Review: Steeplejack by A.J. Hartley


Tomorrow is my stop on the Firebrand Blog Tour.  And you should definitely come back to see my thoughts on that one, and enter the giveaway.

Today though, I will be sharing my thoughts on Steeplejack, the first book in the Alternative Detective series.

SteepleJack By A.J. Hartley

Alternative Detective #1

June 14, 2016 – Tor Teen

4 stars

I was given a copy of this book, free, In exchange for my honest opinion.

Anglet Sutonga is a seventeen-year old steeplejack, a person who climbs talk buildings to do work. She is comfortable dangling over the city at ridiculous heights. The story starts with her waiting for her apprentice to show, but he never does. She is uneasy and discovers that this is due to the beacon, the jewel of Bar- Selehm, missing. Soon she discovers that Berrit did show up, but was murdered.  Her desire to seek justice and uncover the person responsible for Berrit’s death leads her to places she never imagined she be. Hired to investigate, she uncovers strange connections between the growing number of deaths, the missing beacon and other strange things happening around the city.

To be honest, when I first started reading this I didn’t think I was going to like it. I thought that I had made a mistake in signing up for the blog tour. But, as I continued the story grew on me, Anglet grew on me. Still, it wasn’t until the end of the book that I was truly enjoyed it for what it was. The mystery that carries the story from the beginning to end was masterfully unfolded, and the problems that I had with the story had nothing to do with that. Though I was able to guess some of the key players early on in the story, I wasn’t able to put it altogether until the end. The characters were well developed and interesting, though some of their appearances weren’t truly explained.

This story is dependent on the culture, politics and racial tension of Bar-Selehm. The only problem with this is that it shifts from the strange to the familiar. Is Bar-Selhm a real place somewhere in history? In our history? This is the problem with the story, some of the words and races are foreign to the reader (or at least to me). But when they are further described its done so with things that are familiar to us. It was disjointed and pulled me out of the story.

The ending was the best for this story. I liked the way that Anglet grew as a character throughout the story. Surprisingly, even Rahvey’s grew throughout the story, in a way that kind of made me proud of her. In the end, I enjoyed this story. Though I am not sure what else can be done in this world, I am definitely looking forward to book 2.

Always Shine!

Children’s Review: Army Brats by Daphne Benedis-Grab

Army Brats

Army Brats by Daphne Benedis-Grab

Scholastic Press- March 28, 2017

Purpose: Requested for review

Source: Publisher

I was given a copy of this title, free, in exchange for my honest opinion.

5 stars

This is the story of three siblings as they adjust to living on an army post for the very first time. The Baileys are moving from Pennsylvania to Fort Patrick because their mom, a military intelligence officer has accepted a teaching position.  All three kids are excited about this move, and even about starting a new school. They will finally be around people who understand military life. But not everything turns out the way that they thought that it would.  Charlotte makes friends with a new girl, who happens to be very popular. But she soon discovers that popularity does not mean being nice. Tom, though he tries very hard not to, becomes the target of the base bully. Though Rosie is content with just her family and dog, Cupcake, she learns that it’s not so bad having a friend.

This is the third book by this author, and I must admit she has become a favorite. Not just for me, but for read a-louds with my son.   She has a way of talking about very big (and sometimes complicated) topics and breaking them down to kid-size portion. And she does this without dumbing down anything. This is a rather short book, so I don’t want to go into details that will give anything away. But I will do my best. I do recommend this, especially for kids who are struggling with finding their place in the world, who are starting middle school and who may have trouble making friends.

Because of Tom’s interactions with the base bully, he begins to question himself.  But as the siblings take on the challenge of the secret mission, he learns that there are worse things than someone teasing you – accepting the harmful words/taunts as truth. He gains a deeper and truer understanding of what it means to be brave, and not in the way that he thought he would.  Charlotte has made friends with the school’s very own mean girls. She goes along with them even when her brother becomes the target of their meanness. Rosie is a spitfire of a character and is very comfortable being herself, even if it leaves her without any friends. But she slowly learns what it takes to be a good friend.

