NetGalley Top Reviewer

NetGalley Top Reviewer
NetGalley Top Reviewer

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Vigilante (DS Jessica Daniel #2) by Kerry Wilkinson

Someone is tracking and killing men -- but these dead weren't exactly angels. Although the serial killer vigilante story line is not new, this second book in the DS Jessica Daniel series was interesting and more complex as, for Jessica, the need to get this killer becomes intensely personal.

I am enjoying the further development of the secondary characters and find myself understanding Jessica more though she is still a bit of a hothead and is, as per usual, one who doesn't like following the orders of her superiors. Not much romance going on which suits me just fine.

Solving the murder cases is tedious as the one lead they have -- the perpetrator's DNA -- is sketchy since it belongs to a man already in prison for life. Since I read a lot of this genre I immediately knew where it was going, but the process was engaging and I like science!

Already have #3 ready to go!  Bought this one as well with Amazon promotional credit.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Killer Inside (DS Jessica Daniel #1) by Kerry Wilkinson

A "locked room" (house) mystery with DS Jessica Daniel and her team trying to find the killer of four -- the victims don't seem to have anything in common and Jessica is stymied and frustrated by the lack of clues or motive. This is a fast-paced police procedural set in Manchester, England, and is not too gory or grisly.

I love finding a new series! And my favorite ones are those featuring female lead detectives who are investigating interesting murder cases. Jessica Daniel is a great character with a lot of potential for growth and dimension as she matures and grows more confident in her abilities on the job. She is a little reckless, outspoken, and driven -- but she, thank heavens, doesn't seem to be a psychological mess like many other women in other novels in this niche genre. She seems somewhat normal! I was especially glad that she did not fall immediately into a hot romance, but I can see one coming. I don't read this type of book for the romance so I would be happy if that stays a very small part of the development of her character as the series continues. I have the next 3 books queued up ready to read -- and that is my favorite way to read a series -- all in a row. I have already started #2.

Kindle book purchased with promotion credits from Amazon.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen

Another wild and crazy tale that only Carl Hiaasen can write -- another to add to my long list of entertaining books I've read by this author. The stories he tells are so ridiculous that one wonders how close to reality they can be as truth is sometimes more improbable than fiction!  The characters in this one are straight from central casting -- oh yeah -- it's about a reality TV star who ends up kidnapped by a lunatic lookalike fan named Blister who wants to star alongside his idol, Buck, in a show that sounds an awful lot like DUCK DYNASTY. In addition, there's the scam artist Merry Mansfield who is an expert at the fake collision business, an ex detective, Yancy, who is working as a restaurant inspector while trying to get his badge back, and a host of other idiots ranging from entertainment agents to mafioso -- all true to stereotype.

The action is nonstop and much of it will leave the reader shaking her head or laughing out loud at the ludicrous situations and interaction between the characters. Fans won't want to miss reading about this band of misfits and their antics in the Florida Keys.

Thank you to Edelweiss for an e-book ARC for review.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer

Interested to see how Stephenie Meyer can transition away from vampires, werewolves and parasites!

Answer -- meh

I decided to read this hoping that, since it wasn't YA, that it would measure up to other thriller suspense novels that are my true pleasure. I was somewhat disappointed to be honest -- I had expected a bit more than the contrived juvenile romance between the female character and Daniel. The whole plot is implausible and the book is overly long and could use a serious editing.

She (let's call her Alex cause she has a lot of different names) is an ex government agent of the super secret kind -- an expert in chemical torture (nice girl right?) and is on the run from her employers who are trying to kill her. They entice her with a last job -- and she agrees to kidnap a man (Daniel) who is supposed to be making a biologic weapon -- BUT he doesn't look like the picture when she meets him in person. She does it anyway. They "fall in love" in the most ridiculous fashion imaginable (reeks of sparkly vampires and Twilight style) and go on the run together when she finds out that she's been lied to.

Lots of violent fight scenes, death, mayhem -- oh and a twin brother (sorry if this is a spoiler but the "tell" for that was early on in the book) who is the opposite in personality of Daniel and of course there is tension between him and Alex. Anyway, this narrative gets to the obvious conclusion that ties up everything and give that HEA ending typical of YA.  It would have been better without a romance, without the dogs, no twin brother, more about the chemistry and less about the guns -- anyway, managed to finish it just shaking my head that it didn't live up to the promise of the premise.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Everything You Want Me to Be by Mindy Mejia

"Just another small town girl..."  with big dreams and a talent for being the person everyone else expects to see. Hattie Hoffman is a senior at Pine High School but she has plans to leave the place behind and move to New York. She's bright and wants to be an actress -- she gives the performance of her life as Lady Macbeth, but hours later she is dead in an isolated barn. Who'd want to murder this popular girl who had so much promise?

Told from 3 different viewpoints and with shifts back and form in time, the reader follows the narratives of Hattie, Del Goodman (the Sheriff) who is investigating this murder of his good friends' daughter, and Peter Lund (the new high school English teacher, married). Parts of the plot are anticipated as affairs between students and teachers are not uncommon themes, but the author surprised me with a few twists that I didn't see coming. I thought I had the whole thing figured out. I liked the way the backstory evolved and that details were dangled inviting the reader to keep flipping the pages -- so a good one to read in one sitting.

An enjoyable mystery that has elements of the standard police procedural, psychological drama, and the lure of the forbidden. Temptation is one thing, giving into it is yet another.

Thank you to NetGalley and Atria/Emily Bestler Books for the e-book ARC to review.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Blood Lines (DI Kim Stone #5) by Angela Marsons

Another thrilling episode in the DI Kim Stone series.

#5 continues the compelling storyline of Kim Stone, giving us further glimpses into her character and her relationships. Alexandra Thorne is back, this time spinning her evil plans from a prison cell -- and her reach is long. Though Kim is nearly undone by the manipulations of sociopathic psychiatrist Dr. Thorne, she and her team investigate a series of murders that leads to a surprising conclusion. In a related subplot, Kim sees her mother again after over 20 years.

Although I sometimes feel that Kim is meant to be superwoman, I do find her flawed psyche interesting and I'm curious about what case she will confront next. Love the series!

Thank you to NetGalley and Bookouture for the e-book ARC to review -- can't wait for #6.

Got this approved from NetGalley after I bought the e-book (had some promotional credit to use). Now I wait.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan

Zoe and Maria, mother and daughter, finally have a second chance at a happy family life when Maria marries Chris Kennedy. Chris has a son, Lucas, from his former wife (deceased) and now Chris and Maria have a new baby girl they've named Grace. The "Second Chance Family" is calm, reserved, and behaves perfectly -- though Maria and Zoe have a secret they've kept from Chris and Lucas. When Zoe was 14 she was driving a car full of school friends who died and she has completed her sentence and they have put their past behind them -- but they lie by omission. When Zoe is outed during a piano concert (she's a music prodigy), their carefully created facade starts crumbling. The family returns home, Zoe was so upset that she couldn't finish, so Lucas played on alone (yes, he's a prodigy too). Everything falls apart that night and Maria ends up dead. In this domestic drama, the reader waits to find out who killed her.

Sometimes having alternate points of view is illuminating and essential to the story and at other times, like in this novel, it just hampers the progression of the narrative with lots of extraneous detail that is probably meant to give the reader insight into the characters and paint a more dastardly picture of the killer. The pace was rather slow, and I am sorry but I really despised the conclusion.  There was such limited honestly by all the characters that I had no empathy for any pain they might have experienced because I do not feel that the lies and secrets met any criteria for ends justifying means. I can't say I liked Zoe and definitely am not a fan of how it all resolved -- too unbelievable and pat.

