moment I started reading THE RADIUM GIRLS I was enthralled. The author’s goal for the reader to learn about each individual girl is thoughtful and ambitious. This is truly a book where the characters are at the forefront of the story. We see how each one, eager to earn a living, found Radium Dial and sealed their fate. The author handles the tragedy with diplomacy and underscored, yet effective use of detail, both medical and non (such as when one of the ill-fated girls catches a glimpse of herself in a mirror and sees her bones glowing through her skin. She realizes she has radiation poisoning and promptly faints.).

As I read, I became infuriated and frustrated with the way that the girls were lied to and manipulated by the company. Banking upon their innocence, the “doctors” that examined them kept the true results hidden, while telling them that they were the picture of health. Over and over, they would experience a toothache or jaw pain; the harbinger of things to come. Insidiously things progressed to such a degree that walking or eating without pain was impossible.  Thankfully, finally, the stars aligned and  the case was brought to court. I am still amazed that there wasn’t more public outcry at their plight; this would never happen today. (Or would it? See the author’s epilogue.)

The author’s style is clean and easy to read; letting the story shine through without calling attention to how it’s being said. Once the “how” overshadows the “what”, I lose patience with a book. The writing flowed naturally here, letting emotions build and always keeping the girls front and center.

Each life is carefully, lovingly recreated – all the hopes, dreams and horror each Radium Girl experienced. By making each “girl” have a background, this brings them to life and makes this tragedy more real. There are so many moments in this book that made me stop to think about these poor victims – if they were men, would things have progressed as far as they did? These lives were truly taken for granted to further Radium Dial’s needs. I’m not sure which is more terrifying; the fact that radium has a half life of 1600 years (meaning their bodies are still emitting radiation from the grave) or that no one thought to care more about these women who were clearly suffering. Even the dimunitive “girls” is simultaneously endearing and dismissive, if you think about it.

THE RADIUM GIRLS was one of the best books I’ve read in a while, partly because the subject is fascinating, and because it allowed me to feel a gamut of emotions; to have me truly invested in the story and its outcome. The strength these women possessed is evident on every page, keeping the tension high and making them heroines regardless of how they were treated.

Kudos to the author for illuminating their lives as she did! She took these “statistics” and made them human…forcing us all to think about how the girls were treated as disposable. The description of the court battles is very detailed, further underscoring the evil corporation’s plans to try to drag out the proceedings, hoping the women would die before they would have to appear in court.

I have nothing bad to say about this book; there is history, pathos, hope, and humanity on every page. This should be required reading in high school, both to keep these girl’s memories alive, and to prevent suffering like this from ever happening again.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

 

Doctors At War by Mark De Rond

doctors

Doctors at War is a candid account of a trauma surgical team based, for a tour of duty, at a field hospital in Helmand, Afghanistan. Mark de Rond tells of the highs and lows of surgical life in hard-hitting detail, bringing to life a morally ambiguous world in which good people face impossible choices and in which routines designed to normalize experience have the unintended effect of highlighting war’s absurdity. With stories that are at once comical and tragic, de Rond captures the surreal experience of being a doctor at war. He lifts the cover on a world rarely ever seen, let alone written about, and provides a poignant counterpoint to the archetypical, adrenaline-packed, macho tale of what it is like to go to war.

Here the crude and visceral coexist with the tender and affectionate. The author tells of well-meaning soldiers at hospital reception, there to deliver a pair of legs in the belief that these can be reattached to their comrade, now in mid-surgery; of midsummer Christmas parties and pancake breakfasts and late-night sauna sessions; of interpersonal rivalries and banter; of caring too little or too much; of tenderness and compassion fatigue; of hell and redemption; of heroism and of playing God. While many good firsthand accounts of war by frontline soldiers exist, this is one of the first books ever to bring to life the experience of the surgical teams tasked with mending what war destroys.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing this review copy!

The author starts out by saying that this book was never supposed to be published, due to the subject matter and the way it was perceived to be handled. That only added more intrigue to the story, to me, and I was eager to begin reading.

The story is akin to the book/TV series MASH, with beleaguered surgeons, war all around them, stress, and dark ways to relieve the boredom. There is a great deal of loss of life complicated by military rules and the Hippocratic Oath – beware, as the injuries are horrific and discussed in great detail.

