NetGalley Top Reviewer

NetGalley Top Reviewer
NetGalley Top Reviewer

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

5.0 out of 5 stars Moving and satisfying, great debut..., January 30, 2010

This beautifully written book, Secret Daughter: A Novel, is one that will linger in my thoughts for a long time. It's a poignant story about family -- just who is "family" and what it means to be a part of one. It's also a brilliantly written testimony to mothers everywhere, for "if the mother falls, the whole family falls."

Asha (Hope) was secretly named Usha (Dawn) by her birth mother, Kavita, and is adopted from an Indian orphanage by a married American couple when she is just a year old. Kavita, already grieving the infanticide of a previous daughter in a society that prefers male infants, had made the long journey to Shanti to deliver her 3-day-old child there for safety so that her husband and his family would not also destroy this second unwanted female child. She left her daughter with only a thin silver bracelet and a wish that Asha be allowed to live, grow up, and perhaps have a better life.

Somer and Krishnan Thakkar, both doctors -- she's a pediatrician and he's a neurosurgeon -- have been unable to have a child. He is Indian and came to America to attend medical school and stayed for a better life. She married him without fully appreciating the Indian heritage and his connection to the land of his birth and to the family and traditions he left behind there. When they adopt Asha and bring her back to America to raise, little do they realize that their new beloved daughter will one day defy her parents and seek to restore their connection to their Indian relatives despite the fact that she may hurt them when she begins to trace her birth parents to find out who she is and why they gave her up for adoption.

The story moves forward in time from 1984 to 2009, and is told from the viewpoints of the three main females of the story - Somer, Kavita, and Asha. All are women who have a very strong feeling about motherhood -- and about their own mothers. In addition, each woman sees a different India and comes to appreciate the country in different ways even as they realize that "Mother India does not love all her children equally."

The story of each woman's journey to epiphany and self-realization is very moving and satisfying. I highly recommend this book.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Breaking the Silence by Diana Chamberlain

3/5 stars

Solid but predictable mystery..., January 28, 2010

After reading a few of Diana Chamberlain's more recent novels, including my favorite, The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes, I could tell immediately when I started this one that I was reading one of her earlier books That's not to say that this novel isn't good, it is -- but it is a fairly predictable story and the revelations at the end come as no surprise to any mystery reader. There are multiple things going on in the book but it all comes together to wrap up the various pieces. It's a story of family relationships including great love and loss and getting answers.
I enjoyed the book well enough -- it's fast paced and the narrative draws the reader in with the topic -- torture and experimentation on patients at psychiatric facilities circa 1950s. It's hard to believe that many of those "treatments" were allowed and even encouraged! In another note, however, I must say that the sudden muteness experienced by the child, Emma, in the book was never fully explained and then mysteriously disappeared. I'm assuming it was some sort of traumatic guilt-like reaction.
All in all, this is an easy read, an early work by an author who has since become more accomplished!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Girl Missing by Tess Gerritsen

3.0 out of 5 stars
Mildly interesting mystery but too much romance..., January 26, 2010
It's difficult to get the gist of what this book is about from reading the fairly inaccurate product description. This was a mystery about the deaths of some young people from a new narcotic-type drug that hadn't been released to market yet. Kat Novak, the medical examiner, gets suspicious that there's more to these deaths than accidental drug overdoses.
I have read all of Tess Gerritsen's previous suspense books and even some of her early romances. It is easy to see the progression and development of her skills as author by reading them in order of publication dates. It was fairly evident that this was an earlier work, but without having seen the original printed book, Peggy Sue Got Murdered, I can't say for certain what changes and updates were made for this particular version of the novel.
This is a review of an audiobook, which I find quite a different medium than print, and tend to like and enjoy less. I found the narrator of this version to be acceptable, but some of her voices, accents and affectations did bother me somewhat -- especially the male voices. Adam sounded completely stilted most of the time and the cops were portrayed as whiny and inept (so cliche). Some of her pronunciations of medical and chemical terms were off -- perhaps some coaching should have been done prior to the recording session. I feel that it would enhance the audiobook if different voices were used for the various characters - make it much more realistic and dramatic.
As far as a story -- well this was OK. I didn't think the denouement was very exciting and the motivation for the murders was slim. The last action packed chapter again is typical of the genre -- men and women go beyond normal human capabilities to survive against incredible odds. I could have done completely without the romance part -- Tess reduced Kat Novak to a simpering fool in the face of her love for Adam and once again we have another rich knight in white armour rescue of a damsel in distress (emotional or physical -- it's all the same). I prefer my suspense thrillers to have less focus on the love interest and more on the science and the procedure. Typical forensic pathologists do not go investigate cases in the field, but we wouldn't have many thrillers to read if the authors didn't write them doing exactly that or if they left them in their labs!!
So, all in all, the book was fairly enjoyable but unremarkable. I like Tess Gerritsen's recent suspense and thriller novels so much better and still plan to buy them. But this one can be skipped or borrowed!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Scattered Graves

