Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Nowhere Girl

Susan Strecker

The day Savannah was killed she was fifteen minutes late to meet me." So begins bookseller favorite Susan Strecker's second novel of twin sisters and the murder that left one twin behind.

Savannah was the popular bad girl skipping school and moving quickly from one boyfriend to the next, so when she didn't meet Cady as promised, Cady wasn't surprised and the truth was Cady was already a bit mad at her. When Cady suddenly becomes short of breath she realizes Savannah is in trouble, but within minutes Savannah is gone.

Years later Cady, now a bestselling author of suspense, spends her time interviewing killers, hoping each interview will help her understand what happened to her sister. Despite Savannah's death, the bond Savannah and Cady share has never been broken. Savannah still comes to Cady, but the clues her sister sends don't add up until a chance encounter while researching her latest novel provides a missing piece of the puzzle.(from Netgalley) 


My Thoughts
Cady and Savannah are identical twins. Savannah dies when they are young teenagers. Everyone thinks she was murdered. Savannah’s murder was never solved. Fast forward several years, and Cady has become a writer of murder mysteries. When a local police office reopens the investigation on Savannah’s death, the end result is something no one ever expected. What really happened to Savannah?

I know I’m reading a good book when my nose is glued to the pages and I hang up my “do not disturb” sign. This was one of them! From the very first page, I was sucked into the story. I really liked the characters. The author did a great job of weaving the past with the present. There were several characters that I thought might have been responsible for Savannah’s death, so I was surprised by the ending.

I really like Ms. Strecker’s writing style, so I was pleased to see this was her second novel. I’m looking forward to checking out her first book. I’m fairly certain I’ve found a new author to add to my favorites list.

My thanks to Thomas Dunne Press/St. Martin’s Press, via Netgalley, for allowing e to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Murder of Mary Russell

Laurie R. King



Laurie R. King's bestselling Mary Russell–Sherlock Holmes series weaves rich historical detail and provocative themes with intriguing characters and enthralling suspense. Russell and Holmes have become one of modern literature's most beloved teams. But does this adventure end it all?

Mary Russell is used to dark secrets—her own, and those of her famous partner and husband, Sherlock Holmes. Trust is a thing slowly given, but over the course of a decade together, the two have forged an indissoluble bond.

And what of the other person to whom Mary Russell has opened her heart: the couple's longtime housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson? Russell's faith and affection are suddenly shattered when a man arrives on the doorstep claiming to be Mrs. Hudson's son.

What Samuel Hudson tells Russell cannot possibly be true, yet she believes him—as surely as she believes the threat of the gun in his hand. In a devastating instant, everything changes. And when the scene is discovered—a pool of blood on the floor, the smell of gunpowder in the air—the most shocking revelation of all is that the grim clues point directly to Clara Hudson.

Or rather to Clarissa, the woman she was before Baker Street.

The key to Russell's sacrifice lies in Mrs. Hudson's past. To uncover the truth, a frantic Sherlock Holmes must put aside his anguish and push deep into his housekeeper's secrets—to a time before her disguise was assumed, before her crimes were buried away.

There is death here, and murder, and trust betrayed.

And nothing will ever be the same.(from Netgalley)

My Thoughts
 

Clara Hudson, Sherlock Holmes housekeeper, comes home to discover blood on the carpet and Mary Russell missing! Is Mary dead or alive?

In this installment of the wonderful Mary Russell series, we learn all about Clara Hudson’s past - from her childhood up until the time she meets Sherlock Homes. We finally find out about her elusive past and the secret she and Sherlock have been keeping for many many years.

I think these stories are smart and very entertaining. I love the thought process that everyone involved goes through as they try to solve the puzzle of Mary’s disappearance and the aftermath. The characters are intelligent and observant and the author has a delightful ability of keeping the reader interested from beginning to end. Another great mystery!

