NetGalley Top Reviewer

NetGalley Top Reviewer
NetGalley Top Reviewer

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

4+ out of 5 stars  -- "Be mindful of death."

Absolutely riveting thriller full  of completely deranged psychopaths with murder on their minds. This one is twisted and unpredictable with characters you can lovingly loathe. The chapters shift in point of view as the narrative unfolds -- teasing the reader to stick glued to the pages. This is definitely one you'll want to read in one sitting!

Ted Severson, married man, meets Lily Kintner late one night in an airport bar. That's when the trouble begins...  Alcohol consumed, secrets spilled, plans made. But all of the players in this complicated scheme have not been entirely truthful, and things fall apart for them in completely unexpected ways.

Great writing and complex characters propel this suspenseful novel to a satisfying conclusion that might send a few chills down your spine. Recommended for anyone who enjoys surprises in a very entertaining second book by this author. I have THE GIRL WITH A CLOCK FOR A HEART up next on my Kindle Fire.

Thank you to William Morrow Books and Harper Collins for the e-book ARC to review.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen

3.0 out of 5 stars - A romantic drama set in Scotland during the last months of WWII with elements of the supernatural and a predictable ending worthy of a Disney movie. The bad guys get their just due and the princess lives happily ever after.

The main story line involves a wealthy American couple, Ellis and Maddie Hyde, who travel to Scotland in search of the Loch Ness monster. Along with their best friend, Hank, the trio seeks to redeem themselves after causing the Hyde patriarch such acute embarrassment during a social occasion that he cuts off Ellis from his allowance. In addition, neither Ellis nor Hank are able to serve in the war efforts as both have conditions that prevented their enlistment.

When they arrive in Scotland to begin their search for the monster, the trio manages to draw hostility from the local townspeople by their attitudes about class and entitlement. Although this was supposed to be a story in which Maddie comes to her senses and discovers herself while the men continue their crass, snobbish ways, it was mostly a slow moving description of Maddie's boring days at the inn and how she endears herself to all with her kind ways. Frankly, none of the characters were appealing or had any depth. Ellis is a pill-popping fraud and Hank his trusty sidekick -- drunkards both. Of course there is the hidden hero who rises to the occasion when he's most needed and saves the day. All in all, just a ho hum plot with a few WWII references thrown in to emphasize the time period of the setting and how difficult of a time the people were having contending with night air raids and rationing. The addition of the supernatural events just further alienated me from connecting with the characters or the story.

I had read Water for Elephants and I hoped to be entranced with this novel as well, but that was not to be. Anyone looking for a formulaic historical romance will find it with this book.

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

Monday, January 26, 2015

Doctor Death by Lene Kaaberbol

3.5 out of 5 stars -- "There is such an unsatisfactory distance between the CAUSE of a death and the REASON for it."

I love forensic pathology mysteries and book descriptions such as the synopsis of this one grab me immediately. I loved the setting and the 1890s time period. I have read all of this author's previous books and so was immediately intrigued by this first one in a new series featuring a character named Madeleine Karno, the daughter of the forensic doctor in the provincial French town of Varbourg. When a local girl turns up dead in the alleyway outside her home, and when the priest who buried her is murdered and his body vanishes, Madeleine and her father dig deeper into the investigation. What do unusual mites,  enigmatic nuns, and nearly tame wolves have to do with these deaths?

This was great fast-paced reading until the discoveries and revelations toward the end that totally overwhelmed my ability to suspend disbelief. Just how close is the relationship between man and beast? Madeleine finds some cryptic clues that attempt to explain this unusual case.

The writing is excellent and the characters are intriguing so I will likely look for another in this series.

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

The Perfect Mother by Nina Darnton

3.0 out of 5 stars -- Sometimes the lies we tell ourselves are even worse than the ones we tell each other...

When the call comes in the middle of the night, Jennifer Lewis rushes to Spain to help her daughter, Emma, who has been arrested in connection with a murder. Emma, a foreign exchange student who had previously been attending Princeton University, was ostensibly studying abroad -- while receiving financial support from her parents. This perfect mother cannot imagine how her perfect daughter has been implicated or involved in this case because it is very clear to her that Emma was the victim of a crime, not the perpetrator. Unfortunately, the other witness, Emma's boyfriend, Paco, is missing so can't substantiate Emma's story.

