NetGalley Top Reviewer

NetGalley Top Reviewer
NetGalley Top Reviewer

Friday, May 22, 2015

Killing Secrets by Dianne Emley (#5 Nan Vining)

2.0 out of 5 stars -- Although the 5th in the Nan Vining series, this is the first -- and last -- one that I will read. I like my suspense thrillers believable with realistic scenarios and characters with depth. The plot was thin and the mystery was weak.

Nan Vining, Pasadena PD, is one of those cops who likes to work alone -- there's no trusty sidekick with witty repartee -- and she takes a lot of chances and gets into a lot of perilous situations. I didn't care for her character and even less her relationship with her teenaged daughter, Emily. When Emily and her loser boyfriend find the bloody bodies of their teacher and a fellow student in the arroyo, even though Nan is supposed to be having time off, Nan throws herself into the investigation. Is it homicide or suicide? What a complicated but predictable tale with multiple suspects and an unsurprising conclusion. I never really felt any suspense or that Nan or Emily were in any true danger and it seems to me that Nan makes some poor decisions as cop.

So, I'd not really recommend this although I would guess that others who have followed this series might find it more appealing.

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing - Alibi for the e-book ARC to review.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Dying to Remember by Glen Apseloff

2.0 out of 5 stars -- Predictable and banal mystery...

Dr. Christopher Barnes is in Toronto at a medical convention when he eats some contaminated mussels. After he wakes up from the coma induced by the neurotoxin domoic acid (based on true events), he discovers that his wife has been murdered and he has brain damage. Despite his handicap, he is determined to beat the cops to find the killer and the motive.

Everyone knows I'm a fanatic about medical thrillers. I have read almost every single one I can dig up and I rarely find those that are both a great storyline AND relate accurate and up-to-date medical plausibility. Although I understand why this is set in 1987, it was really jarring and so many things that happened just made the whole plot hard to buy into because of the lack of today's technology. The characters are all complete stereotypes and it seemed to me that the author had either a lack of knowledge, or a lack of respect for nurses, cops and women in general. The protagonist was unlikeable and it really got old with the repetition -- we got it -- he has memory deficits and the inability to create and store new memories. It was almost nauseating how many times we had to read about how much Dr. Christopher Barnes, majorly egotistical jerk and cardiothoracic surgeon, loved his wife -- St. Elizabeth, the beautiful orthopedic surgeon.

After a couple of chapters it was quite easy to figure out the outcome and the story lacked suspense and thrills as the reader waited for Christopher to catch up. I was quite disappointed in this second novel I've read by this author and doubt I'd be willing to try another.

Thank you to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for the e-book ARC to review.


Saturday, May 16, 2015

After the Storm by Linda Castillo (#7 Kate Burkholder)

4.0 out of 5 stars -- "There is a universal truth when it comes to violent crime; the deceased is never the only victim."

It's been awhile since I've read Castillo's series featuring the formerly Amish Kate Burkholder who is now the Police Chief of Painter's Mill in upstate rural Ohio. I somehow missed #4, 5, and 6 -- and a lot has changed for Kate though she is still a great, well-developed character and I was happy to connect with her again in this 7th book in that series. I've made a note to myself to go back and read those 3 books as I enjoy the details about Kate, her background, and her personal and professional life.

In this story, Kate is confronted with a discovery of bones that leads to a gruesome crime -- or was it an accident -- from over 30 years ago. The Amish folk are not talking but someone is taking rifle shots at Kate as she investigates the case. She gets out of many scrapes without serious injury, but she's always putting herself in harm's way. Her boyfriend, CBI agent Tomasetti, is understanding and helpful. I enjoy reading about their relationship ups and downs. As always, the integration of the Amish culture into the story adds a layer that provides much more enjoyment than with a typical police procedural and the small town rural atmosphere also provides a nice change of setting.
Will Kate figure out what happened to the victim and who was responsible?

I enjoyed this fast-paced novel and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good crime mystery with a strong heroine. I'm sure it would have been even better had I read all of this series, in order, instead of skipping three of them.

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press Minotaur Books for the e-book ARC to review.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Constant Fear by Daniel Palmer

4.0 out of 5 stars -- Be prepared...

Jack Dent and his son, Andy, live in a double wide trailer in Massachusetts --  close by Andy's prep school where Jack works as the head of maintenance. Because of some issues in his past, Jack has become a doomsday prepper and has trained and drilled his son for the day when the world falls apart. Jack stresses that they must control what they can, even more difficult sometimes because Andy has diabetes, and Jack is a single parent. All of this preparation, that has irritated Andy (who's a bit of a geek), comes in handy when some really bad enforcers from a Mexican drug cartel come looking for Andy and his 5 other friends who, it seems, have stolen some 200 million dollars worth of bitcoins from a very angry man bent on getting his money back.

