NetGalley Top Reviewer

NetGalley Top Reviewer
NetGalley Top Reviewer

Friday, March 16, 2018

Exhibit Alexandra by Natasha Bell

"The very worst things in life, our most fearful nightmares, they don't happen all at once. They creep up, lodge themsevles gradually in our brains..."

I just finished reading this, in one sitting, because I could not put it down. From the blurb, believe me when I say that you can't imagine what a ride you're getting on. I would say that this psychological thriller will be very polarizing and that you'll either love it or hate it. I fall on the love side because it was quite unique, despite the inevitable (and so tiring) comparisons to GONE GIRL and the like. It seems I read so many books in this genre that are full of secrets and lies between husbands and wives, etc. Well, most have nothing on this one.

I'm trying to figure out how to review this without ruining it for future readers  -- the initial point is "explaining the absolute abnormality of a woman who had always come home...not walking through our front door that night," says Marc when Alexandra Southwood goes missing. The family, living in York, has two young daughters. The police get involved quickly and begin an intense hunt, but this is not a typical 'detectives searching for a missing person' novel. The narrative is so bizarre as Alex tells an unidentified man her story "more honest than the police reports and newspaper articles. If it is not an actual truth, it is very much a human one." Interspersed between Alex's account are other points of view -- that of Marc, letters from her college friend, Amelia, and flashbacks painting a picture of their married life together. Bizarre, right?

Right away the reader senses something really off about this whole scenario. Where is Alex? What happened? Why? Lots of questions. Along with the forward motion of the story describing how Marc, his friends and family react to Alex's disappearance and the search for at least a body so they can have some closure, there is ART. ALL CAPS ART. I don't pretend to know much about art other than to be able to say whether or not I like a particular piece of it or not. It's not my thing, so I learned a lot about it from a much more learned source! I must say that was the least compelling part of this book to me until I got further in and found out more about Alex and what makes her tick. I can't say I liked her at all, was totally empathetic to Marc all along, and the other characters in the story were only peripheral to their relationship. Alex's main relationship was with herself.

So forgive this meandering and probably pointless review and take a chance on reading the book itself as it is far too complex for me to reduce to these few paragraphs to try to explain my reaction. I think the ending was quite a masterpiece even as I anticipated what was coming as I rushed to the conclusion. Certainly it would make an excellent book club book as there are so many ideas and issues that could be discussed and debated. Definitely one that was thought-provoking and I'll be pondering some of it for a long time.

Thank you to NetGalley and Crown Publishing for the e-book ARC to read and review.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Dark Waters (#3 Alex Devlin) by Mary-Jane Riley

"Nothing was black and white in life, nothing was certain."

Alex Devlin has moved from London where she previously worked as a journalist for THE POST. She fills her time doing a bit of freelancing, feature stories, etc. Her father suffers from early onset dementia and her sister, Sasha, is being released from the psych institute where she was committed. Alex returned to Sole Bay to be close by to help them out.

Her quiet and somewhat lonely life is disrupted, however, when two men are found dead on a pleasure boat off the Norfolk Broads. Her investigative instincts kick in when she discovers that the two men were chatting online about suicide. When she learns the identity of the men, she calls her old boss in London and begs to be put on the story but another reporter, Heath Maitland, is sent down instead. Alex and Heath agree to a quid pro quo as there is something that Alex wants him to do for her in exchange for her doing a lot of the legwork for the story. Abruptly, both are called off by the home office, but Alex can't let it go. She's figured out some interesting connections...

This was a mystery with a lot going on in the plot. Many different characters -- some who featured in the previous 2 books in the series (which, unfortunately, I have not read). That said, there was enough information about some of the backstory so that I didn't feel entirely lost. It moved along quickly with the pieces slowly coming into place. Of course there is no one that Alex can work with or trust while she is busy ferreting out the truth. Goes to show, again, that the past won't stay buried.

