Book Review: River Queens: Saucy Boat, stout mates, spotted dog, America by Alexander Watson

Book Description:

Title: River Queens: Saucy Boat, stout mates, spotted dog, America
Author: Alexander Watson
Pages: 287 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Orange Frazer Pres, Wilmington, Ohio (2018)
Genres: Autobiography > Memoir, LGBT

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided to me, by the author, in exchange for a fair and honest review. This did not affect my review and all opinions are mine.

Goodreads Blurb:

Two men and a spotted dog restore a vintage Chris-Craft motor yacht and launch across the American Heartland from Texas to Ohio. The restoration, the people they met along the way, and life in an America which few know exists are the story of River Queens: Saucy boat, stout mates, spotted dog, America.

Review:

This book is long overdue to be read and I feel so bad. I had initially started reading (only the first few pages), way back when I first received the book in September or October of 2020. I recently started to clear through all my backlog and finally settled back down with it. I made myself comfy…got some tea…started to read…and then maybe a third of the way through, wondered, Why in the hell did I put this off for so long?!?

In the scarce amount of time I have, to read, these days, I gobbled this down.

Even before picking the book back up, I remembered one vivid thing that stuck with me all these months, the writing. The writing is absolutely amazing and to say that I liked or even loved it would be a sheer understatement. The writing was solid, the dialogue is so real, accents and all, and the storytelling, masterful. The characters are lively and rich, vivid and memorable. The entire book felt so warm, despite the tears that fell.

I don’t generally read non-fiction, memoirs even less and memoirs about boats (to which I know absolutely nothing about) were unicorns in my TBR. I’ve read travel memoirs before and absolutely loved it and this one? I loved all the same for the near same reasons: people. The people that Alexander, Dale, and Doris Faye encountered are just amazing people (though around a certain line that seems to distinguish the Midwest to the relative East) this friendliness seems to slowly ease off, though it’s definitely still there.

Alexander is the writer and would be the main POV of this book, while his partner, Dale, is there with him along with their dog, an envy to all who meets her, Doris Faye. He’s raw with his words and feelings, and emotions will never be perfect in this kind of trip.

They’re dropping money into a boat a sliver of a plank away from sinking and restore it enough to go on a journey up the river where they meet a wealth of people and engage in the cornucopia of cultures of every place they dock. There’s so much friendship and so much warmth. There’s also speckles of grief from loss of family to loss of friends, especially friends they meet on the river. There’s all sorts of love here and this book just exudes it both in friendship and in relationship between Alexander and Dale. After all, setting sail on a boat that was previously a wave kick from going down is hard on anybody, relationships especially. And there’s acceptance. So much acceptance, welcomings and well wishings from everyone they meet.

In the writing, there’s flashbacks and very entertaining dialogue, real dialogue. The accents are right there and occasionally I have to squint and feels like I’m playing a quick game of Mad Gab as I I try to read what’s being said, but it makes it so much more fun when you read it out loud and try to picture each conversation. And there’s a lot of conversation, even ones where there’s mostly one word exchanges for half a page.

In the back, there’s a short glossary and the endpapers of the book consists of the map for their journey. Both are a life saver as I have no idea of any of the boat terms being used. I had to learn some of that, just as Alexander and Dale had to because, in the beginning, they weren’t boat people either. The map was a pretty nice gauge to see where they’re at and how far they are from their destination.

A fantastic book that’s nothing like I’ve read this year or anything I’ve read previously. I am no fan of (physically) traveling myself, especially not by boat and ESPECIALLY not a boat that was a major gamble on not just if it’ll sink, but if it’ll run at all for their trip. Alexander took me on an immense journey that I will not forget anytime soon and through the book and through his eyes, I have met so many lovely people, so many kinds of people that I would love to live amongst here. I’ve seen so many new places and experienced so many new cultures of those places.

Thank you, Alexander, it was a beautiful read from start to the end.

5 Stars

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Book Review: We Are 100 by Nathan Timmel

It’s the last day of June!
And it’s hump day!
And in celebration to the last book I squeezed into the first half of 2021, today’s post is a review that follows up on Monday’s spotlight for “We Are 100” by Nathan Timmel! A comedian, with some other previous books, this is his first fiction and I truly loved reading it! I mean, I was squealing when it ended.

And in true Esther fashion, I have a lot to say when I finish with books that dumps adrenaline and joy in my system. 

Book DescriptionCharacters
SummaryWriting and Writing Style
Overall FeelingFinal Thoughts
PacingQuotes
Chapter Length & ContentReview To-Go (Mini Review)
Writing NoteRating

Book Description

Title: We Are 100
Author: Nathan Timmel
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 247
Publisher: Red Oak Press
Genre: Fiction, Thriller > Mystery, Police Procedural
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. This does not influence my review and all opinions are fully my own.

