Monday, March 31, 2014

Dark Eden

Dark Eden by Chris Beckett
Crown Publishing: 4/1/2014
ebook, 448 pages
ISBN-13: 9780804138680 

On the alien, sunless planet they call Eden, the 532 members of the Family take shelter beneath the light and warmth of the Forest’s lantern trees. Beyond the Forest lie the mountains of the Snowy Dark and a cold so bitter and a night so profound that no man has ever crossed it.
The Oldest among the Family recount legends of a world where light came from the sky, where men and women made boats that could cross the stars. These ships brought us here, the Oldest say—and the Family must only wait for the travelers to return.
But young John Redlantern will break the laws of Eden, shatter the Family and change history. He will abandon the old ways, venture into the Dark...and discover the truth about their world.
Already remarkably acclaimed in the United Kingdom, Dark Eden is science fiction as literature: part parable, part powerful coming-of-age story, set in a truly original alien world of dark, sinister beauty and rendered in prose that is at once strikingly simple and stunningly inventive.
My Thoughts:

Dark Eden by Chris Beckett is a science fiction novel that creates a new world and initiates the start of a new series.

Dark Eden is a story of a group of stranded survivors generations removed from the event that left them behind. Currently the human Family on Eden number 532, but they all originated with Tommy and Angela. Now the descendants of these two are a motley group of rag tag humans whose incestuous inbreeding has left them plagued with genetic disorders. They are so far removed from Earth that any remnants of the culture and language have been deteriorating for years, leaving behind a strange mixture of old and the new in their evolved culture. 

"It sounds dumb but all I could think of for a moment was that it was a Landing Veekle, one of those sky-boats with lights on them that brought Tommy and Angela and the Three Companions down to Eden from the starship Defiant. Well, we were always taught that it would happen sometime. The Three Companions had gone back to Earth for help. Something must have gone wrong, we knew, or the Earth people would have come long ago, but they had a thing with them called a Rayed Yo that could shout across sky, and another thing called a Computer that could remember things for itself." 

The family clings to life by the landing sight of the original space ship that left their ancestors stranded despite the fact that resources to insure their survival are quickly dwindling and can no longer support their growing population.  In an act of defiance and surety John Redlantern tries to force change and is exiled. John has supporters, including Gerry, Jeff, and Tina Spiketree. The society is matriarchal at the beginning, but the underpinnings of society are in flux and change is on the horizon.

Eden the world is dark. There is no sun, only plants and animals that have evolved to give off light. The surface of the planet is kept warm from the trees that pump hot air and water up from the inner core of the planet. "We could barely make out each other’s faces. It made me think about that place called Earth where Tommy and Angela first came from, way back in the beginning with the Three Companions, and where one waking we would all return, if only we stayed in the right place and were good good good. There were no lanterntrees back there on Earth, no glittery flutterbyes or shiny flowers, but they had a big big light that we don’t have at all. It came from a giant star. And it was so bright that it would burn out your eyes if you stared at it."

While I found the world building and the creation of this new society intriguing, there were some questions about it that plagued me - chiefly why have the plants and animals evolved to give off light and why would having the sun be so important to these people who have grown up without it? It seems that they all would have been better off adapting to a dark world, allowing other senses to take the forefront. It's not a hard science fiction novel, however, which some readers like me will need to take into account.

Even though I can appreciate the societal changes Beckett is trying to capture, combining them with the over-emphasis on woman as simple wombs that need to be filled by any male became too much very quickly.  This points to my biggest problem with Dark Eden: all the sex in all its various "slip-slipping" forms with very young men and women with adults. 

In the end Dark Eden just wasn't successful for me. It had some good qualities, but I find it hard to overlook what was not working for me in the plot. So-so for me.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Crown Publishing for review purposes.

Not for Nothing

Not for Nothing by Stephen Graham Jones
Dzanc Books: 3/18/2014
ebook, 298 pages
ISBN-13: 9781938604539

The town is Stanton, TX, population 3000. Your name is Nicholas Bruiseman, and you’re a disgraced homicide detective so down on your luck you’ve been forced to take a job as the live-in security guard for the town’s lone storage facility. At last, you can finally get on with the business of drinking yourself to a better state of mind, except the ghosts of childhood keep rising all around you. You might have been done with Stanton once upon a time, but Stanton’s hardly done with you.

My Thoughts:

Not for Nothing by Stephen Graham Jones is a recommended detective novel.

Nick Bruiseman was a detective with the police department. Now, after being kicked off the force and told to leave Midland, he's a private investigator, sort of, and the security guard for the storage facility in his hometown of Stanton, Texas. What Nick is really doing is living - and mostly drinking - in a storage unit.  Then things get more complicated.

A woman he thought he loved during high school shows up to hire Nick: "The exhaled smoke rises to the top of the storage unit, goes all paisley around the yellow bulb, and it’s then that the woman you know you should know says your name. The one nobody’s called you since grammar school."

Nick The woman, Gwen, wants to hire Nick. She's concerned that an ex-con is stalking her:
“You said you—that you provide security for this place.”
You nod once.
She picks it up, keeps nodding, adds, “That’s what I want too, Nick. Security.”

After this Rory Gates shows up and wants to hire Nick to spy on his wife whom he believes is having an affair. Nick ends up with "Three-hundred and seventy-five dollars in one day, you tell yourself. Three hundred of it cash money, even. The other seventy-five you unfold, study. In the top left corner of the check is Rory and Gwen Gates. You close your eyes, press the check to your forehead." That's right, now Nick has money to keep up his drinking but both husband and wife have hired him. And then a murder happens and Nick is the suspect...

Nick is a damaged character who admits to more than one flaw and plenty are present. The story is packed with plenty of twists and turns that keep the plot interesting and the action moving at a brisk pace. For me, it is worth noting that Not for Nothing is written in the second person. I guess while I liked the story, I felt some prejudice over the second person, present tense delivery.  I found it cumbersome and awkward to read. Admittedly this is my problem. The novel is worth reading, especially if you don't get hung up on delivery.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Dzanc Book via Netgalley for review purposes.