This was a very fun story, one that I will reread to my son as he grows. It deals with real issues and considers the individuality of the characters. How they respond to their situations is unique to their personalities.  The solutions presented in the book, are realistic and highly recommended. There isn’t a false promise of a happily ever after at the end, and all problems are not solved with a nice little bow. All issues are resolved, and after the characters learn more about themselves, the only reassurance that they have at the end is that whatever comes their way, even the teasing and bullying, dealing with gossip and mean girls and all of the other things that come with the journey of middle school, they will be able to handle it.

If you have not had the opportunity to read any of Daphne Bendis-Grab’s work, I highly recommend it. I also recommend sharing it and passing it around to all the young readers in your life. That’s what I’m going to do.

Always Shine!

Young Adult Review: Perfect Liars by Kimberly Reid

Perfect Liars

Perfect Liars by Kimberly Reid

Source: Edelweiss, Tu Books

4 stars

A digital copy of this title was given to me, free, in exchange for my honest opinion.


When Drea pulled up to the house, she was surprised to find the iron gate wide open.

First, I really enjoyed this book. No, it wasn’t perfect but it was still very good. Ignore the synopsis because it is very misleading. One of the things that annoyed me was the beating to death of the fact that Drea is not who she was pretending to be; that she was secretly a criminal. Other than her dwelling on it over and over and over there isn’t any real evidence of her criminality.  I liked the dynamics of the characters. I found Jason to be funny, and I think he’s my favorite. Drea was super-smart but did some stupid things, but they somehow fit into her personality –  if that makes sense. Gigi was a handful popping in and out as the story needed her. But, I feel like there’s room for her to grow into.  Xavier was like and iceberg. What he wanted you to know was just the surface. There is so much more underneath. The instant attraction between Drea and Xavier was stupid so I was glad that they didn’t act on it. The romance was allowed to build and it never became the focus of the plot. The mystery slowly started unraveling and this pulled me into the story even more. I really liked watching Drea slowly put things together and unknowingly move into a leadership role. I don’t think there’s anyone better for it. I liked the ending, and how we didn’t know everything that was going on. I do feel like it was a bit rushed. Even though there is more going on, things that may be resolved in book two, the ending was satisfying. I’ll definitely be keeping my eye out for more from this author.

But at the moment, Drea realized that these people who had been strangers-enemies even- only two weeks ago might be her first true friends.

Always Shine!

Review: Wages of Sin by Nancy Allen

The Wages of Sin: An Ozarks Mystery (Ozarks Mysteries)

Wages of Sin by Nancy Allen 

Ozarks Mystery #3

A string of curses split the air under a bright blue September sky stretching over the Ozark hills.

This is the third book in The Ozarks Mystery Series. I have not read the first two, but this seems like a series that you can jump right in. I was a little confused as to who was who, and who the series was supposed to follow, but it didn’t take me long to figure it out.

This follows a domestic abuse case that ends in the pregnant woman being murdered. The witness is the woman’s 6 year old daughter, Ivy. In the beginning the case seems pretty open and shut, and to be all about the death penalty. But as we get to know Ivy better, and read from different points of view, we learn  that there is more going on than what meets the eye. Some of it is obvious, and some of it is told to us.

Elsie is not the first pick to assist Madeliene with the case, but she jumps at the chance. Trying a death penalty case is much more difficult than she thought it would be. She begins to second guess herself when the morality of the death penalty begins to weigh on her.  She seems to be the only one who can get through to Ivy, but there is so much that Ivy is not telling her.

If you are expecting an action packed thriller, you may be disappointed, as the action doesn’t kick up until the end after the trial has taken place. The story unfolds much as it would if you were a lawyer talking to witnesses and building a case. This is not a bad thing at all, but it is far from the lawyer movies that are most popular. The lawyers in this book are simply lawyers, for the most part.  When Elsie figures out the secrets that Ivy has been keeping she sheds her lawyerly persona and runs to the rescue without a plan.  But something tells me that this is not the first time, nor will it be the last.  I enjoyed it enough to want to check out the rest of the series.

3 stars

Elsie tapped her white cup against Bree’s, splashing the liquid onto Bree’s pants. “Here’s to us girlfriend.”

Always Shine!

A copy of Wages of Sin was given to me by the publisher, Harper Collins, free, in exchange for my honest opinion.

Wages of Sin is currently available.

Be sure to check out Nancy Allen’s website  twitter, and facebook for more information about the author and her books.

