Wednesday, January 29, 2020

All the Best Lies

All the Best Lies by Joanna Schaffhausen
St. Martin's Publishing Group: 2/11/20
eBook review copy; 336 pages
ISBN-13: 9781250297389
Ellery Hathaway #3 

All the Best Lies by Joanna Schaffhausen is a highly recommended mystery/procedural. FBI agent Reed Markham and his friend and suspended cop Ellery Hathaway take on a very personal forty year old cold case in this third book in the Ellery Hathaway series.

Reed Markham's birth mother, Camilla Flores, was stabbed and beaten to death in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 1975, while her baby, Reed, was in the apartment. Her case was never solved. Reed was adopted by Virginia state senator Angus Markham. So when his sisters ask him to take a mail-in DNA test, just to see if he has some distant biological connection to them, he was hesitant, but did it. Instead of a distant link, Reed learns that adoptive father is actually his biological father. Reed wants to look into his mother's death because now he suspects that his father may be involved.

Reed enlists Ellery Hathaway to help him with the investigation. Ellery has her own reasons to want to leave town, not the least of which is that she is currently on suspension from the police force. Reed and Ellery have a complex relationship, but they work well together as an investigative team. They are also tentatively moving toward a closer personal relationship.

While this third book in the series can be read as a stand-alone novel, a more complete picture of the relationship between Reed and Ellery will result in reading them in order. They are both complex, flawed characters and have both chemistry with each other as well as a complicated relationship. I have read The Vanishing Season, book one, but not the second, No Mercy. I sort of wish I had read the second book before diving into this one, but Schaffhausen does do a very good job explaining their past while keeping the current investigation/mystery moving along.

The writing is excellent and the plot moves along quickly as does the character development. As the two dig deep into the past and try to find out what really happened, it becomes clear that not everyone is telling the truth and there are hidden motives. The clues are followed and Reed and Ellery work well together questioning people and following clues in this intriguing procedural/mystery. Be prepared for several surprises as the investigation unfolds and an ending which ties everything together.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Macmillan Publishing.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The Inhabited Island

The Inhabited Island by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
Andrew Bromfield (Translator)
Chicago Review Press: 2/4/20 (rerelease)
eBook review copy; 416 pages
ISBN-13: 9781613735978 

The Inhabited Island by Arkady and Boris Strugatskyis a very highly recommended classic grim science fiction dystopian story set on a post-apocalyptic planet.

"When Maxim Kammerer, a young space explorer from twenty-second-century Earth, crash-lands on an uncharted world, he thinks of himself as a latter-day Robinson Crusoe. Eager to establish first contact with the planet’s humanlike inhabitants, he finds himself increasingly entangled in their primitive way of life. After his experiences in their nightmarish military, criminal justice, and mental health systems, Maxim begins to realize that his sojourn on this radioactive and war-scarred world will not be a walk in the park."

It is a pleasure to read the 2020 edition, which is a new translation of the original Strugatsky brother's novel released by Chicago Review Press. The original novel was published in the magazine Neva in 1969. The first published book form of the novel was in 1971, but that edition had many changes that were demanded by the state censor in the Soviet Union. The English translation, Prisoners of Power, was released in 1977, but this edition was based on the censored version of the novel. There was also a film based on the novel called Dark Planet. Once you have read The Inhabited Island you will know why the original novel was censored - assuming that you know and understand world political history. This is a fine example of social allegory disguised as a science fiction novel so the Strugatsky's criticism against the Soviet Union would be disguised as literature. The bonus to the new translation is that it better captures the richness of the original novel.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Chicago Review Press.

The Misfortunes of Family

The Misfortunes of Family by Meg Little Reilly
MIRA Books: 2/4/20
eBook review copy; 352 pages
ISBN-13: 9780778369424

The Misfortunes of Family by Meg Little Reilly is a recommended family drama.

The Bright family is a political family. Newly retired senator John Bright and his wife Patty have four sons: JJ (John Junior), Spencer, Charlie, and Phillip. Every summer they have the sons and their partners for a family reunion at their lake house in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts. It is a stressful time for "the extras," as JJ's wife Mary-Beth and Spencer's husband Ian call themselves. The older three Bright boys are all dominated by their father and their mother still mothers them throughout the reunion. The youngest son, Phillip, who has always been an outlier in the family, makes an announcement that further sets him apart.

This summer is different and ripe for more stress for the extras than usual for two reasons. First the reunion is three weeks long instead of the usual one. Secondly, this summer a documentary filmmaker will be filming the entire Bright family the whole time. It is a situation ripe for tension and highly guarded secrets are certainly going to be exposed. Family reunions are usually fraught with underlying tension. How many families can withstand potentially having all their secrets uncovered?