My thanks to Random House - Ballantine/Bantam, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this is exchange for an unbiased review.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Evicted

Matthew Desmond
From Harvard sociologist Matthew Desmond, a landmark work of scholarship and reportage that will forever change the way we look at poverty in America

In this brilliant, heartbreaking book, Matthew Desmond takes us into the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee to tell the story of eight families on the edge. Arleen is a single mother trying to raise her two sons on the $20 a month she has left after paying for their rundown apartment. Scott is a gentle nurse consumed by a heroin addiction. Lamar, a man with no legs and a neighborhood full of boys to look after, tries to work his way out of debt. Vanetta participates in a botched stick up after her hours are cut. All are spending almost everything they have on rent, and all have fallen behind.

The fate of these families is in the hands of two landlords: Sherrena Tarver, a former school teacher turned inner-city entrepreneur, and Tobin Charney, who runs the worst trailer park in the fourth poorest city in the country. They loathe some of their tenants and are fond of others, but as Sherrena puts it, “Love don't pay the bills.” She moves to evict Arleen and her boys a few days before Christmas.

Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare. But today, most poor renting families are spending over half of their income on housing, and eviction has become ordinary, especially for single mothers. In vivid, intimate prose, Desmond provides a ground-level view of one of the most urgent issues facing America today. As we see families forced into shelters, squalid apartments, or more dangerous neighborhoods, we bear witness to the human cost of America's vast inequality—and to people's determination and intelligence in the face of hardship.

Based on years of embedded fieldwork and painstakingly gathered data, this masterful book transforms our understanding of extreme poverty and economic exploitation, while providing fresh ideas for solving a devastating, uniquely American problem. Its unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible. (from Netgalley)


My Thoughts
To be honest, I’m not sure what attracted me to this book. As a middle class, middle-aged white female, I have never been touched by poverty and I have no intention of ever becoming a landlord. This book first caught my eye when it was reviewed in our local paper and I have seen it mentioned a few times in articles regarding poverty.

My initial intent was to read this book in snippets. For some reason, I thought it might be something that was not going to hold my attention. I could not have been more wrong. From the very first chapter, I found this book hard to put down.

Mr. Desmond has a unique ability to intertwine statistics with personal stories, with the result being this very readable book. I got caught up in the age old battle between tenant and landlord, the games that are played as one tries to outwit the other. It would be hard to cast blame on either tenant or landlord as each side seems to be working the system to best fit their needs. The author did a great job presenting the facts and explaining the how the system works.

This was eye-opening and there were many times that I found myself saying “wow” and shaking my head. No one was more surprised than me at how much I learned from this book.

My thanks to Crown Publishing, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Five Days Left

Julie Lawson Timmer



Mara Nichols is a successful lawyer, devoted wife, and adoptive mother who has received a life-shattering diagnosis. Scott Coffman, a middle school teacher, has been fostering an eight-year-old boy while the boy’s mother serves a jail sentence. Scott and Mara both have five days left until they must say good-bye to the ones they love the most.

Through their stories, Julie Lawson Timmer explores the individual limits of human endurance and the power of relationships, and shows that sometimes loving someone means holding on, and sometimes it means letting go (from Netgalley)

My Thoughts
What a remarkable story about about two families who both have only five days left to deal with an unimaginable situation. Mara Nichols has Huntington’s disease and in five days time, is going to kill herself so her family does not have to become her caretaker. Scott Coffman and his wife Laurie have been foster parents to Curtis. Curtis’s Mom is getting out of jail, and the Coffman’s have five days left to spend with him.

This is the story of how these two families spend these five days. The only connection between the two is a support chat room. While their issues are different, both families are dealing with something that most people around them will never encounter, and therefore, never understand.

While the main focus is on Mara and Scott, we do get to see how the situations they are in impacts their whole family. I found this to be both gut wrenching and uplifting. A powerful story about love and family.

A very impressive debut from an author I will surely follow.

My thanks to Putnam Group - Penguin, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Try Not To Breathe

Holly Seddon



Some secrets never die. They're just locked away.

