NetGalley Top Reviewer

NetGalley Top Reviewer
NetGalley Top Reviewer

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Passenger by Lisa Lutz

"Forty-eight hours after leaving her husband’s body at the base of the stairs, Tanya Dubois cashes in her credit cards, dyes her hair brown, demands a new name from a shadowy voice over the phone, and flees town. It’s not the first time."

3.0 out of 5 stars -- You will enjoy this if you are able to suspend disbelief and accept some very unrealistic scenarios while following a conniving, murderous thief -- whose name changes with each chapter -- as she attempts to escape her past. Somehow, despite the flaws and the implausibility, you may come to care about this woman and find yourself curious as she traverses the USA by way of car, train and bus. She is constantly on the move because she has the worst luck ever and it is hard to take care of yourself when you have no identity and because people are looking for you. All the while, there are hints that something happened over 10 years ago that caused her to run away and she has been doing it ever since.

The book pace ebbs and flows with some of the assumed identities being more interesting than others. This is really a first person narrative and the secondary characters (even Blue) are basically barely relevant to the development of the plot and the subsequent reveal at the end.

I am not sure why this is categorized as a psychological thriller. I did not find it particularly suspenseful and there were enough loose ends that I felt some annoyance at the slightly off-putting conclusion. I did not find this woman to be a sympathetic or likeable person and wasn't even rooting for a happy ending for her. That said, I liked it well enough as I enjoyed a purely escapist evening read that required no pressure to take seriously.

Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the e-book ARC to review.


Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry

"When Nora takes the train from London to visit her sister in the countryside, she expects to find her waiting at the station, or at home cooking dinner. But when she walks into Rachel’s familiar house, what she finds is entirely different: her sister has been the victim of a brutal murder. "

3.5 out of 5 stars -- A young woman's dogged search for her sister's murderer takes some strange twists as she is tortured by memories of their shared  tumultuous past.

Even though sisters can be incredibly close, they still don't know EVERYTHING about each other -- as Nora finds out. Rachel did have secrets and one of them may have gotten her killed.

Although this book was rather slow at times, it was likely due to the incredible amount of detail about the setting that makes the reader almost feel THERE. Nora, as narrator, delivers a stream of consciousness barrage of description as well as many not so reliable recollections.

Anyone who enjoys psychological drama would probably like this debut novel.

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

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Girl in the Ice by Robert Bryndza (#1)

4.0 out of 5 stars -- Thrilling and fast-paced debut featuring DCI Erika Foster and set in London.

Beautiful, young Andrea Douglas-Brown is found dead in the ice. She's the daughter of a wealthy member of the House of Lords and the fiance of an equally moneyed business man -- so who would want to kill her?

DCI Foster soon realizes that she is the odd one out as her nemesis in the police department trots out a suspect and wants to close the case. Soon left to her own investigative devices, Erika figures out that this murder was committed by a vicious serial killer and she's put off the case but fortunately still kept in the loop by her Met team members. The investigation is solid police procedural with the addition of some backstory into Erika's character and life situation as well.

I enjoyed this novel and can't wait to read the next in the series, THE NIGHT STALKER, tentative publication date in June 2016. I like the protagonist and am also very interested in the other characters with whom Erika works. It's an excellent blend of strong female lead who is also vulnerable because of events in her past -- but definitely not a psycho mess. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes a suspense novel about the hunt for a serial killer that is well-plotted not manipulative and twisty -- though, if you're guessing, it might take you awhile to figure out the ending.

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

Friday, March 18, 2016

I'm Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

You will be scared. But you won’t know why…

I’m thinking of ending things. Once this thought arrives, it stays. It sticks. It lingers. It’s always there. Always.

4.0 out of 5 stars -- What a ride! If a reaction to reading a book keeps you up all night AFTER you've finished, I'd say it hit the mark. Positively or negatively, I guarantee that you will have a hard time putting this story to rest after turning the last pages.

