NetGalley Top Reviewer

NetGalley Top Reviewer
NetGalley Top Reviewer

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Tiger Queens by Stephanie Thornton

4.5 out of 5 stars -- I read this while also watching the Netflix series, Marco Polo, and found it absolutely fascinating. Definitely inspired the researcher in me as I spent hours on the internet reading more about this amazing, but definitely bloodthirsty family.

Fueled by greed and lust for power, the family that would rule the largest empire the world has ever known was given to excess in all things. There is no manner of cruelty that wasn't doled out to enemies of the Khan, but loyalty was also rewarded. Though the men had the helm, it was the women of the realm who sacrificed everything to keep fathers, husbands, brothers and other male relatives on the throne. I doubt I would have survived 15 minutes living in the vast Mongol world! Between the harsh climate, the ghastly food, the constant rides into gory battles, and all manner of treachery -- the women of Genghis Khan were very resilient and strong enough to overcome even the worst horrors.

The book focuses on the lives of only a few of the women involved during the ancient days of Genghis Khan's Golden Family, but the reader knows immediately that without them, the Khan could not have ruled as effectively. Despite the barbarian label, there were also many benevolent and sophisticated accomplishments of those who were the great Mongol warriors and rulers of clans. Throughout all, the women behind the great men devoted themselves to their families and worked tirelessly at often unbelievably difficult times to preserve the empire.

I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone interested in the history of the People of the Felt circa 1171 CE to 1248 CE. It is historical fiction, with a few liberties noted by the author in her endnote, at its finest.

Library book. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Descent by Tim Johnston

3.6 out of 5 stars -- "People want to believe in some plan, or design, when all around them is the evidence that the whole world is nothing but dumb luck."

In the aftermath of a daughter's abduction, a father and his son -- the girl's younger brother who was injured during the kidnapping -- tentatively explore what it means to live without knowing what happened to her. Guilt and blame are in abundance as each deals with the trauma in his own way.

The cold, the snow, the mountains -- relentless in their remote beauty with miles of isolated areas where a girl could be kept or a body hidden for decades. After 2 years of pestering the local sheriff and his posse to keep searching, Grant lives in a borrowed cabin just to stay close to where Caitlin was taken. His wife has returned to Wisconsin having a series of breakdowns that further fracture their perilous marriage. Sean, having survived being hit by a car during the attack, is aimlessly driving around the country until he returns to his father to salvage what's left of their relationship. This is more a story of emotions and angst than it is a thriller or police procedural. Slow moving at times, the reader will continue to be compelled by the author's prose.

Thank you to NetGalley and Algonquin Books for the e-book ARC to review.

Friday, December 12, 2014

After We Fall by Emma Kavanagh

4.0 out of 5 stars -- Is it only after you fall that you can choose to rise again? Only a moment separates "after" from "before" when events or decisions change the outcome forever.

This is a very intense novel that deals with issues surrounding four people who experience different types of loss in a cataclysmic way. A plane crash. A murder. A woman escaping her son and husband. Secrets, infidelity and lies. The narrative shifts in point of view as each story is slowly revealed showing the pain of realizing that the relationships in life are what make or break you. Can a bad decision be overcome or are you meant to suffer the rest of your life? How well do you communicate with those you love or do you feel that ignoring the problem will allow you to continue on in a sort of purgatory? Illusions -- how well do really know those you love and what will you give up for them?

I enjoyed this although it was a bit confusing initially until all the characters were introduced. I can't say that I felt a lot of empathy for some, but I was definitely sympathetic to others. The universe is uncaring and life is capricious -- choosing to keep on going is very difficult sometimes especially when the direction is not known. I have seen this described as a psychological thriller, and I found it a little depressing, but I'd recommend it to anyone who likes realistic stories about people in unhappy circumstances.

I stayed up late reading this because I had to finish before I could sleep.

Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks for the e-book ARC to review.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Five by Ursula Archer

3.5 out of 5 stars - Police procedural set in Salzburg, Austria, features the team of Detective Inspectors Beatrice Kaspary and Florin Wenniger as they try to discover the perpetrator of some very gruesome murders.

The uniqueness of this thriller lies in the way that the constabulary are given clues -- the killer is leading them on a scavenger hunt using GPS coordinates and the hobby of geocaching. Referred to as the "owner" because he or she is placing items in the caches, the team tries to stay one step ahead of him as body parts keep turning up and one find leads to another. The victims don't seem to have any connection to each other and Beatrice becomes very frustrated as the police continue their round-the-clock, sometimes tedious, investigation. Meanwhile, Beatrice (of course)has a host of personal problems as is typical of crime fiction -- the messed up policewoman.

Although I found this very interesting because of the geocaching element, the thriller moves slowly, but the pacing seems to fit for this case. The revelations were interesting though it did seem to take a long time to get there and some dubious coincidences provide a few moments of eyebrow raising. I enjoyed the novel and would likely read another featuring this pair of detectives. I hope that the author doesn't plan for a romance between Beatrice and Florin and that Beatrice gets her personal act together.

TFTH - thanks for the hunt!

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for the e-book ARC to review.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Suffer by E E Borton

3.0 out of 5 stars -- What's a good friend to do?

Kate Freeman experiences the unimaginable (though it's described in vivid, grisly detail) when an intruder invades her home while she's there alone with her son, Caleb, as her husband Paul is out with his buddies on his boat. Left for dead, her once fantastic life is completely destroyed. When she wakes up in horrible condition, she has but one goal -- the burning desire for retribution and revenge. Kate will do anything she must do to find the perpetrator and she will use everyone to that end. But first, she needs to get stronger, build her fortress, and prepare to take back her life.

Although the premise was good, so much annoyed me. The characters were so unbelievable and predictable. The romance was lame. The scenario was unrealistic and, although I could totally understand the motivation, hard to imagine that all of those involved would act as described. It was an anxiety-provoking read, but again, required a lot of suspension of disbelief though I must admit I nodded my head at the climax. After all, as one of the characters points out -- if criminals saw THIS, crime would go way down.

I'd read another by this author as I like the chiller, thriller genre. Be prepared, it does have a lot of description of torture and other heinous acts.

Thank you to NetGalley and Amazon Publishing for the e-book to review.

From the Cradle by Louise Voss and Mark Edwards

4.0 out of 5 stars -- Fast-paced suspense thriller focusing on every parent's worst nightmare.

Child abduction. Kidnapping. These words send chills up the spine of any parent. In London, three couples are suffering after their children have been taken from them in very different ways. No ransom notes have been received. Detective Inspector Patrick Lennon catches this very delicate and complicated case. Who is taking these children and why?

Interracial couple Helen and Sean Philips went out to dinner leaving their 15-year-old Alice in charge of her 3 year-old sister, Frankie. When they arrive home, Alice is asleep and Frankie is gone! There are no signs of attempted entry and the couple is nearly crazed with guilt and grief. The other two couples of the missing children are also not faring well and the citizens are scared and anxious for DI Lennon to find the children and bring them home safely.

This was a very suspenseful read and I could not put the book down until I finished it. I've not read anything by this writing team before but definitely will look for other titles now. I hope to see more of DI Lennon in a future book. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who likes psychological thrillers.

Thank you to NetGalley and Amazon Publishing for the e-book to review.

