Saturday, November 9, 2019

The Witch Elm

Book: The Witch Elm
Author: Tana French

Toby is a happy-go-lucky charmer who's dodged a scrape at work and is celebrating with friends when the night takes a turn that will change his life - he surprises two burglars who beat him and leave him for dead. Struggling to recover from his injuries, beginning to understand that he might never be the same man again, he takes refuge at his family's ancestral home to care for his dying uncle Hugo. Then a skull is found in the trunk of an elm tree in the garden - and as detectives close in, Toby is forced to face the possibility that his past may not be what he has always believed.-Goodreads
Review: I've read other Tana French books so I was expecting a long, drawn out story with a phenomenal ending that would make it all worth it. Alas, that was not the case here. The main mystery doesn't begin until almost 40% of the book and once we find out about the victim, I could care less who killed him. I would have liked to have killed him myself. As for the mystery of who killed him, there are only four main characters in this book (none of whom was particularly likable), it wasn't hard to figure out. The big reveal was totally flat and not shocking.  The only shocking thing here was that my favorite character was the head detective investigating the murder of the tree victim.

Overall, extremely long, drawn out and boring. Oddly enough, I do think this would make an excellent miniseries. 

Grade: 2/5

Still Missing

Book: Still Missing
Author: Chevy Stephens

On the day she was abducted, Annie O’Sullivan, a 32-year-old realtor, had three goals—sell a house, forget about a recent argument with her mother, and be on time for dinner with her ever-patient boyfriend. The open house is slow, but when her last visitor pulls up in a van as she's about to leave, Annie thinks it just might be her lucky day after all.

Still Missing interweaves the year Annie spent as the captive of a psychopath in a remote mountain cabin, which unfold through sessions with her psychiatrist, with a second narrative following the events after her escape—her struggle to piece her shattered life back together and the ongoing police investigation into the identity of her captor.-Goodreads

Review: Annie is a successful realtor with a wonderful boyfriend when she's abducted and held captive for a year in a mountain cabin. Now, Annie is back home and struggling to fit back into her old life. Why did this happen to her and why is she convinced someone is watching her? Told in alternating "sessions" with her therapist, we follow Annie in present day trying to adjust and Annie before/during/after the abduction. 

Annie is a sympathetic character and I think Stephens did a good job explaining the challenges of someone trying to integrate back into society after a horrible experience like this. The 'twisty ending' seemed out of left field and had me scratching my head. 

Grade: 3/5

The Other Mrs. Miller

Book: The Other Mrs. Miller
Author: Allison Dickson

Two women are watching each other.

Phoebe Miller isn't sure when the rusty car started showing up in the cul-de-sac she calls home, or why its driver would be spying on her. What could be interesting about an unhappy housewife who drowns her sorrows in ice cream and wine and barely leaves her house?

Only one knows why.

When a new family moves in across the street--the exuberant Vicki, who just might become the gossipy best friend Phoebe's always wanted, and her handsome college-bound son, Jake, who offers companionship of a different variety--Phoebe finds her dull routine infused with the excitement she's been missing. But with her head turned she's no longer focused on the woman in the car. And she really should be...-Goodreads

Review: 'The Other Mrs. Miller' was almost like a tale of two books. I loved the first half of the book. After years of failed IVF, Phoebe's marriage is on the rocks. Her father (imagine a Roger Allie's type) has recently passed away and Phoebe is basically a recluse in her house. While her husband is at work, she spends her days drinking and laying by the pool. She is intrigued by the car that shows up on the street and keeps a log of it's coming and going. When new neighbors move in with a handsome but barely legal son, she finds herself willing to leave the house. This part of the book was 5 stars for me, really strong.

Then...I can't say what happens midway through the book without spoiling it but the tone of the book shifts such that all credibility is thrown out the window. I kept scratching my head thinking "this would never happen." I did this repeatedly, until I finished the book. 

I'm not sure I would recommend this but I'll give the author credit, she definitely took this in a direction I don't think many saw coming.  

Grade: 3/5

The Nanny

Book: The Nanny
Author: Gilly MacMillan

Thirty years on, Jo is forced to return to her family home and confront her troubled relationship with her mother. When human remains are discovered in the grounds of the house, Jo begins to question everything.

Then an unexpected visitor knocks at the door and Jo’s world is destroyed again as, one by one, she discovers her childhood memories aren’t what they seemed.

What secrets was her nanny hiding – and what was she running away from? And can Jo trust what her mother tells her?

Sometimes the truth hurts so much you’d rather hear the lie.-Goodreads


Review: When your nanny disappears when you are a young child without a word and then miraculously shows up again 30 years later, what do you do? Keep in mind your child and mother, who yes, granted you are not close with, tell you they are not comfortable around this woman? If you are like Jo, one of the most annoying main characters I've had the pleasure of reading in awhile, you invite this stranger into your home, hire her to be a nanny and give her keys to your house. 

As you may have gathered, I could not stand Jo. I wanted to toss my Kindle against the wall with her constant whining and poor decision making. Alas, we needed Jo to make these bad decisions to further the plot. Told in 3 narratives, we follow the nanny from the past (she's evil but a fun to read evil), Virginia (I liked her) and Jo (did not like her). While I was frustrated with Jo throughout the book, I enjoyed the other main characters. I was expecting a more exciting finale but overall I liked it. 


