Category Archives: Rated B+

Review: I See You by Clare Mackintosh

Title: I See You by Clare Mackintosh
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 382 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

The author of the New York Times bestseller I Let You Go propels readers into a dark and claustrophobic thriller, in which a normal, everyday woman becomes trapped in the confines of her normal, everyday world…

Every morning and evening, Zoe Walker takes the same route to the train station, waits at a certain place on the platform, finds her favorite spot in the car, never suspecting that someone is watching her…

It all starts with a classified ad. During her commute home one night, while glancing through her local paper, Zoe sees her own face staring back at her; a grainy photo along with a phone number and a listing for a website called FindTheOne.com.

Other women begin appearing in the same ad, a different one every day, and Zoe realizes they’ve become the victims of increasingly violent crimes—including murder. With the help of a determined cop, she uncovers the ad’s twisted purpose…A discovery that turns her paranoia into full-blown panic. Zoe is sure that someone close to her has set her up as the next target.

And now that man on the train—the one smiling at Zoe from across the car—could be more than just a friendly stranger. He could be someone who has deliberately chosen her and is ready to make his next move…

Review:

Fast-paced with a very unique premise, I See You by Clare Mackintosh is a chilling mystery that is suspense-laden and downright creepy.

Zoe Walker is like many Londoners who rely on public transportation to go to and from work every day.  Her daily routine is quite predictable and she rarely varies her route or where she sits on her daily commute.  Passing time on her ride home one day, Zoe is stunned to find a picture of herself along with a phone number and web address in the classified section of the newspaper.  Despite her family and friends’ assurances she is not the person in the photo, she is curious enough to continue checking the classified section.  Zoe soon makes a stunning connection between some of the women in the advertisements and recent victims of increasingly violent crimes.  She reports her suspicions to British Transport Police Detective Constable Kelly Swift who in turn manages to get assigned to the Murder Investigation Team (MIT).  Working closely with Detective Inspector Nick Rampello, she and the other members of the MIT make a horrifying discovery: someone is stalking daily commuters and putting their information up for sale on a secret website.  Quickly realizing two women who were recently murdered  and a rape victim were featured in the adverts, Kelly and Nick are under pressure to uncover the identity of the person running the site before someone else is attacked.  The stakes are even higher for Zoe who is growing increasingly worried about her safety.

Zoe is a divorced mum of two adult children, nineteen year old Katie, an aspiring actress and twenty-two year old Justin, who has finally turned his life around after a couple of brushes with the law when he was younger.  She and her two children live with her significant other, Simon, who dotes on her but cannot seem to quell his jealousy over her ex-husband Matt, who drives a taxi for a living.  Zoe commutes to her job in London where she works at a real estate office that specializes in commercial properties.  Close friends with her neighbors, Melissa and Neil, Zoe is mostly happy with her life although she frets over her children’s futures.

DC Kelly Swift  is an excellent investigator but after she got into some trouble during a case a few years earlier, her career has stalled.  After Zoe calls her with her suspicions about recent cases being linked to the classified adverts, she convinces an old boss of hers to let her work with the MIT.  Kelly is instrumental in finding the first big break in their investigation but their first solid lead quickly run into a dead end.  Realizing time is not on their side, Nick puts someone from cyber crimes on the case and while they uncover valuable information, will it be enough to identify the person who is running the website?

Once Zoe has a better idea of what is going on with the adverts, she becomes more and more worried about her security. She uncovers shocking information about Simon but her biggest concern is Katie’s new boyfriend.  However, it is an innocuous discovery that sets a horrifying plan into action that threatens those she holds most dear.  Will Kelly and Nick find the evidence they need to catch the person behind the website before it is too late?

