Monthly Archives: May 2015

The Devil’s Only Friend (John Cleaver)

The Devil's Only Friend Book Cover The Devil's Only Friend
John Cleaver, Book 4
Dan Wells
Tor Books

John Wayne Cleaver hunts demons: they've killed his neighbors, his family, and the girl he loves, but in the end he's always won. Now he works for a secret government kill team, using his gift to hunt and kill as many monsters as he can . . . . . . but the monsters have noticed, and the quiet game of cat and mouse is about to erupt into a full scale supernatural war. John doesn't want the life he's stuck with. He doesn't want the FBI bossing him around, he doesn't want his only friend imprisoned in a mental ward, and he doesn't want to face the terrifying cannibal who calls himself The Hunter. John doesn't want to kill people. But as the song says, you can't always get what you want. John has learned that the hard way; his clothes have the stains to prove it. When John again faces evil, he'll know what he has to do. The Devil's Only Friend is the first book in a brand-new John Wayne Cleaver trilogy by New York Times bestselling author Dan Wells.



John Wayne Cleaver is back in “The Devil’s Only Friend”, the first in somewhat of a sub-trilogy within the already established John Cleaver series by Dan Wells.

I’ll start off by saying that the entire John Cleaver series, though popular, is extremely underrated.  I also think it’s unfairly compared to Dexter.  Granted, Dexter is a wonderful series and he is a great character, but John Cleaver stands on his own as a psychopathic anti-hero.  He doesn’t need anyone’s help to establish exactly who and what he is.  And yes, I realize I am writing this like he is an actual person, but that is a true testament to how developed he is as a character.  Mr. Wells has made him feel like a living, breathing person who may or may not want to kill you, but will most likely not.  He’ll just make an intricate plan to do so in case he ever changes his mind.

“The Devil’s Only Friend” is the best of the series yet, and while I would encourage everyone to read the first three, if you feel like jumping in here the backstory is explained in enough detail to keep you from being confused, while also avoiding a dry rundown that will leave previous fans bored and waiting for the plot to get going.  Which is great, because the plot is nothing short of amazing.  Every single clue adds up to the ultimate conclusion, but I had about ten different theories on how it would go and still managed to be taken by surprise.  This is a mystery written by a master.  I wish I could go into more of the plot but almost anything I say besides it is blow-your-mind-good will lead to some sort of spoiler.

I feel the need to add this:  For some reason unknown to me, many bookstores and libraries insist on shelving this entire series under “Young Adult”.  Now, I’m not saying this cannot be read and appreciated by the older young adult set, but I’m also fairly certain that you will traumatize quite a few of them if you hand them a John Cleaver book thinking it’s “Dexter for Kids”.  This is NOT a young adult book.  This is a book for serious mystery and thriller fans who do not mind a lot of gore, horror, and psychotic thoughts.

In short:  Great main character, excellent plot, not for the squeamish, everyone else should read all of the John Cleaver series.  Of course, this is a review for “The Devil’s Only Friend”, so be sure to read that one, as well.

Five enthusiastic (albeit bloody) stars.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Content Warning:

This is an adult book about a teenaged psychopath.  That should be all the warning necessary.

If You’re Lucky

If You're Lucky
Yvonne Prinz
Juvenile Fiction
Algonquin Books

Is Georgia's mind playing tricks on her, or is the entire town walking into the arms of a killer who has everyone but her fooled? When seventeen-year-old Georgia's brother drowns while surfing halfway around the world in Australia, she refuses to believe Lucky's death was just bad luck. Lucky was smart. He wouldn't have surfed in waters more dangerous than he could handle. Then a stranger named Fin arrives in False Bay, claiming to have been Lucky's best friend. Soon Fin is working for Lucky's father, charming Lucky's mother, dating his girlfriend. Georgia begins to wonder: did Fin murder Lucky in order to take over his whole life? Determined to clear the fog from her mind in order to uncover the truth about Lucky's death, Georgia secretly stops taking the medication that keeps away the voices in her head. Georgia is certain she's getting closer and closer to the truth about Fin, but as she does, her mental state becomes more and more precarious, and no one seems to trust what she's saying. As the chilling narrative unfolds, the reader must decide whether Georgia's descent into madness is causing her to see things that don't exist-or to see a deadly truth that no one else can. "A remarkable page-turner . . . Keep[s] readers wondering, twist by twist, if Georgia's universe will simply burst apart." --Andrew Smith, author of "Grasshopper Jungle"