Grade: 3/5

Sadie

Book: Sadie
Author: Courtney Summers

A missing girl on a journey of revenge. A Serial―like podcast following the clues she's left behind. And an ending you won't be able to stop talking about.
Sadie hasn't had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she's been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie's entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister's killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.

When West McCray―a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America―overhears Sadie's story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie's journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it's too late.-Goodreads

Review: I'm not a huge audiobook person but I saw that several people recommended this as an audiobook and I'm so glad I listened to it. I really enjoyed this book about a missing teenage girl and the radio guy investigating her story months later. Told in alternating narratives, we follow Sadie (an absolutely heart breaking character) as she searches for the man she believes to be responsible for murdering her sister) and West McCray (the radio guy) who has a podcast investigating what happened. McCray's sections are literally recorded like a podcast so it was a unique experience. 

Overall-well crafted and engaging. 

Grade: 4/5

Interference

Book: Interference
Series: Rookie Club #4
Author: Danielle Girard


Seventy-two guns were stolen from a San Francisco police storage facility. Now murders are spiking. The only connection: all the perps claim the stolen guns were anonymously left for them to do with as they pleased.

Mei Ling, now head of the SFPD's Computer Forensics Team, and newest member of The Rookie Club, sees another connection when a network-hacking device is found installed in the storage facility.

Then bullets start crashing through Mei's home, convincing her she's right. Now Mei just needs to find the hacker before becoming the next murder victim-Goodreads

Review: After enjoying book #3 in the series, this was a disappointment. I liked Mei but she was not dynamic enough to be a lead character here. I didn't hate it, it was overall okay. The ending seemed far fetched as well. 

Grade: 2/5

Dark Passage

Book: Dark Passage
Series: Rookie Club #3
Author: Danielle Girard

Cameron Cruz feels like she'll never recover when her lover, Diego, is killed during an undercover assignment—leaving her pregnant with his unborn son.

Back from maternity leave, Cameron is ready to rejoin her Special Ops team and work to shut down a human trafficking operation. But when she witnesses a fellow officer shot, she can hardly believe her eyes. Because the shooter is someone she trusted. Someone she loved. Someone she thought was dead…

Diego.

The evidence against him mounts. Evidence that he’s guilty of kidnapping and imprisoning the very people he’s sworn to protect and serve. Guilty of betraying their teammates, and the entire police department. Guilty of betraying her.

Despite what she's seen, Cameron's love for Diego is as alive as he is. She believes he's innocent—she just has to prove it. But the closer she gets to the traffickers, the closer her investigation comes to her department’s front door.

Suddenly, she must question who she can trust.

And who is willing to risk it all to send her—and the truth—to the grave. -Goodreads

Review: Girard saved the best in the series for #3! This was a really good read. Cameron was a strong, likable lead character and I was surprised to find I loved Hailey's role in this book two. She actually acted like a real detective with skills. And there was teamwork between several women in 'the rookie club.' The human trafficking storyline was very sad yet engaging. 


Grade: 4/5

One Clean Shot

Book: One Clean Shot
Series: Rookie Club #2
Author: Danielle Girard

Hailey Wyatt’s life is finally settling into a sort of normalcy after the tragedy that struck her family. Or it seems that way until an investigation into the homicide of two powerful San Francisco residents is suddenly the center of a media frenzy.

Because someone is taking a strong stance against guns… and they're willing to kill to make sure they’re heard.

The department has a message for Hailey, as well. Solve the case. Quickly. Or else.

Worse, the only connection between the victims is a friendship with Hailey's father-in-law. As the evidence points closer to home, Hailey's partner questions her dedication to the pursuit of justice.

As he should. Because Hailey has secrets of her own.

Secrets she’s willing to die for.-Goodreads

Review: The second installment of the Rookie Club (not sure the ladies even got together in this book, maybe once for a quick dinner?) focuses on homicide detective Hailey Wyatt. After her husband was tragically killed, she is finally back at work. But her partner Hal knows something is 'off.'

I liked this book but I had a hard time believing Hailey and Hal were homicide detectives. They just seemed to have the worst communication skills (both actions explained but they acted like teenagers) and zero detecting skills. 

Grade: 2.5/5

An Engineered Injustice

Book: An Engineered Injustice
Series: Philadelphia Legal #2
Author: William L Myers Jr

What if the deadliest train wreck in the nation’s history was no accident?

When a passenger train derails in North Philadelphia with fatal results, idealistic criminal defense attorney Vaughn Coburn takes on the most personal case of his young career. The surviving engineer is his cousin Eddy, and when Eddy asks Vaughn to defend him, he can’t help but accept. Vaughn has a debt to repay, for he and his cousin share an old secret—one that changed both their lives forever.

As blame for the wreck zeros in on Eddy, Vaughn realizes there’s more to this case than meets the eye. Seeking the truth behind the crash, he finds himself the target of malicious attorneys, corrupt railroad men, and a mob boss whose son perished in the accident and wants nothing less than cold-blooded revenge. With the help of his ex-con private investigator and an old flame who works for the competition, Vaughn struggles to defeat powerful forces—and to escape his own past built on secrets and lies.-Goodreads

Review: I loved the first book in this series. This was overall well crafted and enjoyable but I didn't love Vaughn as much as Mick. His cousin repeatedly keeping details from him really irritated me and the end seemed really far fetched. I will continue with the series. 