Jake and "the girlfriend" are on a road trip to meet his parents at a remote farm, location unnamed. After unusual conversation and interaction both in the car and at the farm, they head back home because Jake has to work the next morning. Jake is sidetracked and they end up at an isolated school building. That's all I'm saying. No spoilers. You'll have to take this journey yourself and I'd guess that you will be turning this one over in your head for a long time to come. It's very dark and it's really scary in a way that has nothing to do with bad guys. 

I think that this debut is one you won't want to miss -- if only because everyone else who reads it will be talking about it!

Thank you to Gallery, Threshold Pocket books, Gallery/Scout Press and NetGalley for an e-book ARC of this for review.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Beauty of the End by Debbie Howells

From the acclaimed author of The Bones of You comes a haunting and heartbreaking new psychological thriller about a man thrust into the middle of a murder investigation, forced to confront the secrets of his ex-lover's past.

3.0 out of 5 stars -- Perhaps when someone lives intensely and feels extremes of emotion, she burns out before her time. Or perhaps one can flame out from the weight of secrets, evasions and outright lies.

Time shifting psychological drama full of basically unlikable characters and a very thin mystery that was entirely predictable. The premise -- April lies comatose in a hospital bed after an attempted suicide while being the only suspect in the stabbing death of her stepfather. Noah is a burnt out lawyer turned writer living in alcoholic seclusion -- he adored April but she had dumped him on what was to be their wedding day -- without any explanation. When their mutual friend, Will, calls Noah about April, Noah decides to return to his lost love and clear her name. In between visits to the hospital, Noah tries to sift through the few details he can find about April's life. Apparently there was a LOT that Noah never knew.

I read this author's previous book and so was interested to delve into this one based on the publisher's synopsis. I found the jumps back and forth in time a bit jarring as Noah relives his adolescent crush on April and then time apart and then the ensuing years when the relationship they had finally budded into an upcoming marriage. All the while thinking that Noah was a thick headed dolt who was blinded by his perception of April as a goddess and thus he never confronted her when he should have and thus he was not privy to truth. He saw what he wanted to see: April was perfect.
In between Noah's narrative is another voice, that of a teenage girl named Ella who is seeing a therapist because she has discovered a secret. Lots of secrets in this novel. Anyway, this did not have any suspense and is not a thriller and if you are easily irritated when only hints are dangled for the longest time when you already know where it's going and just want to get there already...then this might not be for you either. I didn't experience any surprises though there were several attempts to create what some might call twists. I would say my overriding emotion the further I got into the book was irritation. Evaluation -- it was OK.

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

Monday, March 14, 2016

No One Knows by J.T. Ellison

And again, another comparison to books whose titles and content I am starting to hate. STOP! I am beginning to think that I am on a mission to read all the books thus compared so that I can tell readers how unlike those books they are. When something is new and first it is good, but readers aren't so gullible and fooled after that and actually expect the twist and are ready for it.
I'll let you know about this one.
No. No. No. Don't bother.
I am not even going to review this one. I could barely get through it. I am done reading books that are compared to GONE GIRL and GIRL ON THE TRAIN. I am done reading books with unreliable narrators and those that have twists that really don't make any sense other than to be a "gotcha" -- know what I mean? When you know there is one and are looking for one, you're prepared and it is a gimmick. I want to believe my characters and like them -- and even if I can't, I still expect plausibility in context.

I am thankful to NetGalley for offering me the e-book ARC when I requested it.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

And Again: A Novel by Jessica Chiarella

3.0 out of 5 stars -- What would you give -- and what would it cost -- to have a new, perfect body with all your old memories? What would being "reborn" do to your relationships, your work, your talent? Would you still be YOU?

These rhetorical questions are at the heart of AND AGAIN as 4 terminally ill strangers are given this very opportunity through an experimental program, SUBlife. Set in present day, in Chicago, these 3 women and one man find out those answers as they wake in healthy new bodies and are thrust back into their previous lives. The novel seeks to examine the concept of identity and self-concept.

