NetGalley Top Reviewer

NetGalley Top Reviewer
NetGalley Top Reviewer

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.