Vacation by Matthew Costello Review

vacationGenre: Horror, Adult Fiction

Plot According to Goodreads: In the near future after a global crisis causes crops to fail and species to disappear . . .  something even more deadly happens. Groups of humans around the world suddenly become predators, feeding off their own kind. These “Can Heads” grow to such a threat that fences, gated compounds, and SWAT-style police protection become absolutely necessary in order to live.

After one Can Head attack leaves NYPD cop Jack Murphy wounded, Jack takes his wife and kids on a much-needed vacation. Far up north, to a camp where families can still swim and take boats out on a lake, and pretend that the world isn’t going to hell.

But the Can Heads are never far away, and nothing is quite what it seems in Paterville. . . .

My Thoughts: I went into this book with no expectations…the synopsis sounded good and I was in the mood for something different. The book was great and I really enjoyed it. This is the type of book that reads like a movie…the sentences are very clipped and short and there is a lot of dialogue….this made it a very quick read.

The Good: There are no extremely gory scenes…things are described so that the reader can imagine what is happening but there aren’t a lot of graphic details. I can be a bit squeamish when things get too graphic so I was thankful for this.  The vacation setting was a fun twist on a common storyline…I love settings in the wilderness or leisurely places. The story had steady pacing, there were no places where I felt the story lagged.

What I didn’t Like: The world in this story was very interesting but there were a lot of things that were left unexplained….I wanted to know why the can heads did what they did and more about the world. (This is the first book in a duology so it’s possible that things will become clearer in the second book). I didn’t feel like I got to know the characters as well as I would have liked.

My Rating: 4/5 stars.

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Dismantled by Jennifer McMahon Review

dmGenre: Adult Fiction, Psychological Thriller

Plot According to Goodreads: Dismantlement = Freedom
Henry, Tess, Winnie, and Suz banded together in college to form a group they called the Compassionate Dismantlers. Following the first rule of their manifesto—”To understand the nature of a thing, it must be taken apart”—these daring misfits spend the summer after graduation in a remote cabin in the Vermont woods committing acts of meaningful vandalism and plotting elaborate, often dangerous, pranks. But everything changes when one particularly twisted experiment ends in Suz’s death and the others decide to cover it up.

Nearly a decade later, Henry and Tess are living just an hour’s drive from the old cabin. Each is desperate to move on from the summer of the Dismantlers, but their guilt isn’t ready to let them go. When a victim of their past pranks commits suicide—apparently triggered by a mysterious Dismantler-style postcard—it sets off a chain of eerie events that threatens to engulf Henry, Tess, and their inquisitive nine-year-old daughter, Emma.

Is there someone who wants to reveal their secrets? Is it possible that Suz did not really die—or has she somehow found a way back to seek revenge?

My Thoughts: This book has a complicated plot. The story keeps you guessing until the end, which I appreciate in books but when I got to the end of this one, I felt a sense of deja vu. Between the ages of 13-16 I was obsessed with Fear Street books…R.L. Stine was by far my favorite author and I couldn’t get enough of his creepy stories. This book felt like a grown up version of a Fear Street book. There are a lot of twists and turns and just when you think you have it all figured out, the author turns it around for one last shocking moment.

I loved the first 1/3 of the book, the plot was fresh and different and the author only revealed a little bit of the mystery, enough to keep the pages turning. Things began to get slow and dragged a bit somewhere in the middle and my interest started to wane. Suz, the character the book focuses on, had the kind of personality that rubs me the wrong way…very overbearing and controlling…I tired of her very quickly.

It’s possible that this book had too many twists and turns (another reason it felt like a Fear Street book to me). I feel like it could have benefited from more editing…the story felt a bit too long and I was just glad to have finished it. Overall, a decent book but certainly not my favorite.

My Rating: 3/5 stars.

The Shore by Sara Taylor Review

shoreGenre: Adult Fiction, Literary Fiction

Plot According to Goodreads: Welcome to The Shore: a collection of small islands sticking out from the coast of Virginia into the Atlantic Ocean. Where clumps of evergreens meet wild ponies, oyster-shell roads, tumble-down houses, unwanted pregnancies, murder, storm-making and dark magic in the marshes. . .

