Review: Silent Symmetry (The Embodied Trilogy #1) by J.B. Dutton

17403163

Title: Silent Symmetry
Author: J.B. Dutton
Format: Paperback and eBook
Publisher: Self-Published
Pages: 194
ISBN: 978-1484067468
Source: Author
Genre: YA Sci-Fi / Fantasy
Series: The Embodied Trilogy
Best Read in Order: yes
Stars: 4
Purchase Now:  Amazon § Barnes&Noble

About the Book:

The Embodied glide through the busy streets of New York, uttering barely a sound. Their eerie beauty comes from their perfect symmetry. Are they flawless humans, the epitome of evolution? Are they a genetically modified super-race? Are they extra-terrestrials? Once prep school student Kari Marriner becomes aware of their existence, she is driven to seek out the answer and finds herself ensnared in a web that reaches further than she could possibly have imagined.

Kari’s earliest memory is her father’s death in a car crash back in small-town Wisconsin. Now, 12 years later, her mother has been hired by a pseudo-religious organization in Manhattan called the Temple of Truth (a.k.a. the ToT). At Chelsea Prep, Kari develops a crush on classmate Cruz. But when she realizes that Noon, another attractive guy at school, is involved with the ToT, her curiosity gets the better of her.

Kari stumbles upon a secret tunnel leading from her apartment to another in the building, where an ancient book holds images she can scarcely believe, and a cavernous room contains… something inexplicable. As Kari pieces together the incredible evidence, she discovers that the ToT is run by other-worldly beings called The Embodied who influence human behavior and have established a global long-term human breeding program. But why? And what is her role in all this?

Just as she starts wondering whether the love she feels for Cruz is genuine or if her emotions are being controlled by The Embodied, her mother is kidnapped and Kari has to figure out who is human, who is Embodied, and who she can count on to help rescue her mother.

Book Review:

Kari and her mother move to New York City for a new prestigious position, after leaving her small Wisconsin town and memories of her father’s accident there behind. For a teenaged protagonist, Kari was easy to relate to and care for: her sad past and her eagerness to find the new life, opportunities and possible love interests for her mother were endearing. As with many things, nothing is ever quite what it seems, and that also relates to the wonderful opportunities: scholarship to a prestigious high school, the beautiful people and the ease with which they seem to incorporate a major metropolis into their lives without great distress.

As Kari starts to feel seeds of unease, the questions start to arrive in a fast and furious manner: although the answers are far less apparent. Just what is the ToT and just how much influence it has on this world, and on the live of the people who work for them is a slow-developing reveal, mixed in this smoothly paced story that demands you read on.

I will be the first to admit that Kari is often far more mature in her approach, speech, thinking and behavior than one would expect, or want to see in a high school teen. However, when you take into account her life experience and her only child status, it did fit her well, even as it may be problematic for some readers. Aside from that and my wishing that there was more of an explanation and solidity built to give more substance to the characters of the Embodied, I did enjoy this read. I think that many YA fans would appreciate this story, and be ready to read the second book in the trilogy when it comes available.

I received an eBook from the author for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
About the Author:

After graduating from film school in London, I emigrated to Montreal in 1987, where I still live with my two young children and their even younger goldfish. I spent over a decade as a music TV director before moving into the advertising industry as an award-winning copywriter and translator. In parallel to my corporate work, I’ve written novels, short stories, blogs, screenplays and a stage play. I also write Young Adult and Children’s fiction under the name J.B. Dutton.

Website § @johnbdutton

Dancing With Paris by Juliette Sobanet ~ Review and Giveaway

dancing-with-paris-bannerToday I have a lovely romance with time-travel and suspense elements from author  Juliette Sobanet.  Additionally, the publisher has graciously offered 3 lucky winners the opportunity for their own eBook copy of the book in kindle format, open to international entrants!  The drawing information is below… be sure to enter!