Grade: 3/5

Good Girl, Bad Girl

Book: Good Girl, Bad Girl
Series: Cyrus Haven #1
Author: Michael Robotham

A girl is found hiding in a secret room in a house being renovated after a terrible crime. For weeks she has survived by sneaking out at night, stealing food for herself and two dogs that are kept in the garden. The nurses at the hospital where she is taken call her “Angel Face” because she won’t tell anyone her name, or her age, or where she came from. Maybe she is twelve, maybe fifteen, or somewhere in between. She doesn’t appear on any missing person’s file, or match the DNA of any murder victim.

Six years later, still unidentified, the same girl is living in a secure children’s home with a new name, Evie Cormac, when she initiates a court case demanding the right to be released as an adult. Psychologist Cyrus Haven is sent to interview Evie and decide if she’s ready to go free, but Evie Cormac is unlike he’s anyone he’s ever met. She’s damaged, destructive, and self-hating, yet possessed of a gift, or a curse, that makes her both fascinating and dangerous to be with—the ability to tell when someone is lying. Soon he is embroiled in her unique and dangerous world, his life in utmost peril.-Goodreads


Review: I really enjoyed this police procedural type novel with the consulting psychologist as the lead character. Part of the plot is a murder mystery while the other surrounds a girl who was found living in a secret room years ago. Psychologist Cyrus is involved with both cases. Can he solve the murder of a teenager and figure out what happened to Evie? 

I questioned whether consulting psychologists take such active roles investigating open murder cases and interviewing witnesses but it worked here. Cyrus is a very well written, engaging character and I'm looking forward to the next in the series. 

Grade: 4/5

Dear Wife

Book: Dear Wife
Author: Kimberly Belle

Beth Murphy is on the run...

For nearly a year, Beth has been planning for this day. A day some people might call any other Wednesday, but Beth prefers to see it as her new beginning--one with a new look, new name and new city. Beth has given her plan significant thought, because one small slip and her violent husband will find her.

Sabine Hardison is missing...

A couple hundred miles away, Jeffrey returns home from a work trip to find his wife, Sabine, is missing. Wherever she is, she's taken almost nothing with her. Her abandoned car is the only evidence the police have, and all signs point to foul play.

As the police search for leads, the case becomes more and more convoluted. Sabine's carefully laid plans for her future indicate trouble at home, and a husband who would be better off with her gone. The detective on the case will stop at nothing to find out what happened and bring this missing woman home. Where is Sabine? And who is Beth? The only thing that's certain is that someone is lying and the truth won't stay buried for long.-Goodreads

Review: Kimberly Belle knows how to write books where I just can't stop turning the pages! This was a fast, albeit predicable read but very enjoyable all the same. I found the ending very unrealistic but overall,  this would be a good beach (or ski lodge) read. 

Grade: 3/5

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

Book: The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
Author: Stuart Turton

Tonight, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed... again.

It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed.

But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot.

The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath...-Goodreads

Review: Love, love, love. I absolutely loved this book. It is unique, creative and a groundhog day-esque (but not really) murder mystery. It's hard to describe what's happening without spoilers but if you are looking for something different, with very interesting (and sometimes uncomfortable characters), give this a try. 

Grade: 5/5

Dead Center

Book: Dead Center
Series: The Rookie Club #1
Author: Danielle Girard

Fifteen years ago, the Rookie Club began as a tight-knit band of female cops struggling for respect. Jamie Vail was one of them. So was Natasha Devlin, the woman Jamie caught in bed with her husband.

When Natasha Devlin turns up dead, Jamie can’t bring herself to care. She’s got enough on her plate, hunting a sexual predator who preys on female officers. He leaves them alive, but brutalized. But when the MO of the Devlin murder matches the MO of the perp in Jamie’s case, she’s brought in on the homicide investigation and back into the Rookie Club she has been avoiding since her husband’s affair.

As additional police officers become victims, Jamie must confront her past and solve the murder of her ex-husband's lover before she becomes the killer's ultimate prize.-Goodreads


Review: I was looking for a new police procedural type book and found this series. I really liked Jamie, the sex crimes officer who is the main character of this book. She is working to put a serial rapist behind bars when a fellow officer, the woman she holds responsible for breaking up her marriage, is found murdered. Are the cases related? I will say the series 'Rookie Club' is a tad misleading as it implies an actual club of officers. It was mostly some women that had dinner together years ago and very occasionally get together now. Overall, I liked it. 

Grade: 3/5

Lock Ever Door

Book: Lock Every Door
Author: Riley Sager

No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen's new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan's most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.

As she gets to know the residents and staff of the Bartholomew, Jules finds herself drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who comfortingly, disturbingly reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. When Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her, Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story—until the next day, when Ingrid disappears.

Searching for the truth about Ingrid's disappearance, Jules digs deeper into the Bartholomew's dark past and into the secrets kept within its walls. Her discovery that Ingrid is not the first apartment sitter to go missing at the Bartholomew pits Jules against the clock as she races to unmask a killer, expose the building's hidden past, and escape the Bartholomew before her temporary status becomes permanent.-Goodreads

Review: The Last Time I Lied is an excellent book so I was fully expecting to love this. Unfortunately, this was very disappointing. Maybe I was expecting too much? The premise sounded interesting but the characters never felt real to me and it was overall very, very slow. 

Grade: 2/5

Friday, November 8, 2019

Verity

Book: Verity
Author: Colleen Hoover

Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.

Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity's notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn't expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity's recollection of what really happened the day her daughter died.

Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen's feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife's words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her.-Goodreads

Review: Do you like dark, twisty reads with uncomfortable subject matter and endings that don't end in a perfect red bow? If so, look no further. This is the next book for you. 

