Category Archives: Rated C

Review: No Easy Target by Iris Johansen

Title: No Easy Target by Iris Johansen
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Romantic Suspense
Length: 349 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

New York Times bestselling author Iris Johansen returns with another thriller, No Easy Target

Margaret Douglas has worked hard to put her painful past behind her. Raised off the grid in an abusive home, her only escape was the nearby forest where she sought refuge whenever she could. There, in the peaceful woods, she discovered a strange gift: the ability to understand animals and to communicate with them. And so those creatures became her only friends, her only joy during a desolate childhood. Now Margaret wants nothing more than to live a quiet life, close to the animals and under the radar. But her abilities have not gone unnoticed and there are those who would use them for their own purposes. Determined not to be a pawn in anyone’s game, every time someone gets too close, Margaret uproots her life and outruns them.

When John Lassiter breaks into Margaret’s apartment, she vanishes again, but Lassiter has good reason to be persistent. As a CIA operative, he owes his life to his men, one of whom is being held captive by an unrelenting enemy—an enemy who has set his sights on Margaret. Which means that Lassiter must control her to use her as bait.

With danger in hot pursuit, Margaret finds herself matching wits with a man who refuses to stop or be stopped. Turning from the hunted to the hunter, Margaret must use everything she has ever learned to not only survive, but to defeat a great evil. And to prove once and for all that she’s no easy target.

Review:

No Easy Target by Iris Johansen is a suspense-laden mystery  with a romantic element.

Margaret Douglas has left her troubles behind her, but one phone call changes everything for her. Discovering that a total stranger, John Lassister, has pulled out all the stops in order to locate her, she is afraid that Stan Nicos, a notorious, sadistic criminal, has found her. However, John and his friend and associate Neal Cambry are one step ahead of her and before Margaret can go on the run again, he kidnaps her.  Will Margaret convince John to set her free? Or will he follow through with his plan and put in her in extreme danger in the process?

Margaret has a unique ability to communicate with animals which also makes it easy to read strong emotions in humans as well.  Now volunteering at a local zoo, she is content with her life when John finds her.  Margaret wants absolutely nothing to do with John and his plan which will put her smack dab in the Nicos’ crosshairs.  However, in John’s mind, his needs supersede Margaret’s objections and he will go to any lengths to follow through with his plan.

While Margaret is a likable and sympathetic character, the same cannot be said for John. His information about Margaret and her ties to Nicos is superficial and he has a lot of assumptions but very few facts. While he has a good reason for going up against Nicos, his plan to use Margaret to accomplish his goal is unconscionable.

Margaret’s quick about face is unrealistic given her history with Nicos and her subsequent romantic relationship with John falls flat. Despite the suspense element, the novel is extremely slow paced and gets bogged down in endless dialogue.  The conversations and inner thoughts of the characters are initially interesting but they quickly become repetitive.   The overall plot feels just feels tired and overdone.

No Easy Target has an interesting premise and Margaret is a gutsy heroine. Readers will be left wondering whether or not this is the first installment in a new series from Iris Johansen.

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Filed under Contemporary, Iris Johansen, Mystery, No Easy Target, Rated C, Review, Romantic Suspense, St Martin's Press

Review: White Sand, Blue Sea by Anita Hughes

Title: White Sand, Blue Sea by Anita Hughes
A St. Barts Love Story
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 288 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Olivia Miller is standing on the porch of her mother and stepfather’s plantation style villa in St. Barts. They have been coming here every April for years but she is always thrilled to see the horseshoe shaped bay of Gustavia and white sand of Gouverneur’s Beach. This trip should be particularly exciting because she is celebrating her twenty-fifth birthday and hoping that Finn, her boyfriend of four years, will propose.

The only person who won’t be here is her father, Sebastian, whom she hasn’t seen in twenty years. He’s a well-known artist and crisscrosses the globe, painting and living in exotic locations like Kenya and China. When Sebastian unexpectedly walks through the door and floats back into Olivia’s life like a piece of bad driftwood she never knew she wanted, she starts to wonder if her world is too narrow. She questions the dreams and the relationship she’s always thought she wanted. But there seems to be more to the story than an innocent fatherly visit, and Olivia must decide if love is more important than truth.