I got this book from the library because I had enjoyed Macmillan's debut.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

"Most of us think the word racism is synonymous with the word prejudice. But racism is more than just discrimination based on skin color. It's also about who has institutional power."

It is difficult for me, a white woman, to fully accept that I have been given advantages that made my success easier to achieve. This book challenges all of us to look deep within ourselves -- is it possible to truly admit that -- just because of skin color -- the American dream is not really accessible to all who live here. I will be thinking about many of the issues and points raised in this fictional account of an African American nurse who was charged with murder of a baby who goes into cardiac arrest when she had been told not to touch this white newborn by the parents and her supervisor.

Definitely would be a great book club read or even required reading for anyone interested in having a very difficult conversation about racism. Does this mean there will be a sequel:  (Ruth Jefferson #1)???

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

Monday, October 31, 2016

While You Were Sleeping by Kathryn Croft

Preposterous. I despised every single character in this book and the ridiculous plot was completely unbelievable from both a police procedural standpoint and a mystery. The notion that someone could wake up naked in a neighbor's bed with said neighbor bloody and dead beside her compounded by amnesia and what must be completely inept police with no DNA or forensics capabilities...I'll stop here. Don't recommend.

This is the first by this author I've read. Thanks to NetGalley and Bookouture for the e-book ARC.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Evil Games (#2) by Angela Marsons

Second in the series that I seem to have read backwards! Enjoyed this one as well as the other 3 I have read. DI Kim Stone is a complicated woman -- a bit of a psychological mess -- but she is determined to close her cases despite some unorthodox methods. She's the typical cop in genre fiction who doesn't follow the rules, obey superiors, or work very well with others. This means she is always in some sort of personal physical danger -- and of course, she always escapes to chase down the bad guys another day. Despite these flaws and stereotype, the plots are interesting and cover a wide range of crimes from murder, abuse, psychological manipulation, etc.

I am looking forward to #5 and intend to read them in order from now on -- definitely would have helped to have the backstory on DI Stone because I read #3 first. I hope that one day she will be somewhat normal and actually have some relationships in her life. Wouldn't it be nice if, for once, some of these tough female characters could have a good woman friend? I'm not meaning romance as I think Kim Stone is nowhere ready for that! She does need a bit of a "life" however. It gets boring reading about her lonely life with her motorcycles!

Bought this one too!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Silent Scream (#1 DI Kim Stone) by Angela Marsons

Suspenseful debut of new series kept me glued to the book from start to finish. Two and a half hours later, whew -- what a character!  I'm a fan of female detectives, so this introduction to DI Kim Stone hooked me from the prologue through to the surprising conclusion.

Five people gather around a shallow grave outside of a children's social services care home burying their secret. Years later, the land is set to be dug by a team of archeologists. Suddenly, the members of that clandestine group start dying. There is a lot going on in this case and it centers mostly on how children in the care system continue to be misused and abused by those paid to care for them -- "out of the frying pan into the fire". The most horrifying thing about this novel is that probably many of the bad things that happened to the kids in care might still continue in these social systems and justice centers today.

Glancing back through my "books read", however, I noticed that I had read #4 and #3 (in that order) back at the beginning of the year. In those reviews, I remark that I can't stand Kim Stone -- perhaps that was because I didn't have any idea of her background to explain why she is so brash, cocky, obsessed, and haunted. She does that have annoying characteristic of always being right (to show up everyone she works for or with), but she has a loyal team despite all. I like the interaction between Kim and her usual partner, Bryant. Her snarky comments are sometimes funny.

Since I started at the wrong point, I'd suggest if you're interested in gritty police thrillers that you begin with the first and progress up. I just queued up #2 and catching up!

Actually bought this e-book I needed to catch up the series.

Bitter Moon (#4) by Alexandra Sokoloff

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." (John Stuart Mill)

Wow -- another great book in this amazing series! This takes the reader back to where it all began with Cara and why she does what she does. These must be read in order to fully appreciate the development of the character of Cara. Roarke is retracing the period of time Cara spent in Las Piedras 14 years before the current events and manhunt featured in books one through three. Cara had her choice -- to be afraid of the wolf or to become the wolf. She became the wolf.

Totally absorbing and fast paced as the narrative shifts between Cara in the past and Roarke in the present. Basically Roarke is channeling Cara as he investigates the deaths of two young girls in the town all those years ago. Although the repetition of the evil of "It" gets a little tiresome, I found it only a minor annoyance.  Even though I knew "who" because I read so many books in this genre, I found the process quite a thrill ride.

I love this series and I will be waiting eagerly for book #5. The author is writing fiction, yes, but she is quite passionate about the need to stop abuse and neglect of children in the social services programs. She's an advocate of those organizations that work with children and teens and her plea for all to open their eyes and help them.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

PsychoAnalysis by V.R.Stone

"The mind...contains memories too painful to remember, elicits emotions we don't want to feel, and makes us do things we don't understand."

Three characters on very different paths, but all have personal issues from the past that will collide in the present. One is a Freudian psychiatrist and author -- Dr. Karl Gross who specializes in serial killers and celebrity sex addicts. Another is DI Martin White whose work days are usually spent looking at cold cases -- until he is assigned a partner for this investigation. And lastly, Sarah Smith (AKA Sarah Silver) -- a rarity -- female serial killer who has traveled the world for her prey. Just who is the hunter?

Lots of action and great messed up characters that remind us all of how complex humans can be. The detectives want to find and stop the killer. The psychiatrist wants to get inside her head and save her (and maybe write a book about her). Sarah wants to ...quit? Maybe. Told in alternating points of view, this psychological crime thriller takes the reader on quite the ride and begs the question -- what shapes human behavior?

This was an excellent debut and I'm definitely going to be eagerly waiting for this author's next book. Thank you to NetGalley and the author for the e-book ARC to review.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton

Hamish Wolfe is a convicted murderer -- three young women met their fate at his hands -- or did they? He begs celebrated defense barrister and true-crime author, Maggie Rose, to take his appeal forward. Between Wolfe's mother and his fan club, Maggie is beseeched until she agrees to see him in Parkhurst Prison. He is indeed a very handsome man; she can see why he receives hundreds of letters a month from female admirers. Women drawn to the alpha man. Though initially refusing to take his case, and deterred as well by Detective Constable Peter Weston who arrested him, Maggie finds herself wondering-- not about his guilt as she doesn't care about that -- but whether or not she can get the conviction overturned.

Maggie Rose is a bit of an odd duck, reclusive yet flamboyant with her turquoise blue hair and slight stature. She finds it telling that all of the dead women were quite heavy and not especially attractive. Are those rumors about Hamish during his university days true? Hamish insists he was framed but Maggie cannot fathom who would do that to the good doctor. Regardless, she agrees to help and begins an investigation hoping to find evidence that will create doubt.

Setting: Somerset in the UK, present day. Sharon Bolton is an amazing writer with an eye for description and detail. You can feel the cold and the menace of the caves. Her characters are complex and interesting. Maggie is an enigma and there is a sense that she has a past that is only hinted at. A loner. The pace is fast as the narrative ratchets up the tension to a twisty conclusion that some might anticipate but that will be relished nevertheless. I loved it!

