The Origins of Benjamin Hackett by Gerald M. O’Connor

imageIn the summer of ’96, Benjamin Hackett has come of age, technically. And in the midst of the celebratory hangover, his world is whipped out from under his feet. His parents have finally shared their lifelong secret with him; he’s adopted.

At the age of eighteen, the boy still has some growing up to do, and with the help of JJ, his loquacious consigliore and bodyguard, he embarks on an adventure that’ll put to bed a lifetime of lies.

Over the course of five days, they find themselves caught up in the darker side of Cork. But when they sweep through the misfits blocking their way and finally discover the truth of it…now that’s the greatest shock of all.

 

The day after his 18th birthday Benjamin finds out that he is adopted.  He is shocked but most of all angry for the lie his parents have kept from him all his time.  After seeing the parish priest who arranged the adoption he goes on a quest to find out who is parents are.  This sets him on a path that takes him into the underbelly of Cork and aligning himself with questionable characters to help him get to the truth.  With JJ helping him unquestionably as a friend should, he finds what he is looking for.  Will he keep what he found out to himself or will he blow apart the world of the people who raised him and others around him to satisfy his every building anger?

The opening few pages of the book had me laughing.  The writing and language is great, the local lingo and manners of speaking brought me right back to when I was in Ireland.  Benjamin was right to be angry but the story is a long and winding one that brought him to the truth.  it’s a tall yarn that only the Irish can write and get away with.  It’s not your typical coming of age story.  I loved the first and third part of the story.  The middle third with him and JJ’s goings on in Cork were farfetched. It did add to to the story but I found it dragging a bit in my opinion.  The whole thing with the way they wanted to break into the convent to find out his parentage was just way to out there.

In saying that it was a good read and brought me to 90’s Ireland. I also could tell that this was written by a Corkman even before i realised that the writer is from Cork.  Stories set in the west usually have a certain feel and desolation to them, just as you can can tell a Dublin writer as well.  Having worked for a Corkman you can get some of they lyrical way of the county in this story. It’s a good first novel from Mr. O’Connor

ARC provided by Netgalley for a fair and honest review

3.5  stars

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A world Without You by Beth Revis

imageSeventeen-year-old Bo has always had delusions that he can travel through time. When he was ten, Bo claimed to have witnessed the Titanic hit an iceberg, and at fifteen, he found himself on a Civil War battlefield, horrified by the bodies surrounding him. So when his worried parents send him to a school for troubled youth, Bo assumes he knows the truth: that he’s actually attending Berkshire Academy, a school for kids who, like Bo, have “superpowers.”

At Berkshire, Bo falls in love with Sofía, a quiet girl with a tragic past and the superpower of invisibility. Soíia helps Bo open up in a way he never has before. In turn, Bo provides comfort to Sofía, who lost her mother and two sisters at a very young age.

But even the strength of their love isn’t enough to help Sofia escape her deep depression. After she commits suicide, Bo is convinced that she’s not actually dead. He believes that she’s stuck somewhere in time—that he somehow left her in the past, and that now it’s his job to save her. And as Bo becomes more and more determined to save Sofía, he must decide whether to face his demons head-on or succumb to a psychosis that will let him be with the girl he loves.

 

When I started this I thought, ‘ Here we go, a quasi X-Men wannabe’.  But I was so wrong.  Bo thinks he is in a school for kids who have powers.  He thinks he can travel through time, Sofia can turn invisible, Harold can see and hear ghosts, Gwen can control fire and Ryan can control objects and other peoples minds. Even the therapist in charge of their unit can heal himself.  Bo truly believes this.  When Sofia comes to him asking him to take her away from Berkshire, from the present and take her to the past, Bo agrees and takes her back to the time of the Salem Witch Trials.  As the school morns her death, Bo knows it’s all a show to hide the real truth, that she is back in time and only he can save her.  When some people from a government body comes to investigate Sofia’s death, things start to fall apart for Bo, and for Ryan who doesn’t want to leave Berkshire, and what he thinks is real isn’t.

