The Black Painting (Coming to you in Jan 2018)

Four cousins summoned back by their grandfather…

The death of a family patriarch…

An old, mysterious house…

A painting by Goya that has a demon lurking inside it…

And a family with dark secrets…

This is what you can expect when you read The Black Painting by Neil Olson, scheduled to be released in January of 2018. 

The mystery surrounding who took the painting from the parsimonious, rapacious grandfather (after he has quite possibly obtained it from the black market) remains mysterious throughout the novel. The main character, Teresa, is charged with the unraveling of the Goya painting disappearance. 

There was a myriad of characters, and it was quite easy to get lost when reading along. Some of the characters, I felt, were very forgettable, and possibly even excessive, however, Olson spins a mystery reminiscent of an Agatha Christie novel. 

Overall, I rated this novel 3 out of 5 stars for the creativity and suspense created within this gripping novel by Olson.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. I would like to thank Netgalley, Hanover Square Press, and the talented author Neil Olson for the opportunity to read and review The Black Painting.

Lying To Children

From the nine months it takes to create that perfect little life until the eighteen years and beyond it takes to raise them, children are by far the greatest gift we ever receive. 

Their first smile. Their first laugh. Their first words. Their first steps. All are such monumental milestones. As parents, we smile and encourage them and are their biggest fans. 

Sacrifice. That is what parents do, and they do it with grace. Putting children first for millions of year… yup, that pretty much wraps up parenting… but what if you could REALLY say what you wanted to say to your children? What if for once you could say, “Just stop being selfish and whiny! Have YOU had to wear the same underwear for 18 years?”

What if you could write it all down, all the funny, crazy, angry, OH MY GOODNESS I WANT TO KILL YOU moments that you would NEVER admit to in real life, and hand it to your kids and walk away?

This is my side of the story. One day when you tell your future significant others, children, or therapists what horrible parents your mother and I were and how we ruined your lives, this book might help to exonerate us.

What if your kids really knew how you felt about getting that new puppy when you already had a dog, and how that puppy ruined your dog’s life, therefore, causing you interminable amounts of grief?

Every time I came home, I expected to see a message spelled out in kibble: “Couldn’t take it anymore. Had to leave. Love always, Steve. PS: I shit on her side of the bed.”

Have you ever turned to your loving spouse and said:

“Honey, I want to use my ‘Get Out of Parenting Free’ card.”

It’s ok. You can admit it. The author Alex Shahla sure let it all fly loose in his comical and heart-warming (and yes, completely identifiable) book Lying to Children. Rarely do I laugh out loud when reading a book (smile, yes…laugh, no) but Shahla managed not only to make me laugh out loud, but also laugh until I had tears as I identified with all of the “letters” he wrote to his children. 

One chapter on Christmas and Santa brought me giggles and left fantastic images in my head! I never did understand why at Christmas we don’t just tell our children that we have worked and slaved all year long to purchase them the overpriced toys that we know they will either play with five minutes or abandon in pursuit of happily playing with the boxes said toys arrived in. But hey, we all play the Santa game, right?

Hold on; give me a moment while I put on my Mr. Rogers sweater. Okay, here goes. If you ever wake up in the middle of the night and there’s a large man with a sack standing in front of your fireplace, realize that he is not there to bring you presents; he’s there to steal your presents. There is no such selfless figure. Aim for the chest and fire in rapid succession.

Shahla managed to take everyday parenting and turn all of the struggles and giggles in raising children to a poignant and entertaining read. His humor may not be for all and there are many places where the punchline is a bit repetitive, but for me, he presented a great tribute to parenthood and all of the daily struggles, joys, and fake (as well as real) smiles that come along with it. 

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars for the laughter it provided me. I think you should go now and read it too. Take a journey and think about all those times you also wanted to scream and pull your hair out when your kids “knew better than you.” Smile as the reach adulthood and congratulate them…

But seriously. Congratulations. You’ve reached the end of the Yellow Brick Road and what awaits is the joy of partying your way towards massive amounts of educational debt, followed by the misery of adulthood, where you’ll discover there are repercussions for your actions beyond being grounded.

