NetGalley Top Reviewer

NetGalley Top Reviewer
NetGalley Top Reviewer

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Blissfully Dead by Louise Voss & Mark Edwards

4.0 out of 5 stars "In this secular society, celebs were the new gods.", October 7, 2015

"Fandom and social media can collide to create what can only be described as hysteria."

DI Patrick Lennon and his partner, DS Carmella Masielllo, were first introduced to readers in FROM THE CRADLE. Returned now, together again, they tackle a case that could be taken from today's headlines. When the pair is called to a murder scene, they find that the victim is a teen-aged girl -- tortured and strangled in a hotel room. When a second girl is found similarly killed, the detectives find a connection -- both were massive fans of a popular boy band, OnTarget, and spent most of their lives on social media and forums discussing the members and their obsession. The investigation takes Lennon and Masiello into a storm of rivalry and new heights of fandom -- and what others will do to protect and nurture ANY connection to their much-loved band.

This novel is a commentary on social media and its effects on impressionable teenagers, as well as a sad reflection of how easily an insecure girl can be affected by what goes on online. Just how far will someone go to protect a reputation or to seek revenge for any slight -- real or imagined? Not only do Lennon and Massiello and their colleagues work on the case, they are also dealing with other personal issues and complications introduced in the first book. It's a solid police procedural with characters who are developing and changing through their interactions with each other and with the discoveries made in the case. I would say that it is important to read the first book featuring this team before this one.

I thoroughly enjoyed this fast paced thriller and look forward to more novels written by this author team and fans won't want to miss other books they've written. Told in multiple points of view, the scenes shift seamlessly as the reader follows the detectives toward the satisfactory conclusion. Thank you to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for the e-book ARC to review.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati

3.0 out of 5 stars -- Historical fiction set in 1880s New York features Anna Savard, physician and surgeon and a large cast of characters so extensive that a few pages at the beginning of the book are needed to list and describe them all.

First off, if I had known that this was apparently the start of a new series and that there would be many unresolved issues in the narrative, I would not have read it. At 791 pages, the length just seemed extreme and may explain why it took me forever to actually finish this one -- though I normally read other books with this many pages in a day or two. The level of detail and minutiae dealing with every aspect of Anna's life is partly the reason for the length, and much of it not relevant to the story line. If you enjoy that type of meandering, this would be the book for you.

The author sets up quite a few different subplots and relationships for Anna to deal with and some of them were more interesting than others. As a lover of all things medical, I was most interested in her medical practice and had hoped for more description of this. Instead, there is a romance and a lot of household drama. In addition, Anna (who has a whirlwind courtship) marries a police detective and becomes embroiled in the investigation for a serial killer -- but I'll say no more about that in this review to avoid spoilers.

I enjoy historical fiction and the synopsis of this appealed to me because of the main character being a female doctor and surgeon in a time when that was rare. I expected her to face prejudice and disrespect, but Anna falls to the level of typical romance novel heroine -- brilliant, strong, opinionated, beautiful, well off, independent, etc. as the love story took up more space than the mysteries. The plight of the poor, the orphans, the pregnant women who wanted birth control were mentioned as were many other social aspects of that time period but Anna was no real activist or crusader for change. Try as I might, I could not find much depth in Anna, nor in any of the other characters.

I'll have to think about picking up a sequel -- which I assume is coming since the novel just stops short rather than to finish off some of the stories.

Library Book.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Kill Switch (Claire Waters #1) by Neal Baer and Jonathan Greene

3.0 out of 5 stars -- "We've all got storms inside us, Claire. How we handle them is what counts."

Claire Waters, forensic psychiatrist, is haunted by the past -- when she was a child, her best friend, Amy, was abducted while the two were playing outside Claire's house. The man was never found, and neither was Amy. Now Claire is starting a fellowship, and is determined to learn more about the men who are imprisoned in the psychiatric unit on Riker's Island. Her first patient, Todd Quimby, is up for parole and Claire is to evaluate him. When he opens up to her about his own traumatic and abusive childhood, Claire feels she's made a great start -- until what he says triggers flashbacks to her own memories. It was at this point, with Claire's reaction and behavior in another session, that this thriller began to move into "suspend disbelief" territory.

When Quimby is released and within 3 days is suspected of murdering a woman, and then another, the manhunt for the serial killer involves NYPD Detective Nick Lawler -- who has his own secret. Claire and Nick work together (without their superior's permission) to track down Quimby in hopes of stopping his murderous rampage. Not by-the-book "police" work as the investigation proceeds. Lots more dead people. Red herrings, subplots that go nowhere. Incredulous climax and reveal.