Set on St. Barts, the jewel of the Caribbean, Anita Hughes’s WHITE SAND, BLUE SEA is a heartwarming story about romance and adventure, and most important, about knowing yourself, and what makes you happy.

Review:

In White Sand, Blue Sea by Anita Hughes, a birthday celebration on a lush tropical island turns into an unexpected reunion between a long estranged father and daughter.

Olivia Miller is eagerly anticipating her twenty-fifth birthday celebration at her family’s vacation home on St. Bart’s when a stranger arrives. Not immediately realizing who the surprise visitor is, she is absolutely delighted to discover he is none other than her long absent dad, Sebastian. After he walked out on her and her mother Hadley twenty years ago, Olivia’s only contact with him over the years has been through sporadic letters. Will Hadley and her husband Felix London welcome Sebastian with open arms? Will Olivia’s longtime boyfriend Finn be supportive of her need to reconnect with her father? And, perhaps most important of all, what is behind Sebastian’s sudden reappearance in his daughter’s life?

Despite her father’s abandonment, Olivia has led a pretty charmed life and she comes across as a little naive and entirely too trusting. Olivia is deliriously happy with Finn and she is eagerly looking forward to taking their relationship to the next level. While Olivia’s desire to have her father in her life is completely understandable, Felix has always been a doting stepfather who cherished and nurtured her throughout her life. This close relationship with Felix makes Olivia’s blind devotion to Sebastian an absolute mystery. She never even brings up the fact that he walked away from her without a second thought. She seems completely unaffected by the fact that he was NEVER involved in her life at all beyond a few letters. Instead, Olivia eagerly hangs on his every word and enthusiastically agrees with every harebrained suggestion he makes.

Sebastian is so laughably superficial and obviously self-absorbed that it is completely mystifying that everyone immediately falls under his spell. He spins quite a few incredulous yarns about his travels and everyone accepts his rather outlandish claims without blinking an eye. Sebastian might be charming and good looking, but he is so glib and manipulative that it is impossible to believe that not a single person beyond ex-wife Hadley is suspicious about the reason he is inserting himself into their lives.

Hadley tries to give Sebastian the benefit of the doubt, but her past experiences with him are a harsh reality check. She is rightfully angry at his unwelcome observations and self-serving proclamations about their daughter.  To her credit, Hadley attempts to remain impartial so as to not influence Olivia’s relationship with Sebastian.  However, even with their somewhat tempestuous past, Hadley is not completely immune to Sebastian’s (dubious) charms. He manages to find her weaknesses and he does everything he can to exploit them (which makes him even MORE unlikable).

Not even Felix and Finn are safe from Sebastian’s appeal and in a stunning turn of events, Felix’s objections over his wife’s ex-husband staying with them disappear almost immediately. However, Finn has a few reservations about Sebastian and his unhappiness over Sebastian’s interference in their lives puts him at odds with Olivia. The once happy couple is facing the first rough patch in their relationship and it is anyone’s guess whether or not they will smooth over the differences.

The one area where Anita Hughes consistently excels is her ability to bring the locations of her novels vibrantly to life. In White Sand, Blue Sea, St. Barts serves as a lush backdrop for the conflict and tension within the family and the island provides a nice escape for them when things become a little too intense between them. Flashbacks of Hadley and Sebastian’s relationship provide much needed context for what went wrong between them so many years earlier. Sebastian’s constant recounting of his adventures quickly becomes tiresome since;they are so obviously embellished they are unbelievable. The absolute best part of the novel is Felix’s relationship with Olivia and his easy acceptance of her need to get to know her father. While a bit unrealistic and a little frustrating at times, the various story arcs are completely wrapped up by the novel’s conclusion.

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Filed under Anita Hughes, Contemporary, Rated C, Review, White Sand Blue Sea

Review: 72 Hours by Bella Jewel

Title: 72 Hours by Bella Jewel
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

A red-hot, pulse-pounding thrill ride by USA Today bestselling author Bella Jewel!

It’s all part of his sick game. A game he’s been planning for an entire decade. Now everything is perfect: One woman and one man have been selected. They used to be a couple—and they can no longer stand one another. They are the perfect victims. He doesn’t intend for the game to be easy. He wants to push them to the brink of insanity, to make his hunt real. . .