Enjoy!

~Janet 

The Halloween Children – Coming June 13th to a bookstore near you!

As Halloween looms, tensions are building between the members of the Naylor family. Relations are getting woefully strained. Fractured. Violent. To top it off the annual Stillbrook Apartment Halloween party has been canceled. That was the last straw. The Halloween Children are not going to like that at all. Looks like the Naylor’s family woes are the least of their worries. There are much darker forces at work here. And they are about to make a grand appearance.

Harris and Lynn are at obvious odds with their overt favoritism of their two children, Matt and Amber, respectively. Scenes are so artfully woven that you’ll be wondering if something is wrong with Harris, if Lynn is going crazy, or if something is just plain wrong with these two well-behaved children. The entire novel is able to capture this tension and sustain it throughout the entire course. In Stillbrook Apartments, even the most innocent of occurrences will have that shiver of dread creeping down your spine.

This novella reminded me a bit of a Jack Ketchum story. The first 2/3 of the book is spent exploring the characters – in this case, a quite dysfunctional family. A constant sense of dread continues to build as questions are strung throughout the narrative like carefully placed decorations until you reach the end which comes screaming at you like a freight train lifted from its tracks.

The narrative point of views, in flipping from Lynn and Harris’s perspectives, worked extremely well as you couldn’t fully trust either of the two narrators. The savvy reader begins to get the real picture of what’s going on by what’s NOT being said. I’ve always enjoyed the unreliable narrator motif, and it’s used here in quite a unique way that’s not fully understood until you reach the end.

This has one of the best endings for a book I’ve ever read. The thematic metaphors are woven throughout one of the most tragic and shocking finales you’ll find … as I was reading I felt as if my jaw kept dropping lower and lower. Beautifully crafted, this is horror that will affect even the most jaded of horror fans.

A fantastic collaboration between two amazing authors, this is a book that will stay with you long after you close the final page.

Ararat

Liars and blizzards and demons… OH MY!

An avalanche that opens a cave in the mountain.

The discovery of what appears to be Noah’s Ark.

An expedition led up the mountain in search of answers.

A demon that has been lying in wait for just the right time to make its presence known to the world. 

A group of people with more secrets and lies than a presidential election. 

A breeding ground for terror.

I have never read anything by Christopher Golden before, but this will not be the last novel I read that he has penned. From the beginning, I was hooked. The pages racing by like the rapid descent of snow in a churning avalanche. The characters wanting to reach off the page and drag me into oblivion with them. The complex plot weaving and accelerating until the very last page… which left me breathless and sated. 

Golden pulled off a masterful, suspenseful thriller that also incorporated the coming together of Jewish, Muslim and Christian faiths, as well as scientific research and a hodge -podge of intermingled relationships with beauty and grace. 

If you love Lovecraftian type horror, philosophical, biblical, part supernatural, and part psychological horror, this book is for you! This book is like a sweet, slow melting terror candy that you just can’t get enough of. This was a 4.5 out of 5 stars read for me and I recommend you not read this novel before you go to bed! Happy reading! 

~Janet

Postcards From A War

In our current everyday life, war has become the “normal.” We have been at war for years with no end in sight. Every day thousands of troops are being shuffled around the globe in the hope of preventing aggressive escalation. 

Having our troops out and about defending us from those who seek to do harm means that families are torn apart. Women lose their husbands. Men lose their wives. Most importantly, children lose a parent. 

Children don’t understand the concept and reasoning for war. What children understand is that they no longer have the same house and family that they did before. Children suffer without being able to talk to that missing parent. That parent suffers at being ripped away from their home and loved ones, and there is great stress and worry on both ends. 

Postcards From A War by Vanita Oelschlager is a heart-warming tale of a young boy whose mother has been deployed overseas, causing him worry, sadness and heartbreak without complete understanding as to why his mother has been sent into a dangerous place away from home. 

His grandfather sees his grandson’s fear and decides to show him postcards that he himself received from his father during WWII. Such a touching tribute. 

Illustrator Mike Blanc does a fantastic job of creating a beautiful and heart-warming tone to complement the delicate issues tackled within. 

