NetGalley Top Reviewer

NetGalley Top Reviewer
NetGalley Top Reviewer

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner

3.0 out of 5 stars - "The brain disease of rooted in self-centeredness."

Allison Weiss became a pill-popping addict in the typical slide; it started out as a way to take the edge off a very busy life as mother, wife, daughter, employee, friend -- but quickly spiraled downward into a void where she was spending thousands of dollars buying controlled substances off the internet, lying to everyone, and just teetering on the brink of committing a "pitiful act of incomprehensible destruction" that would put her whole world in jeopardy. After making all the usual excuses and denying her addiction, Allison ends up in rehab with all the other drug users and alcoholics. Determined and insistent that she doesn't really belong with that type of addict and denying the extent of her problem (after all, hers are "prescription drugs"), she resists the advice and support of the counselors who remind her that she's not so smart as she thinks and she hasn't been able to control her drug habit as "your best thinking got you here."

I found the topic of narcotic addiction interesting; the character of Allison, however, did not really push my empathy buttons and I rather disliked her. Lots of emphasis on the philosophy of the 12 step program of AA and description of a less than stellar rehab program. I felt more depressed than anything after reading this thinking about the fact that any addict, for the rest of their life, will have to resist the lure of their drug of choice each and every second. Choosing to stay sober and not use certainly would require intense effort and occupy a lot of time and energy. 

This would make a good book club book and I think more geared to the female reader. 

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

Monday, July 28, 2014

Lifelines by Caroline Leavitt

4.0 out of 5 stars - "A talent is to sort out life with, to explain it so you won't ever feel like you're out of control."

This is not just another mother-daughter drama, but a finely constructed and compelling study of the nature of expectations, superstitions, and dreams. If you are told that you are special, unique, and have a gift -- will you believe it, live up to it, or even want it?

Isadora, raised in what she calls a "strange paradise" by her psychic mother and a doting father (a dentist who uses hypnotism to reduce pain during procedures), was told from the beginning that she had a special ability that she would have to find within herself. Fighting against the stigma of having a mother who read palms and had visions when touching objects belonging to other people, Isadora can't seem to discover one iota of any power within herself. Although initially very attached to her parents, particularly to her mother, teen rebellion surfaces and feeds her desire to escape the embarrassment of being her mother's completely ordinary daughter. Because of the "star" on her palm, Isadora's mother Duse insists that it is a sign of the talent within if only Isadora would try harder to figure it out. Thinking her mother a charlatan and resisting any belief in the supernatural, Isadora escapes to attend college out of state and limps painfully toward adulthood with only a smidgen of insight and understanding about the nature of love. When her life spirals out of control, she goes back to the only bulwark of certainty she has ever known -- her mother. But this time, Duse does not have the answers and solutions that Isadora desperately needs.

What made this good -- the author's writing. She makes you want to know these characters even as you shake your head at some of the choices they make and the things they do. In fact, Isadora isn't a particularly likable person, and the reader may get impatient with her, but definitely will feel some empathy for her struggles for intimacy and independence. The novel is fairly short and is a quick read, only because of the desire to see where Isadora's search for herself takes her. I've read another of this author's books -- Is This Tomorrow -- and I enjoyed it as well. This is not a tale with happily ever after endings, but it feels authentic and hopeful nevertheless. I don't necessarily believe in psychic powers, or palm reading, but then again, I might if I had personal experience of it or saw it in action. To say that Duse is an unconventional mother is an understatement, but the reader never doubts her love for her daughter and every mother's wish for her child -- to be happy. I think book groups would find this a great one for discussion.

Thank you to NetGalley and Open Road Integrated Media for the e-book ARC to review. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sweetness #9 by Stephan Eirik Clark

3.5 out of 5 stars - "You are what you eat."

Everyone knows that much of what many of us choose to eat isn't probably the most nutritious or most healthy of diets. The reasons why we choose one particular food over another, or have a preference for sweet or salty, or want something quick and easy are all those that companies who make flavorings want to "help" us with! The description of the book really is perfect when it reads -- "this book is a cross between FAST FOOD NATION and THE CORRECTIONS." Having read both, and enjoyed them, I concur.