My Thoughts: This is a collection of short stories that span many years and focus on a family with many issues. The book jumps back and forth through many time periods and all of the stories take place on the islands off of the coast of Virginia. The stories are connected to each other but the book didn’t seem to flow well to me. I am generally not a fan of short story collections because I don’t feel like I have enough time to get acquainted to the story but when I was 10 years old, my family vacationed on Chincoteague island so I was interested to read this one. I also thought that because the stories were connected, that it would feel like a complete story. Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed. All of the stories are sad and depressing, there is very little joy to be found and by the middle of the book, I was in need of something uplifting.

I think this was a case of “it’s not you, it’s me”…this was not the book for me. As I said above, I am not a fan of short stories so I should have known better.  I did like a few of the stories…there were some surprising moments that I didn’t expect (it opens up with a bang) and the book is very well written. It was interesting to study the family tree (which was very helpful) to see where the characters fit in the family when reading a new story but it could also be confusing at times. I felt a connection to a few of the characters but for the most part, I felt disconnected from them…there were A LOT of characters which is also something I don’t really like when reading a book.

Overall, I liked this book but I didn’t love it.  I think people who enjoy short story collections would appreciate it.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki Review

summerGenre: Graphic Novel, Young Adult

Plot According to Goodreads: Every summer, Rose goes with her mom and dad to a lake house in Awago Beach. It’s their getaway, their refuge. Rosie’s friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had. But this summer is different. Rose’s mom and dad won’t stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction from the drama, they find themselves with a whole new set of problems. It’s a summer of secrets and sorrow and growing up, and it’s a good thing Rose and Windy have each other.

My Thoughts: I am fairly new to graphic novels and I’m guessing that this review will reflect that. This is the story of Rose, whose family goes to the same beach town for vacation each summer. She and her friend Windy spend the summer together, experiencing many ups and downs. Based on the cover, I expected a cute coming of age story directed at ages 10-16…my expectations were not accurate. I was surprised (and a bit disappointed) by the graphic sexual content and language in this book. My personal opinion is that books like this should have some kind of rating sticker on the cover to caution parents of the content inside. The cover of the book looks very middle-grade to me, which is why I was surprised by the story, which is definitely directed more to older teens but features girls that seem to be around 12 years old. Overall, I really enjoyed the story…it mixed the innocence of youth with the grittiness and reality of adulthood. The artwork was amazing, definitely one of my favorite things about this book. I loved the characters but I didn’t feel connected to them. There were parts of the story that felt a bit rushed and not quite sorted out completely.

Overall, this was a good story but I wish the cover wasn’t made in a way that draws in an audience that is too young to be exposed to the content inside.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Laugh Out Loud Pocket Doodles for Girls by Rob Elliot Review

pdGoodreads Summary: Rob Elliott’s Laugh-Out-Loud joke books have brought laughter to more than half a million households. His last book invited kids into the action as he teamed up with cartoonist Jonny Hawkins to create “Laugh-Out-Loud Doodles for Kids.” Now the dynamic duo is back with two brand-new books for boys and girls who love to draw and love to laugh! Packed with jokes that will keep boys and girls giggling for hours, and unfinished doodles for them to complete any way they want, these books keep little hands and minds busy. Perfect for road trips, lazy summer days, or anytime the kids say, “I’m bored!”

My Thoughts: Today, I am reviewing this book with my 9 year old daughter. Our first impressions of the book are great. The cover is very pleasing and “girly”. The book is a fun way to pass the time. it has tons of jokes that include unfinished doodles for the child to complete. It also suggests at the bottom of the page how to complete the doodle for the times when you might get stuck. The jokes are all clean and some are quite funny, even by adult standards. My daughter thought that this would be a great book to bring on long car trips when she gets very bored. Overall, this is a great little book and would make a fun gift for any little artist. There is no recommended age on the book (that we could find) so I would suggest that it would be best for kids ages 5-12.

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We made a fun Youtube video with a review of this book as well…

Our rating: 4/5 stars

We received this book from Baker Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review.