3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting forensic series..., January 25, 2010

This sixth in the series is another entertaining and educational read. The author, pedigreed herself, has written a character who is smart and spunky. Diane Fallon is the director of a museum of natural history (RiverTrail) and also heads another division housed in the same large building - a crime lab that has everything from an osteology laboratory (her own specialty) to DNA analysis. In addition to being an expert in many of the forensic sciences, she is a caver and is physically fit as well. This happens to be a good thing for Diane because she is nearly murdered, kidnapped, or imprisoned in every novel! Despite all the bruises and injuries she suffers as she escapes these attempts on her life, she usually manages to help the FBI or the local police solve the mystery.

In this investigation, Diane deals with a corrupt city government determined to take away her crime lab and a complicated identity theft scheme involving computer programmers and hackers -- and murders of course. Lots of murders including another attempt on Diane's life. This book in the series wasn't as interesting as some of the others have been.

Because of the combination of the natural history museum and the crime lab, the reader learns many interesting facts about different subjects in each book. The one thing that does irritate me about Diane is that she is a bit of a "know it all" and even manages to lecture her staff about John Locke's social contract.

Although these are not what I consider heart stopping, suspenseful thrillers, I think most readers will enjoy the science and also develop a fondness for Diane and the other recurring characters in this series and won't want to miss this one. I'm looking forward to Dust to Dust (Diane Fallon Forensic Investigation, No. 7)

I also think it's a series that should be read in order, so start with One Grave Too Many (Diane Fallon Forensic Investigation, No. 1) so you can get the full background on Diane Fallon and how all this came about.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Diary by Eileen Goudge

Sweet. Other than that, fairly unremarkable. Fast read, nice story. Goes to show how little that children really know their parents. Ask them now!

Fuzzy Navel

2.0 out of 5 stars Boo and hiss...copycat thriller, January 17, 2010

Nothing like a copycat -- due to my disinclination to spoil this horrific novel for anyone who chooses to read it, I can't say which author nor what title -- I can say, however, that if you don't like cliffhanger endings, either have the next book, Cherry Bomb (Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels Mysteries), ready to open or skip this one altogether.

That said, I am also trying to find the advertised "hilarious" thriller within this novel -- which consists of 9 parts murder and mayhem and one part suspended disbelief. The body count rises quickly in this 5th installment of the Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels mystery series that opens with three simultaneous sniper shootings of sex perverts in various parts of the city. Where's the humor?
Meanwhile, a crazed psycho killer whom Jack sent to prison, the infamous Alex Kork, has apparently escaped from prison and has a diabolical plan to destroy Jack and whoever else gets in the way of that endeavor. Funny?

Fast forward to Jack's house in the suburbs; she and her ex-cop mom now live outside the city for the peace and quiet. Kork quickly locates the house, and the murderous vigilantes who vow to leave no witnesses to their sniper spree, converge on the place. As part of Kork's intent to torture and kill all those who caused her ruin and capture, Jack's fiance, Latham, her current partner Herb, her ex partner Harry, and her friend Phin are also invited to this unsavory debacle in the woods. Humorous?

The house then becomes the setting for the rest of the action which consists of shootings and fights and blood and guts. In short, chapter after chapter of more unbelievable mayhem told in different narrative viewpoints -- again my sense of humor didn't find anything funny in this -- and then a completely unsatisfactory cliffhanging, copycat ending. I opened the next book to read the first sentence, just to see if I had guessed right, and then promptly closed it.

