NetGalley Top Reviewer

NetGalley Top Reviewer
NetGalley Top Reviewer

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Good Goodbye by Carla Buckley

4.0 out of 5 stars -- Compelling domestic drama with a mystery.

Rory and Arden are cousins who are attending the same college and rooming together when they are brought to the ER after a fire breaks out in their dorm room. Both are unconscious and unable to answer any questions about the incident that resulted in the death of a friend of theirs. Lots of unanswered questions put their parents, who already were estranged, into more turmoil as each waits for their daughter to recover. 

Told in alternating points of view, the novel shifts back and forth between the main characters. It's important to note the name of the narrator at the start of each chapter. It is obvious that the parents of the girls did not know them as well as they thought they did. Secrets and lies, loyalty and betrayal. The truth comes out slowly (because of the shifting narration) so there is some tension as the reader is finally taken to the revelations and and what I felt was a predictable conclusion. I was a bit unhappy with that ending, however.

I like this author and have read all her previous books. I'd recommend this novel to reading groups as it has many topics for discussion and debate. Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for the e-book ARC to review. 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Beautiful Losers by Eve Seymour

3.0 out of 5 stars -- Mildly entertaining mystery (quasi thriller) about a disfigured psychologist who tries to turn the tables and attempt to identify her alleged stalker. The problem is that Kim's reactions and behavior are so implausible -- and I'll go ahead and say stupid -- that it's no wonder that the police, her coworkers, boss and friends have a hard time believing her.

I kept reading only to see if I was able to pick out the true culprit despite the red herrings and diversions in the convoluted plot. I did. There was no real suspense and I could not relate to any of the characters -- all stereotypical and one-dimensional (sometimes hard to keep straight). There was lilttle suspense and the tension, menace, and urgency typical of this type of novel were absent. I would say that Kim needs to heed that oft repeated maxim -- "heal thyself."

So, a quick read without much substance, certainly the topic of eating disorders was barely touched upon despite the title. I can't see this being the start of a successful series as Kim Slade is just too much of a hot mess.

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

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Killing Forest by Sarah Blaedel

4.0 out of 5 stars -- Deadly secrets of the brotherhood...

Fifteen year-old Sune is about to be initiated into the Asatro (an old Nordic religion) but something goes seriously wrong that night in the forest and he disappears. In an interesting twist, Sune's parents don't report him missing as they insist he has run away to avoid his dying mother at home, and Louise Rick and her partner, Eik Nordstrom, of the Special Search Agency are called in to investigate when Sune is spotted in some photographs taken by a stationary camera in the woods. What follows is a trip down memory lane for Louise as she is drawn back to her past when it appears the missing boy is from Hvalso -- and is the son of someone she went to school with many years ago.

In this fast-paced and suspenseful thriller, the reader learns of Louise's past heartache and tragedy, part of what has molded her into the woman she is. The tale is complicated as the present and past converge to reveal a legacy of lies, corruption, coverup and murder. The characters from previous novels are part of the story, most notably her friend, Camilla Lind, who is now married and working as a free-lance journalist from home -- a manor house in Boserup. All are caught up in the search for the boy as they expose a secret brotherhood whose rituals and beliefs have taken a sharp turn from the old religious practices.

I've read 5 other books in this series (the ones that have been translated into English( #1, 2, 3, 4, and 7 prior to this one and I really like the setting and the characters. The writing is crisp and the cases are very unique and interesting. I like to compare the Danish police fiction to US crime fiction and enjoy the differences. I can't wait to read another and hope that Sara Blaedel's other books are all translated so that I can go back and read those I've missed.

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

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Widow by Fiona Barton

3.0  out of 5 stars -- "How much do the wives of the men who commit terrible crimes actually know?"

The synopsis by the publisher gives an overview explaining that Jean Taylor, wife of Glen, is finally going to tell her story -- she's going to tell a journalist the secrets that lie behind the disappearance of a little toddler, Bella Elliott. Glen  was accused of kidnapping and murder in this crime, but now it is 4 years later and Glen has died -- leaving Jean free  to tell her own version of the truth. The problem is -- are her memories accurate or is she twisting things a bit to exculpate herself from any  responsibility. What did she know, and when did she know?

I sort of felt let down by the revelations from Jean in this case. She's the typical unreliable narrator -- a stock character that seems to be all the rage of late (hence comparisons to GIRL ON THE TRAIN and other similar novels). She's not particularly likable, and seems to be devoid of personality. Perhaps the result of living with Glen? The turmoil of the publicity and subsequent outcry has left her mostly alone with her thoughts and memories. When she opens up to Kate, she actually shares very little and the reader is left with few details, an incomplete picture of the crime and only a bit of a sense of resolution.

This is a debut novel, and the writing is good so I'll look for future books by this author. Frankly, however, I'm tired of meandering narration and too many points of view, especially when the main storytellers aren't forthcoming. I guess I prefer a more tightly plotted thriller with lots of suspense than a psychological study. I can't call this a thriller and there was no suspense here -- just questions and some frustration at the lack of transparency. There are no twists or startling revelations as we limp to the predictable conclusion.

Thank you to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group NAL for the e-book ARC to review.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Kill Again by Neal Baer (#2)

3.0 out of 5 stars -- Second in series featuring Claire Waters, forensic psychiatrist, and Nick Lawler, a former homicide detective now confined to a desk job due to his macular degeneration and limited vision.

In this novel, Claire and Nick are on the hunt for a psycho who dismembers and then boils the bones after Claire's special patient, Rosa, is kidnapped and murdered. Their search for this lunatic is both frustrating and dangerous as they get closer to solving the case.

The pace is somewhat slow and the reader will need to suppress credulity with the notion of Claire and Nick working as partners in conjunction with the police department -- though neither officially and them often defying the boss's orders (don't all fictional detectives seem to do this??). The gory chill factor is high with the grisly descriptions, and the "who" done it comes basically out of nowhere at the end.  Of course Claire is almost killed a couple of times but Nick saves the day. Their romance, though not unanticipated, was not something I wanted to see.

Not sure if a third book in this series is planned, but I will likely skip it. I don't really like Claire (too perfect) and not sure where any further story would go.

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

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (AKA JK ROWLING)

The third in the Cormoran Strike series by J.K. Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith.

3.0 out of 5 stars -- rather slow and overly lengthy third novel in the Cormoran Strike series.

Strike is holding the agency together with a few odd jobs for him and his newly promoted "partner" Robin. Surveillance and routine detective work ensue and all is going well --- until Robin receives delivery of a severed leg. First, who does the leg belong to? Second, who cut it off? And third, why?

With the furor over the amputated limb and lots of attention focused on the agency, business falls off. That's when Strike formulates the hypothesis that the person who did this is trying to get back at him. Ruin his livelihood, destroy his reputation. Since the journalists are camped by their office, they go out to discuss business, and Strike and Robin connect in a couple of personal conversations where they exchange sensitive intimate details of events in their previous lives. NO NO NO. No spoilers.