This is a wide ranging fictional account of a man, David Leveraux, who's hired to concoct, using chemicals, all those various flavorings for food from that buttery taste on your microwave popcorn to the artificial "sweetner #9" used as ubiquitously as fructose corn syrup is now in more products than you'd ever imagine. In addition, there's a little problem with the "red dyes" and other additives that enhance the taste of the food and drink you consume. Of course there's danger there, as our character finds out when his family starts falling apart -- his wife is gaining weight, his daughter is in a funk alternating between being a vegan and also rebelling against her father's life work, and their son has suddently stopped using verbs when speaking. The problem is this -- David knew there were some issues with the sweetner in particular because he had been involved with early animal testing of the product. Instead of doing the whistleblow, he moved on from that job to another with a new flavoring company run by a man who didn't just serve during WW II, he "served Hitler his dinner."

Years pass with ups and downs as David tries to come to terms with the changes in the food industry from taste to form to delivery. The book is both social commentary and anecdotal with what may or may not be accurate information about the actual products which we know as "food." It's funny sometimes, but mostly scary. Definitely it made me rethink every single item I have to eat in my house and got me to do some intense label reading.

I gave it 3.5 stars only because it dragged in parts and because it is fiction, I'm not sure it's meant to be alarmist or entertaining and without a bibliography I'm uncertain what part of this is fact. The narrative was all over the place with inclusion of a lot of material that I found hard to completely understand as there were time shifts. The main character was quite well developed as was his wrestle with his conscience. The others not so much, except for Ernst Eberhardt, the owner of FlavAmerica where David works. His colleagues are quite the unique set! 

There's a lot of great material inside this book that I could write quote after quote, but I'll leave that to the reader to discover. I did enjoy this novel and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the current state of our food products and who might want to take another look at their own diet.

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

The Tenth Chamber by Glenn Cooper

3.5 out of 5 stars - Archeological thriller with a lot going on in many different historical time periods and set primarily in the Perigord Region of France.

30,000 BP to present day -- Neanderthal to Cro-Magnon to Middle Ages to 1899 to the Great Wars and to the 21st century -- this is a wide sweeping and complex tale of a cave with amazingly accurate paintings on its walls hidden near Ruac, France, and the incredible discovery made there throughout those many thousand years by those who lived in that area or who happened upon it. What is the secret and what will people do to protect it?

Because of the incredible amount of detail and the many-layered plot lines, the story was a little slow to start but the reader is immediately intrigued wondering what is so important about this cave and the lengths taken to prevent its exploration and exposure. A series of events brings a present day book restorer into possession of an engraved color manuscript said to be written in the middle ages by a monk at a rural Cistercian abbey in the Perigord area. Hugo Pineau consults with his friend, Luc Simard -- an archeologist -- when the implications of that book come to light. The narrative shifts back and forth in time and between different narrators as this intricate tale unfolds from several angles. This is a secret worth killing for and the action is nonstop as readers are catapulted from one scene to the next. I learned an amazing amount of interesting historical and archeological facts from this novel and I'd recommend it to anyone who is interested in these topics, the setting or the time period. Sometimes I thought the author was channeling Jean Auel (who is actually mentioned in the text along with the title of her first book), but I like any book that brings out the researcher in me. This one is not a fast read because there's so much to absorb, but well worth the time and effort.

Why only 3.5 stars?? Main character too much like Indiana Jones and a lot of suspension of disbelief required as Luc works out the mystery of this tenth chamber in the cave.

Thenk you to NetGalley and Lascaux Media for the e-book ARC to review. 

California by Edan Lepucki

3.0 out of 5 stars --- This is just another in the long list of "end of life as we knew it" novels, and certainly not remotely comparable to the books written on the subject by such brilliant authors as Cormac McCarthy and Margaret Atwood. The hype surrounding it after the onair plug was not about how good this was, but about a fued between Hatchette and Amazon and I only chose it because I was led to believe, erroneously, that this debut had some new fresh perspective or slant that merited its praises. I don't think it did.

Frida and Cal -- well, these were two unlikable and shallow 20 somethings who leave LA after its decline and fall for a life off the grid somewhere probably in nearby southwestern California but that's never clearly stated. They don't do so well on their own and once Frida believes she's pregnant, she is even more dissatisfied with their lonely existence. They leave their appropriated house in the woods and manage to stumble onto the Land. And in the most amazing coincidence, they find someone there they both know. Life on the Land is tedious and banal and hard but since Frida is "people who need people", she is determined to stay and convinces Cal that he is too. Actually it's all fairly boring and nothing happens and then nothing happens except they find out some stuff and there's a problem. All the characters in this book were poorly developed and none had redemptive qualities that made me garner up any emotion except to hope the book ended quickly. And it did, with a ridiculously pat conclusion that was unsatisfying and not worth the reading time. 