Sunday, March 30, 2014


Byrd by Kim Church
Dzanc Books: 3/18/2014
ebook, 228 pages
ISBN-13: 9781938604522

In this debut novel, 33-year-old Addie Lockwood bears and surrenders for adoption a son, her only child, without telling his father, little imagining how the secret will shape their lives. Through letters and spare, precisely observed vignettes, Byrd explores a birth mother’s coming to make and live with the most difficult, intimate, and far-reaching of choices.

My Thoughts:

Byrd by Kim Church is a very highly recommended novel that explores the feelings of Addie, the birth mother of Byrd, and how her decision to give him up for adoption shapes her life.

Church has given us an amazing gift with her novel Bryd. She provides us with keen insight into Addie's thoughts as we follow her through her choices and her life. Addie's story is told through reflection and letter which Addie is writing to Byrd to tell the story of her life and his beginning. Although part of the life of the birth father, Roland, is also explored, this is definitely Addie's life story as she tells it to Byrd, the son she gave up for adoption.  

Byrd showcases excellent writing on Church's part. Her ability to capture a person's inner voice is credible and makes Addie feel like a woman you know who has had to make difficult decisions in her life and has lived with the consequences of her choices. Church endows Addie with complex emotions. She manages to simultaneously capture Addie's lowered expectations of a stunted career choice with the struggle to make sense of her life choices and the path she is following.

This is a real character study of one woman's life. But it is a multifaceted and brilliantly layered story of how her choices affected her life. For how much I loved this novel, I'm finding it a struggle to fully express why I loved it so much. Perhaps because it felt like it truly captured someone's inner life and Addie feels like a real person, someone I know.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of
Dzanc Book via Netgalley for review purposes.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

For Rent: Dangerous Paradise

For Rent: Dangerous Paradise by Eric James Miller CreateSpace: 8/14/2013
ebook, 420 pages
ISBN-13: 9781491038727
For Rent Series #1

If character shapes destiny, what happens when place shapes character? One by one the residents of a spooky apartment building in Venice Beach, California are about to find out. "For Rent: Dangerous Paradise", the first in a new series of For Rent Mysteries by Eric James Miller, follows spunky young journalism student Dana Santoyo as she struggles with her clairvoyant gifts and races to figure out who killed her neighbor. Moving from unit to unit, chapter by chapter, the clues unfold from multiple points of view as Dana helps two L.A.P.D. detectives unravel a spider web of secret lives. "For Rent: Dangerous Paradise" will appeal to anyone who has ever lived in an apartment and had suspicions about their neighbors or wondered about previous residents. Who killed Serena Andrews and where is her missing son? Why is the building's past so violent and cursed? Step inside 399 Broadway to find out.

My Thoughts:

For Rent: Dangerous Paradise by Eric James Miller is a highly recommended mystery that just happens to also be the first book in a new series.

In For Rent: Dangerous Paradise opens with  Dana Santoyo, a journalism student, trying to earn a little extra money by cleaning out the apartment of her neighbor and friend, Serena Andrews. Serena just disappeared along with her teenage son without a word to Dana. Their apartment is located in Venice Beach, CA. "Situated just three blocks from one of the most eclectic, heavily visited beaches in the world, her neighbors buzzed in and out unpredictably, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Like any modern bohemia, few residents had regular jobs. (Page 5)

Dana wonders why Serena left, but realizes that looking through her things while cleaning might "unlock the mystery of what made her neighbor and best friend Serena Andrews skip town so suddenly. If Dana could figure that out before anyone else, she knew it might help her finally finish her journalism degree and unlock her own future." (Page 6)

But the apartment at 399 Broadway has other even older, hidden secrets. Dana, who is also clairvoyant, has noticed dark spirits flittering around the apartment building assaulting her senses on the edge of her perception. First a "dank chill assaulted Dana's sense of smell. Then her sense of touch. She searched the dark gray shadows quivering in the back corner of her bedroom. As usual, her eyes played tricks on her. But she knew she had to say something because he was there, watching her. Again. She spoke hesitantly into the void as vague flashes of human suffering flickered across her mind's eye. 'You keep quiet and mind your own business,' she whispered." (Page 5)

As Dana is cleaning two detectives show up and she learns that Serena was murdered.
"Deceased? You mean missing," Dana corrected.
"No ma'am," he said. "I'm afraid not. Last Friday Serena Andrews was found dead inside her car behind a convenience store out in Barstow."
"Barstow?" Dana blurted. "What the hell was she doing out there?"
"That's what we're trying to find out. Initial forensics suggests she'd been there a few days before someone found her." (Page 15)

Thus begins the apartment by apartment interview of all the residents. Rather than taking a Rear Window-esque approach and only allowing us to know what the residents tell the police or what we can see about their secret lives, we are privy to what they are really thinking and plenty of dark secrets they are all harboring.

Miller is a good writer which helped elevate the plot for me. I like the apartment by apartment reveal of secrets as the tension mounts. I was less of a fan of the secret spirit residents of the building, but Miller did a nice job tying them into the plot without having it become more a ghost story rather than a mystery. There were some nice twists and turns included that will surprise readers. Dana is an appealing main character who should inspire readers to want to follow more of her adventures in the second book in the series due out this summer, For Rent: Haunted Neon.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of the author for review purposes.

Saturday, March 22, 2014


Distortion by Terri Blackstock
Zondervan: 3/11/2014
Trade Paperback, 352 pages
ISBN-13: 9780310283140
Moonlighters Series #2

A husband's lies can have deadly consequences.
When Juliet Cole's husband of fifteen years is murdered before her eyes, she thinks it was a random shooting. Devastated and traumatized, she answers hours of questioning, then returns home to break the tragic news to her boys. But a threatening voicemail takes this from a random shooting to a planned, deliberate attack.
Juliet realizes that she and her children are in danger too, unless she meets the killers' demands. But as she and her sisters untangle the clues, her husband's dark secrets come to light. The more she learns, the more of her life is dismantled. Was her husband an innocent victim or a hardened criminal?