Juliette Sobanet Title:  Dancing with Paris
Author: Juliette Sobanet
Format:  Paperback, eBook, MP3 CD and AudioBook
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Pages:  324
ISBN:  978-1477805916
Source:  Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Romance, Time-Travel, Suspense, Historical
Stars: 4
Purchase Now:  Amazon § Audible

About the Book: 

In Paris, a past life promises a second chance at love.

Straitlaced marriage therapist Claudia Davis had a plan—and it definitely did not involve getting pregnant from a one-night stand or falling for a gorgeous French actor. She thinks her life can’t possibly get more complicated. But when Claudia takes a tumble in her grandmother’s San Diego dance studio, she awakens in 1950s Paris in the body of Ruby Kerrigan, the glamorous star of a risqué cabaret—and the number-one suspect in the gruesome murder of a fellow dancer. As past lives go, it’s a doozy…especially when an encounter with a handsome and mysterious French doctor ignites a fire in Claudia’s sinfully beautiful new body.

But time, for all its twists and turns, is not on her side: Claudia has just five days to unmask the true killer, clear Ruby’s name, and return to the twenty-first century. To do so, she must make an impossible choice, one that will change the course of both of her lives forever.

-Amount of sex/violence: This book is a romance novel with time travel and murder mystery elements. There are two sex scenes and a few light murder scenes in the novel. There is a great deal of description of 1950s Paris as well.

Book Review:

In an interesting twist on my usual time-travel / romance trope, we are introduced to Claudia in 2012 San Diego. She is mildly dissatisfied with her life at the moment, pregnant by one man while desperately in love with another: who truly does seem to be the one for her. Very quickly, we are removed to 1950’s Paris, where Claudia awakens to find herself in the body of Ruby, a Parisian cabaret headliner who also happens to be Claudia’s grandmother’s best friend. Confused yet? I was at first – for we don’t have a great deal of time to know Claudia and gain a solid sense of her situation and character before we are whisked off to Paris and need to make sense of the situation that Claudia is currently embroiled in.

Not content to make this a simple parallel lives story: Ruby/Claudia is the primary suspect in a murder that she did not commit, and she must find the real killer and save Ruby from her current fate before she can return to her own life in San Diego. As if that wasn’t enough stress: with new situations, a new view of her grandmother and the Paris to rediscover in its past form, she has only five days in which to solve the mystery and set lives on a new path.

A complex and highly ambitious plotting arc and storyline for any author, but Juliette Sobanet is certainly up to the task. While there were moments of confusion, it gave me the feel of being Claudia/Ruby and the pacing, characterization and narration all aided in my getting up to speed, much as Claudia/Ruby needed to do. Then, since I mistakenly thought I had the mystery and murder pieces sorted out, the quick twists and turns proved to me that I was wrong, yet the answer was there, just awaiting discovery.

The city of Paris is just gorgeous and so very present in the story: from the descriptions and feel to the sense of ‘difference’, it fed every memory I have of the city at that time from photos that my grandmother had tucked into a scrapbook from when my aunt first moved there in mid-1950. Sobanet’s prose is lush and well-suited to the city and the story. The interwoven romance from present to past, while bringing a sense of Claudia’s current love to the character of Antoine, with their similar behaviors and concerns and their obvious affection for her was a smooth transition that gave more insight into Claudia and her modern life, while maintaining a true feel to the past.

While it will seem from this review that the story was hard to follow, or overly complex – I truly apologize. It was an exceedingly smooth read that never let up on the entertainment, and kept me involved and engaged with each page. Although I do wish that there was more sense of Claudia in the present and a sense of a solid conclusion for her story, it left me satisfied and smiling. I now want to read the author’s other titles, and have put them on my list.

I received an eBook copy from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

 

Giveaway:  

As I mentioned before, the publisher has graciously offered 3 eBook copies of the title for lucky winners.  Drawing will end at 23:59 on 14 August -winners will be notified via email.  Enter via this Rafflecopter.

