NetGalley Top Reviewer

NetGalley Top Reviewer
NetGalley Top Reviewer

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Stranger You Know by Jane Casey

4.0 out of 5 stars What makes someone become a serial killer?

This 4th book in the police procedural crime series teams DC Maeve Kerrigan with partner and superior DI Josh Derwent as they investigate the murders of three young, single women in different areas of London. When he becomes a suspect due to an event that happened when he was a teenager, Maeve is told to keep Derwent out of the loop. Unable to believe he could have committed the murders, and regardless of the fact that he is a misogynist very critical of the way she performs her duties, Maeve can't keep herself from enlisting his help even as the case against him builds despite the lack of evidence. This killer is clever and leaves no traces or any clues behind. The unsuspecting women must trust their killer and he or she seems to pick the victims well.

Evenly paced with great characters and dialog, the narrative moves along with plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. Although I only read the first book in this series, The Burning, I didn't feel lost though it was obvious that I did miss some of the development of relationships in between. The novel was very entertaining and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys witty repartee, cop buddy interaction, and a complex murder mystery that reaches a satisfying conclusion.

Titles of series, in order:
The Burning
The Reckoning
The Last Girl (Maeve Kerrigan Novels)
The Stranger You Know (Maeve Kerrigan Novels)

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

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Runner by Patrick Lee

4.0 out of 5 stars -- What if humans could reacquire the ability to read minds? From that point, what if scientists could find a way to control the minds of others? Now, that would certainly be useful -- to someone -- in our modern world.

Virtually every other reviewer has remarked on the fast-paced nature of this new thriller from author Patrick Lee -- so I advise that when you open the first pages that you allow yourself the time to read from cover to cover as you'll find it very hard to put down!

Sam Dryden knows heartache and loneliness; he's been in a state of inertia for years after the accidental death of his wife and daughter. Driven outdoors by his compulsion to run along the ocean boardwalk at night, he encounters a 12-year-old girl fleeing from some very determined men in hot pursuit. In a split second, the former Ranger and Delta force soldier makes a decision to help Rachel escape and they are off on an adventure that pits them against some very dangerous Department of Defense private contractors and the Molecular Biology Working Group. RNA-Interference Cohort, Knockout One One.

This novel was full of action and interesting (plausible?)science applications in the field of mind reading and mind control. I enjoyed the characters as well as their relationships and motivations. I've read Lee's other books and highly recommend this one to all who love a multi-layered story with very clear depictions of good and evil!

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

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Keeper by John Lescroart

3.0 out of 5 stars -- the latest in the series is an entertaining mystery that focuses on the collaboration between attorney Hardy and his long time friend turned investigator, ex cop Abe Glitsky, as they delve into the case of a missing woman and corruption at the local jail. The body of the woman, wife of jail guard Hal Chase, is found in a wooded clearing close to the family home and Hal is arrested. But the homicide isn't going to be closed that easily -- and the team is off and running, chasing down clues and trying to find evidence.

Although I knew who the murderer was almost instantly (a side effect of reading hundreds of books in this genre), the evolving story was paced well with plenty of red herrings. The partnership of Dismas and Abe has developed over the long series and the characters are well drawn and complex. Their interaction is spiked with humor but their respect for each other is evident.

I enjoy the series and fans will want to devour this latest book!

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

Thursday, April 24, 2014

I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

5.0 out of 5 stars  

An amazing suspense thriller with an unforgettable character. It screams "blockbuster movie" and I simply could not put it down though I paced myself so I could make the pleasure last longer. It is one of the best I've read in ages! I had about given up on this genre, but this book managed to lure me back and to remind me of how much I had once loved it.

Readers will be glued to the pages in this race against time -- can Pilgrim find the lone man intent on destroying America with a scheme so heinous, and with a 100% kill rate, that is about to be unleashed on innocent people? Sent on a globe-trotting covert mission to find and stop this threat, Pilgrim seeks answers from the scant information he has and the few clues he is able to find. What does the "perfect murder" in a sleazy US hotel have to do with an "accidental death" in Bodrum, Turkey? The only key may be a tenuous connection between a book and a very radical Islamist.

I will be recommending this to everyone who loves heart-stopping action without the inclusion of a ridiculous romance, a smart-mouthed sidekick, or a trusty animal. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Atria/Emily Bestler publishers for the e-book ARC to review.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

4.5 out of 5 stars -- "Language comes from what we've seen, touched, loved, lost...We want to verify with others what we seem to perceive."

I thought this book was brilliant though I realize that it is not for everyone. I've noticed from reading other reviews that people seem to have loved it or hated it -- many rated it without actually finishing more than a couple of chapters. I loved it because I love words -- those that I hear, speak, or write. Vocabulary fascinates me and I always have a dictionary close - and it really got a workout while I was immersed in this imaginative tale involving an epidemic of "word flu" -- a condition wherein victims can no longer communicate appropriately in their native language; the "virus" is initially most severe in the USA. Speech is garbled and words are nonsense. People cannot be understood as made up words spontaneously erupt and other words simply disappear or suddenly have new meanings or definitions.