I See You by Clare Mackintosh is a spellbinding police procedural that has many unexpected twists and turns.  A vast pool of suspects and a series of misdirects and red herrings will keep readers guessing the perpetrator’s identity right up until the novel’s stunning conclusion.  Although the final plot twist is not completely unexpected, it is still a stunning revelation that leaves a few loose ends dangling.  I highly recommend this intricately plotted and devilishly clever mystery to fans of the genre.

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Filed under Berkley, Clare Mackintosh, Contemporary, I See You, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense

Review: Setting Free the Kites by Alex George

Title: Setting Free the Kites by Alex George
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Genre: Historical (70s), Fiction
Length: 334 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Penguin’s First to Read Program

Summary:

From the author of the “lyrical and compelling” (USA Today) novel A Good American comes a powerful story of two friends and the unintended consequences of friendship, loss, and hope.

For Robert Carter, life in his coastal Maine hometown is comfortably predictable. But in 1976, on his first day of eighth grade, he meets Nathan Tilly, who changes everything. Nathan is confident, fearless, impetuous—and fascinated by kites and flying. Robert and Nathan’s budding friendship is forged in the crucible of two family tragedies, and as the boys struggle to come to terms with loss, they take summer jobs at the local rundown amusement park. It’s there that Nathan’s boundless capacity for optimism threatens to overwhelm them both, and where they learn some harsh truths about family, desire, and revenge.

Unforgettable and heart-breaking, Setting Free the Kites is a poignant and moving exploration of the pain, joy, and glories of young friendship.

Review:

Setting Free the Kites by Alex George is a nostalgic yet poignant coming of age novel which takes place on the coast of Maine during the mid seventies.

In 2016, the demolition of a long vacant paper mill is the catalyst for Robert Carter’s recollections of his long ago friendship with Nathan Tilly.  The two boys meet in 1976 after Nathan’s family relocates to Haverford from Texas.  Thirteen year old Robert notices Nathan right away, but he is more concerned about bully Hollis Calhoun than making new friends. Just as Hollis is visiting a new torture on his poor, beleaguered victim, bold and brash Nathan steps in to rescue Robert.  Nathan’s adventurous spirit and indomitable zest for life is the perfect foil for Robert’s more cautious approach to life and the two boys enjoy many fun-filled exploits over the course of their friendship.

The youngest of the Carter sons, Robert is often eclipsed by his older brother Liam who suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy.  Their parents dote on Liam while his health deteriorate as his disease worsens.  Robert adores Liam yet he is ever mindful of the very different relationships the two boys have with their parents.  Not one to rock the boat (or break the rules), Robert tries to keep out of trouble and the limelight since his parents have enough to worry about with Liam’s illness.

Robert’s unexpected friendship with Nathan is one escapade after another as the two boys run free and embark on fun-filled days out of the sight of their parents.  Nathan’s unbridled optimism is a stark contrast to Robert’s fears and concerns yet Robert is always quick to overcome his doubts about whatever exploit Nathan proposes.  Even in the midst of heartbreaking losses, they manage to find a way to step outside their grief and find happiness in each other’s company.  Not even the mundane jobs they undertake at Robert’s family amusement park can put a damper on their exploits but even the strongest bonds can be tested when one of the boys discovers his first love.

While the overall story is incredibly heartfelt and enjoyable, there are a few things that occur toward the end of the novel that need mentioning.  Without giving away any spoilers, here are a few observations about the most notable revelations and plot twists.  Late in the story, one of the characters does something that is so out of character that is impossible to believe.  Heavy foreshadowing from the first chapter hints at one of the events that occurs so it should not come as a surprise to readers once it finally happens.  And the final plot twist is an absolute delight and explains an awful lot about one of the secondary characters.

Setting Free the Kites is a very moving novel of friendship that is quite compelling. The coastal setting is harsh yet beautiful Alex George brings it vibrantly to life. Robert and Nathan are wonderfully developed characters that are multi-dimensional and so life-like it is difficult to believe they are fictional.  The storyline is engaging and although each family experiences devastating losses, the boys’ adventures and natural resiliency prevent the novel from becoming bogged down in grief.  Readers will appreciate the touching epilogue that completely wraps up any loose ends.  An extremely heartwarming and engaging story that will appeal to readers of all ages.