Lara and Noah have been captured and dumped into a massive wooded area. There’s only one rule in this fatal game: They will have 72 hours to find a way out before a sadistic serial killer begins his hunt . . .But what he never could have expected was the explosive passion that ignites between the two ex-lovers—one that makes them strong. Fierce. And determined to do whatever it takes to escape—and to survive.

72 Hours by Bella Jewel is a sexy, page-turning thrill ride!

Review:

72 Hours by Bella Jewel is a fast-paced, suspense-laden novel that pits two estranged lovers against a sadistic psychopath.

Lara and Noah’s break up was acrimonious and despite Noah’s best efforts to discuss what led to their split, Lara adamantly refuses to talk to him. So when they are kidnapped and left in the Florida swamp and told they have 72 hours to find their way out or they will die, will they be able to work together to save themselves? Or will Lara’s lack of confidence and dislike of Noah hinder their efforts?

At one time, Lara was self-confident and fearless, but after a life defining loss, she is filled with self-loathing and her self-esteem is at an all time low. At the first sign of trouble with Noah, she bailed without giving him a chance to tell his side of the story and she has gone out of her way to avoid him in the months since. When she begins running into Noah in the days leading up to their kidnapping, she is surprised to realize she still cares for him, but will she give in his pleas to talk to him?

Noah is somewhat aggressive and heavy-handed in his attempts to reconnect with Lara. He still loves her and he would like nothing more than to explain the situation that led to Lara breaking up with him.  After the kidnapping, Noah is harsh with Lara as he tries to get her focus on trying to find a way out of their predicament. Once he has convinced her to work with him, his attitude softens and he has a much easier time getting her to co-operate with him.  If they are able to figure out a way to save themselves, is there any chance Noah will be able to salvage their relationship?

While the premise of 72 Hours is unique and interesting, poor character development and very irritating personality traits make it impossible to like or really connect with either Lara or Noah. Even in a life or death situation, Lara is incredibly whiny and virtually impossible to motivate to DO anything to save herself.  Yes, she went through something awful at one time, but to have absolutely no self-preservation instincts after the kidnapping is just too hard to believe. Noah deserves a medal for finding the patience to put up with her and it is extremely difficult to understand why he still wants to be with her considering her ridiculous behavior.

Which brings us to the romance element of the storyline. Life or death situation. 72 hours to save themselves. And yet, Noah and Lara find the time to hook up  couple of times.  They also manage to have a heart to heart talk about what caused their break up. Suspension of disbelief is often a necessity when reading fiction, but the plot of 72 Hours is a little too far-fetched to believe.

Most of the novel is written from Lara’s perspective, but there are also short passages from the killer’s point of view. While it is obvious this person is quite troubled, these peeks into his mind are so ridiculous they really add nothing to the storyline.

72 Hours by Bella Jewel has plenty of action and the final resolution of Noah and Lara’s horrific ordeal is quite satisfying.  A little predictable but overall, an entertaining read that will appeal to fans of romantic suspense.

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Filed under 72 Hours, Bella Jewel, Contemporary, Rated C, Review, Romantic Suspense, St Martin's Paperbacks

Review: Miss Treadway and the Field of Stars by Miranda Emmerson

Title: Miss Treadway and the Field of Stars by Miranda Emmerson
Publisher: Harper
Genre: Historical (60s), Mystery
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

In this sparkling debut novel imbued with the rich intrigue of Kate Atkinson’s literary mysteries and the spirited heart of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, a disparate group of Londoners plunge into a search for a missing American actress.

In the dreary days of November 1965, American actress Iolanthe Green has become the toast of the West End. Charismatic, mysterious, and beautiful, she brings color and a sprinkling of glamour to the scuffed boards of Soho’s Galaxy Theatre. But one evening, after another rapturously received performance, Iolanthe walks through the stage door, out into the cold London night, and vanishes.

All of London is riveted as Fleet Street speculates about the missing actress’s fate. But as time passes and the case grows colder, the public’s interest turns to the unfolding Moors Murders and erupting political scandals. Only Anna Treadway, Iolanthe’s dresser at the Galaxy, still cares. A young woman of dogged determination with a few dark secrets of her own, she is determined to solve the mystery of the missing actress.