In the not-so-distant future, the entire world is dependent on handheld devices called Memes. These digital marvels can anticipate almost every need and citizens have become quite attached to them. In fact, most people don't have to remember anything, even everyday words, because the Word Exchange can give a word to use and a definition whenever necessary in a barrage of texting, messaging or beaming. Books, letters, photographs, maps -- printed material of all kinds -- have slowly disappeared. Even paper and the act of writing on it have become nearly obsolete.

There are only a few holdouts trying to prevent further obsolescence. Anana Johnson works with her father, Doug, who is the Chief Editor for the North American Dictionary of the English Language (NADEL) in New York. One night, right before launch of the latest and last print edition, Doug disappears. Frantic to find him from strange clues he left behind, Ana embarks on a harrowing mission just as the language virus hits. Her search leads her to a secret society, puts her life in danger, and forces her to confront the nature of being human.

Set in the near future, this dystopian novel takes aim at our increasing dependence on technology and serves as a warning that we perhaps ought not to rely so much on our devices to meet our every need but should instead focus more on conversation, thinking and reading. Turn off the constant contact with meaningless data, learn multiple languages take a break from being "plugged in" -- a least for a couple of hours a day!

I really enjoyed this story concept and allowed myself to suspend disbelief when the science was shaky (re: the "virus") and just went along for the ride. It's fiction and an author is always allowed liberties! This would be an excellent choice for a book club as there are many great points to discuss and debate. I'd recommend it to all those who love linguistics and their dictionaries! 

A comment about format: When reading this book on a Kindle device you may have difficulty following the footnotes.

Lastly -- this book reminded me of a series written by Jasper Fforde -- the THURSDAY NEXT novels -- which I also enjoyed immensely.

The titles of the series are:
Thank you to NetGalley and Doubleday for the e-book ARC to review. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

No Safe House by Linwood Barclay

Well, I was wrong about this one. I've read every book Barclay has written and my favorite is NO TIME FOR GOODBYE. When I realized that this suspense thriller was going to revisit those characters, I was more than hesitant to read it because I really am tired of sequels and series and, honestly, I was done with the Archer story. Fortunately, I won this book as a First Reads giveaway and decided that I'd go ahead and give it a try. I'm very glad I did because this novel was a very entertaining roller coaster ride that hooked me quickly and didn't let go. Although many of the characters are those from that other novel I loved, the story told here is capable of being a standalone and involves the Archer family in another brush with an acquaintance who is basically a criminal but who had, once upon a time, done them a good turn that prevented a family tragedy.

The action doesn't let up and each chapter switches between characters and events as the reader becomes entangled in a convoluted plot that, at times, can be confusing. Barclay does a really excellent job writing about the average family man who is called upon to do unconventional -- and can we say: illegal -- maneuvers with an unsavory partner in order to save his daughter from peril. Terry Archer is a high school English teacher who usually wants to do the right thing and stay out of trouble. This time, however, his 14-year-old daughter has become embroiled in a situation that will have huge repercussions if the police become involved. Despite the fact that I find the daughter, Grace, to be extremely unlikeable, I do understand a parent who wants to protect his daughter. Wife Cynthia is also a bit of an unsympathetic mess, but a man does what he has to do, right?

I think readers will enjoy this return to Milford and the reconnection with these characters in a "wicked-good story" where the lines between good and evil are a little bit blurred.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Secret History by Stephanie Thornton

4.0 out of 5 stars - This historical fiction novel recounts the rise of a young, homeless street urchin to the throne as Empress Theodora circa 500 AD.

Theodora and her 2 sisters, along with their mother, are put out on the mean streets of Constantinople when their father and husband dies suddenly. Too young and too unskilled to find any work, the two older sisters leave their drunken mother and find the only money they can earn is on the boards at a local theater where the women perform for men of all rank and power both on and off the stage. Faced with many trials, betrayals and disappointments, Theodora does whatever she needs to do to survive -- forming alliances here and there --  using her resilience and determination to drag herself out of situations that almost break her spirit. Basically considered a whore, though a very popular one, Theodora attracts the one man who just possibly might be the one to save her. Faced with treachery and secrecy. often unable to trust those closest to her, Theodora earns the respect and adoration of her Emperor and has the opportunity to take the ultimate step -- to accept the crown.

Told in the first person, the story of Theodora's triumphs and the agony of her defeats, is filled with the sights and sounds of Byzantine life in what was basically the most important city in the Empire at that time. The colors, the jewels, the fabrics, and the food were described in great detail. The reader could see the famous palaces and architecture vs the small moldy rooms and tavernas, and feel the contrast between the plebeian and the patrician society. I love the kind of book that can make a reader feel present in the time and setting.