About the Author: 

Juliette Sobanet earned a B.A. from Georgetown University and an M.A. from New York University in France, living and studying in both Lyon and Paris. She worked as a French professor before turning a new page in her career, penning romantic women’s fiction with a French twist. She is the author of Sleeping with Paris, Kissed in ParisMidnight Train to Paris, Dancing with Paris, and the upcoming Honeymoon in Paris. Today she lives with her husband and two cats in San Diego, where she devotes her time to writing and dreaming about her next trip to France.

Website § Facebook  § @JulietteSobanet

Release Day! The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker with Giveaway!

16158565

Today I have a treat for you all ~ its release day for Emily Croy Barker’s novel The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic. In addition, the publisher has graciously offered the option for a giveaway of one paper copy of the book  – limited to US mailing addresses only – no PO Boxes.  This drawing will end at midnight (EST) on 12 August – use this Rafflecopter to enter.

Title: The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic
Author: Emily Croy Barker
Format: Hardcover and eBook
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books/Viking
Pages: 576
ISBN: 978-0670023660
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: High Fantasy / Literary
Stars:  4
Purchase Now: Amazon § Barnes&Noble § IndieBound

About the Book:

Nora Fischer’s dissertation is stalled and her boyfriend is about to marry another woman. During a miserable weekend at a friend’s wedding, Nora wanders off and walks through a portal into a different world where she’s transformed from a drab grad student into a stunning beauty. Before long, she has a set of glamorous new friends and her romance with gorgeous, masterful Raclin is heating up. It’s almost too good to be true.

Then the elegant veneer shatters. Nora’s new fantasy world turns darker, a fairy tale gone incredibly wrong. Making it here will take skills Nora never learned in graduate school. Her only real ally—and a reluctant one at that—is the magician Aruendiel, a grim, reclusive figure with a biting tongue and a shrouded past. And it will take her becoming Aruendiel’s student—and learning magic herself—to survive. When a passage home finally opens, Nora must weigh her “real life” against the dangerous power of love and magic.

Book Review:

Think back to the first book that transported you on a journey to elsewhere: not a rapid movement, but a gentle realization that the world in the book is all around you. For me that was Through the Looking Glass. I found much of the same wonder and enjoyment in this book: a subtle return to those moments when reading where all outside influences cease to exist, and hours pass before they return.

Emily Croy Barker uses a smooth and beautifully descriptive writing style, to craft this story that incorporates references to classics, poetry and poets and the age-old battle of dark versus light. It is not a quick read at over five hundred pages, but a thoroughly charming one.

Nora is a grad student, stuck on her thesis and recently single. She hates her life at the moment, her self-esteems is shot, and she wants nothing more than to escape: from the sympathetic looks, the abominable men, her own feelings of failure and those few extra pounds that never seem to go away. And escape she does: an early morning wander in the woods leads to an old cemetery with a poem that attracts her. Lacking paper to write it down, she memorizes it, speaks it aloud and moments later, her world changes.

From here we are brought into a world of the impossible and improbable: where healing is by magic, clothes and people are always beautiful, the sun always shines and the most important event on the calendar is the day’s entertainment. Using time-periods that are iconic in their shapes, feel and essence to readers, Barker manages to use that sense to define fashion, style and furnishings with a nod to those eras: the 20’s, the 60’s, Elizabethan and Georgian and Victorian. There were moments early on when Nora’s complacency with the scene changes and situation made her difficult to understand, while some piece of the reader knows that she is under a spell, a bit of reinforcement of Ilissa’s power and influence on her memory and questioning earlier would have made it easier to understand her apparent passivity.

Aruendiel, however, was far more solid in his consistency and behavior, preferring the term ‘magician’ to ‘wizard’, although their capabilities are similar: in this world wizards tend to use their skills on a whim, to suit their current fancy. And Nora had been spelled, several times over, which presented a severe risk to her own mental health and safety. Nora shows her tendency to gravitate toward more ‘alpha’ and knowing personalities in her growing feelings for him: even as he must teach her to survive a return to Ilissa and eventually back to her own world.