This is the second book I've read by this author and can't wait to see what's next. The setting is so vivid it is almost another character and allows for splendid visualization of the action as it happens. I'd recommend it!

Friday, October 14, 2016

See How They Run by Tom Bale

Ordinary couple caught up in extraordinary circumstances.

When Alice and Harry French are awakened in the middle of the night by intruders who threaten them and their baby daughter, Evie, they think at first that these men have gotten the wrong house. Neither Alice nor Harry know a man named Renshaw. Shaken, they don't call the police, but then events spiral out of their control and they are on the run pursued by the ruthless criminals. But -- they aren't together.

Great fast-paced action and suspense as Alice and Harry try to evade the criminals intent on recovering something that was stolen from them. Who can they trust? Forced into suspicious partnerships and separated from each other, Alice and Harry find themselves in life or death situations.

Enjoyed the characters and the drama -- average family in peril. A good thriller with some nice twists make it a compelling read that was hard to put down.

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

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Dark Water (Erika Foster #3) by Robert Bryndza

The bones of a child are drug from the quarry water and she is soon identified as Jessica Collins -- an 8-year-old who went missing on her way to a birthday party 26 years ago. As DCI Foster tries to find some clues about who may have abducted her and why, the discovery of the bones has ignited a series of events that result in the deaths of people connected to the investigation. The Collins family is a mess and Erika's team is desperate to get this case closed. A clever twist at the end! This hooked me from the start and kept me engrossed throughout. A London setting, vivid descriptions and great characters make this one I'll be recommending.

I love this series and have read all 3! The character of Erika Foster is so well-developed and she makes such a believable protagonist. Although you could read this as a standalone, I think that it is better if you do start from the beginning to see Erika's history leading up to this, book #3.  I can't wait for the next book.

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

Friday, October 7, 2016

Away from the Dark by Aleatha Romig

No one gets out of "The Light"...

This is a very suspenseful and worthy sequel to INTO THE LIGHT -- which had ended on a cliffhanger that left me desperately waiting for this followup. I can't help but wonder, however, if there is more to come though I understand that the author has indicated that the story arc featuring Jacoby and Stella is concluded?!  I definitely would read another featuring the characters from this duology.

Many of the questions asked in the first novel were answered in this one but I do not want to say more to avoid giving spoilers. Jacob (Jacoby) and Sara (Stella) are involved in very dangerous activities as they seek to expose the horrors of The Light and save those that are captive in the religious cult. This is definitely a duet that requires that you read it in order, so don't start this one unless you have read the first.

I liked the characters of Jacob and Sara and some of the minor ones as well. Though I typically dislike a lot of romance (lots of LOVE in this set), I wasn't as bothered by it as usual as their relationship was important to the plot. The evil in The Light's leadership was palpable and the subjugation of women was a bitter pill to swallow.  I had a hard time putting the book down as it raced to the conclusion even as I expected the outcome -- but not some of the twists. Definitely enjoyed both books.

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

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian

Absorbing story of a family reacting to the sudden disappearance and presumed death of the wife and mother. The twist is that she suffered from sleepwalking (parasomnia) -- so the reader learns a lot about this topic throughout the course of the narrative. 

What happened? Beautiful Annalee Ahlberg vanished after apparently walking out of her home in the middle of the night. The story is basically a family drama with a mystery that is told from the point of view of the oldest daughter, 21-year-old Lianna, who is trying to take care of her younger sister Paige and her father, Warren.

I found the information about parasomnia quite fascinating as it is not something I knew much about beforehand. However, I didn't care much for any of the characters in the book, I didn't relate to Lianna, and was quite disappointed in the ending when the mystery is solved. I did not find it suspenseful or "spine tingling" and would not say it is a thriller. I would say this is not my favorite Bohjalian novel and I have read all the previous ones so just making that comparison. Others may certainly find it more "mesmerizing" than I did.

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

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

I See You by Clare Mackintosh

"You know exactly where you're going. You're not alone."

A secret website full of the personal details of your life and schedule available to anyone with a membership. Someone could meet you easily if he wanted. Or worse...

Zoe Walker is stunned to find her face on an advert in the classified section of the LONDON GAZETTE. When she talks to her family about it, they seem fairly unconcerned -- until Zoe discovers that another woman whose face had been pictured ended up murdered. Coincidence? And soon there are more linked cases. Then MIT gets involved and the hunt is on -- who is behind this game of cat and mouse?

This suspense thriller is filled with a large cast of characters and many red herrings as the police use all of their resources to find the mastermind behind the website. Zoe becomes a bit more unglued as each day she feels that she is being watched, stalked. The Metropolitan detectives are tracking the money, the CCTV, and the internet as the cunning owner tries to stay a step ahead with a last, desperate gamble to keep the game alive.

This was entertaining though I found Zoe more annoying than actually endangered. The climax was a bit over the top, but overall an enjoyable read. I'm wondering if this will be the first in a new series featuring the police team of Kelly Swift and DI Nick Rampello as the duo seemed to be the most fleshed-out and interesting characters. This is the second book by this author I have read.

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

Monday, September 26, 2016

Good as Gone by Amy Gentry

What would you do if the worst thing that had ever happened was suddenly undone?

That's the dilemma facing the Whitaker family when their kidnapped older daughter, Julie, appears on their doorstep one evening -- 8 years after she had vanished! They all want to believe -- but is this girl who is so different really Julie? Her stories about what happened during those 8 years reveal horrible abuse and degradation. Is that why she seems changed?  Anna, the mother, has some doubts that she can't seem to face. Denial. Hope. In equal measures.

Although this is a mystery in some ways, it is more a story of relationships between mothers and daughters. Of things spoken and those words left unsaid. A chasm of needs not met due to a lack of communication. And a tragedy that results from that kind of neglect.

I thought I would like this more than I did, but mostly I was just annoyed because a simple DNA test at the outset would have answered all the questions. No, I'm not giving it away here. I don't understand denial as a self defense mechanism, so that's probably why I have some issues. Found the whole story a bit hard to believe, really, and the ending where it was all neatly tied up fell short of meeting my expectations for a climax. I never connected with any of the characters, especially not Anna, and the sister and husband of Anna were completely undeveloped.

It was fast paced and I read it in an evening but would not really consider it suspenseful or any type of thriller -- more domestic drama. Thank you to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the e-book ARC to review.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

OK -- book wins. I have no idea what the heck I just read. I don't understand really what happened or why or anything. Perhaps that was the point. A totally crazy (forgive the pun) rollercoaster ride that ends in a spectacular crash. What was real, what was true -- no clue.

I can't say I enjoyed reading this, but definitely it will be interesting to discuss at book club this week. Mental illness of this nature can be a very scary thing and whether or not one believes in the controversial state of DID, it totally freaked me out seeing that probably there was no way that Kaitlyn/Carly would ever be well.

Definitely a book I would not have read had it not been a book club selection by the teens and I am not into horror, supernatural, magic, demons, possession, etc., but I did like the way the author used different approaches to advancing the narrative. From the transcription of video, interviews, diary entries, etc. to the police reports and summaries, the reader is caught up in a maelstrom from the beginning and it's hard to take a complete breath until it's over.

Thank you to NetGalley and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for the e-book ARC to review.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Girl Before by JP Delaney

Psychological suspense that keeps you guessing -- and of course, with the expected twist as that is the nature of most books of this genre right now!

Just who is the psychopathic narcissist?