This story deals with mental health issues.  The slow shattering of what Bo believes to be real makes for strange reading.  You can see that he catches glimpse of the true reality, Sofia committed suicide, there are no powers and that all the kids that are there are suffering from various mental illnesses.  But it gets mixed up in his version of reality and gets to the point that he doesn’t honestly know what is real and what isn’t.

I did find it interesting but in places it got very repetitive, especially Bo talking about how the various threads of the time tapestry feel to him. It was interesting to see him fighting what was going on around him.  I know nothing of suffering from a mental illness but it seems to be a somewhat glimpse of what might just go on in the head of a person who can’t tell for sure what is going on around them.

I did like the alternating chapters that focus on Phoebe, Bo’s sister. It didn’t contribute much to his story but it did tell of how she felt with him in a private school, the pressures on her to be ‘the good one’ and how Bo’s health affected the family as a whole.

I will admit that when I bought this book, I just glanced at the blurb and liked the bits that did catch my eye, it wasn’t what I expected it to be.  I have to say that because of my not really paying attention to what it was about it turned out to be a surprise for me.  While some parts were a bit repetitive as I had said above but the last few chapters are truly scary, your heart is in your throat and that made up for the parts that were so-so.  Is this a book that is a true portrayal of someone that suffers with the delusions that Bo suffers from, I can’t tell you, but it was a worthy read none the less.

3.5 stars

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The Bachelor Auction by Rachel Van Dyken

imageCinderella never had to deal with this crap.

Jane isn’t entirely sure that Cinderella got such a raw deal. Sure, she had a rough start, but didn’t she eventually land a prince and a happily-ever-after? Meanwhile, Jane is busy waiting on her demanding, entitled sisters, running her cleaning business, and . . . yep, not a prince in sight. Until a party and a broken shoe incident leave Jane wondering if princes—or at least, a certain deliciously hunky billionaire—maybe do exist.

Except Brock Wellington isn’t anyone’s dream guy. Hell, a prince would never agree to be auctioned off in marriage to the highest bidder. Or act like an arrogant jerk—even if it was just a façade. Now, as Brock is waiting for the auction chopping block, he figures it’s karmic retribution that he’s tempted by a sexy, sassy woman he can’t have. But while they can’t have a fairy-tale ending, maybe they can indulge in a little bit of fantasy . .

 

A modern twist on Cinderella.  I have to admit that Brock was too much of a ‘yes’ man who didn’t take matters into his own hands and go against his grandfather, just like Jane annoyed me that she let her sisters walk all over her in every way possible. He carries around a lot of guilt for something that was way beyond his control and can’t say no to anything his grandfather demand of him. Jane tried her best to respect her father’s dying wish to keep the family together.  Both get used as doormats in their own ways. Neither seemed to be able to take control of their lives and it made them seem weak.  As we get their backstories I understood why they way they were, it didn’t make them any stronger to start with.  As they get to know each other the find strength in each other, try and wipe away the ghosts of their pasts and to find some kind of happiness.

I have to say that Brock’s twin brothers, Brent and Bentley stole the show for me!  The attitude, the sense of humour and just downright naughtiness really brightened up the story line for me.  In her own funny way Rachel made this a funny light take on an old familiar story that everyone knows.  Instead of bitter step sisters and a step mother, we have two nasty and selfish sisters.  The old crone of a step mother is Brock’s randy, party going grandfather, who is another character and a half!   The prince is full of doubt and Cinderella is a maid.  It’s a fluffy, light, easy read that is fun. This is the first in a series.

ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

3.5 stars

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The Graveyard Apartment by Mariko Koike

imageThis tale of a young married couple who are harboring a dark secret is packed with dread and terror, as they and their daughter move into a brand new apartment building built next to a graveyard. As strange and terrifying occurrences begin to pile up, people in the building begin to move out one by one, until the young family is left alone with someone… or something… lurking in the basement. The psychological horror builds moment after moment, scene after scene, culminating with a conclusion that will make you think twice before ever going into a basement again. 

