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?