Category Archives: Rated B+

Review: You’re Gonna Love Me by Robin Lee Hatcher

Title: You’re Gonna Love Me by Robin Lee Hatcher
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Contemporary, Christian, Romance
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Who knew fate could twist a tragedy into a second chance at love?

Samantha Winters lives her life the way a good accountant should—measured, deliberate, and safe. After watching her father die in a tragic skiing accident, she decided never to allow risk into her life again. But she didn’t count on falling for Nick Chastain, who embodies everything she doesn’t want in her safely constructed world.

Against Samantha’s warnings, Nick plans a dangerous kayaking trip over spring break. Furious that he’s so careless with his life, she ends their fledgling relationship with harsh words.

Two years later, Samantha is desperately in need of a change. When she learns her grandmother has had an accident and is in need of a caretaker, Samantha quickly packs her bags and heads to Thunder Creek, Idaho. But nothing could prepare her for the surprise awaiting her in her grandmother’s hospital room . . . Nick.

With the charming backdrop of small-town friends, beloved cousins, and a whole church congregation rooting for them, can they set aside the disastrous ending of their first try at love? Has Nick changed enough to meet Samantha in the middle—and can she realize that a risk in love might be worth taking?

Review:

You’re Gonna Love Me by Robin Lee Hatcher is a charming second chance at love Christian romance which is set in the delightful small town of Thunder Creek, ID.

Samantha Winters is risk-averse to the point it affects her personal and professional relationships. Even though she is passed over time and again for promotions, she remains in a stagnant job with a boss she dislikes. In her personal life, Samantha’s fears lead her to end her eight month relationship with outdoorsman and adventure seeker Nick Chastain.  When her beloved grandmother, Ruth Johnson, is injured in a fall and needs some assistance with day to day tasks, Samantha does not hesitate to take a leave of absence from work to care for her. What she does not expect is to immediately cross paths with Nick, whom she has not heard from since their painful break up two years earlier.  She is stunned by how drastically different he is from the man she once dated, but can Samantha trust that Nick will not revert back to his daredevil ways?

Samantha avoids confrontation at all cost and runs away instead of facing problems. She has worked for the same company and boss for several years and despite her unhappiness at how her boss treats her, she refuses to look for another job since she does not like change.  However, spending time with Ruth, Samantha begins to question some of her decisions but will she be willing to walk away from the comfortable (and somewhat boring) life she has created for herself?

Nick has undergone dramatic changes since he last saw Samantha and he is refreshingly honest about how selfish  he was during their relationship.  While these significant alterations in his life might not have been of his choosing, Nick readily admits he is a much better person than he was when he dated Samantha. He is quick to take responsibility for how his actions affected their relationship in the past and he is not shy about discussing the reasons his life has changed so radically. Nick has also undergone a considerable amount of spiritual growth in the intervening years and he is now quite devout.

In spite of Nick’s assertions these changes in his lifestyle are permanent, Samantha is doubtful he can resist his adventurous spirit.  Despite her reservations, she is willing to give him a second chance, but she is also quick to doubt him when she misconstrues his actions in emergency situations. Samantha’s propensity to run away from problems also causes trouble between them because her first instinct is to shut down instead of discussing the issues between them. Will Samantha finally deal with her deep-seated fears or is her second chance at love with Nick doomed to fail?

With a strong element of faith, You’re Gonna Love Me is a heartwarming novel of forgiveness, reconciliation and love.  Nick and Samantha are wonderfully developed, likable characters that readers will find it easy to root for. Their romance moves at a slow but realistic pace as they try to work through the issues that ended their relationship in the past. Since Nick’s life changes occurred during their separation, the story focuses mainly on Samantha’s character growth. Robin Lee Hatcher has created  a warm and inviting community in the small town of Thunder Creek and readers will enjoy revisiting characters from previous works. A heartfelt romance that fans of the genre will enjoy.

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Filed under Christian, Contemporary, Rated B+, Review, Robin Lee Hatcher, Romance, Thomas Nelson Publishing, You're Gonna Love Me

Review: You Can Run by Steve Mosby

Title: You Can Run by Steve Mosby
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 327 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

A page-turning psychological thriller, the new novel from CWA Dagger winner Steve Mosby explores the blurred lines between truth and fiction.

