Category Archives: Contemporary

Review: The French Girl by Lexie Elliott

Title: The French Girl by Lexie Elliott
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

I Know What You Did Last Summer meets the French countryside in this exhilarating psychological suspense debut about a woman trapped by the bonds of friendship–perfect for fans of The Widow and The Woman in Cabin 10.

We all have our secrets…

They were six university students from Oxford–friends and sometimes more than friends–spending an idyllic week together in a French farmhouse. It was supposed to be the perfect summer getaway…until they met Severine, the girl next door.

For Kate Channing, Severine was an unwelcome presence, her inscrutable beauty undermining the close-knit group’s loyalties amid the already simmering tensions. And after a huge altercation on the last night of the holiday, Kate knew nothing would ever be the same. There are some things you can’t forgive. And there are some people you can’t forget…like Severine, who was never seen again.

Now, a decade later, the case is reopened when Severine’s body is found in the well behind the farmhouse. Questioned along with her friends, Kate stands to lose everything she’s worked so hard to achieve as suspicion mounts around her. Desperate to resolve her own shifting memories and fearful she will be forever bound to the woman whose presence still haunts her, Kate finds herself buried under layers of deception with no one to set her free…

Review:

The French Girl by Lexie Elliott is a riveting mystery about the recent discovery of the skeletonized remains of a young woman who has been missing for ten years.

Kate Channing is trying to get her headhunting business up and running when her old friend Tom calls to tell her the shocking news that the remains of a young woman they met ten years earlier have been recovered. Nineteen year old Severine Dupas lived in the house next door where Kate, Tom, her best friend Lara, her now ex-boyfriend Seb, Caro and Theo vacationed in the French countryside. The French police reopen their investigation and it soon becomes apparent Kate and her friends are their prime suspects. Kate is haunted by the enigmatic and beautiful Severine as revisits her memories of the week she and her friends spent in France.

Kate is a surprisingly reliable narrator as she tries to make sense of the events of that fateful week in France. With her memories now filtered through new information and unexpected admissions, she soon realizes she might have missed or misconstrued certain things that occurred back then. She is still close friends with Lara and other than Tom, she has not seen the rest of the group over the last ten years. Her relationship with Seb ended on the last night they were in France and she does not have fond memories of their ill fated romance. Kate is still close to Tom and she is absolutely delighted to learn he just moved back to London after living in the United States. She is also somewhat surprised by the announcement that  Seb and his wife Aline are also back in the UK. Kate is somewhat uncomfortable to discover that she will be working regularly with Caro, the one person in their group she never really clicked with.

French Detective Alain Modan has plenty of questions about the group’s vacation and their interactions with Severine. The last night of their holiday was marred by a huge argument between the friends. The next morning, Kate and the rest of the gang returned to Britain without seeing Severine. Of course they were all questioned after the Frenchwoman’s disappearance but the investigation turned up very little viable information. Now the group is reunited, Kate is literally haunted by the ghostly presence of Severine and stunned by new revelations.  Despite this newfound information, she and the rest of the group are at a loss as to who could have killed Severine but there is no escaping the fact that one of them must be responsible for her death.  But which one of them had the motive, means and opportunity to take Severine’s life?

The French Girl is a slow burning yet intriguing mystery. The cast of characters is well-developed but not everyone is likable. The past and present are a tangled web of friendship, jealousy, obsession, secrets and ambition. While savvy readers might figure out who killed Severine and why, Lexie Elliott brings the novel to an exciting and somewhat dramatic conclusion. An brilliant debut that I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend to fans of the genre.

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Filed under Berkley, Contemporary, Lexie Elliott, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense, The French Girl

Review: The One by John Marrs

Title: The One by John Marrs
Publisher: Hanover Square Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Sci Fi Elements
Length: 416 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

How far would you go to find The One?

A simple DNA test is all it takes. Just a quick mouth swab and soon you’ll be matched with your perfect partner—the one you’re genetically made for.

That’s the promise made by Match Your DNA. A decade ago, the company announced that they had found the gene that pairs each of us with our soul mate. Since then, millions of people around the world have been matched. But the discovery has its downsides: test results have led to the breakup of countless relationships and upended the traditional ideas of dating, romance and love.