This is a grisly book with descriptions of torture, murder and sadistic behavior and is very fast-paced once the action starts. Jack represents "father as hero" to the end, and the conclusion is predictable and expected but an absorbing read that was hard to put down.

This is the first book I have read by this author, but I will look for others he's written. Readers who like Harlan Coben and Linwood Barclay will also enjoy this.

Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Books for the e-book ARC to review.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Alchemist's Daughter by Mary Lawrence

2.0 out of 5 stars -- A medieval mystery set in Tudor London, this first in the series featuring Bianca Goddard is full of period details that may appeal to certain readers. Bianca lives and works in Southwark in her rent of Medicinals and Physicks, creating balms and potions to aid the suffering folk nearby. When her best friend, Jolyn Carmichael, is poisoned and Bianca is threatened with arrest for murder, Bianca is determined to find out who really killed Jolyn and why.

There's really not much mystery or character development here, but what you get as a reader are details that are enough to make any sensitive person almost retch. The descriptions of the smells alone, the filth, the lack of facilities for hygiene and the general atmosphere of the local town, the living spaces, and pubs made me so happy to live right now, out of that time and place. The sections related to just the rats were enough to almost put me over the edge (this is so far from the castle, the court life, and King Henry VIII) that it definitely told me that I was in the 1500s and worried about Black Death.

Frankly, Bianca was a drag - overwrought prose and melodrama isn't my style and I'm sick of plucky, independent heroines who end up needing rescue by a man who adores them despite being put off a million times for "important work." The vocabulary and dialog didn't ring true for me. I was quite disappointed with this book after all, and will be interested to hear if other fans of this particular niche genre react differently. I won't be following the series but I am glad I finished this one (it was a struggle).

Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Books for the e-book ARC to review.

Friday, May 8, 2015

The President's Shadow by Brad Meltzer

2.0 out of 5 stars -- Though this is the 3rd in the Beecher White series, it is the first and last book by this author that I will read. Defying my ability to suspend disbelief, the novel features, as the main character, an archivist at the National Archives in Washington, DC. In addition to this exciting job, he's also a member of a super secret 200-year-old organization called the Culper Ring -- designed to protect the presidency at all costs. To add more glamor, Beecher is on a first name basis with the current (fictional) President and other important government and Secret Service personnel. Plus, Beecher has wondered all his life what happened to his father, who may or may not have died while in the military many years ago. And just one more thing, he's got ties to a man who knew his father and who had murdered a former First Lady while attempting to assassinate her husband. Whew! Plus he's got some friends from childhood and they are all connected to the action in this incredibly crazy and complicated plot.

The first annoyance was that the narrative flips back and forth in time and setting which is confusing. There are a lot of characters and it's likely intentional that the reader is clueless about each person's motives and objectives. Hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys, but we know Beecher is ALL THAT. He's such a good guy that he only knows how to do the "right thing." I didn't like him. Of course there's a romance or two and lots of action when our hero escapes nearly impossible odds. Halfway through the book, I was just wanting it all to be over. I kept plodding away for what is the best and only reason to read this and that is that the author includes a vast amount of what I hope are accurate historical facts and details about everything from Secret Service pins to Devil's Island. I was bound to learn something I didn't know and I found that information quite interesting.

The author's writing style is one that doesn't appeal to me, he repeats himself a lot, and offers cliches as a substitute for any dimension in Beecher's character. Perhaps it's just that I read this third book instead of starting with the first in the series, but I don't want to get to know Beecher better or hang out with him any more. Read it if you like nonstop action with a high body count and lots of intrigue.

Thank you to NetGalley and Grand Central Publishing for an e-book ARC to review.

Monday, May 4, 2015

In Wilderness by Diane Thomas

3.0 out of 5 stars - Haunting, extremely disturbing, somewhat depressing -- I had to take a little time to get my thoughts ordered after finishing this one. The prose paints a very poignant picture of loneliness mashed up with near psychosis. The details of the wilderness and Katherine's isolation, along with her physical illness, made me anxious and fearful. I perceived Danny as a dangerous menace immediately, and willed him to stay away from her even as I knew she was emotionally needy given her history, and compelled to play her part in their mutually assured destructive relationship. This could never result in any "happily ever after" fairy tale ending.

After thinking about this book for two days, I find that there was much that just makes me uncomfortable. So many things happened to Katherine from opening to conclusion. The shifting point of view didn't help to clarify -- and unless you read the author's note at the back of the book, you might be perplexed. It was obvious what Danny's problem was, but I really had no clue about Katherine's illness. And to be honest, I didn't "like" either of the main characters in this book.

If you like to read long descriptive phrases about the woods, names of trees, flora, fauna, weather -- then you might like this more than I did. I'm not a wilderness type, so it didn't affect me in the way the author probably intended.

One main point to make in my review, this would make a great book for a book club discussion.

Thank you to Random House Publishing Group - Bantam Dell for the e-book ARC to review.