When a car crashes into a garage on an ordinary street, the attending officer is shocked to look inside the damaged building and discover a woman imprisoned within. As the remains of several other victims are found in the attached house, police believe they have finally identified the Red River Killer—a man who has been abducting women for nearly twenty years and taunting the police with notes about his crimes. But now the main suspect, John Blythe, is on the run.

As the manhunt for Blythe intensifies, Detective Inspector Will Turner finds himself fighting to stay involved in the investigation. The Red River killings hold a personal significance to him and he must be the one to find the killer, although he’s determined to keep this from his fellow officers at all costs.

Review:

In You Can Run, Steve Mosby puts a truly clever and unique twist on the serial killer plot device. This police procedural is a fast-paced and engrossing crime drama that is absolutely brilliant.

When a car crashes into the garage of a residential home, police are shocked when they find kidnapping victim Amanda Cassidy barely clinging to life. Detective Inspector Will Turner and his partner DI Emma Beck are assigned to the case and they make a stunning discovery in the basement of the home: four barrels containing the decomposing bodies of women who have been abducted and murdered by the Red River Killer. Their attempts to locate homeowner and now suspected serial killer, John Blythe, result in a massive manhunt. Will is troubled by an unexpected detail after the bodies are removed from the barrels. However, it is his interview of Jeremy Townsend, the husband of victim Melanie West, that really sets his alarm bells ringing. Turner is also convinced that John Blythe might have someone helping him evade capture but will Emma believe his theory once the truth about his personal connection to the case is revealed?

Will is an excellent detective who greatly relies on gut instincts and feelings during his investigations. He easily picks up on nebulous clues that everyone else overlooks but his co-workers consider him to be a little weird. Will does not have the same career aspirations as his partner Emma and he sometimes feels like he is hindering her career. Will is not one to talk much about his personal life, but in the Red River Killer investigation, he is holding back vital information that could have far reaching implications for both of their futures.  After Will has a rash confrontation in full view of his fellow police officers, he jeopardizes both his and Emma’s roles in the investigation.

While there is absolutely no doubt that John Blythe is the Red River Killer, there are plenty of twists and turns during the manhunt to capture him. There is, of course, a great deal of suspense surrounding Jeremy Townsend which leads to more questions than answers due to his somewhat bizarre behavior. Simon Bunting is also a rather mysterious addition to the cast of characters and it is virtually impossible to figure out exactly how he figures into the unfolding storyline. Will’s childhood friend Rob is a mystifying piece in this perplexing puzzle that will keep readers guessing how he fits into the Red Killer investigation.

You Can Run is an intricately plotted and suspense-laden police procedural that has a dazzling array of cunning twists and turns.  Will and Emma are a well-matched investigative team that are more than capable of solving this increasingly complex case. Steve Mosby puts a fresh spin on the serial killer plot device and he keeps the tension high as the novel wends its ways to a jaw-dropping conclusion. I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend this un-put-down-able mystery to fans of the genre.

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Filed under Contemporary, Mystery, Pegasus Books, Rated B+, Review, Steve Mosby, Suspense, You Can Run

Review: Nightblind by Ragnar Jónasson

Title: Nightblind by Ragnar Jónasson
Dark Iceland Series Book Two
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 240 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Chilling and complex, Nightblind is an extraordinary thriller from an undeniable new talent.

Ari Thor Arason is a local policeman who has an uneasy relationship with the villagers in an idyllically quiet fishing village in Northern Iceland—where no one locks their doors.

The peace of this close-knit community is shattered by a murder. One of Ari’s colleagues is gunned down at point-blank range in the dead of night in a deserted house. With a killer on the loose and the dark Arctic waters closing in, it falls to Ari Thor to piece together a puzzle that involves a new mayor and a psychiatric ward in Reykjavik. It becomes all too clear that tragic events from the past are weaving a sinister spell that may threaten them all.

Review:

Nightblind by Ragnar Jónasson is a gripping mystery that takes place just as winter is beginning in a small Icelandic town on the coast. This second installment in the Dark Iceland series is a fast-paced police procedural starring Ari Thór Arason and takes place five years after the first novel ends since the translated editions are slightly out of order.