The rest of the novel has Robin and Strike following the 3 main men who Strike thinks could be behind the mutilation and several other vicious murders in the area. Robin survives a couple of attempts on her life -- thank heavens there were people to rescue her. Why don't partners in the business talk to each other? Share leads? Tell their partner what they're up to?

OK -- this book, didn't like as much as the first. I think I'm done with the series now. This just went on forever and if we are heading in the direction I think we are heading (with Strike and Robin getting oh so close)...I can't see it. There wasn't much excitement or suspense. The motivation for all the murdering seemed so lame and I couldn't work up any angst over it. I had liked the characters of Strike and Robin in the previous novel where they were PARTNERS at work and a good foil for one another. I don't like all this new sexual tension between them. And that ending?? Seriously. Overall, the book was just ok. I was disappointed that there were no thrills and the revelation of the identity of the killer after all just left me...yawn.

Host by Robin Cook

2.0 out of 5 stars - Disappointing medical thriller with unrealistic characterization and unbelievable action.

Two fourth-year medical students (one a white female, Lynn, and the other a black male, Michael) at Mason-Dixon Hospital and University in South Carolina are drawn into a biomedical conspiracy when her boyfriend never wakes up after surgery. When Carl is declared brain dead and transferred to the Shapiro Institute next door, Lynn and Michael find that somehow the Russians have become involved via Sidereal Pharmaceuticals to create a warehouse full of comatose patients with an additional sinister purpose.

I never miss a medical thriller, but I wish I had skipped this one. I may be wrong, and I hope I am, but it seems that the ending has opened up to hints of a sequel?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Lake House by Kate Morton

4.0 out of 5 stars -- Complicated mystery with satisfying "all ends tied up" conclusion. A good story.

I enjoy Kate Morton, but one irritant in this novel was when there were constant teases where a character discovered something in an "ah ha" moment but did not share it with the reader. Dangling chapters and alternating time periods with multiple narrators made it hard sometimes to pick up the thread of the narrative.

I was able to figure out the secrets and solve the crime well in advance of the modern day police detective in the story, but the author does attempt to surprise -- mostly by avoiding giving important details in a straight line narration. The characters were interesting, but as usual, the reader just wonders why communication was so bad between them that all this took so many years to get answers because of all their secrets.

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

Liar Liar by M.J. Arlidge

Liar Liar: DI Helen Grace #4 

(Detective Inspector Helen Grace)

4.0 out of 5 stars -- Ah that feeling -- when you just finish a great story and only want more -- more of the characters and another great suspense thriller to capture your interest and enthrall you for a couple of hours. That's how I feel after finishing this 4th book in one of my new favorite series.

DI Helen Grace is a very complex and interesting woman. In this case, she is investigating a series of arsons that have left several dead women in the ashes of burnt out houses. An excellent police procedural, the reader follows Helen and her team as they try to put the disparate pieces of this puzzle together to stop a killer without conscience. Red herrings abound, and I was stunned by the denouement and revelation of the killler and the motives.

I cannot wait for the next one (LITTLE BOY BLUE) -- and I hope  NetGalley will provide me the e-book ARC to review. If you like strong female lead protagonists and lots of action with supporting characters who add to the depth of the story within, you will like this series.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Doll's House by M.J. Arlidge (#3)

The Doll's House: A Detective Helen Grace Thriller
 (DI Helen Grace Thriller Book 3)

4.0 out of 5 stars -- The third suspense thriller featuring Southampton DI Helen Grace is another winner in the series!

Part police procedural and part mystery, this novel  focuses on the hunt for the person who has abducted and killed 3 women -- and now has possibly taken a fourth.  The women share common traits, most specifically they have dark hair and blue eyes. In addition, each of the bodies discovered on the isolated beach has another commonality -- a bluebird tattoo. Helen knows that the man they are desperately seeking must be linked in some way to all four of the women and she and her team are out pounding the pavement and knocking on doors trying to find the latest victim, Ruby, before she too becomes another. 

The reader has the benefit of the points of view of Helen, Ruby, and glimpses into the psyche of the man behind these crimes. In addition, Helen is still dealing with her personal problems and work issues with her subordinates and superiors. It is important that you read the first two in the series before opening this one as Helen's character develops and we get more insight into what makes her tick with each book. I like the fast pace and the characters --  the story line is good, and the investigation methodical. If you haven't tried Arlidge before, I'd recommend this series if you like an entertaining thriller that's not too gory.

Thank you to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group NAL for the e-book ARC to review.  I am looking forward to reading #4 -- Liar Liar.

Previous books in series
Eeny Meeny
Pop Goes the Weasel 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Conqueror's Wife by Stephanie Thornton

From Edelweiss - the ARC I have been holding my breath to read!!
Wow, those were some vicious times...

3.0 out of 5 stars -- Brutal historical fiction

Alexander's reign was marked by blood -- and there are far too many deaths to recount during his saga of endless war and battle to conquer the lands that became his empire. This novel centered on the women connected to Alexander -- and there were many who were there for him during his lustful drive for power. But, he was a man, not a God, and even in death, he left behind those who wanted to secure that role of conqueror for themselves.

I'm sorry to say that I didn't really like this book that much, and I grew weary of reading the unending saga of torture and execution. I did not care for any of the women who were connected to him, not even the ones whom the author decided to cast in the role of champion. Most of the time I was aghast at the senseless deaths, the treachery and the betrayal. The narrative shifts in point of view between the main women -- Thessalonike (sister), Roxana (wife), and Drypetis (warrior). Also heard is the voice of Hephaestation -- Alexander's best friend, fellow soldier, and lover. All of them held in thrall to Alexander the Great.

I've read the authors previous books and loved them, but this is one that I should have passed up as I am left without redemption or satisfaction for all that befell the people who blindly followed the ruthless leaders. I had so looked forward to the release of this new book but am left disappointed in the outcome.

Thank you to Edelweiss and to the publilsher for the e-book ARC to review, but I'm not sure I'd recommend it. Way too much description of mutillation of humans and animals for my taste. Perhaps it is historically accurate, I don't know, but it was just not for me. I am glad that I forced myself to finish it -- but I note that it took me 10 days rather than a few hours to get through -- and that speaks volumes for someone who is as prolific a reader as I am. 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Ashley Bell by Dean Koontz

Finally finished this book after many endless painful reading days. Two words: Skip this!

Don't believe the publicity and the blurbs -- this is NOT "THE MUST-READ THRILLER OF THE YEAR." Who wrote the book synopsis below?? Exaggerate much? 

Description from publisher
From #1 bestselling author Dean Koontz—the must-read thriller of the year, for readers of dark psychological suspense and modern classics of mystery and adventure.
The girl who said no to death.
Bibi Blair is a fierce, funny, dauntless young woman—whose doctor says she has one year to live.
  She replies, “We'll see.”
  Her sudden recovery astonishes medical science.
  An enigmatic woman convinces Bibi that she escaped death so that she can save someone else. Someone named Ashley Bell.
  But save her from what, from whom? And who is Ashley Bell? Where is she?
  Bibi's obsession with finding Ashley sends her on the run from threats both mystical and worldly, including a rich and charismatic cult leader with terrifying ambitions.
  Here is an eloquent, riveting, brilliantly paced story with an exhilarating heroine and a twisting, ingenious plot filled with staggering surprises. Ashley Bell is a new milestone in literary suspense from the long-acclaimed master.

