Category Archives: Review

Review: Everything We Lost by Valerie Geary

Title: Everything We Lost by Valerie Geary
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: 480 pages
Length: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

From the critically acclaimed author of Crooked River comes this fascinating novel about a young woman searching for answers about events that transpired ten years before when her brother disappeared without a trace—an utterly mesmerizing psychological thriller.

Lucy Durant was only fourteen-years-old when she lost her older brother. First to his paranoid delusions as he became increasingly obsessed with UFOs and government conspiracies. Then, permanently, when he walked into the desert outside Bishop, California, and never returned.

Now on the tenth anniversary of Nolan’s mysterious disappearance, Lucy is still struggling with guilt and confusion—her memories from that period are blurry and obscured by time, distance, and alcohol. Now an adult, she’s stuck in a holding pattern, hiding out at her father’s house, avoiding people, and doing whatever she can to keep herself from thinking about Nolan. But when a series of unsettling events leads Lucy back to Bishop, she is forced to reconcile with her estranged mother and come to terms with the tangled memories of her past to discover what really happened to her brother all those years ago.

Told in Lucy and Nolan’s alternating voices, Everything We Lost is a psychological mystery exploring family, beliefs, obsessions, the nature of memory, and fear of the unknown—a haunting, compelling story that will resonate with readers long after the last page is turned.

Review:

Everything We Lost by Valerie Geary is an intriguing mystery that explores UFOs, extraterrestrial and government conspiracies. This compelling novel centers around the still unresolved disappearance of then sixteen year old Nolan Durrant, whose increasingly erratic and paranoid behavior and intractable belief in all things UFO raises makes him an outcast among his classmates and an embarrassment to his younger sister, Lucy.

The ten year anniversary of her brother’s disappearance is the catalyst for Lucy’s return to the small town of Bishop, CA where she hopes to finally remember what happened the night Nolan vanished. The siblings were thick as thieves until Lucy catches the eye of Nolan’s former friend, Patrick Tyndale, and she begins hanging out with him and his friends. This coincides with Nolan’s new relationship with newcomer, Celeste, whose sudden appearance in town and mysterious past fuels his theory that space aliens walk among us. In the weeks leading up to his disappearance, Nolan’s paranoid, volatile and delusional behavior begins to worsen after a few altercations with Patrick. Lucy’s memories of the night Nolan vanished are lost in a drunken haze of disjointed impressions and overwhelming guilt.  Will Lucy’s return to Bishop finally lead her the truth about what happened to her brother?

Lucy and Nolan’s childhood was anything but normal due to their parents’ divorce and their mother’s slow descent into alcoholism. Lucy was more than happy to tag along with Nolan on his fantasy fueled adventures about other planets,  UFOs and space aliens. However, around the time Lucy becomes involved with Patrick, Nolan’s interest in UFOs and extraterrestrials takes a dark turn and he grows increasingly unstable and convinced the government is after him. Patrick is charismatic and Lucy easily falls prey to his manipulations as she tries to keep his interest.  With his lifelong fascination with outer space, Lucy’s attempt to distance herself from her brother and their mother’s neglect, Nolan’s slow descent into mental illness is easily overlooked.

Written from both Lucy and Nolan’s points of view and alternating between past and present, Everything We Lost is an engaging mystery. Valerie Geary does an excellent job keeping readers off balance as she delves into the possibilities of life on other planets and extraterrestrials in our midst. She also broaches the difficult topic of mental illness with a great deal of sensitivity. Although the novel’s conclusion is somewhat open-ended,  it is relatively easy to surmise Nolan’s fate.  All in all, a perplexing mystery that explores some interesting subject matter.

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Filed under Contemporary, Everything We Lost, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Suspense, Valerie Geary, William Morrow Paperbacks

Review: You Say It First by Susan Mallery

Title: You Say It First by Susan Mallery
Happily, Inc Series Book One
Publisher: HQN Books
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Fool’s Gold romances invites you to visit Happily Inc., a wedding destination founded on a fairy tale!

Sculptor Nick Mitchell grew up in a family of artists and learned from his volatile father that passion only leads to pain. As he waits on a new commission, he takes a day job as a humble carpenter at a theme wedding venue. The job has its perks—mainly the venue’s captivating owner, Pallas Saunders.

Pallas adores Weddings in a Box. But if she can’t turn the floundering business around, she’ll have no choice but to cave to her domineering mother and work at the family’s bank. Then when a desperate bride begs Pallas for something completely out of the box, her irresistible new hire inspires her. Nick knows she doesn’t belong behind a desk, and she knows in her heart that he’s right—where she really belongs is in his arms.

Don’t miss the next book in the Happily Inc. series, Second Chance Girl!

