Category Archives: @robinswandering

Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton

When she as four years old, Ari was handed over to the custody of the state and her mother disappeared. Thirteen years later, she is looking for answers. That search will take her to New 2, as New Orleans is now known.

But the city is not what it once was. After being ravaged by hurricanes, the city was purchased by nine families who are intent on creating a place for those who are different. Rumors abound about what the city is now like, as the US government no longer has any part of governing the city.

But Ari will brave anything to learn about her past and to break the curse that looms over her. Every woman in her family has had a daughter and has died before her 21st birthday. Ari refuses to be the next.

What follows is the first installment in a new series by Kelly Keaton titled Darkness Becomes Her.

I have to tell you, I was completely transfixed while reading this; I couldn’t put it down. Keaton weaves a tale that leaves you on the edge of your seat, waiting to see what will happen. The twists and turns seem to be never-ending. There are parts where the prose seems to drag, but these sections serve to both describe the history and set up for the story going forward. These sections are informational without being dull, which can be difficult for an author to do.

Keaton also creates a family of misfits to which any reader would be happy to belong. After being on the outside and shuffled from foster home to foster home, Ari finds kindred spirits among others with special gifts and uncommon parentage.

Keaton keeps the reader guessing right until the very end. Darkness Becomes Her is in no way short on surprises and leaves you wanting more!

Keaton’s novel is a classic example of the down side to getting a copy of a story to read in advance. This novel has yet to be published, and I am already waiting in anticipation for the next installment! I cannot wait to see what happens to Ari and her friends.


Robin Gwaro is a founding book review blogger at Bookgateway.com and has generously supplied this review. She describes herself as “a woman just trying to keep it all together. Most days, I have the juggling act down! Others, I have the broom and dustpan handy to clean up the mess. My life is not always easy, it is not always neat, but it is always worth every minute!” Her personal blog is Just Wandering. Not Lost.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Support BookGateway.com by purchasing this book through Amazon: Darkness Becomes Her

The Death Instinct by Jed Rubenfeld

At 12:01 pm on September 16, 1920, a blast rocked the Financial District in New York City. To date, this crime has remained unsolved, but it is most often attributed to Galleanists (Italian anarchists). With 38 people killed and 400 others injured, the blast was the most horrific act of terrorism on US soil up to that point.

Or was it?

Dr. Stratham Younger and his friend NYPD Captain James Littlemore are in the area on the day of the blast. From the beginning, both feel there is more to this attack than meets the eye. As the story begins to unravel, their lives are on the line as they race to find out who is responsible for the attack.

In his novel The Death Instinct, Jed Rubenfeld weaves fiction and truth to create a different story of what occurred that day. With strong characters battling their own demons while wading through political and financial intrigue, Rubenfeld’s novel is in turns heart-wrenching and heart-pounding.

When I first started reading, I have to say that I was a little thrown off by what seemed to be innocuous bits of information thrown into the middle of the story line. When reading, it’s probably a tendency to read those sections, think “huh?” and move on. After completing the novel, I realized there is a lot to be gleaned from those tidbits and nuggets that seem to be thrown into the mix with no rhyme or reason. At the end, I was still left with some that didn’t seem to fit. However, when I finished reading, I had several “So THAT’s why he wrote it” moments.

The novel did take me some time to get into. There are sections throughout the novel where the storyline seems to drag. I was waiting for an outcome to a specific instance related in the story, and it took a lengthy time to arrive at that outcome in some instances.

Overall, I really did enjoy reading Rubenfeld’s novel. It is a solid story with enough intrigue and subterfuge to keep you guessing throughout. He keeps you interested by not giving information too early. It was late into the book before I started making connections for the story to play out. For me, that’s the mark of a great suspense writer.


Robin Gwaro is a founding book review blogger at Bookgateway.com and has generously supplied this review. She describes herself as “a woman just trying to keep it all together. Most days, I have the juggling act down! Others, I have the broom and dustpan handy to clean up the mess. My life is not always easy, it is not always neat, but it is always worth every minute!” Her personal blog is Just Wandering. Not Lost.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Support BookGateway.com by purchasing this book through Amazon: The Death Instinct

Here Lies Bridget by Paige Harbison

Popularity is an interesting thing. In the world of high school, some girls are popular because they have money. Some girls are popular for sports. Others are popular for academics. And some, like Bridget Duke, are popular because others refuse to stand up against them. Bridget has always been one of the most popular, and one of the meanest, girls in her school. She throws the best parties, wears the best clothes, and seems to be at the top of her school’s heirarchy.