This is hyped as the "thriller of the year" and geez, I miss my old Koontz ... or maybe he is an author whose work better appealed to me when I was in my late teens and early 20s.

This wavered between 1 and 2 stars for me -- I did not enjoy it and that was obvious to me by how often I didn't bother to even open my book to try to finish it. I used to love Dean Koontz and have read nearly every book he's written, usually more disappointed than entertained especially by his recent titles. This is the last one I will read.

To say that you will need to suspend disbelief is an understatement -- the premise was interesting, but then the story became completely ridiculous when I reached chapter 90. NO!!!! I said aloud. I should have stopped right then, but I labored through the rest of it, skipping the endless descriptive and repetitive prose, riddled with overuse of simile and metaphor, to the scoff-out-loud conclusion and I'm sorry I wasted my time. 

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

Saturday, October 17, 2015

I am Your Judge by Nele Neuhas

(Bodenstein & Kirchhoff #7)

3.8 out of 5 stars -- Police Procedural dealing with themes of revenge, retribution and vengeance.

Bodenstein and Kirchhoff investigate murders committed by a sniper in this 7th book in the series. The killings are not random, and the duo soon finds the link between the victims but it takes quite a long time before they solve this case.

This is not a fast-paced thriller, nor is it extremely suspenseful, but the reader gets a sense of the frustration and meticulous attention to detail that is the real meat of a detective's job. The police seem to be behind at every turn and their exhaustion and anger at the perpetrator is evident really demonstrating the depth of these characters and their commitment. The case touches on issues of organ donation and transplantation and may hit a nerve or two in the readers from the medical community. The urge for money, power, and fame often corrupts.

I enjoyed this and believe that there would be a lot in here that would make for a great book club discussion. I like the characters and learning more about their personal lives. I think it best if you've read the previous books in the series as those cases are often mentioned in the narrative. I'll be looking forward to the next.

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

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Blissfully Dead by Louise Voss & Mark Edwards

4.0 out of 5 stars "In this secular society, celebs were the new gods.", October 7, 2015

"Fandom and social media can collide to create what can only be described as hysteria."

DI Patrick Lennon and his partner, DS Carmella Masielllo, were first introduced to readers in FROM THE CRADLE. Returned now, together again, they tackle a case that could be taken from today's headlines. When the pair is called to a murder scene, they find that the victim is a teen-aged girl -- tortured and strangled in a hotel room. When a second girl is found similarly killed, the detectives find a connection -- both were massive fans of a popular boy band, OnTarget, and spent most of their lives on social media and forums discussing the members and their obsession. The investigation takes Lennon and Masiello into a storm of rivalry and new heights of fandom -- and what others will do to protect and nurture ANY connection to their much-loved band.

This novel is a commentary on social media and its effects on impressionable teenagers, as well as a sad reflection of how easily an insecure girl can be affected by what goes on online. Just how far will someone go to protect a reputation or to seek revenge for any slight -- real or imagined? Not only do Lennon and Massiello and their colleagues work on the case, they are also dealing with other personal issues and complications introduced in the first book. It's a solid police procedural with characters who are developing and changing through their interactions with each other and with the discoveries made in the case. I would say that it is important to read the first book featuring this team before this one.

I thoroughly enjoyed this fast paced thriller and look forward to more novels written by this author team and fans won't want to miss other books they've written. Told in multiple points of view, the scenes shift seamlessly as the reader follows the detectives toward the satisfactory conclusion. Thank you to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for the e-book ARC to review.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati

3.0 out of 5 stars -- Historical fiction set in 1880s New York features Anna Savard, physician and surgeon and a large cast of characters so extensive that a few pages at the beginning of the book are needed to list and describe them all.

First off, if I had known that this was apparently the start of a new series and that there would be many unresolved issues in the narrative, I would not have read it. At 791 pages, the length just seemed extreme and may explain why it took me forever to actually finish this one -- though I normally read other books with this many pages in a day or two. The level of detail and minutiae dealing with every aspect of Anna's life is partly the reason for the length, and much of it not relevant to the story line. If you enjoy that type of meandering, this would be the book for you.

The author sets up quite a few different subplots and relationships for Anna to deal with and some of them were more interesting than others. As a lover of all things medical, I was most interested in her medical practice and had hoped for more description of this. Instead, there is a romance and a lot of household drama. In addition, Anna (who has a whirlwind courtship) marries a police detective and becomes embroiled in the investigation for a serial killer -- but I'll say no more about that in this review to avoid spoilers.

I enjoy historical fiction and the synopsis of this appealed to me because of the main character being a female doctor and surgeon in a time when that was rare. I expected her to face prejudice and disrespect, but Anna falls to the level of typical romance novel heroine -- brilliant, strong, opinionated, beautiful, well off, independent, etc. as the love story took up more space than the mysteries. The plight of the poor, the orphans, the pregnant women who wanted birth control were mentioned as were many other social aspects of that time period but Anna was no real activist or crusader for change. Try as I might, I could not find much depth in Anna, nor in any of the other characters.

I'll have to think about picking up a sequel -- which I assume is coming since the novel just stops short rather than to finish off some of the stories.

Library Book.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Kill Switch (Claire Waters #1) by Neal Baer and Jonathan Greene

3.0 out of 5 stars -- "We've all got storms inside us, Claire. How we handle them is what counts."

Claire Waters, forensic psychiatrist, is haunted by the past -- when she was a child, her best friend, Amy, was abducted while the two were playing outside Claire's house. The man was never found, and neither was Amy. Now Claire is starting a fellowship, and is determined to learn more about the men who are imprisoned in the psychiatric unit on Riker's Island. Her first patient, Todd Quimby, is up for parole and Claire is to evaluate him. When he opens up to her about his own traumatic and abusive childhood, Claire feels she's made a great start -- until what he says triggers flashbacks to her own memories. It was at this point, with Claire's reaction and behavior in another session, that this thriller began to move into "suspend disbelief" territory.

When Quimby is released and within 3 days is suspected of murdering a woman, and then another, the manhunt for the serial killer involves NYPD Detective Nick Lawler -- who has his own secret. Claire and Nick work together (without their superior's permission) to track down Quimby in hopes of stopping his murderous rampage. Not by-the-book "police" work as the investigation proceeds. Lots more dead people. Red herrings, subplots that go nowhere. Incredulous climax and reveal.

So why 3 stars -- well it was a medical thriller, and I enjoy dissecting these. The character of Claire was completely stereotypical and she annoyed me -- as dumb as her choices were, I can't imagine how she got through medical school. Nick doesn't fare much better. Their partnership in this case defies reality. Of course they solve it. I read this because I have the second one in the series from NetGalley to review and I like to read series in order. The pacing was fast, felt as it if was a script for a TV show, and it kept me entertained for a couple of hours. I'm interested in seeing if Claire's character develops and I hope that she and Nick don't have a romance.