Review: The Body in the Wardrobe by Katherine Hall Page

The Body in the Wardrobe (Faith Fairchild #23)

The Body in the Wardrobe by Katherine Hall Page 

Faith Fairchild #23

It was far from love at first sight for Sophie and Will. He assumed she was as money grubbing and devious as the rest of the contenders.

I have to admit that this was my first foray into the Faith Fairchild series. After I discovered that this was book 23, I thought I’d regret accepting this for review. To my delight, I enjoyed this book. While there is the comfort and familiarity of a long-running series, this installment is able to stand on its own.

Sophie and Will are enjoying the rest of their honeymoon while they can. Will will be traveling to Atlanta to work on a case. Sophie will be starting her job at the Maxwell & Maxwell law firm as well as looking for a house with the Maxwell family realtor, and long time friend, Miss Laura. As it turns out, Miss Laura is part of the small group that is unhappy with Will’s choice for a wife.  Dealing with the awkwardness of that and settling into an unfamiliar town leaves Sophie a bit out of sorts. But like any southern lady, she doesn’t let it show. Even when strange things continue to happen. Finding a body with a knife in its back starts off the trail of clues that not everything is as it seems. Having someone push her into a storage closet and convince the others that she left continues it.

Meanwhile, in Aleford with the Fairchilds, Faith is dealing with her own issues. Mostly she is dealing with the mean girl situation at her daughter’s school and the surprising news that her husband brings home to her.

If you are expecting an amateur sleuth traipsing around Savannah, Georgia, you will be disappointed. In fact, Sophie doesn’t actually go looking to solve anything. She gathers questions that she will ask her husband or in-laws or anyone who’d be willing to answer them one day when the time is right. Even though the summary said that Sophie and Faith would be teaming up to solve the mystery, it happens via phone mostly. By the time that Faith makes her appearance in Savannah, the mystery is being resolved on its own. For the most part. This is not to say that it wasn’t a good story or that I didn’t like it.

I like the way that as Sophie was learning about the customs and culture of Savannah it was leaking out onto the pages. I liked Faith, and wish I could have seen her solving mysteries more. I, however, didn’t really like solving this mystery with Sophie. Mainly because she didn’t do anything.  She was kind of whiny and while I am sure that she is smart enough to solve the mystery, and it may not have been a mystery as long as it did if she had chosen not to run away, she didn’t do anything to confirm my suspicions. I would say that Sophie was reactive to the strangeness around her, but that is given her too much credit. And I am not sure if the vision that held a key piece of information was a signature part of Hall’s writing or if it was simply a nod to the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil  by John Berendt.

Did I enjoy it? Yes. Will I look into the rest of the series? Yes. Would I recommend it to you? If you are interesting in a mystery that is actively being solved, no I wouldn’t recommend it. If you are interested in a story drenched in the history of Savannah, or a decent story, yes I would recommend it.

3 stars

What she did recognize was that she was no longer alone. There were three in the garden.

Always Shine!

A copy of this book was given to me by the publisher, Harper Collins, free, in exchange for my honest opinion. All thoughts expressed are my own.

The Body in the Wardrobe is currently available.

Be sure to check out Katherine Hall Pages’ website for more information on the author and the rest of her books.

Review: I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

I Let You Go

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh 

May 3, 2016 -Berkely

369 pages – Adult, fiction, mystery, suspense

Clare Mackintosh

Facebook: yes

Twitter: @claremackint0sh

Purpose: Review

Source: Penguin First Flights program

I was given a copy of this book, free, in exchange for my honest opinion. 

From Goodreads: The next blockbuster thriller for those who loved The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl...a novel with “an astonishing intensity that drags you in and never—ever—lets you go.” (Daily Mail, UK) 
On a rainy afternoon, a mother’s life is shattered as her son slips from her grip and runs into the street . . .

I Let You Go follows Jenna Gray as she moves to a ramshackle cottage on the remote Welsh coast, trying to escape the memory of the car accident that plays again and again in her mind and desperate to heal from the loss of her child and the rest of her painful past.