Alex Dale is lost. Destructive habits have cost her a marriage and a journalism career. All she has left is her routine: a morning run until her body aches, then a few hours of forgettable work before the past grabs hold and drags her down. Every day is treading water, every night is drowning. Until Alex discovers Amy Stevenson. Amy Stevenson, who was just another girl from a nearby town until the day she was found after a merciless assault. Amy Stevenson, who has been in a coma for fifteen years, forgotten by the world. Who, unbeknownst to her doctors, remains locked inside her body, conscious but paralyzed, reliving the past.

Soon Alex's routine includes visiting hours at the hospital, then interviews with the original suspects in the attack. But what starts as a reporter's story becomes a personal obsession. How do you solve a crime when the only witness lived, but cannot tell the tale? Unable to tear herself away from uncovering the unspeakable truth, Alex realizes she's not just chasing a story—she's seeking salvation.

Shifting from present to past and back again, Try Not to Breathe unfolds layer by layer until its heart-stopping conclusion. The result is an utterly immersive, unforgettable debut.(from Netgalley)


My Thoughts
Alex Dale is a freelance journalist. She has a drinking problem, her marriage has failed and she is desperately trying one more time to get it together. She decides to write a health care related article on people who are in a vegetative state. She hears that there is ground breaking research in the possibility of being able to communicate with some of the patients. She encounters Amy Stevenson, a young woman who had been assaulted fifteen years earlier. The attack left her with serious injuries and she appears to be non-cognizant. For some reason, Alex forms a bond with Amy and decides to try to solve the mystery of who attacked her, something the police were never able to do. Where will her research take her?

I was surprised to see that this was a debut novel. It was very well written. It starts out slowly as we get to know the main characters. The pace starts to pick up as Alex slowly put the pieces together of what happened to Amy fifteen years ago. I found the book hard to put down, had great suspense and interesting characters.

Bravo Ms. Seddon!
 
My thanks to Balantine Books, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.



Friday, April 1, 2016

The Woman in Blue
Elly Griffiths


Forensic archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway returns in a new thrilling mystery from the best-selling Elly Griffiths.
The murder of women priests in the shrine town of Walsingham sucks Dr Ruth Galloway into an unholy investigation.
When Ruth's friend Cathbad sees a vision of the Virgin Mary, in a white gown and blue cloak, in the graveyard next to the cottage he is house-sitting, he takes it in his stride. Walsingham has strong connections to Mary, and Cathbad is a druid after all; visions come with the job. But when the body of a woman in a blue dressing-gown is found dead the next day in a nearby ditch, it is clear Cathbad's vision was all too human, and that a horrible crime has been committed. DCI Nelson and his team are called in for the murder investigation, and soon establish that the dead woman was a recovering addict being treated at a nearby private hospital.
Ruth, a devout atheist, has managed to avoid Walsingham during her seventeen years in Norfolk. But then an old university friend, Hilary Smithson, asks to meet her in the village, and Ruth is amazed to discover that her friend is now a priest. Hilary has been receiving vitriolic anonymous letters targeting women priests - letters containing references to local archaeology and a striking phrase about a woman 'clad in blue, weeping for the world'.
Then another woman is murdered - a priest.
As Walsingham prepares for its annual Easter re-enactment of the Crucifixion, the race is on to unmask the killer before they strike again... (from Netgalley)

My Thoughts

I say this every time I review a book in this series.  I just adore Ruth Galloway.  A single Mom, she is smart, dedicated and has the dry English wit that I find so very funny.
In this latest series installment, it’s Ruth’s friend Cathbad who finds a murdered women.  While Ruth is involved in solving the mystery of who killed her, this time we get to spend quite a bit of time with Nelson,  the father of Ruth’s daughter.  Ruth and Nelson are still trying to figure out exactly what their relationship means and how to make it work as they go about their daily business.
I think all the books in this series are smart and entertaining.  This one kept up the momentum!  I also picked up a new saying - Jesus wept (you’ll have to read the book to understand that one.)
My thanks to Quercus Books, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Quality of Silence

Rosamund Lupton



On 24th November Yasmin and her deaf daughter Ruby arrived in Alaska.

Within hours they were driving alone across a frozen wilderness

Where nothing grows

Where no one lives

Where tears freeze

And night will last for another 54 days.