Library book.
Bad news, missed downloading the second book, KILL AGAIN, before NetGalley archived it so now need to try to get it from the library :(

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

3.0 out of 5 stars -- "...these Utopian schemes always went bad and turned into..."

Freedom of choice is an important concept and one which most of us hold dear. When Stan and Charmaine are living in their car after a severe economic downturn, they don't have many choices. Hungry and dirty, they jump at an offer that seems too good to be true! If they choose to commit to the Positron Project, they'll have jobs and a home again. They'll have to alternate living in their house with stints in the prison there, but won't it be nice to have security and comfort? The only caveat -- once they go in, they can never go back out. Things go very well at the beginning, but when Charmaine has a forbidden affair, all starts to unravel quickly.

I really liked the premise and the first part of the book, but the "unraveling" of Positron and the bizarre events that happen to Stan and Charmaine really stupefied me. I like a good dystopian novel with all of the scary possibilities that might be in the dark future, but some of this was so far out and off-the-wall that it fizzled. I had trouble forcing myself back into the story to finish it, and ultimately didn't really care too much what happened to Stan and Charmaine -- who weren't very likable characters.

I've read many of Margaret Atwood's novels and liked most, and I'm sure fans will want to read this latest, but I didn't feel it was quite up to her usual standards and I was left just feeling ambivalent. Parts were quite entertaining as social commentary and definitely some interesting points to ponder or discuss. But as a whole, I felt let down and glad to be done with Stan and Charmaine.

Thank you to NetGalley, Doubleday Books Nan A. Talese for the e-book ARC to review.

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Langercranz

4.0 out of 5 stars -- Lisbeth Salander "was not one to forget an injustice. She retaliated and she righted wrongs."
"The mark of a man is his contradictions."

What can I say? Some will likely say this novel is a travesty and should never have been published. I don't care. I had been missing Lisbeth Salander -- a character unlike any other but now so iconic that attempts have been made by other authors to create someone like her in their own stories. But we KNOW Lisbeth, and her history, and she is still one of the most interesting characters in this genre. Haunted and fierce, she is a warrior. Broken in so many ways, she uses her unusual talents when she has a reason. A brilliant hacker, Lisbeth is amazing when it comes to finding out secrets that others go to great lengths to hide. She is unique, and unfathomable. She's her own person. And, I think David Lagercrantz was faithful in his attempts to bring us a 4th story in the Millennium series. I hope there will be more.

This novel has Lisbeth and the journalist Mikael Blomkvist investigating a case involving the US National Security Agency and internet espionage that led to a murder. Greed and corruption. Who can be trusted if those who are doing the surveillance are also benefiting from it? This was a complicated plot that is connected to Lisbeth's past and the previous novels. I enjoyed it. 

*This book is #4 in the Millennium series and these need to be read in order.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon

4.0 out of 5 stars - A poignant and unique story involving an unsolved attempted murder that occurred over 15 years ago. The catch is -- the victim is still alive, is paralyzed, but has "locked in" syndrome.

Amy Stevenson was just 15 years old when she was left for dead in a park. Severely beaten, possibly raped, she survived, but barely. She lives in a neurological ward and cannot communicate, and in fact, according to her internal dialog, she has no clue of what has happened, and is not oriented to place or time. Years pass.

Alcoholic ex-reporter, Alex Dale, has burned all of her bridges, spends her days completely drunk and has such bad liver damage that she will be dead within a year if she doesn't change her ways. In a desperate attempt to rehabilitate herself, she is trying to write an article about the new breakthrough treatment at the neuro hospital. While interviewing the doctor there, she hears a little about Amy. Intrigued, and with her instincts kicking into gear after all this time, Alex decides that she is going to find out what really happened to Amy.

Alternating in point of view with shifts back and forth in time, this is a great story about an obsession that redeems a lost soul. Resolution and redemption. I really enjoyed it. The characters are quite quirky and flawed with messy lives and relationships. Even though it might be obvious to the reader who the villain is, the progression of the tale is such that you don't mind being led so slowly to it through Alex's dogged, determined efforts. I liked the writing style and the descriptions, even the dream-like state that Amy's voice delivers, all felt authentic though I don't know about the science of the MRI in communicating with locked-in patients.

Genre: Literature/Fiction - Adult

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

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Pop Goes the Weasel by MJ Arlidge

4.0 out of 5 stars -- The second in the DI Helen Grace series is a fast paced thriller that has the haunted cop investigating a series of brutal murders. All the victims are married men, all were in the habit of visiting prostitutes. In common, they had each visited a website wanting more information on a particular girl named Angel -- who, it was said, would "do anything."

Helen Grace is haunted by her past and scarred by her recent case. She has a lot of secrets and the reader is finding out more about her so it is quite important to have read the first book in the series prior to this one. Her character is developing and has become more three-dimensional though she is typical of the dark, disturbed protagonist that seems to be the current persona in much current fiction that has a female cop as the main character. Her relationships with other people on the team are explored, and some of her motives and behaviors explained further. I really like the fact that Helen has no romantic partner or snarky sidekick. The novel is full of grisly details and investigative procedure, interviewing family, poring over reports.

I really enjoyed this second book and am definitely looking forward to reading the third, The Doll's House, due out in USA February 2016.

Thank you to NetGalley and PENGUIN GROUP Berkley, NAL / Signet Romance, DAW for the e-book ARC to review.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

3.0 out of 5 stars -- The first in a new series featuring Veronica Speedwell is Victorian era historical romance with a bit of intrigue and mystery.

Newly orphaned Veronica Speedwell is not bound by conventional society and is no stranger to adventure. When her spinster caretakers finally die, she is ready to resume hunting for butterflies and engaging in romantic dalliances with mysterious men -- who aren't English (her rule). Instead, she finds herself mixed up in a plot that involves murder and secrets from her own unknown past. Could it be that Veronica will finally have some answers?

Against her will, Veronica finds herself paired up with the enigmatic and unrefined Mr. Stoker (who has a checkered past of his own) when she is almost abducted and then accused of murder. Veronica and Stoker are soon on the run as they elude police while seeking to clear her name and figure out why she is in danger.

This was lighthearted fare with the typical witty sparring between man and woman who obviously are attracted to each other but pretend otherwise (hate that farce). Not much substance to the mystery and the revelation was a bit of a stretch for my credulity. I didn't really like either the stereotypically clever and plucky heroine (who just seemed domineering) nor the stoic and "rough" man-with-a-past (who sounded like he needed a good bath). I may or may not read another one in the series, but it took me so long to plow through this that I don't know for sure. Much of the book seemed an exercise in reciting the genus and species of various butterflies and other creatures (both are sort of naturalists - how nice, they have that in common).

I've read all of Deanna Raybourn's other books that are not part of series so the author is not new to me. The personality of her female characters remains about the same in each novel.

Thank you to NetGalley and PENGUIN GROUP Berkley, NAL / Signet Romance, DAW for the e-book ARC to review.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Murderer's Daughter by Jonathan Kellerman

3.0 out of 5 stars -- a certain kind of atonement...

