Category Archives: Rated B+

Review: Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf

Title: Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf
Publisher: Park Row Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

A shocking discovery and chilling secrets converge in this latest novel from New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf

When a tragic accident leaves nurse Amelia Winn deaf, she spirals into a depression that ultimately causes her to lose everything that matters—her job, her husband, David, and her stepdaughter, Nora. Now, two years later and with the help of her hearing dog, Stitch, she is finally getting back on her feet. But when she discovers the body of a fellow nurse in the dense bush by the river, deep in the woods near her cabin, she is plunged into a disturbing mystery that could shatter the carefully reconstructed pieces of her life all over again.

As clues begin to surface, Amelia finds herself swept into an investigation that hits all too close to home. But how much is she willing to risk in order to uncover the truth and bring a killer to justice?

New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf has been described as “masterful” and “intelligent” and compared to Lisa Scottoline and Jodi Picoult. Introducing her most compelling heroine yet, she delivers a taut and emotional thriller that proves she’s at the top of her class.

Review:

Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf  is a spellbinding mystery that is fast-paced and suspense-laden.

Two years after the hit and run accident that left her deaf, Amelia Winn is finally beginning to get her life back on track. Now a recovering alcoholic, she is separated from her husband Dr. David Winn and living in her family’s isolated cabin near the river where she spends time kayaking or paddleboarding with her service dog, Stitch. On the day she is planning to go to her first job interview since losing her hearing, Amelia is stunned to discover the lifeless body of her former friend and fellow nurse, Gwen Locke, floating in the river. Amelia’s suspicion that Gwen’s death was no accident is quickly confirmed by her lifelong friend Detective Jake Schroeder. After she begins her new job working in a cancer treatment clinic for David’s colleague, Dr. Joseph Huntley, she quickly settles into her new routine.  However, Amelia is quite troubled about Gwen’s murder and despite Jake’s pleas to stay out the investigation, she soon uncovers very disturbing information that might explain the murderer’s motive for silencing her friend. Unsettled by her mounting suspicions, Amelia takes a huge risk that puts her in the crosshairs of a ruthless killer.

Before the accident, Amelia had everything: a satisfying and fulfilling job, a happy marriage and a fantastic relationship with her stepdaughter Nora.  After the accident, she pushes away all of her friends as she turns to alcohol to help cope with all of the changes in her life. After David forces her to leave their home, Jake is instrumental in getting her help for her drinking and convincing her to utilize the resources available for her deafness. Amelia is dedicated to her sobriety and she is working very hard to prove herself to David so she can maintain her relationship with Nora.

After discovering Gwen’s body, Amelia is wracked with guilt for pushing her friend away and not responding to her efforts to resume their friendship. Although she knows she is taking a huge risk, she cannot stop searching for answers that will explain why someone would want to kill Gwen. When strange things begin occurring, Amelia thinks she knows who is responsible, but she cannot think of a reason why this person would do this to her. Pushing her suspicions to the back of her mind, Amelia continues digging into Gwen’s life and she soon uncovers shocking information that provides her with the motive for the murder. Discovering why Gwen was murdered also leads Amelia to a stunning conclusion about who killed her but will she find irrefutable proof before it is too late?  

Not a Sound is an exceedingly well written whodunit that is full of unexpected twists and turns.  Amelia is a wonderful protagonist and it is very easy to root for her as she works hard to maintain her sobriety while trying to pick up the pieces of her life. She is truly regretful for letting her friendship with Gwen lapse and the resulting guilt and remorse provide the impetus for her investigation. The killer’s identity and motive for the murder are brilliantly concealed through a series of clever misdirects and red herrings. Heather Gudenkauf brings the novel to an adrenaline fueled and action packed conclusion.

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Filed under Contemporary, Heather Gudenkauf, Mystery, Not a Sound, Park Row Books, Rated B+, Review, Suspense

Review: Torn & Restored by Austin Williams

Title: Torn & Restored by Austin Williams
Rusty Diamond Series Book Three
Publisher: Diversion Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, suspense
Length: 260 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

In this gripping last installment of Austin Williams’ Rusty Diamond series, Rusty “The Raven” Diamond is beckoned back to Vegas to reconcile his sordid past in one final, decadent showdown—but will he make it out of Sin City alive?