This 4 out of 5 stars book for me was the second children’s book I have had the pleasure to review for this author. Her grasp of children’s fears and worries is phenomenal. I highly recommend reading ANY children’s book that she pens. 

I received and ARC for and honest and unbiased review. I would like to thank Netgalley, the publisher, and the talented author Vanita Oelschlager for the opportunity to read and review this poignant children’s book.

A Tale Of Two Daddies

June is LGBTQIA awareness month and a month full of pride it is!

Something that you may not know about me is that I have a special affinity for children. I am a bit of a “kid magnet.” Teaching children to be kind, caring, and tolerant members of society is something we ALL should be invested in. 

In the hopes of making families about FAMILY and not what kind they are, I reviewed an amazing children’s book called A Tale Of Two Daddies by Vanita Oelschlager. 

This well-written children’s book shows how family, through a child’s eyes, is completely unaffected and unburdened by societal or cultural discomforts. It features innocent questions and honest answers between two friends when talking about having two dads. 

The artwork, by Kristin Blackwood and Mike Blanc, is both colorful and engaging. The artwork was produced in a four step process and is described in detail at the back of the book. 

Along with the lesson that family IS just that… family, I found on the back of the book where all profits are to be donated to charitable donations, with preference given to organizations supporting the author’s husband’s disease, multiple sclerosis. Talk about giving back to the community in multiple ways! 

How could you NOT love a children’s book that speaks to kindness, giving, equality, and love? 

I found this book to be a fantastic addition to LGBTQIA awareness, as well as to HUMAN awareness and the importance of family… no matter what the make-up is. This was a 4 out of 5 stars children’s book for me, and I hope you too will take the time to read it as well as support one love. 

~Janet

New Boy

This was a 3.5 to 4 stars read for me, so I rounded up!

 

The tragedy of bullying. One day. From the start of the school day until the last bell rings.

Osei was changing schools and not for the first time. This was Osei first day at another new school. His diplomat father had moved them, again. Osei was respectful and extremely intelligent. He was in 6th grade. He was also the only black student in a school where race was an issue. Dee was assigned to escort Osei around the school.

Dee was one of the most popular girls at her school. She and Osei hit it off. (Why wouldn’t they?) Not everyone was happy that the two got along so well. Jealousy causes many a dangerous rift, and Ian, the school troublemaker, had his eyes on this new friendship. This was the start of the bullying.

As is sometimes the case, the adults did not see correctly what was going on in the school, and those to blame refuse to take responsibility. Reputations become injured, children and their feelings are seriously hurt, and it appears that someone’s death will be unavoidable.

This was an exquisitely written and emotionally charged read. It is a reminder of how young children see and perceive events. How important friendship and belonging is to a young person. How easily they can be swayed and made to believe the worst in others. Most importantly, how young children don’t see beyond the “now” and think that these feelings will last “forever.” Such a wonderful novel on the important issue of bullying.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. I would like to thank Netgalley, Hogarth Publishers, and the talented author Tracy Chevalier for the opportunity to read and review such a poignant novel.

 

The Stars Are Fire

I must say that one of the best experiences when reading a book is the sensory aspects. The quiet promise in the bookstore. The smell of a new book. The graphic artistry on the cover. The feel of the page as it turns in your hand. This book has AMAZING artistry on the cover and the page stock is that perfect stiff thickness, just below a cardstock that makes reading and holding the book a treat! This was definitely a total sensory experience and for me, that makes book reading and reviewing all the more magnificent. Now… on to your regularly scheduled reviewing (The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve) already in progress. 🙂

Wet. Have you ever just wished it would stop raining? You know, from one of those week long rains that feel like it will never go away? Grace, the main character knows all about that. Her life feels like rain. Wet. Unending chores. No end in sight.

Dry. What about those times in your life when you just wished it would rain? When things feel heavy…stagnant…brittle. 

Fire. Cleansing. For Grace, when fire comes to her small coastal town in Maine, it destroys everything in its path. She must flee to the comfort of the sea and pray to save her two small children, and her unborn baby. Does the fire really destroy all? 