Links:
Amazon
Goodreads
Author’s Website

CW/TW: Illness, death due to illness, sexism, death, murder, mentions of sexual abuse against children, mentions of rape, swear words, gun violence, mentions of racism

Blurb

After losing his wife, Evan Francart is depressed. He has an axe to grind with the pharmaceutical company that jacked up the price of her medications, but feels powerless against a billion-dollar corporation.Then he meets Cassandra.She shows Evan a way to both end his life and become a hero. With her guidance, Evan interrupts a company board meeting and blows the building sky-high.As FBI agents Susan Chamberlain and Michael Godwin discover, Evan is the first of many. Ninety-nine more like him wait anonymously in the wings, their targets just as personal as Evan’s: the prosecutor who lets rapists walk free, the inept surgeon who maims patients yet keeps operating, the phony evangelist preying on those seeking solace… and that’s just the beginning.Will the FBI unearth Cassandra’s identity before all 100 have carried out their plans?

“‘In life, you’re either the fucker, or the fuckee. Which one do you want to be?’ Susan decided she did want to be either. She wanted to be a protector; she wanted to protect those who couldn’t protect themselves. Which made this case all the more interesting. Here, the wolves were being attacked by the sheep. Fuckees had decided enough was enough, and they were pushing back against the fuckers.”

Overall Feeling

The main story and plot of “We Are 100” revolves around revenge that centers on grief. We’re not talking about bullied kid setting up the ultimate middle school, teen Hollywood-movie-worthy, humiliation revenge against the school queen bee. Here we’re talking much bigger. People like those in high bank positions, big pharma, corrupt cops, lawyers, and doctors who are doing or have done things that ought to get them at least some time in jail, but they’re rich. And we know rich people hardly ever actually end up in jail.

So now, the 100 are taking action. 100 strangers, lured in, their grief weaponized, to perform one big final act; murder-suicide actions that will use the targets as examples to the world; You’ve gotten away from the law, you boast, and now justice is here. They’re here to set an example to all the other corrupt and greedy individuals of high society. They can no longer hide behind connections and money. Anyone can be a target and the lesson from each death is that only you can paint that target board on your own back.

This book was a crazy from the beginning. I finished the first chapter, nearly throwing down the book and running off. It was sheer adrenaline. I read it once, gasped, processed blankly at the wall, and then went back and read the entire first chapter again just to feel that same bundle of emotions because holy shit what a way to GO OUT

“The 1% were animals. Or, if not animals, maybe their wealth allowed them to act without care. They knew someone like Evan would tidy up after them.”

And it doesn’t stop there. We’ve got a website filled with photos that are blank, set to turn into videos per profile, within the hour of their deaths, explaining and confessing each of the 100’s deeds along with why they did it. Sure, there were a few deaths that were skimmed over, but towards the beginning, it was just death after death. Some of the murders were generic shootings and while others may be a tad bit more creative (very tall tower kind of creative). There was always something happening that left the team running around.

Now…two wrongs don’t make a right and honestly, the book addresses this. Sure, all of the victims pretty much deserved it (judges letting rapists go despite solid SOLID evidence, big pharma’s jacking up prices to unsurvivable amounts, pedophiles…) but like one of the characters mentioned, eventually even those who get away with the act (or played a part in why others got away with their acts) were going to be caught, it was just down to “matter of time.” However…for the entirety of the book, despite how much I loved the protagonist duo team (and the supporting team) I found myself cheering on the big bad hoping he could complete what he needed to do. 

Gotta say. I was very satisfied by the end.

Pacing

The pacing was pretty good. The start of this book came in and I was left in so much shock that I read the chapter twice and it’s not the only chapter I did so with. Things pick up and we’re left with the agents running around trying to gather clues because at this point, we don’t just have one serial killer, we have a highly intelligent leader (with the wherewithal to fund this operation) heading a bunch of common folks, under him, and with them all being strangers to one another, there’s no connection between them other than their collective grief stemming from being wronged by the high, rich and mighty people that were previously untouchable. 

And then it all tapers off towards the middle where I was starting to get a little bored.

Heck, this gets noted in the book too. Agent Susan asks the rookie, Agent Michael, if this is what he thought it’d [FBI work] be like and he answers that he knew it wasn’t going to be like how Hollywood makes cops and FBI out to be. There’s no constant door busting, fighting, high speed chases, and fire fights. A lot of the work? It’s interviews, investigations, chatting with others, interrogating whose already been caught (with perhaps a bit of negotiation skills sprinkled on top), and the such. So to go from a high rush to a “Time to interview and investigate anonymous hotlines” was a nice way to break up the sections and pacing. I mean, if there was adrenaline in every chapter, there’d be a mountain of dead bodies! So, with a handful of cool down chapters in between, it really helps.