Hanging Hill by Mo Hayder

3.8 out of 5 stars -- Standalone novel by Mo Hayder is complex and intricate with red herrings and multiple plot lines.

Two estranged sisters are drawn into misadventure and a harrowing set of situations when a teenager's body is found beaten and strangled along a canal tow path. Sally is a single mother, divorced, and finding herself desperately in need of money to support herself now that her lifestyle circumstances have changed. Zoe, a detective inspector with the police in Bath Central, is a tough and independent loner who has a hidden past that she is desperate to keep secret.

Lives collide when the investigation into the teenager's murder leads both women along a tangled and perilous path to a shocking revelation.

I love Mo Hayder and this author will be an "always read" for me. This wasn't quite as good as the series featuring Jack McCaffery, but I enjoyed it and would recommend it to fans of the thriller suspense genre.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Conversion by Katherine Howe

3 stars -- YA Novel

 Here's the deal -- I know exactly what "conversion" means so I already knew how this would play out, but despite that, I enjoyed the story. I have also read another of Katherine Howe's books (The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane) and Fever by Megan Abbott. I'm pretty familiar with hysteria and teenage girls.

This was my teen book club pick for this month and I'm eager to hear what they have to say about it -- not sure if they're aware of, or have read the other current books, but I know they have all been exposed to The Crucible in sophomore English class. Should be a fun discussion!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Flesh and Blood by Patricia Cornwell

4.0 out of 5 stars - Dr. Kay Scarpetta is on the trail of a serial sniper who kills targets from incredible distance. She and her husband, FBI profiler Benton Wesley, join Pete Marino  and Kay's niece, Lucy, to find this killer in a difficult case that has them perplexed. None of the victims are connected and there's not much evidence at the scene -- except for some copper fragments.

Since 1990, after I'd read her first book -- POSTMORTEM -- I've been a fan of Kay Scarpetta. I must say that the author has had her hits and misses as the series evolved over time and this one, #22, still has the science and forensic investigation that I've come to appreciate through the years. To me, Patricia Cornwell represents the genre -- well before I "knew" Temperance Brennan (BONES), I was in thrall to this type of crime fiction. I wanted to BE Kay and live her life. Then came all the personal drama, much of which I could have done without, because truly I don't really like all that -- I just want the crime(s), the science, and the closure of the case! I don't care about Benton or Lucy (sick to death of Lucy) or all their secretiveness -- just get on with whodunit and why. I like the medical details and all the interesting facts that Cornwell describes (sometimes too much information) in each book. I get impatient with all the relationship and personal issues. I don't care about what Kay is cooking. I understand that facts don't necessarily make a "story" but all Kay's dithering and self examination don't necessarily ramp up the suspense. Her books are full of action, and Kay definitely has lots of talent and skill in MANY areas, and I still tremendously enjoy the descriptions of the job of medical examiner.

I'll keep reading this series as long as Cornwell writes it. I hope future books will focus less on Kay and her messed up personal life and more on the cases. I did hate that this one ended in a cliffhanger...

Amazon Vine ARC

Deadlight Hall by Sarah Rayne

3.0 out of 5 stars -- Mystery surrounding a haunted house in England, the site of a series of unusual events and an old crime.

A paranormal story of Jewish children confined to a very unpleasant old house after being smuggled through the underground to England during World War II. Although they had initially been placed with families, Deadlight Hall became an isolation hospital when an epidemic of meningitis spread through the community just after Christmas one year. The story centers on the disappearance of two twin girls, Sophie and Susanna Reiss, who were thought to be sought by the Angel of Death himself, Dr. Joseph Mengele.

Many years later, Leo Rosendale, one of the children who escaped Germany with the twin girls, brings the story to his Oxford colleague, Michael Flint, when he hears that Deadlight Hall is to be converted to new living spaces. Leo feels the place is haunted by old ghosts who know what happened there, and he wants to know what, if anything, can be found about his twin friends. He has a little golem engraved with their initials and says that the girls had a matching one with his -- they had traded in a pact of reassurance of their friendship and the golem is a sort of relic that is understood to provide safety. Did the girls get taken by agents of Dr. Mengele or were they killed in the house? In a series of letters and other things that Leo and Michael find, tantalizing bits of detail emerge that deepen their concerns about the house and its previous inhabitants.

The narrative shifts back and forth in time and slowly builds suspense as the reader becomes involved in the mystery of what actually happened in that house. The conclusion is satisfying and somber -- a reminder of a time when there were good people in the midst of the horror that was World War II. I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys paranormal and stories about that time.

Thank you to NetGalley and Severn House for the e-book ARC to review.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Witch of Painted Sorrows by MJ Rose

Here's a perfect example of my reality not meeting my expections with a highly anticipated read. I could NOT wait to get my hands on this book. Received approval for it, and then had to wait until the placeholder file was replaced with the e-book. Set aside a Friday night to devote to devouring it.  The cover is absolutely stunning and tantalizing. Then, I opened it and started reading.

3.0 out of 5 stars - "Destiny is a result of our passion, be that for money, power or love."

Set in Paris in the 1890s, this supernatural Gothic romantic drama centers on a character's obsession with "art, sensuality, and the occult." Sandrine Verlaine Salome, married to an American banker, flees the USA for Paris when her beloved father dies because he discovers that Sandrine's husband, a scoundrel of the worst kind, has ruined him. Sandrine seeks shelter with her grandmother, a well-known courtesan, but soon stirs up a malevolent spirit from their family's past -- the great La Lune -- a legendary witch who seeks to possess Sandrine and commandeer her life.

Rich with details of Belle Epoque Paris and the sights and sounds of that incredible historical period, the story evokes somewhat frightening sensations of mysterious and strong occult phenomenon that require a great suspension of likely reality in the events that happen to Sandrine. The changes in Sandrine and the effects of the possession are quite fantastic and a reader not prepared for the transformative nature from a personality and force beyond the grave may find it all a bit much. The novel, well researched, describes the strange and wild underground that flourished during that time. Sandrine both embraces and fears the spirit that claims her as she falls in love with an architect and reaches for her personal destiny. As La Lune inexorably takes control, Sandrine finds herself achieving success with her newly found passion for painting and fulfillment as a woman in love. Which will prove the stronger and prevail - the woman who is Sandrine or the spirit of La Lune?

I loved 3 of MJ Rose's previous books that featured character Jac L'Etoile and the perfumery business. I was so eager for this upcoming release that I could hardly wait to finally get the book downloaded to read. After only the first few pages, I was disappointed. Sad. I just didn't care for the character of Sandrine and I never really bought into the story or felt any suspense. Anyone who has read my blog or reviews knows that I don't care for a lot of romance and I definitely am not a fan of erotica.