Then one day, Anna Judge comes to school. Anna’s popularity comes from being purely nice to those around her. Bridget is threatened by the attention that Anna is getting, and her façade quickly begins to break down and the cracks begin to show. In a last effort to show everyone how wrong they are for pushing her to the side, Bridget intentionally wrecks her car, expecting to die and leaving everyone behind feeling guilty for not showing her the deference she feels she deserves.

Instead, she wakes up in a boardroom with Anna and the friends and family she has so callously pushed aside in her effort to be at the top. Bridget must then step into each person’s shoes to learn how her actions have impacted those around her.

As I started reading Here Lies Bridget, I had flashbacks of reading Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall. Similar in content, both deal with self-centered teens who have each come to believe the world revolves around herself. However, Paige Harbison takes a slightly different approach. Instead of having the main character relive the day over and over and have her figure out how she has wronged those around her on her own, Bridget is given the opportunity to see how her self-serving actions have impacted those around her. She gets to see her actions through their eyes, showing her how her flippant comments and inconsiderate actions impact each of them.

I do have to say that I liked this story, even with its similarities to Oliver’s tale (which I also liked). Maybe it was because of them. Like Oliver, Harbison doesn’t try to make Bridget likeable, because the reality is her actions are completely inexcusable. She has no consideration for others and is at times even cruel in her remarks and actions. However, even with the similar story line, there was enough difference to keep me from feeling like I was just reading a knock-off version of the same story.

Harbison also takes a different path to the end of her novel. It is one that I prefer, truth be told.
So, does Bridget change? Does she end her life the same way she lived it? Or does she see the error of her ways?

Read it to find out. It is certainly worth it.


Robin Gwaro is a founding book review blogger at Bookgateway.com and has generously supplied this review. She describes herself as “a woman just trying to keep it all together. Most days, I have the juggling act down! Others, I have the broom and dustpan handy to clean up the mess. My life is not always easy, it is not always neat, but it is always worth every minute!” Her personal blog is Just Wandering. Not Lost.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Support BookGateway.com by purchasing this book through Amazon: Here Lies Bridget

One Bloody Thing After Another by Joey Comeau

Charlie’s dog Mitchie is as old as he is and is becoming a little feeble. He is also being haunted by a ghost who insists on daily visits to his neighbor’s apartment.

Jackie has an odd obsession with trees and has a bit of a breakdown when one of them is cut down. She is also in love with her best friend, Ann.

Ann has larger problems. Ann’s mother has begun to act strangely, is transforming, and craves live beings as meals.

Thus begins One Bloody Thing After Another. In category, this novella has been labeled as “horror.” Being one who still cannot finish It, I have to say that it can only loosely be put into that genre. What’s interesting here is the way the Joey Comeau writes it. Bare details are provided for what would really be thought of as shocking acts. However, in leaving the details open, there is so much for the imagination to build on. It would honestly depend on yours how the spaces in the story would be filled by your mind.

While the story lines are in the same book, it is almost like three separate stories that only barely intersect for the majority of the novella. It seems almost true to life that people who are in close contact with each other can also be worlds apart. That is certainly true for Jackie and Ann. While they spend time together, it is almost as if they are strangers who just happen to be in the same place at the same time. Comeau purposefully seems to leave the connections out. The same can be said for much of how life can be. How often do we learn things later about friends and loved ones about which we had no clue?

Some who read this might not be a fan of the formatting. The chapters are short; the sentences can be choppy at times. Note that this is entirely on purpose and not the result of a writer who just isn’t talented. It takes great talent to make this work, and I think Comeau does that.

In the end, I am on the fence with this one. I feel like I stepped into the story of three people in the middle of their lives, learned a little about them in a small space of time, and left again before I really got the full impact of their pasts, presents, and futures. Traditionally speaking, I have in the past not really been a fan of this. I like order and completion, and I did not get that with this.

However, I am still trying to decide if I think this is a good thing or not with Comeau’s work. At the very least, I have walked away still pondering the book. I left still wondering, not just forgetting what I read as soon as I was done. And that, in itself, says a lot about where I might end up when I read this again.