Jennifer and her husband, Mark, bring their money and Mark's legal experience to Spain -- sparing no expense trying to clear Emma. Jennifer doesn't waver in her support until little fractures and tiny memories start to crack the facade. For is a daughter the reflection of a mother? If so, then is it the mother's fault if the daughter makes bad choices? Jennifer cannot allow herself to see the real Emma -- who continues to avoid addressing the allegations. The investigation leads to the discovery of evidence that questions Emma's account of the night the murder happened. Jennifer has no insight, and doesn't want any, as she prefers her own storybook tale of life and family. Emma is manipulative and conniving and eventually only her mother is fooled. Jennifer cannot confront her daughter because she doesn't WANT to know the TRUTH. I really hated these characters and felt no empathy for any of them.

This book is another work of fiction that is loosely compared to the reality of the Amanda Knox case. It addresses the issues of media spin and how the Americans and the Spanish react when a crime such as this occurs and involves their citizens. I much preferred the book Cartwheel by Jennifer Dubois as it had more complex characters and multiple points of view versus this novel which was from that of Jennifer.
I think most parents try to have a clear vision of who and what their children are, but love can often be blind. And it is in the nature of parents to accept responsibility for the outcome of their child-raising abilities. This novel explored that concept and again reminds us that it is impossible to ever fully know another person, even a much-loved child.

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


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Die Again (#11) by Tess Gerritsen

3.5 out of 5 stars -- This is a good suspense thriller, however, the Rizzoli and Isles partnership is tired and old and I think the series has extended beyond my loyalty level. If I look at the novel as a standalone, I am able to take away a very unusual story of a safari years old gone terribly wrong and a complicated manhunt that spans time and continents to present day. The shifting point of view narrative that relates the ill-fated Botswana bush trek and connects to the gruesome murders in Boston gives a little bit of pause when suppressing the coincidence that yields disbelief. Despite that tenuous link, and the background and the efforts required to bring the case to a close, I most enjoyed reading about the seven people who made the trip into the delta and about what happened there.

I think Tess Gerritsen is an incredible writer whose prose and description captures the reader whether she is describing the savannah or the morgue. The details are often gruesome, but evoke that rightness that draw the reader into the tale. I have read every book she has written and wish she would return to the medical thriller genre that first caught my eye and pushed her to my "must read" list. As I said earlier, I believe she should retire this series and focus on her storytelling skills that make her an expert in her field. Fortunately, this novel has little really to do with Rizzoli and Isles and more to do with adventure in the wild.

I am sure any fan will want to read this novel, as I did, and enjoy the experience of escaping into the wilds of Africa -- but safely from the couch.

Thank you to LibraryThing First Reads for the ARC and the opportunity to review this book.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

4+ out of 5 stars - Confabulation..."a memory disturbance, defined as the production of fabricated, distorted or misinterpreted memories about oneself or the world."

I think the best way to enjoy this book is to just read it without having too much information about it. I raced through it in a couple of hours because I just could NOT put it down. Fun. Intense. I would suggest it to anyone who likes to be a little bit uncertain about what is actually going on or someone who likes to think they've figured it all out early. I found it unpredictable and suspenseful and I'm recommending it to thriller fans. Loved the character development and the pacing -- it will definitely make you think!!

Rachel takes the same train to and from London every day. As the scenes beyond her window slide by, she looks longingly at the houses from the signal point where the train often stops. She sees the people who live there from her seat and has started to feel like she knows them and their habits; she tells herself stories about the routines of their lives. One day, however, she sees something disturbing and can't keep it to herself.

Megan and Scott Hipwell live in one of the houses along the train tracks and they are Rachel's favorite couple to watch. They seem so in love...

Then there's Anna and Tom Watson almost next door. They have a new baby and Rachel can see they are a happy family.

What happens when an unreliable narrator has information that could help solve a crime -- if only anyone believed her? And, if what she says she saw is actually true? Rachel, Megan and Anna share narrative point of view as events unfold and lead to a shocking conclusion.

Library Book.
PS This is not a new GONE GIRL. And, actually, I liked this one much better.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Ice Queen (#3) by Nele Neuhaus

4.0 out of 5 stars

This is an excellent German police procedural, and the third book by Neuhaus that I have read. It is also #3 in the series. Unfortunately, because of the order in which the translations have been released in the USA, and also because the release of the series is incomplete, I actually started with Bad Wolf (#6), then read Snow White Must Die (#4), and just now getting this one. REVERSE ORDER. This is quite confusing going backward in time with regard to the growth of the Kirchhoff-Bodenstein partnership and with character development. In addition, the personal lives of the characters, once known from reading out of order, become less important and somewhat annoying as you knew the decisions and choices they were going to make and the outcome. I always enjoy details about the lead detectives and their lives outside of the current major case.