Mostly annoyed, I kept reading -- hoping that the Rose magic would weave its spell and make me believe in the possibility of the paranormal and the idea of a soul waiting for just the right person to come along. That never happened and I listlessly limped through the pages taking several days to finish a book I could have read in a couple of hours. I would guess that fans of Rose's reincarnation themes will still find this compelling and will want to be sure to read it, but my recommendation is ho hum -- this is definitely not my cup of tea (or absinthe) and though glad to have the chance to get a copy of the book, I'd leave a caution that a reader be in the mood for this type of book. I tend to be unable to suspend disbelief and found myself mostly irritated by Sandrine and what all happened with her. I'll definitely read other books by this author in the future, and hope that my reaction was a temporary derailment from my enjoyment of this genre. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for the e-book ARC to review.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Someone to Watch Over Me by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

3.5 out of 5 stars -- Set in Iceland, and the 5th in a series, this is the first one I read, completely out of order unfortunately. The series features a lawyer named Thóra Gudmundsdóttir who, aided by her live-in partner Matthew, is hired to find out who started a fire at a care facility for severely disabled young adults. The blaze resulted in the deaths of 5 people (4 patients and one security guard) and the convicted perpetrator, a young man with Down Syndrome who also lived there, was remanded to a Psychiatric Care Unit in lieu of prison. The person who is paying Thóra to investigate to see if Jakob is truly guilty, however, is another inmate at the PCU. What is his interest in this case and what secrets does he dangle to Thóra to get her involved in proving Jakob's innocence and finding the true arsonist/murderer?

In addition, there is a paranormal aspect in what initially seems to be an unrelated situation -- a haunting of a house near where a young woman was killed in a hit and run. How are these two cases connected -- or are they? And, in another twist, it seems that female residents who had lived in the care facility may have been raped -- more horrors wrapped up in another mystery.

This was a very complicated story involving many different people whose actions and motivations were hard to keep straight. I'd recommend reading it in as short of time as possible so you don't forget key points and characters as there is lot going on. The author withholds Thóra's "ah ha" moments at times, and the narrative moves slowly with lots of detail. The plight of the citizens of Iceland and the economic state of the nation is explored and the reader is confounded by the stigma of disability and how poorly they are cared for in Iceland.

Since I am not familiar with Thóra and her backstory, I really wanted to know more about her personal life. The main thing I noticed, however, was that she wasn't the typical damaged personality so common in crime/thriller fiction these days, but seemed a normal, mentally healthy woman, divorced with two children and a grandchild. I'd like to know more about her and I think it would have been better had I started with the first in the series and read to this point.

I am interested enough in Thóra that I will likely go seek out the previous books in this series. The setting and mood was very noir and interesting and I enjoyed it.

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for the e-book ARC to review.

NOTE: in this translation, the author uses Down's Syndrome to describe Jakob's disability instead of the more usual accepted label of Down Syndrome.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Underwater by Julia McDermott

3.0 out of 5 stars -- Candace Morgan, wealthy CEO of SlimZ, a company that makes shapewear, is living the dream -- she has a fabulous fiance and is about to reveal her latest development, SwimZ, in the fall shows. Unfortunately, there is a nightmare in her life and it's her brother, Monty. He's trying to extort her over a house she loaned him money to buy and renovate and is making her life miserable with his demands. Not only is Monty spoiled and lazy, he is a lying sociopath who will stop at nothing to get what he wants from his sister. Although Candace has been generous in the past, she's ready to cut him off. Monty gets more desperate to keep his secrets and obtain more money to support himself in the style he feels he deserves. Candace must stop Monty before he destroys her company, her reputation and his own wife and daughter.

This was an engaging read that kept my interest though I didn't really connect with any of the one-dimensional characters. The descriptions and details often read like an episode of the lives of the rich and famous. The dialog often didn't ring true, such as when fiance Rob uses the word "miscreant" several times to describe Monty. Candace is supposedly motivated to help her brother because of guilt, but that is never fully developed and she just ends up seeming a bit weak, instead of giving and generous, for all her business acumen. And definitely, I would never want to work for Candace, certainly too much of a micro-manager and extremely demanding! Regardless, the narrative zings along to a happily ever after conclusion despite some real tragedy that is fairly quickly glossed over. Fans of domestic drama and contemporary women's fiction would probably like this for a beach read, while traveling, or during commute.

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

A Vision of Fire by Gillian Anderson and Jeff Rovin

4.0 out of 5 stars - Science fiction meets metaphysical in this entertaining thriller co-authored by one of the stars of X-Files. The first in a proposed series, I enjoyed it and will definitely read the next one when it is available.

Psychologist Caitlin O’Hara, MD, PhD, is a single mom to a son with hearing problems and a job that requires her to jet off to third world countries or war-torn nations on very short notice. She has a busy practice, but is called to treat Maanik, the daughter of a UN ambassador, when the teen starts exhibiting strange behavior after an assassination attempt on her father as he is negotiating with Pakistan and India over a perilous situation in Kashmir. Maanik is just the first teenager to experience strange visions and Caitlin visits Haiti and Iran to try to figure out what is going on. In addition, animals such as rats and birds also are acting strangely. Does it have something to do with an artifact discovered close to Antarctica? Caitlin enlists the help of her friend, UN interpreter and linguistic expert Ben as they desperately try to save Maanik and perhaps change events that will affect every human on the planet.

Fast-paced and suspenseful, the action builds as the complicated story unfolds. There is sort of an unfinished feeling at the end of this book so readers who enjoy the book will most likely be waiting for the next episode and the conclusion -- which could end up being amazing!

Thank you to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for the e-book ARC to review.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Vines by Christopher Rice

4.0 out of 5 stars - Rage. Revenge. Vengeance.

This was the first of Christopher Rice's novels that I have read but it definitely won't be the last! I was hooked on the first page of this Southern Gothic horror thriller and the suspense continued to build throughout the narrative leading to a complicated and satisfying conclusion. I'll never look at gardens the same way again!

Caitlin Chaisson is the wealthy owner of the renovated mansion, Spring House, a former plantation once complete with cane fields and slave quarters that have now been replaced with sculpted gardens. Its had a rocky history and the blood previously shed there on the land cannot go unremembered. Caitlin is celebrating her birthday with a fabulous party when she discovers her husband cheating on her in the upstairs bathroom. Enraged and feeling the pang of betrayal because her best friend, Blake, had already warned her that her husband was unfaithful, Caitlin flees to the gazebo and cuts herself with a shard of glass -- spilling her blood onto the floorboards. This sets in motion a series of supernatural and monstrous events -- the vines and the bugs and the gruesome results bring the house's past to the present day. For who can control a rage unleashed? Along with other characters in the novel, Blake and Nova, the daughter of the house's caretaker, Willie, experience horrors that will never be believed as they try to explain what happened that night.

I think anyone who enjoys a fast paced horror story would like this book!

Thank you to NetGalley and  Amazon Publishingfor the e-book ARC to review.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Lisa Unger Novellas

This is a novella, the first of three in what is to be the HOLLOWS series. The "whispers" are the voices of the dead, "low and musical, eternal...telling their stories to the sky." Eloise Montgomery starts hearing the sounds and experiencing visions after recovering from a tragic accident that killed her husband and oldest daughter. The visions, which she tries to ignore at first, are of girls in danger. Eloise, still in the throes of horrible grief as she attempts to console her younger daughter who also survived, is initially not willing to act on what she perceives. She denies her inner psychic, but eventually the things she sees lead her to help those girls. Short and somewhat overwrought, this introduction sets the stage for what apparently will be two other novellas featuring Eloise. It was entertaining and a quick read and I intend to go read the second one, THE BURNING GIRL, immediately.
This sequel, the second in a planned trilogy of novellas originally titled the HOLLOWS, was a tremendous disappointment. I read it immediately after finishing THE WHISPERS and thought the story would continue as the reader learned more about Eloise Montgomery and her "gift" of psychic visions of girls in distress. This short piece, however, starts TEN YEARS later. Eloise is established as a working psychic, teamed up with now private investigator Ray Muldane (he was a cop in the first novella) and they work together to solve cases when possible. I use the word cases though most of the narrative involves only Eloise's feelings about having her visions and how hard it is for her, draining her dry and making her look old and haggard. We're introduced to an interesting character, THE BURNING GIRL, but that plot thread goes nowhere by the end. It was all very unsatisfying and now I doubt I even want to bother with the third in the series to see if there's any resolution and to find out who that girl is and what happened.

