Review: Jamais Vu by Monique O’Connor James

Jamais Vu by Monique O'Connor James

Title: Jamais Vu

Author: Monique O’Connor James

Publisher: Astraea Press

Format: E-book ($.99 at the time of this review)

Pages: 227 pages

Release Date: October 3, 2011

Genre: Paranormal

Available at: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Astraea Press

Summary: Darby Lambert had the picture perfect life — a wealthy family, a nice car, a good education, a successful, good-looking boyfriend, a bright future. But one bullet threw her whole life, her whole existence, careening out of control.

Somewhere between death and life, Darby meets a man who sends her back to help people escape an untimely death. She sees these the deaths of these people in her dreams. One of these people is the talented musician, Kasey, who is in danger of overdosing on drugs.

The immediate connection between Darby and Kasey draws them into each other’s lives. Darby tries to convince Kasey to kick his drug habit, all the while running from demons of her own.

The author takes the reader on a journey with the main character from her “death”, through her efforts to save people who have come to hold a prominent place in her life. Unfortunately, there are forces working against her that seem to be winning.

Review: This is a tough one for me to review because it’s unlike anything I’ve read before. It is definitely a rare style of writing, and the author does it well. I love it’s unique flavor and imaginitive plot.

The writing is fantastic. The reader’s attention is captured from the very beginning, and the plot is built slowly for the first two-thirds of the book, continually adding more intricacies to the conflict. The author does a good job developing the main character throughout her traumatic recovery, eventually bringing her to a full self-awareness.

The last third of the story moves fast. So fast, that when the end comes, you might sit there for a few minutes to digest what just happened. It’s a thinker.

Recommendation: It might not be for everyone, because it is a bit of a wild ride through the main character’s stream of consciousness. From what I understand, the second book in the series brings it all together, so the questions you are left with at the end of Jamais Vu are answered in Deja Vu. If you’re not afraid to try something new and different in your reading repertoire, you are in for an amazing trip.  I give Jamais Vu a rating of four quills:

four quills

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Review: The Picture by Stephanie Taylor

The Picture by Stephanie Taylor

Title: The Picture

Author: Stephanie Taylor

Publisher: Astraea Press

Format: E-book ($1.99) and paperback ($11.99)

Pages: 205 pages

Release Date: May 23, 2011

Genre: Romance – Contemporary

Available at: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Astraea Press

Summary: Sophie is a hospice nurse who usually doesn’t get involved with her patients past a certain point. Don’t get me wrong, she is very good at what she does and she has pure motives — she genuinely wants to help them to deal with every aspect of what they’re going through. But when she meets Emily, she breaks her own rules. Emily’s always up-beat, always smiling outlook on life draws Sophie like an irresistible force. So, it is understandable that when Emily’s time comes, Sophie reels emotionally and has to go through the grieving process of losing a close friend.

But she also made a promise to Emily. A promise to deliver a picture to Nicholas, a disenchanted rock star struggling to make sense of Emily’s death and deal with his own grief over the loss. She does deliver the picture, but not before she finds more than she bargained for in Nicholas’s company. Nicholas is understandably upset about the photograph, and Sophie leaves, certain she’ll never see him again. But she was wrong, and a snowstorm finds them snowed in at her apartment for several days.

Just when she starts to think love is possible, his track record with women and her hidden past threaten to destroy what might have been.

Review: Warning: You’re gonna cry. I teared up in three different parts and I can usually control my emotions like an ice queen. 😉 This story was amazing. I loved the characters and could feel Sophie’s roller coaster of emotions throughout. Her love and grief, her confusion and her anger. She is the epitome of a woman trying to hide all her pain from the world around her, but finds it all spills over at the most inopportune moments.

Nicholas was a gentleman and not arrogant or possessing of a sense of entitlement. Nothing like what you’d expect a rock star to be. Which I loved, because I’m not particularly fond of vanity in a hero.

I don’t want to ruin the story for you, so I won’t reveal too much, but there were several surprises in the plot that I was definitely NOT expecting, making it all the more enjoyable for me.

At this point in the review I usually say, “With that said,…” and tell you about something that could have been improved. But, honestly, although it wasn’t perfect, I have NO complaints. I loved every bit of the story. The author thoroughly developed the plot from beginning to end. I’m amazed.

Recommendation: I read the whole thing in one sitting. I could NOT put it down. And I don’t say this lightly. I’m not a particularly fast reader, but this was worth my time and made me want to check out all of Stephanie Taylor’s other titles. If I thought I could get away with it, I’d call in sick the rest of the week and just read her books. There is really no other choice but to give The Picture my highest rating:

Five Quills

I have read three books from this author so far, and I can tell you I have yet to be disappointed. If you’re looking for a satisfying and inspiring read you can’t go wrong with The Picture. And I also recommend Lucky for Her and My One True Love by Stephanie Taylor.

Review: Shadows on the Sand

Title: Shadows on the Sand

Author: Gayle Roper

Publisher: Multnomah Books

Format: E-book (also available in paperback)

Pages: 322

Release Date: July 19, 2011

Genre: Christian Romance/ Christian Suspense

Available at: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Waterbrook Multnomah, Christian Books Distributor

Summary:  Carrie Carter and her sister Lindsay run a small cafe in Seaside, a resort town on an island off the New Jersey coast. Things are just starting to wind down after the busy summer — the vacationing crowds are dissipating and the cafe is settling back into the company of their year-round regulars.

One of those regulars, Greg Barnes, makes Carrie’s heart do a happy dance every time he comes in. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to know she exists other than to serve his usual bacon and eggs in the morning (and he doesn’t even like eggs). That is until he starts to realize he has noticed her more than he planned.

When the body of Carrie’s murdered dishwasher turns up and her young waitress disappears, the peace of Seaside is turned upside-down. It seems everybody is hiding something, some secret demons from the past. While Greg’s demons threaten to destroy their new-found love, Carrie’s past comes back to haunt her as well, throwing her faith and life as she knows it into turmoil.

Review: Shadows on the Sand is a well-written mystery with lots of moving parts. The visual description of the setting paints the scene for the reader. The characters are well-developed, though sometimes their reactions to the circumstances are a little less intense than it seems would suit the situation. The story deals with several different human issues: murder, grief, abuse, faith, deception, guilt, anger, forgiveness, loss and love. The author brings all these strands of the story together at the end into a clear resolution without any loose ends, weaving in the tenants of faith and incorporating the theme of “for everything there is a season” from Ecclesiastes.

With that being said, I will add I could have lived without the Twitter sequences. They were inextricably entwined with the plot but felt awkward and a bit contrived to me — though they did make for great comic relief in the more intense moments. And they were the path through which rescue came several times, so I can’t say they are without merit.

As far as the climax of the story, I was white-knuckling the Kindle for a few minutes, but given the seriousness of the scene, the intensity could possibly have been knocked up a notch or two. Overall though, a satisfying ending.

Recommendation: I had a difficult time putting this one down. The suspense, the mystery and the love story came together to create a good reading experience. Readers who enjoy good mysteries will not be disappointed. For Shadows on the Sand by Gayle Roper I offer four quills:

Four Quills

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. You can buy the book or read a sample here.