The author is British; so I expected his writing style to be a bit different from American writers. In fact, I even welcomed it, as I look forward to non-American cadences and dialects in books. What I hadn’t bargained for was uneven writing with obscure phrasing. At times it’s hard to understand who is saying what, and there was no deep insight made on the choices the doctors had to make. At the 75% mark I realized I had not really absorbed anything meaningful except that war is hell, these surgeons were doing the best they could, and sometimes there was strangeness (the usual black humor and Christmas in July) to help the soldier’s mental states. The same type of story was repeated over and over again (wounded too badly, euthanized with pain meds/crashing boredom dealt with by playing card games and trying to stay cool in the desert/occasional platitude about life) without variance or emotion.

Somehow this writer managed to make a wartime hospital seem dull. The characters are an amalgam, and so perhaps could not have been made more detailed; but I think it would have been better if he had given a little more detail about why they were doctors, what made this tour of duty different from others, etc.

It’s a shame that such an important subject matter was reduced to an unsatisfying bite of pablum, as there is a need to understand what the military deals with during extended conflicts. Heart of Darkness, Catch-22, and On Call In Hell expressed the story in a more readable and gratifying way. I gave up at the abovementioned 75% mark; something I don’t do often, but I just didn’t want to waste any more time. Great subject – bad handling.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

On Concise Writing – by Michael Nail (Part One)

My writing only seldom appears on this publication. However, those who have paid close attention will have noticed that my most common indictment is for the crime of wasted paper and wasted time. To make a point should only take so long. I allow authors modest space to provide emphasis and even, begrudgingly, personal flourish. Too many non-fiction writers seem to think that they aren’t writers unless they’re writing, and vomit black ink onto their pages, behaving as if they were working under production quotas. In response to the disturbing trend of not making your damned point, I will make a few of my own. Concisely. Authors, please take notes.

 

Your personal, unique voice is in what you say, not how you say it.

The assault of intensifiers, triple-adjectives, color commentary, out-of-place five-dollar words, and gee-whiz-isms has been damaging to your credibility. It is no longer my default reaction to take strong language in a non-fiction text seriously. Instead, I assume that the author is compensating for the weakness of an argument, or an insecurity, and I hope to be proven wrong. Sadly, I’m usually right, and I’m not the only one. If you think that your unique voice as a writer is embodied in your above-described assault, try calling to mind the names of all the friends you’ve won over with your pedantic speech. I’ll wait.

When I am assaulted by a book in this manner, it’s usually when I’m being told how significant something is. This is an easy problem to fix. If you feel like you need to assault your reader, stop, take a deep breath, and see what you can do to better contextualize the point you’re trying to make. The language you use to set the stage for your argument should convey the significance of what is at hand. If you’re telling me that a chemical got into the drinking water, don’t give me a linguistic spectacle about how terrible it is. Instead, make the people who drink that water relatable. Teach me about the health effects of the chemical. Instead of deriding the people responsible, tell me about the critical safety measures and protocols in place, which ones were ignored, and let me come to my own conclusions about the bad actors. Do these things with the fewest words possible.

Reading non-fiction shouldn’t feel like being in stop-and-go traffic. You’ve convinced someone that they should publish your book. You’re a smart person. Those big words. Those adjectives. That’s not you. Your intelligent, deeply-held thoughts and beliefs are enough. Believe me: we readers will accept and appreciate you as you are.

 

Please stop filling your books with examples and anecdotes.

When a concept gets to be a little too abstract, an example can be instructive. Sometimes a story is helpful for showing how a problem impacts real people. I love stories and examples, but they are more often abused than otherwise. Here are some rules to follow:

  1. If examples or stories are taking up more than half of your chapter, then just make the chapter about the example or story.
  2. If examples or stories are taking up more than half your book, then just make your book about the stories or examples. I have read some excellent books that did precisely this, with one chapter per example or story. I enjoyed these books because I wasn’t filled with the false hope that there would be a return of substance.
  3. You only get one example or story per topic. If that’s not enough, then either you didn’t do a good job leading up to the example/story, or you need a better example/story.
  4. Do not use a story as an excuse to set your “unique personal voice” free. Your writing should be about the voices of the people in the story now. Stay out of it.
  5. Please don’t end a story in the middle, only to have it start again where it left off 200 pages later. Sometime I’ve seen authors try to recap what already happened, but now I’m reading something I’ve already read… again? So you can make a point you probably should have make 200 pages ago? Spare me.
  6. To the point of conciseness; I will end this post here to let my suggestions sink in. Look for Part Two in the near future.