A disparate band of London émigrés—an Irish policeman, a Turkish coffee-house owner and his rebellious daughter, and a literature-loving Jamaican accountant—joins Anna in her quest, an odyssey that leads them into a netherworld of jazz clubs, backstreet doctors, police brutality, and seaside ghost towns. Each of these unusual sleuths has come to London to escape the past and forge a new future. Yet as they draw closer to uncovering the truth of Iolanthe’s disappearance, they may have to face the truth about themselves.

Review:

Set in London during late 1965, Miss Treadway and the Field of Stars by Miranda Emmerson is mystery about an American actress who disappears after her performance at a local theater.

When Iolanthe “Lanny” Green fails to show up for work Monday afternoon, her dresser, Anna Treadway, is concerned but she is certain Lanny is just running late.  However, when she misses the next day’s performance as well, she is reported missing and the local newspapers run with story.  Detective Sergeant Barnaby Hayes is assigned to the investigation but he is making little headway as he searches clues that will help him locate the missing actress.  When public interest wanes, Anna takes it upon herself to do a little amateur sleuthing on her own and she finds some very interesting details about Lanny but will the information she uncovers help her find the missing woman?

The investigation into Lanny’s disappearance is interesting and takes some very unexpected twists and turns.  Unfortunately, the bulk of the storyline is not focused on the mystery surrounding the missing woman.  Readers are instead introduced to a number of people whom Anna either already knows or she meets during her search for Lanny.  DS Hayes is the only person in an official capacity trying to find Lanny and even he is facing prejudice from the people he works with. The unfolding story is a little convoluted and disjointed and feels more like social commentary for the diverse characters who are involved in the search for the actress.  Each of the characters’ issues are interesting and thought-provoking but the mystery element of the story quickly feels like an afterthought.

Miss Treadway and the Field of Stars by Miranda Emmerson is a fascinating peek into lives of an eclectic and diverse set of characters in London during the mid 1960s.  The mystery surrounding Lanny’s disappearance is quite intriguing and all of the loose ends about what happened to the actress are completely wrapped up by the novel’s conclusion.

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Filed under Harper, Historical, Historical (60s), Miranda Emmerson, Miss Treadway and the Field of Stars, Mystery, Rated C, Review

Review: The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson

Title: The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Contemporary, Literary Fiction
Length: 288 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

An unforgettable cast of characters is unleashed into a realm known for its cruelty—the American high school—in this captivating debut novel.

The wealthy enclaves north of San Francisco are not the paradise they appear to be, and nobody knows this better than the students of a local high school. Despite being raised with all the opportunities money can buy, these vulnerable kids are navigating a treacherous adolescence in which every action, every rumor, every feeling, is potentially postable, shareable, viral.

Lindsey Lee Johnson’s kaleidoscopic narrative exposes at every turn the real human beings beneath the high school stereotypes. Abigail Cress is ticking off the boxes toward the Ivy League when she makes the first impulsive decision of her life: entering into an inappropriate relationship with a teacher. Dave Chu, who knows himself at heart to be a typical B student, takes desperate measures to live up to his parents’ crushing expectations. Emma Fleed, a gifted dancer, balances rigorous rehearsals with wild weekends. Damon Flintov returns from a stint at rehab looking to prove that he’s not an irredeemable screwup. And Calista Broderick, once part of the popular crowd, chooses, for reasons of her own, to become a hippie outcast.

Into this complicated web, an idealistic young English teacher arrives from a poorer, scruffier part of California. Molly Nicoll strives to connect with her students—without understanding the middle school tragedy that played out online and has continued to reverberate in different ways for all of them.

Written with the rare talent capable of turning teenage drama into urgent, adult fiction, The Most Dangerous Place on Earth makes vivid a modern adolescence lived in the gleam of the virtual, but rich with sorrow, passion, and humanity.

Review:

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson is a bleak portrait of a privileged group of teens and a first year teacher.

Mill Valley is an upscale small town that appears to be quite tranquil.  Yet under the idyllic veneer simmers a seething cauldron of dysfunction for the children of wealthy parents.  Beginning with an eighth grade bullying incident that ends in tragedy, the story follows a group of teens who seemingly have everything going for them.  Yet, after their participation in the on line bullying of their classmate, their lives go down very dark and depressing paths.

Fast forward to the eleventh grade and several of the friends have gone their separate ways. Yet there is a commonality in their behavior as they continue to make one bad decision after another. The teenagers’ parents seem to make guest appearances in their children’s lives and none of them are aware of what their kids are up to on line or in real life. The few parents who do take an interest in their children’s futures are overbearing with unrealistically high expectations that their kids have no chance of fulfilling.