When you’re going through it, reading it at that moment, it can get a bit slow; a little bit like when the rollercoaster suddenly stalls with a hisssss either at the bottom or peak of the ride. But when you’re all done, you appreciate that it gets a little boring in the middle, because it gives Susan and Michael a breather and that means it gives you, the reader, a breather. It spaces things out nicely and I liked it like that.

Chapter Length & Content

Not usually something I comment on, but I will say…with the average chapters (that I read) anywhere from 20-50 pages, these chapters fall a short on that mark and oh my god am I relieved. Sure, some chapters are like 5 pages but do you know how accomplishing it feels to say “I hammered through like 10 chapters today 😎”? It’s also easy to digest each chapter so that you’re summarized and processed by the time you hit the first line of the next one.

And they had TITLES!

Oh, how I’ve missed chapter titles…

I haven’t seen chapter titles in a while because I tend to read relatively the same books by the same authors who don’t use them and sure, a lot of the titles are short or very to-the-point like “Michael’s Moment”, but I love chapter titles because it gives you that 2 micro-seconds of a glimpse into the chapter.

The only single thing I was kind of disappointed in was that all the individual baddies and villains had their little chapters. There are chapters that explains their history and reason why they’re out to kill their specified victim and the maybe a few pages of them actually confronting the victims while they sit in shock (well probably confusing and paralyzing fear) but the big bad guy? The main bad guy? The main antagonist? His history is spread across multiple chapters so, I didn’t miss much there. But…I was really looking forward to really reading how he lured in his prey and wanted to see their reactions of “Oh shit, I’m one of the targets the news has been talking about.” 

However, I’m not too disappointed. While shorter than I had hoped (I expected his chapter to be far longer than the others’ because he’s the main antagonist) it’s not like Nathan glossed over the villain’s personalized chapter either. Therefore, my disappointment is kept to a minimum and I was still satisfied because I got the ending that I wanted and the main antagonists’ victims got what they deserved AND were awake and conscious to feel all of it.

Writing Side Note

I’m not a fan of info dumps. I try to tolerate them, whether they are traditional info dumps or dialogue dumps (I’ve read books where a character practically speaks for 7+ pages straight in order to explain history to another character [thus the audience and readers]), but generally, I don’t particularly care for it.

And there’s info dumps here and there in this book.
Strangely? I didn’t mind.
I called them “personalized chapters.” There was literally a whole chapter just dedicated to introducing Agent Susan Chamberlain to the readers (her history, why she chose FBI, etc.) and then another chapter doing the same for Agent Godwin (Michael). But, everything was short and I kind of enjoyed the writing so it didn’t really matter. They were info dumps…that didn’t feel like an info dump. I can’t explain it further than that.

And by the time I caught on that nearly all of the main pawns/villains were getting their OWN little background chapters, I was starting to enjoy it. It was part of how this book was going to go, because, for a lot of these 100’ers, you’ll only get to hear their tale in that one chapter and never again. It’s their story squished into a single chapter, a chance to hear their reasonings. A chance to make the world look at them like the heroes they believe themselves to be. 

So yeah, somehow, I didn’t mind the info dumps because it added to the charm of the story. It just fit into this particular book very nicely and the writing really patterns around those chapters. Strangely nicely done.

Characters

The characters were likeable, especially the main protagonists, Agent Chamberlain and Agent Michael, but I was kind of rooting for the villain and his 100’ers. I read a lot of mystery thrillers and crime books. I’m usually on the cop’s side because the bad guys are REALLY BAD GUYS, but all of the villains here are grieving and have been terribly wronged. All of their victims deserved some form of karma and I found myself unable to hate them for their actions.

I’m not condoning their actions nor their violence and definitely not condoning how the main antagonist was weaponizing grief (that’s how it’s stated) even if all of the entire operation was done for the better good and to teach a lesson to those who take advantage of people below them. However, I still rooted for them, the bad guys here, in a sorrowful way.

The protagonists? I liked Susan. She had her flaws and like any good human had her oversights. Sometimes, Michael had better ideas than her, despite being the senior office and Michael’s mentor. There was a scene where a cop was disrespecting her because of her gender and she practically flattens him with words. I don’t think that guy is ever going to recover from that…(I cheered though). 

Michael is a very smart fellow and his catchphrase is “Fair enough.” It’s his first major on-field case and damn, talk about first case man! It must be such an adrenaline rush as he makes his way in proving his worth to his team. He makes for a good teammate because, sure he’s a rookie, but he had his fair share of contribution and breakthroughs that helped catapult the case forward. He thinks outside the box and questions things that Susan or Sumner may have missed. There was a major moment where his lightning fast reflexes essentially saved the case from blowing up in their face, taking their only lead to the grave AND became a major turning point in the story too!