The writing -- the dialog, the vocabulary, the repetition, the word choice (Land, Forms, Spikes, Group) did not impress or invite my imagination as often none of it made any sense. The explanation for why this part of the world was why it was never really got explained and the makeup of the community wasn't very diverse considering the population that exists in California now. There was no apocalypse, but a bit of social commentary about all the factors that are on our radar -- global warming, weather patterns, spread of illness, overuse of electronics and reliance on power, etc. 

I'd advise you to skip this one and look for other books in this genre that have fresh new perspectives and three dimensional characters that can generate some feelings in the reader other than distaste. I could see this used in a book group discussion where members are comparing and contrasting books of this type. 

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

With Every Breath by Elizabeth Camden

3.0 out of 5 stars -- I chose this book without reading too much about it ahead of time. That was a mistake. It is not a genre I normally would ever select -- Christian romance. The reason I was intrigued by it was because it is about tuberculosis in the late 1800s. The historical information about the search for a cure and the treatment offered to patients during that time was very interesting and helped make up for the other 80% that was the lame love story.

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

Monday, July 21, 2014

Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little

2.5 out of 5 stars - "My recklessness was a demonstration of restraint. I spun in circles to prove I could walk a straight line after."

"You can get away with anything if you wear great clothes, throw great parties, and give money to kids with cleft palates."

Jane Jenkins was 17 when she was arrested, tried and convicted of shooting her mother -- wealthy socialite and philanthropist, Marion Elsinger -- and is released from prison 10 years later on a technicality due to irregularities in the collection of evidence. As soon as she is let out, she goes undercover to solve a mystery: who actually did kill her mother because Jane can't remember. She changes her appearance and her name and sets off with the only clue she knows, the name of a small mining town in South Dakota -- Adeline. Once there, she enlists the help of the close knit community, who are all sort of related, to figure things out.

The story flips around backward and forward in time, has little blurbs that are styled as tweets, Wikipedia entries, or media asides, and has a narrator in Jane who is completely unbelievable and over-the-top with her supposed whip smart bad ass foul-mouthed personality. The mystery is lame and there was no suspense, no threat of any real danger, and no thrills. The big climax is entirely predictable and the ending defies any suspension of disbelief that a reader had been striving to maintain throughout the story.

I am at a loss to explain all the rave reviews. I'd say the contrived plot and all the pop culture commentary would appeal to teenage girls, however the language and intensely unlikable main character with her actions and choices make it one I wouldn't recommend to that audience. I had a lot of difficulty with how completely unrealistic and implausible the whole scenario was. And it was never explained how in the world Jane didn't know whether or not she had actually killed her mother so we're to believe she is so clever (and she reminds us often) that she can track down the real murderer.

So, in short, I didn't care for it. Perhaps it was because I have been reading such incredibly great thrillers lately, or maybe I'm snarky, but this IT girl bored me to tears and I didn't care a bit, almost didn't even finish it. No recommendations here.

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

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Watching You (#7) by Michael Robotham

4.0 out of 5 stars - "All my life I have lied...These falsehoods gave me a story more palatable than the truth."

Is someone really stalking Marnie? For years she's felt a shadow just beyond her reach. For some reason, people who make her unhappy, who hurt her, or who don't do right by her seem to get injured or killed. Now her husband's vanished -- been gone about a year now with no word. He had some gambling debts that she's now forced to settle but has no way to collect his life insurance or to access his accounts without a death certificate. Meanwhile, she's been seeing Joe as a patient twice a week to manage her stress. 

Things start to happen when a man who hurt her is found dead in the river and she becomes a suspect. It seems that Marnie has some big secrets and someone is lying. Why do people she used to know say that she "ruined their lives" and both hate and fear her? What of the "Big Red Book?"

Well, I've done it - finished all 7 of the books in the Joseph O'Loughlin series and now I'm feeling deprived already. If you love books about crime and the psychological aspects of what motivates those who commit them, then you'll want to read these novels. The cases are interesting and the writing really draws in the reader. I've grown attached to both Joe (the psychologist) and to his sidekick, Vincent Ruiz, an ex detective with London's Metropolitan Police. 