In what is a rarity in young adult books, the topic of schizophrenia is tackled head-on in “If You’re Lucky”, a taut thriller that leaves the readers as confused as the narrator as to what is real and what is not.

Georgia, the main character, is a teenager with paranoid schizophrenia who is dealing with the loss of her brother Lucky, the town’s golden boy.  One of his best friends shows up to the memorial and creates a whirlwind of emotions for her.  Georgia is an extremely well-developed character, and her descent into a schizophrenic episode is written beautifully.  It truly feels as though you are trying to navigate the world through the distortion in her mind.  This adds a great deal of twists and turns to the mystery of what happened to Lucky.  The rest of the characters are also well-developed and relatable, with my favorite being Fin.  I won’t say anything else about him because it may ruin some of the reading experience.

I loved the plot and found it to be the perfect mix of thriller and standard mystery.  At some points I literally had goosebumps from the creepiness. However, the reason for me giving three stars instead of four is because of the plot.  It seemed to begin slowly, and while the entire book is well-written, I didn’t realize I was actually into it until I was about a third of the way through.  This points to a slight problem with the pacing.  It would have been nice to add a bit of “oomph” to the setup.

In spite of the slight pacing problem, I still wholeheartedly recommend “If You’re Lucky” to those who enjoy mysteries and thrillers.  There is some adult content, but it is still a safe choice for middle schoolers and up as long as they’re not opposed to things that can be disturbing.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Content Warning:

Language, Brief Sexual Situations, Violence, Underage Drinking

Faking Perfect

Faking Perfect Book Cover Faking Perfect
Rebecca Phillips
Juvenile Fiction

When Lexi Shaw seduced Oakfield High's resident bad boy Tyler Flynn at the beginning of senior year, he seemed perfectly okay with her rules: 1. Avoid her at school. 2. Keep his mouth shut about what they do together. 3. Never tease her about her friend (and unrequited crush) Ben. Because with his integrity and values and golden boy looks, Ben can never find out about what she’s been doing behind closed doors with Tyler. Or that her mom’s too busy drinking and chasing losers to pay the bills. Or that Lexi’s dad hasn’t been a part of her life for the last thirteen years. But with Tyler suddenly breaking the rules, Ben asking her out, and her dad back in the picture, how long will she be able to go on faking perfect?



It took me a bit to gather my thoughts on “Faking Perfect”, because the plot is a timely look at the struggles of family and high school, but there were some flaws.  It was by no means a bad book, but the lack of character-depth took away from what could have been an otherwise great book.

Lexi Shaw is a teen who, unfortunately, has an all-too-common family life of a father who is not involved in her life and a present, but emotionally distant, mother.  The ways she copes are trying to fit in with the popular crowd mixed with self-destructive behaviors.  The character of Lexi is actually extremely well-developed, with clear motivations for her actions and self-awareness presented through her inner monologues that gives readers a clear insight into her thoughts and feelings.  The problem comes with the secondary characters.  There are cursory descriptions of them that gives some clues to the people they are, but nothing below the surface is touched upon through Lexi’s thoughts or interactions with them.  This is quite sad, as many of them have the promise to be deep and interesting, but the lack of exploration into their lives left many of them relegated to the world of tropes and caricatures.