An unhappy marriage, a missing husband, the loss of her home and all her belongings, combined with the loss of an unborn child to the raving effects of a fire may just be the cleansing that Grace needed. Can she rebuild after so much chaos?

For the first time, Grace must stand on her own and face the music…HEAR the music even.

For the first time, maybe even experience love.

Until something threatens to take Grace back into the fire.

I am not one for an overly romantic book. The Stars Are Fire was such a refreshing novel for me. Emotional, creative, but not over the top sappy. I devoured this book in less than a day. The writing is amazing, the plot believable and the characters I expected to pop off the page and sit with me awhile. This was a 4.5 out of 5 stars read for me. I truly hope that you, too, enjoy The Stars Are Fire by the talented Anita Shreve. This was the first of her novels I have ever read, and it won’t be the last!

The Silent Corner

This Silent Corner, by Dean Koontz, is the start of a new thriller series – featuring Jane Hawk- and is an interesting departure from his typical horror/supernatural genre. This was a 4 out of 5 stars read for me.

Jane Hawk is a strong female character, and Koontz outdid himself in her character. Staying true to most of Koontz’s good guys, Jane does the right thing regardless of the personal cost. She’s smart, courageous, and determined. She’s a real badass, but with a heart. She won’t hesitate to kill but will do so only if unavoidable and completely necessary.

After Jane’s husband unexpectedly dies by suicide, she discovers a sharp increase in unexplained death by suicide across the country. (What a terrible thing to discover!) In true thriller style, as Jane probes into why there is this sudden increase, she finds her life in danger from people who will stop at nothing to prevent her from discovering the truth. She decides to take a leave from the FBI and invest her time in the quest for answers. There is lots of edge-of-your-seat action while she attempts to evade the bad guys.

The book starts off with a bang but does get slightly wordy and bogged down. Some of the book I just wanted to skip ahead and find the next action scene (which there is plenty of action to read.) This is an extremely well-written novel! (It is Dean Koontz, what more would you expect?) The book does leave you cliff hanging and waiting for the next installment to be written. This is an excellent book for those who like a good chase, thrill ride, or just love Dean Koontz.

I received an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Many thanks to Random House Ballantine and NetGalley as well as Dean Koontz for allowing me the opportunity to read this new side of an author that I dearly love.

Before We Were Yours

Avery Foster has grown up in a life of wealth and privilege. Her father is a senator and she is an accomplished attorney. As her father (a well respected Senator) is set to go through chemotherapy, she leaves her job as a U.S. District Attorney to work alongside him while he goes through treatment. While at a publicity engagement at a nursing home, Avery has a chance encounter with a mysterious woman who mistakes her for a family member. This encounter leads her to speak with her grandmother, (suffering from memory loss due to dementia) who provides cryptic remarks that set in motion an investigation into the Stafford family past.

In 1939, Rill and her siblings live a bohemian lifestyle with their parents on a shanty boat in the river. Her family is close-knit, and happy on their When their mother is taken to the hospital during a difficult birth, Rill and the others are taken to a children’s home with the promises of seeing their parents again. This sets in motion years of danger and cruelty for all of them.

The children have unknowingly become part of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, run by notorious child trafficker Georgia Tann who kidnapped children and sold them to wealthy families. From Rill’s story, we learn about the children, many of whom were living in river shanty boats or other very low-income type housing who were stolen away from their parents. The children were treated terribly and families were ripped apart. The children lived in terrible conditions and most were malnourished. Some of the children were both emotionally and physically abused.

The story is both heartbreaking and soul-affirming. It is about family-both those you are born with, and those who love you like family. The story is written from two points of view, that of Rill, later named May by her adoptive parents and Avery, the daughter of a senator whose grandmother is now in a nursing home. The writing is exceptional and the two story lines keep the reader puzzled as to how they will connect, which makes this a very engaging read. I recommend this book to everyone who likes to read a well-written character driven novel with a suspenseful atmosphere and historical details.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Many thanks to NetGalley, Random House Publishing Group, and the talented author Kit Reed for the opportunity to read this amazing, emotionally satisfying tale.

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