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Why You REALLY Need the 12-Step Program: A Review of The Cure by Athol Dickson

the-cure-cover-athol-dicksonFriends and family know I’m addicted to reading, but the blame for my addiction lies solely with fabulous writers like Athol Dickson. While I ought to be taking responsibility for my obsessive reading habit, I’d rather tell you about how awesome The Cure is and why you should lose a few hours’ sleep reading it.

The Cure is a novel batting at 336 pages and chock full of literary goodness. I’ll point out right away that this book is not an easy read, and I mean that in the best possible way: the writing flows but the content is deep, causing many stop-and-think-about-it moments and frequent emotional overloads. It’s definitely something that feeds the reading addiction, so I’m warning you now: BE CAREFUL BECAUSE IT’S THAT GOOD!! Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s get to the good stuff:

Riley Keep is an alcoholic who’s let his life go to pot and abandoned his wife, Hope, and only daughter, Bree, for life on the street. He is constantly haunted by his pre-alcoholic life as a Christian missionary in Brazil and stint as a college professor. He’s several states away when he hears rumors of a cure for alcoholism in the town of Dublin, Maine, his old hometown. Riley drags his nearly-dead homeless friend Brice there to seek out the cure, positive that by now his wife and child have moved on.

Riley is shocked to find that there really is a cure for alcoholism. Once he’s got it, however, Riley learns that a lot of people—from desperate alcoholics to shady pharmaceutical companies—will stop at nothing to get their hands on it. Death, mayhem, and violence ensue in an incredible story of fear and redemption.

While reading this book I sometimes loved the characters and sometimes wanted to slap them with a frying pan. Even if I didn’t agree with a character’s choices, like Riley’s, and even detested him for it, I was totally stuck in his head. I was aware of the many (and often painful) influences and horrific past events that directed his actions. I think the only thing that hung me up was the frequent references to Riley’s time in Brazil, the importance of which wasn’t revealed until near the end of the book. Overall, I give this book five stars and make them gold! Read Dickson’s work and you won’t be disappointed.

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You Know You Need a new Boyfriend If… A review of The One You Love by Paul Pilkington

Image courtesy of Amazon.com

Image courtesy of Amazon.com

Certain things in relationships are “red flags,” such as jealousy, controlling behavior, and kidnapping fiancés. Once you see a few of these red flags, you start to figure that breaking off the friendship / dating / hanging out thing might be a good idea. That’s situation I found Emmy, the main character of Paul Pilkington’s The One You Love, embroiled in. Though I found the book thoroughly enjoyable (and let me say that again, thoroughly enjoyable!), there were a few times when I felt like grabbing Emmy out of the book and knocking some sense into her. The reason why? She ignored a lot of red flags, and in more than one person. Now on to the good stuff:

The One You Love is a decent length for a thriller, batting at 298 pages. In addition to that, it’s written by a man from England, and I just love reading British-style conversation and phrasing—I know, I’m such an American. The basic gist of the plot is Emmy, a small-time actress shooting for the stars, is engaged to be married when her fiancé Dan all of a sudden disappears. His brother, Richard, is found at their apartment unconscious and with life-threatening injuries.

Emmy is joined by her best friend Lizzy and her brother William in trying to solve the mystery of Dan’s disappearance and Richard’s attacker. Pilkington does a superb job of adding twists and turns, showing both Emmy’s group and the police uncovering different pieces evidence in each chapter. It led me to suspect no less than five different people of the crime throughout the course of the book, and that, my friends, is excellent thriller writing!

I give the book four stars simply because Emmy acted like a crazy person half the time, e.g. refusing to talk to the police when she found evidence because she felt she needed to get to the bottom of the crime herself. I understand humans occasionally do dumb stuff like that, but after about the third time I began to wonder if Emmy might have some sort of complex. Even when her best friend in the whole world, Lizzy, suggested she not visit the home of a creepy ex-admirer, Emmy forged ahead as if she really believed nothing would happen.

I recommend this fabulous read to all lovers of mystery and complex plots. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Vintage Shabby Chic meets Cross-Cultural Tension: A Review of The Dress by Sophie Nicholls

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Cover courtesy of Amazon.com

Rather than attempt to write something clever, I want to start with a short excerpt from Nicholl’s book to show you just how gorgeous her prose is: (scene is daughter, Ella, thinking about her mother Fabbia’s singing)

“Sometimes Ella would surprise Mamma singing to herself in the kitchen, the soft upper notes that seemed to shimmer in the air and the harder sounds that came from somewhere deep in her throat in a way that Ella couldn’t imitate, no matter how much she practiced in front of the mirror. Fat, blurred words and long words with drawn out sounds that mingled with the steam from the saucepans so that, when Ella swallowed Mamma’s thick stew, the one with beans and garlic, she liked to imagine she was eating the stories of her ancestors.”

