NetGalley Top Reviewer

NetGalley Top Reviewer
NetGalley Top Reviewer

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

"...passion, like fire, was a dangerous thing. It so easily went out of control. Better to control that spark...or perhaps to tend it carefully like an eternal flame."

This book came highly recommended to me by many different people. And I wanted to love it as much as they claimed I would. The characterization in this novel was extremely well done -- it's just unfortunate that I basically detested them all. Sure I had some, albeit brief, moments of empathy at one turn of a page or another -- but for the most part, I couldn't understand their motivations, their actions, or their decisions. I guess my reaction says more about me, personally, than it does about the book. I didn't find most of the narrative to be believable and the construct -- is love between parent and child about biology or is it about the nurturing -- to be an overly done theme. The relationships between them all rang so false and actually, I thought quite ridiculous in some instances. No spoilers, but I couldn't find a one to root for. Sure we're all flawed, and the parent-child relationship is fraught with issues at all ages and stages of life, but some of the things that happened in the book just left me more angry than sympathetic. I know I tend to prefer books where I can make some sort of personal identification with at least one character, but that was absent for me in this story.

The writing was decent, if a bit melodramatic at times, and I highlighted a bit here and there when I found a particularly interesting turn of phrase. But overall, I just don't feel the love so it missed the mark for me. This was the first novel I've read by this author, and I might be tempted to try another in the future -- as long as it wasn't a domestic drama.

This would make a great choice for a book club as there are so many things within that beg discussion and debate. I think that hearing other opinions always helps me to understand and further support my own position on the topics.

Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Group for the e-book ARC to read and review.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Daughter by Lucy Dawson

"You cannot understand what it's like to lose a child unless it happens to you. It's every pain you have ever felt turned up so loud you can't think, move, speak -- and nothing drowns out the agony, not even for a second. It's what annihilation actually means."

Jessica's life changed when the unthinkable happened -- her darling 5-year-old daughter, Beth, died in an accident on the playground at school. Jessica left her then-husband, Ben, and walked out of that life. Someone made her go. And now, 17 years later, Jessica has remarried and has a new husband. She and Ed have a son, James, and Ed knows everything about Jessica's sordid past. So does someone else -- and all of a sudden, things start to unravel in their family life. Who is tormenting Jessica and what more does she have to do to pay for her past mistakes?

Although the identity of the tormentor is easily guessed by the reader, the narrative is told in such a manner as to create tension as Jessica tries to figure out why her past is ruining her present life. Jessica does the usual dumb things and makes choices that seem unlikely given her relationship to the various people in the story, but the tale unfolds with the drama of the evenentual unmasking. This is an emotionally wrenching book that tugs at the heartstrings and is hard at times to read because no parent wants to go there. Jessica is very three-dimensional and though at times I wanted to shake her, at others I just wanted to hold her and give a big hug. She has a lot of baggage to work through in addition to dealing with the loss of her child.

This was the first book by this author I've read and I'll definitely look for another. Thank you to NetGalley and Bookouture for the e-book ARC to read and review.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Bring Me Flowers by DK Hood (Kane and Alton #2)

"The dead can't hurt you. Swallow your fear and find justice."

Sheriff Jenna Alton has a series of vicious murders on her plate. Teenage girls, eviscerated and displayed in a gruesome tableau taunting her team in Black Rock Falls. With so many possible suspects and a rodeo circuit in town, she, David Kane and new deputy, Shane Wolfe, have their hands full as terror engulfs the small town.

This was an incredibly fast-paced, high octane thriller that begs to be read in one sitting -- as I accomplished today (despite the hated battery dying on my kindle -- thank heavens for a power pack!) There are so many red herrings and so much going on that the reader is glued to the pages trying to guess the identity of the killer. It doesn't help that these are teenaged girls who don't listen to their parents, who take incredibly stupid risks, and who think they are invincible! I cringed more than once knowing what was about to happen to those feckless girls. Yes you have to use a bit of suspension of disbelief that so much could happen in this backwater town where Jenna is sent in the Witness Protection Program (see book one), but the storytelling captures you and it's fun to go along for the ride. Lots of gruesome and grisly description of the kills, but once again, detective work saves the day!

I like this new series and the second one just whets my appetite for more of Kane and Alton and I hope it's not too long a wait for #3. I like the small town atomosphere and the detail in the narrative and as I said, it was impossible to put down.

Thank you to NetGalley and Bookouture for this e-book ARC to read and review. Can't wait for the next!

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Silent Girls (Anna Gwynne #1) by Dylan Young

 "Remember, we are all capable of acts of terrifying destruction when the tenuous constraints of consciousnesss snap and the primal impulses ooze and stain the world."

Once upon a time,  in 1998, 18-year-old pregnant Emily Risman was killed in the Forest of Dean. In present day, 16-year-old Nia Hopkins is kidnapped from her parents' barn and later found dead. Is this the same killer? And if so, is the convicted and recently released Neville Cooper back to his old, evil ways? Recently promoted Inspector Anna Gwynne is leading the investigation for the Southwest Major Crimes Review task force -- examining the Woodsman killings following his release. In addition, there is a wave of serial rapes. Are these connected? Anna and her team are liaising with police on the current Nia Hopkins case. But those detectives are convinced that it is Neville Cooper resuming his murder spree.