Review:

The first installment in Susan Mallery’s new series, Happily Inc, You Say It First is a sweet yet sassy romance between a couple who are both carrying their fair share of emotional baggage.

Nick Mitchell is temporarily staying with his brothers, Ronan and Mathias, as he waits to hear if he has been selected to create a sculpture that will take him to Dubai for two years. Working as a part-time carpenter for Weddings in a Box owner Pallas Saunders sounds like the perfect way to fill his time while he waits. Growing up with his famous yet extremely temperamental artist father, Nick has decided passion is to be avoided at all costs so he resists romantic entanglements. However, since his time in town comes with an expiration date, will Nick give in to his unexpected attraction to Pallas?

Pallas always planned to work in her  family’s bank but her life took a few surprising detours and she now owns a destination wedding business. Weddings in a Box is on somewhat shaky financial ground but with plenty of weddings booked for the next several months, she is hopeful she can turn things around. When her mother finally presents her with a long anticipated job offer, Pallas’s reaction surprises both herself and her mom.  She feels like she can never live up to her mother’s expectations and she hates that she feels like she has to earn her mother’s love.  Because Pallas always falls short with her mother, she shies away from relationshops since she does not want to feel pressured to earn a man’s love. Since Nick is only going to be in town a short time, will Pallas decide to embark on a steamy no strings fling?

The romance between Pallas and Nick is slow growing and an absolute joy to watch unfold. Nick is honest with her right from the beginning that he is only interested in a short term relationship. Pallas  is relieved there is no pressure on her to earn his approval or love, so there is a decided lack of conflict as they indulge in some steamy interludes.  Outside of the bedroom, they are friends who work well together as they bounce ideas off each other after she is presented with an opportunity to stretch her creative wings for an upcoming wedding. Pallas grows both personally and professionally throughout their relationship but has Nick made any progress on conquering the demons that plague him?

You Say It First is a very heartwarming romance that is quite engaging.  Nick and Pallas are brilliantly developed lead protagonists whose foibles and frailties that make them easy to relate to. The supporting cast of characters is somewhat quirky yet immensely appealing. Old and new fans of Susan Mallery  will be absolutely delighted to immerse themselves in this first installment of the Happily Inc series.

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Filed under Contemporary, Happily Inc Series, Harlequin, HQN Books, Rated B, Review, Romance, Susan Mallery, You Say It First

Review: How to Behave in a Crowd by Camille Bordas

Title: How to Behave in a Crowd by Camille Bordas
Publisher: Tim Duggan Books
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Length: 338 pages
Book Rating: C+

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

Summary:

A witty, heartfelt novel that brilliantly evokes the confusions of adolescence and marks the arrival of an extraordinary young talent.

Isidore Mazal is eleven years old, the youngest of six siblings living in a small French town. He doesn’t quite fit in. Berenice, Aurore, and Leonard are on track to have doctorates by age twenty-four. Jeremie performs with a symphony, and Simone, older than Isidore by eighteen months, expects a great career as a novelist–she’s already put Isidore to work on her biography. The only time they leave their rooms is to gather on the old, stained couch and dissect prime-time television dramas in light of Aristotle’s Poetics.

Isidore has never skipped a grade or written a dissertation. But he notices things the others don’t, and asks questions they fear to ask. So when tragedy strikes the Mazal family, Isidore is the only one to recognize how everyone is struggling with their grief, and perhaps the only one who can help them—if he doesn’t run away from home first.

Isidore’s unstinting empathy, combined with his simmering anger, makes for a complex character study, in which the elegiac and comedic build toward a heartbreaking conclusion. With How to Behave in a Crowd, Camille Bordas immerses readers in the interior life of a boy puzzled by adulthood and beginning to realize that the adults around him are just as lost.

Review:

Spanning a couple of years, How to Behave in a Crowd by Camille Bordas is a character driven young adult novel about the youngest of six children who is trying to figure out how he fits in with his genius siblings.

Eleven year old Isidore “Dory” Mazal is quite ordinary compared to his highly intelligent, grade skipping brothers and sisters.  While he might not be as smart as his siblings, Dory is much more observant and he is also more social than they are. Despite being more interested in forming friendships, his only friend at school, Denise Galet, is also somewhat of an outcast due to her ongoing depression and anorexia.  Although Dory is close to his mother, his relationship with his business traveling father is somewhat distant.  Despite sharing a room with his sister, Simone, who is also closest in age to him, they are not particularly close since she is a scholastic overachiever like their older siblings. After the family suffers a tragic loss, Dory reacts with kindhearted compassion and empathy unlike his brothers and sisters who quickly return to their normal life.

