NetGalley Top Reviewer

NetGalley Top Reviewer
NetGalley Top Reviewer

Monday, November 25, 2013

3.0 out of 5 stars - It is a rainy and stormy season in Philadelphia. A man is found with a railroad spike driven into his head in Priory Park, close to the old shut down Delaware Valley State Hospital at Cold River which used to hold many insane and homeless patients. It closed its doors forever more than twenty years ago but a man who was perhaps a patient there, Luther Wade, never left, and roams the catacombs, sewer and storm drainage tunnels beneath the city, and now commits horrific crimes. He seems to be targeting people who once were associated with that old hospital. Why them? Why now? And is there a connection to a toddler found in the middle of the street one night? Detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano, long time partners with the PDD, are assigned to the case.

This book was creepy and quite hard to follow at times with the jumps back and forth in time and the characters and their relationships to each other both past and present. I found it confusing but the excellent writing kept me glued to the pages trying to see what would happen next. To tell you the truth, I am still not quite sure I understand completely who did what and all that went on from the asylum to the current murders. The last couple of chapters helped tie it up a bit, but the end of the investigation still didn't completely explain everything to my satisfaction -- or maybe I need to reread with the ending still fresh in my mind.

I found the description of Cold River and the practice of psychiatric "care" there quite unnerving and mostly unbelievable, even for fiction. I know that conditions at some of those homes for the insane bordered on inhumane and bedlam, but I'd like to think that perhaps there were one or two good staff who had an idea of patients who were dying in hallways, giving birth in corridors, and escaping regularly.

I did like the book, but feel that the non-linear narrative made it hard to completely grasp all the motivations of the criminal(s) and their history. I liked the partnership of Jessica and Kevin and wonder how the author will handle that in the future. I loved the police procedural details as well. I'd read another by this author.

*Part of a series that I have not read previously. This seemed to stand alone but perhaps the book was a bit confusing to me because I didn't know all the previous history of the main characters. The ending of this one seems to leave room for yet another installment in the series.

Thank you to NetGalley and Mulholland Books for the eBook ARC to review.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

3.0 out of 5 stars - This is a fast read about the very public meltdown of a megastar and is just like a tabloid article you'd see on the magazine racks by the grocery checkout. Those in the limelight are denied privacy and often very basic desires to have a real life away from fans and reporters. Although it's fiction, I'm sure all readers will see the similarities in the story to current scandals and personal tragedies of those on the top tier of fame though in this book, we get to see the toll that all of that takes on the star and her family.

Kelsey is a music sensation when her cousin, Logan, comes to LA to act as her personal assistant. Close as children, a family rift separated them for years. As they work together to orchestrate Kelsey's very complicated touring lifestyle, other forces are at work to bring Kelsey to ruin. What is the price of fame and what will those Kelsey trusts do to keep themselves part of the money machine? Kelsey isn't allowed to run her own life nor can she avoid public exposure of every high and low moment as she tries to find love and happiness while staying on top of her career. Can Logan help Kelsey to have a normal marriage and motherhood or will the demands of the celebrity life and the news media destroy it all?

In the end, what do you owe another -- and can you save them -- and, at what cost?

I enjoyed this novel and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the lifestyles of the rich and famous!

Thank you to NetGalley and Atria books for the ebook ARC to review.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Stranger You Know by Andrea Kane

3.0 out of 5 stars - Formulaic romantic suspense thriller.

This third in the Forensic Instincts series has Casey and company on a manhunt for a serial rapist murderer who seeks out red-headed college age girls as he moves closer and closer to his ultimate victim -- Casey herself. Their major problem with this case, however, is that the criminal identified by DNA and other factors is locked up in a secure prison. Casey knows there is no such thing as a copy-cat killer so the race is on to find the partner on the outside who is doing the killing and even taken the violence and staging to a whole new level.

Can Casey and her cohort find this taunting devil before he is able to abduct and strangle Casey?

Predictable, fast-paced, and ultimately unsatisfying as yet another thriller follows the same formula of hunter becoming the hunted.

I don't think I'll read another in this series. The characters are stereotypes - the beautiful women, the hunky Rambo men, the electronic wizard, the loyal cop, etc.

Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin MIRA for the ebook ARC to review.