Thank you to NetGalley for both of these e-book ARCs to review

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

Was so eager to read this -- interesting premise but it did not live up to my expectations. The book is mainly about the afterlife and it did not keep my interest though I gamely read on until halfway through. It's not the book for me and I'm not going to finish it. I hope Li Lan gets her answers and gets rid of Lim Tian Ching! Too slow moving, too much description, and I really don't care for dream states and spiritual journeys in alternate reality. I'm sure it is tremendously appealing to anyone interested in those topics.

Library book.

Secrets of the Cancer-Slaying Superman by Benjamin Rubenstein

I accepted this book for review from the author and found it fast-paced and full of teen appeal. As a nurse and a high school librarian, I am always looking for high-interest nonfiction. I'm eager to hear what one of my 16-year-old male students has to say about it. The book was easy for me to understand because I am a registered nurse so I am curious as to how he and other teens will react to the clinical details and medical terminology. Some have weaker stomachs for that sort of thing than others!

I think the ability to cope and the style of coping is what makes or breaks a person. The author, diagnosed at age 16 with Ewing's Sarcoma, survived cancer, not once, but twice. Through the diagnostic process, the chemo and the radiation treatments, he found his way and helped himself through the grueling years by using the vision of the cancer slaying Superman and by distancing himself from the "sick kids." Amazingly, the second cancer didn't alter his method of facing everything he went through. What a journey to survival, not to be minimized.

Teens looking for a short and poignant memoir of a personal fight against cancer will enjoy this glimpse into the world of hospitals and sickness as seen through one boy's eyes.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

My Sister's Grave by Robert Dugoni

4.0 out of 5 stars -- Fast-paced crime/legal drama kept me hooked.

I enjoyed this story of Seattle homicide detective Tracy Crosswhite who is searching for answers about her sister, Sarah, who disappeared 20 years prior. When Sarah's body is finally discovered in Washington State's Cascade mountains near Tracy's hometown, she knows that the man who was convicted in Sarah's case might not be the one responsible for her murder. She wants to reopen the investigation into the case and hires an old friend, now a lawyer, to look into the legal situation and perhaps get a new trial. There are people in town, however, who want the truth to stay buried and who try to prevent secrets from coming to light.

I could not put this book down once I started. I liked the characters and the setting and would recommend this to any fan of this genre. Pure entertainment! I'll read more titles by this author.

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

Rooms by Lauren Oliver

3.0 out of 5 stars -- A dysfunctional family and an old country house with a couple of bitter ghosts.

I was disappointed in this slow moving narrative with multiple points of view and shifts back and forth in time. Confusing due to a lack of information and frustrating because the characters were all so unlikeable. It all comes together with the appropriate revelations but the payoff wasn't worth it to me. Nothing scary, didn't feel the "gothic", and must have missed the "mystery" in the story. The reader is introduced to the family and the ghosts in turn and each gives a bit of history in his/her voice in alternating chapters in a somewhat disjointed fashion. Just not the book for me though I had been looking forward to Oliver's adult fiction debut.

Nov 08, 2014

Friday, November 7, 2014

Living Proof by Kira Peikoff

4.0 out of 5 stars -- I love a fast-paced medical thriller with solid science and one that explores controversial subjects. In this case, the subject is embryonic stem cell research and religion.

Set in a not-too-distant future, 2027, the lines between church and state have dissolved making it a crime to destroy an embryo. A special police agency has been set up to track down and prosecute anyone in violation. The US Department of Embryo Preservation (USDEP) is vigilant and inspects all fertility clinics to monitor the doctors and the status of all embryos. In addition, any pregnant woman who so much as has a sip of champagne or skips a prenatal appointment, is fined heavily. It is the ultimate in pro-life protection mandated by law that is not hard to see coming to pass in our own present.

Dr. Arianna Drake, OBGYN fertility specialist, is trying to circumvent the system -- she has a personal reason -- rapidly advancing Multiple Sclerosis. She manipulates the numbers at her fertility clinic and is secretly diverting eggs to a private hidden lab where some scientists are working on the outlawed embryonic stem cell research in order to halt the progress of her disease. For, unlike adult stem cells, embryonic stem cells can be made to differentiate into ANY type of cell in the human body. The USDEP is suspicious of Arianna and sends an investigator undercover to gain her trust and expose her crimes. Trent Rowe is completely righteous and totally loyal to the strong christian values with which he was raised. Can he trick Ariana into revealing her illegal activities and put her in prison where she belongs?

This novel explores the power of religion and the debate surrounding embryonic stem cell research and the pro-life movement. I would suspect that anyone who has strong convictions regarding these topics would have a reaction to the premise and resolution in this novel. Definitely a hot button topic of a sensitive nature that tends to polarize people and would provide for some great discussion.

Library book

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Nine Years Gone by Chris Culver

3.0 out of 5 stars -- When the past you thought you'd safely hidden comes back to ruin your present...

Steve Hale is thoroughly enjoying his life with newly pregnant wife Katherine and his niece. Everything looks promising with his little family and career as a novelist when he gets a message from someone he should not be hearing from -- an old girlfriend, Tess. The thing is, Steve, his uncle, and his friends helped this girl out of a serious family problem 9 years ago -- they set up her wealthy stepfather, Dominique Girard, to take the blame for her "murder." Her reappearance could ruin everything if people find out she is still alive. But, in fact, Tess does intend to cause trouble -- in the worst way. She feels that Steve ruined her life and she wants it all back.

Although an intriguing premise, this suspense thriller operated on many implausible levels that defied belief. There were too many co-incidences and improbable behaviors and reactions considering the situation, and it finally all basically annoyed, rather than interested, me. I really didn't grow to like any of the characters who were one-dimensional and had nothing that engaged my empathy or concern. There was no moment when I didn't anticipate the actions of Steve despite that "go it alone against the arch psycho Tess" action that occurred. I'm not sure but I feel the author was trying to come up with some kind of convincing anti-hero in Steve and justifying what he and his cohort had done to "save" Tess earlier. I'm not even sure that Tess was reliable enough that I believe her account of what her stepfather actually did or didn't do. She LIES. It was all a muddle and I was just glad to get to the end.

This is the first book by this author that I have read. I might try another, but there were so many instances and small things in the book that he didn't portray accurately that I am not sure. Much of the narrative was "telling" and would go off on a tangent that wasn't relevant to anything and added none of the "local flavor" to the story. Enjoyable enough, but nothing I'd urge on another mystery thriller fan.