Emma and Jane both live in the same house -- One Folgate Street -- Emma a couple of years prior and Jane now. They both become involved with the architect who designed the unique dwelling and who insists upon the "rules" for those who live there. The idea, he claims, is that people can be changed by this state-of-the art dwelling and minimalist living style.

The narration alternates between Emma (THEN) and Jane (NOW). Each has her own personality and both have recently experienced an event that has left them vulnerable and weakened. Now they become obsessed by the house, the architect, and those that lived there before -- especially when it seems that death has visited. The characters have a lot of depth and the chapters are short so the book moves very fast. Manipulation, deception, and suspicion lead to only one end.

Ignore the fact that these books of psycho drama featuring women are now always compared to those titles I will not name, but you know what I mean. There is a lot of hype about this novel, and it is definitely one all fans of this genre should read.  The author is writing under a pseudonym and you can tell it's not a debut work.

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

Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen

Excellent suspense -- kept me guessing.

What would you do if you came home to a house that had been stripped of every single piece of your live-in boyfriend's presence and he went missing as well?

Hannah goes completely off the rails and becomes obsessed with tracking down Matt and begging him to return to her and their life together. She tries everything she can think of, and her work and job start to suffer, but she cannot find a trace of him and starts to doubt herself and their relationship. Though focusing on their good times, and claiming that nothing had changed in the weeks and days leading up to Matt's disappearance, her friends can't help but wonder what really had been going on between the pair. Hannah is about to lose everything in pursuit of Matt.

I really did not like Hannah at all, and was very unsympathetic to her desire to track Matt down and get him back (ladies, we all know that never works, they leave for a reason), I was suspicious of her and the story line looking for the big twist. It was a very fast read and I enjoyed it very much because of the writing style and the characters -- who were all a bit unsavory!

Thank you to Netgalley and Berkley Publishing Group for the ARC to review. This would make a great choice for a book club discussion.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Ragdoll by Daniel Cole

Happened upon this title and was hooked by synopsis -- sounds like a debut I don't want to miss.
Lots of hype by big names for this one --

"There is a God. There is a Devil. Demons walk among us."

Debut and first in series featuring Detective William Oliver Layton-Fawkes (nickname: Wolf) and set in London. 

Though I saw the hype when I requested this one, I reserved judgment and went ahead. I didn't find it nearly as compelling and brilliant as blurbed, but it was definitely an interesting thriller with characters that I absolutely detested. Almost all of them were hideous people.  And of course they don't follow any normal rules of police investigative procedure but they rarely get in trouble over it though Wolf spent time in a psych ward for going crazy on a prisoner. Now he's back to work. That said, it was still a good read.

Containing lots of nice grisly and gory details for fans of that nature, the story focuses on Wolf's hunt for the "Ragdoll killer."  A body is found, but wait, it is SEVERAL different people all stitched together. As each is identified, Wolf finds that there is a personal connection. He's even more certain of that when a list of the next to die has his name on it.

It is fast paced and has a lot of potential in series development as the reader will learn more about the characters and why they have so many rough edges.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Ecco Harper Collins for the e-book ARC to review.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Blood Wedding by Pierre Lemaitre

Well -- WOW! Starting out slowly, building with a relentlessness that keeps the reader glued to the pages, and finishing with a bang makes this a suspense thriller that I won't soon forget.

Sophie Duguet goes from zero to full on crazy over a matter of months. When she awakens to find that the boy she nannies is dead, she runs. Though she changes her appearance and secures a new identity, she can't seem to escape this particular madness. No matter what she does, or where she goes, she is losing hope and her last grasp on sanity. Someone knows exactly what has happened to Sophie, and why.

This is fantastic writing by an author whose books I anticipate and devour.  It was painful waiting for the release so I could get my hands on it having been turned down for an ARC. My heart was pounding as I turned the pages reading as fast as I could. I loved it! 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

City of Strangers by Louise Millar

When Grace and Mac Scott return from honeymooning in Thailand to find an unidentified dead man in their new apartment's kitchen, she feels compelled to find out who he was and to contact his family. Still reeling from her father's death, Grace -- a photographer -- decides that she will investigate this man after she finds a note next to an unopened wedding present. The note has a name and she embarks (half-cocked) on an international hunt to the consternation of her new husband. Fortunately, Grace has a friend who works for a newspaper and he is quite helpful in guiding her search. Hopscotching across Europe seeking out information, Grace finds that the man has many identities and comes from a family with a very bad reputation. Who was he and what was he doing in her kitchen?

I found this a bit slow to be honest. I also did not like the character of Grace and the premise of her fixation on finding out the identity of the man (who was likely a criminal who broke into her apartment) seemed a bit far fetched. I found her annoying and obsessive about the whole situation. It had a predictable ending that any reader of this genre could see coming, including the romantic interest. I doubt I'd read another book featuring Grace Scott but I have read most of this author's past work and will again as long as it is not this character. I duly note that others have really loved this novel and Grace.

Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for an e-book ARC to review

Friday, August 26, 2016

Moral Defense by Marcia Clark (#2)

The second in the Samantha Brinkman series. She's a defense attorney -- and, for her, it's not about whether the client is innocent or guilty. She wants to make sure they walk.

As usual, snarky and sneaky DA Samantha Brinkman is up to her old tricks. She has her own peculiar brand of justice even as she does everything she can to get even the most heinous criminals acquitted or pled out. In this second book of the series, Sam is counsel for a 15-year-old girl, Cassie Sonnenberg, who is accused of committing the brutal murders of her foster family: brother, father and mother. As Cassie reveals the despicable activities that were going on in that home, Sam can't help but get personally involved as the revelations bring back terrible memories for her.

Meanwhile, Sam and her two associates are dealing with several other creepy clients and things are getting pretty dicey. Sam has to figure out how to keep the bad guys from coming after her because of some of things she "influenced" in questionable ways. Always on the edge of crossing over to the same side as her defendants, Sam is a very unusual defense attorney.

I enjoy this series though I worry that Sam's ways and means make her just as bad as those she defends. She definitely wants to win at any cost, though she does care about the truth no matter what she presents to the court.  Sam is a complex character and the writing is crisp and clear. There is a lot of action and it's easy to keep turning the pages because the reader just can't wait to see how all the cases turn out. Just when you think you have it all figured...surprise! You can tell this book is written by someone who does have an inside track - as does this author, a lawyer.

Looking forward to the next in the series. Thank you to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for the e-book ARC to review. I also want to read her other books. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Little Girl Gone by Gerry Schmitt

The first Afton Tangler suspense thriller -- a cold Minnesota night, a kidnapped baby...

The debut in a new series introduces Afton Tangler, a single mom of two girls, who works as a family liaison officer with the Minneapolis Police Department.  Afton is out ice climbing in the frigid Minnesota winter when she gets a call about a kidnapped 3 month old baby girl.  Little Elizabeth Ann Darden was taken from her crib at home while she was being watched by a sitter. The wealthy parents, Susan and Richard, are frantic as the local police, the FBI and other jurisdictions are called in on the case.

Afton becomes extremely involved in the actual investigation of the case, far beyond the scope of her liaison job. Although the reader knows who took the baby and has an idea of why, the crime investigators are without much to go on as they attempt to track down the abductor and rescue the baby. Yes, it's a bit farfetched -- the degree of civilian Afton's involvement partnering with a detective -- but it is a quick and entertaining read that has a lot of drama. The "bad guys" are nasty enough and Afton is clever and strong enough to provide a solid start to what will likely be a popular series.  I enjoyed the details about the Twin Cities geography and the winter weather features strongly in the story.