At the same time, the novel tracks the pair of Bristol police investigators trying to get to the bottom of this hit-and-run. As they chase down one hopeless lead after another, they find themselves as drawn to each other as they are to the frustrating, twist-filled case before them. Elizabeth Haynes, author of Into the Darkest Corner, says, “I read I Let You Go in two sittings; it made me cry (at least twice), made me gasp out loud (once), and above all made me wish I’d written it . . . a stellar achievement.” 
*Peter James, author of Want You Dead

My Thoughts: I finished this book this morning. I had been looking forward to reading it, and when I did I was a bit disappointed in the beginning. It was a bit slow for me, maybe it was due to what I had read before, maybe it was my reading mood. I wasn’t as certain of my enjoyment as I had been when I picked it up. But then…. then I got to the first jaw-dropping moment. And I had to go back and check what I read. How could I have not seen this coming? I had read carefully, making sure I followed all of the threads and breadcrumbs that were twisting into a complete story. But this?! When you get to the first twist, you  immediately think that you read wrong or that you missed something. It was all right there and there’s no way you would have missed something this big. But you did. I did. Others before me did. It is normal, do not be ashamed.

After that, the story picks up the pace, and it is much harder to put down. I don’t even want to talk about the details because I don’t know what will ruin a person’s reading experience.  And yes, it is an experience. Continuing on, knowing that there had to be at least a couple more twists in the story did not prepare me for what happened. It was as if Mackintosh actually enjoyed playing these mind games, but these were the mind games that I didn’t mind so much. I have a pretty twisted imagination, and I have to admit that there are some things that she did with a particular character that I would not have thought to do.

The ending. Yes, I sort of expected some of what happened to happened. Yes, I was still shocked at it, and still unsettled by it. Without ruining it, I can only say that you should definitely read this. You will be so glad that you did.

*A note about the comparisons to Gone Girl and the Girl on the Train: I didn’t like Gone Girl, I couldn’t get into the book at all. I watched the movie to find out what the twist was, and then I wasn’t all that shocked or impressed. I have The Girl on the Train on my TBR list, so I don’t know how this compares to that. *

And yes, I just found out that Mackintosh has a second book coming out in July. I will be pre-ordering that one as soon as it becomes available!!!

5 stars *****

Always Shine!

Review: Ink and Ashes by Valynne E. Maetani

Ink and Ashes

Ink and Ashes by Valynne E. Maetani

May 13, 2015 – Tu Books

368 Pages – Young Adult, Fiction, Suspense, Japanese, Diverse,

Valynne E. Maetani

Facebook: Yes

Twitter: @valynnemaetani

Purpose: Personal choice, A diverse read

From Goodreads: Claire Takata has never known much about her father, who passed away when she was a little girl. But on the anniversary of his death, not long before her seventeenth birthday, she finds a mysterious letter from her deceased father, addressed to her stepfather. Claire never even knew that they had met.
Claire knows she should let it go, but she can’t shake the feeling that something’s been kept from her. In search of answers, Claire combs through anything that will give her information about her father . . . until she discovers he was a member of the yakuza, the Japanese mafia. The discovery opens a door that should have been left closed.
So begins the race to outrun his legacy as the secrets of her father’s past threaten Claire’s friends and family, newfound love, and ultimately her life. Ink and Ashes, winner of Tu Books’ New Visions Award, is a heart-stopping debut mystery that will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the very last page.

My Thoughts: 

Wow! There are so many awesome things to say about this book that I’m not quite sure where to start. I picked this for a diverse read. I that I was going to be getting a good story since it was published by Tu Books. (In case you didn’t know, Tu Books focuses on diverse young adult science fiction.)

This was a great glimpse in Japanese culture. This had depth, meaning and connection. ot was wan’t overwhelming , but it also didn’t feel as if it was just placed in the story as window dressing. This actually had everything that I could want in a good book: characters that I liked and cared about, suspense and mystery that had me guessing all the way to the end, great pacing for the story and a heroine that I could believe in.

Claire Takata was not perfect, but, I think that is what made her character so believable. She was a bit whiny, and I hate to admit it, but most girls have thier whiny moments.  She was also strong, brave and very capable of taking care of herself. Her position of being the only girl in a group of boys  was fitting, somehow.

Lately, I’ve been having trouble with romance in YA, but I am glad to say that it worked in this book. Not everything that happened was your run of the mill stuff. And everything wasn’t wrapped up nice and neatly. But… every question was answered, even if it was complicated.

Even though I focused on Claire, the other characters were well thought out and developed. They had their own quirks and endearing charms. I really enjoyed this work, and will be looking forward to more from this author.

5 stars *****

Always Shine!