Life with the Mazal family is somewhat dysfunctional since Dory’s siblings are rather disconnected from the rest of the family. Their interactions with one another are limited to family meals and watching the occasional TV show together.  The siblings’ extremely high IQs alienate them from their peers and they have little patience or tact when dealing with anyone whom they perceive is not their intellectual equal.

Although the concept for How to Behave in a Crowd is unique, the novel is very slow paced. The plot occasionally feels disjointed since Dory’s narration hops from one anecdote to another that are not necessarily connected to each other. Overall, his narration comes across as extremely detached which makes it somewhat difficult to for the reader to feel much of a connection with the various characters. While Dory is an enjoyable lead protagonist, none of his is siblings are particularly sympathetic or likable. Camille Bordas brings the story to a very abrupt and rather unsatisfying conclusion.

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Filed under Camille Bordas, Contemporary, How to Behave in a Crowd, Rated C+, Review, Tim Duggan Books, Young Adult

Review: At What Cost by James L’Etoile

Title: At What Cost by James L’Etoile
Detective Penley Mystery Series Book One
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

What would you do to save your child?

Detective John Penley and his new partner, Detective Paula Newberry, of the Sacramento Police Department are tasked with leading the investigation into a local serial killer who has dumped three bodies in the past six weeks–and all of them are missing their internal organs. But while pursuing a lead, the detectives stumble upon a personal message the killer left behind for Penley. And it’s attached to a human kidney.

How could the killer know Penley’s son is on the kidney transplant waiting list? Now Penley’s baited into an impossible trap that could jeopardize his entire career. Will the detective take down the killer and place his faith in the medical establishment to heal his son? Or, will he make a deal with the devil for the transplant organ his son needs to live?

At What Cost, James L’Etoile’s engrossing new mystery, is a heart-stopping thrill ride that will keep readers guessing at every turn. Fans of Michael Connelly and Thomas Perry won’t be able to put this down.

Review:

In At What Cost by James L’Etoile, Detective John Penley’s investigation of several gang members’ murders turns personal when he and his family are seemingly targeted by the killer.

Penley and his partner Detective Paula Newberry have not made much progress in their investigation of several recent murders of known gang members.  With each of the deceased belonging to different gangs, they cannot help but speculate that the deaths might be retaliation but this line of inquiry soon leads to a dead end.  A series of startling discoveries connected to the most recent murder leads Penley and Newberry to believe the killer is harvesting the victims’ organs.  Unfortunately, Penley has intimate knowledge of the donation process since his nine year old son Tommy is waiting for a kidney transplant.  Despite assurances there is no way anyone could be access the donor list, Penley and Newberry soon learn the killer is manipulating the donor list.  Will they capture the murderer before it is too late?

John Penley tries to keep his professional and personal lives separate, but maintaining his objectively on his current case is virtually impossible.  Using his insider’s knowledge of the donation process proves invaluable but there are limitations to what information can be obtained without jeopardizing patient confidentiality. Quickly realizing that Tommy might be at risk, John is faced with a moral dilemma that could help him flush out the killer but will doing so put his son in danger?

Newly transferred to homicide, Paula is not exactly welcomed by her co-workers due to her previous assignment.  She and John work well together but when their current case heats up, John’s trust in his partner is soon put to the test.  Despite John’s anger over a perceived betrayal, Paula is undeterred as she continues trying to track down a killer who always seems to be two steps ahead of them during their investigation.

At What Cost by James L’Etoile is a fast-paced police procedural with a refreshingly unique storyline.  There is plenty of suspense as Penley and Newberry try to make sense of the murders.  Once the pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place, their investigation takes on new urgency once they realize John and his family are in danger.  With unexpected plot twists, a twisted motive for the murders and a seemingly demented killer, the novel races to a pulse-pounding conclusion.  An absolutely chilling first installment in the John Penley Mystery series that fans of the genre absolutely do not want to miss.

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Filed under At What Cost, Contemporary, Crooked Lane Books, James L'Etoile, Mystery, Rated B, Review

Review: Sleeping in the Ground by Peter Robinson

Title: Sleeping in the Ground by Peter Robinson
Inspector Banks Series Book 24
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

MICHAEL CONNELLY calls Peter Robinson “an author with amazing empathy, a snare-trap ear for dialogue, and a clear eye for the telling detail.”

See why in Sleeping in the Ground, the gripping new novel starring Alan Banks  featuring an opening scene you’ll never forget, and a finale you won’t see coming.

At the doors of a charming country church, an unspeakable act destroys a wedding party. A huge manhunt ensues. The culprit is captured. The story is over.

Except it isn’t. For Alan Banks, still struggling with a tragic loss of his own, there’s something wrong about this case — something unresolved. Reteaming with profiler Jenny Fuller, the relentless detective deeper into the crime… deep enough to unearth long-buried secrets that reshape everything Banks thought he knew about the events outside that chapel.