As I said in the introduction, the plot of “Faking Perfect” is a good and timely one, filled with important life-lessons.  Who among us has not felt the need to act differently in order to impress our friends?  How many readers know too well the feelings of being neglected by their parents?  These things are addressed in a compelling way, along with other issues that occur in high school such as teen pregnancy, popularity, and the warped perceptions people often have of others based on rumors or personal bias.

Overall, if you are able to overlook the character development issues, “Faking Perfect” is a good book, especially if you are looking for a palette cleanser of sorts.  The writing is well-done and the themes explored make it worthwhile.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Violence, Drug Use, Underage Drinking

The Witch Hunter

The Witch Hunter Book Cover The Witch Hunter
Virginia Boecker
Juvenile Fiction
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

The magic and suspense of Graceling meet the political intrigue and unrest of Game of Thrones in this riveting fantasy debut. Your greatest enemy isn't what you fight, but what you fear. Elizabeth Grey is one of the king's best witch hunters, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and doling out justice. But when she's accused of being a witch herself, Elizabeth is arrested and sentenced to burn at the stake. Salvation comes from a man she thought was her enemy. Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful and dangerous wizard in the kingdom, offers her a deal: he will save her from execution if she can break the deadly curse that's been laid upon him. But Nicholas and his followers know nothing of Elizabeth's witch hunting past--if they find out, the stake will be the least of her worries. And as she's thrust into the magical world of witches, ghosts, pirates, and one all-too-handsome healer, Elizabeth is forced to redefine her ideas of right and wrong, of friends and enemies, and of love and hate. Virginia Boecker weaves a riveting tale of magic, betrayal, and sacrifice in this unforgettable fantasy debut.



I became so absorbed in “The Witch Hunter” that my cat began taking it as a sign that I was going to forget to feed or pet him and began knocking books off of shelves every time I picked up my iPad to read it.  It’s an excellent start to a new young adult fantasy series, and I don’t know how I’m going to wait for the next.

I loved the mix of fantasy and history, and the world-building is fantastic.  In fact, it reminded me of my favorite roleplaying video game ever, “Darklands.”  Granted, if you are a young whippersnapper unfamiliar with games using DOS, you’ve probably never heard of it, but trust me when I say it is an excellent game and any book that is reminiscent of it is a winner.  Superstitions, alchemy, spells, witches, wizards, strange creatures, ghosts, corrupt government, and plagues abound.  Doesn’t that sound wonderful?

The characters are multi-faceted, with flaws that will drive you crazy one minute and endearing traits that have you loving them the next.  Elizabeth had me screaming in frustration and wanting to strangle her, but I understand the reasons why she acted the way she did.  The author does a wonderful job of revealing personalities at a pace that fits the story.  The plot also includes a mystery which gives you plenty of hints to solve it, so the resolution does not come out of nowhere, but is vague enough to leave you guessing until the end.  I love it when I’m stumped but can look back and see the clues were there all along.

I recommend “The Witch Hunter” to anyone ages 13 and up who enjoy fantasy novels with a historical twist.  It’s gruesome at points, with references to sex and rape, but the latter two things are not graphic.  In fact, parents who read it with their younger children may find it a good starting point for a discussion on what constitutes consent.  The only thing that made me give four stars instead of five is that a few tropes that are employed a little too often were used, but that in no way ruins what is an otherwise excellent book.  Highly recommended.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Content Warning:

Mild Language, Sexual Content, Violence, Some Gore, Rape References

Delicate Monsters

Delicate Monsters Book Cover Delicate Monsters
Stephanie Kuehn
St. Martin's Griffin
June 9, 2015

