NetGalley Top Reviewer

NetGalley Top Reviewer
NetGalley Top Reviewer

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Night Season by Chelsea Cain

2.0 out of 5 stars Not suspenseful and not a thriller..., May 31, 2011

This review is from: The Night Season (Archie and Gretchen) (Audio CD)

I have read the other books in the Gretchen Lowell-Archie Sheridan series to mixed review. This one is so unrelated as to be understandable if read as a stand alone.

First off -- the reader of this audio version, Christina Delaine, was the WORST narrator I have ever heard! I almost threw the CD box in the trash but forced myself through to the end hoping for improvement. There was none. Her pronunciation of words (skele DON instead of TON and BOOO kay instead of Bow) drove me up the wall as did her hoarse-voiced raspy attempt at Archie (and all the other male characters come to think of it. He sounds like he has no personality and is almost dead most of the time -- no emotion. Anyway, the audio version was horrible. If you want to read more in this series, at least get the book.

Now for the review of the story. Well, hate to tell you, but it was not very good either. Victims are found in the waters of the Willamette river - they drowned -- but wait -- what is that puncture wound??? The killing method (blue ringed octopus???) = ridiculous and the whole motivation for the murders quite lame. There was absolutely nothing in this book to redeem the boring characters or the plot. The relentless and pedantic descriptions of the Willamette flooding and the water, water, water, were redundant and uninteresting. The only thing that got me were the needless deaths of some perfectly fine people.

I do not like any of Cain's characters. Susan Ward makes me crazy -- she's so immature and stupid (you'll agree when you read how she manages to yet again insert herself into the clutches of the killer and I'm tired of Saint Archie and his sad sack life, addictions, and in-need-of-therapy self. I was bored by turns and irritated by others. I didn't even care when the climax occurred but wondered why the book went on for several more chapters of blah blah blah. Gretchen Lowell? Well she's not in this book :) This was not suspenseful and not a thriller. Pass.

I won't read another in this series and urge you to just say NO. It really isn't worth your time.

Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares

4 of 5 stars

"At least I tried."

In this 5th book in the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, Ann Brashares brings back the characters we knew and loved as they enter their thirties. Four friends ten years later. How has the sisterhood fared - how has life treated them and where are they now?

Although the girls had gone their separate ways and had sort of lost touch with each other, Lena, Carmen and Bee gather in Greece for a reunion arranged by Tibby. What they find there changes their lives forever.

This is a story of enduring friendship and love. Although at times almost maudlin and certainly sentimental, the narrative makes us root for each of the girls to finally find true happiness.

I enjoyed the book and recommend it as a fitting conclusion to the series introduced to the world of young adult readers in 2001. Some have said that this novel is not for that YA market, but I think teens who enjoyed the other 4 books (and movies) will want to follow this sisterhood of best friends into adulthood.

Addendum: I'm adding this last part because of advice not to read it because it's sad. Yes -- some parts of the book are sad. But who among you has a perfect life that is not marred by some disappointment or other event that you wish you hadn't gone through? I think the things that happen to the girls in the book provide a more realistic depiction of how we all fare through adulthood. There is regret and loss. Everything for most of us is not always sunny and happy. Neither is it for the girls of the Sisterhood. And I think that's how it should be.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Devil's Punchbowl by Greg Iles

3.0 out of 5 stars Too long and too much, May 29, 2011

This review is from: The Devil's Punchbowl: A Novel (Hardcover)
3.5 of 5 stars
NOTE: this book contains graphic descriptions of animal and human torture, abuse, and dog fighting.

This third Penn Cage novel went on a bit too long. By the end, I decided that I really didn't like any of the main characters and I was tired of the story. Penn, formerly a DA and author, and now the ersatz mayor of Natchez, Mississippi -- his childhood home -- and Caitlin Masters, his former girlfriend reporter who has returned home for unknown reasons, team up again in a sordid story of gambling, prostitution, dog fighting and corruption at the riverboat casinos.

Penn has to call on his black op friends to protect his family and to help him figure out why his old friend Tim Jessup was murdered. Tim, trying to change his burnt out druggie reputation, has come upon some evidence of illegal activity that he brings to Penn. Before he can get the evidence to Penn, the evil Magnolia Queen boat owner/operators Sands and Quinn (Irish ex pats) take him out. In a race against time, Penn Cage joins up with a couple f elite special forces men, and a former Texas Ranger, in a somewhat unbelievable pursuit of justice and the saving of his town.

I really liked the previous two novels in this series, The Quiet Game and Turning Angel, but this one just didn't hit the same spot for me. The bad guys were over-the-top evil and Penn almost hit sainthood. I know fans of Greg Iles' novels will buy this one, but I hope that his next in the series will be an improvement.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

didn't like it (my current rating)it was okliked itreally liked itit was amazing
I did not like this book and really won't recommend it except to argue with anyone who agrees with author Chua that she has an imitable or admirable parenting style. Her tone was superior and smug, all the while mostly a "brag book" about her talented, abused daughters and how SHE made them so successful. I don't understand a husband and father standing by listening to the insults and humiliation, disguised and excused as a fierce maternal love, heaped by his wife onto his precious daughters. No, thank you. I guess I'm of the mind that parenting impressionable children and raising them to be responsible adults is difficult and lacks a fool proof road map, but I would choose a method and style that, though strict in some ways, would not be cruel.