When a mysterious box containing a greeting card, a sheet of textbook paper, three human teeth, and an adult index finger severed just above the knuckle arrives unannounced on Rusty “The Raven” Diamond’s doorstep, he realizes he can no longer hide on the beaches of Maryland. Someone wants Rusty to pay for what he did years before, and if Rusty is going to survive, he’ll need to take the fight Vegas.

Rusty was once the hottest act on the strip, a magician who commanded sell-out crowds for his death-defying act. But with bigger risks come bigger enemies, and it seems Rusty has made one of the most sizable the Nevada desert has to offer. A mobster-turned-politician with every resource available aims to not only close the curtain on Rusty, but make sure he pays dearly beforehand.

Rusty’s final reckoning with his past will draw him into a trap that, even at his most Houdini-esque, he may not be able to escape. Taut, fast, and gripping at every turn, Torn & Restored builds to a spectacular denouement that will leave readers buzzing for days.

Review:

Torn & Restored, the third novel in Austin Williams’ Rusty Diamond series, finds the former illusionist turned amateur sleuth returning to Las Vegas to face the final piece of his unresolved past.

While Rusty initially ignores the anonymous packages he is receiving, the contents in the latest missive are too grisly to ignore. Although he has no idea who is sending them to him or why, he knows it is finally time to return to the city where his career crashed and burned three years earlier. Once he is back in Las Vegas, Rusty reaches out to former co-worker Charlotte Rains to help him figure out the significance of the items sent to him. The information he uncovers leads him to a sketchy bar in a rundown part of town and a creepy site on the dark web, but Rusty still has no idea who lured him to back to Las Vegas.

As soon as he steps off the plane, Rusty is overwhelmed by the memories of the meteoric rise and spectacular fall of his career. Unable to forget the horrific events that preceded his hasty escape from town, he is a little off balance as he tries to make sense of the puzzling items he received in the mail. Charlotte is the only person in Vegas that Rusty implicitly trusts not to betray him and her assistance quickly proves invaluable. Despite the information she helps him uncover, Rusty remains uncertain who is masterminding the plan that forced his return to Vegas.  However, he does quickly realize this person has intimate knowledge of the various acts he performed during his show at Caesar’s. Rusty also cannot help but wonder how his final gig plays into the increasingly diabolical and horrifying events that are occurring.

Rusty’s investigation takes him into some of the lesser known and seedier areas of Las Vegas. Far away from the glitz and glitter of the Strip, the homeless population is incredibly vulnerable to predators who find it easy to prey upon them without fear of reprisal. The flood tunnel system under the city is an enticing but unsafe haven for those seeking shelter. When Rusty is forced to become an active participant in the vengeful plan taking place in these tunnels, he once again relies on his skills as an illusionist to (hopefully) extricate himself from a tricky and highly dangerous situation.

The third (and perhaps final) installment in the Rusty Diamond series, Torn & Restored is a fast-paced and suspense-laden mystery. With plenty of action and unexpected twists and turns, Austin Williams  brings this latest mystery to a pulse-pounding and action packed conclusion. An absolutely outstanding mystery that I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend to fans of the genre.

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Filed under Austin Williams, Contemporary, Diversion Books, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense, The Rusty Diamond Trilogy, Torn & Restored

Review: The Promise of Pierson Orchard by Kate Brandes

Title: The Promise of Pierson Orchard by Kate Brandes
Publisher: Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 288 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Author

Summary:

Long before fracking ever came to Minden, Pennsylvania, the fissures in the Pierson family were developing into major fault lines.

Green Energy arrives, offering the rural community of Minden the dream of making more money from their land by leasing natural gas rights for drilling. But orchardist, Jack Pierson, fears his brother, Wade, who now works for Green Energy, has returned to town after a twenty-year absence so desperate to be the hero that he’ll blind their hometown to the potential dangers. Jack also worries his brother will try to rekindle his relationship with LeeAnn, Jack’s wife, who’s recently left him. To protect his hometown and to fulfill a promise to himself, Jack seeks out his mother and environmental lawyer, Stella Brantley, who abandoned Minden—and Jack and Wade—many, many years ago.

Review:

The Promise of Pierson Orchard by Kate Brandes is an enthralling family drama that also provides an insightful look into fracking.