“Working with a new agent was like a first date, only with potential life-or-death consequences while in the field.”

The main villain is there to lead the other “We Are 100” members and he’s got the means to pull everything off too. He can be manipulative and even he acknowledges that there are moments where he pulled certain stunts that might’ve met the requirement of putting him on the chopping block in the same lanes as the victims. Still, he’s cunning and his entire plan is so thoroughly thought through that it makes my head spin. However, he’s got an ego and he enjoys toying with the agents even if he knows of the risks behind it all. 

Writing

Nathan’s a comedian and his quips, sarcasm, and little remarks show in the writing. One of the reasons I really enjoyed this book was because I enjoyed Nathan’s writing. He’s got good things to say about many things, especially those in high power or high wealth, that makes its way into the book because they’re relevant to the plot. His dialogues are pretty nice and I enjoy the little interactions between everyone. One of the things I really enjoyed was how he wrote all of his characters, especially the women in this book.

Emotions wise, I got my fair share of light tears, chills and handful of shocks (of course). There was the moment that the agents discovered the website with the blank profile pictures and a cold feeling ran down my spine (for the agents, because the blurb already gives away that there’s plenty of others out there). Think about it. You come to investigate one man’s crimes, perhaps he’s got about 1-5 accomplices tops, only to discover that there’s a potential of up to 100 total related cases, blank profiles staring like ticking time bombs…Can you image the sheer fear and horror of this discovery? 

Final Thoughts

I don’t think you need a final thoughts section to know that I really loved this book. I took it on because I gave the blurb a single look over and thought, “Oh hell no, I’m not missing this one.” The writing was entertaining and kept me going even when the plot slowed down during the investigation. The characters were well written with some decent interactions between themselves. Info dumbs didn’t feel like info dumps and lastly, I’m over here rooting for the wrong damn side. I had a great time these last few days with “We Are 100” so Nathan, don’t stop writing fiction! I hope you continue and come out with more because I’ll be right there to read your next one!

Quotes

“The internet was supposed to break down all the walls between people, and information. We were all supposed to get smarter, and this would usher in a new age of enlightenment. In reality, all the internet did was make it a thousand times easier for crazy people to meet and befriend one another.”

“People shared things online they would never share in person. There was a comfort in being alone with your computer in the middle of the night; the cold screen in front of you allowed you to type out thoughts you’d never verbalize. It was a better confessional than the Catholics had in their churches.”

Review To-Go

I really enjoyed this book. Right into the first chapter, we go from 0 to 100 really quick and it ends off in such a way that I had to stop and process what just happened. The adrenaline was dripping off me and I turned right back and ended up reading that chapter one more time just to experience it again. In Nathan Timmel’s first fiction novel, we follow the story of the sheep that fight back against the wolves that have set their paws on top of the common folk for long enough. Powerful people in powerful positions are falling one by one and their deaths are there to make an example to the world. You only paint your own targets is the theme that those in the “We Are 100” follow.

The writing is really good, even during moments that starts to slow down in between all the drama and adrenaline. The characters are likeable; both the good and all of the villains, and you find yourself sympathizing with the bad guys. With a good pace, short chapters, and well written storyline and characters, this book was a great read that was easy to digest. Emotions are strong from the beginning to the end and the book finishes off satisfyingly.

  • Pacing: The pacing was done nicely. It’s fast paced only slowed down, slightly, towards the middle as the investigation and “boring leg work” part of the job finally begins. When discoveries are made, the pace quickens again and you’re once again flying through.
  • Chapter Length & Content: With short chapters that have chapter titles, the length is really nice. It helps in processing each chapter when some are only 5-7 pages long.
  • Info Dumps: While there are info dumps, mostly background stories, it fits in nicely to this book. There’s a pattern to the format of how this story goes and eventually the individual “personalized chapters” feel like it’s simply part of the charm of the book.
  • Characters: Likeable characters on both the good and bad side. Dialogue is nice and I enjoy the interaction between the team members and the duo.
  • Writing: The writing is easy to process and digest and you can see pieces of Nathan’s comedy background sneak its way into his writing style. It’s quite unique and helped me through some of the slow parts. Funny note: Characters raise/furrow/wrinkle/etc. their eyebrows quite a lot. I counted 6 before I stopped 😂
5 Stars

Mordecai’s Ashes [Book Review]


Book Name: Mordecai’s Ashes
Series: Larsson Investigations Book: 1
Author: Arlana Crane
Book Type: Physical > Paperback
Pages: 350
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Mystery Thriller, Suspense

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided to me, by the author, in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions in this review are of my own.