Ari Thór and his girlfriend Kristín have reunited and now live together with their ten month old son.  His former boss, Tómas, has relocated to Reykjavík and he does not know the new police chief, Herjólfur, very well. While  Ari Thór is recovering from a bout of the flu, he is stunned to discover that the small police department has been rocked by a shocking murder. With Tómas temporarily reassigned to help with the investigation, they start their investigation at the deserted house where the shooting occurred.

Although five years have passed since his introduction, Ari Thór is much the same. He is quiet  with a keen intellect and sharp instincts but he is not one to talk about his problems. The encroaching winter darkness still presses in on him and leaves him feeling claustrophobic. His relationship with Kristín remains troubled and despite his concerns about her recent emotional distance, Ari Thór finds it easier to ignore their problems instead of discussing them.  He is also still troubled by events from his childhood and he is still unable to discuss these issues with Kristín.

Despite some lingering  resentment over not being chosen as Tómas’s replacement, Ari Thór does not let this interfere with  the murder investigation.  He feels a bit of  kinship with the victim’s son and he keeps a respectful distance in order to allow him to process his grief in private.  Although Ari Thór is happy to be working with Tómas again, he cannot help but bristle a bit when his old boss takes complete charge of the police department.  Ari Thór might not be as experienced as Tómas but he is an excellent investigator with an uncanny ability to solve crimes.

Interspersed with the investigation are chapters containing diary entries from a patient at a psychiatric hospital. While the person’s identity remains shrouded in mystery, the pages from the diary paint a  fairly bleak picture of somewhat dodgy treatment for an unspecified condition.  The person’s identity and the significance of these chapters are not revealed until Ari Thór has unmasks the murderer and uncovers the motive for the crime.

Nightblind is an absolutely riveting police procedural that is fast-paced and compelling.  The plot is complex and the characters are well fleshed out. The investigation into the murder unfolds at a realistic pace and Ari Thór utilizes good old fashioned detective work to solve the crime. I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend this latest addition to Ragnar Jónasson’s Dark Iceland series to readers who enjoy atmospheric mysteries.

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Filed under Contemporary, Dark Iceland Series, Minotaur Books, Mystery, Nightblind, Ragnar Jónasson, Rated B+, Review, Suspense

Review: Rules of Rain by Leah Scheier

Title: Rules of Rain by Leah Scheier
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Romance
Length: 386 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

How far would you go to protect the ones you love?

Rain has taken care of Ethan all of their lives. Before she even knew what autism meant, she was her twin brother’s connection to the world around him. Each day with Ethan is unvarying and predictable, and Rain takes comfort in being the one who holds their family together. It’s nice to be needed—to be the center of someone’s world. If only her longtime crush, Liam, would notice her too…

Then one night, her life is upended by a mistake she can’t undo. Suddenly Rain’s new romance begins to unravel along with her carefully constructed rules. Rain isn’t used to asking for help—and certainly not from Ethan. But the brother she’s always protected is the only one who can help her. And letting go of the past may be the only way for Rain to hold onto her relationships that matter most.

Review:

Rules of Rain by Leah Scheier is a heartwarming and poignant young adult novel.

Rain Rosenblatt has always protected and taken care of her twin brother, Ethan, who is autistic. Now sixteen,  both siblings find romance which unexpectedly throws their relationship into a bit of turmoil. Rain is surprised to discover that her crush, Liam, returns her feelings and their relationship is off to an awkward but promising start. At the same time, her best friend Hope and Ethan are exploring their feelings for one another and Rain is not exactly on board with their burgeoning romance. As Ethan begins to expand his horizons beyond the safe, comfortable confines of their home, Rain finds herself continually off balance when she discovers she does not know her brother as well as she thought.

Rain is very loyal to Ethan and since her single mom has abdicated his care to her, her life pretty much revolves around her brother’s schedule and predictable routines. Always anticipating his needs and certain she knows what is best for him, she bases most of her decisions around him including her plans beyond high school.  Rain is definitely not in favor of his relationship with Hope, but once she realizes her opinion is not going to change anything, she tries to push her misgivings aside.  However, Rain is also struggling to adjust to the changes in her relationship with Ethan as he continues to be more independent.