I must credit a friend, Kim M, for the excellent literary detective work she did to identify the titles and order of the series as published in Germany. It's with regret that I realize that I won't likely be able to read them all until translated in whatever order the publisher decrees, and disappointed that I can't read in order as a good series should be read.

So, for interested readers, this is the information needed
Taunus (Oliver von Bodenstein and Pia Kirchhoff) Series

#1 - An Unpopular Woman (pub 2006 as Eine unbeliebte Frau)
#2 - Friends Till Death (pub 2007 as Mordsfreunde)
#3 - The Ice Queen aka Skin Deep (pub 2009 as Tiefe Wunden)
#4 - Snow White Must Die (pub 2010 as Schneewittchen muss sterben)
#5 - Those Who Sow (pub 2011 as Wer Wind sät)
#6 - Bad Wolf (pub 2012 as Böser Wolf)
#7 - The Living & the Dead (pub 2014 as Die Lebenden und die Toten)

With that now clear, I must say that each story is a well-developed and complex investigative novel that could probably stand on its own IF you hadn't already read another, and more importantly, read them at least in order of them being written instead of backwards. From the synopsis provided and without giving away spoilers, this one involves a series of gruesome murders that lead back to the Third Reich and SS officers taking on the identity of dead Jews, greed, and incredible family secrets. There are many characters, lots of red herrings, and a solid conclusion. I did enjoy it. Happy reading!

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

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

3.0 out of 5 stars - "Memories. Wounds heal. Love lasts. We remain."

Two sisters face the horrors of German-occupied France during WWII and find courage and unbelievable resilience in the face of constant danger.

Vianne Mauriac sends her husband off to the front while she maintains their home and cares for their daughter in quiet Carriveau. Her world is torn apart when a German soldier commandeers her home and when she has some difficult decisions to make in order to survive. Things get even worse when the Germans begin to arrest the Jews and take away homes and businesses.

Eighteen-year-old Isabelle has been willful, impetuous, and wild most of her life. She felt unwelcome with both her sister and her father and joins the French Resistance after Gaetan, a man she loves, abandons her. The choices she makes in a world gone mad surprise her most of all.

I've read almost all of Hannah's previous books and this is not my favorite. Although the last few chapters of the book were the most interesting to me as an old woman prepares for an award ceremony in Paris and the dangling ends tie up as we learn the outcome of the sisters' lives, much of the book was repetitive and it seemed to drag on as the point of view shifted from sister to sister in the recounting of the war years. I'm sure Hannah's fans, as well as those who are interested in WWII historical fiction, will not want to miss this.

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

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Farewell to Freedom by Sara Blaedel

4.0 out of 5 stars -- Another good one, the 4th in the Louise Rick/Camilla Lind series. These are police procedurals and they move slowly as the detectives uncover clues, follow leads, and investigate the crimes. Camilla, a journalist, usually gets involved by interviewing people of interest as they relate to stories she is writing for the newspaper.

I like the characters as I learn more about them with each book. Louise and Camilla are complicated women and they are quite private about their personal feelings and lives even though they are best friends.

This novel focused on sex trafficking trade and the abuse of women and young girls who have been brought to Denmark for the purpose of prostitution by Albanians seeking to profit by their work. When one of the girls is found dead and no witnesses can identify the killer, Louise and her fellow detectives try to unravel the mystery.

I recommend this series to anyone looking for books featuring solid, methodical police work with interesting stories that usually explore an issue of significance to women. I will have to wait until the next books are translated into English to be able to read on in the series. I'm putting #5 and #6 on my TBR (I've already read #7).

Library book.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Only One Life by Sara Blaedel

4.0 out of 5 stars -- Another fast-paced novel by this author of Nordic crime fiction featuring Detective Louise Rick of Copenhagen Police Department and her journalist friend, Camilla Lind. This particular book focuses on the cultural issue of "honor killings" when a young, teenaged, Jordanian, Muslim girl who lives with her family in Holbraek is found murdered.

