Wednesday, January 15, 2020

When You See Me

When You See Me by Lisa Gardner
Penguin Random House: 1/28/20
eBook review copy; 400 pages
ISBN-13: 9781524745004

When You See Me by Lisa Gardner is a very highly recommended thriller featuring Detective D. D. Warren, Flora Dane, and FBI Special Agent Kimberly Quincy. It is a great day when Lisa Gardiner has a new character-driven thriller released so set aside time to read this ASAP!

When hikers discover skeletal remains in the mountains of Niche, Georgia, they are identified as those of 17-year-old Lilah Abenito. She was kidnapped 15 years earlier and it has been suspected that she was one of the earliest victims of now-deceased serial predator Jacob Ness. Because of the ties to Ness, FBI Special Agent Kimberly Quincy and Sergeant Detective D. D. Warren, who have a task force following any clues left behind by him, are on the scenes. They bring along Flora Dane, a survivor of Ness, and Keith Edgar, a computer analyst and true-crime follower.

As volunteers search the mountains for the rest of the remains of Lilah, another mass grave of more skeletal remains is discovered. This escalates the search to include the possibility that the team is looking at a serial killer dump site. Is this where Ness buried some of his other victims? An initial visit to the mayor of Niche, Howard Counsel, and his wife, Martha, at their Mountain Laurel B&B, leaves the team with some questions, including the story behind their nameless maid,  but even more after Martha suddenly, suspiciously hangs herself. The investigation begins to widen at the same time as threats to the team begin to increase.

As is expected from Gardner, the writing is exceptional. The plot is a page-turning, nail-biting, twisty, tension-filled, and emotionally powerful story that will grip you from start to finish. The crimes from the past seem to be stirring up trouble in the present, but the question is who is involved and how is all of this connected. This is a novel that will be very hard to put down once you start it. I admittedly stayed up late just to finish it and it was worth it. 

All these characters are well developed and, quite frankly, loved by many of us, so a new novel with D.D., Kimberly, Flora, and Keith marks an exciting new addition to their stories. The sensitive treatment of Flora's recovery from her trauma at the hands of Ness is handled with compassion and understanding. It is exciting to see some major forward movement in Flora's character development and healing. Along with others, I appreciate the strong female characters.

I really loved this one from start to finish. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Losing You

Losing You by Nicci French
HarperCollins: 1/28/20; reprint from 2008 edition
eBook review copy; 368 pages
paperback ISBN-13: 9780062876034

Losing You by Nicci French is a recommended story of a desperate mom looking for her missing teenage daughter. This a re-released edition.

It is Nina Landry's fortieth birthday and she and her two children, Charlie (Charlotte, 15) and Jackson, are planning to take a vacation over the Christmas holiday with Nina's boyfriend, Christian. They will be leaving their home on Sandling Island, off the coast of England, and flying to Florida. Much to Nina's annoyance, Charlie is late returning home after going to a sleepover last night. Nina's annoyance turns to concern when Charlie isn't answering her phone - especially when she didn't show up after inviting a whole group of people to show up at 11 am for a surprise birthday party for Nina. They need to finish packing and leave for the airport by 1 pm. Where could Charlie be?

Nina contacts the police as she is sure something has happened to Charlie, but they insist that she probably just ran away or is doing something with friends. Teenagers are notoriously unreliable. Nina knows this can't be true so she starts a one-woman task force to question all of Charlie's friends, track down her movements, and look for any clues to her disappearance.

Pros include that the plot is very fast-paced, as the novel takes place in just one day, from start to finish, and will hold your attention. The action and the clues zoom along and you can chose to enjoy the ride, following the action and developments in the narrative. Cons are firmly all in the "you must suspend disbelief in order to enjoy the plot" category. Additionally, as Nina's character is developed, she actually becomes less likeable. Nina is depicted as a super-character who knows and can do it all, making everyone else, especially the police, look inept. Well, all the other characters are rather inept.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Daisy Jones & The Six

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Penguin Random House: 3/5/19
eBook; 368 pages
hardcover ISBN-13: 9781524798628 

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid is a very highly recommended account of sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll via the history and breakup of a legendary fictional 70's rock band. This one is a winner.

Daisy Jones, the daughter of a famous artist and a French model, grew up in LA in the late 1960's. At fourteen she started hanging out at the famous clubs on the Sunset Strip and drinking and doing drugs followed. Her friend, disco singer Simone, is the only one trying to look out for her.  Daisy is a free spirited "it" girl who is first noticed for her looks, but soon has her voice capturing the attention of those with influence and she is signed with Runner Records.

Billy Dunne and his brother Graham started the band that eventually grew and took off to become The Six. Billy is the song writer and charismatic front man for the band and has artistic control over the group. On their first tour, Billy went wild and nearly ruined his marriage to Camila, who was pregnant with their first child. After the tour he went to rehab and his overwhelming goal beyond making it big with The Six, is to stay sober and faithful to Camila and their family.