My Thoughts:

Distortion by Terri Blackstock is a highly recommended faith based thriller.

After Juliet Cole witnesses the murder of her husband, it becomes clear that after 15 years of marriage she really didn't know him. Bob Cole was a successful doctor but what else and who else was he involved with and how is his secret life going to affect grieving Juliet and her two sons, 12 year old Zach and 9 year old Abe. Juliet turns to her two sisters, Holly and Cathy, as well as her brother Jay, and PI Michael Hogan to investigate what Bob was really doing and why he was murdered.

The plot is action packed and based right on today's headlines. While Blackstock is well known as a successful Christian writer, truth be told, she's simply a good writer. She knows how to execute a plot full of action and intrigue and how to carry that plot on to the end. Her Christian values insure readers that while there might be some harsh, cruel actions taking place (sin happens), there won't be swearing or gratuitous sex scenes. That is refreshing. The characters will struggle but will turn to their faith.

“Lord,” she said through her teeth, “I believe Romans 8:28 is true. But I can’t imagine how all of this is going to work for good, because all I see is tragedy and heartache, and shock after shock. We need some real miracles here.”

Distortion continues the story found in Truth Stained Lies. Sometimes a continued story doesn't put the reader at a disadvantage but that isn't the case here. The two stories really are tied together and it might behoove readers to read the first before this second book. There are also some incredible coincidences/backstory that strained my acceptance. I know bad things happen to good people and often seemingly all at once but consider the following excerpt:

"How strange that three of four of these siblings had lost their loved ones to murder. It was too much of a coincidence, but he couldn’t make the crimes fit together. His own brother Joe, who’d been engaged to Cathy, had been murdered by a drug dealer he’d been investigating. Leonard Miller had been acquitted by his jury, even though there were eyewitnesses. Jay’s wife’s murder had been completely unrelated to Joe’s. And Bob’s seemed unrelated to both of them. A guy driving up in a parking lot and gunning him down. A threat by telephone. Michael’s training as a police detective had honed his instincts, but they weren’t guiding him now. He had to focus on facts. He just didn’t have enough of them. (page 34)

Another fact worth noting is that the story will be continued because it doesn't wrap up at the end. You might want to consider the series aspect of this book and decide if a series is what you are looking to invest your time in or if a stand-alone novel would be a better choice.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Zondervan via Netgalley for review purposes.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Welcome to Mars

Welcome to Mars by Ken Hollings
North Atlantic Books (reprint): 3/18/2014
Paperback, 304 pages   
ISBN-13: 9781583947616

Welcome to Mars is a captivating look at the culture of postwar America and its dream of limitless technological and human development. Utilizing declassified government archives, newspaper records, ad campaigns, and B-movies of the period, Hollings weaves an intricate web of Cold War politics, UFO scares, psychedelic research, and 1950s pop culture. From the atom bomb and suburban planning to the space race and little-green-men movies, Welcome to Mars shows the startling connections between science fact and science fiction, a feedback loop in which real technological advances and government experimentation gave rise to science fiction fantasy, which then fed new innovation and research.
My Thoughts:

Welcome to Mars: Politics, Pop Culture, and Weird Science in 1950s America by Ken Hollings is highly recommended for a very specific audience. "The dangers of nuclear annihilation, radiation poisoning, and the effects of atomic fallout were becoming manifestly apparent even to those who had flunked out of science in high school. A trip to the drive-in could teach you an awful lot in those days." If you are a fan of science fiction movies from the 50s and also a student of history and politics of the times then Welcome to Mars will likely highly appeal to you.

"As Hollings plays connect-the-dots between monster movies, nuclear submarines, and LSD, between Sputnik, brainwashing, and TV dinners, he is tracing the wires of our own unconscious, and filtering the electronic ether that we breathe." Erik Davis writes in the forward. "Perhaps the atomic tests of 1945—or even the discovery of Nag Hammadi’s great Gnostic library, as Philip K. Dick believed—set off a chain reaction in reality itself, and LSD and Dianetics and Robby the Robot are all telling us the same thing, a message we still haven’t really processed: Welcome to Mars."

This is one of those books that isn't for everyone but those of you who will like it, will like it a lot. Now you may not agree with all of Hollings conclusions, but you will be able to follow his thoughts and conclusions. He also makes some connections and provides all the research and information on the topics in one place. Hollings admits that Welcome to Mars is about "trying to locate a specific fantasy as precisely as possible in time and space." And he covers a lot of information and facts that tie into the historical fantasies we entertained. For example he researches when flying saucers, as well as when the psychiatric movie, entered into the main stream of American culture.

Personally, I had no idea that MIT and  the National Institutes for Health, the Atomic energy Commission, and Quaker Oats participated in “nontherapeutic” research on children involving radiation until 1953 “to determine how the body absorbed iron, calcium, and other minerals from dietary sources and to explore the effect of various compounds in cereal on mineral absorption”

While Hollings is discussing the historical and cultural significance of pop culture in the 50's he also has a wry sense of humor that I appreciated and enjoyed. He captured the prevailing attitudes of the time. For example:
"The whole crew may die at the end of the movie, and the meteorites they encounter may have been potatoes wrapped in aluminum foil, but Rocketship X-M’s narrative drive and lack of scientific gravitas both prove popular at the box office." (Location 945)
“He was very nice about it,” one Army doctor remarks to another as they prepare to enjoy the rich full flavor you can only get with an unfiltered, high-tar cigarette, “but he made me feel like a third-class witchdoctor.” (Location 1132)

Hollings also is clear to point out when various connections were made that we take for granted today, such as Captain Video being sponsored by Skippy Peanut Butter and Post Cereals to attract the young consumers who tuned in to the show. Where Hollings succeeds is in making cultural connections during post WWII that tie pop culture, technology, and political positions together to give a glimpse of society during that time. This is the time that introduced cybernetics, LSD, the nuclear arms race and space race, psychoanalysis, aliens from space, game theory, Scientology, etc. into our culture.