Lowen Ashleigh is hired to complete a book series by the famous author, Verity Crawford. You see, Verity has been in a bad car accident and is incapacitated. She can no longer write. So Lowen moves in temporarily with Verity, her husband and young son to do research and finish the books. However, when Lowen finds a manuscript Verity was working on, let's just say she gets side tracked. 

I finished this book and initially thought-okay, disturbing and I liked it. Then I found myself joining a Facebook group to discuss the ending and recommending to friends. I'm still recommending it. So..rating bumped up from 4 to 5. If disturbing reads are your thing, enjoy!

Grade: 5/5

A Mother's Confession

Book: A Mother's Confession
Author: Kelly Rimmer

Olivia and David were the perfect couple with their whole lives in front of them. When beautiful baby daughter Zoe came along, their world seemed complete.

But now David is dead and Olivia’s world is in pieces. While she is consumed with grief, her mother-in-law Ivy is also mourning the loss of her son. Both women are hiding secrets about the man they loved. Secrets that have put the family in danger.

Something was very wrong in Olivia and David’s marriage. Can Olivia and Ivy break their silence and speak the truth? A mother should protect her child, whatever the cost…shouldn’t she?-Goodreads

Review: A Mothers Confession is a sad tale of domestic abuse, told in alternating narratives between Olivia, the wife and Ivy, the abuser's mother. Rimmer crafts a sad story that had me turning the pages. My only issue with this book is that Ivy seemed too one-sided. I had a hard time believing mother's can be that blind to their children. Although I do see mother's excusing poor behavior in elementary school so perhaps it is closer to the mark than one wants to think. 

Grade: 4/5

Girls Like Us

Book: Girls Like Us
Author: Cristina Alger

FBI Agent Nell Flynn hasn't been home in ten years. Nell and her father, Homicide Detective Martin Flynn, have never had much of a relationship. And Suffolk County will always be awash in memories of her mother, Marisol, who was brutally murdered when Nell was just seven.

When Martin Flynn dies in a motorcycle accident, Nell returns to the house she grew up in so that she can spread her father's ashes and close his estate. At the behest of her father's partner, Detective Lee Davis, Nell becomes involved in an investigation into the murders of two young women in Suffolk County. The further Nell digs, the more likely it seems to her that her father should be the prime suspect--and that his friends on the police force are covering his tracks. Plagued by doubts about her mother's murder--and her own role in exonerating her father in that case--Nell can't help but ask questions about who killed Ria Ruiz and Adriana Marques and why. But she may not like the answers she finds--not just about those she loves, but about herself.-Goodreads

Review: This was an enjoyable read with a strong female lead, but it lacked the magic of The Banker's Wife (an excellent book by Alger). 

Grade: 3/5

The Ghostwriter

Book: The Ghostwriter
Author: Alessandra Torre

Four years ago, I lied. I stood in front of the police, my friends and family, and made up a story, my best one yet. And all of them believed me.

I wasn't surprised. Telling stories is what made me famous. Fifteen bestsellers. Millions of fans. Fame and fortune.

Now, I have one last story to write. It'll be my best one yet, with a jaw-dropping twist that will leave them stunned and gasping for breath.

They say that sticks and stones will break your bones, but this story? It will be the one that kills me.-Goodreads

Review: The Ghostwriter is about Helena, a reclusive writer dying of cancer, who enlists the help of a ghostwriter to help her finish her last story. 

Something terrible happened to Helena's husband and daughter and the book is building up to the big reveal. The first 2/3 of this book were painfully slow and boring. Tedious. I feel like this section could have been edited down significantly.  Helena, a woman dying of cancer who tragically lost her husband and child should be a sympathetic character but I could not stand her. She was one of the  most selfish characters I can remember reading about in recent memory. There were also sections written from the point of view of Mark (ghostwriter) and Charlotte (publisher) which seemed unnecessary and didn't add anything to the plot. Now, a strong ending can make up for unlikable characters and a slow start. The last third was undoubtedly the best part of the book. It was more fast paced and kept me turning the pages. Was it enough to make this a book I'd recommend? No. I am in the minority on this one, everyone in my book club seemed to love it. 


Grade: 3/5

In the Dark

Book: In the Dark
Series: DI Adam Fawley #2
Author: Cara Hunter

Do you know what they’re hiding in the house next door?

A woman and child are found locked in a basement, barely alive, and unidentifiable: the woman can’t speak, there are no missing persons reports that match their profile, and the confused, elderly man who owns the house claims he has never seen them before. The inhabitants of the quiet street are in shock—how could this happen right under their noses? But Detective Inspector Adam Fawley knows nothing is impossible. And no one is as innocent as they seem.

As the police grow desperate for a lead, Fawley stumbles across a breakthrough, a link to a case he worked years before about another young woman and child gone missing, never solved. When he realizes the missing woman’s house is directly adjacent to the house in this case, he thinks he might have found the connection that could bring justice for both women. But there’s something not quite right about the little boy from the basement, and the truth will send shockwaves through the force that Fawley never could have anticipated.

A deeply unsettling, heart-stopping mystery of long-buried secrets and the monsters who hide in plain sight, In the Dark is the second gripping novel featuring DI Adam Fawley.-Goodreads

Review: Cara Hunter does it again. I really enjoyed the first novel in the series and this was a great read as well. This was a well constructed, interesting story with an ending I didn't see coming. I love DI Fawley and his team and can't wait to see what they are up to next!