I enjoyed this and will definitely look for another in the series should there be a 4th book. Thank you to NetGalley and HarperCollins Publishers for the e-book ARC to read and review.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Cold Heart (Kate Matthews #3) by Stephen Edger

A missing 15-year-old girl, a severed female foot found in a school sports center marked for demolition, and the heart of a male victim delivered to the police station. Are these connected? That is what Detective Kate Matthews and her team try to figure out in this police procedural.

The investigation hits one wall after another as little headway is made. The painstaking methods of tracking down all leads and clues take valuable time with hope running out that Daisy is still alive. They can't find her and the other two who were eventually identified offer no evidence to chase. As they haul in first one suspect and then another, the team is working long hours and nearing exhaustion without having any luck. Meanwhile, Kate is dealing with one of her fellow team members and a personal situation. NO SPOILERS.

This is the third in the series featuring Kate Matthews and the second that I have read. I am fully vested in learning more about the characters on the team and about Kate's personal life outside of the police. The author is able to evoke reader response as tension builds and frustration mounts. I am definitely looking forward to further revelations in the next book.

Thank you to NetGalley and Bookouture for this e-book ARC to read and review.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

I Know Where She Is by S.B. Caves

"A white envelope, unmarked, no stamp. Scrawled in chicken scratch: I KNOW WHERE SHE IS."

Francine receives this message ten years after her daughter, Autumn Cooper-Wright, went missing and no amount of searching ever turned up a clue. Francine descended into an alcoholic haze, she and her husband, Will, divorced and only recently has she begun to get herself put back together. Francine frantically calls her husband for a meet, but he's moved on, has a new wife and is expecting a child, and he thinks it's just a prank. When Francine meets 18-year-old Lena out by her car next to her job place the next day, she's not convinced that Lena is anything but a cruel joke when Lena says she knows Autumn -- whom she knows as Melody. And, Lena says that Autumn is still alive. Lena only begins to believe it when Lena tells her things that make her blood run cold.

"Even if you got her back...She's not the same little girl you lost...None of us are."

As messed up and unstable as Francine appears at first, she pulls herself together quickly and is off on a mission to rescue her daughter from unspeakable circumstances. NO SPOILERS, but the situation Autumn is in is horrible and one that no parent wants to imagine. The book really takes off after this and ratchets toward a spectacular, if somewhat unbelievable, climax. The narrative is well-paced and tension builds as Francine seeks to find and regain her daughter. Francine changes into something approaching Super Woman before the reader's eyes and the transformation is necessary considering what she is up against. Can she rescue Autumn when there is no one to turn to for help?

This was quite the unexpected thrill read for me as I had not anticipated the direction it was going. I enjoyed it as the pages flew by. As others have said, set aside a block of time as this begs to be read in a single sitting.

Thank you to NetGalley and Canelo Publishing for the e-book ARC to read and review.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Babysitter by Sheryl Browne

This suspenseful thriller is like a train wreck. You don't really want to see the damage, but you can't help yourself and look anyway. Throughout the whole of the novel, I was screaming at the characters to open their eyes and see what was happening.

Now let me ask you, ladies especially -- would you really take a near stranger into your home and put her in charge of your children?? NO WAY. Especially if she was young and pretty and seemed the answer to an overworked mother's dream. So when Melissa and Mark Cain try to help their poor neighbor who was burned out of her home by a fire, you just KNOW that nothing good is going to come of this. They are too nice and you sense the menace of Jade immediately. Would you check references before you hire on a nanny -- of course you would. But, do they? Oh no, they are so happy to have some help in their busy and chaotic lives.

What Jade does to this family is pure evil. Should we overlook Jade's past and excuse her behavior? I don't think so! Even as the chapters roll by and as you are glued to the pages to see what heinous act Jade will pull next, you can't help but turn the pages as fast as you can to see if she is a master manipulator and a shrewd planner.

This book was great fun to read because, even as you knew (hoped) that Jade would be outed and taken out before she could ruin the family, you weren't quite sure what damage she would leave behind. What I didn't understand was how Mark and Melissa so totally missed the clues and evidence that Jade was not the paragon she seemed to be. When everything started to fall apart right after Jade came to live with them, I was sure that one of them would be suspicious. But, oh no, we had to go through a lot of drama. Nevertheless, I guess it wouldn't have been such a story if they had!