With the chapters organized by year, Welcome to Mars is well written and researched. As long time followers know I love it when nonfiction books contain a bibliography, index, and list of illustrations.  I really enjoyed Welcome to Mars, but I also know this isn't a book for everyone. 

Table of Contents
Introduction: Scenes From A History As Yet Unwritten
Chapter 1—1947: Rebuilding Lemuria
Chapter 2—1948: Flying Saucers Over America
Chapter 3—1949: Behaviour Modification
Chapter 4—1950: Cheapness And Splendour
Chapter 5—1951: Absolute Elsewhere
Chapter 6—1952: Red Planet
Chapter 7—1953: Other Tongues, Other Flesh
Chapter 8—1954: Meet The Monsters
Chapter 9—1955: Popular Mechanics
Chapter 10—1956: 'Greetings, My Friend!'
Chapter 11—1957: Contact With Space
Chapter 12—1958: Mass Hysteria
Chapter 13—1959: Teenagers From Outer Space
Conclusion: Thinking the Unthinkable
Index List of Illustrations

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of North Atlantic Books for review purposes.


Apocalypse by Dean Crawford
Touchstone: 3/18/2014
Hardcover, 416 pages

ISBN-13: 9781451659498

In the notorious Bermuda Triangle, a private jet vanishes without a trace, taking with it scientists working for the world-famous philanthropist Joaquin Abell. Meanwhile, Captain Kyle Sears is called to a murder scene in Miami. A woman and her daughter have both been shot through the head. But within moments of arriving, Sears receives a phone call from the woman’s husband, physicist Charles Purcell.
“I did not kill my wife and child,” he says. “In less than twenty-four hours I will be murdered and I know the man who will kill me. My murderer does not yet know that he will commit the act.” With uncanny accuracy, Purcell goes on to predict the immediate future just as it unfolds around Sears, and leaves clues for a man he’s never met, former war correspondent Ethan Warner.
The hunt is on to find Purcell, and Warner is summoned by the Defense Intelligence Agency to lead the search. But this is no ordinary case, as Warner and his partner, Nicola Lopez, are about to discover. The future has changed its course, and timing is everything. The end is just beginning . . .
Relentlessly fast-paced and action-packed, Apocalypse combines realistic science, suspense, and intrigue to create an ingenious blockbuster thriller.

My Thoughts:

Apocalypse by Dean Crawford is a recommended action adventure thriller with science fiction overtones.

This is the third book by Crawford to feature private investigators Ethan Warner and Nicola Lopez. They are called in to look at the murder of scientist Charles Purcell's family in Miami. Purcell, who was spotted leaving the scene, is the main suspect, but it is clear that more is going on than a case of deadly domestic violence. Purcell contacts the police and tells them that he himself will be killed in less than 24 hours. He then tells the police to analyze the bullets found in the house for a compound known as Rubidium-82. After that they are to contact Ethan Warner.

Charles Purcell is a physicist who worked for fifteen years at NASA. The central focus of his work was the study of time. Purcell is an expert on the nature of time and had recently been working for wealthy philanthropist, Joaquin Abell. Additionally, a plane goes down in the Bermuda Triangle that seemingly ties into the case. As Warner and Lopez investigate, Purcell leaves them clues to follow in a race against time to solve the case while more and more dark deeds are being uncovered and leading them to some fantastic conclusions and an ultimate final scene.

Apocalypse does provide some thrilling action scenes and several twists and turns along the way. Crawford does a credible job with the writing too. While he basically keeps the action moving at a brisk pace, there are a few slowdowns in the plot development. I haven't read the first two books in this series and had no problem following this book.  In the end it was some of the plot points and the one-note villain that made Apocalypse a less than perfect thriller for me. This one is an airplane book - a great way to pass the time but you won't regret leaving it if you should happen to lose it at the airport.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Touchstone for review purposes.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Boy Who Stole from the Dead

The Boy Who Stole from the Dead by Orest Stelmach
Thomas & Mercer: 3/11/2014
Trade Paperback, 368 pages
ISBN-13: 9781477809488
Nadia Tesla Series #2

Bobby Kungenook, a mysterious seventeen-year-old hockey phenom from the Arctic Circle, is accused of murder in New York City. Bobby’s guardian, Nadia Tesla, knows his true identity. If his secret gets out, it could cost him his life. Sports journalist Lauren Ross is in hot pursuit of Bobby’s story. Where did the boy with the blazing speed and magical hands come from? Why has no one heard of him before?
Nadia’s certain the boy is innocent, but the police have a signed confession and an eyewitness. To discover the truth about that night in New York, Nadia must dig into the boy’s past. Her international investigation — in New York, London, and Ukraine — will make her an unwitting pawn in a deadly game and reignite her quest for a priceless treasure, one that could alter mankind forever.

My Thoughts:

The Boy Who Stole from the Dead by Orest Stelmach is a very highly recommended mystery/thriller and the second book, after 2011's The Boy from Reactor 4, in what will be a three book series.

Reporter, Lauren Ross is up in Alaska trying to investigate seventeen year old hockey sensation Bobby Kungenook's true identity - or at least dig up some background information (or dirt) on him. Once again Nadia Tesla, the guardian of Bobby Kungenook, aka Adam Tesla, needs to save him, but Nadia has bigger problems than Lauren. While Lauren is trying to uncover the truth, Bobby has been arrested for murder.