I was turned down when I requested an ARC but the synopsis interested me enough that I obtained it elsewhere on my own. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Don't Tell Anyone by Eleanor Gray

"When your child dies, hope and reason for living dies too."

Grace Neville's daughter, Tara, was stabbed to death in a seedy hotel and the man responsible is behind bars. It's over, time to move on -- except that convicted Jordan Dukes' father, Allan, appears at Grace's door claiming that his son -- Tara's boyfriend -- is not the one who murdered Tara. It appears that both Grace and Allan are "victims of their children's bad choices" and soon they are both caught up in trying to figure out who really killed Tara, and why.

This was a very convoluted mystery involving many red herrings as "Tara's dirty secret" is finally discovered and outed. There are many characters, some more believable and complicated than others, and the revelations were a bit of a let down and somewhat "out there" as the narrative winds down at the conclusion. Definitely a domestic drama more than a suspense thriller, it held my interest well enough and I think it would be hard for anyone to make a good guess about the whodunit.  Grace is, of course, completely undone by the death of her daughter and Grace's ex, Archie, who left her for another woman, is sorta creepy and doesn't follow along with Grace's conviction that the wrong man is in prison. The police are not portrayed very well.

In all, this was not pulse pounding but kept me guessing. It always comes back to the truth, we do not really know ANYONE - despite our firmly held idea that we should know our own children inside and out. I did like some of the quotes in the book well enough to cite another: "There are so many countless ways that Fate can snap its fingers...all those desperately sad yet banal and everyday packages of pain that life has in store for the unwary."

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

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Beautiful Maids All in a Row by Jennifer Harlow

"Best wishes on a bright here and now."

Bam! I now have a new series to look forward to after finishing this suspenseful thriller featuring ex FBI agent and forensic psychologist, Iris Ballard. Though quite a hot mess after the death of her husband, Iris comes out of retirement to assist the FBI in its hunt for the Woodsman -- notorious murderer of several women. There are no witnesses, no clues, and no suspects. This is one scary psychopath who may have met his match in Iris. I'd call her relentless.

Grisly and tense, the narrative takes off like a rocket and that makes it hard to put this book down. I liked the dialogue, the writing and the characters -- I even forgive Ms Harlow the insertion of a stereotypical romance angle. Iris is an interesting contradiction as she leaves the vodka behind and puts herself back in the game. The bad guy was as menacing as expected and the scene where he comes after Iris was of course anticipated because that always happens in this genre!

I enjoyed this and can't wait for #2. Recommending to all who like a gory thriller with a strong female protagonist.

Thank you to NetGalley and Alibi Random House for the e-book ARC to review

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Fatal by John Lescroart

How can one ever imagine the consequences that might result from a single bad decision? There's no way that Kate could have known what she would set in motion when she decided to sleep with Peter Ash. Just once. After all -- no one else knew but the two of them. Right?

Great characters and storytelling made this one that I could hardly put down. I loved that it was a standalone though I'm a fan of Lescroart's series as well. He has a great vocabulary and I really enjoyed the writing style. I was kept guessing by the twists; the narrative kept surprising me as events unfolded. And there were several interesting side stories as well! In short, a very entertaining read that I would recommend. I'm not sure I'd classify it as a mystery, a suspense thriller, or even a police procedural -- more domestic fiction with a crime angle.

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

Monday, August 8, 2016

Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson

When you're already plagued with panic attacks and a bit of OCD always imagining that the worst will happen -- what happens when it actually does?

Kate Priddy agrees to switch apartments with a second cousin who has an apartment in Boston while he goes to her flat in London for 6 months. Little does she know that Corbin Dell has terrible secrets and that she will be drawn into the web of a psychopath who is out for a very twisted revenge.

I do love the suspense thrillers by this author and have read all he's written to date. This one won't disappoint. Interesting characters who take turns narrating, great description and detail, and a really good story make this book hard to put down.

Thank you to Edelweiss and William Morrow for the e-book ARC to review.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Valley of the Moon by Melanie Gideon

The cover, the title -- and the synopsis. I'm a sucker for time travel stories ever since OUTLANDER...

Taking a little departure from thrills and chills for this one :)

Anyone who follows my reviews knows that I typically avoid sweet, sentimental stories. But I really fell in love with this book. It was such a pleasant and hopeful read that, when I finished the last sentence, I almost wanted to start back at the very beginning and go through it all again!

I loved the characters, the setting, the "time travel" -- and felt their pain at separation and their joy at reunion. The narrative flipped back and forth from early 1900s to the 1970s (included some pop culture references) and between the two main characters, Joseph and Lux. The explanation for the time warp was a fog that trapped Joseph in his time but allowed Lux to go back and forth at certain times that coincided with a full moon. Time moved at a different pace in each world. Regardless of the implausibility of the science, it made for a very enjoyable reading experience.

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine for the e-book ARC to review. I had read Melanie Gideon's previous book and will definitely keep her on my list for upcoming work.

Arroweed by Laura McHugh

What a delicious modern day Gothic mystery complete with an old, decaying family mansion and dark secrets. It has all the elements that create a sense of foreboding as Arden Arrowood returns to her childhood home when she inherits it after her father's death. The Arrowood family had left this house for a fresh start after her 20-month-old twin sisters disappeared while in her care when she was 8 years old. Though Arden witnessed the abduction, describing the gold car, the owner of that vehicle was never charged with the kidnapping.

Now, at 26, Arden is sort of lost -- she still feels the anguish of not knowing what happened to her sisters as no trace of them was ever found. She settles in, determined to hold on to the few memories she has, and hoping that she can somehow reconnect with herself and her roots there in the historic family home in Iowa by the Mississippi River. Her old friend, Ben Ferris, is still around -- he was the only other person to have seen that gold car on the fateful day. Her neighbor, her first love -- can she somehow get back to where they left off? She wants closure in order to get on with her life and suffers from the "bittersweet longing for a time and place left behind."

Home is not what it once was, however, as the town of Keokuk has deteriorated and many people still remember the Arrowoods and their tragedy. Josh Kyle, the founder of a website called Midwest Mysteries, is also interested in the unsolved case of the twins and contacts her saying that he doesn't think that the driver of that gold car is the one who abducted the twins. Could Arden be confused about what she saw?

Arden finds her answers, but not in the way that she expected, and learns the truth -- the answer she got was not the one she wanted.

I sat down this afternoon intending only to get started on this one and then put it aside to finish some other projects I was working on, but did not put it down until I finished. I thoroughly enjoyed this gripping novel. I liked the characters and the atmospheric setting. Loved the descriptions of the house and the family history. Liked the sense of menace and, though I thought I had figured it all out, I was still caught off a bit off guard.  I did read the other book by this author as well and Laura McHugh has a fan in me!

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

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Little Boy Blue by M.J. Arlidge (#5)

The 5th in the series. Helen Grace lives a double life -- will her secrets ruin her career?

NOOOOOOOOOO -- M.J. Arlidge, you did not just do this to me!! A whopper of a cliffhanger in one of your best in the series?? How could you? Leaving Helen at that point?? Not nice, Mr. Arlidge, not nice.

