Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Meh Times Two

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

With a new, but solid marriage, a lovely home in a safe, well-maintained neighborhood, and a stable bookkeeping job, life is comfortable for Karen Krupp.  She's not the type to involve herself in any kind of drama, so when she disappears—leaving behind her purse and cell phone—her husband is flummoxed.  He's even more confused when he's summoned to the hospital to find Karen alive but with no memory of where she's been.  According to the police, she was driving in the worst part of town, an area she had no reason to visit, when she crashed into a utility pole.  What was Karen doing there?  She can't remember and Tom Krupp has no idea.  

When a corpse is discovered near the place where Karen had her accident, the police believe it's no coincidence.  As they investigate, they find that everyone—Karen,Tom, and even Karen's purported best friend—are hiding something.  The more Detective Rasbach digs, the more disturbing the case becomes.  Can he figure out what Karen was doing on the night she crashed?  And what, if anything, she had to do with a violent murder?

I'm always up for an intriguing amnesia-based psychological thriller and A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena fits the bill.  Kinda.  While it's engrossing, the story is told in an odd, off-putting way, which distances the reader from the action.  The characters, even Detective Rasbach who is a recurring character in Lapena's novels, are not developed enough to be likable or unlikable.  In addition, the tale is melodramatic and predictable; I wanted more complexity from it.  All this aside, A Stranger in the House is still a compelling page turner.  I just didn't love it and, in the end, didn't find it to be a very satisfying read.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me a little of If I Die Tonight by Alison Gaylin)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language, violence, mild sexual content, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find


Despite Intriguing Premise, This One Gets A Meh From Me

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

After her babysitter cancels at the last minute, Anne Conti reluctantly decides to leave her 6-month-old daughter at home and join her husband, Marco, at a dinner party next door.  Plagued by guilt and anxiety, Anne can't relax, even though she checks on the infant repeatedly.  During one of these drop-ins, the couple make a horrifying discovery—Cora is gone.  Who would kidnap a baby right out of its crib?  And why?  

With no real evidence of a break-in, police suspect the Contis of abducting their own child.  Anne suffers from post-partum depression and Marco's software design business is in trouble.  Did one of them snap under the added pressure of new parenthood?  As Detective Rasbach investigates, he uncovers a whole web of lies weaved between the Contis and their enigmatic next door neighbors, the Stillwells.  No one is telling the entire truth, so what really happened to Cora?  Can Rasbach wade through all the deceit and find out? 

I dig psychological thrillers with intriguing premises, so The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena seemed like a right-up-my-alley kind of novel.  While the story is intriguing enough that I wanted to keep reading, the characters in this story are a total turn-off.  The cast is almost wholly unlikable.  They're a desperate, selfish, cruel, and greedy lot, which made it impossible to care about them.  Add to this irritant a predictable plot and a depressing-as-all-get-out vibe, and The Couple Next Door becomes only a so-so read.  While I definitely wanted to know what happened to the baby, all in all this one didn't do a lot for me.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of Our House by Louise Candlish)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language, sexual content, violence, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Thursday, December 06, 2018

New Gilly McMillan Mystery Complex and Compelling, But Not My Favorite

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Twenty years ago, two young boys were murdered, their bodies dumped near a dog racing track in Bristol, England.  A developmentally disabled man, 24-year-old Sidney Noyce, was convicted of the crime.  Convenient though it may be, the case's resolution doesn't sit quite right with some people.  When Sidney hangs himself in prison two decades later, it propels Cody Swift, the boys' childhood BFF, to take a closer look at what really happened to his mates.  Haunted by their deaths, he vows to find his pals' real killer.  Through a podcast he dubs It's Time to Tell, Cody talks about the case, discussing his findings with anyone who will listen.  It doesn't take long for him to start receiving violent threats.  Obviously, someone doesn't want Cody looking for answers, but who?  And why?  