"The depth of her fear for Bobby surprised Nadia. It shouldn’t have. He was her cousin, not her son, and she’d only known him for a year. But they’d shared a harrowing journey when she’d helped him escape from Chornobyl to New York. The experience had created a bond of such depth that here, in the police station, she wished she could swap places with him. For he was all she had, just as she was all he had." Location 237

Nadia needs to uncover the truth behind the man Bobby is accused of killing and find out what happened. Bobby isn't talking and he's locked up.  She knows that for the time being the story about Bobby's past should stay intact. Bobby has a valid birth certificate, and a driver’s license, so the district attorney shouldn't go digging that deep into Bobby's past because he's already in custody. Nadia has no idea what information Bobby is trying to hide from her, but she is sure it is a misguided attempt to protect her from some information.

With help from her friend and attorney, Johnny, and heavily relying on her own intelligence and intuition, Nadia needs to turn to her own skill set to discover some answers - even if those answers send her back to the Ukraine.

While I have been planning to read the first book The Boy from Reactor 4, I haven't had a chance to read it yet. That didn't stop me from thoroughly enjoying this second book  in what will be a three book series. Enough background information is included along with the current story that I had no problem in understanding the salient points concerning what had happened in the first book and how that carried on into the plot in this second novel. The storylines between Lauren, the annoying reporter, and Nadia's search to uncover the truth were nicely balanced. At first it seems that Lauren is the real threat, but soon, as Nadia begins to investigate, the concern shifts to others. There are plenty of suspicious characters and as more questions are raised about what really happened  and why, the intrigue and suspense also increase.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of
Thomas & Mercer via Netgalley for review purposes


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Detainee

The Detainee by Peter Liney
Jo Fletcher Books: 3/11/2014
Hardcover, 352 pages

ISBN-13: 9781623651084
Peter Liney honed his strong narrative skills and attention to detail during his long career as a writer of German, Australian, British, and South African television and radio programs. In his debut novel, The Detainee, Liney has created a dystopian world in which the state has gone bust and can no longer support its weakest members.
The Island is a place of hopelessness. The Island is death. And it is to this place that all the elderly and infirm are shipped, the scapegoats for the collapse of society. There’s no escape, not from the punishment satellites that deliver instant judgment for any crime—including escape attempts—and not from the demons that come on foggy nights, when the satellites are all but blind. But when one of the Island’s inhabitants, the aging "Big Guy" Clancy, finds a network of tunnels beneath the waste, there is suddenly hope—for love, for escape, and for the chance to fight back.
My Thoughts:

The Detainee by Peter Liney is a highly recommended dystopian thriller.

Before he was sent to the island Clancy, also known as "Big Guy," worked as a heavy for Mr. Meltoni. Now he is old, 63, and an Island Detainee. The Island is really just a huge garbage pile four miles long, three across and a little over a mile offshore. At one time it was a residential island, but at some point someone decided it was the ideal place to start offloading the Mainland’s waste. It is also where the old and have no means of support are sent are sent to have one last chance to become self-sufficient. What those who make all the rules while living behind their fortified walls on the mainland are saying is survive or die.

"But there are thousands of us out here. Mostly old people, those with no money, who once might’ve thought they’d be taken care of. However, no one takes care of you anymore. You either survive or die, simple as that. Sure as hell the State don’t. They can’t afford to look after anyone. And do you know who they say’s to blame? Not incompetent and corrupt politicians, not those pigs gorging themselves down at the stock exchange trough, but us. Old people. Old people ’cuz we got too old. As if we had a choice."

He and the other old folks have built a village where their shelters are made of plastic and whatever discarded items they can find. The satellite policing keeps them on the island. It is a laser that doles out punishment based on the crime. The roots of its development were surveillance cameras. Now the laser keeps them on the island and punishes anyone with anything that might resemble a weapon. 

Surviving on the garbage pile isn't what Clancy is concerned about. He and every other old person on the island is scared of the fog because when the fog rolls in the satellite policing,  can't work. And when the satellites can't work the kids come out. These kids are the drugged up garbage urchins who sort the trash for the Wastelords. They come out with machetes in a drug frenzy on foggy nights and go crazy killing and maiming, hacking old people to death without mercy or conscience.

One night, while trying to escape a murderous gang of kids, Clancy discovers a secret that might just provide him with the safety and hope he needs to survive and perhaps be the impetus for something even bigger.

I will readily admit that at first I wasn't sold on Clancy as the narrator of The Detainee. I though his sometimes meandering, self-pitying lack of confidence would begin to irritate me; actually the opposite happened. I warmed up to him and accepted all of his self-esteem issues. Once the larger issues in this society became more clear the story took over. 

Currently all the spying on everyone via surveillance cameras (or the internet) the idea of punishment satellites doesn't seem so far-fetched. And with parents becoming more permissive, the eventual collapse of a society where out-of-control children were paid to be good could quickly turn into a society that blames the old people for everything - especially when the financial structure collapses due to the aging population. It is a horrifying but logical next step to eliminate the older and weaker members of a society in order to protect the greater good of the ruling class. Once that ideological/societal hurdle was crossed, it was much easier to get caught up in the characters and the action. 
 Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Random House for review purposes.


Monday, March 10, 2014

The Deepest Secret

The Deepest Secret by Carla Buckley
Random House; 2/4/2014
Hardcover, 448 pages  
ISBN-13: 9780345535245

For fans of Jodi Picoult, Kim Edwards, and William Landay, The Deepest Secret is part intimate family drama, part gripping page-turner, exploring the profound power of the truths we’re scared to face . . . about our marriages, our children, and ourselves.
Eve Lattimore’s family is like every other on their suburban street, with one exception. Her son Tyler has a rare medical condition that makes him fatally sensitive to light, which means heavy curtains and deadlocked doors protect him during the day and he can never leave the house except at night. For Eve, only constant vigilance stands between an increasingly restless teenage son and the dangers of the outside world.
Until the night the unthinkable happens. When tragedy strikes, it becomes clear that this family is not the only one on the quiet cul-de-sac that is more complicated than it appears. And as Eve is forced to shield her family from harm, there are some crises she cannot control—and some secrets that not even love can conceal.
Deeply moving and stunningly suspenseful, The Deepest Secret is a novel of rare power—a story about hope and forgiveness, about the terrifying ways our lives can spin out of control and the unexpected sacrifices that may save us.