A big thank you to Arlana for sending me a copy!

Trigger Warnings and Content Warnings: Drugs, mention of drug related death, death, blood and gore, violence, guns

When I received it, I was obsessed over the cover. The combination of the raindrops and color choices made for a beautiful cover! It wraps around to the back of the book too!
The PI field is worlds away from his old job!

His wife has left him and he’s out of a job, luck isn’t on Karl Larsson’s side and it doesn’t look like it’s picking up anytime soon either. He’s distant from his family aside from his sister who, while being a bit naggy, is halfway across the globe and still makes sure to check in on him from time to time. Even if her calls can occasionally be a little bit condescending, Karl still favors her as his favorite sibling, because after all, it’s either Tilly (Matilda) or his two brothers and he much rather a call from her than a call from either Jakob or Liam.

Having his life rolled downhill and currently living in the valley of it all, his future didn’t seem promising…at least until he suddenly inherits his grandfather’s detective agency from his aunt Matilda’s will. He’s shocked, because he doesn’t even know his grandfather! 

But it was either this agency or working in Liam’s trucking business and Karl would rather eat a hornet’s nest than do that! Besides, it seemed interesting enough, even if he has no experience as a PI. With his previous job as an oil worker at the rigs, the detective world is a brand new world to him. His only resources are the file cabinets of records, invoices, procedures and processes, clients and contacts left over from the business’s previous owner. Now, at 27, Karl Larsson is the new owner of Abrams Investigations.

Taking on small cases initially (tracking down ex-partners gone poof with delinquent child-support payments and background checks), he later on hires his cousin, Kelsey, to help with the business. It’s just the two of them taking on small case after small case until he is hired by an old acquaintance and client of his grandfather to take a look at a drug smuggling case. With the matter being quite personal to his new client, Karl is both intrigued and excited, his first big job!

It’s not until shit hits the fan does Karl learn that he’s in way over his head, but at that point, he’s in too deep! With no options in backing out of this, it’s either forward or die!

Review

Engaging with solid characters, I found myself flying through the book. This book takes off right away. There’s no dilly-dalling on how Karl inherits Abrams Investigations. He’s on a call with Tilly to accompany his mother to the lawyer to discuss Matilda’s will and bam, our MC goes from broke, jobless, and living in his sister’s apartment to the owner of a business.

The family in the book consists of Karl’s mother, who comes off as kind of cold to me(?), Karl’s sister Matilda (or Tilly), and his brothers Liam and Jakob. There’s also Aunt Matilda (Tilly’s namesake) who has recently passed and then there’s Mordecai, Karl’s grandfather who he’s never met, the previous owner of Abrams Investigations. With all of Karl’s siblings being pretty successful people (Jakob being a commercial real estate broker, Liam with his trucking business, and Tilly halfway through her 2-year teaching contract (teaching English in Beijing), Karl’s the odd duckling out after losing his job and wife. He’s pretty estranged with his family with the sole exception of Tilly and even she’s barely making it. 

There’s always some form of obligatory love interest in these kind of books and when Karl’s cousin, Kelsey, is introduced as the main supporting female character, let me tell you the joy I felt…! Sure, nothing’s wrong with romance, but sometimes books that don’t need romance just always has that one love interest that always leads to that (minimum) one kiss scene. It’s refreshing. And speaking of Kelsey…

Smart as a whip, she is Karl’s younger cousin. While they haven’t really spoken in the last few years (her introduction scene is a whole “dang you grew!” “Well yeah I not 12 anymore, cuz 😒 ” moment), she is also one of the few that he’s always enjoyed being around besides Tilly. She helps him tend the office and hold down the fort when he’s away on jobs and is Karl’s brain to his drug-ring busting case. Her help was crucial early and Karl wouldn’t have made it as far without her. I really enjoyed her character.

Karl’s character is also written very well and you can see the pasture in him when trying to picture how green he is at this new job. He’s an ex-oiler worker and everyone in the family expects him to sell the business right away so that he can make enough profit to sustain him in his current down-on-luck situation. When he takes interest in Abrams, everyone, including Tilly, doesn’t expect him to make it far. The phrase “playing detective” is thrown around a lot as Karl not only struggles to understand PI work and keep the business going, but now he has to prove to his family that he means it when he said he was taking over. There are moments where I argued out loud with Karl because of something he did that was incredibly risky…but he doesn’t know better. He doesn’t have the mindset or caution of a man with years of detective experience. How could I be mad?

