Friday, November 28, 2014

Arson, Mystery and Romance

Rachael DeLuch, self-help book author, is having trouble using the L word (love) with her detective, Mason Brown. He finally told her he loves her, but she can't quite get it out. They're together in a car; she's almost ready to say it when Macon spots a house on fire, leaps out of the car, rushes into the burning house and rescues two children.

The arsonist, a woman who was jilted by her lover, takes out her frustration about losing the man in her life by setting fire to his house with his wife and children in it. She's looking for the perfect man, and when she sees Mason rescue the children, she fixes on him as her soul-mate, but she doesn't count on his attachment to Rachael.

Rachael is a great character. She's independent, full of colorful language, and after being totally self-reliant realizes how much she cares about other people including Mason's nephews, even if they do mess up her house. Myrtle, her blind bulldog, is another great character. She's also self-reliant in spite of her blindness and navigates her world with aplomb.

This book is part of a series, but the author brings you up to speed on the past without indulging in long stretches of backstory. This is the first novel in the series I've read, and I had no trouble following the characters' background.

If you like a fast paced mystery with a dollop of romance, you'll enjoy this book. The plot is fast moving; the villain is a woman you'll love to hate; and the unfolding romance between Mason and Rachael is satisfying. I recommend this book if you like a good mystery with more plot twists than violence.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Quirky Trio Travels Across Australia

After Millie Bird's father dies, she tries to understand death to the point of keeping a record of dead things. Millie's mother has trouble adjusting to being a widow. One day she takes Millie to a department store and leaves here there. Millie is sure her mother will return, but as the days wear on it looks less and less likely.

In the department store cafeteria, Millie meets Karl the Touch Typist, an escapee from a nursing home. Karl helps Millie escape from the department store security staff. Millie doesn't want a foster family. She wants to find her mother. She and Karl set off across Australia with Millie's neighbor, Agatha, to locate her mother.

The characters are a strange crew. Millie is the most attractive. You can't help but feel compassion for a seven-year-old abandoned by her mother. Karl is trying to live a full life in his last years. Agatha is my least favorite character. She is reclusive, spending her time before the trip in her house yelling at passersby. I couldn't relate to her.

The book explores the themes of death, loneliness, and disappointment. If you can get by some of the oddities of the characters, the author has a good grasp of the issues. I recommend reading the Acknowledgements at the end of the book where the author explains how she came to write the book. She lost her mother in freak accident when she was a child. This tragic experience is what makes Millie such a sympathetic character.

I have mixed feeling about the book. I enjoyed the opening scenes with Millie and Karl, but I felt the story
deteriorated when Agatha joined them in the search for Millie's mother. If you like quirky characters, you may enjoy this book, but it's not for everyone.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Chilling Encounter in a Blizzard in the Tetons

Britt and her friend, Korbie, set out for a spring break camping trim in the Tetons where Korbie's family owns a luxurious cabin. Britt has been training for a trek through the mountains. Her ex-boyfriend, Calvin, is Korbie's brother. He loves to hike the Tetons and Britt wonders if that's the reason she is so committed to this hiking trip.

The girls set off in sunshine, but as they drive into the mountains, a blizzard forms. They abandon the car and set off to find shelter. Two handsome men are already in the cabin they discover. Korbie is all for flirting, but Britt senses something is very wrong. She met one of the men when she was getting a slurpie before they left. He was friendly to the point of flirting, but now he's cold and distant, trying to shove her out the door.

The mood of this novel is very dark. The author does a good job using the blizzard to heighten the tension between the girls and the men in the cabin. The plot is filled with twists and the suspense keeps you wondering until the very end.

While the focus of the book is on the danger and the blizzard, there is also a romantic interest. Calvin is already at the family camp, and Britt is hoping he'll come looking for them when they don't show up. I enjoyed the book. It's a YA novel, but it can also be enjoyed by anyone who likes a fast paced thriller.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.

A Deranged Sniper and Danger for Kay and Her Family

Kay Scarpetta and her husband, Benton Wesley, are enjoying a peaceful morning. They're headed for a vacation in Florida to celebrate Kay's birthday. The mood changes when Kay discovers seven shiny pennies with the date 1981 and Benton sees a flash of light that might come from a camera lens or a rifle scope.

The mood becomes darker when Jamal Nari, a local music teacher, is killed by a sniper not far from Kay and Benton's house. Kay goes in to work hoping she'll be finished and able to make the plane to Florida, but the case is complicated. Marino thinks it's related to two deaths in New Jersey, and Kay has the uncomfortable sensation that she is somehow involved in the killings.