When nearly killing a classmate gets seventeen-year-old Sadie Su kicked out of her third boarding school in four years, she returns to her family's California vineyard estate. Here, she's meant to stay out of trouble. Here, she's meant to do a lot of things. But it's hard. She's bored. And when Sadie's bored, the only thing she likes is trouble.
Emerson Tate's a poor boy living in a rich town, with his widowed mother and strange, haunted little brother. All he wants his senior year is to play basketball and make something happen with the girl of his dreams. That's why Emerson's not happy Sadie's back. An old childhood friend, she knows his worst secrets. The things he longs to forget. The things she won't ever let him.
Haunted is a good word for fifteen-year-old Miles Tate. Miles can see the future, after all. And he knows his vision of tragic violence at his school will come true, because his visions always do. That's what he tells the new girl in town. The one who listens to him. The one who recognizes the darkness in his past.
But can Miles stop the violence? Or has the future already been written? Maybe tragedy is his destiny. Maybe it's all of theirs.
Delicate Monsters is Stephanie Kuehn at her finest.



Let me begin by saying that I have absolutely no problem with reading dark and twisted things, nor do I condone censorship.  Please keep that in mind as you read my review of “Delicate Monsters”.

I would have given “Delicate Monsters” one star, as opposed to two, had it not been a story with potential.  It didn’t live up to it, but I reserve the ones that are a mess from the start.

The book’s downfall is the misleading description.  Yes, everything in the description is accurate, but considering the graphic content that involves everything from animal abuse to necrophilia, it does seem like there should be a bit more warning in the summary.  It’s like if you bought a ticket to see the old “Poltergeist” and ended up seeing a marathon of all of the “Saw” films.

Additionally, it seems grossly miscategorized as young adult, and I can already imagine the shock of librarians working with a limited budget ordering “Delicate Monster” based on the description, publisher, and author popularity only to end  up with some severely traumatized readers. With the rampant underfunding of libraries these days, librarians have to make difficult decisions that often lead to ordering books that appeal to the widest audience possible, and I do not think they will find it here.

In terms of the book itself, the characters are not meant to be likable, but the way they are written leaves them flat.  While what is going on and how it will end is evident early in the book, the plot could have delivered a much more exciting journey than it did.  Somehow a book about a sociopath and a psychopath was boring.  Those subjects are typically fascinating.  It was unsettling that their actions didn’t resonate within the story (only in the disgust of the reader), because it almost felt like the author had no opinion one way or the other as to the morality of their actions.  I’m going to assume that is not the case, as Stephanie Kuehn seems like a lovely person.

I cannot recommend “Delicate Monsters” to anyone, regardless of age.  It was gratuitously graphic with a misleading summary, apathetic characters, and a lackluster plot.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Content Warning:

Language, Graphic Sexual Situations, Heavy Violence, Animal Abuse, Animal Death, Necrophilia

Jodie’s Shabbat Surprise

Jodie's Shabbat Surprise Book Cover Jodie's Shabbat Surprise
Anna Levine
Juvenile Nonfiction
Kar-Ben Publishing

During their Shabbat walk in the park, Jodie and her dog Digger find the perfect birthday present for her archaeologist father.



I absolutely loved this book, which is much-needed, as resources for Jewish children can be difficult to find. The story is engaging and teaches about how wine was made and archaeology. There is also additional information about the true story upon which the book was based, allowing parents an additional talking point with their children. The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous and engaging for little eyes. There is just the right amount of detail, allowing plenty to look at without being too busy or distracting. A wonder book I highly recommend to those who practice Judaism or those who wish to teach their children about it and the Old Testament.

This review is based upon a copy acquired through the Goodreads First Reads program.


Content Warning:


The Wolf Who Ate the Sky

The Wolf Who Ate the Sky Book Cover The Wolf Who Ate the Sky
Mary Daniel Hobson, Anna Isabel Rauh, Charles Hobson,
Juvenile Fiction
Heyday Books

A very hungry wolf eats the sky, plunging the whole world into darkness, but a brave boy and a menagerie of animals are determined to bring back the light. Includes author's note on how the story was developed with her three-year-old daughter, Anna, then illustrated by Anna's grandfather.