Now five very different people have received the notification that they’ve been “Matched.” They’re each about to meet their one true love. But “happily ever after” isn’t guaranteed for everyone. Because even soul mates have secrets. And some are more shocking than others…

A word-of-mouth hit in the United Kingdom, The One is a fascinating novel that shows how even the simplest discoveries can have complicated consequences.

Review:

The One by John Marrs is an absolutely brilliant novel that combines elements of mystery, science fiction and romance. The premise that people can find their soul mates through DNA is quite fascinating but will this prove to be truth for the five people featured in this adroit tale?

Thirty-seven year old Mandy Griffiths’s sisters convince her to submit her DNA to Match Your DNA to find her soulmate after her now ex-husband divorces her after taking the test. Although her match, Richard Taylor, is younger than she is and they do not have many interests in common, their match is supposed to be infallible. Despite being old-fashioned enough to want Richard to make the first move, Mandy’s curiosity about her handsome match leads her to a shocking discovery.

Thirty-three year old Christopher’s Match Your DNA test pairs him up with Amy Brookbanks. While Amy is pretty much an open book, Christopher is quite secretive. Surprisingly, dating Amy is life-altering for Christopher, but what will Amy do when she uncovers the secret he has been keeping?

Jade Sewell lives in Britain but her match Kevin lives in Australia. They have gotten to know each extremely well through texts and phone calls, but Jade yearns for more. When challenged by her workmates to take a chance on love, she decides it is time to meet Kevin face to face. It is not until Jade arrives in Australia that doubts set in but she overcomes her fears and unexpectedly shows up at Kevin’s family farm where many surprises await.

Nick Wallsworth and his fiancée Sally are months away from marrying when Sally convinces him they need to take the test.  He reluctantly agrees although he is certain that the results will not change their future together if they are not DNA matched. However, Nick’s match is an absolutely stunner which could lead to life-altering changes for him and Sally.

Ellie Stanford is a workaholic who makes no time for romance or family. So when she receives a DNA Match, she is leery about meeting her match, Tim Hunt. After thoroughly vetting him, she decides to give him a chance. Although there are not immediate sparks, Ellie and Tim have enough in common that they continue dating. Their relationship is running along a predictable course when Ellie is blindsided by shocking information about Tim.

The chapters alternate between the various characters but it is quite easy to keep track of who is currently narrating. There are plenty of surprises as each person makes their decision about what to do about their perfect match.  Some of the chapters end on cliffhangers that keep the pages turning at a blistering pace to find out what is going to happen next. A few of the characters are more likable than others but it is impossible not to become invested on how their situation and/or relationship is ultimately going to play out.

The One is a clever novel that is absolutely spellbinding and quite innovative. The characters are fairly well developed and their choices and relationships are certainly interesting. While the beginning of the story is mostly light and optimistic, things begin to take a bit of a dark turn as the months go by. With plenty of unexpected twists and breathtaking turns, John Marrs brings this gripping novel to an exciting and somewhat unexpected conclusion. I absolutely loved and highly recommend this outstanding thriller.

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Filed under Contemporary, Hanover Square Press, John Marrs, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Sci Fi, The One

Review: Rosie Colored Glasses by Brianna Wolfson

Title: Rosie Colored Glasses by Brianna Wolfson
Publisher: MIRA
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

SEEING THE WORLD THROUGH ROSIE COLORED GLASSES

Just as opposites attract, they can also cause friction, and no one feels that friction more than Rex and Rosie’s daughter, Willow. Rex is serious and unsentimental and tapes checklists of chores on Willow’s bedroom door. Rosie is sparkling and enchanting and meets Willow in their treehouse in the middle of the night to feast on candy.

After Rex and Rosie’s divorce, Willow finds herself navigating their two different worlds. She is clearly under the spell of her exciting, fun-loving mother. But as Rosie’s behavior becomes more turbulent, the darker underpinnings of her manic love are revealed.

Rex had removed his Rosie colored glasses long ago, but will Willow do the same?

Whimsical, heartbreaking and uplifting, this is a novel about the many ways love can find you. Rosie Colored Glasses triumphs with the most endearing examples of how mothers and fathers and sons and daughters bend for one another.

Review:

Rosie Colored Glasses by Brianna Wolfson is a poignant novel about a family’s disintegration that results from wife and mother Rosie Thorpe’s undiagnosed (and self-medicated) bipolar disorder.