Other reviewers have remarked that everything in the book is not completely accurate and -- it was not meant to be -- thus is not a biography, but historical fiction with some liberty taken by the author (as she explains in an afterward). I enjoyed it very much and would recommend it to anyone interested in this era with all its political and religious intrigue, its passion, and its extreme privilege that unimaginable wealth provides. Rich with description and with characters to love and hate, it's a great read that I couldn't put down until I finished it.

Library book - paperback format.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

3.0 out of 5 stars YA with a hint of sci-fi, a report of time travel and a forbidden love.

Prenna travels back in time from a future world where millions have died from the plague as the result of politics and environmental meltdown. Ethan sees Prenna when she appears in front of him while he is fishing by a local creek and instantly falls in love.

But they cannot be together, for Prenna is part of a secret community that has developed rules so as not to interfere with the current time natives. The main rule is that members cannot fall in love or be intimate with anyone outside their enclave. But Prenna, age 17, and her classmate, Ethan, bond during a shared class in high school and find themselves drawn into a plan to save the world on May 17, 2014.

Very predictable with stereotypical one-dimensional characters, this novel seems to be the start of a series. The action and developing plot requires a great deal of suspension of disbelief. With themes of loss and identity that are never fully developed, Prenna's past life is only hinted at and the full reasons for the community's return to circa 2014 are not adequately explained enough to make it all believable. The narrative includes some political posturing and attempts moralistic commentary on the lifestyles and habits of contemporary society.

I'll see what the teens think of this one but I'm not likely to read the follow up. I'm pretty sure I know how it's all going to end.

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Children's for the e-book ARC to review.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Empress of the Night by Eva Stachniak

3.5  out of 5 stars A woman with the strength and a dream to bring the "greatest happiness to the greatest numbers.", April 11, 2014

In this follow-up to her sumptuous novel, The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great, author Eva Stachniak takes us back to Russia and Catherine the Great as the Empress reflects on her life in a first person account as she lies dying after suffering a massive stroke.

Any historical fiction novel relies heavily on extensive research into the subject and it's evident that much effort has been made to recreate the details that make a reader see the sights, hear the sounds of Russian life, smell the odors (pleasant and unpleasant), taste the food, and almost feel the textures of the cloth and furs. I could close my eyes sometimes and imagine I was actually there next to Catherine as she interacted with her family, lovers, favorites, courtiers and enemies. Her life story is full of triumphs and defeats, both on a personal level and a national one. She was an amazing woman, a strong leader, and an incredible visionary at a time when men thought themselves superior and more fit to rule great countries.

I was most grateful for the list of the cast of characters provided by the author as there are many similar names and sometimes it was hard to keep everyone straight. The shifts from present tense to Catherine's reminiscing about her life were often confusing.

I did enjoy both novels and suggest that they be read in order.

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group - Bantam Dell for the e-book ARC to review.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Cruise by Suzanne Vermeer

2.0 out of 5 stars - Secrets and betrayal...

Predictable and full of stereotypes and cliches, this translation falls short of being a suspense thriller. Though there are a lot of contrived and unbelievable action scenes, the protagonist spends a lot of time with her own repetitive rhetorical self-questioning and angsting which leads to reader annoyance.

Helen and Frank are on a 15th anniversary luxury cruise when he disappears. Helen is bereft and heartbroken. Despite an exhaustive search, authorities are unable to find Helen's missing husband and he is presumed dead. Through Frank's company attorney, Helen learns that Frank has led a double life and the shocking discoveries keep coming. Helen, naturally, goes off to investigate these developments on her own and gets herself into some unbelievable predicaments and peril. The conclusion is completely pat and unsatisfying.

This is one to miss -- way too much "telling" in the writing and though it was a quick read (I read it over a couple of hours), I found myself just wanting to finish and be done with all the characters and the lame plot.

Thank you to NetGalley and Open Road Integrated Media for sending along the e-book ARC to review. I'll likely not read another by this author.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Tempting Fate by Jane Green

3.0 out of 5 stars - Marriage and Family -- making it work requires lots of choices.

You know the feeling, when you want to scream at the character -- "DON'T DO IT!" That's the main reaction I had to this story about mid-life crisis, motherhood, marriage, family, friendship, adultery and betrayal. It reads like a lifetime movie and features Gabby, a 43-year-old supposedly happily married protagonist who goes off the rails one night when a good looking man, about 10 years younger, flirts with her at a bar when she's with friends on a Ladies Night Out. That's when the obsession and her troubles begin.

I really couldn't relate to any of the poor decisions that Gabby made and found her to be supremely narcissistic so did not work up any empathy for how she found herself in the resulting situations and fallout. Truly, I wasn't sure why anyone in the book found her so fascinating - so the whole plot was a bit unbelievable even as it was totally predictable for this genre.

I'm sure those who love women's fiction and/or chick lit will find some redeeming qualities in this story that tackles a lot of huge issues for contemporary wives and mothers. The ending was as expected. No doubt it will provide sufficient topics for a book group discussion and that may be a saving grace for sales and marketing.

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