They are looking for Ruby's father.

Travelling deeper into a silent land.

They still cannot find him.

And someone is watching them in the dark. (from Goodreads)

My Thoughts

Yasmin and her deaf daughter Ruby travel from England to Alaska to meet up with Ruby’s father. When they land, they are told that David is dead, killed in a fire that wiped out an entire village. But both Yasmin and Ruby refuse to believe this and set out on their own to find him. They encounter numerous obstacles, not the least of which is the person who wants to stop them.

I like the way Ms. Lupton tells this story. Told in alternating voices of Yasmin and Ruby, these two overcome many hurdles in their obsessive push to find David. The suspense starts slowly but really picks up in the last quarter of the book.

This reminded me of an action film where sometimes you feel what the hero accomplishes is not always plausible, but don’t really care because the story is so good. The author gives us strong, likeable female characters who persevere when other might quit. I have read all of her books and look forward to reading more.

My thanks to Crown Publishing for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Disappeared Girl

Martin J. Smith



Nothing stays buried forever, especially not the past.

Two men stand out in a crowd overlooking the Ohio River. A plane is being taken from the water where it crashed decades before. Both men helped put it there.

Jim Christensen’s daughter, Melissa, has been troubled of late. She has dreams that feel like memories, unsettling images percolate to the surface. She remembers a terrifying past, possibly her own, from a time before she was adopted by her father. Christensen’s work as an expert in memory makes him the ideal person to help unlock his daughter’s fragile grasp on her own history. But will he want to learn the truth of where Melissa came from? Who she was before? Who might still be looking for her?

This dizzying novel of suspense takes the reader back into a dirty war and its human costs, into the fevered mind of one of its survivors, and through the crosshairs of a man desperate to keep his own history vanished. (from Netgalley)

My Thoughts

Melissa Christenson knows she is adopted, but knows nothing about her birth parents. When she becomes pregnant, a potential medical issue shows up with her unborn child and she now has an urgent need to find out more about the parents she never knew. Little did she know the can of worms she was about to open.

This was a fast paced page turner. Good suspense with a few plot twists made it one of those books that was hard to put down. It was interesting to learn about Argentina’s “Dirty War” and how this played into the story.

This book sat on my to-be-read list for a long time and I’m very glad I finally decided to give it a try. I did not realize going into this book that the author had written others stories involving the main character, Jim Christenson. I like this one so much that I’m going to give his other books a try.

My thanks to Diversion Books, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Big Brush-off

Michael Murphy



The irresistible Jake & Laura return in Michael Murphy's witty, fast-paced mystery series—perfect for readers of Dorothy Cannell and Christopher Fowler. In The Big Brush-off, the charming and indomitable duo heads to the Midwest to solve a chilling cold case of a young girl's murder.

Blackie Doyle is dying. That's what Jake Donovan's literary agent tells him. Sales are falling, and the rough draft of Jake's latest Blackie novel doesn't look promising. Maybe Jake has been distracted by a recent barrage of real-life homicides, or by his marriage to the beautiful up-and-coming actress Laura Wilson, now slated for a part opposite Clark Gable himself. Whatever the reason, Jake decides to return to his roots. Which is why he and Laura hop the next train to the small town in Pennsylvania where Jake once worked as a Pinkerton detective.

Ten years ago, the murder of a teenage girl interrupted life in quiet, God-fearing Hanover. The unsolved case has always gnawed at Jake, and it seems no coincidence that as soon as he starts digging up old ghosts, he's once again writing like a dervish. Nor is it surprising that some townfolk would rather see the truth stay buried—and maybe even Jake and Laura with it. But the glamorous crime-solving pair refuse to leave before sorting through a bevy of suspects—and at long last nailing the one who almost got away with the not-so-perfect crime (from Netgalley)



My Thoughts

Jack is a former detective turned author. His writing career has hit a bit of a road block, and he needs to get his mojo back. Jake is married to Laura, an actress. Laura’s career has really taken off and she’s in hot demand. Jake’s publisher thinks he needs to escape the Hollywood high life in order to get his writing career back on track. To do this, Jake and Laura return to small town Hanover. Together they work to solve a murder mystery that Jake had to walk away from 10 years earlier without finding the killer.