There are some characters I've grown to detest (yes, you Julianne, and I didn't like Marnie either). I've noticed that the author's women are all just amazingly beautiful and typically a little warped. The teenagers are ALL snotty, rebellious and quite annoying. No one seems to be able to have a decent relationship and it got old how obsessed Joe is with his estranged wife. Get over it already! Despite these aggravations, I read the series for the stories and for the "observations" that Joe makes about people and life. 

I'll definitely be looking for an eighth book. But, I hope Joe makes some changes in his personal life meanwhile and no, he doesn't need a love interest or a romance.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Say You're Sorry (#6) by Michael Robotham

4.0 out of 5 stars -- "There is a void in the world...somebody not coming home."

Two missing girls -- they had disappeared 3 years previously after not returning home from the Bingham Summer Festival at the end of August. After an intial frenzy of searching and media blitz, the months passed and the story sort of faded from the headlines. Except for the families of the two girls, most everyone else in town had moved on with their lives. The rumor and speculation continued over the years, but absent any witnesses or evidence, there were no new leads to pursue.

Joe O'Loughlin, still keeping the Parkinson's Disease at bay with medication, is due to give a talk at a mental health symposium up in Oxford and he's taking is olderst daughter, Charlie, along. The weather is dreadful and as they approach the station, Joe sees police along an embankment by a frozen lake. After his talk, he's met in the foyer by two detectives from the local constabulary -- it seems that Detecitve Chief Inspector Drury wants to talk with Joe about a double homicide at a local farm. They have a suspect in custody and DCI Drury is asking for advice about the interrogation to come. Joe agrees, somewhat unwillingly, to get involved. After a visit to the farmhouse, Joe realizes that this is not a home invasion and that there is a lot more to the story. Eventually his good friend, ex copper Vincent Ruiz, is called in to assist in a very complicated investigation.

The story is told in alternating points of view between Joe and one of the missing teenage girls. Great plot with multiple red herrings and excellent pacing. The way Robotham writes definitely grabs my attention and Joe's "observations" about humanity are spot on and quite interesting. I really like the series and this book, in my opinion, is back on track with the usual psychological and police procedural style (after going a bit off track in The Wreckage). The characters are interesting and it's best to have read the previous books to get the full measure of Joe and Vincent. I still despise Julianne and wish she'd disappear from the pages. Charlie is annoying. What I love is that most all have their foibles and imperfections but I care about them anyway (except for Julianne).

I'm ready to start #7 and dread knowing that even though I'll be all caught up, I'll probably be sorry it was all done so soon.

The Wreckage (#5) by Michael Robotham

4.0 out of 5 stars -- Follow the money...

This 5th in the series has several plot lines but the main story has to do with journalist Luca Terracini's interest in the billions of dollars that have vanished from Iraqi banks. Luca is a foreign correspondent working in Baghdad as US soldiers are pulling out. The area is still a war zone and reconstruction is barely more than a promise. Constant fear of bombs and stray bullets remind Luca that death lurks everywhere and "grudges are a national sport in Iraq." When he discovers that 18 banks have been robbed in the last year, Luca becomes suspicious and begins the investigation that eventually brings him into contact with retired London inspector Vincent Ruiz.

With multidimensional characters and nonstop action, the narrative shifts between places and point of view as the complex scheme is revealed at just the right pace. Another of this author's books that kept me glued to the pages and has me addicted to the series. This, however, is my least favorite of the ones I've read so far. It was not as focused on psychology and less a thriller than his others --the subject just was not as compelling to me. On to #6. 

Bleed for Me (#4) by Michael Robotham

4.0 out of 5 stars -- "The problem with secrets and lies is that you can never tell which is which until you dig them up and sniff. Some things are buried for safe-keeping; some are buried to hide the stench; and some are buried because they're toxic and take a long time to disappear."

This 4th book in the Joe O'Loughlin series is another exhilarating thriller where multiple story lines converge into a complex and absorbing search for truth involving a young girl who happens to be the best friend of Joe's oldest daughter. In addition, there is intrigue and danger connected with a local trial of a trio of men accused of firebombing asylum seekers in a racially connected homicide. The setting is mostly London and the viewpoint definitely British.

Once again, Joe and ex cop Vincent Ruiz, are doing a little of their own investigation on the side. Gifted with some incredible psychological insight, Joe watches, observes, listens, and figures out that things are not as they first appear to police. Joe, fighting his Parkinson's Disease as it so limits what he is physically able to do, continues to provide social commentary and cautionary advice in soliloquy that is part self-reflection and part lecture.