Monday, November 18, 2013

3.5 stars - Delicious literary buffet -- historical fiction featuring Edgar A. Poe and poetess Frances Osgood...did they or didn't they?

Set in New York during the 1850s, this novel imagines a love affair between the mysterious author Poe who was married to his cousin, Virginia, and Fanny Osgood during a time when NEVERMORE was the rage and all the famous names in American literature would gather for gossip and readings at the homes of the wealthy elite.

I like reading about this time period in American history, the setting of New York, and just thinking about how all those great authors may have known one another socially. The drag in the book was the romance part! Frances is way overwrought over her doomed illicit love of Edgar and Poe is written as brooding, mysterious and somewhat cruel. Since it was fictional, I just got past that nonsense and enjoyed the other details.
I think book clubs would really enjoy this one -- lots of room for discussion and speculation, plus enjoyment of some of the quotes, poems and prose. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books for the ebook ARC to review.

The Truth About You by Susan Lewis

2.5 stars - Lainey is the heart and soul of her blended family -- or she believes until her famous author husband announces that he has another daughter (the same age as his and Lainey's 16-year-old daughter) whose mother is terminally ill.

What follows this decent premise is a mess of missed connections, deplorable attempts at communication, and lack of meaningful confrontation that would have solved the drama quickly. Most of the time, I wanted to shake all the characters as none seemed to have any redemptive qualities. Although Lainey spent most of the time after this revelation crying and suffering in relative silence while carrying on gamely (think: martyr style), she should have been keeping a closer eye on her teenage daughter and older stepson who were -- I hope -- completely unbelievable representations of their age group. What was ludicrous to me is that Lainey and her husband did not sit down to actually talk face to face about the situation -- they were sending text messages and attempting cell phone conversations with lost signals and all of that nonsense. In a side story, Lainey goes to Italy to try to find her roots and that part of the novel was even less interesting as a plot device. She should have been at home talking to her husband.

I would say this book was frustrating and annoying and I wouldn't really recommend it to anyone. It was quite a disappointment as I generally love relationship stories. References to sexual promiscuity, i.e., the "Shades of Grey" trilogy by teenagers who are acting it out, adultery, rape, incest are themes.

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

Love Gone Mad by Mark Rubinstein

2.0 out of 5 stars

Doctor meets nurse. Instant relationship. Couple is terrorized by nurse's ex-husband (a strong, brilliant madman) intent on killing them both.

I found the story and the romance quite ridiculous. The overlong action scenes involving Adrian and Megan in peril almost got the best of me. As did their "true love at first sight" drivel and the unending descriptions of how beautiful Megan was ad nauseum. Most of the time she was having a panic attack, breakdown of terror, and freaking out. I kept reading only because of the interesting details about the laws and court scenes related to the not guilty by reason of insanity plea and the references to the psychiatric definitions of delusional thinking. I had originally picked this because I thought it was a medical thriller -- not so. The only true medical aspect is that the parties being stalked by the psycho were a surgeon and a nurse.  I didn't like any of the characters nor did I find any of this believable. I found myself flipping through pages just to get through it.

The author uses a lot of cliches and repeats many of the same phrases time after time. Redundant, overly descriptive prose. Ricochets from one chase to the next...ho hum
Thank you to NetGalley and  Thunder Lake Press for the e-book ARC to review.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Stella Bain by Anita Shreve

3.0 out of 5 stars - Lovely story about rebuilding life and family during the horrors of war...

A woman awakens inside a casualty tent in France in 1916. She cannot remember who she is or how she came to be there. Wounded in body and spirit, she chooses the name Stella Bain for herself as she resumes familiar duties as nurse aide and ambulance driver. For some reason she is driven to London to seek out Admiralty House where she believes she will figure out some answers to her situation. She leaves France and is found in desperate circumstances outside a lovely home owned by Dr. August Bridge and his wife, Lily. Stella falls ill with pneumonia and is nursed back to health by the Bridges. Finally, upon visiting Admiralty House after her convalescence, she is recognized and called by her real name. It is then that she begins to recover her memories and to remember what drove her from her home and to the battlefields far away. She begins a course of "talk therapy" with Dr. Bridge who has developed an interest in psychiatry and her reawakened artistic abilities help her make decisions about how to return to claim what is hers and to make amends for her mistakes.