Jack Pierson is stunned to learn his long estranged brother has returned to their small town as a representative of Green Energy. Wade’s return is business motivated since Green Energy is interested in purchasing land leases so they can frack for natural gas. Jack is worried about the long term effects of fracking on the family orchard and other people’s property, so he decides to turn to environmental lawyer  Stella Brantley for advice.  Stella is more than just a lawyer; she is the mother who abandoned Jack and Wade thirty years ago.  What effect will Stella’s return have on the town?  And will her reappearance in her sons’ lives help mend the rift between them?

In the wake of a tragedy, Wade left town and never looked back. Not once in his twenty year absence has he contacted Jack or his former girlfriend LeeAnn, who is now Jack’s wife. He carefully planned his return to Minden and he hopes his connection to the town will sway its residents in favor of signing the land leases with Green Energy. Wade is also hoping he to resume his relationship with LeeAnn but his plans where his brother are concerned are a little murky.

Embittered and holding onto past hurts, Jack would like nothing more than to fix the mistake he made long ago. This desire to repair his relationship with Wade is at the heart of his decision to reach out to Stella but his plan is not very well thought out.  Jack is also desperately trying to reconcile with LeeAnn but she is not at all receptive to his efforts. He soon loses hope his marriage can be saved once he becomes aware that Wade and LeeAnn are spending time together. Jack has never dealt with the events from his childhood and this becomes a huge issue when trying to reconcile with LeeAnn.

LeeAnn blames Jack for their problems and she has given up on him and their marriage. She immediately shuts down his tentative attempts to reach out to her and with Wade’s return, she becomes even more resistant to fixing their problems. It takes very little effort for Wade to woo her but LeeAnn soon regrets her decision to spend time with him.  By the time LeeAnn realizes she is equally responsible for the troubles in her marriage, an unexpected complication might end any chance for a reconciliation between her and Jack.

As the situation between Jack, Wade and LeeAnn reaches a crescendo, Jack’s fears about fracking come to fruition.  Stella’s efforts to protect the land owners from the effects of fracking cause added tension between her and Wade.  At the same time, her relationship with Jack is improving but progress is slow with occasional setbacks. Will Wade find it in his heart to forgive Stella for abandoning him? Will Jack and LeeAnn figure out how to move past their hurt and anger in order to save their marriage?

The Promise of Pierson Orchard is a beautiful novel of redemption and forgiveness.  Although the characters are deeply flawed and sometimes difficult to like, readers will become invested in their efforts to repair their fractured relationships.  Kate Brandes does an excellent job presenting both the pros and cons of fracking and its effects on the environment.  I highly recommend this heartfelt and engaging contemporary novel to fans of contemporary women’s fiction.

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Filed under Contemporary, Kate Brandes, Rated B+, Review, The Promise of Pierson Orchard, Women's Fiction, Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing

Review: Someone Else’s Summer by Rachel Bateman

Title: Someone Else’s Summer by Rachel Bateman
Publisher: Running Press
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Romance
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Anna’s always idolized her older sister, Storm. So when Storm dies in a tragic car accident on the night of her high school graduation, Anna is completely lost and her family is torn apart. That is, until she finds Storm’s summer bucket list and decides to honor her sister by having the best summer ever–which includes taking an epic road trip to the coast from her sleepy Iowa town. Setting out to do everything on Storm’s list along with her sisters best friend Cameron–the boy next door–who knew that Storm’s dream summer would eventually lead to Anna’s own self-discovery?

Review:

Someone Else’s Summer by Rachel Bateman is a poignant yet heartwarming young adult novel.

Anna Holloway is absolutely gutted when her much admired older sister Storm unexpectedly dies in a car accident. Going through the motions as she resumes her regular activities within a couple of weeks, Anna is surprised when she finds her sister’s final list of things to do over the summer.  Desperately wanting to complete the list, Anna and her sister’s best (and next door neighbor) Cameron Andrews embark on a road trip in an attempt to feel closer to Storm and hopefully work through their grief over their loss. By journey’s end, Anna is stunned by a final revelation that leaves her feeling like she really did not know Storm as well as she thought.

For much of their childhood, Anna tagged along on Storm and Cameron’s many adventures. However, in recent years, Anna is busy with cheerleading and her best friends Piper and Jovani. Nevertheless, Storm’s death leaves a huge whole in Anna’s life and she is struggling to understand how everyone around her can resume their normal lives after such a devastating loss. In addition to her grief, she also regrets not spending time with her sister and the discovery of Storm’s list provides her the opportunity to feel close to her sister again.