This is the 3rd novel I've read in this series, though not in order, and I'm really enjoying the characters and the setting. I'm eager to learn more about Louise and Camilla's personal lives even as they investigate the cases in standard police procedural form. Although I'm not generally surprised by the whodunit, I do enjoy the process and the way that the author ties all the red herrings and loose ends together. I feel sometimes that the slow reveal and somewhat obtuse writing style works well with this type of story. I like that the translation is complete and that I don't have to learn any Danish in order to thoroughly understand anything in the book (though I don't mind its inclusion as long as it is translated). I'm looking forward to starting #4 later on this evening but then I'll have to wait for more to be published in USA to continue on in the series.

Library book.
Read January 4, 2015

Call Me Princess by Sara Blaedel

4.0 out of 5 stars -- Thrilling police procedural, the second in a series, featuring Assistant Detective Louise Rick of Copenhagen Police Department. Set in Denmark, this novel focuses on the online dating scene and a serial rapist and murderer.

I like the writing and the characters -- Louise is struggling in her personal life and striving to also mange her heavy workload during an intense investigation and manhunt for the rapist. Her friend, Camilla, a reporter, is on the fringe of the story as she writes and publishes a first person account of survival by one of the victims. I am eager to read more in the series to get to know the characters better.

I read book #7, THE FORGOTTEN GIRLS, first and am now trying to go back and find all the English translations of the earlier books in the series. Of course it would be better for me to read in order, but this one worked also as a standalone. I have #3 and #4 on hand and will read them next.

Library book.
Read January 3, 2015

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Method 15/33 by Shannon Kirk

2.5 out of 5 stars -- The ultimate in asset management and "divine coincidence"...

Suspend your disbelief if you can while reading this novel about a kidnapped pregnant girl who, because of almost superhuman skills and brilliance, turns the tables on her captors. The plot centers on escape and revenge scenarios, and this 16-year-old has abilities and, later on, the money to plan and play out the drama to her satisfaction. I was drawn into the story quickly because of the girl's predicament, but further revelations about her personality and said skills just completely turned off my empathy button -- I just could not buy in. I felt the supporting characters in this novel were all very stereotypical and one-dimensional. Toward the last part of the book, I was just shaking my head at the ridiculousness of the tied-up conclusions -- unable to imagine this ending except in a totally alternate reality.

Although it's meant to be a thriller, it is only somewhat suspenseful until the reader sees where this is going and a realistic drama veers off into a revenge fantasy where our heroine creates tools and deadly weapons out of nothing more than a piece of thread or a tack. The author attempts to use science to explain the unusual skills and abilities of her characters -- how convenient that so many of those involved in this story have amazing talents such as these.

If a "payback" and "get even" type of novel interests you, such as SUFFER by E.E. Borton, this might be one you'd enjoy. It wasn't for me.

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

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Woman Who Would Be King by Kara Cooney

3.5 out of 5 stars -- Fascinating nonfiction account of Hatshepsut, who at only age 20, set out to put herself into the highest office in Egypt - as King. As the book points out, she was the ultimate "working mother" whose ambition for a dynasty of her own was foiled only by her own womb. Since she did not bear any sons, her co-regent Thutmose III, was able to systematically obliterate all traces of her kingship after her death and perpetuate his own royal succession. "Her fate was to be erased, expunged, silenced."

The book reads much like a doctoral dissertation and there are footnotes and quite a bit of repetition, not all of it equally interesting. This is no fairy tale royal romance story, but one that any person interested in Egypt's history and rulers will want to read for its accurate portrayal of this incredible woman. The awkward phrasing of the work, with the author using phrases with the words such as "might", "probably", and "could" detracts somewhat from a definitive record of Hatshepsut's life since her personal feelings and reasons are not known. There is a bit of speculation, but these instances come from authoritative points of view and study, not pure conjecture.

I enjoyed it but couldn't help comparing its dry tone to a historical fiction novel about Hapshepsut  by Stephanie Thornton. Oh we all love juicy stories about royalty and the Egyptian Pharaoh's reigns have always provided a glimpse into a dramatic lifestyle during those ancient times.

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

My Year of Books 2014

What a great reading year! I read 156 books in 2014 and most were completely absorbing. I discovered a few new authors and branched out into some fascinating nonfiction. Most of those books were reviewed here on this blog!

I read a wide variety of genres, but usually tend to like historical fiction and the mystery/suspense/thriller types most of all. I intend to reflect on the titles I read and come up with a list of my favorites -- as well as the biggest disappointments -- after some contemplation. I'll post those here later.

Happy reading in 2015 and I look forward to any comments and any recommendations as I challenge myself to read at least 100 books this year!