In the meanwhile, Joe takes care of his two daughters as best he can since he's now living separately from his estranged wife, Jillianne. If ever a character I couldn't stand -- it's her, and I'm SO HAPPY they're apart and hope they never get back together. I barely like Joe, but she gets on my nerves!

I thoroughly enjoyed this one and am on to #5 -- yes, they're that good. 

Shatter (#3) by Michael Robotham

4.0 out of 5 stars - Are you a mother? Would you take your child's place if he or she had been abducted by a man who offered you that choice? What would any parent do to keep their child safe?

A woman jumps from a bridge wearing only her red Jimmy Choos. At first everyone thinks it was a suicide. Then another is found, dead from exposure, handcuffed to a tree. The next is lured to a bandstand in Victoria Park. What do these women have in common -- aside from being friends and childhood schoolmates?

There's a man who knows everything about them because he watches and listens. He has many unique abilities and a special skill -- the ability to break a mind -- and he has a twisted reason for what he's doing. This man is not a garden-variety psychopath and his cunning is pitted against psychologist Joe O'Loughlin in this 4th suspense thriller in the series.

The narrative moves along rapidly as it shifts between points of view building suspense and anxiety for the reader as it races toward the inevitable confrontation between good and evil. I like the way this author writes and he's very careful with description and able to convey an incredible amount of detail about a wide range of subjects from the banal to the technical.

The characters are multidimensional and definitely will elicit various reactions from readers. I have shifted from detesting Joe to now despising Julianne since the first book of the series. I've forgiven him, embraced his struggle as he lives with worsening Parkinson's Disease symptoms, and shook my head sadly as he tries to cling to the few things he values in life -- his family and his vocation.

I am definitely going to order the rest of the books in this series and recommend them to anyone looking for a pulse pounding thrill of a read. I'd suggest reading them in order to fully appreciate the nuances of the changing relationships in the series, but it works equally well as a stand-alone.

Lost by Michael Robotham (#2)

4.0 out of 5 stars - "Everyone leaves a trail...It isn't just scraps of paper and photographs. It's the impression we make on other people and how we confront the world."

I love the way this author writes. His sentence construction, his descriptions that make me feel there in the moment, the way he builds suspense and moves along the narrative, and the interesting complicated plot of the story.

In this second of the Joseph O'Loughlin series, a new main character takes center stage. It's Joe's nemesis from the first book, Detective Inspector Vincent Ruiz who had mistakenly tormented and arrested Joe.

The first person narrative opens with Ruiz being fished from the Thames, bleeding from a bullet wound in his thigh and nearly drowned. When he awakens 8 days later, he can't remember how he came to be in the river or even what case he was working on. Joe, the intrepid and highly skilled psychologist, is helping Ruiz get his memory back. Their efforts lead them to an old child abduction and murder case -- Mickey Carlyle was 7 years old when she seemingly vanished from a building on her way down to sunbathe with a playmate.

The fast pace, the unexpected twists, and the intricate developments kept me glued to the pages. I am eager to start the next book in the series to see what's next for these unique multidimensional characters. Excellent suspense thriller!

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Suspect by Michael Robotham

4.0 out of 5 stars -- Cognitive dissonance...

I enjoyed this thriller despite my up front acknowledgement that I detested the character of the (anti)hero and star of this first in a series - renowned psychologist Joseph O'Laughlin who goes from "hero to zero" when he's accused of murder by Detective Inspector Vincent Ruiz of the Metropolitan Police.

Joe lives with his loving wife and daughter in a heavily mortgaged house in London near the London Zoo. He is in a thriving private practice; busy and happy -- but his world starts crashing down when he is diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. Despite his credentials, degrees, and experience, Joe can't cope. He makes the first of many mistakes.

Joe continues to see his patients, some more disturbed than others, and volunteers to give a safety lecture at a meeting of prostitutes. Police crash the meeting and Joe speaks with the detective heading an investigation. Though initially thrilled to be asked to help with the identification of the dead woman in the morgue, Joe is soon thrust into a situation out of control when he realizes that he knows, and has a history with, the victim. He soon finds himself the main suspect and is desperate to clear his name and regain the life he totally messed up.