This book is a wander to the end, throughout the story we are really given few clues to time passing, much like Nora’s inability to solidly define how long she had been away from her own world and life. These allows and insists that the reader simply drink in the moments and descriptions, and enjoy the slow unfurling of the plot: use their instincts as each new character is introduced to determine if they are friend or foe, and see if Nora really is able to find her way home. Not as action packed as some high fantasy stories I have read, there is forward progress with each chapter as we learn more, see more and watch Nora navigate this new and different world that is full of the impossible.

If you want a directly forward moving story, loaded with action and dramatic spell-offs: this is not the book for you. However, if you want a gentle moving story that is filled with beauty and description, a unique look at magic and its use, and a main character that has issues that many can relate to in their own lives: this is the book for you.

I received an eBook from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
About the Author:

Emily Croy Barker spent almost twenty years as a journalist, after starting out as an editorial assistant at Viking. Barker had great fun turning her writing skills to fiction to produce her first novel. A graduate of Harvard University, she is currently the executive editor at The American Lawyer magazine, where she oversees international coverage. She lives in New Jersey.

Website § @emilycroybarker

 

 

Review Unprotected Sax by Tony McFadden

17409717

Title:  Unprotected Sax
Author:  Tony McFadden
Contributor: Charles McFadden
Format: Paperback and eBook
Publisher:  Self-Published
Pages: 372
ISBN: 978-1481073783
Source: Author
Genre: Thriller / Mystery
Stars: 4
Purchase Now:  Amazon  § Barnes&Noble § BooksAMillion

About the Book:
Playing sax in his friend’s jazz band was supposed to be relaxing.

Then his friend disappeared.

Johnny Delacourte, (aka JD, Johnny D, The Sax Machine and a few choice others) left the Army Rangers and the battlefields of Afghanistan six months ago. He reconnected with friends in Miami, dusted off his saxophone and started learning how to relax again. With his best friend on drums and a delightlful vocalist in front of him, life was settling into a comfortable pattern.

Then the friend disappears, the cops don’t seem to care and the Russian mob is all over his ass.

Miami was always hot in August. It just got hotter.

Book Review:

This book was a fun romp with a feel of a Where’s Waldo illustration; only we are trying to find Paul – before everyone else does, to his detriment. Add in the art-deco and slightly decadent feel of Miami, the steam of the Everglades, a jazz trio and a series of unfortunate events and you are starting to crack open the joys within.

What makes this so different is that we know who committed the murder: all of the story’s tension hang on the witness and drummer Paul, his disappearance and whether he will be found, alive, to testify. Diving right in with several point of view changes narrated by different characters does make for a tricky start, but then the pacing settled with some deliciously clever sidelines that allow for time to breathe and just enjoy the world that McFadden is building.

With so many characters, there were some gaps in their development: but the main players in the story (the band) and one slightly depraved and crooked cop are defined fairly clearly and solidly. Dialogue in this book is both fast paced and well written, with an eye to sarcasm and some humor it often served to help define a sense of the characters. While I found some issues, this story was unique and the climax was a slow build to a satisfying ending that I thoroughly enjoyed.

I received an eBook copy from the author for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

About the Author:

Tony McFadden is a transplanted Canadian living in the Northern Beaches area of Sydney, Australia.Currently working on #8, an as yet to be titled sci-fi/pseudo paranormal thriller, he has just published “Unprotected Sax”, in the same universe as “Book ‘Em” and “Family Matters”, adding to his portfolio of “Daly Battles: The Fall of Pyongyang”, “Matt’s War”, “G’Day L.A.” and “G’Day USA”.