Grade: 4.5/5

Maggie Get Your Gun

Book: Maggie Get Your Gun
Series: Maggie MacKay, Magical Tracker #2
Author: Kate Danley

Now that Maggie saved the world, life is returning to normal at MacKay & MacKay Magical Tracking. That is until a stranger shows up looking for some ancient jewelry to die for. In fact, lots of folks are dying for it.

Maggie, Killian, and your favorite cast of characters are back for a rootin’ tootin’ urban fantasy adventure through the wilds of the Old West.

The bad guys don’t stand a ghost of a chance.-Goodreads

Review: The 2nd book in the Maggie MacKay series was very similar to the first. Very light urban fantasy with fun characters and dialogue but not enough world building and character depth. Overall, fun and light. 

Grade: 3/5

The Rosie Project

Book: The Rosie Project
Series: Don Tillman #1
Author: Graeme Simsion

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don's Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

The Rosie Project is a moving and hilarious novel for anyone who has ever tenaciously gone after life or love in the face of overwhelming challenges.-Goodreads

Review: Don Tillman is a professor of genetics with Asperger's who is on the hunt to find a wife. Don is an acquired taste. Like Eleanor Oliphant (Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine) and Ove (A Man Called Ove), I was hoping to stick by Don and find myself loving him and his antics by the end. Unfortunately, while I liked the book just fine, I didn't laugh and I didn't fall in love with Don and Rosie. 

Grade: 3/5

Saving Meghan

Book: Saving Meghan
Author: DJ Palmer

Can you love someone to death?

Some would say Becky Gerard is a devoted mother and would do anything for her only child. Others claim she's obsessed and can't stop the vicious circle of finding a cure at her daughter's expense.

Fifteen-year-old Meghan has been in and out of hospitals with a plague of unexplained illnesses. But when the ailments take a sharp turn, doctors intervene and immediately suspect Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a rare behavioral disorder where the primary caretaker, typically the mother, seeks medical help for made-up symptoms of a child. Is this what's going on? Or is there something even more sinister at hand?-Goodreads

Review: I really enjoyed this book. 15 year old Meghan is sick. Really sick. Or is she? The doctors can't figure out what's wrong with her. Does she have a rare genetic disease or is this Munchausen syndrome by proxy? I love how the author doesn't feed us this information and leaves us hanging until the end of the book. A few interesting read about Munchausen and the power the medical community has when they think a patient is at risk. 

Grade: 4/5

Maggie For Hire

Book: Maggie For Hire
Series: Maggie MacKay, Magical Tracker #1
Author: Kate Danley

My name is Maggie MacKay. When monsters show up in Los Angeles, I get the call to haul 'em back to the dimension where they belong.

It's a living.

But I just got word my uncle has teamed up with the forces of darkness to ruin my life. Actually, everyone's lives. Everyone's gonna die if I don't find a magical object before the coming apocalypse. This is going to make the next family reunion a little awkward.

Come along with me, my sidekick elf Killian, and my crazy family for a snarky urban fantasy adventure with attitude.-Goodreads

Review: I was searching for a new urban fantasy series and found Maggie MacKay. This book did make me chuckle (which I love) and it was a quick read, but I wish the author had spent more time on character development and world building. This was fun but very, very light read. 

Grade: 3/5

Cosmic

Book: Cosmic
Author: Frank Cottrell Boyce

Liam is too big for his boots. And his football strip. And his school blazer. But being super-sized height-wise has its advantages: he's the only eleven-year-old to ever ride the G-force defying Cosmic rollercoaster - or be offered the chance to drive a Porsche. Long-legged Liam makes a giant leap for boy-kind by competing with a group of adults for the chance to go into space. Is Liam the best boy for the job? Sometimes being big isn't all about being a grown-up.-Goodreads
Review: This was a selection for 5th grade book club. Our main character, Liam, is 11 years old but somehow so tall and mature looking he can pass for an adult. One must suspend disbelief and accept that an 11 year old can pass for an adult for this book to work. The elementary students reading this were able to do this. As a parent, I just could not believe this on any level. Liam, our 11 year old protagonist, ends up traveling overseas with a friend (while pretending to be her parent) as they compete against other 'father-child-duos' to ride the first Cosmic rollercoaster. 

Overall, this was well written but I had a hard time believing the main character could pass as an adult. 

Grade: 3/5

I'm a Therapist, and My Patient is Going to be the Next School Shooter: 6 Patient Files That Will Keep You Up At Night

Book: I'm a Therapist, and My Patient is Going to be the Next School Shooter: 6 Patient Files That Will Keep You Up at Night
Author: Dr. Harper

I've seen it all... A boy who planned to be the next school shooter. A patient with OCD whose loved ones really did suffer every time he missed a ritual. A choir boy who claimed he was being molested -- not by a priest -- but by God Himself. A patient with PTSD who gave me nightmares. A husband and wife who accused each other of abuse, and only one of them was telling the truth.

And how could I ever forget, Patient #220.

The problem is, my patients have a habit of dying. Sometimes I wonder if I'm the common denominator. Or maybe that's just the cost of taking on exceptionally broken clients.

Either way, I'll never stop trying to help.-Goodreads

Review: This is a work of fiction. A psychiatrist gives us a look at case files for six different patients. I will give the author credit for trying to do something different here but overall this was just weird and disconnected. 

Grade: 2/5

The Accident

Book: The Accident
Author: Natalie Barelli

If only she'd said no...