I've had enough. I suppose on some level, the interaction between some of the characters could be construed as amusing -- under other circumstances, but when mixed with the detailed description of various injuries and wounds, it wasn't so for me. This is the last one I'll read in the Jack Daniels series.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Finger Lickin' Fifteen

3.0 out of 5 stars Starting to wear very thin..., January 16, 2010

This installment of the Stephanie Plum mishaps and mayhem series is pretty thin. The same things happened in this book that have happened in every single other one in this series. The usual inability to capture the skips, the cars blowing up, the need to sleep at Rangeman, Lulu escapades, Grandma Mazur -- it's all getting tiresome and redundant. I feel like I've read this book already -- several times. I am tired of reading about the "sparks" between Stephanie and Ranger and between Stephanie and Morelli. The characters do the same exact things in this novel that they've done in the other 14 books. There were few laughs and overall, this was just barely an OK read.
No need to buy it, wait for the paperback or just borrow from someone who has it.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

5.0 out of 5 stars Grim and haunting, January 10, 2010

I rate books on how much of an impact they have on me and whether or not I will think about or want to discuss the contents after I've read the last page and closed the cover. The Road is a post apocalyptic novel that will stay with me a very long time. The bleakness of the journey that this unnamed father and son embark on is quickly evident -- they are going south but have no real plan and no endpoint or destination in mind. They traverse an unrelenting and very bleak landscape of ash and burnt out flora, fauna and civilization -- devoid of any life except for the occasional creature that bears little resemblance to what was once humankind. The man and the boy stick to the endless blacktop, the road -- the only somewhat permanent residual marker in a very changed world. They walk by day, pushing a metal grocery cart full of their meager possessions, avoiding the marauding bands of cannibals and even the lone survivors as trust is not a trait they can afford to have when it is survival of the fittest at stake.

Though the story is very grim, the love and protectiveness that the father has for his son is the only light in this otherwise very depressing narrative. They are all unto each other -- there is no one else and nothing else. Memories that the man has are soon discarded as his reality is faced with plugged determination -- a search for food, water, warmth -- merely to survive another day.

I'm eager to see the movie based on this book and hope it's a faithful adaptation. This is definitely a novel that I will think about time and again as it haunts me with its stark portrayal of whatever comes after "the end of the world as we knew it."
I gave this 5 stars, not because it was a pleasant story, but because of the impact it had on my psyche and my senses as I read it.
I can't really say I LOVED this book, but I did live it.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Bone Chamber

3.0 out of 5 stars 3 1/2 stars for those who like conspiracy stories about the Freemasons, Templar Knights and other secret societies..., January 9, 2010

The Bone Chamber is yet another title that is reminiscent of the conspiracy and Templar Knights novels by Dan Brown, Steve Berry, Raymond Khoury et al. This action-packed thriller features FBI forensic artist Sydney Fitzpatrick in her second outing (after Face of a Killer) and is a romp through the city and the underground burial chambers of Rome as she and her cohorts try to foil a dastardly plot involving money and murder. Despite being advertised as such, this is not a book about the Catholic church keeping a secret from the world and the Vatican is only vaguely mentioned. It's more about a super secret agency, ATLAS, that is charged with protecting the world from a competing group of megalomaniacs who want to possess the treasure of the Templars, including a map that just might contain directions to the location of all the Biblical plagues of Moses -- the better to make a bio-weapon.

It is a bit long and drags in places; Sydney is annoying at intervals as she displays a lot of angst over trusting herself but repeatedly sticks her nose into the case long after being dismissed from her forensic duties. There are the typical mad car chases, escapes from certain death at the hands of the evil henchmen, and a harrowing scene in the underground burial chambers. A little romance with one of the ATLAS operatives is developing and the book ends with hints that there will be a sequel involving Griffin.

I might be tempted to check out the next book in the series. You don't have to read the first one to understand the characters or the plot of this novel as it can stand alone.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

They Never Die Quietly

They Never Die Quietly by DM Annechino
3.0 out of 5 stars Another formulaic, predictable, "female cop in peril" thriller,

This novel was so disappointing. I love thrillers featuring smart, competent female detectives who use their brains and police procedure to solve a case involving a heinous serial killer. Ever since Clarice Starling got into Dr. Hannibal Lecter's head, I've loved the genre and reading about that odd relationship between mind-hunter or cop and criminal. Unfortunately, this wasn't one of those good books.

Sami Rizzo, a single mother, is assigned to the investigation of a psychopathic murderer who is crucifying women and taking their hearts as souvenirs. Even though he typically captures the women along with their children, he released the children when he's finished killing their mothers. Sami and her partner, Al, (romantic interest) don't have many concrete leads when Sami gets the bright (read: stupid and so cliche it's ridiculous) idea to use herself as bait by going on a date with a man who fits many of the characteristics described by other witnesses and by the children of the women who were abducted. Even admitting that what she is doing is dumb when she accepts a dinner invitation from Simon -- she goes ahead with her harebrained scheme and ends up locked in the basement of his isolated home.

As far as I'm concerned, the novel's entertainment value and believability ended on page 146 and limped to its predictable climax and ending a very long 130 pages of Sami in captivity later.

Skip it.