My Thoughts:

I Very Highly Recommend The Deepest Secret. The fact that I read it in a day says it all.

The Deepest Secret by Carla Buckley follows the Lattimore family in Ohio (and Washington D.C.) daily for seventeen days, from August 28 - September 13, and then jumps to a final day on April 15th.  Eve Lattimore lives in the family home in Ohio with her two teenage children, Melissa (16) and Tyler (just turned 14), while her husband, David, commutes to his job in Washington D.C. Fourteen-year-old Tyler suffers from XP, xeroderma pigmentosum, a rare skin disease that makes sunlight, or any UV rays, deadly. He cannot go out into the sunlight or be exposed to any lights that give off UV rays. Eve is hyper-vigilant to protect Tyler. He must remained locked in his room until the sun sets and go back before the sun rises. Even with all her ardent safe guards in place, Tyler will likely not live past the age of 20.

While Eve is protecting Tyler, her angsty daughter, Melissa, is going through some secret drama and her personality noticeably changes. Eve and David's marriage is also suffering as he is only home on the weekends. He would like his family to move with him, but Eve won't consider it. The Lattimore family is already on edge, living a tense regimented life when the unthinkable happens. Eve covers up a terrible accident. Rather than call 911, Eve leaves the scene, continuing to the airport. Her overwhelming thought is that she is the only one who can care for Tyler.

As the whole neighborhood is pulled into the drama caused by Eve's choice, the police become involved and the media is overtaking their quiet neighborhood. Eve still feels she is keeping Tyler safe. Unknown to her, however, is Tyler's secret wanderings at night when he leaves the house to take pictures - and look in his neighbor's houses and see what secrets they are keeping. And Eve isn't the only one keeping a secret. Everyone in her family is - as well as all the neighbors.

This is a family drama that just keeps going as the list of problems and complications grows with each passing day. The Deepest Secret does favorably compare to a Jodi Picoult novel. It is first and foremost a family drama which is combined with some aspects of a thriller. It will certainly keep your attention right to the end. It begs the question how much can you really protect your children?

The story is told through the viewpoint of Eve, David, and Tyler, so you are privy to their thoughts and can understand their actions based on that information. However you need to know that none of the characters in The Deepest Secret are likeable. Not one. Additionally the ending seemed rather abrupt after the day by day accounting and high tension the drama created through most of the book. In some ways, though, the tension created over the course of days depicted here will give the reader a taste of the constant tension and stress Tyler's XP put the Lattimores under and how that constant stress could easily lead to the breakdown of a family. Even a tiny amount of tension added to their already overburdened lives could be overwhelming, so what will happen if a huge amount of stress is added?

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Random House via Netgalley for review purposes.


TLC Tour Schedule
 Originally reviewed on 2/3/14

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Accident

The Accident by Chris Pavone
Crown Publishing: 3/11/2014
Hardcover, 400 pages
ISBN-13: 9780385348454

As dawn approaches in New York, literary agent Isabel Reed is turning the final pages of a mysterious, anonymous manuscript, racing through the explosive revelations about powerful people, as well as long-hidden secrets about her own past. In Copenhagen, veteran CIA operative Hayden Gray, determined that this sweeping story be buried, is suddenly staring down the barrel of an unexpected gun. And in Zurich, the author himself is hiding in a shadowy expat life, trying to atone for a lifetime’s worth of lies and betrayals with publication of The Accident, while always looking over his shoulder.
Over the course of one long, desperate, increasingly perilous day, these lives collide as the book begins its dangerous march toward publication, toward saving or ruining careers and companies, placing everything at risk—and everyone in mortal peril.  The rich cast of characters—in publishing and film, politics and espionage—are all forced to confront the consequences of their ambitions, the schisms between their ideal selves and the people they actually became.
The action rockets around Europe and across America, with an intricate web of duplicities stretching back a quarter-century to a dark winding road in upstate New York, where the shocking truth about the accident itself is buried.
Gripping, sophisticated, layered, and impossible to put down, The Accident proves once again that Chris Pavone is a true master of suspense.

My Thoughts:

The Accident by Chris Pavone follows one explosive day after a inflammatory and disturbing unauthorized biography of global media mogul Charlie Wolfe is dropped off at literary agent Isabel Reed's office. The author of the expose' is anonymous, but Isabel thinks she knows the identity of the person. In the meantime deadly forces come into play to try and stop anyone from reading the material. Hayden Gray (and Kate from The Expats makes an appearance too) is being paid very well to make sure the story is never released. 

Isabel stays up almost all night reading the manuscript titled The Accident, and immediately contacts editor Jeffrey Fielder. This is the kind of book that can make careers and keep the publisher behind it in the black. She warns Jeff to keep it quiet because it is dangerous. She tells him that it's about some incredibly bad things done by one of the most powerful, well-known men in the world, the media mogul Charlie Wolfe. Wolfe has made millions by legitimizing sensationalism on his news network, but if this book is released he will be the one whose reputation is ruined.

The actions Isabel takes to prevent any leak of the material aren't enough. It soon becomes evident that anyone who has managed to obtain an illicit look at the material is turning up dead. Clearly someone will go to whatever means it takes to ensure that the book never sees the light of day and, in fact, that anyone who has even read any part of the manuscript is eliminated.  Isabel is on the run with Jeff but a deadly game of cat and mouse has already been set into motion.

"Is it possible to succeed without any act of betrayal?"  Who  could have ever guessed that the world of publishing is so cut throat?  It's chilling and fascinating to see all the back-biting and clandestine maneuvers behind the scenes by all of those employed in the publishing industry.  