The narrative unfolds through the point-of-view of the extras and Farah, the filmmaker, as they observe the sometimes larger-than-life Brights. The three weeks is full of drama, unbelievable stress, emotional releases, some self-realization, and, eventually, several shocking secrets are disclosed. The plot moves along quickly, but the connection with the characters becomes more distant with each new chapter. Ian was the most appealing character, partially because he was the only character who was content with his life and didn't come to the reunion with some hidden need or agenda.

The writing is good, but I pretty much knew or guessed most of the secrets that were going to be outed so I was anticipating when my predictions would be revealed in the plot. That meant that my interest in the novel needed to be focused on the various characters and their personal development. While character development does happen, most of it felt truncated, which left me pining for the richness and depth that great character development and personal growth can provide to a plot that is otherwise rather predictable. I would look for another Meg Little Reilly because this novel shows promise for her future works. 

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of MIRA Books.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

The Third to Die

The Third to Die by Allison Brennan
MIRA Books: 2/4/20
eBook review copy; 464 pages
ISBN-13: 9780778309444
Mobile Response Team #1 

The Third to Die by Allison Brennan is a very highly recommended procedural/thriller and is a captivating, exciting start to a new series. I'm hooked and cannot wait for the next book in the series!

Undercover Detective Kara Quinn, who is on forced leave/vacation from the LAPD, decides to spend it with her grandmother in Liberty Lake, Washington. While jogging early one morning she discovers a body by the lake. It is that of a woman who is a nurse and her death indicates rage. The method of the murder is identified as likely being done by a psychopathic serial killer called the Triple Killer, named because he murders three random victims, three days apart, every three years. So, according to his profile, this is the first of what will be three murders.

In Washington DC, the newly minted FBI Mobile Response Team, which is designed to cover rural areas underserved by law enforcement, is mobilized and sent to the scene to investigate the murder. The MRT team is led by FBI special agent Mathias (Matt) Costato. The killer will strike again in three days and this is a chance to stop the murder of two more people until the psychopath disappears for another three years. Kara is also assisting local law enforcement as the clock counts down, and things heat up between her and Matt.

Why have I never read a thriller by Allison Brennan? I loved this procedural/thriller and was totally engrossed in the plot from start to finish. The writing was very good. I found it hard to put down - following and exploring clues and leads as the investigation continued. The plot unfolds through three different points of view, Matt, Kara, and the killer. I will concede that some sections were a bit slower, but I felt they were needed to add depth to the plot as well as convey information we needed to know.

Kara and Matt are both great characters. Kara is complicated, prickly, strong, damaged, and intelligent. Matt is smart and driven; his damage is more contained but you get hints about his past. That the two would connect, work well together, be attracted to each other, and clash at the same time, was a given. I'm looking forward to the second book in this series. I'd like to see Matt and Kara take on another investigation.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of MIRA Books.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The Museum of Desire

The Museum of Desire by Jonathan Kellerman
Penguin Random House: 2/4/20
eBook review copy; 368 pages
ISBN-13: 9780525618522
Alex Delaware Series #35

The Museum of Desire by Jonathan Kellerman is a very highly recommended police procedural featuring psychologist Dr. Alex Delaware.

LAPD Lieutenant Milo Sturgis has a bizarre case and he calls in friend and psychologist Dr. Alex Delaware to assist him in the investigation. On the grounds of a deserted mansion in Bel Air four people are found murdered in a stretch limousine. But these four people have been arranged and displayed in a grotesque tableau that must mean something to the killer but is difficult for investigators to comprehend what it means. They are at a loss to explain the motive behind how the diverse group of people came to be found murdered together and arranged at the scene. Alex and Milo must use all their skills to uncover the truth, but the way to the answers is full of twisty turns and blind alleys. 

The complex story grabbed me from the start and I enjoyed following all the trails and lines of questioning in the detailed investigation immensely. The writing is excellent. At this point in his writing career Kellerman is skilled enough to tell a complicated, interesting story while keeping the plot moving along swiftly. The denouement was unexpected and startling, but totally satisfying and fit right in with the case.

This is a wonderful police procedural.  The characters are all well established at this point, but anyone new to the series could easily jump in and read The Museum of Desire without enjoying any of the previous Alex Delaware novels. Those who know the characters will appreciate this latest case. I've gleaned a new favorite quote:
"I've already got a mood disorder."
"What's that?"
"Personal variant of bipolar. Half the time I'm pissed off, the other I'm merely irritated."

