A Fool and His Monet


Sketchy politics and a palette of lies can’t stop Serena Jones from exposing the mastermind behind the daring theft of a priceless work of art

Serena Jones has a passion for recovering lost and stolen art–one that’s surpassed only by her zeal to uncover the truth about who murdered her grandfather. She’s joined the FBI Art Crime Team with the secret hope that one of her cases will lead to his killer. Now, despite her mother’s pleas to do something safer–like get married–Serena’s determined to catch thieves and black market traders.

When a local museum discovers an irreplaceable Monet missing, Serena leaps into action–and a whole heap of trouble.

I just loved Sandra Orchard’s light, airy writing style in this book.  I loved the characters, especially Aunt Martha.  Get ready for Aunt Martha… she’ll take you for a wild ride.  I loved the narration… and I don’t normally like it when a book is narrated by one of the characters.  I prefer 3rd person narration where the narrator is a bit more disconnected from the story, but ‘hearing’ Serena’s inner dialogue, especially when it came to Tanner and Nate, just took the story from good to great.

A Fool and His Monet will have you guessing right until the very end.  Trust me, I had no idea who the thief was.  It was a great read, with laugh out loud moments as well as sitting on the edge of your seat and not being able to put the book down moments.

If you ever watched the show “White Collar,” I think you’ll love this book.  It reminded me a bit of that — between the FBI and the art crimes, and all that.  That show was epic… if you haven’t checked it out, I know for sure it’s on Canadian Netflix but can’t speak for the rest of the Netflixes.

I’m really excited for Orchard’s next book in the Serena Jones in the series, which comes out in October.

I was also really thrilled with Sandra Orchard’s website — where you can vote on details for upcoming books, engage in discussions with Orchard herself, and peruse past and upcoming titles.  Check it out at www.sandraorchard.com/

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

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Annabel Lee


Fourteen miles east of Peachtree, Alabama, a secret is hidden.
The secret’s name is Annabel Lee.

She doesn’t know why her enigmatic uncle has stowed her deep underground in a military-style bunker. He’s left her with a few German words, a barely controlled guard dog, and a single command: “Don’t open that door for anybody, you got it? Not even me.”

Miles away in Atlanta, private investigator Trudi Coffey is visited by a mysterious older man calling himself Dr. Smith. He’s been trailing a man for a decade–a man she met through her ex-partner Samuel Hill–and the trail has led him to her office. The last thing Trudi wants to do is to contact Samuel. But it will take both of them to unravel this mystery–before it’s too late.

In a suspenseful novel with an interesting plot, you’ll want to find out what happens to the characters as you read.  This will keep you reading.  It’s a quick read, but you’ll need to pay attention.  The narration flips back and forth between Annabel, Trudy, and The Mute… so make sure you’re clear on who’s narrating which chapter — it’ll be really helpful when you’re going through the book.

It wouldn’t be an honest review if I didn’t say that sometimes the swap in narrators, combined with the slip in and out of poor grammar hadn’t caused some confusion while reading this book.  There were times when it was necessary to flip back and double check to make sure everything was clear and making sense.

All in all though, even through the spots of rough grammar (which I do understand because it made sense with the plot), and the flipping of narrators, the book was well worth the follow-through to the end because the end was interesting.  I obviously won’t reveal any more than that, but make sure you follow through.  It’ll wrap up.  It’ll all make sense, and all the details will tie together — like they should in any good mystery 😉

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Interesting fun fact:  I don’t do poetry, so the name of this book didn’t stand out to me until I had to Google it at some point.  So the Edgar Allan Poe reference was lost on me initially.  But for those of you who are fans of Poe’s work, there are references throughout this book to look out for.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

My Thoughts on Batman VS Superman


My promise:  No spoilers.  And I will not approve any comments with spoilers.

My thoughts:

I’ve been a superhero fan for a long time, but I need to put a disclaimer on that and admit that I have never read the comic books.  I guess I’ve been a superhero MOVIE fan for a long time.