As  Misao, Teppei and their daughter Tamao start a new life in a beautiful new apartment and  things seemed to be getting better for them. While only half of the apartments in the building are sold, owning to the fact it’s built on land that is occupied by a graveyard and crematorium, they still feel upbeat despite their surroundings.

As they settle in things starts to get strange rather quickly. First of all Tamao gets hurt while playing in the basement. It’s an injury that couldn’t be obtained from the confines of a basement. Then the elevator gets stuck and it takes ages for help to get to her. There are stairs but only to the ground floor, the only way in and out of the basement is by the elevator.

As things get more ominous tennents begin moving out. After several warnings from others and other strange occurrences the family decide it’s time to get out while they can….. Or they try to anyway.

I love a good Japanese horror story.  It was a slow simmer, one that gave you bits and pieces as to what may be happening. It didn’t really kick in until the last 25%.  I did enjoy the fact that while nothing outwardly is graphic in showing the horror of what is happening, it’s mostly psychological leaving you to imagine what keeps happening in the basement. The tension kept being cranked up a notch as the story unfolds.  The ending left me wondering a bit as to what and why things happened, you are left to leave it up to your own imagination. I think this may have played out well as a movie.

ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review

3.5/5 stars

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All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker

imageIn the small, affluent town of Fairview, Connecticut everything seems picture perfect.

Until one night when young Jenny Kramer is attacked at a local party. In the hours immediately after, she is given a controversial drug to medically erase her memory of the violent assault. But, in the weeks and months that follow, as she heals from her physical wounds, and with no factual recall of the attack, Jenny struggles with her raging emotional memory. Her father, Tom, becomes obsessed with his inability to find her attacker and seek justice while her mother, Charlotte, prefers to pretend this horrific event did not touch her perfect country club world.

As they seek help for their daughter, the fault lines within their marriage and their close-knit community emerge from the shadows where they have been hidden for years, and the relentless quest to find the monster who invaded their town – or perhaps lives among them – drive this psychological thriller to a shocking and unexpected conclusion.

 

The rape scenes are disturbing and might be a trigger issue for some people so be warned.  I enjoyed the fact that the story is told from the point of the view of the therapist, it made for more of a different dynamic to the storyline.   It tells  a story of a family falling apart not only because of the rape of their daughter but of secrets that have been kept by many of the characters.

I suffered a car accident the night of my senior prom and the car went head on into a phone pole.  I remember being dragged out of the car and bits and pieces of that night, even 30 years on I still can’t fully remember what happened before at the prom or after the accident and have suffered from memory problems since.  I can understand the dynamic of losing  memories from an event, even though for the sake of the story it is memory repression from the use of drugs to ease the trauma and lessen PTSD.  I found it interesting to try to use regression to unlock the memories.  I did find the therapist a bit odd and creepy at times and it took a few pages to realise that Jenny wasn’t the one telling the story.

There are a lot of characters thrown in that at first don’t seem to fit what is going on in the main story line but it does sort itself out and slowly starts to make sense.  What didn’t help in the least was that the narration was disjointed and made it hard to follow at times.

I am going to be honest, I am not sure how I feel about this book. In places it was a bit long winded and I found myself getting bored. The plot line is great, the execution, not as much.  If  the story line flowed a bit more it would have been a better read.  I don’t know if the writer was trying to convey how someone would sort things out in their own head and that is how it was told but again, a bit too disjointed.  All in all it’s not a bad book, the ending was a good, but the jumping around got to me.

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3.5 stars.

 

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A Radical Arrangement by Jane Ashford

9781402276965A classic Regency romance from beloved author Jane Ashford!

Brash and Handsome
Sir Justin Keighley is all wrong for a proper young lady like Margaret Mayfield. Everyone knows he is shocking in his opinions, arrogant in his manner, and completely without respect for the common decencies of civilized society. Margaret absolutely will not marry him—no matter what her parents say.