DI Helen Grace is faced with a case that may ruin her career if her connection to the dead is discovered. She must find this killer before that happens, but her team is a mess. Infighting and grandstanding, trying to get the perpetrator behind bars because Helen is driving them hard. All the while, Helen's nemesis, Southampton crime reporter, Emilia Garanita, is holding those secrets close until she can finally get her revenge on Helen. Is Helen really cursed -- everyone she cares about ends up dead or just messed up.

Fast paced, complex and unique characters, interesting and gritty story involving the BDSM world -- you don't want to miss this one if you're a fan! This is a series that definitely needs to be read in order.

But, seriously? Don't make me wait t0o long for #6.

Thank you Edelweiss and Berkley Publishing for the e-book ARC to review!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker

If you had suffered a horrible trauma, would you take a drug that would erase your memory of it? Jenny Kramer did...

4.0 out of 5 stars -- "White lies, black lies, a million lies a million times every day, everywhere, by every one of us. We are all hiding something from someone."

What a great book! I could fill this review with all of my favorite quotes -- and there were many that I highlighted - but one thing stands out again: you can never, ever, ever completely know another person. And that is probably a good thing for your relationships.

The main story line here has to do with the rape of Jenny Kramer and the controversial administration of a drug in the ER following the brutal attack. The drug is meant to cause memory loss so that the person who experienced something horrible can forget and go on with life. Unfortunately, that's not such a good idea for mental health -- as Jenny and her family come to find out. That whole subject alone would make for a great book club discussion.

The narrator here is the psychiatrist, Dr. Alan Forrester, who is called in to treat Jenny after a suicide attempt. He begins working with her, and her dysfunctional parents, to attempt memory recovery because she was still experiencing the terror of something but could not remember the event. She could not get better. I loved all the psychiatric detail in this book though I can see how it could put others off if they aren't interested in the science or psychology itself.

Without any spoilers, I'd say this was a crazy roller coaster of a novel with lots of twisty turns and ups and downs. I didn't expect the direction it took and I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. I'd say it was a psychological drama -- not really a thriller -- but it was very absorbing and I couldn't wait to see how it all turned out. I'd recommend it!  I can't believe the author is not a psychiatrist but she must have done a lot of research! Impressive and interesting.

This would make a great movie! I need to look for other books by this author.

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

The Twenty-Three by Linwood Barclay (#3 in the Promise Falls Trilogy)

4.5 out of 5 stars -- Well, WOW -- what an ending to this trilogy. I can't believe it's actually over. I want more. Still some unfinished situations, but unless this 3-book series is going to morph and continue on, I don't know how I will get my answers! But -- wait -- rumor has it that there is a "conclusion" due out shortly. Thank heavens!

Fast-paced, short chapters, and a writing style that keeps you frantically turning the pages as this complicated case runs down. This series definitely has to be read in order -- and lucky the reader who can get all 3 books at once and read them back to back. Much of the drama that takes place in Promise Falls  in these three books occurs over the course of only weeks and ends over Memorial Day weekend. Murder, mayhem, sex scandals, kidnapping, bombing, mass poisoning...lots of action in what I think was a great story. I'll miss these very complex and interesting characters. But, if I know anything from having read most of Barclay's previous books, I think I may meet up with some of them again.

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

Monday, July 18, 2016

Forgive Me by Joshua Corin (#2 Xanadu Marx)

What do YOU need to be forgiven for?? Someone out there may be seeking revenge...

4.0 out of 5 stars -- What do you do if you've been unjustly wronged? Why, you call the Serendipity Group and they will arrange for you to have a "meeting" where you have the chance to get your revenge. Sure, it costs a lot -- and not everyone knows about them.

But Ex-FBI Agent Xanadu Marx finds out that her name is on the "hit" list and she is determined to find out who and where. She knows when...just a couple of days. The problem is that she was fired for her alcoholism and doesn't really have the contacts and resources she needs. Fortunately, she inserts herself into the investigation and annoys the hell out of two detectives assigned to find out all they can about the Group and its customers -- as well as the intended "hits".

The premise is fun and the action is nonstop. There are some really quirky characters -- including the honeymooning couple who is caught up in the intrigue when they are offered a room upgrade at their hotel. When the real occupant and his avenger end up dead in their room, and when they accidentally see the "hit" list, they become involved in the shenanigans that follow them to Paris.

I liked Xanadu, a bit of a bully who has spent the past year attending AA meetings and romancing her live-in lover, Em. She's no nonsense but has a bad temper that got her into a lot of trouble and created a lot of people who might have decided to take revenge. This was a fast paced read that had a totally shocking ending -- and honestly, it is sort of a cliffhanger (which I don't like) but has now made me impatient for the next book. I will definitely have to go back to catch up with book one in the series. I liked the writing style too.

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

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

4.0 out of 5 stars -- Domestic thriller that will keep you guessing as you frantically turn the pages until the chilling end.

I didn't set out to read this cover to cover over a couple of hours today. But, once I got to the part where baby Cora was missing from her crib, I was hooked and didn't take a breath until I finished. This is about a kidnapped baby, yes, but it is also about neighbors, about family, about marriage, and about the damage caused by secrets and deception. Goes to show, once again, how little people know about each other no matter what their relationship.

Marco and Anne Conti are adjusting to life with a newborn and having a bit of fun next door at their neighbor's place. Since the babysitter had canceled on them, they left Cora at home but were keeping watch via a baby monitor and checking on her every 30 minutes. When they finally go home after 1 am, Cora is missing.  Anne makes the 911 call and sets an exhaustive investigation into motion. Detective Rasbach is immediately suspicious when certain details come to light. He is sure he can figure this out but keeps finding things that don't add up.  Maybe there will be a ransom demand as Anne's parents are wealthy. The Conti family watches their world fall apart and everything spirals out of control. Revelations. Betrayal. Everyone is hiding something.

Enjoyed this and can almost see it as a movie.

Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Group Viking for the e-book ARC to review.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Behind Closed Doors by BA Paris

4.5 out of 5 stars -- "Millie's room was red."

This is the novel I'm going to be recommending this summer! It is simply a great thriller that will give you chills as the tension builds and you want some resolution. Fast-paced and highly addicting, you won't want to put it down until the very last words.

Don't read any more about it on the blogs or book sites -- all you need know is that Jack and Grace are the perfect couple. He's everything a man should be and Grace is his adoring wife. At least that is what everyone sees. Behind closed doors, well, it's quite a different story...

Loved it! I'm sure I'll be thinking about it for awhile and will enjoy talking about it with fellow readers.

PS In the US, it is Down Syndrome, not Down's Syndrome. Just a pet peeve.

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

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Slaughter by John Lutz (#10)

Slaughter (Frank Quinn #10)

3.0 out of 5 stars -- "If two people held a secret it was no longer a secret."

This is the first book by John Lutz that I have read, and I requested it from my library because I saw a brief synopsis of it here on Goodreads. Until I actually got the book, I did not realize it was not only part of a long running series, but was the 10th one -- so I felt really out of the loop even as I began. I had no idea who Frank Quinn was or his history. No understanding of the relationship he had with his employees and it did take me awhile to realize that he had his own Quinn & Associates agency because I thought at first that he was with the NYPD. So, behind in every respect, I gamely forged on.

