NetGalley Top Reviewer

NetGalley Top Reviewer
NetGalley Top Reviewer

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Drowning Girls by Paula Treick DeBoard

Paula Treick DeBoard returns with a tale of dark secrets, shocking lies and a dangerous obsession that will change one neighborhood forever

4.0 out of 5 stars -- Paradise gone wrong

When Phil moves his wife, Liz, and 14-year-old stepdaughter, Danielle, into the luxury villa on the golf course of exclusive The Palms, he feels like the luckiest man alive. They can live in this paradise of the rich for free as he has been given a contract to be the community relations liaison for the new development with amenities similar to a resort. Although they know they are really outsiders and "house rich, cash poor" -- they begin to meet the other neighbors and become part of their new social world. Danielle is a bit of a nerd, and when Sonia suggests that her same age daughter, Kelsey, might be a new friend, Liz eagerly invites her into their home and the two become inseparable. Only problem, Kelsey seems obsessed with Aussie Phil...she won't leave him alone but he is NOT interested in the beautiful teenager. Or is he?

This is the kind of book that I devour. Even though the reader sort of knows what is going to happen, the build-up and the anticipation made it a story that I just could not put down.

It has all the elements of a "fatal attraction" theme with the reader seeing it all unfold and shaking head in frustration as it intensifies relentlessly. STOP HER! But how? And who is to blame...Told from the point of view of both Liz and Phil, and with some time shifting, the tale unfolds in tantalizing pieces and the conclusion will leave you thinking about this novel long after you've turned the last page. Great summer read, don't miss it!

Thank you to NetGalley and publisher Harlequin (US & Canada) Mira for the e-book ARC to review.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Guilty Minds (#3) by Joseph Finder

3.0 out of 5 stars -- This third in the Nick Heller series is fast-paced entertainment.

Nick, a private spy, is called to Washington, DC, to fix a situation involving an internet story about a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and a prostitute. The narrative is one that involves nonstop action and includes conspiracy and betrayal as well as interaction with a shadowy organization that solves problems for those who can afford them. Nick, trying to separate the lies from the truth, has his usual share of nearly impossible escapes and of course manages a romantic interlude in the midst of his investigation.

Fans of this author and the series will not want to miss this one. Though very predictable, it was an enjoyable read. Nick Heller is the male hero archetype of this genre and so the dialog is snappy and his skills very impressive as he seeks justice and an answer in this case.

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

Friday, April 22, 2016

Die of Shame by Mark Billingham

3.0 out of 5 stars -- Standalone delivers a complex mystery surrounding the murder of a member of an addiction recovery group.

They meet every Monday night -- two men, three women and the therapist/group leader. Their addictions are varied and their stories similar in the way that their problem has affected their lives. The narrative shifts in a slightly off-putting THEN and HERE AND NOW, etc. In an effort to focus on the NOW, Tony De Silva (leader) suggest that each member focus on the concept of shame as the root of their addictions. So they each, in turn, are meant to tell something about "something we did" or "something that was done to us." The shame that drove them to substance abuse. This sharing doesn't go so well as one of the members ends up dead.

Nicola Tanner catches the case, and with her partner, Dipak Chall, begins the very tedious investigation. Once they've learned a little bit about the victim, their efforts eventually center on the group members as probably suspects. There's enough suspicion to go around as they delve into the interactions of the group.

I was a bit surprised to find that this was the first and only book I've read by this author. I can't compare it to his apparently popular series featuring Tom Thorne. I felt this was quite slow moving and I really didn't like the flip flop of time though we do get a glimpse of each of the actions and thoughts of the main characters though they never really develop enough to earn my empathy or interest. Nicola needs a lot more fleshing out, but then again, how much of her private life was important to the drive of the plot. I was not really surprised with the revelation of the identity of the killer and can I just say that I definitely did not like the cop out ending. I don't know that this represents this author's finest book, so I may try one of the Tom Thorne series novels just to see if there are more thrills and suspense than there was in this one. Not a lot of action here either. So this story takes a long time to tell and not sure it's for everyone but maybe more for those who are already fans.

Thank you to NetGalley, Grove Atlantic and Edelweiss for an e-book ARC to review. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

3.0 out of 5 stars -- Melodrama and mystery on board a luxury cruise ship in the fjords of the North Sea in Scandinavia.

Suspend disbelief as this hot mess of a travel journalist -- Lo (??? this nickname for Laura ugh) Blacklock -- doggedly searches for a woman she spoke to (and borrowed a mascara from) on the AURORA, and who she claims was thrown overboard during the night. The only problem with her story is that there is no passenger registered in Cabin 10 and no one has any idea who she could be.