Twelve years ago, straight as an arrow and self-disciplined Rex Thorpe meets free-spirited and impulsive Rosie Collins. Despite the VAST differences in their personalities, Rex is swept away by the quixotic, fun-loving young woman and they embark on an unexpected romance. They move in together in the quirky apartment that Rex selects not because it fits his personality, but because it so perfectly embodies Rosie. Following their marriage and birth of oldest daughter Willow, Rex moves the family from the eclectic apartment to a house that is in Rosie’s opinion, bland and sterile. Despite her disappointment in their new abode, Rosie is a happy wife and mom but with the birth of youngest son, Asher, she sinks into a deep depression. This is beginning of an endless cycle of the highest of highs to the lowest of lows but it is Rosie’s attempts to self-medicate that lead Rex to end their marriage.

Now the dust has settled, it is poor Willow who is feeling the worst effects of her parents’ divorce. She and Asher are shuttled back and forth between their mother and father’s homes. Even worse, she desperately misses her warm and loving mother’s attention since her father is much more regimented and parents his kids with rules and schedules instead of compassion or affection. Willow is struggling to make sense of her new life amid teasing and bullying by her classmates. She is also dismayed by the slow downward spiral of her fun-loving mom as Rosie falls once again in depression and turns to very unhealthy means to try to cope.

The chapters alternate between Rex, Rosie and Willow’s points of view and weave back and forth in time. Willow’s chapters are the most poignant while Rex and Rosie’s detail the course of their relationship from dating through their divorce.  Willow is an incredibly sympathetic child whose parents do not seem to recognize that she is more than unhappy over their divorce; she is in desperate need of counseling to help her navigate her new “normal”. It is also quite troubling that no one at school attempts to try to intervene or address Willow’s schoolmates’ shabby treatment of the poor young girl. Equally shocking is the fact that Rex does not seem to be aware that  the very things that make Rosie so unique are symptoms of undiagnosed mental problem that is crying out to be addressed.   And how on earth could Rex allow his kids to spend time with Rosie without any supervision since he DIVORCED her because of her behavior in the first place???

Rosie Colored Glasses is an interesting novel but it is not a light or happy read.  Willow is a very relatable character and it is quite easy to understand why Rosie is the parent she gravitates toward since she is not close to Rex.  Brianna Wolfson’s debut is based on her own personal experience which makes it all the more poignant to read.  The novel ends on an uplifting note but the rest of the story is far from happy.

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Filed under Brianna Wolfson, Contemporary, Review, Rosie Colored Glasses

Review: Sunburn by Laura Lippman

Title: Sunburn by Laura Lippman
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

New York Times bestselling author Laura Lippman returns with a superb novel of psychological suspense about a pair of lovers with the best intentions and the worst luck: two people locked in a passionate yet uncompromising game of cat and mouse. But instead of rules, this game has dark secrets, forbidden desires, inevitable betrayals—and cold-blooded murder.

One is playing a long game. But which one?

They meet at a local tavern in the small town of Belleville, Delaware. Polly is set on heading west. Adam says he’s also passing through. Yet she stays and he stays—drawn to this mysterious redhead whose quiet stillness both unnerves and excites him. Over the course of a punishing summer, Polly and Adam abandon themselves to a steamy, inexorable affair. Still, each holds something back from the other—dangerous, even lethal, secrets.

Then someone dies. Was it an accident, or part of a plan? By now, Adam and Polly are so ensnared in each other’s lives and lies that neither one knows how to get away—or even if they want to. Is their love strong enough to withstand the truth, or will it ultimately destroy them?

Something—or someone—has to give.

Which one will it be?

Inspired by James M. Cain’s masterpieces The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity, and Mildred PierceSunburn is a tantalizing modern noir from the incomparable Laura Lippman.

Review:

A very atmospheric novel, Sunburn by Laura Lippman is an intriguing mystery that unfolds at a leisurely pace.

