NetGalley Top Reviewer

NetGalley Top Reviewer
NetGalley Top Reviewer

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Daughter of the Gods by Stephanie Thornton

4.0 out of 5 stars - "Egypt will prosper, but those closest to you shall find only anguish and ruin."

This fascinating historical fiction account of the life and reign of Hatshepsut circa 1400s Egypt is rich in detail and demonstrates the author's meticulous research into a woman who would be Pharaoh. Although liberties are certainly taken with descriptions of family strife and the romance between Hatshepsut and the commoner Senenmut, the tale is rife with interesting glimpses into the social customs, religion and habits of those who lived in that period of time in the rich Nile River valley Kingdom.

I loved reading about the clothes, the food, the jewelry -- it was interesting that Hatshepsut shaved her head to wear the required wig and even had to put on a fake beard when appearing before her subjects in official capacity at times. That many had teeth worn to nubs because of the constant presence of sand even in the bread. I could almost feel the press of the relentless sun and heat in the daytime hours, and the relative coolness of the nighttime with a slight breeze wafting off the river that both gave and took life. I could see the crocodiles lazing about the banks of the Nile and appreciate the gloriousness of the shining gold and solid granite in the monuments, obelisks, palaces and temples. This type of description absolutely hooks me and I always want more of it! I would have LOVED to see a map illustrating this place during the years that Hatshepsut and family ruled the Horus Throne.

What didn't enthrall me? The romance. The "plucky" Hatshepsut at times seemed to make completely stupid decisions and choices. The development, or lack thereof, of the secondary characters. The constant reference to the many, many gods and the various names and forms of them. I realize that the ancient Egyptians had a fixation on their gods and made sacrifices and attributed everything in their lives to the gods they worshiped, but it seemed sometimes redundant how much of the book was about pleasing the gods, signs from the gods, the afterlife, spirits, etc. I'm sure it's just my own personal reaction and that other readers might not find it as irritating.

I did enjoy the book and I'd recommend it to anyone interested in how a second daughter of Pharaoh Thutmose came to such an unprecedented level of power, to become Pharaoh herself, and to bring a great time of prosperity to both Upper and Lower Egypt. Once again, this book brought out the researcher in me as I try to separate fact from fiction.

Oh -- I LOVE the look of the cover art chosen for this book. I'm a sucker for realistic depictions of characters on the front of a book -- only wish that I would have seen the kohl and the henna as described in the novel instead of the way Hatshepsut is shown without any of that.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Distance by Helen Giltrow

4.0 out of 5 stars Intricate plotting will intrigue thriller fans...

Who is Charlotte Alton? To most in London, she's a wealthy socialite seen at all the right parties, the theater and other functions. Behind the closed doors of her high security apartment, however, she's Karla -- and in that persona is extremely involved in the keeping of secrets and exchange of information. She's not afraid of the hard stuff - and ignores the question of right and wrong - as long as the client is vetted and the money is paid. She's been able to keep her double life hidden from those who hire or work on a case for her, except for one man to whom she shows her face. Simon Johanssen, a past client, has come to her with a case she can't refuse -- he needs to get into a high security experimental prison to kill a woman on the inside. Despite her ability to ferret out information, Karla can't seem to find anything about Catherine Gallagher and the reason the hit was ordered. Despite her concerns, she sets up the scenario for Johanssen and meanwhile tries to cover him and make sure that this is not a set up because Johanssen made a critical error in the past that someone wants him to pay for.

The narrative is told in several points of view and proceeds through the ensuing days of the mission with revelations and chills coming with every turn of the page. The tension builds as things start to unravel and Karla must insert herself into the operation to save this client. Who can she trust or is everyone involved acting with other motives? What is really going on? At times the complicated separate points become confusing and the reader definitely can't predict the twists and turns the story line takes, but it all comes together in slow reveals of deftly woven threads to create a satisfying conclusion that answers most of the questions. I can see where a sequel would follow.

If you like a good thriller without a sappy romance, if you don't mind quite a bit of descriptive violence, and if you want a unique female protagonist, then this is a book you can really sink your thinking mind into. I enjoyed it immensely and would recommend it. I also suggest you read it over the shortest period of time you can manage in order to keep all the characters and action straight!

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

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain

 3 out of 5 stars - "Everyone has a scar."

Riley MacPherson returns to her childhood home to clear out the house and settle the estate of her recently deceased father. Her brother, Danny, injured in Iraq and living in a trailer on the fringe of the RV park the family owns, refuses to help her. He's embittered and angry because of the fallout from their sister's suicide when he and Riley were children and he never got over it. All Riley wants to do is have a relationship with her brother now that the two are orphaned and alone. But, she discovers that her father was keeping s very huge secret.