Robin Gwaro is a founding book review blogger at Bookgateway.com and has generously supplied this review. She describes herself as “a woman just trying to keep it all together. Most days, I have the juggling act down! Others, I have the broom and dustpan handy to clean up the mess. My life is not always easy, it is not always neat, but it is always worth every minute!” Her personal blog is Just Wandering. Not Lost.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Support BookGateway.com by purchasing this book through Amazon: One Bloody Thing After Another

Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball by Donita K. Paul

Cora Crowder never enters the Christmas Season without a plan. To avoid last minute stress, she plans ahead and sticks to the plan. On a shopping trip to a bookstore on Sage Street, Cora encounters the bookstore of Warner, Warner, and Wizbotterdad. While shopping, her boss’s boss wanders into the same store. Serious Simon Derrick, as he is known in the office, is focused at work and little else while he is there. After five years of working in the same office, Simon has only a vague recollection that Cora exists.

The magical matchmakers of Warner, Warner, and Wizbotterdad set out to change that. Both leave the shop with tickets to the enigmatic Wizard’s Ball. As circumstances throw Cora and Simon together again and again, they begin to learn more and more about one another. As that like grows into love, the magical forces of love and faith surround the couple and help them find their way.

I absolutely loved this book! Donita K. Paul’s story is full of wonderment and fun. It is a very quick read. Once I started reading, I didn’t want to put it down. The magical story interwoven with Biblical principles is a format to which it is easy to relate. Paul proves that you don’t have to choose between Magic and Truth. The story is a lovely romance and is very uplifting.

This is certainly a book that I could read again and again. As with all the books that I enjoy, it just seemed to end too quickly. The book is lighthearted and fun. Paul has done an amazing job on this very sweet love story.


Robin Gwaro is a founding book review blogger at Bookgateway.com and has generously supplied this review. She describes herself as “a woman just trying to keep it all together. Most days, I have the juggling act down! Others, I have the broom and dustpan handy to clean up the mess. My life is not always easy, it is not always neat, but it is always worth every minute!” Her personal blog is Just Wandering. Not Lost.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Support BookGateway.com by purchasing this book through Amazon: Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball

One Amazing Thing by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

After an earthquake traps nine strangers in the basement office of the passport administration, fear and uncertainty begin to take their toll.  They begin to panic once the reality of their situation begins to close in on them. Without knowing if rescue is a hope they have, one of the strangers suggests that they each tell “One Amazing Thing” that has happened in their lives.

What follows is both a harrowing tale of survival and how people can come together in the face of insurmountable odds.  Chitra Divakaruni brings together nine individuals from completely different backgrounds.  Seven of the nine are attempting to get to India, all for different reasons, but all for an attempt at atonement for past failures or shortcomings.  The two remaining work in the passport office and have come to be there after their own amazing turns in India.

Divakaruni’s prose is entrancing. It was so completely wonderful, I couldn’t put it down. I read the entire book in one sitting, waiting for the next moment to both learn about each of the characters and his/her “thing,” as well as how the book would end. Divakaruni writes an amazing tale and makes each person’s story unforgettable. She details the amazing determination in the human spirit; our ability to love, desire, hate, forgive, create and break down our stereotypes, and our innate caring for one another.

This is a story that I could read again and again. The only negative I can really post is that I was left wanting more. The ending is surprising. It may not settle well with some, but I personally find it preferable in a book to have unanswered questions. I want to be left desiring to read more about characters I like. Divakaruni does that well. Her characters are fantastic and the story is beautiful. No reader could ask for more.


Robin Gwaro is a founding book review blogger at Bookgateway.com and has generously supplied this review. She describes herself as “a woman just trying to keep it all together. Most days, I have the juggling act down! Others, I have the broom and dustpan handy to clean up the mess. My life is not always easy, it is not always neat, but it is always worth every minute!” Her personal blog is Just Wandering. Not Lost..

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Support BookGateway.com by purchasing this book through Amazon: Amazon.com.

Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

Like most working mothers, Sarah Nickerson never has enough hours in the day.  Between her high-powered corporate job, husband, three children, two homes, Sarah has filled every minute of every day with something.  Life is literally passing her by as she tries to have it all.   One rainy night, Sarah is rushing back to her office to put in more hours, begins digging for her cell phone, and in an instant, her life is changed forever.