Grace Blades suffers a trauma as a child and is left orphaned and in the care of protective services. Shunted from one foster to another, she grows into a self-sufficient girl who can take care of herself, and later on, becomes a brilliant psychologist specializing in the care and treatment of patients who have suffered similar situations. Grace lives a quiet, controlled existence most of the time -- except for when she feels compelled to take a "leap" away from her oceanfront home and her psych practice. It's on one of "those" nights that she meets a man in a bar. It's after this satisfying encounter that the real story in this novel begins. I'll say no more about the plot particulars to avoid spoilers.

I'm not quite sure what genre this book fits into because it's not particularly a mystery, and though it is graphic with details in some parts, it's not really a thriller either. Although the reader is meant to feel that Grace is in danger, the suspense really never builds and there's little tension, so this is more a narrative about an unusual woman trying to seek some sort of justice and retribution when she faces off with a sadistic killer she first met as a child. I didn't really like Grace, nor did I buy into all her behavior, skills, and supposed brilliance though the author reminds us often. Oh, and did I mention Grace happens to be super rich was expensive fast cards and limitless cash? She just seemed like another "wonder woman" stereotype seen so often in this kind of novel these days -- and I've grown rather bored with this type of character: the ones who are dark and damaged and dangerous.

Now, what kept me reading on despite my lack of interest in the outcome of Grace's mission is that Kellerman can write! His vocabulary and sentence structure make even his descriptions of all the roads in Beverly Hills and surround interesting. I'm not sure he has got the psyche of women down very well, and I note this is a standalone -- a departure from his Alex Delaware series with its strong male protagonist. Regardless, he does know how to keep a reader turning the pages. There is a lot of time and energy spent on explaining the backstory of Grace and I'm wondering if this is a set up for a series featuring this character. Not sure the book world needs another "Dexter"-like protagonist or vigilante plot. Not sure if I'd read another. Also, the title of this doesn't seem to fit given out the story plays out.

Anyway, check it out if this all sounds appealing to you and let me know what you think!

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

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Swerve by Vicki Pettersson

3.0 out of 5 stars -- "One person bumps into another, and off they go, their lives spinning in totally different directions."

This started out with high octane energy and a completely compelling introduction -- Kristine goes into a deserted rest stop bathroom on the way from Las Vegas to California for a 4th of July getaway when she is attacked and left unconscious. When she comes to and hobbles out to the car, her fiance is gone! Her phone pings with a message: "follow my instructions."

What follows is a frantic and grisly trek across the desert to meet the abductor's demands in order to find her fiance, ER trauma surgeon, Dr. Daniel Hawthorne . Who has taken him and why -- this person who seems to know her all too well.

Without saying more to avoid spoilers, the premise was good and it was intriguing to the halfway point after which it got redundant and ridiculous and fell apart. I ended up disappointed -- no woman is capable of the superhuman feats that Kristine performed. Not really a psychological thriller, but plenty of action and gore after the suspense winds down.

Thank you to NetGalley and Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books for the e-book ARC to review.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain

3.0 out of 5 stars -- "Eventually you'll come to realize that everyone comes from a dysfunctional family. There is no other kind."

Molly and her husband, Aidan, are both attorneys who live in San Diego. After the loss of her pregnancy and subsequent hysterectomy, Molly can't have children so they are looking into adoption. The process of seeking a birth mother for an open adoption brings back some bad memories for Molly. Told in flashback form in alternating chapters, the reader learns of one particular summer when Molly was 14 years old. It was the worst summer of her life, and it changed everything.

The astute reader will figure out the details and zoom in on the source of Molly's angst fairly quickly, and might even wonder about her reaction and behavior -- and it was a bit difficult to believe. I keep reading Chamberlain's novels for some reason though I'm not really drawn to contemporary family drama and keep hoping for her return to writing books with more compelling mystery and suspense.

I've read all of Diane Chamberlain's previous books, and if you're looking for a sweet, sentimental story with a happy ever after ending, then this is one you'll want to put on your list. Perfect for fans of Jodi Picoult, Kristin Hannah, and provides many topics great for book group discussion and argument.

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

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Die Again Tomorrow by Kira Peikoff

3.0 out of 5 stars -- OK this was my MOST anticipated read of 2015 as I love a medical thriller that is both technologically fascinating and suspenseful. Right now I feel a little let down and just disappointed as I have read both of this author's previous books. I had expected more. 

The main character was not someone I could admire and envy for her brains and gumption but a melodramatic and histrionic "survivalist" with simply a knack for getting into impossible situations that were not only improbable but sometimes ridiculous. The outcome was totally predictable. I don't know what else to say right now. 

I read this book in one sitting because I had been so excited about it having read the other two of her books. It was like I was not even reading the same author but I definitely would like to give Ms Peikoff another chance with a future book. Being a nurse myself and reading every type of medical thriller out there, I really was looking for much more from this author. The idea of resuscitation and bringing back the dead (reanimating) is not new, however, the way it was presented herein was just not believable (the ship, the scientists there, etc.) and that main character...UGH UGH UGH. Hoped she would die.


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

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica

4.0 out of 5 stars - A sudden impulse to help a teenage girl and her baby places a family in peril, but the danger comes from an unexpected direction.

Heidi Woods has always been the kind of woman who helps the underdog -- much to the dismay of her family. They definitely don't understand Heidi's motives and decision when she brings home the strange and disheveled Willow with the baby. The house is in an uproar and Heidi's family uninterested and almost hostile. What they don't see is that Heidi is becoming much too involved...

A psychological study of a character in pain and some good writing bring tension to the narrative. The reader knows that something is coming, but may be surprised by the climax. I enjoyed this one as much as her first book (THE GOOD GIRL also reviewed on this blog - May 30, 2014) and will be looking for more novels by this author.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

4.0 out of 5 stars -- "Knowing the details won't make it any easier...the details will tear you apart."

A thrilling standalone novel by an author whose books grab hold and won't let go until the final page is turned. Filled with great characters and a suspenseful plot, the story is one you will be tempted to read in one sitting.

Claire is devastated when her loving handsome, rich and intelligent husband, Paul Scott, is murdered right before her eyes in an alley after an evening out together. When her home is broken into on the day of Paul's funeral, Claire reviews the security files but finds something very disturbing on her husband's computer.

As she copes with her overwhelming grief, Claire is confronted once again by the memories of the unsolved mystery of her older sister's disappearance 20 years previously. Julia was never found and Claire's father could never give up the search which completely decimated their family. Claire's estranged sister, Lydia, reappears just when Claire needs her most.

Told in alternating points of view, this riveting suspense novel twists and turns in unexpected ways and I'll say no more except to urge readers to get a copy and settle in!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Playing with Fire by Tess Gerritsen

3.0 out of 5 stars -- Music has the power to "inspire and to change lives, even across the centuries."

Strange things start happening after Julia Ansdell finds an old piece of music hidden in a book at an antique shop in Rome. Her daughter becomes violent when Julia first plays the music on her violin. It takes a bit before realizes that she must trace the provenance of this eerie and haunting waltz.