If you enjoy Scarpetta novels, this is a good one. It's fast paced with twists that keep you wondering what will happen next. The opening chapters focus on Kay's work as medical examiner with plenty of medical detail. In the later chapters the pace picks up, and we hear more about ballistics and begin to get a clue about who the killer is.

I enjoyed the book. I like the combination of facts with an intricate plot. If you enjoy medical thrillers, this is a book for you.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Magical Adventure Reminiscent of The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings

Ven Polypheme and his friend Char are off on another adventure with their mermaid friend, Amariel. Ven is adventurous for a Nain. Most Nains prefer to remain at home, but Ven is hungry for adventure. In this fourth book, he and Char travel to the bottom of the sea, a place usually shunned by Nair. He is searching for the Tree of Water that is supposed to exist somewhere in the sea.

Their first obstacle is to be able to breath under water. They are about to let an old fisherman cut gills in their necks when Madame Sharra shows up. She gives them stones to allow them to breathe under water and another dragon's scale. These devices will prove important on their journey.

The book is a magical fantasy that will delight young readers, and perhaps some not-so-young readers who are reading it with their children. The book is filled with hair-breath escapes from fantastical creatures and beautiful descriptions of undersea life.

The series is based on Ven's journals. He is traveling the world recording the natural wonders, human knowledge, and all things magical. Since this is the fourth book, readers may want to go back and read the first three. However, it's not imperative. The author presents information that allows the reader to catch up with
the story and the adventure is basically standalone.

I recommend this book for young adults and for anyone who enjoys a good fantasy with lots of action and magical scenes.

I reviewed this book for PR by the Book. #TheTreeofWaterTour. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Fathers and Sons: Jealousy and Murder

John Carey run his publishing company with the hand of a tyrant setting his sons against each other in a contest to see who will be the heir apparent. Charles, the elder, is charismatic and good at identifying best selling books. Philip, the younger, is overshadowed by his brother and resents it. When Charles produces a son, Peter, in spite of his unhappy marriage, the child becomes the focus of his grandfather's attention.

Unfortunately for the Careys, they draw the attention of Englehardt, an investigator for the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). He has his own problematic relationship with his father and becomes obsessed with the Careys, particularly Philip. Add to this mix, Clayton Barth, whose father was driven to suicide by John Carey and you have a prescription for tragedy.

This book has a very complex plot divided roughly into three parts: Peter Carey's childhood, the competition between Charles and Philip, and finally Peter as a young man falling in love and taking over the company. Personally, I have reservations about books that have an extensive backstory. The whole first section of this book is devoted to setting up the rivalries that culminate in the tragedy of the middle and end.

The characters are interesting. Patterson does a good job of illustrating the rivalries between brothers and the problems of tyrannical parents preferring one child over the other. However, because of the considerable attention paid to backstory, the book is very long and the writing uneven. Some sections are almost literary in quality; other parts are reminiscent of a romantic thriller.

If you enjoy a family saga, this may be your book. However, it has enough short comings that I have trouble recommending it.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Development of a Psychic

When Nancy Myer was a child, she knew she had the ability to see things that other people couldn't. As she grew older, she was helped to come to terms with her gifts by her understanding parents, particularly her father. After his untimely death from a heart attack, her father continued to be her support in helping her use her psychic gifts.

Ultimately, Nancy began to use her psychic ability in police work. Although it was painful for her, she was able to get into the thoughts of both murderers and victims and help the police solve crimes.

I found the description of how Nancy's psychic abilities functioned extremely interesting. She clearly has an ability way beyond the normal. Her life history is also fascinating filled with loving family, trials, and her growth toward becoming a mature psychic investigator.

I recommend this book if you're at all interested in psychic abilities, or even a warm family story. This book has everything: love, tragedy, and mystery. It is also well written which makes it easy to read and enjoy.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.

A Dark Historical Mystery

It's Chicago during the 1893 World's Fair. Rosalind Perry hasn't come to enjoy the World's Fair. She's come to try to find out what happened to her sister. Her plan is to obtain work as a maid in Sloane House, one of the greatest Chicago mansions, and the house where her sister worked before she disappeared.

Rosalind is successful in finding a job as a maid at Sloane House, but finding out what happened to her sister is more difficult. The class structure in Sloane House is rigid. She's at the bottom, and the other servants are unwilling, or afraid, to answer too many questions about her sister. In addition, to the difficulties of her job, Douglass, the son of the owners, is paying more attention to her than she finds comfortable. His best friend, Reid, heir to a silver fortune, sees the problem and tries to protect her, but the issue of class is always present.