This was a fun read! Light, fast paced, funny and good suspense. I really liked both Jake and Laura. They work well together and have each others backs. Both are smart and quick witted. The story is written in the time of gumshoes and dames and in my mind I was seeing Humphey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn.
 
I jumped into this series at book #4 and still found this to be an enjoyable read. I definitely want to keep up with future adventures of these two very likeable characters.

Many thanks to Alibi Publishing, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

And Then All Hell Broke Loose

Richard Engel

Based on two decades of reporting, NBC’s chief foreign correspondent’s riveting story of the Middle East revolutions, the Arab Spring, war, and terrorism seen up-close—sometimes dangerously so.

When he was just twenty-three, a recent graduate of Stanford University, Richard Engel set off to Cairo with $2,000 and dreams of being a reporter. Shortly thereafter he was working freelance for Arab news sources and got a call that a busload of Italian tourists were massacred at a Cairo museum. This is his first view of the carnage these years would pile on. Over two decades Engel has been under fire, blown out of hotel beds, taken hostage. He has watched Mubarak and Morsi in Egypt arrested and condemned, reported from Jerusalem, been through the Lebanese war, covered the whole shooting match in Iraq, interviewed Libyan rebels who toppled Gaddafi, reported from Syria as Al-Qaeda stepped in, was kidnapped in the Syrian crosscurrents of fighting. He goes into Afghanistan with the Taliban and to Iraq with ISIS. In the page-turning And Then All Hell Broke Loose, he shares his adventure tale.

Engel takes chances, though not reckless ones, keeps a level head and a sense of humor, as well as a grasp of history in the making. Reporting as NBC’s Chief-Foreign Correspondent, he reveals his unparalleled access to the major figures, the gritty soldiers, and the helpless victims in the Middle East during this watershed time. We can experience the unforgettable suffering and despair of the local populations. Engel’s vivid description is intimate and personal. Importantly, it is a succinct and authoritative account of the ever-changing currents in that dangerous land. (from Netgalley)
 
My Thoughts
I doubt I am the only person who is totally confused by the Middle East. Between different religious beliefs, tribal disputes and politics, it sure is an area ripe for turmoil. The little snippets of information we get on the evening news, in newspapers or online do little to help the average person understand all the dynamics involved. This book appealed to me because it is a topic I am interested in and comes from someone who has spent time in the area.
Mr. Engel has written a straightforward book based on his 20 year experience of reporting in the area. He outlines the history of the Middle East in simple terms, even though there is nothing simple about the area. His explanations provided insight into the background of the many news stories we have seen over the years. I felt the majority of the book was based on fact, with the occasional personal analysis as to how the government of the USA has failed in it’s attempt to stabilize the area. Whether someone agrees or disagrees with his analysis, I will say they made sense and comes from someone with a credible background.
My thanks to Simon & Schuster, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.
 

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Things We Keep

Sally Hepworth

Anna Forster, in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease at only thirty-eight years old, knows that her family is doing what they believe to be best when they take her to Rosalind House, an assisted living facility. She also knows there's just one another resident her age, Luke. What she does not expect is the love that blossoms between her and Luke even as she resists her new life at Rosalind House. As her disease steals more and more of her memory, Anna fights to hold on to what she knows, including her relationship with Luke.

When Eve Bennett is suddenly thrust into the role of single mother she finds herself putting her culinary training to use at Rosalind house. When she meets Anna and Luke she is moved by the bond the pair has forged. But when a tragic incident leads Anna's and Luke's families to separate them, Eve finds herself questioning what she is willing to risk to help them.

 

My Thoughts

This story is told in three voices. Anna’s, who has early onset Alzheimer’s. Eve’s, the newly hired chef/cleaning person/caretaker at Rosalind House were Anna lives. And finally, Clementine, Eve’s young daughter.