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Filed under Alex George, Fiction, GP Putnams Sons, Historical, Historical (70s), Rated B+, Review, Setting Free the Kites

Review: The Weight of Him by Ethel Rohan

Title: The Weight of Him by Ethel Rohan
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

In The Weight of Him Billy Brennan undergoes an unforgettable journey in a startling attempt to resurrect his family and reignite hearts, his own most of all.

At four hundred pounds, Billy Brennan can always count on food. From his earliest memories, he has loved food’s colors, textures and tastes. The way flavors go off in his mouth. How food keeps his mind still and his bad feelings quiet. Food has always made everything better, until the day Billy’s beloved son Michael takes his own life.

Billy determines to make a difference in Michael’s memory and undertakes a public weight-loss campaign, to raise money for suicide prevention―his first step in an ambitious plan to save himself, and to save others. However, Billy’s dramatic crusade appalls his family, who want to simply try to go on, quietly, privately.

Despite his crushing detractors, Billy gains welcome allies: his community-at-large; a co-worker who lost his father to suicide; a filmmaker with his own dubious agenda; and a secret, miniature kingdom that Billy populates with the sub-quality dolls and soldiers he saves from disposal at the toy factory where he works. But it is only if Billy can confront the truth of the suffering and brokenness within and around him that he and others will be able to realize the recovery they need.

Told against the picturesque yet haunting backdrop of rural, contemporary Ireland, The Weight of Him is a big-hearted novel about loss and reliance that moves from tragedy to recrimination to what can be achieved when we take the stand of our lives.

Review:

The Weight of Him by Ethel Rohan is a heartbreaking, poignant and uplifting novel of healing.

Following his oldest son Michael’s inexplicable suicide, Billy Brennan wants to make his son’s life and death matter.  Billy’s plan to raise money and public awareness about suicide is not well received by his family yet he does not let their lack of support stop him.  Publicly vowing to lose 200 pounds, he  puts up flyers and pledge sheets around town and embarks on his weight loss campaign.  Despite a few initial setbacks, Billy comes up with a diet and exercise plan that he sometimes struggles to stick to but with his new friend Denis Morrissey’s help, he begins shedding pounds.  While his ambitious undertaking takes a toll on his relationship with his family, Billy remains fully committed to his cause.  Will his efforts to raise money and public awareness for suicide prevention pay off?  Can he meet his weight loss goal?  Will Billy and his family heal from their terrible loss?

In the aftermath of Michael’s suicide, Billy and his wife Tricia are both trying to understand why their son took his own life.  Tricia just wants their life to return to some semblance of normal and she does not understand why Billy would do anything to bring more attention to their family.  Their children are, of course, struggling just as much as Billy and Tricia.  Fifteen year old John is angry and Billy is often a target of his furious outbursts.  Twelve year old Anna tries to play peacemaker as her parents’ relationship continues to deteriorate.  Nine year old Ivor is a lot like his father and harboring numerous regrets over his self perceived failings, Billy tries to help his youngest son make healthier choices.

Billy’s struggles with weight began during childhood and over the years, he has lost weight only to gain it back time and again.  Having finally given up on diets a few years ago, his weight continues to climb as he binges on his favorite foods in secret.  His relationship with food is complicated and at times, turning away from the comfort he derives from it is almost a herculean task  for Billy. The passages that detail Billy’s shame and low self-esteem from his excess weight are absolutely heartwrenching to read but they provide readers with a discerning glimpse into the struggles he is experiencing.