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House

Perfect Little Children

Perfect Little Children by Sophie Hannah
HarperCollins: 2/4/20
eBook review copy; 336 pages
ISBN-13: 9780062978202

Perfect Little Children by Sophie Hannah is a recommended domestic thriller.

Beth Leeson is driving her 14 year-old son to his soccer game when she decides to take a little detour, since she's in the area, and look at her ex-best friend's house. She parks outside the house of Lewis and Flora Braid. She hasn't had contact or seen Flora in 12 years after the Braids came into money and moved, which was quickly followed by a schism in their friendship. Beth parks near the house when she sees Flora, but she also sees two young children and hears Flora call them Thomas and Emily. Beth is stunned by this since when she knew Flora, Thomas and Emily were five and three years-old. Flora looks older, but these two children look the same age, but they should be 17 and 15 now. And where is the baby, Georgina? Beth is shocked and decides to try and further investigate her former friend, with help from her husband Dom and daughter Zannah.

The story is unique, but, alas, I had a difficult time keeping my interest in finding out what was really happening with the Braids early in the novel. It is slow moving I just kept thinking that Beth's behavior was creepy. If you haven't seen someone for 12 years and you have ended the friendship, why would you be stalking them in real life? Sure, I can see some occurrence bringing an old friend to mind and you undertake some low key harmless on-line stalking, but Beth quickly escalates her curiosity to the level of questioning neighbors and further.

When the denouement is finally reached, it was satisfying, but I also felt a sense of relief that it was over. The basis of the plot stretches credibility. Combining a plot that requires you to suspend disbelief along with the lack of significant character envelopment made this novel a chore to read at times. At first I was freakishly hoping that there would be some science fiction twist to the story, but that was not to be. There are some twists and surprises. Probably a 2.5, but I'll round up.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Behind Every Lie

Behind Every Lie by Christina McDonald
Gallery Books: 2/4/20
eBook review copy; 336 pages
ISBN-13: 9781501184031 

Behind Every Lie by Christina McDonald is a highly recommended domestic thriller.

Eva Hansen is engaged to Liam Sullivan and seems to be getting her life back on track after an earlier unnamed traumatic occurrence (that will be revealed later). When she wakes up in the hospital and discovers that she was struck by lightning, she learns that she was found down the street from her mother's home and that her mother, Kat, has been murdered. Apparently Eva is a suspect and the police are eager to question her. Eva can't remember what happened, but knows that she couldn't have murdered her mom, could she? Then she finds a letter addressed to her in her mother's things that sends her traveling from Seattle to London. Kat lived in London before moving to the USA with Eva, so Eva hopes that the answers to what happened will be found there.

The action moves along quickly in Behind Every Lie, setting a break-neck pace as more and more details and secrets are revealed from both Eva and Kat's past. The narrative is told through Kat and Eva's point of view in alternating chapters, so you follow what Kat was going through back in England up to the present day while at the same time learning about Eva's discoveries and her past trauma. As more of the diverse stories are told, you will begin to make sense of what happened in the past and question what actually happened to Kat. 

I liked the alternating points-of-view between mother and daughter, and the suspicion that every character is under as the plot unfolds. All the characters seem untrustworthy at some point and the final denouement may take many readers by surprise, although others may have been suspicious about what was going on. Even though believably is frequently stretched, I was hooked into frantically reading to discover what happened next and if my suspicions and guesses about plot points were correct.

While very entertaining and engaging, McDonald seemed to throw a whole lot into this plot that would have benefited from being a bit more focused and not so wildly full of so many diverse secrets, coincidences, and implausible circumstances. I didn't quite believe some of the secrets would have been kept or not recalled much sooner. Character development suffered under the weight of so many different secrets and new developments. McDonald does regain points for sheer entertainment value.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

Within Plain Sight

Within Plain Sight by Bruce Robert Coffin
HarperCollins: 2/4/20
eBook review copy; 432 pages
ISBN-13: 9780062971340
Detective Byron Series #4 

Within Plain Sight by Bruce Robert Coffin is a highly recommended police procedural and the fourth book in the series.
Detective Sergeant John Byron and his team are called to the scene of a horrific crime in Portland, Maine. The body of a young woman has been found in an abandoned Portland lumber yard, posed, sitting up. Beyond not knowing who is responsible for her murder, the biggest question is where is her head? The crime may have ties to murders committed in Boston by a serial killer labeled the Horseman, so Byron needs to figure out if this is the case, if it is a copycat murder, or just a gruesome coincidence. 