Katherine knew she’d had too many drinks, but they were only going a short distance. And as Eve pointed out, it was late, there was no traffic anyway...

Now, Katherine would do anything to turn back the clock. If anyone ever found out about the accident, it would ruin Katherine’s life. But no one needs to know because Eve was there too, and she’s going to help make it all go away.

Except something's not quite right with Eve, and by the time Katherine realizes that…

It's too late.-Goodreads

Review: This was a surprisingly fun read about a woman who leaves the scene of an accident and the co-worker who blackmails her about it. If you are looking for a quick fun beach read (or maybe ski lodge read..it's almost winter) this would be a good choice. 

Grade: 3/5

Never Tell

Book: Never Tell
Series: Detective DD Warren #10
Author: Lisa Gardner

A man is dead, shot three times in his home office. But his computer has been shot twelve times, and when the cops arrive, his pregnant wife is holding the gun.

D.D. Warren arrives on the scene and recognizes the woman--Evie Carter--from a case many years back. Evie's father was killed in a shooting that was ruled an accident. But for D.D., two coincidental murders is too many.

Flora Dane sees the murder of Conrad Carter on the TV news and immediately knows his face. She remembers a night when she was still a victim--a hostage--and her captor knew this man. Overcome with guilt that she never tracked him down, Flora is now determined to learn the truth of Conrad's murder.

But D.D. and Flora are about to discover that in this case the truth is a devilishly elusive thing. As layer by layer they peel away the half-truths and outright lies, they wonder: How many secrets can one family have? -Goodreads

Review: It's hard to keep a series engaging at book #10 but Lisa Gardner is a master at thrillers and does exactly that. When Evie's husband is shot multiple times and she's caught red handed with a gun, DD and Flora are on the case. Did Evie kill her husband? If so, why? And why did she destroy the computer? Told in alternating narratives between Evie, DD and Flora, the case unfolds. I feel like Flora has taken over as my favorite character in this series and loved her growth in this book. Another fabulous read from Lisa Gardner!

Grade: 4.5/5

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Where the Crawdad's Sing

Book: Where the Crawdad's Sing
Author: Delia Owens

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.-Goodreads
Review: Another book club selection (for my adult book club). I have mixed feelings about this book.  It started off strong and I was engaged in the story. I really felt bad for Kya and how her family abandoned her. After being isolated and alone for years, Tate finds her and that is when my non-stop eye rolling began. I had a hard time suspending disbelief for a lot after this point. The extremely fast way she learned to read, her dialect, then the book seemed to move into a chick lit category. Then it merged into a legal..well, not a legal thriller but a legal drama of sorts. I actually really enjoyed the courtroom sections. 

Overall-this started strong, dragged in the middle (I liked the nature descriptions but they put me to sleep at times) and I liked the end. 

Grade: 2.5/5

The Rookie Bookie

Book: The Rookie Bookie
Author: L. Jon Wertheim, Tobias Moskowitz  

New kid Mitch Sloan wants to fit in, but his nerdy love of statistics and making money isn't winning him any friends in his sports-loving town--until he finds the perfect way to attain instant popularity. But running a football betting ring at school eventually turns sour, and Mitch loses the only real friend he's made. He'll have to win her back by using his brainpower for good and helping the school football team achieve victory--if they'll listen to the advice of a former bookie!-Goodreads
Review: This was another selection for our 5th grade book club and I absolutely loved everything about this book. Mitch and his family recently moved from California to Illinois. Mitch isn't an athlete like his older brother but he does have a mind for math. Can he find a way to leverage his skill set to make friends at school? 

This was well written, engaging and sharp. I loved Mitch!

Grade: 5/5

Before I Let You Go

Book: Before I Let You Go
Author: Kelly Rimmer

The 2:00 a.m. call is the first time Lexie Vidler has heard her sister’s voice in years. Annie is a drug addict, a thief, a liar—and in trouble, again. Lexie has always bailed Annie out, given her money, a place to sleep, sent her to every kind of rehab. But this time, she’s not just strung out—she’s pregnant and in premature labor. If she goes to the hospital, she’ll lose custody of her baby—maybe even go to prison. But the alternative is unthinkable.

As the weeks unfold, Lexie finds herself caring for her fragile newborn niece while her carefully ordered life is collapsing around her. She’s in danger of losing her job, and her fiancĂ© only has so much patience for Annie’s drama. In court-ordered rehab, Annie attempts to halt her downward spiral by confronting long-buried secrets from the sisters’ childhoods, ghosts that Lexie doesn’t want to face. But will the journey heal Annie, or lead her down a darker path?-Goodreads

Review: Two sisters. One become a doctor while the other becomes a heroin addict. How does this happen? How will it end when the addict is pregnant? 'Before I Let You Go' is the heartbreaking story of Lexie and Annie. Told in alternating narratives, we follow their lives from childhood to present time. It's a story of family, abuse, secrets, addiction and unhealthy relationships. There is also a lot of information regarding how states (Alabama in this case) handle drug afflicted pregnant women and it was very eye opening. 

Another fantastic book by Kelly Rimmer. This is one that I read I couldn't stop thinking about after finishing it. 

Grade: 4.5/5

Heavy Hitters

Book: Heavy Hitters
Series: Game Changers #3
Author: Mike Lupito

Ben and his friends, the Core Four Plus One, are so excited to play in their town's All-Star Baseball league. But in the first game of the season Ben gets hit by a pitch. It's never happened to him before and it shakes him up.