The book portrays the world of Chicago during the World's Fair in all it's glamour, danger an injustice. It makes the era live. Likewise, the issues of class are well illustrated in the interactions of the characters. The Sloanes don't consider their servants real people. The servants are there to serve them and when their usefulness is over, they
forget about them.

Rosalind, Reid, and Douglass are rather stereotypical. I found Rosalind a strange mixture of bravery and naivete. She continually thinks about how frightened she is and then takes terrible risks. Reid is also an unsettled character. His family is part of the nouveau riche. He's trying to do what his father wants and marry into high society, but he's not sure the glamour is for him.

The ending or the book is much darker than I expected although it follows well from the plot and characters. Personally, I think the ending is worth reading through some of the less interesting parts of the book. If you enjoy historical mysteries, this is a good one.

I reviewed this book for the Thomas Nelson BookLook Bloggers program.  

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Christmas Letter that Goes Terribly Wrong

Angela is writing her traditional Christmas letter. As with most Christmas letters, her's is usually filled with a smiling family and all their achievements. This year is different. Things seem to be going wrong. Her husband is withdrawn, her daughters are having a variety of troubles, and her son has an imaginary friend that he prefers to real people. She is frustrated and lets of steam in her Christmas letter. She never intended to send it, but when she's called away on
an emergency, her husband sees it on her computer and sends it.

The family is not pleased with having their troubles exposed to the world. The situation is chaotic. As the problems of the various family members surface, the book becomes a drawn out saga of the family coping with challenges and tragedy. In the end, the family members change in positive ways, but it takes a long time to bring about the resolution, perhaps because there are so many characters whose stories contribute to the family dynamic.

The book is well written and life on a sheep farm in Australia is fascinating, but it is quite long, If you enjoy family sagas, you'll enjoy meeting the Gillespies. The book is filled with moments that any family can recognize, although perhaps not as dramatically. I enjoyed the book, but unless you're up for a long visit, this is not a book I'd recommend.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.

When the Police and the Press are Forced to Work Together

Catherine O'Brien is none too pleased when her partner, Louise, calls her back to work. She'd planned some fun time with her husband, Garin. Now she's faced with a difficult homicide. Jonathan and Susan Luther are found dead in their home by their son, Chad. He'd be a suspect, but he's so broken up they can hardly get any information from him.

Feeling angry that the press are stalking this kid, Catherine lets loose and earns the presence of a reporter, Jane Katts, as part of their team to see how the police investigate a murder.

Catherine is sincere if lacking in tact. She feels her responsibilities as a police officer and wants to protect the family of the murder victims. Louise is beautiful and far more tactful. She uses her skills to keep Catherine from being summarily dismissed from the case. Jane is a prototype hard hitting reporter. She cares about the story – the victims, not so much.

I thoroughly enjoyed the interactions between the three women. The mystery was not captivating, but I kept reading because the interactions between the women were so engrossing

The resolution and indeed most of the clues didn't come into the story until the last third of the book, so the interaction of the police and press had to carry the story. I thought the author did a good job, but if you're looking for more action and mystery you may be disappointed.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.

More Travelogue the Detective Story

Sherlock Holmes and his wife, Mary Russel, board a cruise ship to take them from India, where they had their last case, to Japan. Watching the passengers board, Holmes recognizes the Earl of Darby, who he believes is a blackmailer. Later this presumption is borne out when a young woman goes missing after the ship has sailed. Holmes believes that Darby was blackmailing her, and she decided to take her own life when she saw him on the ship.

Once in Japan, we have extensive, well-researched, travel by Holmes and Mary through rural Japan in the 1920s. During this trek the plot is revealed.

This is a very slow paced mystery. In fact, the actual detective work doesn't start until two-thirds of the way through the novel. I'm rather torn about this because the shipboard details and the travels through rural Japan are interesting and well written. However, if you're looking for fast paced thriller or even a fast paced cozy mystery this isn't it.

The book is told from Mary Russel's viewpoint which means that we see little of Holmes deductive abilities. I admit I became rather tired of reading about Mary's discomfort on the ship and in the travels in Japan. If you've read the other novels in the series, you may find this one interesting. I found it slow, and I couldn't get interested in the rather sketchy portrayal of Holmes. What I love are his deductive abilities and these were hardly in evidence.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.