Thank you to NetGalley for the e-book ARC to review.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel

4.0 out of 5 stars - Crime drama set in Denmark

Note: this is part of the Louise Rick series and is not the first book. I had not read any of the others and the author is new to me. It works fine as a stand alone.

Detective Louise Rick is just starting her new job as head of the newly created Missing Persons Unit when she is called to a scene involving the discovery of a dead girl found in the woods. The problem is that no one has reported this victim missing. When identification procedures reveal that the girl - Lismette - "died" over 30 years ago, and that a death certificate for her was submitted at that time, Louise becomes involved in an investigation that brings her back to her hometown and the people she knew back then and thought she had escaped from. Bad memories.

In addition to tracking this missing girl back to a sanitarium for the mentally handicapped, closed years ago, Louise finds that there was also a twin sister who may also still be alive. She interviews those employees who worked there years ago as well as their relatives trying to find out what happened to these twins who had been put in the home as toddlers and supposedly had died. The revelations are shocking even as  any reader familiar with this genre anticipates and can predict where it is going.

I liked the writing style, it was engaging and fast-paced. Without knowing the history and back-story of the main character, Louise Rick, I did feel a bit lost at times when reading about Louise's personal life. I plan to seek out the other books in the series that have been translated to see what I might have missed. I really like to read books in series order, and I'm not sure even what number in the series this one is, but I believe there are two other titles available in English. Why can't publishers put numbers on the books to help out readers with this? I don't know but snippets about her "son", her best friend, her old boyfriend, her family and fortunately it wasn't that relevant to the action and forward movement of the plot, so that was just a minor annoyance. I'd read another. I liked the setting and the crime investigation and mystery were interesting.

Thank you to NetGalley and Grand Central Publishing for the e-book ARC to review.

The Marriage Game by Alison Weir

3.0 out of 5 stars -- Absolute and sovereign mistress of her people...

History tells us many facts about Elizabeth I so the reader is aware from the start that the Queen of England (1558 to 1603) ascended the throne at age 25 and died at age 69 having never married. Throughout her reign, her Privy Council and closest advisers, varied relatives, and friends urged her to marry and she steadfastly prevaricated, ultimately refused their counsel and presented herself as "The Virgin Queen." Though long the subject of debate regarding Elizabeth I being an actual virgin, it would seem that she believed that of herself if only in the most technical sense of the definition with rumor and speculation from several sources indicating that she had engaged in intimate relations just short of actual intercourse with Robert Dudley. The entirety of this novel focuses on that relationship and Elizabeth I entertaining proposals of marriage from the crowned heads and royalty of other countries arranged through her Privy Council. Defying convention, she ultimately refuses to share her throne while trying to preserve alliances and foster good relationships with Spain and France while fighting off the claims of Mary, Queen of Scots and her supporters.

I suppose that, although I've never been an Elizabeth I fan, I've always been fascinated by the Tudors. Unfortunately, this book does not present her in a favorable light. She is manipulative, capricious, and cruel, especially in her treatment of Lord Robert Dudley (her Robin) who gives up everything for her and to whom she lies again and again rewarding his loyalty and love with money, titles, and properties while continually turning down his suit of marriage. When people refuse to do what she wants, she punishes them. Jealous, mercurial, and vain -- she is a controlling mistress and an imperious Queen though she insists she loves her people more than any monarch ever has. Just not her man. Not enough to release him from a life of bending to her will. Though I know she presided over a time of relative peace and growth in her country, stopped the religious persecution after the bloody reign of her sister, Queen Mary, and forwarded the likes of William Shakespeare (they don't call it the Elizabethan Age for nothing), I am unsympathetic to her self-delusions because of the way she treated others who displeased her, did not meet her expectations, or fulfill her emotional needs. There is also the question of exactly why Elizabeth I seemed to be almost fearful of marital relations and childbearing and a hint of past sexual abuse though it is not substantiated.

I had to force myself to finish this book as the focus on the marriage games wore thin quickly. I find I much prefer reading a biography to historical fiction about such a well known figure. None can know the truth about things that were said to another in total privacy and speculation is only that. Primary source material was included here and it's obvious the author has done meticulous research on Elizabeth I, but this novel did not provide me with any new insight or further understanding of the true motivations behind her choice to live as she did, I would guess this book would appeal to those who like romance and want MORE details about the life of this unusual Queen.

Amazon Vine ARC.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Snow White Must Die by Nele Neuhaus

 3.0 out of 5 stars -- Something is extremely wrong in Altenhain...

This is the 4th book in the Kirchhoff and Bodenstein series, and the second one I've read -- out of order due to publication decisions in the USA after translation from the German. I must say I was disappointed. A police procedural, the narrative was overly complicated with shifts in viewpoint that made the complex drama irritating at times and confusing at best.

Tobias Sartorius is released from prison after serving 10 years for his conviction in the murder of two 17 year-old girls whom he had dated. Although the evidence was circumstantial and no bodies were ever found, he's done his time, and inexplicably returns to the scene of the crime, his hometown in Altenhain. He finds his former home and his father in ruins -- the family restaurant out of business and his mother gone after divorcing his father. Despite the fact that the townspeople have punished his family for Tobias's crime, he has nowhere else to go and sets about cleaning up the property. One gets the impression that Tobias is not guilty of those murders, but he had a blackout from drinking at the time and can't remember anything.

Meanwhile, Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver Bodenstein are called to the site of an attempted murder when a woman is pushed off a bridge into oncoming traffic. The woman happens to be Tobias's mother. Is this attack coincidental to Tobias's return? When Pia and Oliver start to investigate the circumstances in Altenhein, they can't find anyone there willing to talk with them. It's a hot mess of coverups and lies from there on out. The story just wraps around on itself with unbelievable con-incidences, contradictions, and ridiculous behavior of characters that defies belief. The motives of the almost completely nonredeemable cast are slim and convoluted and the reader has a lot of people to keep track of while trying to follow the story. Perhaps everyone in Altenhein has a reason to prevent the police from finding out what really happened, and why, way back in 1997. In addition, Oliver is having trouble at home with his wife and Pia faces eviction from her property.

I really didn't like any of the characters or the resolution of this mystery. I am debating whether or not I want to read another in this series -- it's just too much work and the payoff wasn't there.

Book borrowed from library. And, I did request THE ICE QUEEN from NetGalley and am waiting to hear for approval for the e-book ARC.

#5 A Nightingale Christmas Wish by Donna Douglas

4.0 out of 5 stars -- It's always a risk to love -- and there are no guarantees. But what a cost if one just walks away, never knowing what could have been...

Although this story had a lot more romance in it than nursing, I still enjoyed it. Set in London at the Nightingale Hospital right before England enters World War II, the student nurses and the Sisters we've grown to know and love in the past 4 books are facing new challenges as big changes loom for them and their beloved hospital. The books really need to be read in order to see the character development over time and to appreciate them fully.

Sister Frannie Wallace, who lost her fiance in WW I, is determine to avoid any romantic entanglements as she works on staging the Christmas show and tries to help a complicated family situation involving a father and his estranged son. Matron Kathleen Fox is dealing with the possible closure of the hospital if it comes to war as she faces a personal health issue of her own. Constance Tremayne, Chairwoman of the hospital board of Trustees and mother to Helen, is still manipulating things and confounding her daughter. Helen Dawson, whose husband died in hospital weeks after their wedding, is transferred from Theatre to Casualty and has to work with the irascible Dr. David McKay. Penny Willard, student nurse, has issues with an abusive boyfriend. Effie O'Hara, another student nurse and one of the O'Hara siblings, falls for a patient who is in thrall to a two-timing ex girlfriend.