Three generations of a family created “The Wolf Who Ate the Sky”, and what a wonderful creation it is!  The story is engaging and the illustrations are absolutely amazing.  Little ones will be asking to read it again and again, and those of all ages will enjoy the beauty.  Highly recommended!

This review is based upon a copy won through the Goodreads First Reads program.


Content Warning:


I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves

I'm Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves Book Cover I'm Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves
Ryan O'Connell
Simon and Schuster
June 2, 2015

This hilarious part-memoir, part-manifesto reveals what sets apart the latest generation of young people coming of age in an all-wired, overeducated, and underemployed world.

People are obsessed with Ryan O’Connell’s blogs. With tens of thousands reading his pieces on Thought Catalog and Vice, watching his videos on YouTube, and hanging on to each and every #dark tweet, Ryan has established himself as a unique young voice who’s not afraid to dole out some real talk. He’s that candid, snarky friend you consult when you fear you’re spending too much time falling down virtual k-holes stalking your ex on Facebook or when you’ve made the all-too-common mistake of befriending a psycho while wasted at last night’s party and need to find a way to get rid of them the next morning. But Ryan didn’t always have the answers to these modern day dilemmas. Growing up gay and disabled with cerebral palsy, he constantly felt like he was one step behind everybody else. Then the rude curveball known as your twenties happened and things got even more confusing.

Ryan spent years as a Millennial cliché: he had dead-end internships; dabbled in unemployment; worked in his pajamas as a blogger; communicated mostly via text; looked for love online; spent hundreds on “necessary” items, like candles, while claiming to have no money; and even descended into aimless pill-popping. But through extensive trial and error, Ryan eventually figured out how to take his life from bleak to chic and began limping towards adulthood.

Sharp and entertaining, I’m Special will educate twentysomethings (or other adolescents-at-heart) on what NOT to do if they ever want to become happy fully functioning grown ups with a 401k and a dog.



I am not sure how the work of Ryan O’Connell has not come across my screen before, but if any articles he has written are half as good as “I’m Special”, then I need to read them all.  The book is not only hilarious, but also true, and explains so much about the millennial generation.

Mr. O’Connell is a very self-aware individual, which makes him the perfect writer to put a voice to the millennial generation, because self-awareness is not always a trait widely attributed to them/us.  I’m a generation straddler, so half of it seemed to apply to myself or my parents, and the other half seemed to apply to every friend and relative I have who is younger.  During some of the stories I was actually saying out loud, “That’s me! I do that all the time!” It should probably be embarrassing that I had that reaction, because every time it was because of something weird, quirky, and/or off-putting, but it is what it is.  He makes it feel ok to be the way we are.

“I’m Special” has quite a bit of rather adult content, so if that bothers you it is probably not a good fit.  Otherwise, as long as you aren’t afraid to laugh at yourself (because you will identify with someone in the book), I recommend it to anyone looking to be entertained while also being made to think about their life choices.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Content Warning:

As this is an adult book, there is no content warning.

Ask the Past: Pertinent and Impertinent Advice From Yesteryear

Ask the Past Book Cover Ask the Past
Elizabeth P. Archibald
Hachette Books

Want to know how to garden with lobsters? How to sober up? Grow a beard? Or simply how to make a perfect omelet? Look no further. Rather, look backward. Based on the popular blog, Ask the Past is full of the wisdom of the ages--as well as the fad diets, zany pickup lines, and bacon Band-Aids of the ages. Drawn from centuries of antique texts by historian and bibliophile Elizabeth P. Archibald, Ask the Past offers a delightful array of advice both wise and weird. Whether it's eighteenth-century bedbug advice (sprinkle bed with gunpowder and let smolder), budget fashion tips of the Middle Ages (save on the clothes, splurge on the purse) or a sixteenth-century primer on seduction (hint: do no pass gas), Ask the Past is a wildly entertaining guide to life from the people who lived it first.