The narrative is told from the point of view of each character and the reader is an observer as they struggle to come to grips with their changed reality -- the entire course and purpose of a new life. Though the premise was quite intriguing and reminded me of a movie I saw years ago about a woman who experienced a brain transplant, it really didn't engage me as thoroughly as I hoped and I was a bit disappointed in the pace and the struggles of each character's discovery process. I really didn't identify with any of them and don't think their real question was answered -- in fact, would it be better to have let nature take its course and not interfere? Frankly, if I was in any of their situations, I think I'd sign up instantly for SUBlife and never look back. After all, to be alive is to get that second chance they all seemed too hesitant to take.

I got this book from the library because I actually thought it would have more "medical" in it about the actual cloning.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

Seriously, here's another blurb using the dreaded comparison...STOP!!!
The next blockbuster thriller for those who loved The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl...a novel with "an astonishing intensity that drags you in and never—ever—lets you go." (Daily Mail, UK)

3.0 out of 5 stars -- There's no where to run and hide as the past always seems to catch up to you...

I am not quite sure how to classify this book into a genre. You start out reading it and think it's going to be one thing, and then, suddenly, it's quite another. I would say it has drama and romance with a large dose of menace.

A child is killed in a hit and run -- leaves behind a devastated mother and an angry police department as they can't find the driver even with intense investigation. No leads pan out and the case goes cold.

Jenna has escaped Bristol to where she lives in seclusion at Penfach in a tiny, cold cottage near the sea. Her dreams are nightmares of the accident. She finds some comfort in her photography and makes some tentative friendships with some of the residents. Her life is lonely and sad.

Suddenly the point of view changes -- no spoilers. After that, the rest of the novel becomes predictable and reaches the inevitable conclusion.

I've read other reviews of this book and can't say I agree. I am not a fan of this new manipulative style of authors that put a GONE GIRL twist now into the narrative. (And I'm tired of reading how every novel that is supposed to be psychological suspense is compared to that title or to GIRL ON THE TRAIN). This was neither. There were a couple of things that really bothered and irritated me, for one, the ridiculous romantic interplay between the two main lead cops, Ray and Kate. It seemed false and banal.

At the end, I was just left feeling meh and disappointed. I never connected with any of the characters and there were quite a few slow parts. I would not say there was any gripping suspense as the outcome is easily anticipated and I'm trying to figure out how so many were captivated and cried while reading.

Regardless, I'll be more careful in the future when reading a synopsis of a book that is compared to those previously mentioned other titles. Because once you accept it's like those, you know that there will be a "gotcha" and you're ready.

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

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Ex by Alafair Burke

Oh publishers, please STOP comparing every thriller to GONE GIRL or GIRL ON THE know that's not always a good hook anymore, and besides, most books are not going to "catch us out" as we are already anticipating a twist now.

3.0 out of 5 stars -- Legal thriller that asks the question -- how much can people change? And what do you owe someone if you think you ruined his life -- even if it was 20 years ago?

I like courtroom and legal dramas and this one started out well -- criminal defense attorney, 40 year-old Olivia Randall, is hired to help her ex-fiance beat a triple homicide rap. There are complications, however, and the case becomes more complex and convoluted the further she probes. Even though she initially was convinced that Jack Harris could NOT have possibly committed these murders, (certainly not the Jack Harris she was once supposed to marry) as the evidence piles up, she starts to have doubts. Even though she thinks she owes him this defense because she was hideous to him when they were engaged, she starts to feel that she is being used. Is all this obfuscation and his lies an elaborate hoax to cover up cold-blooded murder?

Although this was fast paced and started out extremely well, by the end I was left feeling cold and angry with the ending because I found it totally unbelievable. I could list out the problems I had with the conclusion, but that would constitute extreme spoilers so I will just let readers who want to delve into this find out for themselves. It was obvious that the author knows legal procedure and trial activity, but the characters she created were not very likable and I didn't connect with them. I want to write more, but again, anything I say would give it all away though I had it figured out pretty quickly -- just hoped I was wrong.

Thank you to Harper Collins Publishers for the e-book ARC to review. I'd definitely try another of this author's legal thrillers as I did enjoy the writing style and I like the genre.