The Cutting by James Hayman

4.0 out of 5 stars A satisfying thriller!, May 21, 2011
I really enjoyed this fast-paced mystery thriller and immediately sought out the next book - The Chill of Night (Det. Michael Mccabe Mysteries) - in what I hope will be a long series featuring Detective Sergeant Michael McCabe and his partner, Maggie Savage.

A young teen-aged girl is found dead and mutilated in a scrap-metal yard. Her heart has been cut out in a manner that could pass for surgical precision. Earlier that morning, a jogger -- another blonde and beautiful athlete -- was abducted by what McCabe fears is a serial killer targeting this type of victim. The suspense builds as he and Maggie race to try to find this kidnapped woman before she too succumbs to the mutilation. They discover a string of similar crimes stretching from Portland, Maine to Florida. Who is behind these murders and what are they doing with the hearts they steal?

Another thing I really liked, besides the well-developed plot, were the two main characters. I want to get to know them and read more about them. Mike McCabe is a single father raising a 13 year old girl with an ex-wife who has returned for a visitation after several years of absence from their lives. Maggie is a bit mysterious and might have some secrets. The partners work well together and there seems to be a bit of chemistry as well.

If you like a good thriller, ignore the fact that you may or may not find some of the book predictable, and open the cover!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Fallen by Karin Slaughter

4.0 out of 5 stars Secrets, lies, betrayal and murder..., May 19, 2011

The opening chapters of this book will draw in any thriller lover immediately! Faith Mitchell is late to her mother's house to pick up her infant daughter, Emma. When she arrives to find a blood-stained door, a hostage situation in the bedroom, a dead man in the laundry room, and her mother missing -- the real suspense begins. The kidnapped, retired policewoman, Evelyn Mitchell, has a long and complicated history as a former head of a drug investigation unit that ended up brought down on corruption charges. Who has taken her and what do they want? What follows is a complicated and involving effort to unravel the mystery and takes the characters on a wild chase from death row at a Georgia prison to a warehouse that fronts as a cabinet factory to a hospital morgue.

This is the third novel by author Karin Slaughter that features the characters of Will Trent and Faith Mitchell - both work for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. They have connected with Sara Linton, a trauma doctor who was previously married to cop Jeffery Tolliver in the Grant County series. The two prior books, Triptych and Fractured, introduced the interesting duo of Will and Faith (he with severe dyslexia and she with a hard life past) and they met Sara when she returned to Atlanta to work in a hospital there. The complex characters have interesting and unique relationships to each other and this provides a great deal of depth to the narrative.

I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good suspense thriller. I do think it would be best if the reader started at the beginning of the Grant County series with Blindsighted (Dr. Sara Linton) and worked his/her way up to this one in order to fully see the changes and growth that have transpired in the characters, but I do suppose it could be enjoyed as a stand alone as well.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin

3.0 out of 5 stars Fun and mindless beach read!, May 10, 2011

A friend brought this book in for me to read since the movie was about to be released. I don't typically read this genre, but found it to be a mindless, lighthearted and funny story about two "best friends" who are heading into their thirties with marriage on their minds.

Darcy is engaged to Dex, the man that Rachel discovers that she wants for herself. Unfortunately, Darcy is her best friend and Rachel is supposed to be the maid of honor at the upcoming nuptials. What happens when Rachel and Dex hook up and begin an affair?

Sure enough, as is common in a book of this type, the characters are over-the-top stereotypical. Does consummate good girl Rachel deserve Dex because Darcy is such a self absorbed party girl? Hey, there are rules between friends, and one of the primary girlfriend rules is that you don't go after your best friend's boyfriend (fiance, husband, whatever). Despite the fact that this behavior is reprehensible, the novel is fast paced and entertaining. The reader may or may not root for a happy ending for all.

Definitely one to take to the beach.

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

4.0 out of 5 stars "How can a woman know herself, if she doesn't really know her mother?", May 5, 2011

This was a very interesting and emotionally involving story that moved from a present day setting backward in time to Leningrad, Russia, during the siege of that city during WW II.

Middle aged sisters Meredith and Nina have had a very unhappy and unsatisfying relationship with their cold and reserved Russian mother, Anya. They both have spent years trying to reach her and to earn her love, but neither has been able to breech the barrier that has kept her estranged from them. They know nothing about her past, which seems to limit them in their own ability to fully live their lives and to develop good relationships with those they care about. Meredith is the super obsessive older sister who stayed behind to help her parents run their orchard; she uses chores and activities to avoid thinking about why she has never done what she wanted. Nina left the family behind to become a globetrotting photojournalist with no permanent ties and no need to settle down anywhere with anyone. The girls reunite at the family home when their beloved father, Evan, dies and leaves them devastated and alone with the stranger who is their mother.

Through a series of stories told to the girls by their mother -- at first in fairy-tale fashion -- Meredith and Nina discover that their mother has a past that she has tried to escape by never speaking of it. She tells of the horrors of living and trying to survive in war-torn Leningrad during World War II and the subsequent sacrifices she had to make in order to live. The girls finally find out who their mother is and why she is the way she is.

This is a very touching but horrible story that will keep the reader turning the pages until the stunning revelation at the end. This is a book that does more than entertain - it will make the reader think and feel and want to go hug their loved ones. A book like this can change and affect a reader long after the last words have been read. I recommend it.