The Crimson Shamrock by Michael Hughes

crimson shamrock

A scotch-swilling DUI attorney, a cynical congressional staffer, and a retired bomb- sniffing German Shepherd are just some of the characters Chuck Wesson meets after he takes a travel assignment from his new boss, mysterious Silicon Valley entrepreneur Axel DeWilde. Chuck has been sent on a flight from San Francisco to Boston in order to demonstrate the Crimson Shamrock, a breakthrough portable communication device code-named the RedClove.
However, Chuck begins to suspect that all is not as it seems after a robber tries to steal the device at the airport, and his flight later has to be diverted to the Twin Cities after a threat is made. After his meeting is relocated to the D.C. suburbs and does not go according to plan, Chuck flies back to California to discover who and what are behind his travails.

Many thanks to the author for this review copy!

THE CRIMSON SHAMROCK is a fast paced novella that contains a lot of action. Chuck Wesson gets a job offer that seems too good to be true – all he has to do is carry a protoype to a meeting. Once he decides to complete this simple task, the fun starts. There are plane trips, motels, attempted robbery and mixed messages aplenty. Chuck seems to be ok with most of the confusion, even managing to score a one night stand along the way.

As the amount left to read in the book got less and less, I started wondering how the author was going to wrap things up. I’m not sure if that is a good or a bad thing – when your mind leaves the story and is allowed to wander to the amount of pages left. I’d prefer to be enveloped in the plot and not concern myself with how much is left.

The pace of the story ramped up even more towards the end, when Chuck finally has enough deception and takes control of his destiny. At this point I was super curious to see what the heck was going on!

The novella is an easy enough read, with some freewheeling characters that represent the excess of the wealthy entrepreneur. Chuck seems like a mellow guy who lets thing happen to him, rather than be in control of his life. There were a few scenes of him hanging out with his buddies that perfectly captured the bro-speak and hijinks that take place during a weekend out. Hughes’ gift for creating dialogue is  wonderful, and is often the funniest part of his stories.

I would have liked more background on Chuck; it was hard to become invested in the things happening to him. The action kept me reading, but he was a bit too passive and one dimensional for me. It was also hard for me to picture the mysterious device at the center of the plot; but perhaps that was done on purpose, given how it all turned out. The ending was satisfying, with a resolution I didn’t see coming. All in all, not a bad way to spend a few hours reading.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

The Happiness Effect by Donna Freitas

happiness effect

Sexting. Cyberbullying. Narcissism. Social media has become the dominant force in young people’s lives, and each day seems to bring another shocking tale of private pictures getting into the wrong hands, or a lament that young people feel compelled to share their each and every thought with the entire world. Have smartphones and social media created a generation of self-obsessed egomaniacs?
Absolutely not, Donna Freitas argues in this provocative book. And, she says, these alarmist fears are drawing attention away from the real issues that young adults are facing.
Drawing on a large-scale survey and interviews with students on thirteen college campuses, Freitas finds that what young people are overwhelmingly concerned with–what they really want to talk about–is happiness. They face enormous pressure to look perfect online–not just happy, but blissful, ecstatic, and fabulously successful. Unable to achieve this impossible standard, they are anxious about letting the less-than-perfect parts of themselves become public. Far from wanting to share everything, they are brutally selective when it comes to curating their personal profiles, and worry obsessively that they might unwittingly post something that could come back to haunt them later in life. Through candid conversations with young people from diverse backgrounds, Freitas reveals how even the most well-adjusted individuals can be stricken by self-doubt when they compare their experiences with the vast collective utopia that they see online. And sometimes, as on anonymous platforms like Yik Yak, what they see instead is a depressing cesspool of racism and misogyny. Yet young people are also extremely attached to their smartphones and apps, which sometimes bring them great pleasure. It is very much a love-hate relationship.
While much of the public’s attention has been focused on headline-grabbing stories, the everyday struggles and joys of young people have remained under the radar. Freitas brings their feelings to the fore, in the words of young people themselves. The Happiness Effect is an eye-opening window into their first-hand experiences of social media and its impact on them.

Thanks to NetGalley for this review copy!