When Sarah wakes up from a devastating car accident, she is suffering from Left Neglect.  Due to damage to the right side of her brain, Sarah no longer recognizes anything on the left side.   As she begins to work towards her recovery, Sarah also begins to realize all of the other aspects of her life she was neglecting.  She may have had money, power, and prestige, but she was missing out on soccer games, piano recitals, and the lives of her husband and children.  Sarah’s injury and recovery force her to re-examine her priorities and re-evaluate what is really important.

Left Neglected is a fantastic novel by Lisa Genova.   Her characters, while affluent in this case, could really embody the lives of any working family.  We all get caught up in the day-to-day activities and begin to take our blessings for granted.  We simply get so busy in our lives that we forget to really live them.  Genova crafts the story wonderfully, taking readers on a walk through the lives of Sarah and her family.

If I had any negatives to post, it would be the sort of glossing over of the relationship between Sarah and her mother.  Additionally, the story could have been built up further with regards to the other characters as well, as the length of the advanced copy of the book is only at just over 300 pages.  That leaves a lot of additional space for learning more about the lives of Sarah and her family members beyond what is written.

The hope here is that Genova’s tale is enough to make us all take a step back and rearrange our priorities.  Maybe we cut back on the things we really don’t need.  Maybe we have our children choose one sport instead of trying them all.  And maybe, just maybe, we realize just how precious life is right now, instead of waiting for a tragedy to teach us differently.


Robin Gwaro is a founding book review blogger at Bookgateway.com and has generously supplied this review. She describes herself as “a woman just trying to keep it all together. Most days, I have the juggling act down! Others, I have the broom and dustpan handy to clean up the mess. My life is not always easy, it is not always neat, but it is always worth every minute!” Her personal blog is Just Wandering. Not Lost..

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Support BookGateway.com by purchasing this book through Amazon: Left Neglected

The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens

One Christmas Eve, Kate is shaken awake by her mother.  Kate, the oldest of three children, is implored by her mother to look after the younger two, Michael and Emma.  The three children are spirited away in the middle of the night to keep them safe.  For the next ten years, these siblings will find themselves shuffled from foster home to foster home, until one disastrous meeting with a potential adoptive parent lands them in the “orphanage” of Dr. Stanislaus Pym.  It is a strange sort of orphanage, made so because of the enigmatic owner of the house, Dr. Pym, the old caretaker, Abraham, and the housekeeper who insists on speaking to the children in address of royalty, Miss Sallow.  Oh, and the fact that Kate, Michael, and Emma are the only children in the orphanage.

Upon their first investigation of the house, the children find a book bound in green leather.  Purely by accident, they stick a picture in the book and are transported back in time.  It is here they meet the Countess, an evil witch in search of the book that the children themselves have found.  When they try to get back to their time, Michael is left behind.  The girls then return to find Michael, sending them on the adventure of a lifetime.   The children seems to be on one adventure after another trying to right the wrongs of the past.

When I first started this book, I was not sure if I would finish it.  The Emerald Atlas contains characters reminiscent of Harry Potter’s Albus Dumbledore and Rubius Hagrid, a story line about children entering another time (world) in order to save it as in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and a seemingly never-ending abundance of dismal situations a la A Series of Unfortunate Events.  I was concerned that John Stephens would not find his own voice.

I am glad I kept reading.  While the aforementioned nods to other great children’s literature do exist, Stephens begins to weave his own tale.  The characters are ones for whom you can champion.  I am a major fan of books that incorporate strong female characters, and Stephens does this twice with both Kate and Emma.   He also manages to do so while keeping in consideration the fact that they are still children.  

As with any book, I rate it based on its repeat readability (yep, making up words now).   Stephens gets a solid yes.  Stephens’ novel is great for young readers, rich in folklore and vivid imagery.   I am looking forward to the next two books in this trilogy, even knowing I will have to wait quite some time (as Atlas is not slated for release until April 2011).


Robin Gwaro is a founding book review blogger at Bookgateway.com and has generously supplied this review. She describes herself as “a woman just trying to keep it all together. Most days, I have the juggling act down! Others, I have the broom and dustpan handy to clean up the mess. My life is not always easy, it is not always neat, but it is always worth every minute!” Her personal blog is Just Wandering. Not Lost..

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Support BookGateway.com by purchasing this book through Amazon: The Emerald Atlas (Books of Beginning)

The Radleys: A Novel by Matt Haig

Peter, the patriarch.  Peter is a physician in a small town where everyone knows everyone and is interested in their lives (obsessively so). He wishes for more in his home, doesn’t get it, so he begins to fantasize about what could be with his neighbor.