When more remains are discovered near the track, another murder investigation opens.  John Fletcher, the DI who worked the original case, thinks the killings are linked.  As he reopens 20-year-old files, searching for new clues, he, too, comes under dangerous scrutiny.  Can he John find the answers he's looking for before it's too late?  With a killer on the loose and his career on the line, he doesn't have a moment to lose ...

I'm a sucker for an engrossing mystery/thriller and Gilly Macmillan certainly knows how to write them.  Her newest, I Know You Know, is a complex, compelling novel that kept me guessing.  Despite a cast of unlikable characters and it's dark, depressing vibe, I liked this one overall.  It's not my favorite by Macmillan, but it kept me engaged throughout.  Macmillan's a skilled writer and I'm always anxious to see what she's going to do next.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other books by Gilly Macmillan, including What She Knew; Odd Child Out; and The Perfect Girl)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for strong language, violence, blood/gore, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of I Know You Know from the generous folks at William Morrow in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Grabenstein's Debut Upbeat and Funny

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

It's all fun and games at the Jersey shore until someone gets hurt—the kind of hurt that lands them in the morgue.  

Reginald Hart, a business tycoon who's "kind of like Donald Trump, only richer and without the gravity-defying comb-over," is found shot to death on the tilt-a-whirl at a sleazy amusement park in Sea Haven, New Jersey.  The man known as "Hartless" had no shortage of enemies, so suspects in his murder are plentiful.  It's just a matter of narrowing down the possibilities to find the person who hated Reginald enough to kill him.

After a 13-year stint in the military, John Ceepak has come to Sea Haven to work on the police force run by an old Army buddy.  The seasoned MP is paired with Danny Boyle, a 24-year-old greenie who's more of a gopher/chauffeur than a partner.  Danny's a "cop with a beachy kind of 'tude"—he doesn't carry a gun and he has more opportunities to flirt with bikini-clad tourists than solve crime.  Tagging along after Ceepak means policing on a whole new level.  

As Danny marvels at his mentor's work ethic, he learns a great deal about detective work as well as the enigmatic John Ceepak.  Together, the two men are determined to find Reginald's killer.  The closer they get, however, the more dangerous their job becomes.  Can they get to the bottom of a violent murder without running afoul of a vicious killer?  Or will theirs be the next corpses to turn up at Sunnyside Playland?

I knew Chris Grabenstein wrote zany middle grade adventures like Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library, but I had no idea that his earliest published books were actually police procedurals aimed at adults.  Tilt-a-Whirl is the first installment in his series starring John Ceepak (but narrated by Danny Boyle).  It's a clever, funny novel that remains upbeat despite dealing with disturbing subject matter.  Ceepak's a fascinating character and seeing him through Danny's eyes makes our hero even more mysterious and compelling.  I enjoyed both of the story's leading men as well as its atmospheric seaside setting.  The mystery doesn't get too many points for originality, but it is fast-paced, twisty, and entertaining.  Tilt-a-Whirl kept me turning pages and yearning for more from Ceepak and Boyle.  I've already purchased the next two books in the series.  I can't wait to see what this dynamic duo does next!

(Readalikes:  Other books in the John Ceepak series, including Mad House; Whack-a-Mole; Hell Hole; Mind Scrambler; Rolling Thunder; Fun House; and Free Fall)

Grade:



If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for strong language, violence, blood/gore, sexual innuendo, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I bought an e-copy of Tilt-a-Whirl from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Classic Children's Novel Has Me Asking, "Am I Missing Something?"

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Feeling underappreciated by her family and tired of "the monotony of everything" (6), 12-year-old Claudia Kincaid decides to run away from her Greenwich home.  Knowing she'll need money for food, bus fare, and the like, Claudia reluctantly invites her miserly little brother, Jamie, along.  The two head for what seems like the perfect hideaway—The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.  Hiding out in the museum is a little scary, but it's also fun and exciting.  At least until hunger, boredom, and homesickness sets in.