Beautiful and Shy
Margaret was everything Sir Justin detested in a woman—timid, sheltered, and obedient to a fault. It’s not until she runs away from him that he finds he must give chase. Margaret is discovering she can be bold and rebellious—intrepid enough to do what she must, and more exciting than Justin ever imagined possible. She’s the last woman he would have expected to lead them both into uncharted territory…

 

When Margaret and Sir Justin are caught in a ‘compromising’ position at a party, they are found by her parentes. Margaret’s parents demand that Sir Justing marry their daughter for the sake of honor.  Neither Justin or Margaret find this to thier liking, besides the fact that they barely know each other and don’t like each other. She finds him arrogant and he finds her limp and dull. As pressure mounts Margaret flees her parents home for a distant relative in Cornwall.  Justin is sent to fetch her.  Things go wrong and instead of being able to bring her back to London they find that they are stuck in Cornwall. Margaret spun a web of lies about who they are, but if they are found out can they do what has to be done or can they still escape?

This is a old style regency romance where men are men and women are supposed to be simpering, brainless creatures.  As usual  that isn’t the case and Justin finds that he has more than his hands full with Margaret and is more than surprised when she shows just how smart and caring she is.  This is a clean read, no real sex or swearing it’s a good old fashion romance read that is well written and draws you in. This is a re-issue but it’s one I haven’t come across and is finding a new audience.

ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

3.5/5 stars

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Jane Ashford, a retired teacher and editor, is now a beloved author of historical and contemporary romances. She has been published in various parts of the world, including Sweden, Italy, England, Denmark, France, Russia, Latvia, Spain, and of course the U.S. Jane is also a two-time RT Book Reviews Career Achievement Award nominee. Born in Ohio, Jane now divides her time between Boston and Los Angeles.

An Excerpt:

Sir Justin Keighley stood in the doorway, looking them over with a slight, satirical curve of his lips. He wore, like the other gentlemen, conventional evening dress, but this superficial similarity was their only common ground. Ralph Mayfìeld, Philip Manningham, the squire, and John Twitchel were none of them unattractive men or negligible personalities. Each, in his own sphere, had a certain dignity and authority, and all had the confidence that respect engendered. Yet somehow, the moment he entered the room and before he spoke a word, Justin Keighley eclipsed them. It was not charm. Indeed, the newcomer did not look at all pleasant or ingratiating. And it was not mere social position. Keighley held an ancient baronetcy and a substantial fortune, but any of twenty men his hosts were accustomed to meeting ranked above him. Ralph Mayfield could not have said why he felt subdued as he came forward to greet his final guest.
The squire’s wife might have enlightened him. As she had told a friend at a Bath assembly two years ago, “Justin Keighley is a vastly attractive man, my dear. And not just to women. All the young men ape him, my son among them. I don’t know just how it is, but he has a great influence without appearing to seek it in the least. Indeed, sometimes I think he dislikes the idea. But it goes on. It’s something in his manner. No doubt you’ve noticed it yourself. He makes you look at him.” Mrs. Camden had been embarrassed by this speech, but it was quite true. And Keighley’s attraction was the more mysterious because he was not conventionally handsome. Though tall and well made, with broad shoulders and a good leg, his features were rough—a jutting nose and heavy black brows that nearly obscured expressive hazel eyes. And he took no care with his dress, a rarity in an elegant age. His coats were made so that he could shrug himself into them without help; his collars did not even approach his jaw; and he had once been observed in White’s with a distinct thumb mark on his Hessian boots, giving one of the dandy set what he described as “a shuddering palpitation.”
But these sartorial eccentricities were outweighed by Sir Justin’s political influence and sagacity. He was an intimate of the Prince Regent and Lord Holland, and important in the Whig Party. These facts did not explain his fascination for a great number of people, chiefly women, who hadn’t the slightest interest in politics, but they amply justified the Mayfìelds’ attention and suppressed antipathy.
“Good evening,” Keighley said to Mr. Mayfield in a deep, resonant voice. “I hope I haven’t kept you waiting.”
“Not at all, not at all. Come in. You know everyone, I think.”
Sir Justin bowed his head with a sardonic smile. He always met precisely the same people at his yearly dinner with the Mayfields, presumably those they were certain he could not “corrupt” with his aberrant opinions, and he always felt the same infuriated boredom. For the fiftieth time he wondered why he came. There was no hope of amusement or chance of advantage here. The Mayfields and their friends were just the sort of smug, resolutely conventional people he despised. They held to the views their fathers had bequeathed them and attacked all others. If one tried to make them change even a fraction, they shook their heads and muttered of treason.
He looked around the room. The only addition this year was the Mayfìelds’ daughter. He had forgotten her name, but he remembered that she had come out last season. She looked as one would have expected: a pallid, simpering creature. Keighley shrugged. Politics forced him to endure fools occasionally. The Prince would want to know the climate of opinion here in Devon. He supposed he could get through this evening as he had previous ones, through a combination of stoicism and bitter inner laughter.
Margaret watched him with awed apprehension as he settled beside Mrs. Camden and began to chat with her about London. She had never actually spoken to Sir Justin; her mother had seen to that. But she had heard him talked of so many times that she felt she knew what he would say in response to a wide variety of remarks. It would always be shocking. She gazed at him in an effort to understand how any man could be so utterly depraved in thought and action, almost expecting his rugged face to contort in a grimace of malevolence and his chiseled lips to emit some horrifying revelation.
Suddenly Sir Justin looked up and met her eyes from across the room. He seemed at first startled to find her staring, then his mocking smile appeared again, and he raised one black brow, holding her gaze. Embarrassed, Margaret tried to look away, but something in his hazel eyes prevented it. A spark glinted there, and she felt a kind of tremor along her nerves. It was utterly unfamiliar and unsettling, like a violent thrill of feeling. How could a stranger affect her so? This must be fear, she thought; I am afraid of him. She began to tremble, but still she could not turn her head away. He seemed to understand her reaction and, amused, to prolong the contact on purpose.
Finally Keighley laughed and bent to answer some question of Mrs. Camden’s. Margaret jerked back in her chair and clasped her shaking hands so tightly that the knuckles whitened. He was a dreadful man. She would not speak to him, and if she ever saw him again, she would run away.