Which of the girls will get their Christmas wish this year? Recommended to all who have enjoyed the stories of the Nightingale nurses. 

In order:
The Nightingale Girls (Nightingales)
The Nightingale Sisters (Nightingales)
The Nightingale Nurses (Nightingales)
Nightingales on Call

Thank you to the publisher for a copy of the digital e-book ARC to review.

Us: A Novel by David Nicholls

This is another one of those books that, once you've finished it, you want to let it simmer in your mind as you reflect on how it all affected you. Collect those reactions and try to write a review that can give a potential reader a reason to want to read it. That said, it's well worth reading. Usually I avoid those books that win prizes (call me rebellious), but I really did enjoy this one -- it both broke my heart and made me shake me head. Ah, family! Unhappy marriages are all unique in their own way...

Douglas Peterson is a scientist, typically a bit awkward socially, and he falls hard for Connie, an artsy type, that immediately appeared to me to be a bad choice of wife for him. Without having much in common, they marry and eventually have a son named Albie (nicknamed Egg???) who, when the book opens, is about to head off to study photography. Now this choice of career sort of offends his academic-minded father but bonds mother and son in a way that Douglas can't touch and he feels alienated. Especially when his wife announces that their marriage has run its course and she is "thinking" about leaving him. What?? With that shock, Douglas tries to plan a family trip -- last Grand Tour of some of the famous museums and sights of Europe, in order to somehow convince his family to come back to him. Just about everything goes wrong from the beginning and Douglas is out of his depth as both husband and father.

Although funny and poignant and hitting all those right notes of a very well written book, my problem with it was its central theme. Because I could not STAND Connie or Albie as characters, I couldn't understand why Douglas wanted them back. I found nothing redeemable in either mother or son, and that made it hard for me to accept Douglas's sincere and dogged mission. I thought both unlikeable and narcissistic (a little more understood by a teenager, but still) and actually was rooting for Douglas to see them both clearly and run away himself. The ending was a bit of a letdown because Douglas is a man I actually respected and totally felt empathy for despite his pedantic and sometimes righteous personality.

I'd recommend it to any book club as it provides a lot of material for discussion.
Amazon Vine ARC for review.

Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar

4.0 out of 5 stars "Hope is an unbreakable habit."

At the moment of finishing, I was overwhelmed by this book and needed to let all of the nuances and ramifications settle before I wrote a review. If I look at this as fiction, it is simply an amazingly good story -- but since I'm no literary historian, I can't speak to the veracity of this account of the lives of Virgina Woolf and her sister Vanessa. Wow.

This is not a fast paced narrative, but one that builds slowly with a crescendo simmering until it rises and crashes against a preconceived notion of what family means and how betrayal can destroy a relationship.

Vanessa is the older sister to Virginia Stephen Woolf and they live in Bloomsbury circa 1905 where they entertain the elitist intellectuals, writers, artists and acquaintances of their older brother, Julian Thoby, a Cambridge graduate and lawyer. Since they are orphans, they've adopted an unusual style of having friends over for evenings of discussion and passionate argument. Virginia is very attached to Vanessa, and this story is told in the form of diary entries and includes other forms of communication such as telegrams and replications of tickets and purchase orders. The reader sees a snapshot of their lives -- sometimes momentous things happen with little fanfare and the narrator isn't always as forthcoming with details as one would like. The author includes a cast of characters that is important because there are many people to keep track of -- all the famous names of the period.

Do you have a sister? I have 4 of them and I was quite aghast at the situation that develops between Vanessa and Virginia. I read other sources to get a few different points of view about the accuracy of the events described in this book and if true, I can say that I'm glad I didn't have a sister like Virginia. It's fairly well accepted that she did suffer mental illness but not much was known about effective treatment at the time and she definitely took a large piece of her loved ones with her when she committed suicide.

I enjoyed the novel and this view of the Stephen sisters in their everyday lives. I'd recommend it to anyone interested in a view of Virginia Woolf told from her sister's point of view.
Amazon Vine ARC and e-book courtesy of NetGalley and publisher for review.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Bliss House by Laura Benedict

Just in time for Halloween...
A haunted house and a decades-old mystery.

Rainey and her 14-year-old daughter, Ariel, return to Old Gate, Virginia and the beautiful Bliss House that has been in the family for generations. A multilevel mansion that evokes a bygone era, it seems to welcome and comfort Rainey in the aftermath of a horrible accident that left her husband dead and Ariel disfigured. After months of renovations, Rainey and Ariel host an open house, but disaster strikes. When a local real estate agent is found dead the morning after the party, detectives search for motive and opportunity. Though foul play is suspected, Ariel fails to reveal that she had "seen" a woman plummet from the balustrade while hiding upstairs out of view during the party. She also neglects to mention that she sees the ghost of her dead father, experiences frigid air currents and feels tugging and pushing, especially in the ballroom. Hmmm, the house is haunted? But who are the ghosts and what do they want? Ariel seeks hidden rooms and secret passages, determined to find out what's going on as the house seems to exert an influence of its own.

There's a lot going on in this book both in present day voices and then in a story line involving a girl from long ago. I was really engaged and entertained in the first part of the book as the characters are introduced, but by the halfway point, I'd really lost empathy and much of my interest in the rising action and the predictable climax. The characters are very one-dimensional and familiar to any readers of this genre, and I must say that the only one I wanted to know more about was THE HOUSE. I'd solved the "mystery" very early on, and though that really doesn't bother me so much, I just felt that there were dangling ends and a very tacked on "epilogue" that tried to wrap it all up after a long drawn out ghost and human interaction scene or two. I'd recommend it to anyone who loves reading about old houses and spirits! And, a reminder that it's a shame you can't choose your relatives!

Anyway, I liked this well enough and I thank Pegasus Books and its marketing director for the e-book ARC to review.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Bad Wolf by Nele Neuhaus

4.0 out of 5 stars - Suspenseful and complicated mystery provides chills and thrilling entertainment.

This was the first book I've read by this author, and is the second one to be released in English. Part of a popular series, this is actually apparently the 6th book featuring Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver von Bodenstein as German police detectives who work near the Taunus Mountain region north of Frankfurt.

The body of a young girl turns up in a local river and evidence indicates a history of long term physical and sexual abuse. No one has reported her missing, and the first step in this police procedural is to identify the victim. In alternating points of view, other plot lines are developed that indicate there is more to this body dump than first thought. The investigation becomes even more complex when the star of a popular local TV show, Hannah Herzmann is brutally attacked just when she was about to produce an expose of monumental proportions that involved a woman with multiple personality disorder who had been treated by Hannah's own therapist. It seems that some very powerful people might be running a child pornography ring and they will do anything to keep their secrets.

I could not put this book down and found many surprises along the way while reading this unpredictable thriller. I loved the setting and the characters -- I feel I must be missing something by reading out of order in the series, but this was very satisfactory as a stand alone. I highly recommend it and will definitely be reading SNOW WHITE MUST DIE shortly as well as the soon-to-be released English translation of THE ICE QUEEN.