Lots of murder and mayhem, very graphic, extremely grisly and gory. The serial killer that the Q&A team hunts has been given the moniker "Gremlin" because of his strange pointed ear, elfin features and short stature. There is nothing small about his crimes. Unlike most serial killers, Gremlin mixes it up with all sorts of heinous activities all listed in the publisher's blurb.  Of course the reader immediately wants to know WHY. Who did what to him as a child? (We find out a little but so many questions unanswered about the psychology of this classic narcissistic sociopath.) The reader learns that the Gremlin is Jordan Kray and there is a lot of back and forth between past and present and point of view that can also be a bit confusing.

The blurb says the killer is taunting cops? Is focused on the girlfriend (Pearl) of Detective Frank Quinn? I must have missed that whole section in the novel because mostly we are plummeted from one disaster to the next with the body count rising and the Gremlin unidentified and no where to be found. The end comes in such a confusing setup that I can't honestly tell you what exactly happened. There is no resolution that gives any detail about Jordan Kray's real motives -- guess he was just a totally sick SOB and completely unexplainable.

So, Q&A finally get their man (I don't think this is a surprise to any reader) and they will move on to their next case, no doubt, but I don't think I'll be going along with them. I don't know if this book is reflective of Lutz's writing style, but I don't have the energy to start at the beginning of this series to figure out who and what. I do like police procedurals and was happy that there was no big romance component, but it read more like an action movie script than an in depth detective novel. The word I would use is disjointed. No smooth transitions between time, place, character which made starting a new chapter a bit jarring.

If anyone tells me that I am making a mistake, that I should really try again, I would consider! But when I read the list of endorsements by other authors that I do read and like, I was blown away. Really???!!!! Obviously I am missing something...

Library book.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Among the Wicked by Linda Castillo (Kate Burkholder #8)

3.0 out of 5 stars -- Community or cult?

When the body of a young Amish girl is found frozen in the woods, Chief of Police Kate Burkholder is asked to go undercover to investigate rumors and suspicion surrounding a reclusive Amish community run by a very strict Bishop. This settlement is located in New York close to the Canadian border. State Agent John Tomasetti, Kate's live-in boyfriend, is not very happy about her taking this case as Kate really doesn't have this type of experience though, indeed, she might be the only one who can actually pull off posing as an Amish woman looking for a new home and get inside to find out what is going on.

Almost immediately, as Kate moves into a dilapidated old trailer by the settlement to act her role, she starts riling up the locals with all her questions about the community and its leader. She senses their fear, hears about some violence, witnesses some strange events -- and when she keeps probing, the danger there comes directly to her. What indeed is going on -- and who is this man who calls himself a Bishop of this secretive Amish enclave.

I've read almost all of the books in this series and this one seemed rather slow and predictable. The "secret" of the community is lately a common theme and I felt that some of the big questions were never answered with all the focus on Kate almost being killed or frozen most of the time (again and again how cold it was and she suffers hypothermia and near frostbite way too often). She has more lives than a cat! My takeaway -- this was an OK installment in this unique series about a formerly Amish woman turned cop, but it wasn't one that had me glued to the pages or kept me up at night to finish. Of course I'll keep reading this series as I like the characters and that Amish angle so will be waiting for the next one.

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

Monday, July 4, 2016

Watching Edie by Camilla Way

4.0 out of 5 stars -- Obsession and betrayal - the darker side of female friendship.

This fast-paced psychological thriller is one of those books where you don't want to know too much about before you begin. Avoid the reviews and just open the pages so that you will get the full impact of the story without any spoilers.

The narrative is told in alternating points of view and jumps back and forth in time from when the two women were in high school and present day. It is quite suspenseful and the reader feels the menace of something hinted at beneath the surface of each woman's thoughts.

BEFORE: Fremton -- last year of high school. Unpopular Heather is infatuated and happy with her new BFF Edie. But the pretty Edie falls hard for a controlling, abusive boyfriend and Heather is pushed away. What's a best friend to do?

AFTER: London. Seventeen years later, Edie is a single mom suffering postnatal depression when Heather reappears in the nick of time to help out with baby Maya while Edie zones out. When Edie finally gets her act together, she wants Heather to leave. But Heather has grown attached to Maya.

Suspense builds as the climax nears. Of course there's a twist and the reader is expecting one because that's the nature of recent books in this genre. But the book is so cleverly written the reader might just be taken by surprise this time.

When the painful past comes to the present, beware. Some things are not forgotten...or forgiven.

I really enjoyed this and think it would be a great one for book club discussion and debate. The nature of female friendships, the tumultuous years of high school, the casual cruelty of adolescents -- it's a compulsive read that you will find hard to put down!

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

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Woman of God by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro

2.0 out of 5 stars -- A test of faith. A HUGE test.

OK this woman had it so much worse than Job of the Bible. At first it was hard to see her go through the tragedies, but then it got to be WAY TOO MUCH. I often get suckered in to requesting a book based on the synopsis, but sometimes the actual story is nothing like what was written in the publicity materials. As it is here.

I thought this novel was going to be about a woman Pope. NOT. So ignore the blurb. This is about a woman doctor, a humanitarian from KIND HANDS (an NGO), who goes to South Sudan to a hospital outpost to care for the victims injured in a bloody civil war there. The tide of hopelessness overwhelms the workers and all the intentions to do good works is futile in the face of murderous outlaw gangs, marauders, and the Gray Army. This militia has only one objective -- to kill everyone. Dr. Brigid Fitzgerald is dedicated and fiercely protective of her patients and her colleagues. But she is no match for the Gray Army leader, Colonel Dage Zuberi -- the king of atrocities. Death and more deaths...

In between her stints at the outpost hospital in Sudan, Brigid deals with personal relationships, love and marriage. She has trials and more trials as she questions her faith in God and her religion. She has visions. She and her husband start a church that is an offshoot of Roman Catholicism and they become the targets of some powerful enemies, including those in the hierarchy of the church. She becomes one of the first female "priests" and that causes further problems. Will her adversaries get the best of her as at each point her faith is tested?

I was totally disappointed in this novel and don't recommend it. Sure it's interesting for me as a Catholic to imagine a female priest and possible Pope, but despite the religious overtones, the novel never fulfilled my expectations. I felt let down by the continual drama and bad luck for Brigid. I never really connected with her character. Her "visions" left me in a state of disbelief. I had to struggle through to the end and deal with my disappointment of let down expectations. I rarely read Patterson anymore, and now, again, I know why.

Thank you to Little, Brown and Company and Edelweiss for the e-book ARC to review.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

A House for Happy Mothers by Amulya Malladi

4.0 out of 5 stars -- If you were really desperate for a baby, what would you do to get one? Is there really hope after a series of miscarriages and barrenness?

That question is at the heart of this contemporary fiction novel that begs for debate and discussion. In this case, a surrogate is hired in India to carry the baby that a US couple, Priya and Madhu want so badly. In the awkwardness of the encounters between the surrogate and the natural parents are the twins angst and doubt. Who is using whom? For Asha and Pratap, the opportunity to grow this baby will provide much needed money to give their brilliant son a chance to attend a good school or for the family to buy a real home. For the donor couple, a bit embarrassed by the whole ordeal of secret surrogacy, the use of a host mother gives them the baby that Priya feels she NEEDS in order to create a family. Is this a moral dilemma? And if you don't have children, are you really a "family?"

Segregated away in India at a special clinic in the House for Happy Mothers, Asha waits anxiously for the delivery of this child. She is in the company of other women who are doing the same thing as she -- and those women display a variety of emotions and rationalizations. Asha feels the baby move inside her and questions her own motives. Will she be able to give this infant up after carrying it for 9 months? Her husband, son, and daughter visit her faithfully but they don't understand the sacrifice involved here. Asha is no longer in control of her own body.