Liam is a great character but he comes across as a little too perfect. He is great with Ethan and he treats him just any other kid their age. He is beyond patient with Rain’s quirks and he is her biggest cheerleader. Liam’s plans for the future are quite different than hers but with so many changes occurring with her brother, she is a bit adrift as she tries to figure out if her dreams are what she truly wants for herself.

Rain and Ethan’s family situation is less than ideal. Their parents went through a somewhat acrimonious divorce and they live with their mother in Montana while their dad lives in DC.   Rain’s mom is one of those parents who becomes fixated on using alternative methods to “fix” Ethan and rejects traditional medical advice when faced with her own health crisis. Rain’s dad is making more of an effort to be present in their lives but Rain is struggling with their reconciliation.

Rules of Rain by Leah Scheier is thought-provoking journey of self discovery for both Ethan and Rain. Their relationship is wonderfully depicted and Rain’s difficulties with accepting the changes in their relationship are frustrating yet realistic. Ethan’s romance with Hope is so incredibly sweet and surprisingly free from drama. Rain’s relationship with Liam is also quite endearing but an ill-thought out decision results in unintended consequences. I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend this captivating young adult novel to readers of all ages.

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Filed under Contemporary, Leah Scheier, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Rules of Rain, Sourcebooks Fire, Young Adult

Review: Monument Road by Michael Wiley

Title: Monument Road by Michael Wiley
Franky Dast Mystery Series Book One
Publisher: Severn House Publishers
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 256 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Introducing former death-row inmate turned private investigator Franky Dast in the first of an intriguing new crime noir series.

Having spent eight years on death row for a crime he didn’t commit, Franky Dast now works as an investigator for the Justice Now Initiative, seeking to help others in the same situation. But when he learns that Bill Higby, the detective whose testimony helped convict him, is facing his own murder charge, Franky is torn. Should he help the man he hates more than any other, the man who remains convinced of Franky’s guilt to this day?

As Franky delves further, he comes to realize that in order to prove Higby’s innocence, he must also prove his own. Unless he finds out what happened that fateful night eight years before, the night 15-year-old Duane Bronson and his 13-year-old brother were murdered, Franky will always be under suspicion, and the real killer will remain free. What really happened that dark, wet night on Monument Road? And is Franky prepared for the shocking truth?

Will appeal to fans of GREG ILES and MICHAEL CONNELLY

Review:

Monument Road by Michael Wiley is a riveting mystery which features a former death row inmate who is struggling to reintegrate to society while at the same time working as a investigator for the nonprofit that helped overturn his conviction.

After stopping to help brothers Duane and Steven Bronson late one night, Franky Dast is eventually arrested, convicted and sent to death row for their horrific murders.  Eight years later, after his tireless work on his appeals and aided by the Justice Now Iniative, his conviction has been overturned and Franky has been released from prison.  Franky might be no longer incarcerated, but many people, including his brother Jared and Bill Higby, the detective who arrested him, have no doubt that he killed the teenagers. After Bill is arrested for shooting and killing Joshua Skooner, his neighbor and son of prominent judge Eric Skooner, Franky is gleeful about his nemesis’s plight.  However, he quickly comes to the conclusion that Bill might be innocent and Franky’s subsequent investigation unexpectedly leads back to the Bronson brothers’ murders.

Franky might no longer be physically in prison, but he is not exactly free from the effects of his incarceration.  He vacillates between the highest of highs and the lowest of lows as he tries to adjust to his new life. Despite his adjustment issues, he jumps headlong into working for the Justice Now Iniative where he goes to extreme lengths to help exonerate prisoners who have been wrongly convicted. Franky is highly intelligent and relentless in his pursuit of the truth but his impulsivity and volatility do not always result in the best decisions. He refuses to take no for an answer in his zeal to find answers and Franky frequently skirts the boundaries of respectable behavior when confronted with recalcitrant witnesses.