Fans of women's fiction centering on family drama will be the likely readers of this newest novel by author Diane Chamberlain. I've read every single one of her books and keep hoping for one that takes me back to the thrill and satisfaction I felt when reading THE SECRET LIFE OF CEE CEE WILKES. I keep waiting for an intense relationship story and some real intrigue and mystery, but this book is lacking both. The tale is contrived, melodramatic, predictable and filled with what I felt to be completely one-dimensional unlikeable characters. That's right -- there was absolutely no one in the book that I developed a connection with or ultimately cared what happened to them. The whole narrative seemed so ludicrous, far-fetched and filled with so much co-incidence that even my usual ability to suspend disbelief was sorely tested. The ending was so pat that it was not remotely satisfying.

I really would give this book 2.5 stars at best because I was so disappointed again, but I know that anyone who likes books by Jodi Picoult, Mary Kay Andrews, Kristen Hannah and other writers of this genre will disagree with that rating. Perhaps it is me, and I should stay away from women's fiction.

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

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

I Love You More by Jennifer Murphy

4.0 out of 5 stars -- One man, three "wives", and a mystery -- who killed their husband?

This was a deliciously unputdownable novel that kept me turning the pages well into the night! The story unfolds with different points of view and moving back and forth in time. How did these women end up in this situation -- Diana, Jewels, and Bert...and why does each of them think that Oliver Lane loves her "more than life itself?" Once the women find out about each other, they meet and forumlate a plan. But, little ears hear every word as Diana's daughter, Picasso, follows them, listens to their scheme, and tries to separate truth from all the lies. Meanwhile, a very persistent pair of detectives is determined to find out just what happened on that sunny morning in the beach house.

The setting, the atmosphere, the characters, and the unfolding details are brilliantly laid before the reader in tantalizing chapters that reveal the thoughts and motivations behind the decisions and actions of each player in this drama. The writing style really gave the tale depth as the author uses Picasso's love of words and their meanings to enhance her perspective and develop her unique point of view of the situation. The conclusion is quite a revelation and I believe that book clubs and everyone who reads this book will form a special relationship with Picasso and close the book with a sigh of satisfaction.

I recommend it to those who like family drama with a unique twist and those who like a slowly unfolding mystery that's solved in a manner that begs discussion. The cover gives it a sort of noir touch and sets a mood.

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

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Heiresses by Sara Shepard

2.5 out of 5 stars - wealthy cousins wonder if they're next on the hit list...

Poppy Saybrook, one of the fabulously rich heiresses of the Saybrook diamond fortune, is found dead after falling from her office where she was President of the family owned company. Was it suicide or murder? The other girls, Corrine, Rowan, Natasha and Aster are a bit worried that one of them will be next. Long held secrets start to surface and loyalties are tested. Can the family hold strong together or is this an inside job? Or is the family really cursed...

The best part of this book was the description and detail about the luxury and lifestyle this family enjoys. The few really thrilling moments came in spurts as red herrings were exposed and the motivation revealed. 

I'm sorry to say that the ending was quite disappointing and ended with a cliffhanger indicating that this will be "another" long series. I can't see reading the sequel and only readers with an interest in a predictable "rich girls" novel with unlikable characters might be interested. I've read a few of this author's other books and this one is basically a repeat of previous plot lines with older characters.

Amazon Vine ARC

Nightingales on Call by Donna Douglas

5.0 out of 5 stars Nursing at the Nightingale Hospital circa 1937 in London's East End.
The series continues in this 4th historical fiction novel and we reconnect with all our favorite characters, Millie, Dora, and Helen as they are finding more challenges in their professional and personal lives. Millie and Dora are finishing up their training while recently widowed Helen has moved to staff nursing. The ward sisters continue to push the students to their limits as the date of Nursing Boards grows near. Millie has set her wedding date but Dora and Nick still have many issues to resolve.

There are new faces at The Nightingale. Jess Jago is working as a maid in the student nurse home but will she have what it takes to keep Sister Sutton satisfied and be able to leave her family's reputation behind and achieve her own hidden dreams?

Kate O'Hara's younger sister, Effie, has entered training and apparently doesn't have the same dedication to learning her skills and theory that the older two O'Hara girls displayed. Can she buckle down in time or will she get the boot?

Lucy Lane is up to all her old tricks with her high and mighty rich girl ways -- but she is hiding a very deep secret that just might end her hopes and dreams.

This series is a true joy for any historical buff who is interested in what nursing was like in this time and place. I love reading about their learning process and shudder when I think of all they were asked to do. Besides actually taking care of the patients doing procedures, they're also expected to clean like servants and prepare the food the patients eat! And study all night with little time off. Definitely the practice and scope of nursing has changed in the ensuing years, and I am glad about it as I don't know if I could have made it through The Nightingale Nursing School program!

I can't wait for the next book due out in November -- A Nightingale Christmas Wish -- and it's definitely best if you read the series in order from the beginning. Highly recommended!

The series:
The Nightingale Girls (Nightingales)
The Nightingale Sisters (Nightingales)
The Nightingale Nurses (Nightingales)
Nightingales on Call

Thank you to NetGalley and Christine Melanson at Random House UK, Cornerstone for the ebook ARC to review.