You can read this in a couple of hours and I can honestly say that I enjoyed it though there is one character I would have liked to see get his comeuppance! And, I'm a little worried about Dylan...

Thank you to NetGalley and Bookouture for the e-book to read and review.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris

" makes us behave out of drives us to do things we never thought we'd do."

Finn McQuaid and his girlfriend, Layla, are driving back home to St. Mary's (in Devon) after skiing in Megeve when they pulled off the motorway into a picnic area at Fonches. It's not a service station, its main appeal is that it has a toilet. When Finn returns to the car after using the facilities, Layla is gone. Over the next 12 years he exhausts various methods looking for her, but never finds a trace. Was she kidnapped, is she dead? Finn has no clue.

Though she was the love of his life, he has finally managed to move on and has become involved in a serious relationship -- with Layla's sister, Ellen. They are to be married and Finn is happy enough. Soon after the wedding announcement, Finn starts to receive some creepy indications that perhaps Layla is still alive. Or is someone just messing with his head not wanting him to finally have some happiness. Has she finally come back to him and what in the world is he to do about Ellen?

Creepy is a good word to describe this novel of psychological drama. It will become clear to the reader quite quickly that something weird is going on here, but NO SPOILERS. There are many clues and the astute reader will see where it's leading fairly quickly though the author makes a valiant effort to throw in many red herrings to divert away to other conclusions. It was hard to really get into the true nature of the characters and I didn't find myself identifying with any of them except I could feel the tension and frustration that Finn experienced. The believablity factor also comes into play so you have to allow for the fact that you'd probably do things a bit differently to Finn as events spiral out of control. The writing was good and the pacing was appropriate to the story. I think I can say that the overall feeling I came away with was just sadness.

I've read both other novels and still think that Behind Closed Doors was the best of the 3, but I enjoyed this one. Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for the e-book ARC to read and review. B.A. Paris is still on my "to-read" list.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Don't Believe It by Charlie Donlea

WOWZA -- fantastic read! "Is fame and fortune enough or is the truth the only thing that matters?"

Wow, Charlie Donlea -- you have done it again! Written a suspense thriller that grabs from the first page and never lets go. It took me through all of the emotions on a twisty ride where I first thought one thing, and then another. Just be careful -- and don't believe anything!

The story -- in 2007, at Gros Piton on St. Lucia at the Jalousie Plantation resort, Julien Crist fell to his death from the bluff. In addition to those injuries, the fatal wound, however, was to his head before he went over. His girlfriend at the time, Grace Sebold -- a medical school graduate about to embark on a neurosurgery residency -- was convicted of his murder.

Ten years later, Sidney Ryan, a documentary producer of some renown, decides to take on this case as a possible expose of miscarried justice. She plans to go back over every element of the situation and show, in real time, everything that she discovers through interviews and evidence. The main question -- did Grace really kill her boyfriend? As her show rockets to unimagined ratings success, Sidney becomes emeshed in a deeper mystery than she anticipated. Her investigation leads her to secrets and lies -- but can she get Grace the reprieve that many believe she deserves?

I loved the narrative as it highlights excerpts from the initial police interviews and investigation as well as examination of all the evidence from the case. Since the trial took place in St. Lucia, it could be that the US government was derelict in duty to one of its citizens. A very complicated endeavor, but Sidney has the clout and the brains to do this well. She's a new network darling and everything she worked for is about to pay off big time. And then... (NO SPOILERS). Yeah, I was sure I knew where this was going -- several times. It wasn't until the very last paragraph that I got my answer!

If you read any of my reviews, you know that I am partical to this genre and read almost everything of this nature. This was exceptional on several counts, but mostly it is the writing style and the way that Donlea tells a great story. Trust me on this, you won't want to miss it!  And if you haven't read his other two novels (all standalones), SUMMIT LAKE and THE GIRL WHO WAS TAKEN, you need to rectify that immediately. I promise you won't be disappointed!

Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Books for this e-book ARC to read and review. I admit that I shamelessly begged for it! And I'm so happy I did. Sign me up for #4 now!