When Claudia and Jamie come across a statue purportedly created by Michelangelo and sold to the museum for a mere $225, the kids know they've uncovered an intriguing—and diverting—mystery.  Their hunt for answers leads them to Mrs. Frankweiler, mysterious 82-year-old widow who collects secrets.  As the kids make some amazing discoveries about the statue, they'll learn a few important things about themselves as well.

I read voraciously as a kid (some things never change!), so I'm sure I picked up From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg at some point in my childhood.  Since I couldn't really remember the story, though, I decided to revisit the 1968 Newbery Award winner as an adult.  Although the idea of living in a famous museum full of innumerable mysteries definitely fuels my imagination, I found the book underwhelming overall.  It's a quick, fun read that actually has a surprisingly modern vibe to it.  I like that, but I didn't feel any real connection to the characters or story.  On the whole, then, I found the book entertaining enough, just not super memorable or special.  So many readers adore this classic children's book.  I have to ask—am I missing something? 

(Readalikes:  Um, nothing's coming to mind.  You?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: A Baker's Dozen of Anticipated Reads


It's been a bit since I did a Top Ten Tuesday, so I thought I'd chime in on this week's topic—although I'm going to add a little spin to it.  Before we get to that, though, I know you're going to want to join in the fun of my favorite weekly meme.  Here's how: (1) Go to That Artsy Reader Girl, (2) Read through a few instructions, (3) Make your own TTT list, (4) Click around the book blogosphere to read other people's lists, find new blogs, and fill your TBR mountain chain with reading recommendations.  It's fun, I promise!

This week's prompt is: Top Ten Cozy, Wintry Reads.  As much as I enjoy these types of books, especially now that there's FINALLY a nip in the air here in Arizona, I'm going to talk about the ten volumes I want to finish before the year's out.  I've fallen waaayyyy short of my goal to read 200 books in 2018, but I'd at least like to read 155, which mean I've got a baker's dozen left to go.  So, here are the Top Ten Thirteen Books I'm Hoping to Read Before the End of the Year:


1.  The Invited by Jennifer McMahon (available April 30, 2019)—Although it's more Halloween than Christmas, I'm in the middle of this shivery ghost story right now.  I've enjoyed other creepy reads by McMahon, and this one is no exception.  'Course, I can't read it too close to bedtime ...


2.  A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens—I love this holiday classic and re-read it every Christmas.


3.  The Pint of No Return by Ellie Alexander—I enjoyed the first book in this cozy mystery series about a brewmistress in Leavenworth, Washington, where more than just beer is on tap.  I don't know the first thing about beer, but this is a fun series set in a town I hope to visit this month.


4.  Mortal Fall by Christine Carbo—For a few years now, I've been keeping track of the places—both within the U.S. and without—where the books I read are set.  It's been fun to do that as part of the Literary Escapes Challenge this year.  I still need to read a book set in Montana, so I decided on this one.  It's the second book in Carbo's mystery series starring a Special Agent for the Department of the Interior who works in Glacier National Park.


5.  This Fallen Prey by Kelley Armstrong—I've really enjoyed Armstrong's gritty Rockton series so far.  This is the third installment.


6.  The Shadow of Death by Jane WillanKay, my go-to blogger for everything mystery/thriller, recommended this cozy about a nun who's convinced that a sexton's death (by Heavenly Gouda, no less) is murder.  She's determined to find the killer.  It's the first in a series that sounds utterly delightful.


7.  The Long Way Home by Louise Penny—I love the Armand Gamache series and am reading it
slowly so I can savor it.  This is the tenth installment.


8.  The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel by Alyssa Palombo—This Legend of Sleepy Hollow tale is one I had planned to read at Halloween time.  That didn't happen, so we'll see if it happens before New Year.


9.  The Ocean Liner by Marius Gabriel—This historical novel about two Jewish cousins sailing to America on the S.S. Manhattan to escape WWII in their home country sounds excellent.