Amazon Vine and NetGalley ARC

Monday, October 13, 2014

No Time To Die by Kira Peikoff

4.0 out of 5 stars - Medical thriller about a girl whose maturation and development stopped at age 14 and a group of scientists who protect her from government agents as they seek to discover the gene sequence that turns off aging.

Although a bit predictable to any reader of this genre, the story is fast paced and suspenseful. The main characters include the enigmatic hero, the dedicated scientist and the plucky, determined young girl (who was often a bit annoying) -- but I enjoyed the science and the story well enough. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes books such as those by Robin Cook, Michael Palmer, and other authors who write these types of novels. 
I'm looking forward to reading her first book, LIVING PROOF, and am waiting for the release of #3 due out in 2015 -- DIE AGAIN TOMORROW.
Book obtained from public library.

Ruin Falls by Jenny Milchman

2.0 out of 5 stars -- Road trip nightmare...

The Daniels family is taking a rare family vacation away from the Adirondack Mountains and decides on an unexpected overnight stay in a hotel room.

This was supposed to be a suspenseful thriller about a woman who wakes one morning to discover that her children are missing from their room. Worse yet, it's her husband who has taken them and who has also vanished. The police are unable to help because it is deemed a domestic issue rather than a crime. The family dynamics and relationships are completely dysfunctional and friendships are questionable.

From that premise, the narrative deteriorates into a whimpering mess of a frantic mother and the ridiculous notions of where the husband and children have gone and why. The mother, Liz, annoyed me from almost the first pages of the book and I never felt any empathy for her despite the author's efforts to make me feel her emotional pain and give a care. The villains were cardboard stereotypes whose motivations were never fully explored or explained. I was not drawn into the drama, and some scenes almost made me scoff out loud. The "deep secret" was not only completely predictable, but anticlimactic.

In short, I'd love to have back the couple of hours I wasted and would not have finished this book except that I had chosen it from Amazon Vine and thus had to read it to write a review. Skip it.

Amazon Vine ARC

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Hormone Factory by Saskia Goldschmidt

4.0 out of 5 stars

Why is it that successful, powerful men so often justify their betrayals and sexual misconduct while granting themselves extraordinary privileges as they ruin the lives of all around them?

Inspired by true events surrounding the family business of a meatpacking company that diverged into a hormone "factory" in Holland, this novel relates the research, development and marketing of a successful operation that gave the world important hormones such as insulin and later testosterone and the contraceptive pill. It's also the story of the men who were behind this meteoric rise to wealth and fame -- and how it affected their families and workers.

Twin brothers, Mordechai and Aaron De Paauw, inherited the family's meatpacking business and join forces with a brilliant German scientist, Rafael Levine, when they decide to create Farmacon -- a subsidiary laboratory dedicated to pharmaceutical products with potential for world wide distribution. The narrative from the point of view of the youngest twin, Mordechai -- the head of the company -- is told as he lies dying, the victim of a stroke that has left his body a shell but his mind still active.

Mordechai is a megalomaniac who wields his power with abandon and personal self-interest as he excuses his every heinous act with any type of justification. He's sexually reckless and immoral, faithless to his loyal wife and to his brother seeing only his immediate gratification. Impetuous and impatient, he treats his employees and Rafael as if they were serfs in his little kingdom. When Hitler's rise to power and subsequent war interferes with Mordechai's safety, he manipulates things so that he can retain his control while sacrificing nothing to hold on to his greed and desires. He's an awful man, without conscience or empathy, and cares little about the plight of the Jews who work for him or those who have helped him.

Will there be redemption for Mordechai on his deathbed? He's forced to watch from his hospital bed as his company is hit with scandal involving his only son. Powerless, unable to speak, and completely helpless, events finally spiral out of his control.

I really enjoyed this short but fascinating fiction that follows very closely the story of the twin brothers from Oss in Holland. I'd enthusiastically recommend it for book clubs and anyone interested in the history of hormone discovery during the years before World War II.

The Ugly Renaissance by Alexander Lee

4.0 out of 5 stars
" is only by appreciating the seamier, grittier side of the Renaissance that the extent of its cultural achievements really becomes clear."

Ah, what I never knew about life in Italy during the explosion of art, architecture, poetry, and literature that became known as the "rebirth" or Renaissance. What a time that must have been with social unrest, religious fervor and persecution, as well as an alarming political scene with murder and money seemingly the driving force behind the masterpieces created by some of the most famous names in art history. I found this book absolutely fascinating and must confess extremely enlightening. I'm sure anyone who majored in the arts studied this material in college, but since I was focused on science, I actually never knew much about the lives of the people who created these beautiful works. Thus, while reading, I had to have the internet handy to look up names and make the connections to events and references described in this book.

I thought the book's premise and supporting evidence well presented and I learned something new on nearly every page. The author's exhaustive research is documented and cross referenced and I liked the writer's style. Although I recognized most of the names of the significant people, I was fascinated by the sordid details that definitely took away the glamour that I had imagined existed in that world. I see those works in a completely different way now.

I'd highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the Renaissance period and think it would make for a great resource for art history. I will keep my copy handy as I make future visits to the art galleries I love to frequent now that I know the real story behind the masterpieces.
Amazon Vine and NetGalley e-book ARC to review.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Overdose by Glen Apseloff

3.0 out of 5 stars -- Mayhem and mystery...

Dr. Emily Morrison is the director of a clinical research lab that is undertaking a controversial study of a drug that is both contraceptive and possible abortefacient. The Dean of the College of Medicine, and Emily's boss, is less than supportive and not very appreciative of the millions of dollars that Emily's drug trials bring in and has made some decisions about the future of her program that propel Emily to consider a radical change in her plans and work. Personal problems complicate Emily's life as well -- she has just left her unfaithful husband, a cardiovascular surgeon at the hospital connected to the university. When a letter bomb mailed to her office nearly kills her secretary, Janice, Dr. Morrison suddenly finds herself in even more danger after one of the women in the drug study dies after taking the first pill AND Emily herself becomes the target of a killer. Why is all this happening? Seems a lot of people have a reason to want Emily dead.

Too much? Yes indeed -- the perils of Emily Morrison and her amazing ability to outwit the hired killer and escape death at every turn requires an over-the-top amount of suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader. What started out as an interesting thriller with great medical detail, increasingly became more incredulous as Emily puts herself in too many unbelievable scenarios. Of course she doesn't trust the good policeman, Lt. Michael Hammond, and refuses his offer of protection when she's threatened, and sets up her own trap to catch the bad guy. Needless to say, Emily is beyond wonderful in every way. Actually I never liked her character so really ended up not caring what happened to her. The other characters in the book were complete stereotypes and only in supportive roles to show what a superwoman Emily was and what she did over a period of a couple of days. Yeah, unreal. Medical doctor vs Navy SEAL. Who wins? Oh there's even more than that.

Would I read another of this author's books given how much I crave a good medical thriller? I don't know -- I really like the medical detail and the science stuff, so it's possible I might.

Thenk you to NetGalley and the publisher for the e-book to review.