And when at last the shocking truth becomes clear, it’s almost too late.

Packed with twists and turns, heart and soul, this is another triumph from an author “at the top of his game” (LOUISE PENNY).

Review:

Featuring a ripped from the headlines style mass killing, Sleeping in the Ground is an engrossing police procedural which takes place in the British countryside. This latest release from Peter Robinson stars venerable Detective Superintendent Alan Banks and although it is the 24th installment in the Inspector Banks series, it can easily be read as a standalone.

The novel opens with a mass shooting by an unknown assailant at a wedding that leaves bride Laura Tindall and two people dead and groom Benjamin Kemp and five others wounded.  With little evidence to go on, the investigation does not take long to uncover the probable identity of the shooter. With the murderer dead by his own hand, the case is quickly wrapped up, but a few details bother Detective Superintendent Banks.  After pathologist Dr. Glendenning mentions a few anomalies in the killer’s post-mortem that don’t add up, Banks, DI Annie Cabbot and DC Geraldine “Gerry” Masterson dig deeper into the victims’ pasts.

Banks is rather introspective throughout the investigation as he mourns the recent loss of his first serious girlfriend. Despite his preoccupation with his memories and an unexpected reunion with psychologist Dr. Jenny Fuller, his years of experience and keen instincts are sharper than ever and he quickly zeros in on a possible reason for the shooting spree but the ensuing investigation does not have an overabundance of clues for the investigators to follow.  Instead, subtle pieces of information combined with a few facts and logical conclusions prove Banks and his team are on the right track.  Gerry is instrumental in finding the evidence that provides them with a viable suspect. Days of torrential rain have resulted in area flooding, but with another person’s life hanging in the balance, Gerry disregards her personal safety once she is certain she knows what the killer is planning next.

Sleeping in the Ground is a fantastic mystery that old and new fans of the Inspector Banks series will enjoy.  The characters are brilliantly developed with true to life foibles and frailties that are incredibly relatable. The investigation relies on old fashioned detective work to solve a very modern crime and the storyline unfolds at steady pace. Peter Robinson brings the search for the shooter to an exciting conclusion that completely wraps up the investigation.

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Filed under Contemporary, Inspector Banks Series, Mystery, Peter Robinson, Rated B, Review, Sleeping in the Ground, Suspense, William Morrow

Review: Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker

Title: Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

One night three years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn’t add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister’s return might just be the beginning of the crime.

Review:

In Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker, fifteen year old Cass and seventeen year old Emma disappear from their dysfunctional home and three years later, only one of them returns. What happened that fateful night? Where have the Tanner sisters been for the past three years?  And perhaps, most importantly of all, where is Emma?

Upon her return, Cass is more than willing to talk to FBI forensic psychologist Dr. Abby Winter and Special Agent Leo Strauss but only if her mother Judy Martin is present. Her explanation of the circumstances surrounding their disappearance is enthralling but she cannot provide more than a vague description of where they were held. She is quite desperate for the FBI to begin searching for Emma but is there more to the story than Cass is revealing?

When the girls first went missing, Abby is the only person who recognized the truth about Judy Martin. After the original investigation stalled, Abby must undergo therapy to put the case into perspective but she never doubts she was on the right track. With Cass’s unexpected return she and Leo are quickly reassigned to the case. While Cass’s account of their disappearance and the years they were gone is quite detailed and much of her explanation rings true, Abby is not certain they are getting the whole truth. Abby’s personal history raises questions about her impartiality in the case but these experiences also make her more sensitive to the subtle nuances in Cass’s behavior and the dynamics of the various relationships in the Tanner/Martin household.

Cass’s first-person narration offers a chilling and heartrending peek into the extremely unhealthy and toxic environment with their manipulative and self-absorbed mother. Her parents’ divorce and the ensuing custody battle resulted in a horrific rift between Cass and Judy and led to a breakdown in her relationship with Emma.  Judy’s quick marriage to a divorced man with a teenage son whose troubling relationship with his new stepsisters also contributes to the increasingly tense atmosphere in the household.  Over the years, the various relationships continue to deteriorate to a shocking degree.

Emma in the Night is a slow burner of a story that alternates between Cass and Abby’s points of view. Wendy Walker’s portrayal of Judy’s narcissistic behavior is a realistic depiction of a rare psychiatric disorder that results in incredibly dysfunctional and psychologically abusive relationships.  The truth about what happened in the years leading up to Cass and Emma’s disappearance is extremely heartbreaking and given the circumstances, very easy to believe. With plenty of unexpected twists and turns, the novel wends its way to a fairly shocking yet completely satisfying conclusion.

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Filed under Contemporary, Emma in the Night, Mystery, Rated B, Review, St Martin's Press, Suspense, Wendy Walker