They fascinate me — this disconnect between regular human beings and those people, whether aliens, meta humans, mutants, or just really strong dudes (Batman) who feel a burden to protect the rest of us is intriguing and it draws me in.

Plus, visual effects galore, stuff blows up, and they tend to pick really good looking actors to play all the superheroes (I’m sure the women are good looking, too…. but I am so easily distracted by Chris Evans that… well…. I got distracted again).

I mean….

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I digress.  I was here to talk about Batman vs. Superman.

This movie has taken a bit of a hit in the media in the weeks coming up to its release.  Rotten Tomatoes is not nice to this interpretation of the classic DC Characters at all.  Mind you… is Rotten Tomatoes ever nice?  I don’t even know.  I typically avoid reading reviews for anything until after I’ve formed my own opinion.  (That is, for watching or reading anything — if it’s something I can use that might be a crappy product, I certainly read reviews a-plenty before I buy.)  I’ve been reviewing books for a little over a year now, and I won’t read a review of a book before I’ve both read it and written my own review.  I like to form my own thoughts and not be influenced by what might be cool or uncool.  I feel the same way about movies.

My first thought is:  There was a lot of concern, outrage, whatever you want to call it… over the decision to cast Ben Affleck as Batman.  Too many chick flicks under his belt some said.  Well, perhaps it was all that experience (though he’s completely experienced in other genres as well — I have always been an Affleck fan) that let him bring a level of emotion to Batman that I haven’t seen in a while.  Christian Bale was great and all, I mean… “I’m Batman” will always sound like Christian Bale to me.

Fun fact:  Did you know Christian Bale is British?  I heard an interview with him once and it blew my mind.

Anyway….

As much as I loved The Dark Knight trilogy, and I liked Bale’s Batman, Ben Affleck brought this element of emotion and tortured anguish to the role that we have all always known should be there, but as long as I’ve been watching Batman movies (full disclosure:  haven’t seen all of them) I haven’t seen one where the tortured anguish was played out as well as in the eyes and on the face of Ben Affleck.  I can’t say too much without spoiling it, but I hope it’s not just my love for Affleck getting in the way here — I thought he was a fantastic choice… but then, I did from the beginning.  I thought Henry Cavill also did well with his portrayal of emotion, but I haven’t seen him in anything else, so I didn’t have a barometer to compare him to.

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Watching the two heroes internally battle their compasses and where their needles sat on the right vs wrong, good vs evil spectrum was fascinating.  Both had equal disdain for each other, and had to navigate what that looked like, while also fighting their own personal emotional demons.  Both thought the other was going too far in their quest for justice, but of course it’s much deeper than that… and I’ll leave it at that.

Also… can we talk about Lex Luthor for a second?  What a psychopath… and I mean, good villains usually are… but I’m on Jesse Eisenberg’s side here, too… since watching the film last night I’ve read a few reviews not pleased with his performance either, but I thought he nailed it.

This is not a happy-go-lucky film, but then, I’m always surprised when someone says they went to see a Batman movie and they leave going “it was so serious!” ….. Do you know who Batman is?  If your measuring stick for what a superhero movie should look like is a Marvel/Disney collaboration, I encourage you to check that at the door of the theatre.  Don’t get me wrong — I am a Marvel movie fan!  For sure!  But they’re not the same.

I thought it was refreshing though, unlike Christian Bale’s Batman, to not see a philandering, money-dropping, party-going Bruce Wayne in this movie, but instead a driven, passionate, focused, tortured Wayne… where we got a glimpse into what life in the head of Bruce Wayne must be like.

At the same time, it was nice to see a Clark Kent that could do wrong.  Perry White was on his case at many times throughout the movie, and that’s not usually a side of the Superman narrative I’ve seen.  It was also nice to see a Superman who wasn’t always making the right choice, and always doing everything perfectly — it humanized Superman… which, I understand, is ironic… because he’s not even human.  But I liked it.