Incredible. That’s all I have to say about that.

The Dress is a story batting low at 211 pages but full of lyrical goodness. The plot is simple: a mother and daughter move from England to New York to start a new life. Fabbia, the mother, loves vintage clothing and opens a shop where she can work her everyday magic in sewing and alterations. Her daughter, Ella, struggles to fit in as she deals with the new surroundings, puberty, and her mother’s fanciful personality.

I’d compare this book’s feel to that of Sandra Cisnero’s House on Mango Street, though The Dress deserves even more props. It creates a magical, melt-in-your-mouth feel that’s lightly sugared with the cultures of Tehran and New York. I love how Fabbia has an Iranian background that subtly colors her perceptions of the world around her. Fabbia’s perceptions clash with her daughter Ella’s impressions in the big city world of New York and her attempts to fit in with the other teens.

Fabbia’s and Ella’s struggles to adjust to life in America and the social mores of the affluent elite paint a brilliant picture of coming of age for both mother and daughter. They move beyond petty and sometimes even ugly human behavior directed at them by neighbors and so-called friends and learn to let others in.

Honestly, this is the first self-published novel that without reservation I give five bright, gold stars. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

“No More Ramen” For This Metathesiophobic: A Review of Drew Hayes’ Digital Novel

Meet Seth, the most unlikely millionaire to grace your computer screen. He’s the kind of wacky, off-the-cuff kind of guy that so many frat boys wish they could be. He’s got a self-deprecating sense of humor hiding a surprising layer of depth in this quirky little tale by Drew Hayes.

The story begins with Seth winning the largest jackpot lottery in Texas’ history. Only, Seth won it on a lark. He had no intention of actually spending the money. He tries desperately to keep his life as low-key and interesting as it was before. Life, however, seems determined to make sure that he doesn’t squander his new gift.

Despite the frequent spelling mistakes, I really liked this story. Seth is such a lovable character and he is surprisingly perceptive (with a little help from his friends). His friends don’t feel like carbon-copies of each other; they each have their own perspective and motives.

On the other hand, the situations and the characters were often highly improbable. The story had me snickering because the whole thing was so absurd  That, I think, is actually a major part of the story’s charm. And unlike a lot of humorous pieces, there is actual character development for several of the characters.

Warnings for language, including the f-bomb. There might have been a barroom brawl, but if so, it wasn’t serious. There’s also an openly lesbian character in the story (*le gasp!*). Lastly, alcohol is consumed in vast quantities. If any of these things doth offend, give this story a miss. If not, welcome to No More Ramen. I hope you enjoy!

Peter and the Monsters: A Review of Darren Pillsbury’s Series

Copyright Darren Pillsbury

Cover courtesy of Amazon.com

Notice: This series was free when I read it, but it has since been published. You can find it at Amazon or other major self-publish sites. The first book in the series is available for free by clicking on the following link: Peter and the Vampires

Darren Pillsbury has published an exciting new series featuring Peter Normal. The story begins when Peter, a ten year-old from California, moves to his grandfather’s haunted mansion. Well, ok, the mansion itself isn’t haunted, but it sure looks like it should be. In the very first story of the series, Peter learns that this is only a technicality, for a tribe of dead bodies “live” in a patch of woods nearby (Peter and the Dead Men). Worse, these Dead Men all want Peter to die!

This was my favorite of the series because I really liked all the unanswered questions and mystery surrounding the Normals. I also felt like the way that Peter defeated the Dead Men was very clever (while realistic, given his age). This one is also a good showcase of what you should expect from the series; most of the stories follow the format of Peter having to defeat a group of enemies within a short story and stumbles across a piece of the larger puzzle: why is Peter in constant danger?

When I read this story on Mr. Pillsbury’s blog, it was a daily post; you better believe that I was reading this daily!

Despite being essentially a children’s story, be aware that there might be the occasional swear word. These instances are very rare (I believe the first doesn’t show up until book 3), but they do exist. When I raised this concern with the author he explained that he took his cue from Harry Potter: kids that age really do swear/ hear swear words and those words have a touch of the forbidden which appeals to Pillsbury’s target audience.

There are also brief mentions of sensitive issues such as religion and witchcraft.

Rating changes depending on the book but I would say that Peter and the Trick-or-Treaters is the only book to score less than a 3 out of 5. I’ve been told that each of the books has a (long) preamble explaining what has already happened in previous books so they can be read out of order. That said, I would still recommend reading them roughly in order (except Peter and the ToT’s, which can be safely skipped without missing anything).