While she can still make decisions, Anna has her brother move her into an assisted living facility called Rosalind House. The one they choose has a male resident close to Anna’s age. His name is Luke. Anna and Luke make a special connection. Eve, who is fighting her own demons, sees the special bond between these two and goes against all the rules to help them be together. Clementine has the young girl ability to connect with the older residents at the home.

Is it really possible that the story of someone who has Alzheimer’s could have a happy tone? In the accomplished hands of Ms. Hepworth, this one actually does. Her characters were very likeable. I wanted good things for them, even though we know that for Anna, here memory would continue to deteriorate. While certain elements of this story were certainly sad, the message I got was that love can result in some magical things.

I’d like to thank St. Martin’s Press, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

After the Crash

Michael Bussi

A night flight from Istanbul bound for Paris, filled with 169 holiday travelers, plummets into the Swiss Alps. The sole survivor is a three-month-old girl--thrown from the plane onto the snowy mountainside before fire rages through the aircraft. But two infants were on board. Is the miracle baby Lyse-Rose or Emilie? Both families step forward to claim the child--one poor, one powerful, wealthy, and dangerous.

Filled with delicious twists and riveting psychological suspense, After the Crash is an electrifying story of a two-decade mystery, secret love, and murder--perfect for the readers who swarmed to Stieg Larsson, Gone Girl, and The Girl on the Train (from Netgalley)


My Thoughts

A plane crash on a snowy mountain top. The only survivor is a 3 month old baby girl. There were two young couples on bored, both with baby girls. When two different grandparents show up to claim the baby, a decision has to be made as to who will get her. That decision is made by a local court. The question is - did they make the right one?

At the beginning of this story, we meet Lylie, the now 18 yr old survivor of the plane crash. She has received some alarming information via a notebook given to her by a private detective hired by her wealthy, could have been grandmother. The news is so disturbing, that Lylie runs away, but not before giving the notebook to her brother, Marc. The rest of the story involves Marc reading the notebook and trying to track down Lylie before she does something dangerous.

Whew - this was a page turner. I liked the format - some chapters revolved around the private detectives research on who Lylie really was, and the other chapters focused on Marc and what he discovers as he tries to find Lylie. Piece by piece, the author drops little clues of all that had transpired since that crash 18 years ago. There were some pretty good plot twists and the author saved the biggest surprise for the end. Well done!

I’d like to thank Hachette Books for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Winter Girl by Matt Marinovich
It's wintertime in the Hamptons, where Scott and his wife, Elise, have come to be with her terminally ill father, Victor, to await the inevitable. As weeks turn to months, their daily routine—Elise at the hospital with her father, Scott pretending to work and drinking Victor's booze—only highlights their growing resentment and dissatisfaction with the usual litany of unhappy marriages: work, love, passion, each other. But then Scott notices something simple, even innocuous. Every night at precisely eleven, the lights in the neighbor's bedroom turn off. It's clearly a timer . . .but in the dead of winter with no one else around, there's something about that light he can't let go of. So one day while Elise is at the hospital, he breaks in. And he feels a jolt of excitement he hasn't felt in a long time. Soon, it's not hard to enlist his wife as a partner in crime and see if they can't restart the passion.
Their one simple transgression quickly sends husband and wife down a deliriously wicked spiral of bad decisions, infidelities, escalating violence, and absolutely shocking revelations.
Matt Marinovich makes a strong statement with this novel. The Winter Girl is the psychological thriller done to absolute perfection (from Netgalley)

My Thoughts

Elise and Matt have gone to the Hamptons to sit with Elise’s terminally ill dad, Victor.  While Scott stays back at his father-in-laws house, he notices strange things going on in the house next door.  With nothing but time to kill, he decides to go check it out.  What he finds starts a whole downward spiral for everyone involved.

There is no way to sugar coat that the characters in this story are pretty screwed up.  Matt on his own probably not so much, but because he follows his wife’s lead, he ends up doing some pretty twisted thing.  Elise?  Elise is one hot mess.  Initially, she hides it pretty well, but by the end of the story, we’ve met the real Elise and it’s not pretty.  Don’t even get me started on Victor!

