NetGalley Top Reviewer

NetGalley Top Reviewer
NetGalley Top Reviewer

Monday, March 31, 2014

Close your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian

5 out of 5 stars - Superbly written and hauntingly poignant, this novel is destined to become a modern day classic with a character who is authentic, vulnerable, and so honest that it will make a reader's heart ache with the desire to protect her. Shelter her. Save her.

Emily Shepard was 16-years-old the day Reactor Number One exploded on the second to the last day of her junior year of high school at Reddington Academy. She and her parents, who both worked at the nuclear power plant nearby on Cape Abenaki, lived comfortably there in Reddington, Vermont -- also known as the Northeast Kingdom. On the morning of the meltdown, Emily ran away from the temporary evacuation site where all the students had been bussed to wait until parents and guardians would come to retrieve them from a safe zone. What follows is her tale of life basically alone on the streets -- for her mother and father are surely dead. And, what's even worse -- her father is being blamed for the disaster.  Afraid to reveal who she really is, and teetering on the edge of emotional breakdown, Emily lives mostly inside her head remembering the poems of her much-loved favorite poet, Emily Dickinson, as a relatable gauge of her emotions. She's always been impulsive and had been in trouble before because of her poor judgment, but now she has to stay alive in a world so different from her previous life "waffling between suicide and survival."

I loved this book and feel that it will be very appealing to all ages, especially young adults, because the heroine is so believable -- not superhuman but real. The story is one that could have come straight from recent headlines (Fukushima) and will linger as a reminder that "radioactivity lasts as long as the soul." The title serves as both a precaution and a leap of faith. I'll be recommending this novel to everyone.

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

Saturday, March 29, 2014

That Night by Chevy Stevens

3.0 out of 5 stars - "When you're searching for the truth, you have to be willing to look at everything. You can't blame yourself for something someone else chose."

Toni Murphy's story begins with her release from prison at age 34 after being incarcerated 16 years for murdering her younger sister Nicole. The narrative is told in flashback style alternating between present day and her senior year at Woodbridge High, Campbell River in 1996. Toni has changed in prison because she has done hard time for a crime she still claims she didn't commit. When finally released on parole after spending almost half her life behind bars, she is an angry woman, determined to reclaim her life and prove her innocence. She's prevented by conditions of her probation from contacting her former love and co-defendant, bad boy Ryan Walker, so she focuses on efforts to find a place to live and a job as she tries to assimilate into life on the outside. But her drive to bring the real killers to justice results in violations of her parole after she decides to return to her hometown to confront those she (and the reader) knows are guilty.

Things always go from bad to worse for Toni, and she's not really a likeable protagonist. There are few surprises as the story unfolds -- it's just a matter of the journey to a predicted confrontation and finale. I kept reading just to see how the author would tie up all the ends and explain the details of what exactly happened that night and why. Most of the supporting characters are stereotypical and one-dimensional and it was hard to work up much enthusiasm for what seemed a foregone conclusion.

I've read all of author Chevy Stevens's books and STILL MISSING is still my favorite and the only one that really had a twist I didn't see coming. This is a departure from the 3 previous novels that were all tied together by one recurring character, and I'm certain that fans will want to read this new one though it is not exactly a suspenseful thriller.

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

The Quick by Lauren Owen

2.0 out of 5 stars -- I love historical fiction with gothic overtones set in Victorian England so I was happy to receive this book as an advance reader's copy and eager to immerse myself in what was described as a mystery. A young Oxford educated man disappears and his sister comes to London looking for him. What I did not anticipate was that the book was about the undead -- vampires -- a secret society. It was full of grisly detail and sometimes hard to follow the story with changing point of view narrative. I longed for it to just be over though it seemed as if it took months to labor to the ending. Honestly, I can't think of a single person to recommend it to so I'll just say that it was my own mistake for not investigating the details about this novel before I chose it. Those who will enjoy this debut no doubt will be forewarned of the underlying theme and want to read this type of book.

I received a complimentary copy from NetGalley and LibraryThing.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz

5 out of 5 stars - "If a woman chooses the wrong person, he was always going to be the wrong person: that was all."

I loved this book, which surprises me because it's not typically the type of novel that strikes me -- a fan of suspense thrillers and historical fiction. The incredible power of this book comes from the voice of its protagonist in an almost stream of consciousness narration that grabs and holds the reader in thrall until the very end. I found myself marking up the pages, highlighting the passages that I'll be thinking about for days to come and will long to talk about with fellow bookish friends.