The other minor characters all have quite a bit life to them as well, even if some only get a flash moment in the book. You sort of get to know about Mordecai as Karl goes through past clients and cases (as well as from friends and family). You get to know Karl’s brothers who come off as very “All business, no need for friends” people. You meet Mordecai’s old friends, the downstairs bookshop owner, Percy, and his old client (and also friend) the reporter John Fullerton who is responsible for Karl’s first big case. John’s interest in this case is so passionate and this case is so personal to him, you just want to keep reading to see the reason behind the hatred.. There are plenty of other characters and some are a bit shady; you can easily tell who seems to be the bad guy in this book. Even as sketchy as they are, they’re written in a way that makes you feel almost sorry for them (ALMOST). 

Besides the characters, the writing itself is also done nicely. Engaging, engrossing and captivating, the writing in this book is smooth. The words flow well and it’s easy to read. The plot is great as well. We waste no time in how Karl receives the business and it goes straight to business as he learns to run Abrams. While it does slow down (just a little bit) after he takes over, it’s mostly because he’s taking on mostly only small cases as he learns the rope of the detective role. It’s not long before we get to the big-juicy steak of the story. Even the slow moments are filled with getting to know characters. After all, you have to show the readers that Karl is new and it’s a pretty big leap from small delinquent payors and background checks to a major high-risk drug smuggling case (with, mind you, no supervisor to seek tips and help from…only…only cabinets of old files, his cousin and his wits to guide him).

After Karl takes on the drug case, the plot gets intense. It’s truly a “hold your breath” moment then because Karl is really in it and there’s no turning back from it.

My last few mystery thrillers have all been police procedural and the MCs are generally part of the state or government. It’s been a while since I read a PI book and the dangers of the job really shows (not that being a cop is any more or less dangerous). However, as a PI and with Karl not fully knowing the law, he takes major risks and he goes in alone with only his cousin knowing where he might be. There’s no reporting to an upper supervisor. There’s no “I need back up!” It’s Karl alone out there and Kelsey alone to direct him. Both are untrained and new to the profession and it adds to the thrill and danger factor. 

A great book that is full of thrilling moments, you sit there in fear with Karl as he investigates this case. There are bar scenes and stealth scenes, there are scary moments and then there are head-thrown-back laughing moments. An enjoyable and smooth read, this book has well written characters and an engaging plot full of tension and breath holding moments. There’s a major twist in the end that I absolutely got a kick out of.

A great read, I give this book 5 cozy cups of coffee!

The Contractor [Book Review]

Book Name: The Contractor
Series: The Fellowship Trilogy Book: 1
Author: David Scott Meyers
Book Type: Physical > Paperback
Obtained: Review Request
Pages: 302
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Crime, Suspense
Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided to me, by the author, in exchange for a fair and honest review. The fact that the book was given to me did not alter my ratings/judgement of the book in any way. All opinions in this review are of my own.

Book’s Amazon Page >HERE<
Author’s Website >HERE<
Book’s Goodreads Page >HERE<

🥡 Book Review To Go Please!! 🥡

The first book of the Fellowship Trilogy, this book sets in the fictional town of Fellowship, Tennessee. Elias Morgan is the descendent of one of the first settlers, the farm belonging to his family even before Tennessee was a state! But now the farm is in need of repairs and it’s pretty hard to keep up maintenance when you’re getting old! Morgan hires a contractor to help sturdy up the barn, but he soon disappears during construction.

This book was a pretty good book. A quick read, I managed to power through it in a few days, always eager to see the next scene and chapters. I was intrigued in the beginning and I was intrigued to the end. Things happened that I wanted resolved but the book ends up on a cliffhanger (sort of).

The writing is VERY interesting. This book is heavy on dialogue with two separate times where a single character went into a 6 page speech describing two different memories. The book seems to divide into two separate “arcs” of sort where the beginning revolved around Morgan and the hired private contractor and the second half revolving around the town’s deputy.

The book has interesting font that took a bit to get used to, but was refreshingly new to read and actually made it easier to fly through the story. There are lovely drawings in the book to help with imagery, illustrated by the author’s daughter, Hannah Nicole Meyers and the drawings made me realize how much I missed reading the books I read as a kid. Those always had plenty of pictures to go around.

A good read and looking forward to book two, this one gets a 3⭐️

The book was illustrated by the author’s daughter, Hannah.

🍽 Book Review for Here! 🍽

The first book out of my reading and blog hiatus: The Contractor by David Scott Meyers. The most captivating part about this book was the fact that there were pictures (illustrated by the author’s daughter, Hannah Nicole Meyers). While there are some adult books out there with a few pictures in them, I don’t come across those books often and it took seeing these illustrations to realize just how much I’ve missed reading books with pictures in them. Part of a trilogy, “The Contractor” is the first book of the three taking place in the fictional town of Fellowship, Tennessee with two main POV characters and another minor but just as important character.