It seems the composer of the music wrote the piece right before Hitler deported and murdered the Jews in Italy during the years of WWII. We hear his story along with Julia's as voice and time alternate between those years and present day.

I have read so many books about the Holocaust during WWII -- from almost every possible point of view and this is another. We won't ever forget what happened, and this novel once again reminds us of that reign of horror and terror.

I've read almost every novel that this author has written, and this is a genre departure for her it seems. I prefer the books she's written that are suspense/thrillers, especially those that allow the author to use her medical expertise and background to tell the story.

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

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian

4.0 out of 5 stars -- Bachelor party in the suburbs goes terribly wrong...

Richard Chapman thought he was doing a Best Man's job when he offered to host his younger brother's bachelor party at his upscale home. By the time the night was over, he had some very serious problems. Two men dead and the night's "talent" on the lam. Plus a very angry wife and his employers at the bank have some issues with what's being reported in the papers. Not to mention a very guilty conscience about what may or may not have happened in his guest room between him and one of the girls.

Told in alternating points of view, the plot evolves into a portrait of sex slaves, the men who think they own them, and those that hire them.

I think I have read every book by this author, so when this one came up on NetGalley, I requested it, received approval, and read it all in one sitting. Bohjalian has a knack for a descriptive phrase and great word choices, and I enjoy the writing style. His characters are interesting and usually complex, and the story line of this novel puts ordinary nice man -- husband, father, good provider -- in a bad situation and the reader watches his life spiral out of control.

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

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Cold Moon (#3) by Alexandra Sokoloff

4.0 out of 5 stars - "There is something larger at work...a force beyond the simply human. A female vengeance against outrages."

This third in the suspenseful and thrilling series featuring FBI Special Agents Roarke, Epps and Singh focuses on their continued hunt for Cara Lindstrom and Jade. The pair has been murdering pimps and johns all over California. In addition, their spree has induced devotees of Santa Muerte, the unconsecrated Catholic Saint of those on the fringe of society -- the victims of extreme violence -- to use the murders of those pimps and johns as a call to arms against rape culture when an internet blogger called Bitch starts writing about them.

The storyline deals with sex trafficking and the heinous acts of cruelty and abuse by those who buy and sell women, and especially underage girls. Cara and Jade are portrayed as vigilantes and their crimes affect the FBI team and many others because it becomes obvious to all that law enforcement and the courts are not able to stop the trade. If there were no buyers, they could not sell the merchandise.

I have grown to really like the main FBI characters in the book but sometimes I am rooting for Cara and Jade to evade capture, arrest, and incarceration because they are killing some really evil men and both have been horribly abused by some they kill. On the other hand, it is hard to morally and ethically justify any type of vigilantism and this same quandary has been in the minds and actions of the FBI team though they are intent on finding the two women.

The narrative is fast-paced and full of details and action that keep a reader glued to the pages. Definitely this book could provide a great platform for lots of discussion in book groups though the concepts of vigilantism and revenge are not new. I cannot wait for book #4 and I was lucky enough to get to read these first 3 back to back. Definitely a series that must be read in order!

Thank you to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for the e-book ARC to review. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Blood Moon (#2) by Alexandra Sokoloff

4.0 out of 5 stars -- This second in the Huntress/FBI series continues to thrill with fast-paced action and chilling suspense. I could barely put it down and will be starting the 3rd tonight as I need to know what happens next!

Special Agent Matthew Roarke continues in his search for the Reaper and his team is starting to put some new information into the investigation that is leading them closer to identifying the perpetrator of the series of family murders. He is still haunted by his feelings about Cara even though she will be arrested once she can be found -- but he knows she is there, watching the trail lead ever closer to the Reaper even as he kills another family. How can this be happening again and when can he be identified and caught.

Great story line with lots of FBI profiler and investigation detail. I like the characters and the writing. I wonder if the series will end with the next installment? Recommend to suspense thriller fans.

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

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Huntress Moon (#1) by Alexandra Sokoloff

4.0 out of 5 stars - This is the first in a series featuring FBI Special Agent Matthew Roarke who lives and works primarily in San Francisco. He is monitoring criminal organizations when one of his undercover agents is run down by a truck right in front of him before a meeting. At the scene of the "accident", Matthew locks eyes with an unusual woman -- was she somehow connected to the death of his agent? She vanishes before he can question her.

Matthew is an interesting character and the action of this thriller is nonstop as he begins an investigation into this woman and tracks her all over the northwestern US. What he finds is a tie to a series of family massacres that occurred 25 years ago, and the conviction that he is following a female serial killer -- a very rare phenomenon.

There is a lot going on in the story and it was hard to put the book down so I read it in one sitting and immediately loaded up the second in the series, BLOOD MOON, on my Kindle and started in. Can't wait to see where this goes.

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

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Somebody I Used to Know by David Bell

3.0 out of 5 stars - "Whoever said time heals was lying."

Nick Hansen, now 40, fell deeply and totally in love with Marissa when they were college sweethearts at Eastland University. Twenty years later, he still hasn't forgotten her though she died in a house fire shortly after suddenly breaking up with him 2 years after they'd become involved. He never got over her.

So who is the girl in the grocery store that looks so much like Marissa and why did she have Nick's name and address in her possession when she is found murdered in a rented room almost right after he spoke with her. Nick is certain that the girl, Emily, must be related to Marissa and is stunned when he is considered a person of interest in Emily's murder. He begins his investigation in pursuit of the truth about what really happened the night of the fire.

Although this mystery (not really suspenseful or a thriller) started off very well and promised to be intriguing and twisty, it ended quite predictably and required all my ability to suspend disbelief. I'll probably read another by this author, but I was a bit disappointed in where this story went and the conclusion.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Whistle-Blower's Confession by Jennifer Lang

Zero stars - This is a nasty, poorly written, ridiculous fictional piece of anti-GMO propaganda and I would not recommend that anyone read it. I'd suggest scientific journals and research study materials instead if someone wants a real picture of what a GMO is and isn't.

Kelley's aunt dies of cancer. She determines that GMOs have caused it and begins an investigation that brings a huge fictitious company to its knees, results in a new law that restricts the sale of GMO food, and bans hormones and antibiotics from livestock. Indeed, even the FDA and USDA are taken down in Kelley's crusade.

I have no issue with those who want to buy and eat only organic food, take probiotics, etc., but companies like Monsanto are not the devil (in my opinion). I should have known better than to open this novella (72 pages), but fortunately I will forget it soon. 

Madam President by Nicolle Wallace

4.0 out of 5 stars -- "And the mother gave, in tears and pain, the flowers she most did love; she knew she should find them all again in the fields of light above."

This quote by Longfellow is used by Charlotte Kramer (the 45th and first female US president) in a speech she gives after an unspeakable series of terrorist attacks on 5 American cities rocks the nation during her second term in office. It can be seen as not only a reflection on the loss of a child experienced by a parent, but also as the way the country deals with those who sacrifice their lives for the good of their country or fellow man.