So why 3 stars -- well it was a medical thriller, and I enjoy dissecting these. The character of Claire was completely stereotypical and she annoyed me -- as dumb as her choices were, I can't imagine how she got through medical school. Nick doesn't fare much better. Their partnership in this case defies reality. Of course they solve it. I read this because I have the second one in the series from NetGalley to review and I like to read series in order. The pacing was fast, felt as it if was a script for a TV show, and it kept me entertained for a couple of hours. I'm interested in seeing if Claire's character develops and I hope that she and Nick don't have a romance.

Library book.
Bad news, missed downloading the second book, KILL AGAIN, before NetGalley archived it so now need to try to get it from the library :(

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

3.0 out of 5 stars -- "...these Utopian schemes always went bad and turned into..."

Freedom of choice is an important concept and one which most of us hold dear. When Stan and Charmaine are living in their car after a severe economic downturn, they don't have many choices. Hungry and dirty, they jump at an offer that seems too good to be true! If they choose to commit to the Positron Project, they'll have jobs and a home again. They'll have to alternate living in their house with stints in the prison there, but won't it be nice to have security and comfort? The only caveat -- once they go in, they can never go back out. Things go very well at the beginning, but when Charmaine has a forbidden affair, all starts to unravel quickly.

I really liked the premise and the first part of the book, but the "unraveling" of Positron and the bizarre events that happen to Stan and Charmaine really stupefied me. I like a good dystopian novel with all of the scary possibilities that might be in the dark future, but some of this was so far out and off-the-wall that it fizzled. I had trouble forcing myself back into the story to finish it, and ultimately didn't really care too much what happened to Stan and Charmaine -- who weren't very likable characters.

I've read many of Margaret Atwood's novels and liked most, and I'm sure fans will want to read this latest, but I didn't feel it was quite up to her usual standards and I was left just feeling ambivalent. Parts were quite entertaining as social commentary and definitely some interesting points to ponder or discuss. But as a whole, I felt let down and glad to be done with Stan and Charmaine.

Thank you to NetGalley, Doubleday Books Nan A. Talese for the e-book ARC to review.

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Langercranz

4.0 out of 5 stars -- Lisbeth Salander "was not one to forget an injustice. She retaliated and she righted wrongs."
"The mark of a man is his contradictions."

What can I say? Some will likely say this novel is a travesty and should never have been published. I don't care. I had been missing Lisbeth Salander -- a character unlike any other but now so iconic that attempts have been made by other authors to create someone like her in their own stories. But we KNOW Lisbeth, and her history, and she is still one of the most interesting characters in this genre. Haunted and fierce, she is a warrior. Broken in so many ways, she uses her unusual talents when she has a reason. A brilliant hacker, Lisbeth is amazing when it comes to finding out secrets that others go to great lengths to hide. She is unique, and unfathomable. She's her own person. And, I think David Lagercrantz was faithful in his attempts to bring us a 4th story in the Millennium series. I hope there will be more.

This novel has Lisbeth and the journalist Mikael Blomkvist investigating a case involving the US National Security Agency and internet espionage that led to a murder. Greed and corruption. Who can be trusted if those who are doing the surveillance are also benefiting from it? This was a complicated plot that is connected to Lisbeth's past and the previous novels. I enjoyed it. 

*This book is #4 in the Millennium series and these need to be read in order.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon

4.0 out of 5 stars - A poignant and unique story involving an unsolved attempted murder that occurred over 15 years ago. The catch is -- the victim is still alive, is paralyzed, but has "locked in" syndrome.

Amy Stevenson was just 15 years old when she was left for dead in a park. Severely beaten, possibly raped, she survived, but barely. She lives in a neurological ward and cannot communicate, and in fact, according to her internal dialog, she has no clue of what has happened, and is not oriented to place or time. Years pass.

Alcoholic ex-reporter, Alex Dale, has burned all of her bridges, spends her days completely drunk and has such bad liver damage that she will be dead within a year if she doesn't change her ways. In a desperate attempt to rehabilitate herself, she is trying to write an article about the new breakthrough treatment at the neuro hospital. While interviewing the doctor there, she hears a little about Amy. Intrigued, and with her instincts kicking into gear after all this time, Alex decides that she is going to find out what really happened to Amy.

Alternating in point of view with shifts back and forth in time, this is a great story about an obsession that redeems a lost soul. Resolution and redemption. I really enjoyed it. The characters are quite quirky and flawed with messy lives and relationships. Even though it might be obvious to the reader who the villain is, the progression of the tale is such that you don't mind being led so slowly to it through Alex's dogged, determined efforts. I liked the writing style and the descriptions, even the dream-like state that Amy's voice delivers, all felt authentic though I don't know about the science of the MRI in communicating with locked-in patients.

Genre: Literature/Fiction - Adult

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