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Smashwords book reviews by Tiffany Harkleroad
- Death Rhythm
on Aug. 29, 2010
Andrew was unlucky, because he wrecked his car in the middle of nowhere. Turns out nowhere was actually pretty close to where his long lost Aunt Mae lives, so the cops help him connect with her, and she takes him in for a few days while his car gets repaired. While he is there, he stumbles across a local cemetery, some strange neighbors, a dead cat, and some pretty deeply buried family secrets. Andrew is forced to face up to a sick, twisted side to his family, which he never knew existed before now.
From the opening scene of this book, I was hooked. The prologue was not an easy thing to read, it was clear from the get go, this was going to be an extremely dark novel, and in the hands of an unskilled writer, it could have easily careened into campy, cheesy, fluff. Thankfully, it did not. Joel Arnold has written a novel that would make King fans not only proud, but thoroughly satisfied.
I found the story to be very well developed, and the storytelling quite vivid. As Andrew enters the old family home, and begins unearthing its secrets, I felt as if I was there with him. I really loved the development of Mae's character, and found her to be quite sympathetic. Edna, on the other hand, is not fully developed until closer to the end of the book, which I find appropriate, and I love the turns her character takes. I found the book full of surprising and unusual plot twists, and I was interested right up to the very end. I dare you to read this book without the hairs on your arm standing completely on end.
- And You Thought Your Family was Dysfunctional!
on Jan. 13, 2011
This is a book all about the author's crazy Portuguese family. All the aunts are named Maria, so he devises other ways to keep them straight, based on ridiculous things that happen in their lives, including, but not limited to Aunt Vampira and Aunt Penis. He also names his uncles, like Uncle Fart and Uncle Nut, also based on crazy antics. We learn all about Porks, as the author calls them, and their ridiculous ways. Sure to make you feel much better about your own family.
When I first was introduced to some of Dayton's stories about his Portuguese family, I was immediately able to relate. Anyone whose family is in touch with their ethnic roots realizes that their ethnicity makes them a bit, um, different, from other people. The stories in this book all but confirm this as fact. I think any reader would be hard pressed to get through this book with out laughing.
I love that Dayton uses slang and colloquialisms in this book of family stories. It makes the whole thing feel so much more genuine. The style of writing is more like storytelling, and it reads much like a storytelling would talk, with ramblings and digressions. It is self referential, but in a way that almost pokes fun at itself. I love the nicknames for the aunts and uncles, particularly when we are told the back stories.
The only thing I felt was lacking was a few more stories about the author himself. Mostly, the stories in which he appears are focused on other family members. Personally, I want to know what Dayton's nickname would be, and the back story behind it.
I funny and entertaining read that gives you newfound appreciation for your own familial quirks.
on Nov. 08, 2011
As a police officer, Prosper Snow is no stranger to dealing with murder, and he is always determined to solve his cases. Sometimes, he gets a little to close to the case for comfort. So, when people start taking his murder investigations away from him, he is determined to find out why. He learns that the recent murders are tied to a scientific experiment got bad, and the agency in charge of solving the problem wants him on their team. They will get his cooperation, even if it means blackmale. But is the killer really the person they think it is?
I am a huge fan of thriller and crime literature, and I have a sick fascination with serial killers, so this book really appealed to me. While this is the second in a series, I can say, having not read the first, that this book serves as a great stand alone novel. The character of Prosper Snow, although a bit removed and mysterious, is well developed, and it is easy to find yourself rooting for him to get the bad guy.
I was quite intrigued with the story. As a student of psychology, I was fascinated by the concept of the experiment at the center of the plot. I was aware of some of the scientific concepts the study was being based on, yet it still felt like a new spin on old ideas, which I really enjoyed. I was surprised to learn who the real killer was, which is always a sign of a well written suspense novel.
Clearly, with a title like Killers, you know there is going to be some violence in the book, but I felt is was not gratuitous. It served the purpose of driving the plot, and I thought it was well written. All in all, I think fans of thrillers, crime dramas, suspense, and even mysteries will enjoy this solid novel.
- Hidden - a dark romance (Marchwood Vampire Series #1)
on Nov. 14, 2011
After a life lost in the foster care system, Madison is happy to learn that she has enherited a house where she and her brother can live. And not just a house, a grand estate, complete with large grounds, caretakers, and resident vampires. We learn Madison's story as well as the backstory of the vampires, until eventually their paths cross, and romance ignites.