Critical Condition by Richard Mabry

2.5 out 5 stars -- This is not really medical suspense but more a Christian-based mystery that happens to involve a doctor as one of the main characters (who also happens to be a preacher's daughter). If you don't mind the intense focus on religion, praying, contemplation and reflection of that type, then you might enjoy this book.

Dr. Shannon Frasier is a surgeon whose fiance died of a gunshot wound when she was a medical student, unable to save him. She has moved on somewhat but still has some psychological damage from the incident. Years later, another man is shot to death on her front lawn and again, she can't help him. When her sister, Megan, calls a short time later needing to escape an abusive boyfriend who is later found dead, Shannon's situation develops into a drama involving an old bank robbery. One of the partners seems to think that the man who died on Shannon's lawn said something to her about some hidden money so she might know where it can be found.

So, this is not a medical suspense novel about disease, drug companies run amok, crazy malpractice or any other topic usually found in the genre. The main character does go to work, and there are some details about the surgical procedures and medical aspects of her job, but not enough to sustain the interest of anyone who usually enjoys a novel that deals more with medically related chills. The focus is about a bank robbery and I never really felt any menace or suspense. There were no real thrills here though the author does try to ratchet up some tension. The characters were uninteresting and very ho hum and I just didn't really click with them. I doubt I'd read another book by this author, who is a medical doctor, as it didn't provide what I was looking for.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the e-book ARC to review.

Hush by Anne Frasier

3.0 out of 5 stars -- Lunatic killer stalking unwed mothers and their newborn baby boys...

Claudia Reynolds survived the Madonna Killer though he killed her newborn son and has been relocated with a new identity in St. Sebastian, Canada, when she gets a call from Superintendent Abraham Sinclair of the Chicago Police Department. When he asks her to come because "it has started again," Claudia, now known as Ivy Dunlap, knows she must go back and help to catch the man who destroyed her life and killed so many young women and babies. Chief Homicide Detective Max Irving is less than thrilled when Ivy comes to town to aid in the investigation. Though she now has a degree in criminal psychology, since Max does not know her history with the killer, Max is not exactly welcoming and has some personal issues that make him not want to bother with Ivy. His adopted son, Ethan, is 16 and testing the limits of parental control. Max, a single father, has more than enough on his plate as the Madonna killer strikes again and again.

Formulaic to the last shot, this was a fast and entertaining read though there were few surprises but a lot of bloody murders. The psychopath, the typical mother-hater, is twisted in the familiar way and the reader can predict the arc and climax of the story line. The characters will all be familiar to any reader of this genre. Enjoyable diversion for an evening.

Thank you to NetGalley and Belfrey Press for the e-book ARC to review. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Night of a Thousand Stars by Deanna Raybourn

3.0 out of 5 stars Romance and intrigue in 1920s Damascus

Poppy Hammond (March) escapes her wedding with the help of a curate who drives her away to her father's house in Devon. Though she has a reputation of not finishing anything she starts, Poppy yearns for a passion and for adventure. After a few days spent hiding from the scandal that ensued from jilting the groom at the altar, Poppy tries to find the curate and thank him for his help. When she's unable to find him, and learns that he was using a false name, she becomes convinced he's in trouble and is determined to track him down. This unbelievable premise sets the tone for the rest of the story, the fatuous plot and dialog, and the character development.

Readers will find the setting, and some of the characters from a previous book, City of Jasmine, familiar as Poppy travels to Damascus with her lady's maid in search of Sebastian Fox. Danger and intrigue, peril and murder -- the sands of the desert hold secrets and perhaps a hidden treasure.

The best part of the novel is the historical detail and descriptions of the cities and areas that Poppy and Sebastian visit. It's all sort of over-the-top and I just had to suspend my disbelief and go along for the travelogue. I'll continue to read this author's books as they are easy and entertaining.

Thank you to Harlequin and NetGalley for the e-book ARC to review.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Irene - #1 Verhoeven Trilogy by Pierre Lemaitre

4.0 out of 5 stars -- Grisly. Gory. Good.

If you're planning to read the Verhoeven Trilogy, wait for its release and read this one first! I made the mistake of reading ALEX and it spoiled much of the shock because I already knew the outcome. Sometimes it doesn't matter that much if you read out of order, but I wish I had read this book first. That said, get ready for chills and thrills in this action packed suspense thriller that grabs on and doesn't let go.

Police Commandant Camille Verhoeven is called to the scene of a very brutal homicide (lots of graphic details in this book so be forewarned) and finds a message: I AM BACK! After some initial investigation, and a call from a bookstore owner, the team finds that the serial killer may be staging scenes from classics in the crime fiction genre. The case becomes intense very quickly with tons of media attention and even a personal profile about Camille and his wife, Irene, who are expecting a baby. All the papers are demanding answers about unsolved murders from the past and worried about what this mad killer has planned next.

No more revelations about the plot, but know that it is fast paced and had me furiously flipping the pages racing toward the climax. I could not put this down until the very end. Even though I KNEW what was coming (mistakenly reading ALEX first - DO NOT DO IT), I was still caught up. I'd recommend it if you like psycho thriller chiller type of books with well-developed characters who are quite unique.

I can't wait for the conclusion to this trilogy and have no idea of release date or title.

Alex by Pierre Lemaitre

4.0 out of 5 stars -- Unpredictable and TWISTED!

STOP! If you are reading this review because you are interested in this book, do not make the same mistake I did and read it before reading IRENE, the first book in this trilogy. If you go ahead anyway, be forewarned, that you will be sorry later. Unfortunately, I thought this was the first book in the series, but in truth, it is the second. Now, having read both IRENE and ALEX, though out of order, I can say I would have enjoyed them even more had I read them the other way around.

Alex Prevost is enjoying a day of shopping and an evening of dining out in Paris. On her way home, she is kidnapped and taken to an abandoned structure where she is caged and hung from the ceiling. Who has taken her, and why does he want to "watch her die."

The unreliable witness to the abduction can only offer that the victim was beaten and taken off in a white van. Police Commandant Camille Verhoeven grudgingly takes up the case with little more to go on -- no one has been reported missing and the police have no idea who the abducted girl might be. As the team races against time to find Alex, they uncover interesting information that leads them to wonder if there is more to this than originally thought.

Fast-paced with twists and turns the reader can't anticipate, this is a very enjoyable and suspenseful read. Part thriller, part police procedural, it's well developed and complicated -- just when you think you know what's going on -- a surprise. The story leaves you will a few nagging questions and more than a few thoughts about good vs evil. People are much more complex than their actions. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes a dark story with some graphic content and some unique characters.

I can't wait to read the conclusion to this trilogy.

Amazon Vine ARC

Saturday, September 27, 2014

You by Caroline Kepnes

2.0 out of 5 stars - I am not the intended audience for this book and I did not like it at all.

The stalker's first person present tense voice and his intended victim were both just too crazy for me. The language was coarse and the sexual focus did not add to my appreciation of the story. I detested almost all the characters in the book, but most especially Joe and Beck -- in a way, I guess you could say they deserved each other. The book reminded me of American Psycho (which was better written) and I really don't care to read about sick perverts who get away with multiple murder. I don't understand all the positive reviews.

I can't think of anyone to recommend it to, and fortunately, I'll soon forget having read it.

E-book ARC was provided by NetGalley and Atria Books for purposes of review.