The author, David, discussed in his preface, how the book came to be. Knowing that he had written a screenplay for another film, David’s brother, Jeff, had gone to him with another idea for a script. Several handwritten pages of notes later, the foundation of what eventually became “The Contractor” was born. I don’t usually read the preface page of most books. I have a tendency to skip everything until I reach either the prologue or the first chapter of the book. For this book, however, I ended up reading the entire preface explaining how “The Contractor” was started and written. I think having read that the book started out as a script idea helped me through the book because I’m going to end up talking a lot about the interesting writing style here. 

I noticed a few things going into the book. The font, first of all, was bold and popped right out at you. The change up of fonts from the traditional sets of writing fonts to something so…different took a little getting used to, but man it made reading a lot of fun. Heck, even middle grade books aren’t written in fonts like these and it helped make “The Contractor” really stand out. I feel like the font was part of the reason I managed to fly through this book when I was already going through a tough month. 

The Font

Then, there were the pages and pages of dialogue and monologues or memory scenes. I counted one dialogue, where a character was telling another of what their relationship was with each other. While it started off as an exchange between the two men, it eventually ended up being roughly 6-7 pages of one man’s story as the other laid there listening. There was, however, a couple of brief sentences (about five) to break up the speech.

Again, only two chapters later, we have the same man telling a waitress another story; one of how he finally bested his long time bully in one thing, when a woman had chosen him over the bully and how she eventually became his wife. At this point, I just sat there reading and going, “Man this guy sure likes to talk. Like. A LOT.” 

But I chalked it up to his character. The man doing all of this talking is Elias Morgan, the story revolves around him, a contractor, and the town deputy. Old and lonely, his wife having passed only 6 months ago, Elias doing a whole lot of talking was only natural. 

The only other reason I could come up with, in explaining the heavy dialogue/speeches, was because the book started out as a script idea. When I’m thinking about scripts (at least for me), dialogue and single-man speeches come to mind easily. There was a bit more of showing versus telling and when I wrap it all up, it does indeed feel a bit like a script where actors are given dialogue to read out loud with actions and cues to nudge the direction of where the scene is going. It made for an interesting read.

The most interesting moment came in the beginning of the book when there was a quick character POV change from one character to another in the middle of the same paragraph before returning to the initial character’s POV in the next paragraph. It was the strangest thing and it threw me off for a bit. 

The book, as promised, was a quick read. I was able to fly my way through the book. The writing style was interesting, the plot made me angry (the ending annoyed me), and honestly I wanted to get through the book as quickly as I can to see if retribution and justice would be served. I was disappointed to be left on a cliffhanger so I guess we’ll just have to see in the next book what happens. 

All in all, it was a pretty good book that I devoured in days. There are books that just feel slow and ten pages feel like a hundred while other books go by with a hundred feeling like ten pages. “The Contractor” was the latter and I just wanted to keep flipping just so I could SEE if what I wanted to happen was going to happen (like every mystery book I was painfully wrong. This is why I’m not a detective ah haha). However, unlike the rest of my favorite mystery thriller books, in which cases are usually solved by the end of the book, this is a trilogy. Who knows? Maybe I’m right about my list of sketchy people by the end of the third book!

There wasn’t much I was unhappy about. The font was pretty cool and different from the rest of [literally all] of the other books I’ve ever read and it felt kind of refreshing (albeit needing to get used to it first). The writing is the thing that really pops out at you. The characters felt a little rushed (I can’t explain it. It’s just a feeling). The writing was full of dialogue and twice did a man just go into a speech, talking about his memories (breathe Elias breathe!!) and there was that weird POV change mid-paragraph. 

At the end of the day, the writing wasn’t such a bad thing. It just made for an interesting and new experience. 

David, thank you for a great read. I’ll be sure to check out the second book when I have the time! 

Now, time to refill my coffee mug. Toodles!

The Existence of Amy [Book Review]

Book Name: The Existence of Amy
Series: Standalone Book: N/A
Author: Lana Grace Riva
Book Type: Physical > Paperback
Obtained: Review Request
Pages: 281
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Mental Illness
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided to me, by the author, in exchange for a fair and honest review. The fact that the book was given to me did not alter my ratings/judgement of the book in any way. All opinions in this review are of my own.


TW/CW: Mental Illness > This book covers and portrays these topics: depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder.

Goodreads Link: The Existence of Amy by Lana Grace Riva
Amazon Link: Available on Kindle and Paperback

Goodreads Blurb

Amy has a normal life. That is, if you were to go by a definition of ‘no immediate obvious indicators of peculiarity’, and you didn’t know her very well. She has good friends, a good job, a nice enough home. This normality, however, is precariously plastered on top of a different life. A life that is Amy’s real life. The only one her brain will let her lead.