Social media is all around us, whether we like it or not. No matter where you go, you will see people constantly checking their phones, taking selfies, or updating their Facebook status. I am one of those people who have spent a few minutes looking at my feed and thinking, “Everyone looks so happy – what am I doing wrong?”

I’m doing nothing wrong. I’m of a generation where I don’t feel pressure to put on a happy face to my peers. I don’t worry about what a potential employer might think of me, based on my social media output. For a change, I feel happy to not be a college student or a Millennial. The pressure (both internal and external) that this generation is under is immense. There is nowhere to hide, nowhere to truly “be yourself” – because the whole world is watching.

The author interviewed a wide sampling of college students around the United States and put together their thoughts in this thought provoking book. Most of the interviewees spoke of selecting the best moments to share on FB, while saving the gossip and melancholy thoughts for sites that encourage anonymous postings. I learned about a site called Yik Yak, where there are no identities, and no boundaries. I also learned that when some students took a self-imposed “holiday” from their cellphones, it was like a vacation. They spoke of truly being in the moment, rather than recording it for their wall.

There was a chapter on relationships, and how students felt about hookup sites like Tinder. In an interesting juxtaposition to this theory by Simon Sinek (click here for video), Freitas notes that college students are very capable of socializing and meeting people, having complete and meaningful conversations with each other, and being empathetic. When they are around their friends, they don’t become awkward and seek to lose themselves in technology; they interact and communicate like any other generation. Sinek, on the other hand, claims that Millennials and future generations will be unable to communicate face to face, due to their smartphone addiction.

For me, the best part of the book was the last 2 chapters, where the author fleshes out her theories and explains her thought process. I support her suggestions of wi-fi free zones, and professors requiring a basket for cellphone “parking” during classes. I also applauded the inclusion of different races and religions, providing needed diversity and showing the reader how circumstances were different from one person to another.

The interviews were informative, and sometimes shocking,  but at times they became repetitive and clogged the flow of information. Perhaps if she organized the book differently, it would have been a bit shorter. She did summarize each chapter at the end, while allowing the thoughts and quotes from each interviewee to illustrate her theories.

One thought that kept occurring to me was how happy I was to be older in today’s world, as I mentioned before. It’s a shame that technology has become such a big part in our lives; I can only hope the human race does not become lost.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women by Valerie Young

sucess

It’s only because they like me. I was in the right place at the right time. I just work harder than the others. I don’t deserve this. It’s just a matter of time before I am found out. Someone must have made a terrible mistake.

If you are a working woman, chances are this inter­nal monologue sounds all too familiar. And you’re not alone. From the high-achieving Ph.D. candidate convinced she’s only been admitted to the program because of a clerical error to the senior executive who worries others will find out she’s in way over her head, a shocking number of accomplished women in all ca­reer paths and at every level feel as though they are faking it—impostors in their own lives and careers.
While the impostor syndrome is not unique to women, women are more apt to agonize over tiny mistakes, see even constructive criticism as evi­dence of their shortcomings, and chalk up their accomplishments to luck rather than skill. They often unconsciously overcompensate with crippling perfec­tionism, overpreparation, maintaining a lower pro­file, withholding their talents and opinions, or never finishing important projects. When they do succeed, they think, Phew, I fooled ’em again.
An internationally known speaker, Valerie Young has devoted her career to understanding women’s most deeply held beliefs about themselves and their success. In her decades of in-the-trenches research, she has uncovered the often surprising reasons why so many accomplished women experience this crushing self-doubt.
In The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, Young gives these women the solution they have been seek­ing. Combining insightful analysis with effective ad­vice and anecdotes, she explains what the impostor syndrome is, why fraud fears are more common in women, and how you can recognize the way it mani­fests in your life. With her empowering, step-by-step plan, you will learn to take ownership of your success, overcome self-doubt, and banish the thought patterns that undermine your ability to feel—and act—as bright and capable as others already know you are.

Have you ever felt that you didn’t deserve that job you have? Or the grades in school, or praise from peers? Do you feel as if there was a mistake somehow, and you are not as good as others say you are? You are not alone; you may be suffering from Impostor Syndrome.

Many high-achieving women feel as if they got something they didn’t deserve, and are waiting to be “found out”. I picked up this book because I was recently promoted, and still couldn’t believe that I was the “one in charge” – and was sure once I was in the job for a little while, I would be “found out” to be incompetent. At times I felt like a child playing at being grown up.

