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.