Equally devastating are effects that Michael’s suicide have on Billy and his family.  Everyone processes their grief differently but they are all grappling to understand why Michael took his own life.  No one is able to pinpoint anything in his behavior that should have been a red flag which makes it very difficult for them to move forward in the grieving process.  Trying to articulate their feelings for their loss is virtually impossible and Billy is helpless to bridge the growing distance between him and his family.  Even more bewildering to him is their lack of understanding for his need to raise public awareness in an effort to prevent another family from losing a loved one to suicide.

The Weight of Him is an emotionally compelling novel that is fast paced and engaging. Ethel Rohan handles very difficult subject matter with sensitivity and provides readers with an insightful perspective about the importance of eliminating the social stigma that surrounds both suicide and obesity.  An absolutely breathtaking journey of healing that is sad yet ends on a hopeful note.

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Filed under Contemporary, Ethel Rohan, Fiction, Rated B+, Review, St Martin's Press, The Weight of Him

Review: Heartbreak Hotel by Jonathan Kellerman

Title: Heartbreak Hotel by Jonathan Kellerman
Alex Delaware Series Book 32
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Alex Delaware and LAPD detective Milo Sturgis investigate the death of Alex’s most mysterious patient to date in the sensational new thriller from the master of suspense, #1 New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Kellerman.

At nearly one hundred years old, Thalia Mars is a far cry from the patients that child psychologist Alex Delaware normally treats. But the charming, witty woman convinces Alex to meet with her in a suite at the Aventura, a luxury hotel with a checkered history.

What Thalia wants from Alex are answers to unsettling questions—about guilt, patterns of criminal behavior, victim selection. When Alex asks the reason for her morbid fascination, Thalia promises to tell all during their next session. But when he shows up the following morning, he is met with silence: Thalia is dead in her room.

When questions arise about how Thalia perished, Alex and homicide detective Milo Sturgis must peel back the layers of a fascinating but elusive woman’s life and embark on one of the most baffling investigations either of them has ever experienced. For Thalia Mars is a victim like no other, an enigma who harbored nearly a century of secrets and whose life and death draw those around her into a vortex of violence.

Heartbreak Hotel is classic Delaware and classic Kellerman.

Review:

Heartbreak Hotel by Jonathan Kellerman  is the latest fast-paced and engrossing addition to the Alex Delaware series.

A child psychologist and part-time consultant to the LAPD, Dr. Alex Delaware’s newest client is a surprisingly well-liked woman about to celebrate her 100th birthday.  Alex is intrigued and charmed by his first meeting with Thalia Mars, but he has no idea exactly what direction their sessions are going to take.  Unfortunately, he never gets the chance to find out what his client hoped to gain from talking to him since she is murdered before their second appointment.  Alex and his friend, LAPD homicide detective, Lt. Milo Sturgis, team up once again to solve the case and their search for answers takes a very interesting  turn when Alex begins poking around in Thalia’s past.

By all accounts, Thalia is well-loved by everyone she knows. She has lived at the Aventura Hotel for most of her life and while her bungalow is a getting a little shabby, she is still paying a pretty hefty chunk of change in monthly rent.  When Alex begins trying to find out more about Thalia’s past, he quickly realizes there are a few incongruent details about the former CPA and long retired county assessor.  Thalia’s lawyer, Ricki Sylvester fills in a few of the blanks about her former client’s life but Alex is still very curious about how Thalia acquired her surprising wealth.  Once he figures out her unexpected ties to gangsters and a long ago jewel heist,  Alex and Milo’s investigation takes yet another compelling turn.  But the one piece of the puzzle they are having a difficult time finding is the link between those long ago events and Thalia’s murder nearly seventy years later.

With a cleverly plotted and very fascinating storyline, Heartbreak Hotel is a spellbinding installment in the Alex Delaware series.   The age of Delaware’s latest client makes the premise of this latest release very unique as does the discovery of Thalia’s ties to a decades old robbery and her surprising link to the mob.  The investigation never lags as Alex and Milo leave no stone unturned during their search for Thalia’s killer.  Veteran author Jonathan Kellerman has penned another solid police procedural that readers of the genre are going to love.