Through the course of what is sometimes a bit of a disjointed narrative, Stella (Etna) moves steadily toward forgiveness of herself and others as well as to achieve her independence and seek the love she was denied. An interesting topic in the book was that of shell shock, seen in so many returning soldiers after the war.

I'd recommend this to any fan of Anita Shreve and to a book club group wanting a novel dealing with the human side of the effects of war in a time when women were not allowed much freedom in their personal lives.

Thank you to NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for the e-book ARC to review.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Never List by Koethi Zan

3.0 out of 5 stars

This story is one that ALMOST might have come from recent current event newspaper articles.

Sarah and Jennifer were best friends with many of the same interests -- including the desire to protect themselves from danger to the point of compiling risk assessments and a "Never List' of things they simply would not expose themselves to.  Their attention to the list and their safety is all for naught, however, when they are kidnapped by a man who kept them, and two other girls, captive in a cellar for 3 years. The girls were starved and tortured. Jennifer was kept locked in a box down there, and eventually was taken out of the cellar and likely murdered.

Flash forward years later. Jennifer is presumed dead and Sarah is trying to regain control of her life. Now an agoraphobic, she doesn't leave her apartment and is still not recovered. When she gets yet another taunting letter from her captor who is about to come up for parole, she makes a determined effort to face the past and try to recover Jennifer's body to get some closure and also to prevent the release of her captor. She leaves her apartment and relative safety to return to the scene of her imprisonment and also reunites with the other two victims for the first time since they all were rescued.

This story started out well but then became quite convoluted and completely unbelievable. The situations that Sarah put herself in required more suspension of disbelief than I was capable of. Many times I almost scoffed out loud at the perilous predicaments that she was all of a sudden able to manage. It was a good premise, but ultimately the tale was unsatisfying and ludicrous. I simply did not like any of the one-dimensional characters nor did I buy into how they reacted to the events that transpired once they decided to revisit what had happened to them and begin playing amateur detectives. Their decisions and activities made no sense given what they had been through. The story line takes a sudden twist adding in a new dimension and more flat characters to the original crime and I didn't buy into that grand scheme either.

All in all, although it was absorbing and entertaining at first, and I did finish it quickly, I was disappointed in the novel. As far as recommending the book, it would depend on the particular person, but the whole story just didn't ring realistic and true despite the fact that recent current events report on other cases of long term imprisonment and kidnapping that are much more chilling than this tale. I just didn't buy into Sarah being so damaged and then all of a sudden able to do all this investigation from her new-found willpower and without any police or FBI oversight. I would likely try the next book by the author, however. It might make a good choice for a book club if only to talk about whether or not one can actually predict every possibility for oneself enough to ever be completely SAFE.

Thank you to NetGalley and PENGUIN GROUP Viking for the E-book ARC to review.

Harrowgate by Kate Maruyama

4.0 out of 5 stars

Michael returns home after an extended work-related trip to find that his wife has given birth, a bit prematurely, to a son that she has named Tim. Michael is, at first, overjoyed with his new little family but that feeling changes to one of foreboding and a sense that something is a bit off despite his excitement settling in. Things are definitely pretty strange. Why does his wife, Sarah, look so odd and act so strangely? Sarah refuses to allow Michael to answer the door or to let anyone -- even their own family -- into the apartment. Who is Greta and why does she seem to have assumed control of his household and have such power over his wife? Michael knows that the birth of a baby changes things, but soon he finds just HOW MUCH happened in his absence.

Not a spoiler: This is not a ghost story, per se, but it is about dead loved ones returned to life. It is also an exploration of grief and loss as well as touching on speculation regarding an afterlife or what might lie beyond for those who die. Written from the points of view of both Michael and Sarah, the novel is a page turner and kept me enthralled. In the end, however, I was left with several unanswered questions and wish there had been a bit more detail.

I'd highly recommend this for a book club as it would allow for plenty of discussion on many topics related to family, death, grieving, and loss. I'm not typically a fan of the horror genre and I was glad this was not that type of novel. It is nice and creepy without going over the line and, just ALMOST, completely believable. The reader feels the menace in the house and and the darkness. I enjoyed it! Good title too. 
Thank you to NetGalley and for the ARC to review.