After they have one hit where Daisy sings with Billy on one of his songs, Runner Records decides that Billy and Daisy need to work together. While they are both dynamic on their own, when they sing together they are extraordinary, electric, and transcendent.  Billy doesn't want Daisy as part of his band, but they end up working together writing the songs on the album that produced some of the biggest hits in the seventies. No one knew the story behind the band and the split that ended it all - until now.

Daisy Jones & The Six is written like a documentary novel, an oral history, with quotes from the band members, Billy, Daisy, Camila, and Simone. All the characters are written with unique voices in their comments so you can tell who is talking even if you didn't note their name. While reading you can't help but envision the video in your mind, flipping between comments from the different people involved in Daisy Jones & The Six. This is part of what makes the book so amazing. You will easily believe this was a real band and real members are being interviewed. You will be surprised once you learn who is conducting the interviews and asking the questions.

The plot unfolds through the oral history interviews, starting with their beginnings up to their rise to fame. Reid definitely sets her story in the time and place of the late sixties to the late seventies. The clashes, struggles, and power of Billy and Daisy working together, writing the music, is captured perfectly. This really is a riveting and unforgettable novel; my attention was captured right at the start and held fast to the end. Remarkably, at the end of the book Reid has written all the lyrics for the songs. Need I mention that the writing is amazing? Well, it is an incredibly well-written book and captured my attention from beginning to end. I simple could not read it fast enough as I was desperate to learn what happened next.

(When I first read the synopsis for Taylor Jenkins Reid's Daisy Jones & The Six, I immediately tried to get a review copy as I knew it would be a novel I would love. I never did get the advanced reading copy, but I was right to try as this is an amazing novel. Now I need to find time to read Reid's The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.)

Friday, January 10, 2020

Little Boy Lost

Little Boy Lost by J. P. Carter
Avon; 1/23/20
eBook review copy; 400 pages
ISBN-13: 9780008313340
DCI Anna Tate #3 

Little Boy Lost by J. P. Carter is a very highly recommended police procedural/thriller and the third in the DCI Anna Tate series.

All hell is breaking loose in London. After an accidental police shooting during an arrest, riots break out across London - arson, looting, violence, and chaos is rampant. Anna Tate is supposed to be on two months leave after recently being reunited with her abducted daughter, Chloe, but she is called back into to work a case. In the basement of an abandoned pub that is set on fire by the rioters, the body of a child is found. He is identified as ten year old Jacob Rossi and is part of a kidnapping investigation after he went missing on his way home from school. His father is a well-known celebrity, Mark Rossi. The arsonists likely didn't know Jacob was being held in the basement and their actions killed him. Anna just has a limited team to help her find out who kidnapped Jacob and for what purposes.

So Anna can work the case, she asks her boyfriend, Tom, to go to her house and look after Chloe, especially as night approaches and all the violence spreading across the city will escalate. Unknown to Anna, violence strikes her neighborhood right when Tom arrives to take Chloe to his place. Tom is attacked and Chloe is suddenly left on her own, trying to find some safe place amidst the rampant violence and roaming gangs. While Anna is working the case, Chloe is threatened at every turn, and the violence is spreading.

Little Boy Lost is an un-put-downable thriller. I was engrossed in both narrative threads - Anna working the case and Chloe's flight for safety. We are viewing the rioting from two different viewpoints and it makes it even more heart-stopping that Anna does not know Chloe is in danger and Chloe has no way to contact her. I kept reading this one long into the night. For those who haven't read the previous two DCI Anna Tate books, Little Boy Lost works as a standalone novel. All the backstory is told and you will quickly be up to speed. This is my first J.P. Carter book and based on it, I will pick up another. The characters are all well-developed.

The writing is fantastic. I liked following the narrative as it alternated between Chloe's desperate danger-filled plight and Anna's steady and careful investigation being hampered by the same riots. The juxtaposition of the action with the investigation in the plot keeps the suspense building in both parts of the narrative. They are equally compelling story-lines but also very different. On the one hand there is a police procedural and clues to follow. On the other hand is a twelve-year-old girl running for her life caught up in a night full of violence.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins

The Other Mrs.

The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica
Park Row Books: 2/18/20
eBook review copy; 368 pages
ISBN-13: 9780778369110 

The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica is a highly recommended twisty psychological thriller.

Sadie and Will Foust and their two boys, 14-year-old Otto and seven-year-old Tate, moved from Chicago to a small town on an island in Maine. Will inherited the house from his sister after her death by suicide and is now the guardian of his disturbed teenage niece, Imogen. Sadie is trying to view the move as a new start after Will's affair and a troubling incident Otto had at school in Chicago. Sadie was an emergency room doctor in Chicago, but now she will work at the clinic on the island; Will, a human ecology professor, accepted a teaching position on the mainland.