Cameron is struggling to cope with Storm’s death and in addition to his grief, he also harbors a hefty dose of guilt for a few reasons. Anna and her parents are quick to reassure him they harbor no ill feelings for his self perceived role in her loss. He does not hesitate to agree to accompany Anna on the road trip but there are a few tense moments between them along the way. Cameron is just as surprised as Anna when their friendship takes an unanticipated romantic turn.

It is not until they have nearly completed all of the items on Storm’s list that Anna becomes curious about some of  the things her sister wanted to do that summer. When she broaches these topics with Cameron, he is forced to reveal the secrets he has been keeping for the past several months. She is stunned and extremely distraught by these revelations and she is quite angry with Cameron for not telling her the truth about Storm. Will she forgive Storm for the choices she made before she died?  Will Anna forgive Cameron for keeping such important information from her?

While Anna’s friendship and subsequent romance with Cameron is absolutely delightful, her friendship with Piper is a sadly lacking. Piper does not have much empathy for Anna’s loss and while she is more than happy to drag her to parties and out shopping,she does not provide any emotional support. Piper’s attitude when Anna returns home after the road trip is just horrible which makes Anna’s efforts to resume their friendship that much worse.

Fast-paced with a well-written storyline and an endearing cast of characters, Someone Else’s Summer  is an emotional novel of healing. Rachel Bateman perfectly balances the sadder elements of the story with the light-hearted yet meaningful road trip. Anna is a wonderful protagonist whose struggles to deal with Storm’s death are realistic. I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend this bittersweet novel to readers of all ages.

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Filed under Contemporary, Rachel Bateman, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Running Press, Someone Else's Summer, Young Adult

Review: The Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick

Title: The Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Historical (30s), Romance, Mystery/Suspense
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Amanda Quick, the bestselling author of ’Til Death Do Us Part, transports readers to 1930s California, where glamour and seduction spawn a multitude of sins…

When Hollywood moguls and stars want privacy, they head to an idyllic small town on the coast, where the exclusive Burning Cove Hotel caters to their every need. It’s where reporter Irene Glasson finds herself staring down at a beautiful actress at the bottom of a pool…

The dead woman had a red-hot secret about up-and-coming leading man Nick Tremayne, a scoop that Irene couldn’t resist—especially since she’s just a rookie at a third-rate gossip rag. But now Irene’s investigation into the drowning threatens to tear down the wall of illusion that is so deftly built around the famous actor, and there are powerful men willing to do anything to protect their investment.

Seeking the truth, Irene finds herself drawn to a master of deception. Oliver Ward was once a world-famous magician—until he was mysteriously injured during his last performance. Now the owner of the Burning Cove Hotel, he can’t let scandal threaten his livelihood, even if it means trusting Irene, a woman who seems to have appeared in Los Angeles out of nowhere four months ago…

With Oliver’s help, Irene soon learns that the glamorous paradise of Burning Cove hides dark and dangerous secrets. And that the past—always just out of sight—could drag them both under…

Review:

The Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick is a delightfully clever mystery that is set during the glamorous Golden Age of Hollywood.

After her previous job abruptly comes to a dangerous and tragic end, Irene Glasson reinvents herself upon her arrival in Los Angeles. Now an up and coming reporter at gossip rag Whispers, she is hoping her upcoming meeting with Gloria Maitland provides her with the information for a titillating article on rising star Nick Tremayne. Unfortunately, Irene finds Gloria’s lifeless body in the swimming pool at the upscale Burning Cove Hotel. Believing Gloria’s death is no accident, Irene remains in town and pairs up with the hotel’s owner (and former magician) Oliver Ward to try and uncover the truth about Gloria’s death.

Irene is a spunky young woman who does not shy away from danger. She is resourceful, confident and determined to find the truth about Gloria’s death. She is reluctant to completely trust Oliver, but once she realizes how far Nick’s studio will go to protect their star, she has no choice but to work with him.  Stubbornly convinced that Nick is connected to Gloria’s death and her co-worker Peggy Hackett’s eerily similar death,  Irene ignores the danger surrounding her and doggedly pursues every lead she finds.

Despite his previous fame, Oliver now keeps a low profile and he is a little mysterious since he refuses to discuss the accident that ended his career.  Since he is intensely protective of his guests, he is not at all pleased to discover that Irene somehow managed to  find her way onto to the hotel grounds. It goes without saying he has a vested interest in learning the truth about what happened to Gloria since the negative publicity could harm his hotel’s reputation. Oliver is stunned by the spark of interest he feels for Irene and the more time he spends in her company, the more vibrant and alive he feels. While he can be a little grumpy and close-mouthed, he is nothing but supportive of Irene throughout their investigation.