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Filed under Alex Delaware Series, Ballantine Books, Contemporary, Heartbreak Hotel, Jonathan Kellerman, Mystery, Rated B+, Review

Review: The Shimmering Road by Hester Young

Title: The Shimmering Road by Hester Young
Charlie Cates Mystery Series Book Two
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense, Supernatural Elements
Length: 416 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Penguin’s First to Read Program

Summary:

A pulse-pounding mystery from the author of The Gates of Evangeline featuring Charlotte “Charlie” Cates, an unforgettable heroine whose dark visions bring to light secrets that will save or destroy those around her . . .

When soon-to-be mother Charlotte “Charlie” Cates begins to have recurring dreams about harm coming to her unborn daughter, she knows these are not the nightmares of an anxious mom-to-be. They are the result of her mysterious gift. But before she can decipher what these dreams might mean, Charlie learns that the mother who abandoned her when she was a toddler is the victim of a double murder in Arizona. The other victim—Jasmine, a half-sister Charlie never knew she had—has left behind a child, a little girl who speaks to Charlie in her dreams and was present on the night of the murders. Convinced that she must help her orphaned niece, Charlie travels to Tucson, Arizona, where she must confront her painful ties to her mother and delve into her sister’s shadowy past.

To untangle the web of secrets that will reveal the truth of her nightmares, Charlie can no longer avoid her family’s checkered history. Who is in the racy photos that turned up in Jasmine’s apartment? Where is her niece’s father, whom Jasmine was rumored to have been seeing again on the sly? Was her mother’s charity work in Mexico really as selfless as it seemed? And most important of all, what did her niece really witness on the night of the murders?

The search for answers leads Charlie across the Mexican border, from the resort town of Rocky Point to the border town of Nogales, and elucidates the meaning of her dreams in most unexpected ways. Ultimately, to protect her niece and her unborn child, Charlie must battle not just evil but the forces of nature, in one final terrifying encounter in the Tucson desert.

A thrilling mystery that combines literary suspense and romance with a mystical twist that is unputdownable. If you love Kate Atkinson and Alice Sebold, you should not miss Hester Young.

Review:

The second installment in Hester Young’s Charlie Cates series, The Shimmering Road is another intriguing mystery with slight supernatural elements.  Although this latest release can be read as a standalone, I highly recommend the first book in the series as well.

In this outing, Charlie is now living with her boyfriend, Noah Palmer, in his hometown of Sidalie, TX where they are joyfully preparing for the upcoming birth of their baby. While Charlie is happy with Noah, she is finding it difficult to make a new life where Noah has such a long history.  Equally troubling are the horrible nightmares she is having about a tragic incident involving herself and her unborn baby.  After her estranged mother, Donna DeRossi and her half-sister, Jasmine, are murdered, Charlie and Noah go to Tucson, AZ to make arrangements to adopt her six year old niece, Micky Ramos.  The adoption process is long and arduous which leaves the couple plenty of time to locate Micky’s absentee father, Ruben Ramos, who lives somewhere in  Mexico.  Much to Noah’s dismay, Charlie cannot resist investigating Donna and Jasmine’s murders once she discovers Donna’s job with a non-profit entailed numerous trips to Mexico to help impoverished women turn around their lives.  When she starts having nightmares about Lety, a teenager who is connected to Donna, Charlie cannot walk away from the case even  after it becomes apparent that someone is willing to go to any lengths to try to stop her from uncovering the truth about her mother and sister’s murders.

The last thing Charlie wants to deal with anything having to do with her estranged mother, but she has to try to do what is best for young Micky.  She is surprised to learn Donna finally managed to turn her life around but she is quite bitter that Donna did not try to contact her after finally becoming sober.  With so many unresolved issues about their relationship, Charlie has very mixed emotions about adopting her niece.  Despite her uncertainty, she continues making plans to make to adopt Micky while she gets to know her mother’s partner, retired police Lieutenant Pam Soto.