The author was plagued by similar thoughts – instead of faking it til she made it, she decided to do research into this emerging phenomenon. She came to realize that many things come together to cause this self doubt in women: being “feminine” means not being “bossy”, interacting with men on an uneven playing field causes women to shrink from conflict and quietly overcompensate, plus the emotional makeup of the female means constructive criticism sounds like denigration.

It almost sounds like a given that being successful and a woman means you are in for a lot of self doubt. The author is aware of this, and offers many uplifting thoughts along the way. She takes every excuse that you have, every reason that cements your failure, and cancels them out with infallible stories and truths that help banish the deadly Impostor. Her tone is never judgemental, but encouraging.

Some of her anecdotes are eye opening. There was one comparing two managers who were given a project; one they knew nothing about. One shrunk back and said they couldn’t do it, the other got through it by convincing everyone that they had the background to handle the project. The difference? The first one was a woman, the second, a man. How many times have we heard a man bluster his way through things, and if he fails, he just laughs it off and tries again? Why can’t a woman do this?

The author encourages you to change your mindset by replacing crippling thoughts with positive ones, and offers activities at the end of every chapter to show you that no, you are not a fake. Her style is easy to read while getting her point across in a powerful way. I felt as if I had an older sister who put her arm around me and gave me a push in the right direction!

This is not a book you can skim through; I think it would work best by digesting the chapters slowly while doing a good deal of self reflection. Years of a certain thought pattern doesn’t go away easily, and the author acknowledges this. Everything takes practice. Thanks to this book, banishing the Impostor Syndrome is something I do every day!

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

 

Scared To Death by Rachel Amphlett

Scared

A serial killer murdering for kicks. A detective seeking revenge.
When the body of a snatched schoolgirl is found in an abandoned biosciences building, the case is first treated as a kidnapping gone wrong. But Detective Kay Hunter isn’t convinced, especially when a man is found dead with the ransom money still in his possession. When a second schoolgirl is taken, Kay’s worst fears are realised.
With her career in jeopardy and desperate to conceal a disturbing secret, Kay’s hunt for the killer becomes a race against time before he claims another life. For the killer, the game has only just begun…
Scared to Death is a gripping fast paced crime thriller from author Rachel Amphlett, in a new series introducing Kay Hunter – a detective with a hidden past and an uncertain future…

 

Thanks to the author for gifting me this book in exchange for an honest review!

I loved this book! Chapter one was crazy intense, with plenty of action to set the tone of the story. Kay Hunter is a determined, capable woman with some job conflict in her past. The kidnapper is a sociopath on a mission, full of devious ways to murder his victims.

Amphlett knows how to grab the reader’s attention by using strong character development and by keeping the plot moving. There are never too many people clogging up the pages; I really struggle with books that require a scorecard to keep track of characters. I also love that she believes in a strong female lead. Hunter knows what she wants and she trusts her intuition, no matter how much others may think it incorrect.

Setting the crimes in an abandoned building warmed my heart.  What creepier place could you find to make a victim consider her own death? I’m an urban explorer and could visualize the locations easily. What an excellent idea to use these places as a focus point for drama!

SCARED TO DEATH is a win on so many levels; I truly have nothing bad to say about this book. This is the type of story that you sit down to read and suddenly regret not having cleared your calendar prior to starting. The plots twists keep you guessing; even when the real kidnapper is identified, it’s never a guarantee that he will be captured.

Equal parts of suspense, humor, drama and action make this book one of the best ones I’ve read this year so far. The ending leaves the door wide open for the next book in the series to be awaited eagerly – I, for one, can’t wait to see what happens. I also have a theory about who caused the gun to go missing in her previous case – but I’ll keep that to myself and see what happens.

You definitely need to get your own copy – you can pick it up here.

 

Call Me Daddy by Kelly Stone Gamble

call-me

Cass Adams comes from a long line of crazy, and she fears passing that on to her unborn child. Also, she’s run over Roland and Clay’s surprise half brother Britt, landing him in the hospital. With her inner demons coming out to haunt her, she doesn’t know if she should keep the baby.
Clay Adams has his own decisions to make. His half brother shows up to tell him their father, Freddy, is still alive but needs a liver transplant. When Freddy blew out of town thirty-five years ago, secrets were buried. But it’s time for them to be dug up, because only then can Clay hope to lay the past to rest.