 

Review: Talon by Julie Kagawa

17331828 I’ve been missing in action for quite a while but I’ve been reading a ton so I have a lot of reviews to catch up on! I haven’t read anything else by Julie Kagawa and had heard good things about this author so when I heard her newest YA series was about dragons I had to pick it up. I just have a thing about dragons, in general I think they’re pretty awesome so I was looking forward to this series. Also – how gorgeous is this cover!?

Ember and Dante Hill are the only siblings to have ever been born to dragons so some think they’re pretty important. These dragons are the shape shifting type and they’re required to spend the summer blending in with humans over the summer. This is a huge undertaking and one they’ve been trained on and Ember has been looking forward to. Talon itself is a secret dragon society, one every dragon belongs to, or so the brother and sister thinks. Ember finds herself being drawn to a Rogue dragon – one that has escaped from under Talons watchful eye, and also comes to meet to meet a human that she can’t resist. Both of these things are huge no-no’s for fledgling dragons.

This book has changing POV’s which can be tricky and oftentimes doesn’t work for me but I found that the author used it very well here. I find that alternating POV’s can be very jarring for me, taking me abruptly from one character’s head to another without any buffer. But with this book the changes were much more smoothly done and the scenes glided from one to the other, regardless of which character I was reading. The pacing and plot also worked very well for me in this book. The pacing was just right – not too fast but not too slow, both of which can be major detractors from a book.

Ember was the protaganoist and such a naive one, but believably so. She was meant to be sheltered throughout her life until she came to live with humans over this summer so I found her journey to be one that I bought into without hesitation. Garrett, the hero in the book – one of two actually – was less believable to me in his naivete. He would waffle from one belief to another and that was the part that I struggled with the most. I really liked him and his relationship with Ember but some of his actions didn’t ring true with me. Another part of the book I struggled with, yet liked was the love triangle that is barely fleshed out but seems to be forming. Triangles are ever present in YA and that taints my view of them because there are so many of them! I couldn’t quite tell if this was going to turn into an actual love triangle or not but I have sequel to read and review next so I’ll let you know…

3.5 Stars

~ Melinda

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