The nail-biting suspense Pavone sets into motion is palpable for the majority of the novel, but there are a few parts where the action slows. The plot is intricate again which makes for a satisfyingly complex story. There are also numerous characters to follow, but I didn't find it difficult as Pavone did a nice job making his characters stand out as individuals. There is a surprise at the ending that was hinted at earlier in the book.  While I wasn't surprised with the big secrets revealed, Pavone did another fine job writing this thoroughly entertaining novel. Highly Recommended.
Disclosure: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from Crown Publishing for review purposes. 


Wednesday, March 5, 2014


Above by Isla Morley
Gallery Books: 3/4/2014
Hardcover, 384 pages

ISBN-13: 9781476731520

Blythe Hallowell is sixteen when she is abducted by a survivalist and locked away in an aban­doned missile silo in Eudora, Kansas. At first, she focuses frantically on finding a way out, until the harrowing truth of her new existence settles in—the crushing loneliness, the terrifying madness of a captor who believes he is saving her from the end of the world, and the persistent temptation to give up. But nothing prepares Blythe for the burden of raising a child in confinement. Deter­mined to give the boy everything she has lost, she pushes aside the truth about a world he may never see for a myth that just might give mean­ing to their lives below ground. Years later, their lives are ambushed by an event at once promis­ing and devastating. As Blythe’s dream of going home hangs in the balance, she faces the ultimate choice—between survival and freedom.
Above is a riveting tale of resilience in which “stunning” (Daily Beast) new literary voice Isla Morley compels us to imagine what we would do if everything we had ever known was taken away. Like the bestselling authors of Room and The Lovely Bones before her, Morley explores the unthinkable with haunting detail and tenderly depicts our boundless capacity for hope.
My Thoughts:

In Above by Isla Morley Blythe Hallowell is abducted by creepy school librarian and survivalist Dobbs Hordin and taken to an abandoned Atlas F missile silo located by Eudora, Kansas, her hometown. Dobbs tells Blythe he is saving her from the end of the world. Once the world ends, Dobbs and Blythe will be prepared to take their rightful place and repopulate the earth. As a captive, Blythe must struggle with her crushing loneliness, isolation, as well as giving birth.

The novel is separated into two sections: Below and Above. Obviously the first part of the narrative deals with Blythe's captivity below ground and her coping mechanisms while the second portends a future.

There is no doubt that Above is a compelling novel to read and will keep you engrossed in all the action.
However, for me Above was a so-so read.  I have several major problems with it.

First I really felt that the beginning of Morley's novel owes too great a debt to Emma Donoghue's Room. I totally understand that abduction and captivity of a young woman in a novel may be coincidental, but it felt too similar at the beginning. I will acknowledge that the comparison ends in the second half when the story takes a dystopian turn.

This duality of the two sections is another problem for me. The complete novel felt like two separate novels crammed together without the benefit of enough development of the plot to make the complete novel work as the sweeping dystopian saga it wants to be. The ideas are there, but the execution is lacking and inconsistent.

For most readers the BIGGEST problem I had with Above won't be a problem for you at all, so you can ignore this complaint.
I wish Morley had made up a mythical city in Kansas rather than using an existing one, because she repeatedly annoyed me with her descriptions and summations of the area. See I live in Lawrence Kansas, home of the University of Kansas, only 6 miles from Eudora, Blythe's longed-for hometown. While Eudora is a small town, the population is almost 3 times Morley's number. That wouldn't include the large population living outside the city limits.  And there is a very large population living in the country. It's only about 20 minutes down the highway until you reach the outer suburbs of the whole Johnson County/Kansas City suburban area. When Morley said "Douglas County, Kansas, land of miles and miles of nothing" I wanted her to leave California and come see the nothing she is describing, because if she has visited the area she missed an essential truth: that it's actually pretty close to a large population area thus we have many commuters living here, in these miles and miles of nothing, in towns and acreages.

But then she might simply need to visit Kansas in February. Blythe describes her 5th birthday party. She says her mother has set up the card table in the backyard... on February 2nd. Ummm, not likely. We've had some bitter cold days here in Kansas in February. Sure, sometimes it warms up but no one would be putting up a card table in the backyard for a birthday party on February 2.
And yes, FYI, there are seagulls inland on lakes.

Disclosure: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the Gallery Books for review purposes. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Precious Thing

Precious Thing by Colette McBeth
St. Martin's Press: 3/4/2014
Hardcover, 304 pages
ISBN-13: 9781250041197

I know her inside out.  I know what she’s thinking, I know what she wants. So I can’t give up on her, she knows I never will.

Some friendships fizzle out. Rachel and Clara promised theirs would last forever.

They met in high school when Rachel was the shy, awkward new girl and Clara was the friend everyone wanted. Instantly, they fell under one another’s spell and nothing would be the same again. Now in their late twenties Rachel has the television career, the apartment and the boyfriend, while Clara’s life is spiraling further out of control. Yet despite everything, they remain inextricably bound. Then Rachel’s news editor assigns her to cover a police press conference, and she is shocked when she arrives to learn that the subject is Clara, reported missing. Is it abduction, suicide or something else altogether?

Imagine discovering something about your oldest friend that forces you to question everything you’ve shared together. The truth is always there.  But only if you choose to see it. In Colette McBeth's Precious Thing.

My Thoughts:

Precious Thing by Colette McBeth is a psychological thriller that is highly recommended.

It is September 2007 and Rachel Walsh begins writing a letter to her very best friend, Clara O'Connor, in the opening of
Precious Thing by Colette McBeth.  Then the narrative jumps back in time to January 21st, the day Rachel, a news reporter living in London, travels to Brighton to cover the disappearance of a 28-year-old woman. Unbeknownst to Rachel, the missing woman turns out to be Clara, her childhood best friend. What on earth could have happened to Clara? It's true that the young women haven't done a lot together recently, but a friendship as strong as theirs is can survive anything, can't it?