After Charlie begins having visions and nightmares about young Lety, she feels like she has to learn the truth about the young woman’s death.  Discovering Lety committed suicide not long before Donna’s murder, Charlie cannot help believing there is a connection between their deaths.  After a trip to the border town of Nogales, she knows she has stumbled into something but what that something is eludes her.

After she learns frightening information about where Lety died, Charlie is more certain than ever her death is somehow tied to Donna’s work with the non-profit.  Just as she is struggling to put the pieces of the puzzle together, she is stunned to learn what Pam has been up to in her absence.  Is Pam just trying to find out who killed Donna or does she have a much more sinister reason for her actions?  After new evidence surfaces, Charlie becomes even more suspicious of Pam but will she uncover the truth before it is too late?

The Shimmering Road by Hester Young  is another brilliant mystery with supernatural elements. Old and new fans of the Charlie Cates series will find themselves absolutely bewitched by this latest addition to the captivating series.

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Filed under Charlie Cates Mystery Series, Contemporary, GP Putnams Sons, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Supernatural Elements, Suspense, The Shimmering Road

Review: Buyout-A Love Story by Dev Bentham

Title: Buyout-A Love Story by Dev Bentham
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary, M/M, Erotic, Romance
Length: 69 pages/Word Count: 24,111
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by the Author

Summary:

Everyone deserves a second chance. Or do they? Sean and Martim fell in love at Harvard. Things broke apart when Martim fell into a downward spiral of addiction after his father died. Sean kicked him out but has regretted it ever since. He’s never gotten over losing Martim. But then, not many aspects of his life have lived up to his collegiate dreams.

When he’s sent to evaluate Martim’s family hotel for foreclosure, Sean is once again in the position to put Martim out on the street. In the time since they parted, Martim has pulled himself together, although both health and financial problems linger as a result of his years as an addict. Can the two men bridge the gap of distance and time to rekindle their relationship, or will they fall apart again under the burdens of guilt and disease?

Set in Lisbon, Portugal, this is the story of lovers reunited after more than a decade apart, and their second chance at romance.

Review:

Buyout-A Love Story by Dev Bentham is a beautifully written second chance at love romance.

Sean Williams has never quite recovered from losing Martim Sabido. Ten years after their romance came to a regrettable end, he has a successful career but no one to share his life with. When his job brings him face to face with Martim, he quickly realizes that he has never quite gotten over him and Sean dreads the task his boss has given him: begin foreclosure proceedings on Martim’s family business. Over the next days, the men reconnect and begin the process of healing the wounds from their long ago past, but can Sean destroy the business that means so much to Martim and his beloved aunt?

The timing could not be more perfect for Sean and Martim to meet again.  Martim has finally conquered his addictions and he has no problem expressing his regret for the sorrow and pain that he brought to Sean. Sean has just realized that he is still trying to atone for what he did to Martim all those years ago. Deciding to temporarily ignore the looming foreclosure, Sean and Martim’s first attempt to connect on a more personal level is fraught with tension.  However, their lingering feelings and intense attraction give them the impetus they need to try to heal the rift between them.  Will Martim’s final revelation destroy the progress they have made in repairing their fractured relationship? And will Sean follow through with his boss’s instructions to foreclose on Martim’s property?

Buyout-A Love Story by Dev Bentham is a heartwarming romance than fans of the genre do not want to miss.  The characters are endearing with true to life flaws and imperfections.  Sean and Martim’s reunion is free from angst and their attempts to resolve their issues are realistically portrayed.  A sweet yet sensual second chance at love romance that is fast-paced and engaging with an absolutely heartfelt conclusion that will melt readers’ hearts.

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Filed under Buyout-A Love Story, Contemporary, Dev Bentham, Dreamspinner Press, Erotic, M/M, Rated B+, Review, Romance