After walking out on her husband, Polly Costello meets Adam Bosk at the High-Ho diner/bar in Belleville, DE. Neither is planning on staying in town for long, but after meeting one another, they each decide to town for the time being. Polly is hired as a waitress at the High-Ho but she only plans on staying until she builds up a nest egg before moving on.  Adam is hired temporarily as a cook at the High-Ho and he continues trying to inveigle his way into Polly’s life.  Neither of them are forthcoming about how or why they ended up in Belleville and in fact, Adam knows more about Polly than he lets on.  Over the next several months, Adam and Polly’s relationship deepens beyond co-workers but will Polly’s very colorful past prevent them from building a future together?

Polly is charming and sexy but she is also quite reserved and maintains an emotional distance from everyone in her life. She easily walks away from her present life and she does not offer anyone an explanation for her actions. She is somewhat mysterious and less than forthcoming with the new people she meets in Belleville but she is surprisingly popular with the customers at the High-Ho. Polly does not make female friends which makes for a distant but mostly cordial relationship with Cath, who also works at the High-Ho.

Adam has good reasons for cozying up to Polly and he remains quite vague when anyone asks him personal questions about his life. He is quite fascinated with Polly but he knows he should  not become too close to her.  Before long, Adam’s interest in her has crossed from professional to romantic, but he convinces himself he can maintain his objectivity. But is Adam fooling himself with his assertions that his feelings for her won’t interfere with his real reasons for being in Belleville?

Sunburn is a character-driven, multi-layered novel. Polly definitely has an interesting back story, but she is sometimes hard to like or feel sympathetic towards when the truth about her past comes to light. Adam is an experienced professional but he greatly underestimates how deeply Polly will affect him. Laura Lippman’s  slow parceling of information about Polly’s past culminates with a dramatic confrontation. The novel comes to an unexpected conclusion that is rather poignant. Film buffs will especially appreciate the nod to some classic noir movies from the 40s and 50s.

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Filed under Contemporary, Laura Lippman, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Sunburn, Suspense, William Morrow

Review: Agent in Place by Mark Greaney

Title: Agent in Place by Mark Greaney
Gray Man Series Book Seven
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense
Length: 528 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

The Gray Man is back in another nonstop international thriller from the #1 New York Timesbestselling coauthor of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels.

Fresh off his first mission back with the CIA, Court Gentry secures what seems like a cut-and-dried contract job: A group of expats in Paris hires him to kidnap the mistress of Syrian dictator Ahmed Azzam to get intel that could destabilize Azzam’s regime.

Court delivers Bianca Medina to the rebels, but his job doesn’t end there. She soon reveals that she has given birth to a son, the only heir to Azzam’s rule–and a potent threat to the Syrian president’s powerful wife.

Now, to get Bianca’s cooperation, Court must bring her son out of Syria alive. With the clock ticking on Bianca’s life, he goes off the grid in a free-fire zone in the Middle East–and winds up in the right place at the right time to take a shot at bringing one of the most brutal dictatorships on earth to a close…

Review:

Agent in Place by Mark Greaney is an action packed spy novel starring ex-CIA black ops operative Court Gentry. Although this latest release is the seventh installment in the Gray Man series, it can be read as a standalone.

Court Gentry has repaired his relationship with the CIA but his latest case is a freelance job that takes him deep into the Syrian crisis. Gentry is thrust into danger when he is hired by Rima and Tarek  Halaby to kidnap Spanish model Bianca Medina while she is in Paris. Bianca is more than just a model; she is the mistress of Syrian President Ahmed al-Azzam. Barely escaping with their lives, Gentry delivers Bianca to the Halabys who try to convince him to continue working for them as they continue their efforts to end the civil war in Syria. Court initially refuses their request but once he learns that Bianca has a baby with al-Azzam who is being held hostage in Syria, he agrees to rescue the baby from the ruthless leader.  Will Gentry successfully complete his latest mission?

Gentry is essentially on his own as he goes undercover with a group of mercenaries in order to the border into Syria. Once he arrives in country, he runs into danger at every turn.  When Court uncovers information about the Syrian president that no one else is aware of, he and a handful of trusted cohorts undertake an almost impossible mission that could have major international repercussions if they successfully carry out their plan.

The plot is somewhat convoluted and despite plenty of action, the pacing is extremely slow. The cast of characters is plentiful and trying to keep track of each of them is a herculean task.  Everyone seems to have an agenda, no one is trustworthy and the situation in Syria is complex.   The good guys face an uphill battle as they are continually double crossed which leaves them facing incredibly dangerous situations.