My final three thoughts are this:

  1. Don’t go to the drive-in to see this movie.  That was my plan yesterday — my best friend and I were going to go to the drive-in and celebrate its having re-opened after the winter last weekend.  But I think, being such a literally dark movie (it was also figuratively dark, but I’m talking dark scenes, not a ton of light, no splashy colours… dreary…) it would be a challenge to see really well at the drive-in.  Maybe I’m wrong… but I really enjoyed it in 3D anyway.
  2. Don’t read reviews before you go.  Or at least, if you have/are (you’re reading this after all…), take them with a grain of salt and don’t let them sink in and formulate an opinion for you.
  3. Don’t stay to the end of the credits.  There’s nothing there.  I know we’re all used to Marvel/Disney giving us teasers for the sequel, or a bit of a teaser trailer for whatever their next installment is…. but the only teasers you’ll get here are embedded within the movie itself — so pay attention, and save yourself the 3.76 hours of credits that follow the film 😉

I leave you on a much funnier note….  Jimmy Kimmel and Ben Affleck.  Did you see this video?

This is as funny as it will get.  By far.

One Dress. One Year. For Freedom.


When I was in high school, and most specifically, when I was 16 years old… not only was I completely unaware that human trafficking and slavery were still an issue, but I doubt I could say that I’d have gone to the lengths that Bethany Winz did on her journey to raise awareness and money toward justice for human trafficking victims.  Even as much as I now abhor the idea that slavery still exists, and that humans can take such an evil stance against other humans, I don’t know that I’d do something as bold as to wear the same dress for an entire year.

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This book was beautiful — it’s fresh, as it’s written by a teenager (a talented one at that) as she walks through what this passion for fighting injustice looks like for her.  She shares her experiences, her emotions (some of them heartbreaking), statistics, shocking facts, and updates on her funding as she goes through her year-long journey wearing one black dress.  She hopes to get people to ask her questions about what she’s doing.  She explains that victims of trafficking don’t get many choices, so she has done what she can to limit some of hers so she can experience even a fraction of what they go through.  Ultimately, she’d like to live in a world where humans are not sold for any reason.

You’ll smile.  You’ll chuckle.  You’ll want to cry (and if you’re not as averse to crying as I am, you just might).  You’ll get angry.  I find I can’t be faced with the reality of human trafficking and slavery and not be furious.  I’ve written about it in this blog in the past, partnered with an organization called Exodus Road.  Check out my categories and look under “Human Trafficking” to find anything I’ve done there.

“When I’m exposed to evil, I want to …. pretend I never saw it in the first place.  The problem is that I did see it.  I know it’s there.  That makes me responsible.  If I don’t face it, then who will?”

It’s easy to assume that someone else will take up the call to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves — but what if no one else does?  Then what?

I loved following along with Bethany on her journey, and I’m glad to read that she had such a supportive network behind her as she embarked on what was likely a difficult year.  It doesn’t seem like such a big deal, but especially for a teenager battling peer pressure, hormones, social pressure, and the like — I’m sure it was very challenging.  High school was hard enough without intentionally trying to make myself stand out.  I can’t imagine.

I think Bob Goff — founder of Restore International, an organization that Bethany worked closely with — was absolutely right when he said:  “You are going to do magnificent things with your life!  It will be fun for all of us to watch!”  I remember thinking not even all through the first chapter that Bethany Winz was going to be a name to watch out for in the fight against human trafficking.  It’s great to know that I’m not the only one who thinks so, and I’ll definitely have my eye on her.

If you can’t stand the injustice in this world, and want to read a real, authentic, and uplifting account of a girl who can’t stand it either, I highly recommend this book.  It’s a quick, easy read, but it will impact your heart at the same time, just like it did Bethany’s.

“The dress is inviting me to change.  It’s inviting me to let Jesus transform me into the person he created me to be.”

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.