Monument Road is a well-executed mystery that takes a stunning turn when Franky uncovers evidence that hints at shocking corruption and wrongdoing at the highest level in the justice system. Franky is a complex character who is surprisingly sympathetic despite his erratic behavior and ill-thought out decisions. The plot is engaging and Michael Wiley brings the novel to an action packed conclusion. This first installment in the Franky Dast Mystery series is sure to be a hit with fans of the genre.

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Filed under Contemporary, Franky Dast Mystery Series, Michael Wiley, Monument Road, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Severn House Publishers, Suspense

Review: The Man in the Crooked Hat by Harry Dolan

Title: The Man in the Crooked Hat by Harry Dolan
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 361 pages
Book Rating: B+

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

Summary:

One cryptic clue leads a desperate man into a labyrinthine puzzle of murder in the electrifying new novel from national bestselling author Harry Dolan.

There’s a killer, and he wears a crooked hat.

Private investigator Jack Pellum has spent two years searching for the man who he believes murdered his wife–a man he last saw wearing a peacoat and a fedora. Months of posting fliers and combing through crime records yield no leads. Then a local writer commits suicide, and he leaves a bewildering message that may be the first breadcrumb in a winding trail of unsolved murders . . .

Michael Underhill is a philosophical man preoccupied by what-ifs and could-have-beens, but his life is finally coming together. He has a sweet and beautiful girlfriend, and together they’re building their future home. Nothing will go wrong, not if Underhill has anything to say about it. The problem is, Underhill has a dark and secret past, and it’s coming back to haunt him.

These two men are inexorably drawn together in a mystery where there is far more than meets the eye, and nothing can be taken for granted. Filled with devious reversals and razor-sharp tension, The Man in the Crooked Hat is a masterwork from “one of America’s best new crime writers” (Lansing State Journal).

Review:

In Harry Dolan’s The Man in the Crooked Hat, an ex-cop haunted by his wife’s unsolved murder follows a string of seemingly disparate murders in hopes of unmasking a clever murderer.

Jack Pellum refuses to stop looking for his beloved wife Olivia Makinnen’s killer and he is hopeful a new lead will finally provide the answers he is searching for. He is certain someone he spotted near their apartment right before Olivia’s death, a stranger wearing a hat, is the person who murdered his wife. When his ex-partner tells him about that Danny Cavanaugh, who recently committed suicide, left a cryptic message about a killer who wears a crooked hat, Jack immediately starts investigating the puzzling lead. A friend of the recently deceased, Paul Rook, is another link to a possible murder by the man in the hat. Even more promising, Paul has a file of unsolved murders that stretches back decades and provides Jack with a new place to begin his investigation:Danny’s brother Alex’s never solved homicide. Thus begins Jack’s latest quest in his eighteen month hunt for Olivia’s killer.

Jack is tenacious and determined to find the person responsible for murdering his wife. He spends day after day putting up flyers in hopes that someone will recognize the man in the hat. Danny’s suicide is the first concrete information that the man in the hat might just be real, but finding the connection between the dead man’s message and his wife’s killer might be impossible. That is until Paul shows up with a stack of unsolved murders that also mention the man in the hat. Jack knows tying these deaths together with take a herculean effort but he is definitely up to the challenge.

While Jack has no idea who killed his wife, readers know from the very beginning that Michael Underhill is Olivia’s murderer. What no one, including Jack, knows is why Michael killed her. As Jack begins untangling the very complicated threads that might tie Underhill to the other murders, readers are provided with intriguing peeks into the life Michael is building with Anna Haley. She has no idea what the man she loves has been up to nor does she have a clue how far he is willing to go to ensure her happiness. With Jack gaining traction in unraveling the complicated trail of unsolved murders, will he finally find justice for Olivia?

The Man in the Crooked Hat is an extremely clever and well-executed mystery. In a refreshing change of pace from the typical tech-laden investigations, Jack mainly relies on good old fashioned detective work to unearth clues and follow the evidence he uncovers. With plenty of unexpected twists and turns, Harry Dolan brings this brilliant novel to an exciting conclusion that completely wraps up all of the story’s various threads. Fans of the genre do not want to miss this fast-paced, twist-filled and very intriguing whydunit.

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Filed under Contemporary, GP Putnams Sons, Harry Dolan, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense, The Man in the Crooked Hat