Another player on Ben's team, Justin, is acting really weirdly. Ben's known Justin for a while and they're friendly but he's not one of Ben's closest "boys." Justin is the team's best hitter but his behavior on and off the field is erratic.

Ben discovers that Justin's parents are getting a divorce and Justin is thinking about quitting the team. Like good teammates do, Justin helps Ben deal with his issues at bat while Ben is there for his friend while his family is struggling.-Goodreads

Review: This was a book club selection for the 5th grade book club I mentor. Without reading the previous books in the series, I feel like I was missing a connection with 'core four' of friends other than Ben, the main character. The rest of the group seemed interchangeable. I think the sections involving Ben and Justin (the 'plus one') were extremely well written and provided great discussion points for kids around that age (divorce, being there for your friends, etc). My primary challenge with this book is that it seemed like 50% of it was focused on actual baseball games the boys were playing. I wish the author had spent more time on the boy interacting with each other off the field. 

Grade: 3/5

Rules of Redeption

Book: Rules of Redemption
Series: The Firebird Chronicles #1
Author: TA White

Kira Forrest is a survivor. She’s risen above the pain of her beginnings to become a war hero only to leave it all behind in the pursuit of a simple life. Now a salvager, she makes a living sifting through the wreckage of dead alien ships from a war that nearly brought humanity to its knees.

After her ship takes damage, she’s forced to re-route to a space station where her past and present collide with dangerous consequences.

Kira’s existence holds the key to a faltering peace treaty with the Tuann—a technologically advanced alien race who dislikes and distrusts all humans. Winning her freedom should be easy, but a powerful and relentless Tuann warrior stands in her way. Deceiving him seems impossible, especially when he strays dangerously close to secrets she struggles to hide.

Can Kira reconcile the pain of her past with the possibilities of her future? The fate of two races depends on her success. -Goodreads

Review: This was a predictable but fun read by TA White. I liked the world building and plan to read the next in the series. 

Grade: 3/5

The Things We Cannot Say

Book: The Things We Cannot Say
Author: Kelly Rimmer

In 1942, Europe remains in the relentless grip of war. Just beyond the tents of the Russian refugee camp she calls home, a young woman speaks her wedding vows. It’s a decision that will alter her destiny…and it’s a lie that will remain buried until the next century.

Since she was nine years old, Alina Dziak knew she would marry her best friend, Tomasz. Now fifteen and engaged, Alina is unconcerned by reports of Nazi soldiers at the Polish border, believing her neighbors that they pose no real threat, and dreams instead of the day Tomasz returns from college in Warsaw so they can be married. But little by little, injustice by brutal injustice, the Nazi occupation takes hold, and Alina’s tiny rural village, its families, are divided by fear and hate. Then, as the fabric of their lives is slowly picked apart, Tomasz disappears. Where Alina used to measure time between visits from her beloved, now she measures the spaces between hope and despair, waiting for word from Tomasz and avoiding the attentions of the soldiers who patrol her parents’ farm. But for now, even deafening silence is preferable to grief.

Slipping between Nazi-occupied Poland and the frenetic pace of modern life, Kelly Rimmer creates an emotional and finely wrought narrative that weaves together two women’s stories into a tapestry of perseverance, loyalty, love and honor. The Things We Cannot Say is an unshakable reminder of the devastation when truth is silenced…and how it can take a lifetime to find our voice before we learn to trust it. -Goodreads

Review: Kelly Rimmer has quickly become one of my favorite authors. I really enjoyed this book. Told in alternating narratives, we follow Alina during the war and Alice in present time. Unlike most novels with two different timelines, I felt both of these were very strong and engaging. Alina is a sweet albeit naive girl in love with Tomasz, her best friend in a small village in Poland while present day Alice is a stressed out mother of two with a special needs child. 

This was well written, engaging, heartbreaking and heartwarming. Highly recommend if you enjoy historical fiction. 

Grade: 5/5

They All Fall Down

Book: They All Fall Down
Author: Rachel Howzell Hall

Delighted by a surprise invitation, Miriam Macy sails off to a luxurious private island off the coast of Mexico, with six strangers—an ex-cop, a chef, a financial advisor, a nurse, a lawyer, a young widow.

Surrounded by miles of open water in the gloriously green Sea of Cortez, Miriam is shocked to discover that she and the rest of her companions have been brought to the remote island under false pretenses—and all seven strangers harbor a secret.

Danger lurks in the lush forest and in the halls and bedrooms of the lonely mansion. Sporadic cell-phone coverage and miles of ocean keeps the group trapped in paradise. And strange accidents keep them suspicious of each other, as one by one . . .-Goodreads

Review: This is a very loose re-telling of 'And Then There Were None' by Agatha Christie. Several Americans travel to an isolated island in Mexico under various pretenses but find out they are really there because their attorney has passed away and wants them there for a memorial service. 

This was a disappointing read. Unlikable characters and a plot that was not even close to one Christie weaved in her tale. I wouldn't recommend this. 

Grade: 2/5

The Last Move

Book: The Last Move
Author: Mary Burton

Catching monsters helps FBI agent Kate Hayden keep her nightmares at bay. Now an urgent call brings her back to San Antonio, the scene of her violent past. A brutal new murder shows hallmarks of a serial killer nicknamed the Samaritan. Tricky part is, Kate already caught him.

Either Kate made a deadly error, or she’s got a copycat on her hands. Paired with homicide detective Theo Mazur, she quickly realizes this murder is more twisted than it first appeared. Then a second body is found, the mode of death identical to a different case that Kate thought she’d put behind her.