These two couples undergo extreme examination of conscience. As they attempt to explain to others their reasons for choosing this route, both women especially have to look deep inside to analyze their motives to explain their choices. Families are divided, the verdict is in question--was this the right way to do it? Is it OK to use the baby farm? Are there winners and losers?

As always, this author creates characters that could be you or me. She puts us in the position of having to evaluate our own set of beliefs and values. There is no right or wrong here, or is there?

Personally I can't imagine hiring a surrogate, but then again, I was never desperate enough to have a child to have to think about this option. I do know women who would do this in a heartbeat. I don't allow myself to pass sentence. It was quite interesting to see the different points of view of these two women characters and how they handled this situation. Their families were both supportive and judgmental -- but isn't that like real life?? My only complaint about the book was the overly sentimental happy ending for everyone -- but hey, isn't that what we all wish for? At times very sad, but with a touch of humor, Amulya Malladi gets it -- life is really complicated! The inner thoughts of women are complex!

Thank you to the author and to the publishers for this e-book ARC to review. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

3.0 out of 5 stars - Science fiction dealing with quantum physics and multidimensional reality -- not time travel per se.

How would your life be different if you had made other choices at the times when the main path diverged? If you gave up the possibility of a brilliant career for love but had second thoughts? or vice versa? Jason is about to find out...

Though I found most of the science of this unbelievable, it was an interesting premise that provided a couple of hours of entertainment. I am not a physicist certainly, but the concept of several different realities existing simultaneously along with multiples of the same person -- well, it was a bit much for my reality test. What Jason does for love is the subtext of this novel. I wouldn't call it a thriller nor a suspense tale, but it had lots of action as Jason tries to get back "home" to his wife and son. The concepts and philosophical ideas presented in this story would provide lots of fodder for book club discussions.

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

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Anything for Her by Jack Jordan

3.0 out of 5 stars -- What lengths would a mother go through to protect her daughter? What would a man do to make her suffer because of it?

This is a revenge story with what I consider a perfect cast of fairly despicable and unlikable characters. The reader knows at the outset about "that night" changing everything but is not told exactly what mother and daughter did, but it was pretty easy to guess quite quickly. They cover up a crime and try to go on with their lives but keeping the secret ruins their family. When Louise's husband reveals his affair with her sister, Louise leaves their family home and seeks to lick her wounds in the Cotswalds at their other house. She leaves her son at home with his father. Someone else has followed Louise and he proceeds to torment her by leaving dead birds for her to find. Brooke follows her mother to the house but when ordered back to home in London, she vanishes from the train station. Police get involved. Climax. And then a long "letter" at the end explaining every detail in case the reader didn't get it.

Louise is histrionic and overwrought all the time -- I got totally sick of her. None of the others fared much better in my care, concern, or empathy. Everyone is crying, sobbing, shedding tears, too much emotion. I never felt any tension build or felt any menace. Was sort of hoping for exactly the outcome of the story. Well. That was at least a real ending and everyone ended up where they should have, except perhaps for poor Dominic.

Thank you to NetGalley and JJP for the e-book ARC to review. I'll probably read this author's follow up novel to see how it has improved over this debut.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Into the Light by Aleatha Romig

3.5 out of 5 stars - First in a duology (The Light #1) Interesting premise and well-executed mystery that involves a religious cult and an investigative reporter. Told in alternating chapters and different points of view from the world of The Light (a cult led by Father Gabriel) and from the city of Detroit by Stella Montgomery, the reporter on the trail of her missing friend.

The Light is scary and a place where a woman is subjected to a man's rule. Sara awakes in the hospital, blind, and without memories. Her husband, Jacob, is right by her side. She requires discipline and has trouble with obedience. Jacob is there to help.

Stella's best friend vanished into thin air and there are no leads on her disappearance. While working on another story, Stella discovers that there are other women who have gone missing in Detroit and finds a pattern that leads her into some dangerous areas of the city.

Back and forth between The Light (in Alaska) and Detroit. I liked the way this narrative evolves and the reader is not sure what is really going to happen. Jacob explains his ties to The Light and his position. Sara tries to reintegrate after being released from the hospital. Stella searches for answers. Her police detective boyfriend is worried for her safety...

I broke my cardinal rule. I do not read books that end on cliffhanger unless I have the next book at my side ready to read as soon as I finish. I did not know this would end in this fashion and I am pretty unhappy about it. forewarned should you think about picking this one up now. Wait for #2 AWAY FROM THE DARK to be released first. Unless you like being left dangling with a very unanticipated twist. I am sure I would have rated this higher had I been able to read both at the same time.

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

Monday, May 30, 2016

Don't You Cry by Mary Kubica

Mary Kubica returns with an electrifying and addictive tale of deceit and obsession...

3.0 out of 5 stars -- Psychological drama. When Esther, vanishes from their apartment, Quinn begins an intense investigation and quickly discovers that there is much she did not know about her roommate. In a parallel narrative, Alex watches a young woman newly arrived in his town. and becomes infatuated with her. Quinn searches and Alex watches. What happened to Esther and why did she disappear? What is this girl, who Alex has secretly named Pearl, doing in this cold place near to Lake Michigan.

Slow pace with some tension created with the ominous tone. Lots of rambling stream of consciousness prose from the two main characters. Quite implausible and very predictable. I think most readers will have figured out some key clues by 19% in. Not enough action or suspense for me.

I've read all 3 of this author's books now and this was my least favorite. I am sure I will read the next by this author. Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin MIRA for the e-book ARC to review. 

Mercy by Daniel Palmer

4.0 out of 5 stars -- Mercy or murder? That's the moral debate at the heart of this novel. Is self-determination a fundamental right? Do the terminally ill or the severely disabled "deserve the right to hasten death to avoid inhumane suffering or escape from a life turned unbearable?" To die with dignity. Or should suicide or assisted suicide in those cases remain illegal and generally thought immoral? Would allowing it lead to abuse or reduce care?
Dr. Julie Devereux is a critical care physician working in Boston. She's also an advocate for death with dignity. She believes that patients should be able to end their suffering on their own terms. Her certainty ends, however, when her fiance Sam is severely injured in a motorcycle crash. When he begs Julie to help him die, she enlists the help of a volunteer with the organization Very Much Alive to help Sam recover his desire to live. Sam is getting better when he suddenly dies. His death is so surprising that Julie requests an autopsy. Then she notices that other severely ill patients are also dying at an unusual rate. And from a very odd cardiac event. Julie is determined to find out what, and who, is killing certain sick patients at the hospital. And why.
Medical thriller! Oh how I've missed this genre with too few new authors writing realistic and suspenseful books with lots of medicine and science. Intensive care, pathology, laboratory analysis -- it's all just how I like it -- DETAILED. As a nurse, I love the jargon and the information. Of course this is a bit far-fetched as far as the condition and Julie's investigation but there is always license with fiction to go a bit "out there" in a story. 
This is not the first book by Daniel Palmer that I have read, and he has moved up on my wish list as I await his next endeavor. It's not easy to assume the mantle of a popular author, but Michael Palmer's son has done it -- in fact, he's done it even better! And he's not even a doctor! Talk about meticulous research putting this complex story together so that even something so obscure becomes believable. It was a very fast-paced fun read and I thoroughly enjoyed it! Provides for a great philosophical debate as well.