Lo's main difficulty while playing amateur sleuth is that she doesn't appear to be a very reliable person -- she gets very drunk the first night on the ship, she can't ever sleep, she doesn't eat, she vomits, she gets banged up (a lot), she takes medication for an anxiety disorder -- and yet...  She tries to get the ship's security chief and its wealthy owner to believe her, and they comb the AURORA looking for anyone who might know this missing woman or have seen her on the ship.

The book is fast paced but I found myself so annoyed by Lo and her constant peril and the ridiculous situations she put herself in that the climax and conclusion were a letdown. Without any sympathy for her, I wasn't much concerned with how things would turn out and the whole explanation for the mystery was quite lame. I have not read the previous book by this author and I'm not sure I will, but likely will give another try.

Thank you to NetGalley, Edelweiss and Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books for the e-book ARC to review.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Girls by Emma Cline

3.5 out of 4 stars -- A coming of age first person narrative set in  late 1960s California.

Lonely Evie is 14 when she first sees "the girls" in the park. Fascinated by their grungy appearance and their aura of togetherness, she is drawn to them with an urgency that she doesn't understand. They seem to be so alive, so free, and Evie is desperate to get away from what she perceives as her shallow privileged existence in that limbo time between adolescence and young adulthood.  Since her parents divorced, and her best girlfriend defected, Evie lacks the attention she craves and so she seeks out the apparent Queen Bee of this group, Suzanne, and is taken along to their run down ranch in the hills to meet their charismatic leader, Russell. The ranch, the group, the leader are all meant to represent Charles Manson and his "family" so the reader feels that sense of foreboding though knowing what is going to ultimately happen.

Told in flashbacks and alternating with present day when Evie is middle aged and staying in a borrowed home, the story is a stream of consciousness centered on Evie's observations about herself and about what it means to be a girl in society. It is less about the violence and the murders than it is an attempt to explain how a disenfranchised teen could become enamored of this lifestyle, seeking desperately to belong somewhere, to be a part of something significant.

In 1969, I was 13 years old -- a little younger than Evie, and living a life that was the complete opposite of hers. I didn't, nor did any of my acquaintances, have any interest or intention to drink or experiment with drugs at that age and stage of our lives (though some did later in their teens). I think this might be what made this book so hard for me to understand -- how is someone so young as Evie so messed up in her head? Granted our family situations were a lot different (mainly a ton of siblings and parents who were together), but the topic that really got me was all this about how women and girls weren't valued because of their gender. That whole issue is anathema to me. I never thought those thoughts or felt that bias personally though I wonder now if there were messages that might have been intended to make me feel that way. I was probably oblivious having specific dreams and plans -- and a supportive family. So, perhaps that means that I am not the intended audience for this novel as I fail to appreciate the angst that drove Evie to that filthy ranch and her substitute family. One thing is for certain, however, and that is the teen-aged girl's proclivity for drama. That always existed in abundance an was certainly a driving force in behavior and oftentimes ended in bad decisions.

I would guess that many young readers will have no idea, or just a vague notion, about the Sharon Tate murders and Charles Manson, though I do remember it vividly. Newspaper stories were the stuff of nightmares for many of us for years to come. The girls who came under the spell of that psycho maniac were transformed into Russell's hit squad in this novel. The author must have done a lot of research for this debut and I appreciate that.

Overall, I have very mixed feelings about this book as I know it is going to be one of those that gets a lot of focus and certainly could be the subject of many discussions and arguments.  I think it is a title that will appeal to certain readers. All I can say to any parent of a teen girl --  make sure you demonstrate in every way, every day, how much she is treasured. Also, parents, I hope you always know where your children are and who they are with. Seems obvious, but so many things go wrong for kids when parents and other adults in their lives aren't paying attention. Despite her situation, and her perception of the lack of care and concern by her parents, I never felt the empathy for Evie that seems to be necessary to really love this story. Plus (possible spoiler), we are led to believe that she could have been a willing participant -- maybe -- if she had not been kicked out of the car and left at the side of the road on that fateful night of mayhem and murder.

Thank you to NetGalley, Edelweiss and Random House Publishing for this e-book ARC to review.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Woman with a Secret by Sophie Hannah

Spilling CID #9 in series  ( I have only read #3 and #7)

A dark and chilling psychological thriller in which a woman desperate to hide a devastating secret in her past is drawn into a murder investigation...

4.0 out of 5 stars -- Enjoyable and complicated mystery featuring Detective Constable Simon Waterhouse, his wife Charlie, and the gang in another case in a long running series (this is #9).