Rachel writes: "SEPTEMBER 2007 Officially, I don’t think of you anymore. I am one hundred percent focused on the future. When anyone asks how I’m doing—and they do regularly—I’m fond of using the terminology of war—it adds drama don’t you think? I am conquering my demons; I am battling the dark thoughts that have been twisting inside me. Sometimes, if the situation lends itself to it, I’ll lean forward, fix them with a steely look and say with as much reverence as I can muster: I am a survivor, I will beat the past. In return I get a sympathetic nod, a concerned smile. I can almost hear the whissh of relief blowing through them. I can see the checklist of worries being ticked off in their minds. She’s making progress." Location 20

As Rachel clearly states for the reader the whole novel is a letter from her to Clara, telling their story, from her point of view. Rachel not only covers what is happening currently, but also tells us what has happened in the past and her perception of events. Rachel and Clara met in 1993 when they were 14 and 15. Rachel was the new girl at school and she and Clara immediately hit it off. They were fast friends until Clara was hospitalized in a psychiatric institution seven years ago. After that she traveled before returning home. Even through Rachel and Clara have gone their separate ways, their friendship is the kind that endures forever. Clara's disappearance is mind boggling.

Rachel writes: "I don’t blame you for thinking otherwise. I blame the people who’ve poisoned you with their lies. But listen to your heart. Trust your instincts. Think of the beautiful, precious thing that we have shared. Know that something so pure could never be bad. That’s why I’m writing to you. So you’ll understand. I don’t know how it will reach you, but I’ll find a way. No one knows about the letter; its content doesn’t fit with my “moving on” narrative. So if you do read it, let it be our secret. Just imagine me close to you, whispering it in your ear—our story, in my words. And maybe at the end we will work out how we lost each other and how we can find each other once more." Location 42

Clearly most readers will recognize that the narrow point of view can make for an unreliable narrator. As details of the girl's past emerge in Rachel's letters, astute readers will likely guess many of the secrets long before they are revealed. Certainly the tone of the novel gets darker as it progresses. McBeth does a nice job building tension as more information is disclosed and more suspicions about the truth arise.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of St. Martin's Press via Netgalley for review purposes.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Chase

The Chase by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg
Random House: 2/25/2014
Hardcover, 320 pages
ISBN-13: 9780345543080
Fox and O'Hare Series #2

Internationally renowned thief and con artist Nicolas Fox is famous for running elaborate and daring scams. His greatest con of all: convincing the FBI to team him up with the only person who has ever caught him, and the only woman to ever capture his attention, Special Agent Kate O’Hare. Together they’ll go undercover to swindle and catch the world’s most wanted—and untouchable—criminals.
Their newest target is Carter Grove, a former White House chief of staff and the ruthless leader of a private security agency. Grove has stolen a rare Chinese artifact from the Smithsonian, a crime that will torpedo U.S. relations with China if it ever becomes public. Nick and Kate must work under the radar—and against the clock—to devise a plan to steal the piece back. Confronting Grove’s elite assassins, Nick and Kate rely on the skills of their ragtag crew, including a flamboyant actor, a Geek Squad techie, and a band of AARP-card-carrying mercenaries led by none other than Kate’s dad.
A daring heist and a deadly chase lead Nick and Kate from Washington, D.C., to Shanghai, from the highlands of Scotland to the underbelly of Montreal. But it’ll take more than death threats, trained henchmen, sleepless nights, and the fate of a dynasty’s priceless heirloom to outsmart Fox and O’Hare.

My Thoughts:

The Chase by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg is a highly recommended fast paced thriller that features an abundance of personality conflicts between mismatched cohorts Kate O’Hare and Nicolas Fox.

In The Chase FBI Special Agent and ex-Special forces Kate O’Hare thief and con artist Nicolas Fox are back for the second novel in the Fox and O'Hare series by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg.

Fox is now working undercover with the FBI, specifically O'Hare, to help catch the most wanted criminals or do the messy jobs on the other side of legal that no one else can touch.  "[The] FBI had sprung him from jail and was using him to help nail major crooks, even as he’d become one of the Bureau’s Ten Most Wanted criminals. Kate’s job was to be Nick’s handler and protector while, at the same time, leading the FBI’s manhunt for him. Only Jessup and Deputy Director Fletcher Bolton, who picked their targets and ran the secret slush fund that financed Nick’s swindles, knew the truth." Location 204 

This outing begins when the Chinese government wants one of their priceless artifacts
, a bronze rooster on display at the Smithsonian, returned. The Smithsonian agreed to return it, at the president’s personal request, but there is a problem. Unknown to the Chinese, the president, and the current director of the Smithsonian the bronze rooster on display is a forgery. The real artifact was stolen years ago. Fox and Kate must uncover who has the real rooster, recover it, and switch it with the fake one before the Chinese arrive to transport it back to China. Of course, no job is quite as simple as it seems and the lengths and illegalities Fox and Kate must go through to do the right thing seem to grow exponentially.

Kate and Fox have a chemistry between them. It's that
yin and yang, mismatched partner, Moonlighting feeling that helps propel the interpersonal play with the high stakes action. Kate is tough talking with an abundance of snarky humor and revels in eating fast food, such as In and Out's 3x3 burger. In contrast Fox is smooth and refined. He takes great delight in flirting with Kate and trying to get her flustered and upset with him. The action has Fox and Kate traveling near and far at a frantic pace and pulls in several reoccurring characters that are hilarious. 

Naturally the writing is superb and up to the task of this new series. There is a healthy amount of humor in the dialogue that should have you laughing aloud at times.  The Chase has a light-hearted tone, rather than a dark atmospheric feeling, and is a pleasure to read. While I haven't read The Heist yet (the first novel in the series) it wasn't a problem at all to start the series with this second novel.
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Random House for review purposes.