The overall feel of the novel is that of a collection of short stories since readers only get one chapter from each participants point of view.  These chapters are long and somewhat rambling peeks inside their troubled lives.  New teacher Molly Nicholl is the only character who narrates more than one chapter and it is quite obvious from the outset she is a little too naive and idealistic to handle her self-destructive students. Like the teenagers she is teaching, Molly does not make the wisest choices as she becomes overly involved in her students’ lives.

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth is a well-written debut novel with a somewhat dark storyline. Lindsey Lee Johnson offers a cautionary tale about the unintended consequences of the decisions made by both teenagers and adults.

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Filed under Contemporary, Lindsey Lee Johnson, Literary Fiction, Random House, Rated C, Review, The Most Dangerous Place on Earth

Review: Mulberry Moon by Catherine Anderson

Title: Mulberry Moon by Catherine Anderson
Mystic Creek Series Book Three
Publisher: Jove
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 443 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

The New York Times bestselling author of New Leaf returns to Mystic Creek, Oregon, where a wounded heart finds a place to call home. . . .

After a career on the rodeo circuit, Ben Sterling longs to settle down on his farm and start a family like his brothers. He’s searched all over for the woman of his dreams. Yet the only one to spark his interest is the new owner of the local café. Getting her attention, however, won’t be easy.

Sissy Sue Bentley has worked hard to make it on her own, and she doesn’t need another man in her life. From her alcoholic father to the men she’s dated, who were after only one thing, they are nothing but trouble. Except Ben keeps showing up whenever she really needs help. Sissy struggles to deny her growing feelings for him—but soon Ben’s tender concern has her hoping for a happier future. Then her past comes barreling back into her life, and it will take more than the love in Ben’s heart to hold them together.

Review:

Mulberry Moon by Catherine Anderson is a charming small town romance.  Although it is the third installment in the Mystic Creek series, this latest release can be read as a standalone.

Ben Sterling is  a warm and caring man who is ready to settle down.  At one time he hoped that local cafe owner Sissy Sue Bentley might be that person, but she quickly made it clear she wanted nothing to do with him.  Realizing there is no point in pursuing someone who is not interested in him, he abandoned his plan to catch her eye.  Despite his terrible run of bad luck with the women he has recently dated, Ben  remains hopeful he will find the right woman to share his life with.

Unlike Ben, Sissy’s life has been nothing but one hardship after another.  Her childhood was extremely  dysfunctional and as a result, she finds it hard to trust anyone.  Sissy is quite prickly towards Ben and although he goes out of his way to help her, she remains quite distrustful of his motives for his assistance.

Ben has the patience of a saint as Sissy continues to blow hot and cold where he is concerned. She temporarily lets down her defenses and just when he thinks he is making progress, she puts her walls back up. Sissy’s mixed signals towards Ben quickly become tiresome as this push/pull continues although Ben is a perfect gentleman who is always kind and respectful to her.

While there is little doubt that Sissy’s childhood was horrible, the details of her past are so exaggerated that they are impossible to believe. While it is credible that her family moved around a great deal, the number of states she lived is in certainly eye-brow raising since they were so poor.  And it is equally hard to believe that her experiences at EVERY school she attended were EXACTLY the same.  Not a single person was willing to befriend her?  Everyone made fun of her?  No one made any effort to help her without expecting something in return?

Ben and Sissy are a cute couple but Sissy’s hard luck continues for the most of the novel. From runaway chickens to mysteriously vanishing items to a broken leg, Sissy just cannot seem to catch a break. And just when Sissy is finally willing to take a chance with Ben, her past comes back to haunt her and she pushes Ben away in an effort to protect him. Is their love strong enough to withstand this final conflict?

Mulberry Moon by Catherine Anderson is an overly dramatic but sweet addition to the Mystic Creek series.  Ben is an appealing protagonist with a generous heart and a seemingly endless supply of patience.  Sissy is a spunky young woman with a traumatic past that makes her afraid to risk her heart.  Will Sissy allow her considerable emotional baggage ruin her future with Ben?

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Filed under Catherine Anderson, Contemporary, Jove, Mulberry Moon, Mystic Creek Series, Rated C, Review, Romance