Irene’s investigation takes many surprising twists and turns as Nick tries to downplay any involvement with her death. Although Irene is a little frightened by some of the strong arm tactics employed by the studio’s hired goons, she refuses to give up digging for the truth. Will Irene and Oliver find the evidence they need to support her theory about that Nick is Gloria’s killer?

Although there is plenty of danger surrounding them, Oliver and Irene find the time to explore their unexpected attraction for each other. While their romance is a delightful addition to unfolding story, the investigation into the suspicious deaths remains the main focus of the storyline.

The Girl Who Knew Too Much is a wonderful novel with a fantastic cast of characters and intriguing mysteries to solve.  Amanda Quick deftly brings both  the time period and setting vibrantly to life. Irene is a gutsy heroine who never lets anyone or anything deter her from finding the truth about the what happened to Gloria and Peggy.  The killer’s identity and motive for the murders are carefully concealed until the novel’s dramatic conclusion.  I thoroughly enjoyed this spellbinding novel and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical mysteries.

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Filed under Amanda Quick, Berkley, Historical, Historical (30s), Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Suspense, The Girl Who Knew Too Much

Review: It Started with Goodbye by Christina June

Title: It Started with Goodbye by Christina June
Publisher: Blink
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Length: 272 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Tatum Elsea is bracing for the worst summer of her life. After being falsely accused of a crime, she’s stuck under stepmother-imposed house arrest and her BFF’s gone ghost. Tatum fills her newfound free time with community service by day and working at her covert graphic design business at night (which includes trading emails with a cute cello-playing client).

When Tatum discovers she’s not the only one in the house keeping secrets, she finds she has the chance to make amends with her family and friends. Equipped with a new perspective, and assisted by her feisty step-abuela/fairy-godmother, Tatum is ready to start fresh and maybe even get her happy ending along the way.

A modern play on the Cinderella story arc, IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE shows us that sometimes going after what you want means breaking the rules.

Review:

It Started with Goodbye by Christina June is a wonderful young adult novel that explores the relationships between stepfamilies.

Sixteen year old Tatum Elsea was in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people and although she is guilty of nothing more than being loyal to her best friend, Ashlyn Zanotti, she is paying a steep price.  While Tatum completely understands she could have handled the situation differently, her father and stepmother Belén impose a harsh punishment on her and she is essentially under house arrest for the summer. With a lot of free time on her hands, Tatum spends the summer working to pay off her fine and fulfilling her community service hours. At her feisty step-grandmother Blanche’s urging, she also begins a graphic design business which leads to some flirty exchanges with a mysterious new client.  Blanche also teaches her some gentle life lessons that provide her with some much needed insight into her strict stepmother’s behavior.  When Tatum’s father returns home at the end of summer from a business trip, will the family find a way to heal their fractured relationships?

Tatum’s relationship with both her stepmother and stepsister Tilly have always been strained. Stepmom Belén is not exactly the warm and cuddly type and she deals with everyone in a brisk, no nonsense manner. She has extremely high expectations for both Tatum and Tilly but luckily for Tatum, she is able to convince her father to intervene on her behalf when necessary. Which is why it comes as such a complete shock when her father sides with Belén and agrees to the harsh punishment her stepmother has imposed. Down but not out, Tatum creatively devises ways to work around some of the edicts but she still deeply resents her dad and Belén for their unfair treatment over something that really is not her fault.

While the storyline mainly focuses on Tatum’s family relationships, there is a slight romantic element to the plot. Tatum’s e-mail exchange with her new client is light-hearted, fun and flirty.  She has no idea who the young man is but she finds much to admire about him as she gets to know him over the summer. When they do eventually meet in real life, readers won’t be too surprised about who he is, but Tatum sure is!

It Started with Goodbye by Christina June is a terrific novel of healing for Tatum and her family. The characters are multi-dimensional with easy to relate to human frailties and foibles. The storyline is quite engaging and deals with real life issues in a straightforward, realistic manner. A very well-written young adult novel that I absolutely loved and highly recommend to readers of all ages.

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Filed under Blink, Christina June, Contemporary, It Started with Goodbye, Rated B+, Review, Young Adult