10.  Trouble the Water by Jacqueline Friedland—Another historical, this one is about a young British woman who's sent to America to live with a wealthy widower in order to ease her family's financial burden.  Although she initially finds her benefactor disagreeable, she sound discovers that he hides some tantalizing secrets.  Sounds good!


11.  The Good Neighbor by Maxwell King—Because I'm super old, I grew up watching Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.  Even as a kid, I found it trippy-weird.  However, after watching the documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor? recently, I was really struck by the faith, sincerity, and devotion of Fred Rogers.  I definitely want to read more about him.


12.  The Library Book by Susan Orlean—I've seen nothing but glowing reviews for this book about a devastating library fire in California.  The author uses the event to talk about the history and continuing importance of libraries in our communities.  I'm in!


13.  The Book of Mormon—In his address at an October women's conference, Russell M. Nelson—prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—issued a challenge to the women of the Church to read The Book of Mormon by the end of the year.  I was in the middle of reading the New Testament for my nightly scripture study at the time, but I switched over and am now in the middle of Alma.  Happily, the New Testament is the subject of study for all members of the Church all over the globe in 2019.  I can't wait!

There you have it, thirteen books I'd really like to read in what's left of 2018.  Have you read any of them?  What did you think?  What wintry, cozy books are you planning to enjoy this season?  I'd truly love to know.  Leave me a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor.

Happy TTT!

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Quick, Informative Guide Helps Church Members Find Family Names for the Temple

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

If there's one thing members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are known for (besides not drinking coffee), it's their love of genealogy/family history.  The Church has long encouraged and supported its people in exploring their roots, seeking out their dead, and performing eternal ordinances by proxy for their deceased family members in its temples.  To help in this effort, the Church created FamilySearch.org, a family tree-building website that houses a massive database of records and other information to help people create complete and accurate trees.  The site is collaborative, user friendly, and totally free for all users (although only Church members can access the site's temple features).  If you are interested in family history, it's a website you simply must check out.  You will likely be stunned by the amount of information about your ancestors already in the database.  FamilySearch really is incredible.

Because of the Church's long emphasis on the importance of doing family history, one of members' biggest frustrations is not being able to find ancestors whose temple work has not already been done.  It can be difficult to comb through all the different branches and generations of one's family, which is why apps like Take a Name (or FamilySearch's Ordinance Ready feature, which can be found under the "Temple" tab) have been created.  These are useful shortcuts, but it's also important to learn how to build and search your family tree properly and thoroughly.  
To help people do just that, Nicole Dyer and Diana Elder—the genealogists behind Family Locket—wrote Find Names for the Temple: A Step-by-Step Method for Success.  I'm not going to lie, their approach is methodical, even tedious.  However, it is very thorough.  By following their instructions, you can ensure the information you put into your tree as well as the information you get out of it (including finding names for the temple) is both complete and accurate.  Although the effort might seem exhaustive at the outset, you will be saving yourself time and frustration in the long-run.  Find Names for the Temple is aimed at beginners, but it does assume a bit of familiarity with FamilySearch.  It also focuses mostly on finding names, so it's not a comprehensive guide on how to use the website (never fear, though—FamilySearch offers excellent tutorials as well as 24/7 customer support).  Dyer and Elder are experienced, passionate genealogists and that enthusiasm shows in this quick, easy-to-read guide.  If you're having trouble finding names for the temple, whether you're a beginner or a seasoned researcher, definitely check out this book (as well as the Family Locket website).  I've been working on my family history for years and I still learned a lot from this very helpful volume.

