NetGalley Top Reviewer

NetGalley Top Reviewer
NetGalley Top Reviewer

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