Their lives should be on track to get better, but Imogen's behavior is becoming increasingly threatening and the old house is creepy. When their neighbor, Morgan Baines, is found dead in her home, the murder rocks their tiny coastal island. Sadie believes Will might have started an affair with the neighbor and is even more shocked to find that she is a suspect, so she begins looking into the murder herself.  What she begins to uncover just increases the underlying tension.

The narrative is told through several different points-of-view. Sadie is the main voice. Camille is a former roommate of Sadie who had an affair with Will and is stalking them. Mouse is a six-year-old girl who is just trying to survive life with a cruel stepmother. It is apparent that all is not as it seems for all three points-of-view, but what is actually the truth is elusive. The setting weighs in creating a heavy atmospheric tension and a sense of isolation.

Kubica has created one tension-filled-throat-grabbing psychological thriller here. It appears everyone is guilty of something and the list of suspects is numerous because no one seems to be completely trustworthy. I enjoyed this thriller from start to finish and it held my attention throughout. The suspense and tension just keeps rising along with questions about what is really the truth. I will admit I was a little disappointed with the ultimate denouement, but the journey there was entertaining. 4.5 stars rounded down. 

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Park Row Books.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Wife After Wife

Wife After Wife by Olivia Hayfield
Penguin Random House: 1/21/20
eBook review copy; 464 pages
ISBN-13: 9780593101834 

Wife After Wife by Olivia Hayfield is a recommended modern retelling of the life of Henry VIII.

Hayfield spins the story of Henry VIII into the tale of a present day womanizing media mogul. Harry Rose is head of the Rose Corporation and our stand-in for Henry VIII. The narrative opens in 2018 and then goes back to 1985 and progresses forward in time covering every affair and dalliance Harry was involved in.  For those familiar with the story of Henry VIII, Hayfield includes a list of the cast of fictional characters and the person whom their character is based on. The list is at the opening and continues at the end of the novel. For those of you who already have a vague idea about history or don't care, you can read the novel without knowing what character correlates to what real person.

The story is told through Harry's point-of-view and then the various women in his life. Hayfield deftly handles the historical aspects, covering how Harry acquires his wives and later eliminates the unwanted, and wraps it around a compelling story. As is expected, Harry is unlikable, a misogynist, and a self-centered cad. You can talk about how good looking or charismatic he is, but it seems that today women should be a little more aware - this includes in 1985. Of course money is an allure.

A plus to the story is all the pop culture touch points and popular songs of the day that Hayfield includes throughout the story. This made the story interesting and placed in firmly in the time periods in which she set the plot. It is an interesting update to the story and Hayfield does a good job creating her characters and writing the dialogue. I will admit to getting a little tired of the tale; it was the totality of Harry's bad behavior and womanizing.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Athena's Choice

Athena's Choice by Adam Boostrom
Thinker Books: 1/18/19
eBook review copy; 276 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1794205550

Athena's Choice by Adam Boostrom is a recommended dystopian mystery set in a world where all the men have died from a virus.

It is 2099 and all the men in the world, as well as some women, died fifty years ago from an experimental virus that was released in the world. Teenager Athena Vosh currently lives with her best friend/girlfriend, Nomi James. Her Citizen’s Benefit stipend gives her an income while she paints in hopes of getting her work into a gallery someday. She is shocked when Public Safety calls her in for questioning after she is named as someone involved with the theft of the "Lazarus Genome" from the mainframe at the Helix Company. This is the project to bring men back to the world. Athena is not involved, but she is invited to participate in the investigation run by Captain Valerie Bell of Public Safety after the Third Core requests this. Athena has been having vivid dreams that may hold the answer to the theft and to bringing men back to the world.

Although not classified as a Young Adult novel, Athena's Choice reads like one. I did like all the additions of essays from her childhood, news articles, ads, messages, etc., as they brought subtle clues into the narrative. The mystery is, however, basically uncomplicated and the writing is simple and straightforward. This and the simplistic world building make Athena's Choice read like a YA novel. If you appreciate a complicated and insightful dystopian this may not be your first choice. There are a few other interesting ideas of future advancements (with a focus on 3-D printing of everything) inserted into the plot, but most of the other areas are just causally mentioned, if that. I was left with some questions, like why are girls still sent off to schools and why was Dallas still around?

Athena is a teenager and seems like a young nineteen. The characters are all caricatures of a type - there really isn't a great deal of in-depth character development.  The concept of the Third Core is fascinating, but has it roots going way back in other science fiction. It must be said that even though this is a novel with all female characters, this is definitely a novel written by a man. There was more than one time I had an eye-rolling moment, especially when Athena fantasizes about men. It is very difficult for a man or woman to accurately portray the opposite sex in any novel. 

None of my qualms are particularly bad; Athena's Choice is an entertaining novel with an interesting premise. If it were classified as a YA dystopian I would highly recommend it for that audience.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of the publisher/author.