Website  § @tony_mcfadden

:

Review: Mental Pause by Anne O’Connell

Mental Pause 203.2 x 272.8 Cover Design.indd

 

Title: Mental Pause
Author: Anne O’Connell
Format: Paperback and eBook
Publisher: Self Published
Pages: 228
ISBN: 978-0984927227
Source: Author
Genre: Contemporary Woman’s Fiction
Stars: 4
Purchase Now: Amazon § Barnes&Noble

About the Book:
Abbie Slocum, a forty-something, average, middle of the road, housewife and mother of teenage twin boys, tries desperately to keep her outwardly idyllic life together while spiralling into a dark pit of menopausal insanity. Her mind races with suicidal, murderous thoughts so outside of her normal character that it frightens her. The only person she can share the graphic images from her hormonally addled mind with is her best friend, Rachel, recently separated, and the mysterious and titillating Joan, a new friend from Rachel’s singles support group.

Women have survived this female passage of life since the beginning of time! Why was Abbie having so much trouble handling it? As the battle to maintain her sanity rages on, Abbie, Rachel and Joan stumble into unfortunate, borderline comical, circumstances that lead to wild nights, experimenting with drugs and two suspicious deaths. Abbie’s cop husband, Conrad, tries desperately to understand what’s happening to his normally sweet wife. While vying for promotion, his family gets embroiled in a media frenzy that swirls around a murder trial in which Abbie is the primary suspect. Abbie takes the reader on an old jalopy ride of uncharacteristic outbursts and wild escapism that leads to tragedy and finally, into court where she just might have to plead ‘temporary insanity’.

Book Review:

This debut offering from independent author Anne O’Connell is poignant, funny, shocking and provides a moment of “maybe I’m NOT the crazy one here” for readers. Abbie is peri-menopausal with all of the symptoms that are alluded to, but never wholly defined or described to women in a way that every reader can empathize, sympathize or nod their head in agreement. Wholesale personality changes have taken over the formerly competent and functional wife and mother, and no one seems to understand why: least of all her.

Sometimes completely sobering then venturing into almost farcical situations, Abbie and her cohorts wander into situations and circumstances as they ‘go with’ their curiosity and let their impulses take command of their adventures. Unfortunately, being the chief suspect in a murder trial doesn’t soothe Abbie’s frayed emotions or ally her symptoms, and everyone is wondering if she truly is insane.

Mixing humor, real life symptoms and extreme reactions, O’Connell manages to create Abbie into a character that speaks to many, stronger than she appears yet wholly fragile and driven by impulses that she doesn’t always understand she is delightfully wacky and fun while still maintaining a sense of realness. The outrageous circumstances behind the murder charge, and the husband that is a cop and completely confused but trying to be supportive are well-played and keep the reader entertained even as we know that she is not the murderer. Friends also play a large part in this story: finally at the point where women are less about ‘competition’ and more about support and real friendship – it was nice to see a portrayal of female relationships that didn’t digress into mean-girl syndrome: where the bond and the support were more important to all of the friends.
I received an eBook copy from the author for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

About the Author:
Author and freelance writer, Anne O’Connell, has been an expat since 1993 when she and her husband escaped the cold of Toronto, Canada and moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. They enjoyed the sun and sand for 14 years, while she worked in the PR field, and then decided it was time for a new adventure. Heading for even more sun and sand, they moved to Dubai in late 2007 and then on to Thailand in 2011.
Anne has been working as a freelance copywriter, writing coach and consultant since 2007, specializing in social media, marketing, corporate communications and public relations. She is a regular contributor to Global Living Magazine and Expat Focus. In between clients she squeezes in time for her newly found passion – writing fiction. She and her husband have a passion for travel as well and that adventurous spirit has taken them all over the world. Anne grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia and has a bachelor of public relations from Mount St. Vincent University. She is the author of @Home in Dubai… Getting Connected Online and on the Ground; 10 Steps to a Successful PR Campaign – a Do-it-Yourself Guide for Authors; and Mental Pause, her first novel.

Website § Blog § @annethewriter § Facebook § Google+