Grace Reinhart Sachs had it all -- a flourishing therapy practice focused on relationships with a book about to be published, a loving husband who worked as a pediatric oncologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, and an adorable son named Henry. Until the day she didn't ...when her whole world came crashing down in the wake of something that she had never intuited nor had foreseen.

To say more about the nature of the plot and the revelations would spoil the read, so I'll just leave this by saying that I'd recommend this to any book club -- though a common tale of "love gone wrong" and certainly one of secrets and lies - it felt new and unique because Grace had to be drug kicking and screaming to the truth. How can anyone be so blind? Well, it's often said that we see what we want and hope to see and "doubt can be a gift." But when the truth comes to light, how you handle it makes you into the person who survives or who doesn't.

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

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Apocalypse (#3) by Dean Crawford

3.0 out of 5 stars - "Time will tell..."

If you're in the mood for action and adventure featuring a team that is almost superhuman in their abilities and skills then this is the book for you! Although this is the third in a series featuring ex Marine and former journalist Ethan Warner and his partner, Nicola Lopez, the novel stands alone as a science fiction suspense thriller that deals with topics ranging from black holes to foretelling the future.

The Defense Intelligence Agency whisks bail-bondsmen Ethan and Nicola from Chicago to a house in Coral Gables, Florida, to the Bahamas, to the Dominican Republic, to super secret high clearance facilities, to a hidden research center on the ocean floor. Who or what are they pursuing? A maniacal billionaire who thinks he has found the way to control time - world famous philanthropist Joaquin Abell who has a diabolical scheme to bend his ability to see into the future into something that may not exactly be in the best interests of mankind.

While they survive incredible predicaments and perils, you'll have to use all of your ability to suspend disbelief as Ethan and Nicola try to save the world! Many action sequences, brain twisting scientific explanations (I can't speak at all about the physics involved here with any degree of authority), and amazing skills will keep the reader turning the pages as quickly as possible to get to the end of this adventure.

Thank you to NetGalley and Touchstone for the e-book ARC to review.
Other books in this series:
Covenant: A Novel
Immortal: A Novel
The Chimera Secret

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Fever by Megan Abbott

3.0 out of 5 stars - YA fiction centering on a mysterious illness that affects many teenaged girls one late winter in Dryden, a small town known as the "cloudiest city" in an unnamed state in present day USA.

Deenie Nash, younger sister to Eli and daughter of teacher Tom Nash, has two best friends -- Lise and Gabby. They're inseparable most of the time experiencing the day to day drama of high school life, the lure of awakening sexuality, and all of the temptations offered by other typical teenage experimentation and interaction.

The unusual events start with Lise - she has a seizure at school one morning and is subsequently hospitalized in the intensive care unit. Her condition worsens while other girls, including Gabby, start to fall victim to a similar illness. Panic ensues among the parents of the girls, the school administrators, and the townspeople as the CDC and the health department are called in to investigate the nature of this epidemic. Is it due to the HPV injections that the girls were required to receive? Or could this be the result of some kind of contamination in the local lake or the ground water? Perhaps the causative agent is in the air or in the school building or in the soil? The community reaction is mainly FEAR. As parents worry that their child will be the next to become ill, hidden desires and feelings are revealed that change the direction of the investigation and bring resolution, although in this case it is quite anticlimactic after all.

The narrative is told in changing points of view and this allows the reader to see how various relationships between some of the main characters make the truth hard to find. For it is always going to be true that it is very difficult to KNOW another person completely and that many can keep some very big secrets. I imagine this novel will appeal to its targeted audience of teenaged girls and young adults, but I was a bit put off by some of the not so subtle political and biased messages in the story. I'll leave readers to come to their own conclusions about some of the controversial issues.

I'd recommend it to a teen book club as there are many topics that would generate great discussion. 

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

The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak

4.0 out of 5 stars - "Some dreams... cannot be abandoned without losing part of your soul."

Fascinating historical fiction describing the turbulent times in Russia with Empress Elizabeth on the throne and young Princess Sophie, aged 14, newly arrived from Germany circa 1743-1764.The court is seen and described through the eyes of a young bookbinder's daughter who later becomes a "tongue" and companion for the frail child who ultimately secures the Russian throne as Catherine the Great.

Eager to start the sequel. Mostly inspired to read these books because of the recent Olympics events in Russia. Seeing the beautiful countryside and the grand palaces made me curious and inspired, once again, the researcher in me. I loved the details about life at court and the descriptions of the palace and customs.