Review

This book is exhausting…

This book is exhausting to get through, to read, and to “experience.”

“The Existence of Amy” revolves around our main character, Amy, as she battles her hidden struggle with OCD, anxiety and depression. On the outside, with the exception of being known as a canceler, she’s perfectly fine and functional. She greets her coworkers at work, she makes small chatter, she gets through the workday, meets with clients, has work meetings, and has laughs with friends. Yet, behind each of those activities, she struggles terribly and everything gives her anxiety. Most of her day’s energy is being spent on making the right enough decision to “look normal to others.” The thoughts that run through her head are enough to make you need to sit down and breath.

Anxiety in every corner…

Amy’s OCD comes with a gang of their own lovely friends: anxiety and depression. She avoids her colleagues/friends by making up whatever excuses humanly possible to get out of a social gathering, even when every bone in her body craves to be there. Consequently, one of her friends is getting more and more upset with her for her lack of attendance in many of the events that Amy is invited but fails to show up to.

But she can’t help it. There is danger in every corner of the world and in every spec of existence. Everything gives her anxiety. The need to converse with others in a “normal way” is draining. Her mind races with thoughts when she’s boarding the bus. Flying in a plane was a terrible experience as she has to chose between being cold or using her jumper as a makeshift pillow because she didn’t want her head to touch the chair as she slept. She couldn’t even accept a gift from someone because the voices in her head told her that the object would contaminate the things in her purse and she follows up by discarding the gift and then washing her hands several times afterwards.

The first chapter was hard to get through (pacing), but when I finally settled down to read it, I found myself eating through the book and devouring it in days. I have countless sticky notes tabbing different sections and pages of the book; quotes are marked, scenes are picked out, conversations are noted. I absolutely loved this book.

I think, the worst part about this entire book was how exhausting it was to be in Amy’s head. It’s real and it’s relatable. For me, I teared up every now and then because, Hey! Sounds a bit like me… I, too, never show up to social gatherings. I crave to be hanging out with friends, but the thought of being there invites stones in my stomach. Though Amy’s reasons for avoiding gatherings and hanging out with her friends are different than mine, I found myself relating to her in a good few scenes.

Normal on the Outside…

The sad part is reading her day at work. On the outside, Amy is someone I’ve always admired and maybe been envious of. She participates in meetings, something that would nauseate me. She still makes it to some gatherings, at least. She converses and chats with her coworkers. She goes on business trips to another country! All of these I find nearly impossible to do, but she does it. On the outside, she’s that professional office worker I’ve strived to be since always! On the inside, poor Ames is on fire trying to decide which sentence to use to look normal by her standards.

“This makes me incredibly sad because people don’t understand. Why would anyone reject a kind act? It makes no sense to them. So, they can only assume I must be rude. I must be ungracious and unappreciative. I am none of those. I am. simply. scared. So. Very. Scared. All. The. Time.”

Characters…

Characters wise, I liked two of the three friends. I can tell that they all show love and worry for Amy’s odd behaviors. The last friend, I can’t tell if the author specifically wrote for them to act like so, but she felt like a very real representation of someone who is not particularly considerate of what others might be going through. Everybody in this world fights secret battles and people seem to understand that. I, for one, have never been angry for anyone’s constant cancelling on me. Well, this character was beginning to get on my nerves because they just simply never thought about “Maybe something’s up with Amy.” I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me, but I just didn’t like them. Personal opinion.

Hyperaware of every action…

This isn’t the OCD that has taken over on the internet in a meme form. This isn’t the OCD that people joke about when a tile is misaligned or you wash your hand once too many times on a single occasion. This is the OCD that begins by disturbing your life slightly, slowly creeping up and turning into destructive waves until Amy needs to call in sick to work because she can’t leave her bed.

You are taken into Amy’s mind and you experience her view on life with her. Through her eyes, you become almost hyperaware of the little actions that the average person doesn’t think about. For example, when you ride the bus, you have a very autopilot way of thinking… ticket out, scanned ticket, ticket into pocket, quick grab the pole, lemme play on my phone, my stop!, pull the bell, get off. For her, every second is filled with anxiety from having to worry about being 1 second too late to board, to bothering a fellow passenger, the looks others give to her, the choice of seats, the germs, the feeling that others are more productive than she is, silently begging someone else pulls the bell instead of her, and so on.

Beautiful, realistic, and heartbreaking, this book really draws you into Amy’s head, essentially trapping you in with her. You begin to see the warped way she views the world. Throughout the book, I had moments where I had to rationalize with her like, “Aw come on Ames! They probably aren’t thinking that about you!”

A lovely book. It was tiring to get through, not in a bad way, but in an eye opening and experiencing way.