This story starts out slow, but as each secret is reveled, the suspense really builds.  I’ll admit that the characters did some pretty bizarre things that I often found unbelievable.  But then I just tell myself - hey, it’s a book, just go with it!  There were plenty of twists that kept me reading and the author saved the biggest one for the end.

I’d like to read more from this author.

Thanks to Doubleday, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

A Desperate Fortune
Susanna Kearsley
For nearly three hundred years, the cryptic journal of Mary Dundas has kept its secrets. Now, amateur codebreaker Sara Thomas travels to Paris to crack the cipher.
Jacobite exile Mary Dundas is filled with longing-for freedom, for adventure, for the family she lost. When fate opens the door, Mary dares to set her foot on a path far more surprising and dangerous than she ever could have dreamed.

As Mary's gripping tale of rebellion and betrayal is revealed to her, Sara faces events in her own life that require letting go of everything she thought she knew-about herself, about loyalty, and especially about love. Though divided by centuries, these two women are united in a quest to discover the limits of trust and the unlikely coincidences of fate.(from Netgalley)

My Thoughts

Sara is hired to decipher a journal that is almost three hundred years old.  The journal was written by a young woman named Mary Dundas.  Mary lived in treacherous times and wrote her diary in a secret code.  Told in alternating voices, we get to see how both Sara and Mary stepped out of their comfort zones to create new lives for themselves.

About two-thirds of the way through this book, I started telling people how good it was.  In the back of my mind I kept thinking - boy, I sure hope this doesn’t bomb in the end.  I’ve had that happen with other books and on a few occasions, it has ruined the whole story.

I call this a quiet novel.  While it certainly held my interests, it was not an action packed thriller.  I was surprised that it actually turned out to be a love story.  I really like the way the author developed her characters.  While I quite liked Sara’s story, it was really drawn to Mary.  Both women are a bit out of their elements and work really hard to adapt to their new lives.

Honestly, I thought the story was lovely.  And oh - by the way - the ending?  It was beautiful.

My thanks to Sourcebooks Landmarks, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Guest Room

Chris Bohjalian



When Richard Chapman offers to host his younger brother's bachelor party, he expects a certain amount of debauchery. He sends his wife, Kristin, and young daughter off to his mother-in-law's for the weekend, and he opens his Westchester home to his brother's friends and their hired entertainment. What he does not expect is this: bacchanalian drunkenness, a dangerously intimate moment in his guest bedroom, and two naked women stabbing and killing their Russian bodyguards before driving off into the night. In the aftermath, Richard's life rapidly spirals into a nightmare. The police throw him out of his home, now a crime scene; his investment banking firm puts him on indefinite leave; and his wife finds herself unable to forgive him for the moment he shared with a dark-haired girl in the guest room. But the dark-haired girl, Alexandra, faces a much graver danger. In one breathless, violent night, she is free, running to escape the police who will arrest her and the gangsters who will kill her in a heartbeat. A captivating, chilling story about shame and scandal, The Guest Room is a riveting novel from one of our greatest storytellers(from Netgalley)



My Thoughts

Richard agrees to host his young brother’s bachelor party. He knows there will be strippers and admits up front that something other than just stripping might take place. While not comfortable with this, he decides to go along with it because - hey - what could go wrong? Unfortunately for Richard, the answer to that question is A LOT and none of it good. As we find out later, the girls are not simple strippers, but sex slaves. One of them decides to kill their Russian handlers at the party and this is the beginning of the end for Richard.

This story takes off running from the beginning and doesn’t stop until the very end. The author lets us inside Richard head as he tries to come to grips with what happened and we see his desperation as his good life slowly unravels. In alternate chapters, we also learn the story of one of the young girls and the circumstances that lead her to being a sex slave.

This story is a true testimony to how life can turn on a dime. I think more importantly was the story behind sex trafficking - how young girls can end up in this kind of life. I thought this was a good mix of action and suspense, while bringing attention to a topic not many of us know anything about.

My thanks to Doubleday, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this is exchange for an unbiased review.