Call Me Daddy is a story of family, the secrets they keep, and to what lengths someone would go to protect them.
This sequel to They Call Me Crazy can be read as a standalone novel.

Thanks to the author for gifting me this book for review!

Cass Adams has run over a man in the street while driving home one night.  Little does she know that the accident will set things into motion that could destroy her family and everything she knows to be true about them.

Cass is still crazy, but a bit more grounded. Clay still turns to his worms for comfort, and Cass’ sister Lola is surprisingly big-hearted. Lots of great character exposition here; this is one of my favorite aspects of the book. We read about Roland’s family, learn about new additions to it (both welcome and unwelcome), and find out Cass is pregnant. Her ruminations on whether she would be a good mom or not are very touching and down to earth. She wants to do the right thing but she’s not sure if she has it in her. As a matter of fact, most of the characters want to do the same – there’s a theme here in CALL ME DADDY.

Each person has something that they need to do, and they all struggle with the decision. Events from the past are explained, and we get to learn more about evil dead husband Roland. Clay’s father, Freddie, is evil also – I hated him from the beginning. Fantastic work on the author’s part to create such a heinous and dislikable man! I was truly on the edge of my seat towards the end of the book to see what Lola and Clay were going to do about his “need”. Plus, I was prepared to start yelling at these fictional characters if they made the “wrong” decision.

Kelly Stone Gamble is an accomplished writer, blending dark humor, family drama, and oddball situations together in a way that is smooth and fascinating. It’s quite easy to become invested in the plot from the first few pages, and you will remain hooked until the end. It’s always a pleasure to spend time with Cass Adams, and I hope to see more of her soon.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

 

MoonDust: Falling From Grace by Ton Inktail

moon-dust

Imogene never planned to become a lunar commando. Not before her ex broke her heart and left her jobless. Now she’d better learn fast.

Descended from animal-human hybrids built for war, combat should be in the young caribou’s genes. While Imogene is determined to master the moon’s harsh battlefield, war clouds are brewing on the planet below, and once the storm breaks no training can ever be enough.

A soldier’s first duty is to her country, but when black and white fade to dusty gray, the lines between friend and foe blur. As everything Imogene ever believed in crumbles, she must decide if some orders should never be obeyed.

 

Thanks to the author for gifting me this book in exchange for a review!

Part of the fun of being a reviewer is that I get exposure to books I never would have thought existed. MOONDUST is one of those books. The genre is called “Fuzzy Science Fiction” and deals with sentient, English speaking animals as main characters.

The main character is a transgenic caribou named Imogene, who finishes one stint in the military and re-enlists because she feels out of place at home. Imogene is extremely well developed and easy to become invested in. If it were not for the author’s noting of an ear flick, or a tapping hoof, I would have considered these characters fully human. I do wonder, however, if that is all you need to do for fuzzy fiction: switch one appendage for another and make mention of the species when the character first appears. In any case, I did enjoy reading about caribou and pandas, leopards and Labradors all playing together nicely. Well, almost. There is some rivalry between Imogene and another female due to the fact they are both crushing on the same guy, and there are some ethnic slurs pointed at the panda because his race is part of the creatures waging the war that is being fought.

The plot is extreme scifi/military fiction, which made things drag a bit for me. There is a lot of action and we see the characters being put in scary situations on the Moon, where they are fighting their battles. Animals get hurt, they die, the wonder at the futility of war just like humans do.

For anyone who loves military action, they will get a lot of enjoyment from MOONDUST. The science fiction is well written – I especially liked the scenes on the rocket as they were getting sent up to the Moon. Imogene’s thoughts and fears are those of Everyman and I could easily identify with them. As she was strapped in, preparing for takeoff, making nervous chatter with the soldier next to her – it all made sense to me, regardless of the fact that she was a fuzzy warrior.

The writing is smooth, with no awkwardness or loose ends. There are many plot twists and at times I wished the pace would have been quicker; but then again the author captures military life accurately with the alternating boredom and panic.

This was a fun departure for me, with the best part reading how these animals express themselves, with a wrinkle of a muzzle or a flick of a whisker. Excellent details that brought my senses back to the anthropomorphic characters!

Do the bad guys win? How many of Imogene’s crew perishes in battle? Is this a series? As usual, no spoilers here. Read it yourself – you can pick up your copy here.

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