This is a police procedural more than a suspense thriller and it plods along as various aspects of the investigation are undertaken. Anna visits a prisoner who provides some interesting clues -- Hector Shaw -- in jail for the murders of those he suspected of murdering his daughter. Does he really have information Anna can use in her own case or is he just wanting her attention? Lots of questions in this complex case and Anna must use all her skills as she pits herself against the murderer and others involved on the police side.

I did enjoy this novel but found some irritations that seem to be recurrent themes in other books in this genre. First of all, why does the main character always have such a crappy relationship with her mother and a father adoration? Secondly, why does it always come down to the criminal engaging the detective in a personal one-on-one near death encounter? The other theme in this story was that much was made of the fact that Anna tested as INTJ on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. This means she is supposedly an expert at thinking and judgement as well as being an intuitive introvert. It's not a BIG DEAL -- I had to laugh as I, too, test that way. It doesn't make her anything special even though the book says that only 4 in every 500 women test as INTJ. Really? I guess I'm a BIG DEAL too -- wish I'd known!!  Despite all these little things that always get me in a narrative, I went along with the revelations and was unsurprised by the conclusion as it was the only thing that made sense.

If this is the start of a new series, put me down for #2 because I want to see what is in store for Anna in her next outing. Thank you to NetGalley and Bookouture for this e-book ARC to read and review.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Keep Her Safe by Richard Parker

The premise -- what will a mother do to protect her child? In this particular novel, the mother is asked to kill another mother so that her own child will live. The murder is ordered by a man known as The Babysitter. His motives are unclear, but he targets single mothers. He kidnaps their babies and then sends them to kill. So, murder by proxy.

Unfortunately, the execution of the plot left me completely unable to suspend my disbelief at the events that transpired. The two main characters -- Maggie and Holly -- endured a night together that left me scoffing in amazement. Amazement that I actually continued to read to the end. The frantic activities that engaged Maggie and Holly bordered on ridiculous as they attempt to outsmart The Babysitter and get Holly's daughter back. Their decisions and actions made no sense. Their near death experiences and escapes from the perils they endured did not make for exciting or tense suspense. It was all just TOO MUCH. I didn't like either of the women, I didn't feel empathy for their plight, and I just wanted to get to the end so it would all be over and I could say I finished it.

I've read another book by this author, HIDE AND SEEK, and it was much better written than this one. I simply can't recommend it unless you can force yourself to believe that there is any way this sort of thing could happen as described. I'm sorry to say I can't find anything nice to say so I'll stop now.

I do want to thank NetGalley and Bookouture for giving me access to the e-book ARC to read and review.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Liars (THE GOOD LIAR) by Frances Vick

Psychological thriller narrated by 3 different people -- all of them liars and mostly thouroughly unlikeable. The synopsis provided on the book information page is misleading and inaccurate.

Jenny, David, and Freddie -- all have their own perspectives or perceptions of their interactions with each other and their tales of what their past lives were like. It's hard to sift through the exaggerations and interpretations of events to get at the truth. All are self serving. None are who they pretend to be and their motivations to be involved with each other are warped. People connected with the three keep dying -- who is responsile for that? Jenny's mom, Jenny's stepfather (who she claims had abused her). Is someone Jenny's protector and savior -- or is it something entirely different? No one is who they seem.

Frankly, I didn't like any of the characters and got tired of the convoluted way the layers were revealed so that the reader could try to put the pieces together to form some answers. Although I didn't like the ending, it was realistic considering the nature of Jenny, and entirely anticipated. The twists were expected since the reader knew everyone -- particularly David and Jenny -- had some seriously flawed personalities.

Did I like this? It was a little slow and I guess I prefer a more linear story with characters I can actually respect or understand. NO SPOILERS, but I do like it when good guys win. Or when there is a "good guy" to root for.

I read the ARC of this titled THE GOOD LIAR. Thank you to NetGalley and Bookouture for the e-galley to review. I would read another by this author.

Friday, January 5, 2018

The Last Thing She Ever Did by Gregg Olsen

"They can pinpoint the split second when something they did changed everything in their world. Mistakes are dominoes, falling on one another in a mechanical, unstoppable progression."

The first mistake that Liz made could have been an accident. The second was a crime.

This was a fast-paced psychological thriller that kept me glued to the pages in suspenseful anxiety. On one hand, I detested nearly all of the characters in the book -- especially Liz -- and on the other, I was hopeful that there would somehow be justice and a satisfactory conclusion. Not sure I got my wish, actually, but NO SPOILERS -- I did enjoy the novel and loved reading about Bend, Oregon’s Deschutes River and could imagine myself there on the banks watching the whole story go down from the porch.

This well-written drama has great description and detail about the locale and the interactions between the characters is believable. I'm not a big fan of internal angst and was grateful it was somewhat limited as it annoys me quickly especially when repetitive. I did like the two Bend police detectives, Esther Nguyen in particular, and her younger male partner. In all, a compelling tale that reminds us that everything can change, lives can be destroyed, in a heartbeat.

Thank you to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for the e-book ARC to read and review. I'm off to hunt for another title written by this prolific author!