Historian Elizabeth P. Archibald does a wonderful job in “Ask the Past” of showing that history can be fun and entertaining.  Her collection of some of the best/worst excerpts from antique etiquette and advice books and pamphlets, along with accompanying illustrations, had me laughing so hard that I could not breathe.  Her snarky “translations” at the end of each excerpt doubled the entertainment value.

Aside from being entertaining, her introduction breaks down her research methods in a way that will help novice historians learn how to take tiny bits of information and use it to get an overall picture of the society of the time.

Also, I would like to note that I am forever grateful to the person who established that it is not appropriate to attack someone who is defecating.  Where would we be as a society if that was still an acceptable practice?

“Ask the Past” is the perfect gift for anyone old enough for fart and sex jokes made classier through Old English.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Content Warning:

As this is an adult book, there is no content warning.

Ricochet: Riding a Wave of Hope with the Dog Who Inspires Millions

Ricochet Book Cover Ricochet
Judy Fridono

Ride the wave of hope with Ricochet – the only SURFice dogTM in the world who chose her own purpose! She surfs with children with special needs, people with disabilities, wounded warriors, and veterans with PTSD as an assistive aid and intuitive muse, healing hearts and souls on every wave. This tears-to-triumph story takes readers behind the TV and video sensation and shares the true journey that went from promise to disappointment before ultimately finding life's purpose. The gorgeous golden retriever Ricochet seemed destined to be a service dog from the moment she was born. She approached her training with boundless energy and surpassed every other dog in her Puppy Prodigy training class. Unfortunately, her love for chasing birds could prove dangerous, for those she would assist. Fifteen months into her training, Ricochet was released, leaving a frustrated owner and a dog without a direction. Yet through a twist of fate, Judy realized that flunking out of school wasn't the end of the world—and in fact, could be the beginning of a new one. Once Judy learned to let go and let Ricochet be who she really was, they found her true calling as a SURFice dog. Ricochet's story is one of synchronicity, our interconnectedness, and opening ourselves to life's 'paws'ibilities. Embracing her true calling, Ricochet began to help others, including those with traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress, and physical disabilities, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for charitable causes and inspiring people to believe in themselves. Ricochet does more than steady the board: she offers hope, comfort, healing, and a reason to keep fighting. What gives this story such extraordinary potential to become a publishing sensation? Ricochet is the only SURFice dog in the world, there is no other story quite like it!



Knowing of Ricochet and a bit of her story thanks to YouTube, I was very happy to receive a copy of “Ricochet” to review.  I’m having trouble even typing this review without getting emotional.  Don’t worry, it creates tears, but of the very best kind.

“Ricochet” is an inspiring story that covers not only her story, but the story of her person, Judy, and “sister” Rami, along with the stories of many they have all impacted in their unique mission.  As someone with mobility challenges of my own, I cannot imagine how freeing it must be to feel the surf around you while you catch a wave with Ricochet.  She isn’t a traditional rescue dog, but that makes her story that much more special.  She does what she does because she was unable to be what others felt she had to be.  Once she was allowed to be herself, a whole new world of possibilities opened up to her and anyone she meets.  As any dog lover can tell you, it’s easier to take advice from a dog than a human.  Who could resist any message that face tries to give you?

As a short side note, I really appreciate Judy’s advocacy of positive training methods for service dogs.  While traditional methods may work for many, I have seen some training that was more than a little heavy-handed, and it is nice to see other training options put out there.

“Ricochet” is inspirational, and about dogs helping those with disabilities, as well as those without disabilities.  If you’re in any way inclined to frown at frolicking puppies, laughing children, the sound of the ocean, or merriment in general, I would skip this book.  If you want something to make you smile and want to hug your dog, or get a dog, then pick this one up.

This is an honest review based upon a complimentary copy won through the Goodreads First Reads program.


Content Warning:

Note: Even though it is listed as an adult book, there is nothing in the content to make “Ricochet” inappropriate for middle grade readers.