This is Joe: "Nobody likes admitting mistakes. And we all hate acknowledging the large gap between what we should do and what we actually do. So we alter either our actions or our beliefs. We make excuses, or redefine our conduct in a more flattering light." I don't excuse the decisions he made and the lies he told. I'm only somewhat sympathetic because I'm sure it was a blow for him to get that dreaded diagnosis. He needs therapy himself.

Despite that -- I am going to read another in this series hoping he has some HUGE personal growth. He hasn't earned forgiveness nor do I feel he's deserving of the gift. I'm not wild about anyone in this book, not his friends, wife, or family either. Hmmm. Can Joe redeem himself?

What I loved about this book -- the psychology. Very interesting to try to understand the motives and thinking of a disturbed mind though often all the reasons and excuses remind me of something I once learned -- "No, you're probably not responsible for anything that happened to you as a child. But, as an adult, you are 100% responsible for fixing it."

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

The Montauk Monster by Hunter Shea

3.5 out of 5 stars -- Genetically manufactured war machines wreak havoc on Montauk,,,

I am not usually one who reads horror, so I was pleasantly surprised when I started this chiller thriller and raced to the end without being able to put it down. The gory, grisly tale of mayhem and monsters on this small island had lots of action and deliciously scary creatures who came out in the night.

Officer Gray Dalton is first on the scene at Shadmoor State Park Beach and finds the first two victims -- so mutilated that he can't identify them. Before the ME can examine the bodies to determine the cause of death, they have melted away as if they were doused in acid with a stench so bad that is like nothing they've dealt with before. The body count rises as these unique beasts attack all over town and nothing alive is safe especially when darkness falls.

Dalton enlists the help of desk officer, disabled Meredith Hernandez, because she has a theory of where these monsters came from -- Plum Island, a research facility only a ferry ride away. Their discoveries are shocking. Once they return to Montauk, the feds have been called in -- FEMA, DARPA, the CDC are there -- as well as military. Can anything stop the killing machines?

I enjoyed the story and the fast pace. Warning, don't get too attached to any of the people in the novel! If blood and guts, smells, and other descriptive gore bothers you, this might be one to skip. This would be a really fun beach read if you like the combo of conspiracy, genetic manipulation, bloodthirsty creatures and a wide variety of characters. Perfect for fans of early Dean Koontz novels and Peter Straub.

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

Jul 05, 2014

One Kick by Chelsea Cain

3.0 out of 5 stars - "Change your thoughts and you change the world."

The Beth Movies, featuring a young Kathleen (renamed Kick) Lannigan, are
"still the most downloaded child pornography on the internet." Abducted by Mel Riley when she was only 6, Kick was kept secluded and was sexually exploited until a dramatic FBI rescue brought the damaged little girl home. Now 10 years after her ordeal, Kick is 21 and has reinvented herself as a serious student of self defense. Expert with weapons of every kind and in peak physical condition, it's only her mind that still exhibits the toll though Kick has tried every type of therapy known. Estranged from her biological family, Kick and James (another abduction survivor) have used her settlement money to form a sort of investigation team using his computer skills and her insider knowledge of the child porn industry. Their goal is to try to find other missing or abducted children before it's too late. When a couple of children appear in Amber Alerts, Kick feels the familiar dread seep in, so when a mysterious man who calls himself John Bishop and says he needs her help with a job connected to the cases of Adam Rice and Mia Tuner, Kick finds herself in a helicopter back into remembered hell.

Does Kick have memories and skills that can help recover these two children and will this chance to help save some other child give her the relief she needs to assuage the guilt she feels because of what she did the night she was found. When the opportunity to see the dying Mel Riley in a prison infirmary brings back feelings she thought she had buried, she is more focused than ever on helping to make up for what she'd done and to release Mel's hold on her.

A bit uneven in pacing and with the ever popular damaged heroine protagonist, the novel moves along in spurts of present day interspersed with flashbacks that show only a little of what Kick's life was like during the years with Mel. It's quite obvious that Kick still has a lot to work through and needs much more psychological help. The relationship between Kick and Bishop is stereotypical and predictable. I never grew to develop any affinity for any of the characters despite the writing telling me I should, and never felt the threat of real evil or suspense in the story. The novel ends as you'd expect when knowing that this is the first book in a new series.