Now Kate and Detective Mazur aren’t just working a homicide; the investigative pair is facing a formidable enemy who knows Kate intimately. While Mazur is personally trying to protect Kate, the closer they are drawn to the killer, the clearer it becomes that in this terrifying game, there is only one rule: don’t believe everything you see…-Goodreads

Review: I'd like to thank my goodreads friend Ann (we've never met but have similar reading preferences) for recommending this book. I really enjoyed it! Kate is a profiler for the FBI and she teams up Theo, a homicide detective on a case. I liked both characters, the story was engaging and the ending was a pleasant surprise. 

Grade: 4/5

Where the Forest Meets the Stars

Book: Where the Forest Meets the Stars
Author: Glendy Vanderah 

After the loss of her mother and her own battle with breast cancer, Joanna Teale returns to her graduate research on nesting birds in rural Illinois, determined to prove that her recent hardships have not broken her. She throws herself into her work from dusk to dawn, until her solitary routine is disrupted by the appearance of a mysterious child who shows up at her cabin barefoot and covered in bruises.

The girl calls herself Ursa, and she claims to have been sent from the stars to witness five miracles. With concerns about the child’s home situation, Jo reluctantly agrees to let her stay—just until she learns more about Ursa’s past.

Jo enlists the help of her reclusive neighbor, Gabriel Nash, to solve the mystery of the charming child. But the more time they spend together, the more questions they have. How does a young girl not only read but understand Shakespeare? Why do good things keep happening in her presence? And why aren’t Jo and Gabe checking the missing children’s website anymore?

Though the three have formed an incredible bond, they know difficult choices must be made. As the summer nears an end and Ursa gets closer to her fifth miracle, her dangerous past closes in. When it finally catches up to them, all of their painful secrets will be forced into the open, and their fates will be left to the stars.-Goodreads

Review: Another example of a book where everyone I know loved it and I wonder if we read the same thing. This book has glowing reviews. Glowing. Jo, the main character, has a very sympathetic backstory but I found her almost completely devoid of a personality. Gabe was an interesting character and I liked the friendship he developed with Jo but I had a hard time buying them as a romantic couple. The Ursa storyline had my continually scratching my head-Jo's actions made no sense. The ending did not seem realistic at all. 

Overall, well written book but not engaging enough to keep my interest. 

Grade: 2/5

My Lovely Wife

Book: My Lovely Wife
Author: Samantha Downing

Our love story is simple. I met a gorgeous woman. We fell in love. We had kids. We moved to the suburbs. We told each other our biggest dreams, and our darkest secrets. And then we got bored.

We look like a normal couple. We're your neighbors, the parents of your kid's friend, the acquaintances you keep meaning to get dinner with.

We all have our secrets to keeping a marriage alive.

Ours just happens to be getting away with murder.-Goodreads

Review: Tobias and Millicent. Husband and wife, loving parents of two children. They could be your friends, your neighbors, parents you know from school. But they have a secret to keeping their marriage spicy. They are murderers. 

Sounds amazing, right? This book has amazing reviews. All my friends gave it 4 or 5 stars. I'm a huge fan of Dexter, Criminal Minds and psychological thrillers. This book was right up my alley. I was shocked to find it somehow....well, boring. I think it was well written and I didn't dislike it, but the story line wasn't as juicy as it could be. Overall, an okay read. 

Grade: 2/5

The Memory Watcher

Book: The Memory Watcher
Author: Minka Kent

When Autumn Carpenter stumbles upon the social media account of the family who adopted her infant daughter years ago, she finds herself instantly drawn into their picture-perfect existence.

From behind a computer screen, Autumn watches Grace's every memory, from birthdays to holidays to bedtime snuggles. But what starts as an innocent fascination spirals into an addictive obsession met with a screeching halt the day the McMullen family closes their Instaface account without so much as a warning.

Frantic and desperate to reconnect with her daughter, Autumn applies for a nanny position with the McMullens, manipulating herself into Grace's life under false pretenses. And it's only then that Autumn discovers pictures lie, the perfect family doesn't exist, and beautiful people? They have the ugliest secrets.-Goodreads

Review: Overall I enjoyed this book about a young woman who is obsessed with her neighbors who adopted her infant daughter. The middle dragged a little but the ending was a twist I didn't see coming. One challenge with this book is that I have a daughter the same age as Grace and her dialogue and actions seemed like that of a younger child. I still liked it. 

Grade: 3/5

Diamond Fire

Book: Diamond Fire
Series: Hidden Legacy #3.5
Author: Ilona Andrews

Catalina Baylor is looking forward to wearing her maid of honor dress and watching her older sister walk down the aisle. Then the wedding planner gets escorted off the premises, the bride’s priceless tiara disappears, and Rogan's extensive family overruns his mother’s home. Someone is cheating, someone is lying, and someone is plotting murder.

To make this wedding happen, Catalina will have to do the thing she fears most: use her magic. But she’s a Baylor and there’s nothing she wouldn't do for her sister's happiness. Nevada will have her fairy tale wedding, even if Catalina has to tear the mansion apart brick by brick to get it done.-Goodreads

Review: Anyone who knows me knows I'm a huge Ilona Andrews fan and this novella didn't disappoint. I loved it from start to finish. Nevada and Rogan take the back burner while Catalina gets a chance to shine. She's smart and funny. I can't wait to see where the series takes her in the next installment. 

Grade: 5/5