When I saw that this book was marketed as a paranormal romance, I guess I went into it with a certain mindset. I expected it to be, well, kind of drippy, as many young adult paranormal romances seem to be. I think in this case, marketing this as a romance is a bit of a misnomer. The romance does not even occur until quite late in the book, and the story is so rich with action before we even get to the romance.
The story and narrative change with each chapter, in a structure where we alternately learn about Madison and we learn the backstory of Alexandre and the other vampires. I have to say, of the two storylines, I preferred learning about the vampires. I found the writing so much richer, luxurious even, with brilliant historical context, and was much more interested in those portions of the book. I was actually sad when the storyline got the the point where the past had been completely covered, and the focus was solely on the present.
While I thought the character of Madison was sufficiently developed, I much preferred the character of Alexandre and felt much more connected to his story. The book seemed more focused on him, and as a result, I was more invested in him than in any other character. Once the book is completely focused on the present, the action does pick up, with a bit of a twist ending. As this book is the first in a series, I am interested to see where the next book goes, and if I am better able to connect to Madison's character.
All in all, I think fans of young adult paranormal fiction will enjoy this book. While it may be listed as a romance, it clearly has much to offer across several genres.
- TWICE: How I Became a Cancer-Slaying Super Man Before I Turned 21
on March 24, 2012
Benjamin seemed like an ordinary teenager, but when, at the age of 16, he is diagnosed with cancer, he must summon his inner super hero. Giving up, and giving in, to the cancer in his body was never an option. After many hard fought months, it seems as if Benjamin is indeed super human, conquering cancer better than anyone anticipated. While in his first year of college, he discovers that he has a second form of cancer, quite likely attributed to the chemo and radiation used to conquer his first cancer. It will take every ounce of super hero in him to battle a second time.
This book is unlike anything I have ever read. Benjamin certainly tells it like it is. He is quite the engaging story teller, and his writing is incredibly real. I find that I have an incredible amount of respect for Benjamin, his story and the way he tells it. He pulls no punches, and never comes across as a victim. There are few people who could face cancer so bravely as adults, and fewer still who can do so as a teenager.
I say frequently that my favorite books are those which tell the stories of real people. I think that is why this book touched me so deeply. Benjamin never wanted to become the sick kid, never wanted cancer to define his life. I think he serves as an inspiration to teenagers facing a variety of illnesses and adversities. While the book is pretty graphic, and the language is a little rough at times, I still find this book quite appropriate to a young adult audience, as well as adult readers. Personally, I think Benjamin can serve as an inspiration to us all, regarding whatever it is with which we struggle.
- Thicker Than Blood (Marchwood Vampire Series #2)
on May 30, 2012
Madison and Alex are in love, despite the fact that she is a young girl who just inherited a fortune, and he is a centuries old vampire. But when Madison is kidnapped by ancient enemies of Alex and his vampiric kin, their safe and comfortable world is turned upside down. Alex and crew must return to a place they hate, the place where they were made, and confront their past. In the midst of this, the mysterious and ancient tale of Aelia unfolds, until we learn how she factors into Madison and Alex's lives.
I really enjoyed the first book in this series, but I absolutely loved this second installment of the Marchwood Vampires. Shalini Boland does a phenomenal job of weaving ancient backstory with contemporary plotlines. As with the first book, my favorite parts of this book were the tales of old, the backstory set in the first millennium. I found that ancient storyworld to be rich and vividly created by the author. I could smell the dust of the Byzantine empire as I read. I loved getting a little more insight into the lineage of these vampires.
With the contemporary storyline, there are some shades of Twilight now and then, and I do not think that is a bad thing. In terms of vampire romantic fiction, there certainly is a formula that works, and putting the human damsel in distress works. But Madison is, in my opinion, a much stronger character than Bella Swan (who I find to be a bit of a simpering, emo bore). She does not sit around waiting to be rescued, she takes matters into her own hands. Sure, she loves Alex, but he is not her whole world, her whole identity. She is her own woman, and I just love that.
I liked that the book ends on a bit of a question, it really hooks readers in and makes them anticipate book 3. I also liked some of the character twists and red herrings throughout the book. They certainly threw me for a loop, and give a lot of dimension to the story.
All in all, a great sequel book in a promising series.