Although I believe I have read books where a secondary character happened to be a female president, I have not ever seen one where the main character is a current US President and when the novel is centered on the daily life of one. This political drama features a unique and revealing view of a "day in the life" of 3 very powerful women -- Madame President Charlotte Kramer in her second term of office, Melanie Kingston, the current Secretary of Defense (SECDEF but former chief of staff during Kramer's first term), and Dale Smith, the press secretary. The narrative voice is shared by each of these as the women react on the day of the terror attacks. The reader gets an inside look at what happens in the personal and professional lives of these top people in US government, the protocols, the heartbreak and the difficulty of leadership.

This fast paced novel, written by a former White House insider, was absorbing and interesting and I enjoyed it. I see that it is labeled as the third in a series and I confess that I want to go back and read the previous books as well as keep my eye out for a possible #4.

#1 Eighteen Acres
#2 It's Classified

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Book of James by Ellen J. Green

2.0 out of 5 stars -- Melodramatic attempt at suspense is overwrought and mostly irritating. I picked this because I thought the synopsis sounded interesting and I like a good mystery. This story was so implausible on many levels, but the worst part was that I hated the character of Mackenzie. I just wanted to shake her as she floundered from one peril to the  next while investigating what had happened all those years ago when her recently deceased husband lived in the house. Many readers will figure out the big secret fairly quickly. The most intriguing aspect of this novel was the description of Cora's old family mansion and the surrounding grounds. The romance was predictable and ridiculous given the situation, and I was just glad when I finally finished the book and could shut the door on this crazy tale.

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

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Broken Promise by Linwood Barclay

3.0 out of 5 stars -- Warning -- cliffhanger ending, obviously a set up for a new series or at least a sequel. If it bothers you to invest yourself in 500+ pages without getting a neatly wrapped conclusion, then you might NOT enjoy this latest by Linwood Barclay. This is the 9th book by this author that I've read so I likely will hang around for the followup just to get my answers.

David Harwood, 41, has returned home to Promise Falls after things fell apart for him in Boston. He's a single father and living with his parents when he gets involved in a messy situation involving his cousin, Marla. He's spent his career working for newspapers, so he tries to help her and his family the only way he knows how -- by asking questions.

I would classify this as domestic or suburban fiction, and although there is a murder or two, there really is no suspense, no police procedure, no thrills. At the heart of the narrative is mystery. But, several subplots are explored and none of them are completely solved.

I'd guess that fans won't want to miss this.

Disclaimer by Renee Knight

4.0 out of 5 stars -- "Such a pity she hadn't realized that doing nothing would be such a deadly omission."

Catherine and Robert have just moved into a new home -- downsizing now that their son has been gently moved to his own flat -- when she finds a new book on her bedside table. Stunned when she recognizes herself as the main character in a hideous drama that she thought she had buried, left behind in Spain over 20 years ago. Who could have written this and why is someone bringing it up now?
When she googles the author she finds that the book is self-published by Rhamnousia -- the "goddess of revenge, aka Nemesis."

This is a great twisty story that alternates point of view between Catherine and the person who gave the "book" to her -- and I'll say nothing more about the plot so that any reader can follow the tale to its very satisfactory conclusion. I would not call this psychological suspense, or even a thriller, but more a study of perspective regarding an event that Catherine chose to keep hidden. The characters are very three-dimensional and I shifted my allegiance through the slow reveal, not sure of the truth, but seeking to understand the motives and reasoning of each. I enthusiastically recommend it and thank Carol (on Goodreads) for her review that tempted me to seek out this novel. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Night Ferry by Michael Robotham

3.5 out of 5 stars -- "Regret is such an odd emotion because it invariably comes a moment too late, when only imagination can rewrite what has happened."

Alisha (Ali) Barba, formerly with the Metropolitan Police, but on leave after a spinal injury, had a huge falling out with her best friend, Cate, the summer after they both finished university 8 years ago. So why now -- why would Cate write Ali begging for help because "she's in trouble." Before Ali can find out any information at the reunion, Cate and her husband are killed. Because of suspicious circumstances at the scene, including the discovery that Cate has faked a pregnancy -- Ali begins an off-the-books investigation that takes her from London to Amsterdam while she faces off with human traffickers, illegal adoptions, and baby sellers.

I've read all of the novels by Michael Robotham. This one looks to have been published earlier but just came up on NetGalley so I grabbed it having really liked the others. Although rather on the long side, it was very complex, fast paced, and kept my interest throughout, however predictable I figured the ending would be. Some of the action that Ali becomes involved in sort of defies belief, but she's an interesting character now in her own book (she featured as a minor character in other novels). Fans won't want to miss it.

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

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Love Lies Beneath by Ellen Hopkins

3.0 out of 5 stars - "...some cracks can't be mortared."

Can a 40 something rich widow who is also twice divorced find true love after a lifetime of forgettable marriages, casual flirtations, risky sexual liaisons, and manipulative relationships? Tara is determined to find out when she meets the handsome orthopedic surgeon, Cavin Lattimore, after a ski accident leaves her with a blown-out knee requiring extensive rehab. She falls for him but there are complications and secrets -- can anyone be trusted to be truthful and can this great new life Tara wants finally happen for her?

The characters in this novel are meant to be quite complex but I didn't find Tara to be a remotely likeable person and the reader isn't privy to any real insight. Her interactions with her sister and family were superficial and when Tara meets Cavin's son, Eli, the conversations were quite odd. Tara is definitely not someone that I would like to know, and definitely not one to cross. Can Tara's perceptions and reactions to situations be believed? As the tension mounts though the pages leaving the reader wondering and waiting for the big reveal, everything is analyzed. I tried to figure out where this was all going.

I have read every one of the books written by Ellen Hopkins, and the teens in my school certainly love the YA titles that I always have on the shelves. I used to think it was just me, that free verse left out too much of the story and I never felt like I got the whole scoop when I read her -- but now, with this one in prose, I feel the exact same way. That ending was so unsatisfying and incomplete that it almost made me gasp at getting to the grand finale only to...LETDOWN.

I really was invested in this novel, but ultimately was left disappointed by its dangling conclusion which seemed rushed given the long, slow buildup. I'm sure fans won't want to miss it, but I sure would have preferred a solid finish. Thank you to Edelweiss and the publisher for an e-book ARC to review.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Remember Me This Way by Sabine Durrant

4.0 out of 5 stars -- "Perhaps I needed it, one last maelstrom of madness before I could move on."

Lizzie and Zach met on the Internet and began a passionate relationship that led to their marriage. Things weren't always so rosy, however, as time went on. Zach was possessive and jealous and, as a struggling artist, had little to do except to keep tabs on Lizzie. He follows her, watches her at work, checks her phone -- but she sees it all as signs of his devotion. After all, he had a horrible, abusive childhood and is a bit needy and insecure. When Zach is killed in a horrible fireball of a car accident, Lizzie spends a year grieving through her life one step at a time. On the anniversary of his death, she finally goes to the site of the wreck to place flowers by the tree where he died. She is shocked that there is another bouquet already there -- signed, Xenia. Who was Xenia and did Lizzie really know Zach as well as she thought she did? Bizarre events trigger her fear that Zach is not dead after all, but has come back to torment her or for revenge. As Lizzie traces Zach's past, she finds that things were not what she thought and starts to wonder if she has gone off the rails.