As they start investigating the case, it becomes clear that there are some well-known local people who knew the victim and may have some connection to the case. As they investigate the case there are more and more people and lines of questioning that need to be covered. It is not making their jobs easier that some details are being prematurely leaked to the press.

This is a well-written, intricately plotted and detailed police procedural that follows the investigation step by step as more information is dug up and new lines of questioning need to be pursued. There are also problems with colleagues and departmental and relationship problems going on during the investigation. This is my first Detective Sergeant Byron novel but I had no problem keeping track of the numerous characters and following the plot. The characters are developed and given depth while the investigation Within Plain Sight is a perfect choice for procedural fans who like intricate, detailed investigations with the twists and turns along the way.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.

The Other People

The Other People by C. J. Tudor
Penguin Random House: 1/28/20
eBook review copy; 336 pages
ISBN-13: 9781984824998 

The Other People by C. J. Tudor is a very highly recommended unsettling thriller.

Three years ago Gabe Forman was driving home on the M1 stuck in traffic behind an old rusty car covered with bumper stickers when suddenly his five-year-old daughter Izzy's face appears in the back window and she mouths "Daddy." Gabe tries to follow the car but loses it. When he returns home, he finds out his wife and daughter were killed, but Gabe knows what he saw and he knows his daughter is still alive, despite the fact that his father-in-law positively identifies the bodies. He was a suspect in their murders for a while, but cleared. Now he spends his days driving up and down the motorway looking for the car he last saw his daughter in.

Fran and her daughter Alice are constantly on the run, trying to keep ahead of the people who want to hurt them. She knows too much and owes some people. Alice has a problem with mirrors, can suddenly fall asleep and has terrifying visions of a girl on a beach. When she wakes up from these visions, she has a pebble in her hand. Alice carries around a bag filled up with these pebbles.

These characters, along with others, are introduced and their stories are told. Eventually the stories and characters merge together at the ending of The Other People - and the title is explained. I don't want to explain any more of the plot than this as it is best to read it and experience what happens and is revealed as the narrative threads are explored. All of the characters are all well-developed and realistic. You will feel for Gabe, endlessly looking for his daughter, Izzy, and you'll be interested in what is happening to all of the characters as they rush to the point where their stories merge.

Great writing is notably present throughout The Other People. The plot is a thriller, as the mystery of what happened to Izzy is ongoing and the narrative also has mysterious undertones. Really, it's a little eerie and a little creepy with supernatural undertones. Once you start reading, you will find it difficult to stop. There are enough twists and surprises to keep you guessing until the story reaches a very satisfying denouement.

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

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.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Hill Women

Hill Women by Cassie Chambers
Penguin Random House: 1/7/20
advanced reading copy; 304 pages
ISBN-13: 9781984818911

Hill Women by Cassie Chambers is a recommended biography of the author, with nods to her female relatives in the Appalachian Mountains.

Cassie Chambers' family has their roots in the Appalachian county of Owsley, one of the poorest counties in Kentucky. Her mother, Wilma, grew up there and her Granny and Aunt Ruth stayed there. Ruth was a tobacco farmer for years, staying on the farm. Wilma was the 6th child in her family and the first to graduate from high school and go to college. When Wilma married at nineteen and had Cassie, she went on to finish school. Cassie often spent time in Owsley on the farm as a child. While her parents, young college students, went to school an hour away, her Granny and Aunt Ruth took care of her. Cassie went on to earn degrees from Yale and Harvard Law School. Afterward law school she returned to Kentucky to help impoverished women with free legal services.

The first part of this novel documents Cassie's early years and the history of her family, especially the women, in Owsley County. She describes the struggles, domestic violence, water pollution, and poverty present as well as the resourcefulness of the residents to make a living. The current opioid epidemic is mentioned but not covered in depth. This is really a biography of Cassie, with stories about her female relatives interwoven into her story. Once Cassie went on to higher education, much of the appeal of her account diminished. There are a plethora of books about people going on to higher education and Ivy League schools who feel out of place and like they don't fit in.

The latter part of the biography becomes more political and suddenly changes tone. Much to my chagrin, I didn't realize that Chambers is a member of the Democratic National Committee or I would have passed on reviewing this biography. There is enough divisiveness and derision in the news, so I'd like to avoid it when possible in my reading. Once the book took on a political stance, I lost interest. Cassie's own story was not as interesting as the life of previous generations and I was reading for the story of hill women, not Cassie in particular.

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