Agent in Place features a topical storyline that is relevant to current political events occurring in Syria.  Court Gentry is a force to be reckoned with in this newest installment in Mark Greaney’s Gray Man series. While not quite as enjoyable as previous novels in the series, old and new fans will enjoy this adrenaline-fueled adventure.

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Filed under Agent in Place, Berkley, Contemporary, Gray Man Series, Mark Greaney, Rated C+, Review, Suspense

Review: No One Can Know by Lucy Kerr

Title: No One Can Know by Lucy Kerr
Stillwater General Mystery Series Book Two
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

hree months. That’s how long ER nurse Frankie Stapleton has agreed to stay in her sleepy little hometown of Stillwater, helping her estranged sister save the family hardware store, working a few shifts at the local hospital, and most importantly, rebuilding the bridges she burned on her way out of town twelve years ago.

When a pregnant car crash victim arrives at Stillwater General, Frankie and the team race to save both mother and child—but only the baby lives. Rumors swirl that the accident was deliberate, and Frankie’s horrified to realize that she let the driver escape. But why would anyone want to kill Kate Tibbs, a social worker and the wife of an up-and-coming local politician? Frankie’s investigation turns up plenty of motives, from revenge to dirty politics, and even more suspects. There are secrets in Stillwater, and she’s determined to uncover them, even if it means involving her loved ones for help.

But when the baby disappears, her search for the truth becomes a desperate, deadly race against the clock. No matter the cost, Frankie must piece together the truth to stop a killer and save a tiny life in Lucy Kerr’s riveting second Stillwater General Mystery, No One Can Know.

Review:

No One Can Know is another perplexing mystery starring ER Nurse Frankie Stapleton. This second installment in Lucy Kerr’s Stillwater General Mystery series can be read as a standalone but I highly recommend the first novel as well.

Frankie is on duty during a violent storm when John Mueller arrives with minor injuries he claims were sustained in collusion with a deer.  Just as his treatment is wrapping up, Katherine Tibbs is rushed into the ER barely clinging to life.  Pregnant with her first child, her injuries are so severe that ER Dr. Paul Costello quickly turns his ministrations to saving her unborn baby. Once the baby boy is safely delivered and rushed to the NICU, Kat unfortunately succumbs to her injuries. Katherine’s husband, Steven Tibbs, an assistant district who is in the middle of a political campaign, arrives in the ER just as Frankie discovers the first patient she was treating walked out of the hospital which immediately raises suspicions he was involved in Katherine’s accident. Plagued with guilt over not acting on her instincts that something was off with John, Frankie cannot help but poke around the investigation despite her ex-fiancée Sheriff Noah MacLean’s warning to stay out of the case.

Frankie has reluctantly made peace about her extended stay in her small hometown for the next few months. She is working part-time at the ER while also filling in at the family’s financially precarious hardware business. frankie is temporarily bunking with her eight year old niece Riley who has a huge case of hero worship on her fun aunt. She dodges her mother’s matchmaking efforts while at the same time putting up with her sister Charlie’s verbal barbs.  Frankie gets along great with her fellow nurses, but her relationship with Dr. Costello remains a bit acrimonious.

The police investigation quickly arrives at a standstill since they have the daunting task of trying to unearth a motive for Katherine’s accident. Frankie just cannot sit around waiting for the police to locate missing patient John so she begins looking for him on her own.  Running into him at the cemetery, he tells her some very puzzling information before disappearing once again. Following a couple of troubling murders and a shocking kidnapping, the pressure is on to figure out who is responsible for these crimes and why.

No One Can Know is a very clever whodunit that is fast-paced and engaging. Frankie is an excellent nurse and a very adept amateur sleuth. Her situation with her family adds interest to her character (although it would be nice if Charlie would take her sniping down a few notches). With a few well placed red herrings,  Lucy Kerr brilliantly keeps the identity of the perpetrator(s) and motive for the nefarious goings on carefully under wraps until a somewhat dramatic and nail biting conclusion. Another outstanding installment in the Stillwater General Mystery series that old and new fans will enjoy.

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Filed under Contemporary, Crooked Lane Books, Lucy Kerr, Mystery, No One Can Know, Rated B+, Stillwater General Mysery Series, Suspense