(Readalikes:  I've never really read a family history guide before, so I'm not sure what to compare this one to.  You?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Find Names for the Temple from its very generous authors in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Gritty Revenge Novel Affecting, But Not Exactly Enjoyable

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Ever since their junkie mom took off, 19-year-old Sadie Hunter has looked after her 13-year-old sister, Mattie.  Their existence is a tough one, but with the help of May Beth Foster, their landlord and pseudo grandmother, the girls manage to get along okay.  Until Mattie is discovered dead from a blunt force trauma wound to the head.  Overcome with grief and anger, Sadie's fury builds to a raging inferno as the police fail to solve her sister's murder.  Armed with only a switchblade and a few meager clues, Sadie finally sneaks off, determined to find Mattie's killer on her own—and make him pay.

When 68-year-old May Beth discovers that Sadie is missing, she grows frantic.  Her heart can't take the thought of another missing girl, especially one under her care.  Desperate, she begs radio personality Wes McCrae for help.  Sensing a juicy story, Wes creates a podcast to tell Sadie's story and to enlist his listeners in the search for the missing young woman.  The more deeply involved he becomes, the more he worries for obsessive, reckless Sadie.

In the meantime, Sadie's courting trouble by asking jeopardous questions of dangerous people.  Can Wes and Mary Beth stop her perilous quest before it's too late?  Or will Sadie's obsession with revenge lead to her own violent end?

For a YA novel, Sadie by Courtney Summers is decidedly dark, disturbing, and depressing.  It tells a gritty, unsettling story that I certainly would not want my teens reading.  That being said, it's a compelling book that tackles hefty issues (poverty, drug abuse, child abandonment, etc.) through the eyes of some very interesting characters.  Summers writes well, there's no doubt about that, but I had a hard time really enjoying Sadie.  It's a little too raw for my tastes and the ending, while satisfying on some levels, bugged on others.  Overall, then, I didn't love this one or even like it all that much.  I know I'm in the minority here because the novel is definitely affecting, it just wasn't my favorite.

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't think of anything.  You?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for strong language, violence, sexual content, references to/depictions of illegal drug use, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Sadie from the generous folks at St. Martin's Press via those at Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

     

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Shakespeare Saved My Life Offers a Fascinating Look at the Transformative Power of Literature in Even the Most Unlikely of Places

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

"Breaking into the state's most secured unit would prove to be almost as difficult as breaking out" (13).

While studying literature in college, 25-year-old Laura Bates began volunteering with a literacy program at Cook County Jail in Chicago.  Although the environment could be scary, the work was deeply satisfying.  After earning a graduate degree, Bates continued to teach English courses in Indiana prisons.  As an assistant professor at Indiana State University, she longed to do more.  Crazy as it sounded, she desired to teach Shakespeare to the most unlikely students of all—those locked in solitary confinement.  Putting her career and her reputation at risk, Bates persevered with her goal and finally received permission to try her program in 2003 at Wabash Valley Correctional Facility in downstate Indiana.  The prison's most dangerous residents—the worst of the worst—were housed in its Secure Housing Unit, commonly referred to as "Supermax".  Despite the fact that the prisoners were held in concrete isolation cells with thick, bunker-like doors and communication could only be had through a slit in the door, the program became a surprising success.

Over the decade Bates spent teaching Shakespeare in Supermax, one student especially stood out.  Larry Newton, a convicted murderer, remained in solitary confinement for ten years.  Still, his life changed when he started taking Bates' class.  Newton's general intelligence and surprising insight into 400-year-old plays shocked Dr. Bates and changed the way she read the Bard.  Newton, who declared that Shakespeare saved his life, went on to write workbooks and help teach other felons and juvenile offenders about the power of Shakespeare. 

Larry Newton's story is the focus of Shakespeare Saved My Life, Laura Bates' 2013 book about her experience teaching in solitary confinement.  It's a fascinating account that offers an incredible inside look at prison life and how inmates can be changed when encouraged to use their minds to examine and relate to literature.  Bates also discusses how her own life—both as a scholar and as a person—changed because of what she learned in solitary.  Overall, the book is interesting, thought-provoking, and touching.  I learned a lot from it.