The murdered man, Damon Blundy, was a not-so-well-liked columnist for the HERALD. "His vocation was pissing off as many people as possible: women, Jews, Muslims, atheists, pro-choicers...--you name it." The victim had no shortage of people who would have cheerfully killed him so the detectives assume it's personal. This investigation is not going to be an easy one.

Nikki Clements is a woman with a secret. How is she connected to the dead man? Hard to know, because she has a reputation as a liar. She lies about everything. There is only one person to whom she tells everything. A stranger on the internet.

This was a fun read and I enjoyed guessing about the identity of the killer until the conclusion. I have read a couple of other books in this series and I'm sure it would be best to read them all, in order, but I've been hit and miss. I am sure I'll read another.

Library Book

Sunday, April 10, 2016

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

5.0 out of 5 stars -- I do not usually read memoirs or nonfiction but I was drawn to this because the forward was written by Abraham Verghese, the author of one of my favorite books of all time -- CUTTING FOR STONE.

Ostensibly, the book is about the life of Dr. Paul Kalanithi, a young man who is in the last year of his neurosurgery residency when he is diagnosed with lung cancer. We know at the outset that he has recently died, leaving behind a wife and an 8-month-old baby girl. But the true nature of his writing is the underlying theme -- Why are we here -- what is the purpose of life.

The book is not maudlin or dramatic, and it's not for everyone. There's a lot of medical detail and literature references that some might find pretentious or overwhelming. After all, Paul initially majored in Literature before he was called to become a physician and surgeon. The reader learns of Paul's early years, growing up in Arizona, and about his education and training in his young adulthood. Then it shifts to his changed circumstances and his treatment after being diagnosed. We see glimpses into his personal life and hear about his closeness to his family, colleagues and friends. What the book most definitely not is a roadmap, nor a guide of how to navigate a terminal illness -- it's not a story of how he found religion, and it definitely does not provide THE ANSWER.

I feel that the mark of a really great book is when it makes me think. When it causes me to pause for periods of intense self-reflection. I do not want to live an unexamined life. I read this over the course of a couple of hours and had to take a break just to reflect on some of Paul's personal insights. These were his thoughts, his reactions, his decisions. What would mine be, given my own life situations. It made me wish that this poetic soul had received the gift of more time. I came away from this reading experience humbled by his story. I would like to think I will go gently and courageously, not screaming WHY ME -- but none of us knows until it happens. Can a person prepare for death, really?

I'd recommend this for the beautiful prose and for giving the opportunity to see what one man did and said and thought during the last months of his life. How would I like to be remembered...what will I leave behind.

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

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Forgive Me by Daniel Palmer

3.0 out of 5 stars -- Fast paced suspense and lots of action as Angie DeRose, PI, searches for a young girl who is kidnapped into prostitution. In another plot line, Angie seeks to solve a mystery involving her own family.

Without giving any spoilers, I found the story of the trafficking to be much more compelling than the one that dealt with the picture Angie found. As do most thrillers that involve bad guys vs the strong, beautiful, female protagonist, some of the situations and coincidence required a heavy dose of suspense of disbelief. The characters and their roles were stereotypical of this genre and there were no surprises or twists. The required romance element is included.

A quick and entertaining read perfect for commute or holiday. I have read most of Daniel Palmer's books and will likely keep the author on my TBR list.

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

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North

3.0 out of 5 stars -- Who are you if no one remembers you -- do you even really exist if the feedback you receive from others is fleeting. You have no permanence in anyone else's memory. "All thought is association and feedback."

Hope Arden is a young woman you will never know. Even if you meet her and talk with her a thousand times, you won't remember it or her face or anything about her when and if you see her again. Hope does not "disappear" or anything magical, but for some reason (never explained), she is just forgotten. This makes it very hard for her to have any sort of normal life or relationships. She can't work a job. Hard to imagine such an existence. Hope has sort of come to terms with it -- even using it to her advantage when committing crimes -- but she is a lonely soul in search of a connection.

In a parallel story to that of Hope and her constant travel to avoid being caught by digital records and cameras that do remember her, she becomes intrigued by a new, popular app named PERFECTION. It's all the rage as the rich and beautiful become "perfect" and Hope wonders if the treatments might help her reverse or change her condition.

All the while, Hope talks to herself in a continuous monologue of trivia and ceaseless counting. She repeats mantras and spouts facts about places and things. I got weary of it after awhile and it was repetitive and sort of annoying. I just wanted to read how things turned out for Hope and let's just say the conclusion was not as satisfying as I'd wished.

The premise was interesting, the story lines were complicated and absorbing, but the overall pace and the redundancy of Hope's internal dialog dimmed my enthusiasm. The writing was extremely descriptive with lots of detail.

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