Let's just say that I needed something that would really keep my interest after a couple of ho hum books. This was it -- I opened to the first page and didn't put it down again until I'd reached the last page! It was an addictive psychological thriller that kept me guessing -- just when I thought I had it figured out, there was a new twist or different dimension. The narrative is told from the points of view of both Lizzie and Zach and each person's perspective definitely changes the direction as the story moves forward. Once again, what's the truth, what really happened -- is Lizzie reliable or incredibly traumatized?

I'd recommend this to fans of psychological suspense and I thank NetGalley and Atria Books for the e-book ARC to review. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Heiress of Linn Hagh by Karen Charlton

3.0 out of 5 stars -- Gothic mystery set in 1809 in Northumbria has a predictable plot with few surprises but authentic period detail. This is the first in a new series featuring Detective Lavender and his erstwhile partner, Constable Woods.

A young heiress of Linn Hagh, Helen Carnaby, disappears one night from a locked bedroom. Her older half brother and sister, relatively unconcerned, seem to be conspiring to obtain the fortune that was to be hers on Helen's upcoming birthday -- but another family relative hires Lavender to look into the matter. What has happened to Helen and was she kidnapped or did she leave on purpose?

This is an old fashioned whodunit with characters straight out of the era of Sherlock Holmes and the duo of Lavender and Woods more than fill his investigative shoes. The language and description of the countryside and its people definitely bring the reader to Regency England.

Definitely for fans of Agatha Christie and for those who enjoy a less modern type of crime fiction. Thank you to NetGalley for the e-book ARC to review.

Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican

Catholic school - as vicious as Roman Rule." (Death Cab for Cutie)

I really liked this book though it was very disturbing and dark. As a teacher, librarian and nurse at a Catholic high school, I have heard that phrase a million times since the song with those lyrics came out ~2005. There seems to be no end to the inventive ways that students find to torment each other. Though this book was set in the 1990s, many of the behaviors and problems described exist in school settings today. Students in high school are faced with academic pressure, shifting loyalties, betrayal, bullying, and other issues that so make these NOT the best days of their lives. The students in BRUTAL YOUTH come from different backgrounds and home situations that make their ability to succeed more difficult as kids compete with each other to stand out and be different while still wanting to belong to at least one group or clique. The blind eye or ignorance of what was really happening at St. Michael the Archangel was sort of unbelievable but definitely adults don't always get the real picture because students don't often confide the complete truth. A critical conversation or intervention by an observant teacher, mentor, coach or staff might have helped immensely -- I thought most of those employees should have been fired!

I originally thought this was a YA novel but I can see that it is not as I don't feel that most high school students would read between the lines for the insight that is there in the stories of the teens at SMTA school. The lack of resolution and the missing happy endings is difficult to accept because the reader, given the benefit of knowing the real inner workings of each character's mind, has definite thoughts and feelings as to how things should end. Consequences. Punishment? The level of abuse meted out to students under the watchful eyes of equally disturbed adults was horrific. I will be thinking about this book for a long time and I hope it keeps me mindful of the myriad ways in which I personally can be empathetic and helpful to the kids I interact with each day. Observant and open. Watchful and ready to step in to prevent the bullying or the "jokes" made at another's expense. Are students more vulnerable now given the impact of social media? I think everyone is potentially a target and that learning to handle it is one of the main learning experiences of the high school years, but no student should be left unprotected by the adults given the charge to keep them safe from mental and physical harm. The adults described in the book were horrible stereotypes of all the myths about Catholic school, but demonstrate how toxic an environment can be if allowed to go unchecked. I don't care what people say, any kind of "hazing" by upper classmen is inappropriate in a school community. Adults can and should model behavior that encourages students to be kind to one another and they should be vigilant to weed out and help break the cycle of "do unto others" when that means being cruel.

I'm sure I will be thinking about this novel for a long time and would love to discuss it with others. It was disturbing but pertinent. I'd recommend it.

4.5 stars Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for the e-book copy to review.  May 11, 2014
Reposted with paperback release 6/15

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Bad Nurse by Sheila Johnson

4.0 out of 5 stars -- "The cause of the death had been lethal injection, and the manner of death was homicide."

Interesting and very short true crime novel (192 pages) about the suit against Karri Willoughby, nurse and mother of 2, who is accused of murdering her stepfather in 2008 because of her greed for his money. Despite having thousands of supporters who initially rallied to Karri's defense because of her active Facebook blogging, she stuns everyone by pleading guilty when the case is finally brought to trial in 2012. This is the story of a very manipulative and cunning woman who had lied to everyone in the small community of Ider, Alabama, for years with her purported belief in God and family. Meanwhile she was stealing money from her parents until they put that to a stop by locking her out of their personal and business accounts. Her staggering personal debt and bankruptcy filing showed a history of fiscal irresponsibility and was the motive for the murder.

I read a lot of crime and suspense thrillers, and every once in awhile like to again discover that sometimes the true stories read just like crime fiction. The book includes some photographs, but none of the people involved are pictured. Usually the murders are for love or money and this one proves no exception. I enjoyed it and recommend to any fans of the genre. Criminals are fascinating because often they hide behind a mask of normalcy -- and Karri Willoughby did that very well. Until the monster was ultimately revealed.

Thank you to NetGalley an Kensington Publishing for an e-book ARC of this to review. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Fatal Reaction (#1) by Belinda Frisch

2.0 out of 5 stars -- Attempt at medical thriller reads more like a soap opera. This novel, which apparently is supposed to be the first of a new series featuring Paramedic Ana Ashmore, is very predictable, has no suspense, and suffers from way too much romantic ridiculousness to be taken seriously as a mystery. Though it has, at its heart, an ethically questionable situation involving uterine organ transplantation, the medical science aspect took a back burner to melodrama. The perils and predicaments that Ana puts herself in have nothing to do with her job as a paramedic and, in fact, in the whole of the book, she handles only one actual ambulance call.

The story begins when Ana, who is on duty, sees a commotion at a dive hotel. When she is not called to the scene, she wanders on over anyway, and finds that the victim is already dead of a possible suicide, and that the woman is her sister! Ana rushes into the room and interrupts the crime scene investigation, finds out the details from her friend the cop, and from that point on, she starts her own investigation because she is sure that it was homicide. Her sleuthing leads her to revelations about her sister's recent cancer diagnosis and to the whole plot line involving the medical team performing cutting edge surgery. There are too many different characters to keep track of, all of them one-dimensional stereotypes, who are more concerned with who they are sleeping with than the care of their patients. There are no surprises as the whole spectacle finally winds down with a blah conclusion.

I don't plan to read the next book in this series and just felt relief that I actually stuck with this to the end. I try to read every medical mystery or thriller I can find, and I'm always open to trying new authors so I'm glad that NetGalley offered me this e-book ARC to review. I'll keep looking.