Even if you're not interested in reading Shakespeare Saved My Life, you might want to check out this excellent Ted talk by Laura Bates.  It's only 15 minutes long, but it gives you a good idea of how her Shakespeare program worked in Supermax:



(Readalikes:  I've never really read anything on this topic before, so I'm not sure what to compare it to.  You?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (a few F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, innuendo, and disturbing subject matter

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Engrossing Titanic Novel Brings Something New to the Table

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

As Titanic sinks into the inky deep, chaos reigns.  Her luckiest passengers hunch in the few available lifeboats, others cling to floating debris trying to keep their heads above water, while still others are trapped inside the drowning ocean liner with no chance of escape.  From Lifeboat 21, three women watch the horrific scene, terrified for loved ones left behind and for themselves, adrift on the open sea in the middle of a ghastly nightmare.  They begin the journey as strangers, but their shared terror brings them together, binding them for the rest of their lives.  

Each of the women harbors her own secrets and fears.  Charlotte Digby, a beautiful 21-year-old pickpocket, lied her way onto Titanic in the hopes of starting a new life in America with the man she loves.  In the aftermath of the disaster, she has the chance to reinvent herself completely—as long as no one discovers her real identity.  Cavorting with her lover on Titanic has made Esme Harper, a bored housewife, happier than she's ever been.  As desperately as she wants to get to land, she dreads returning to her staid life.  Before the night is through, Anna Halversson—a Swedish farm girl—is in a position to get everything she's ever wanted.  But how can she enjoy the victory if she's plagued with guilt over what she did to gain it?

When a sudden death reunites Charlotte, Esme, and Anna two decades later, each will have to come to terms with the choices they've made, the consequences they've reaped, and the secrets they've kept for twenty long years ...

Although I love books about Titanic, it's difficult to find one that brings something new to the table.  By focusing more on the characters' pre- and post- Titanic lives than their onboard experience, On a Cold Dark Sea by Elizabeth Blackwell does just that.  Her story people can carry the tale because they're all complex, flawed, and intriguing.  Which isn't to say the plot isn't interesting; it is.  Blackwell's solid, engaging prose also makes this novel stand out.  Because of all these elements, I very much enjoyed this engrossing story about regret and redemption, choice and accountability, agony and authenticity.  

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor and The Glass Ocean by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for mild language (no F-bombs), violence, and mild sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of On a Cold Dark Sea from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Despite Intriguing Topic, Titanic Novel Plods Along

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

In April 1912, a group of Irish travelers from County Mayo boarded the most magnificent ship the world had ever seen.  Despite their steerage class tickets, they marveled at the grandeur and luxury of R.M.S. Titanic.  Little could any of them imagine that so many—including most of their group—would not survive their voyage aboard the great, but ill-fated ocean liner.  

One of few steerage class survivors, 17-year-old Maggie Murphy is grappling with the enormity of her loss.  Alone in a new country, her neighbors and friends buried at sea, Maggie knows she has to put the tragedy behind her and move on.  Shoving her grief into the farthest recesses of her heart, she forges ahead, vowing never to speak of the terrible, fateful night she watched Titanic—and many of her loved ones—sink into the unforgiving deep.  

Seventy years later, Maggie watches helplessly as her 21-year-old great-granddaughter flounders after losing both of her parents within a short time.  In an effort to reach out, Maggie decides to unburden herself to grieving Grace.  As the women share their secrets, both will find closure and renewed hope despite past hurts.

I find books about Titanic endlessly fascinating, so when I heard about The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor, I knew I needed to read it.  Unfortunately, the story moves along slowly, features flat characters, and meanders about without offering any twists or surprises to keep the tale exciting.  Without any real story goals to push them along, our heroines seem aimless, observing action more than creating it.  Although I do appreciate that The Girl Who Came Home is a clean, hopeful story, on the whole I found it predictable and dull.  I wanted more depth, more originality, more motivation to keep turning pages.  I did finish this book, but overall, it just didn't do a lot for me.


Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for brief, mild language (no F-bombs) and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of The Girl Who Came Home from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Debut Novel in P.I. Series an Intriguing Beginning

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Twenty-eight years ago, Clea Spector got into a strange blue car and was never seen again.  Her sister, Brenna, has never gotten over the loss.  Ever since Clea disappeared, she has been both blessed and cursed with Hyperthymestic Syndrome.  With perfect clarity, Brenna can recall everything she has ever experienced since age 11.  While her neurological disorder is helpful in her work as a private investigator, it's not the easiest thing to cope with on a day-to-day basis.  Brenna has learned how to harness her flawless memory to help her find missing persons and yet, she still can't figure out what happened to Clea.  

In the meantime, Brenna is called in to help with the case of Carol Wentz, a 51-year-old woman, who has vanished.  Oddly enough, Carol once lived next door to Iris Neff, a 6-year-old who walked away from a family barbecue eleven years ago and disappeared.  She's been obsessed with the case ever since.  Brenna knows the feeling.  Like Clea's unsolved case, Iris' continues to haunt the P.I.  As Brenna tries to figure out what happened to Carol, she discovers strange connections between the neighbors' disappearances.  What do these new clues mean?  Can Brenna find the missing persons before it's too late?

And She Was—the first book in Alison Gaylin's mystery series starring Brenna Spector—offers an intriguing, twisty plot that kept me glued to its pages.  I also enjoyed the characters in this one; not all of them are likeable, but all of them are interesting.  Brenna is both.  She's a brave, funny, and real heroine whose unique disorder makes for interesting reading.  Gaylin's a skilled thriller writer, one I'm just discovering.  Since I've enjoyed both the books I've read by her so far, I'm definitely up for more.  I'll for sure be continuing with the Brenna Spector series as well as checking out Gaylin's standalone novels.

(Readalikes:  Um, no specific series or authors are coming to mind.  Help!)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (a handful of F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, and blood/gore

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of And She Was from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Underwhelming Thriller Doesn't Stand Out Among Its Many, Many Fellows

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Ten years ago, six university friends from Oxford decided to spend an idyllic week at a quaint farmhouse in the French countryside.  It was supposed to be a relaxing holiday away from books, homework, and college stress.  When the group met Severine Dupas, the beautiful 19-year-old girl next door, things changed.  Some welcomed the novelty of her presence, others resented it.  A big fight ended the vacation, Severine vanished, and none of the friendships were the same afterward.  

Now, a decade later, Severine's corpse has been discovered in a well near the farmhouse.  Detectives are questioning everyone who knew her and everything that happened during the holiday week prior to her disappearance.  Kate Channing, a 31-year-old London lawyer, stands to lose everything she's worked so hard for if she's named as Severine's murderer.  As suspicion mounts against her, Kate struggles to make sense of what she remembers from the ill-fated holiday.  What really happened during that week in France?  Who wanted or needed Severine gone badly enough to take her life?  Which of Kate's friends became a killer during the vacation Kate desperately wishes had never happened?

The French Girl, a debut novel by Scottish author Lexie Elliott, offers an intriguing premise with a heck-ton of potential.  Unfortunately, the story starts slowly and never really gains momentum.  Its plot and characters are intriguing enough that I kept reading, but not unique enough to make this psychological thriller stand out among its many, many fellows.  In the end, The French Girl left me feeling underwhelmed and confused since Elliott left some story threads dangling. Still, I'm definitely willing to give the author another chance.  Her upcoming sophomore novel, The Missing Years, sounds like the kind of Gothic thriller I adore.  I will for sure be checking it out in April 2019.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me a bit of In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware and Under a Dark Sky by Lori Rader-Day)

Grade:

  
If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for strong language, violence, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Blog Widget by LinkWithin