I've read all of Chelsea Cain's previous books and enjoyed part of the Archie and Gretchen story until it no longer made sense to me, so I was hoping this departure and fresh start would be a thriller in which I could rediscover some of the shock and awe that made the author's first books so addicting. Despite all the famous name gushing blurbs, this just didn't grab me or enthrall me as I'd wished. To be more specific of the ways it failed might produce spoilers, so I'll leave it to other readers to either agree with me or to have their own very diverse opinions. I'm not sure I'd read the second one.

Amazon Vine and NetGalley provided ARC copies of this book for review. 

Jul 04, 2014

A Matter of Time by Beverly Swerling

Intricate and involved, this mystery novel centers on the topic of racial memory and involves several other themes and storylines as well. Far-reaching in breadth and scope, multiple narrators race against time to recover an ancient document that may hold new truths about the state of affairs and beliefs in the period immediately following the death of Jesus Christ. The Alexandria Testament may challenge long accepted views about Christians and Jews.

Twenty-four-year-old Sarah, raised Catholic, lives in present day,1983, but she has suffered her entire life because of auditory and visual stimuli. One recurring issue is that she hears a series of music notes over and over -- do, sol, la, fa (CGAF) - but the tune is not played on any conventional instrument. She also experiences fear and great distress from these strange periods when the "visions" come. This worsens after a car accident and results in her consultation with a parapsychologist to investigate the nature of these experiences.

In flashbacks to historical periods and locations ranging from Alexandria circa mid 60s AD to concentration camps during WW II, to Rome and the Princes of the Holy Catholic Church, to Israel, to France, and parts of the United States, Sarah comes to realize that she is key to the life's work of several very concerned parties. One faction wants to obtain the secret and the other wants to suppress it.

This is a very complex and meticulously plotted novel that has many characters to keep straight and detail that once again demonstrates that Beverly Swerling does incredible research on her subject matter. Even as the reader is swept to the revelations within, the suspense and a sense of anxiety keeps one turning the pages to find out how it's all going to come together. This is an enjoyable read with mystery, romance, and intrigue at every juncture.

Read -  July 2, 2014

Cop Town by Karin Slaughter

3.0 out of 5 stars -- Gritty stand-alone depiction of harassment, racism, homophobia and misogyny in the Atlanta Police Department circa 1974.   (read June 28, 2014)

New police recruit, the widowed and beautiful upper crust Kate Murphy, is stunned and nearly ready to quit on her first day of the job. After running the gauntlet of groping hands and leering eyes on her way to the women's locker room, she wonders why she ever signed up for this and figures this will be just one more job failure in her life. The station is all abuzz that morning, however, because of the most recent cop shooting in a serial case that's about to get personal as Kate becomes involved with the investigation alongside veteran officer Maggie Lawson. Officer Lawson also has a brother and an uncle on the force, but that doesn't provide her or the other female cops with any respect. The women are all subjected to abuse and derision while the men drink, graft, and beat down suspects in a climate that is rife with tension and where everyone is suspicious of "the others" who are not "like them." Nobody "different" gets a pass from these male cops and the women are usually left out of the big cases.

Maggie and Kate start looking into the case of the Shooter and discover secrets, lies, and coverups that ultimately lead them right into danger without support from their male colleagues. Is there a place for women in the Atlanta Police Department?

I have read all of Karin Slaughter's previous books and enjoyed the Will Trent series and most of the Grant County novels. She has fantastic writing skills that usually suck me right into the plot and make me care about the characters. I just wasn't that enamored of this novel -- the setting, time period, and tone of the narrative didn't keep me locked to the pages as usual. This is a stand alone and perhaps the start of something new for the author, but I doubt I'd read another featuring these characters or the Atlanta PD in this era. I'm certain that the legion of this author's fans will disagree, but ever since Slaughter "got me" with a plot kicker in one of her Grant County books (you all know which one I'm talking about), I've been less than faithful and her books are hit and miss with me.

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

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

3.0 out of 5 stars -- June 27, 2014
This is the second in the Cormoran Strike series and I didn't like it as much as the first one (The Cuckoo's Calling).

Convoluted mystery surrounds an author's murder -- who committed the heinous and grisly crime? There are lots of suspects as there was no love lost between this man and his acquaintances and enemies. In fact, the author's newest book really embarrassed and humiliated all who were involved in his life.
I like the characters of Cormoran and Robin well enough, but I'm not a fan of little tricks such as when the detective has an ah ha moment and shares it with his cohort, but the reader is left in the dark and then there is a "tell all" at the end. 

Probably will read a third, but not with the same degree of anticipation and expectation I had while waiting for this one.