Helen, the matriarch. Helen tries to keep the family on the straight and narrow, hanging on to habit and tradition with a ferocity that would make a rabid wolverine proud.

Rowan, the son. Sensitive, artistic, and Lord Byron’s biggest fan. Rowan is subjected to the bullying of his classmates. He is also secretly in love with his sister’s best friend.

Clara, the daughter.  Clara starts out seemingly in the background. She is Eve’s friend, the beautiful newcomer who has enraptured Rowan (and most of the male teenage population of Bishopthorpe).   But Clara will not stay in the background long.

One fateful night, a young man decides that he is going to ignore the fact that no means no. It is his decision that will change the fates of this, well, boring middle-class family.

You see, the Radleys are vampires. Granted, Rowan and Clara do not know this, and Peter and Helen have been abstaining for the last 17 years. However, that night changes everything for them. Rowan and Clara learn their true natures, Peter’s long lost brother returns with his past on his heels, and this nuclear family goes atomic.

And all of this happens in the span of a week.

Matt Haig’s tale of family and what happens when secrets are finally revealed is one of the best books I have read in quite some time. He is in turn humorous and serious. Haig captures the nature of repression with sparkling clarity. His unique voice is one that I find refreshing. Haig expertly captures the disconnection that his characters are experiencing between what is right and what is nature.

When I first started the book, I was a little put off by the seemingly erratic change in topic in the first few tiny chapters (some as short as a few paragraphs on one single page).  However, as I continued reading, the book and its format began to make sense.  As in real life, we never get the full impact of a situation all at once.  Haig mirrors that in his writing.

As with all that I read, I gauge how much I like a book based on if I would read it again.  The answer: over and over!  This book is fantastic!  The only con I can really post is that I would have liked to have heard more from Clara throughout the novel.  She tended to take a backseat to everyone else, and she is really the character who put the major part of the story in motion.

Outside of that, the novel was great! My next step will be to seek out Haig’s other novels.  I can only imagine they will be just as grand as this one.


Robin Gwaro is a founding book review blogger at Bookgateway.com and has generously supplied this review. She describes herself as “a woman just trying to keep it all together. Most days, I have the juggling act down! Others, I have the broom and dustpan handy to clean up the mess. My life is not always easy, it is not always neat, but it is always worth every minute!” Her personal blog is Just Wandering. Not Lost.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Support BookGateway.com by purchasing this book through Amazon:The Radleys

Never Let You Go by Erin Healy

Lexi Solomon is no stranger to tragedy.  After her older sister is murdered, Lexi’s family fell apart.  Her father retreated into his own mind, her mother disappeared to a new travel writer career, and her husband left.  Now, seven years later, the murderer is up for parole, an old “friend” has come back to stir the pot, and her husband is  back on town.  From these beginnings, Erin Healy weaves a tale of intrigue and suspense, forgiveness and redemption.

I wish that I could say that she was able to weave this tale cohesively.  I was several chapters in before I was able to wrap my brain around what happened with the main characters.  The story switched back and forth in rapid succession and most of those story lines were left incomplete.  The story went back to those lines but didn’t pick up where they left off.  In the end, I just didn’t get it.  I understood the meaning she was attempting to convey (the classic tale of good vs evil where humans are used as pawns in this cosmic chess match), I just didn’t care for the method used to convey it. 

I was looking for more in the way of character and story development.  I wanted to know more about these people and how they managed to end up as they did.  What drove them to the choices they made? How were they able to overcome the mistakes of the past to make new decisions?  How did they get to the path of love and forgiveness.  I know that the answer lies in God’s hands, I just wanted to see more of it in this novel.

As with any other book, I determine if I would recommend it based on how likely I am to read it again.  Sadly, this book doesn’t rate very high as I would probably not choose to read it another time.  I am sure there is more than I was able to glean from the story; I just never did.


Robin Gwaro is a founding book review blogger at Bookgateway.com and has generously supplied this review. She describes herself as “a woman just trying to keep it all together. Most days, I have the juggling act down! Others, I have the broom and dustpan handy to clean up the mess. My life is not always easy, it is not always neat, but it is always worth every minute!” Her personal blog is Just Wandering. Not Lost.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Support BookGateway.com by purchasing this book through Amazon: Never Let You Go