Monday, August 29, 2022

Lost In Time

Lost In Time by A G Riddle
9/1/22; 416 pages
Head of Zeus

Lost In Time by A G Riddle is a highly recommended science fiction time traveling thriller.

Dr. Sam Anderson and his daughter Adeline have been arrested and  charged with killing Nora Thomas, a colleague and lover. Sam and Nora were on the team that created Absolom, the time traveling device that used to send dangerous criminals to the prehistoric past. Even though he is innocent, Sam admits guilt based on a note left for his to find. His admission will send him back in time to the Triassic period. Adeline then devotes herself to uncovering the truth, which ends up involving much more than she anticipated.

Sure, you have to add in a heaping dose of setting disbelief aside, but after that, Lost In Time is sheer entertainment and a compelling and interesting time traveling mystery. Yes, dinosaurs are a part of the plot, but in actuality only a small, very gripping part. Although, admittedly, I would have enjoyed more of Sam in the Triassic Period. There is enough to satisfy time traveling fans, while still propelling the plot forward. The bulk of the novel is concerned with Adeline finding out the truth about Nora's murder, prove her father's innocence, and, well, everything involving the development of the Absolom project.

All of the characters are well written. They are complex, sympathetic, and fully realized. Even as each problem the individual team members are dealing with is expose, you will feel support and sympathy for them.

There are plenty of technical details provided, however, you don't necessarily need to follow all of them in order to appreciate and enjoy the plot. Once the narrative alternates between Sam trying to avoid dinosaurs and Adeline trying to uncover the truth, most readers will be hooked until Riddle reaches the end.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Head of Zeus via Edelweiss.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

The Beach Party

The Beach Party by Amy Sheppard
8/30/22; 296 pages

The Beach Party by Amy Sheppard is a recommended New Adult murder mystery.

Katie met her friend Sophie when they were both studying journalism at the university. Sophie has several successful podcasts and is an influencer while Katie is working in print journalism. Together the two started a true crime podcast that a network has noticed and want the two to do a deep dive into an unsolved case. Sophie plans for them to go to Cornwell to investigate the unsolved murder from six years ago. Katie lived in Pengully where the murder took place, was at the beach party that night and knew the victim, nineteen-year-old Lacey Crew. Doing this podcast will mean Katie must return to the town, reexamine what she remembers from that night, and subsequently confront her past.

I'm facing a bit of a quandary in reviewing this novel. This mystery/thriller is really written and tailored toward New Adult readers, who may enjoy it more than I did. There were several elements, however, that resulted in my recommendation, chiefly the slow revelation of facts that allowed the suspicion and tension to gradually build to the surprising twisty denouement. The murder mystery plot in the novel works quite well. I appreciated the narrative alternating between the present and the past. Having the premise rely on podcasting is a trendy choice which works.

The actual beach part in the title is recalled through flashbacks and peoples recollections rather than in real time, which isn't reflected in the synopsis. The writing isn't particularly well executed technically, but this may change in the released novel.

As written, there doesn't seem to be any reason that Katie and Sophie became friends and would remain friends after college. Sophie is more realized as a character than Katie, who could have used some additional character development. Among the various characters, past and present, there is too much relationship drama and casual encounters that sets a much younger tone to the novel, and, well, all the characters are young, in their mid-twenties. (It was also laughable when Katie describes her mother as 52, but really active for her age.)

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Bookouture via NetGalley.

Friday, August 26, 2022

Number One Fan

Number One Fan by Meg Elison
8/30/22; 352 pages
MIRA Books

Number One Fan by Meg Elison is a recommended horror thriller in a similar vein to Stephen King's Misery.

Novelist Eli (Elizabeth) Grey, a writer, gets into a ride share or uber at the airport and immediately assumes the drinks the driver offers are all okay. They aren't. She is drugged and wakes up chained to a bed in a strange man's basement. It is clear that her abduction was planned. He possessions from her hotel room have been taken to the house. Her captor is an unhinged fan who has a plan and list of rules she must follow. Her survival depends upon her assistant noticing that something is wrong and notifying the authorities.

The treatment Eli receives is a little too physically brutal and graphic while trying to show the level of derangement that Eli's captor is experiencing. A more nuanced, psychological approach would have served the novel better. However, if a visceral, physical element to the abduction was the point, then it was reached. While I appreciated Eli's clever, astute insight into the unthinkable situation she has found herself in, I also didn't particularly enjoy the graphic nature of the narrative. 

While Eli is an interesting character, the actual writing isn't quite up to the task of following her narrative in an engaging, inclusive way, beyond the violence. Having never been to a convention, the whole culture of fans at such a gathering went right over my head. I have authors I enjoy  immensely, but while I might go to hear them speak, that would be the limit to my adoration. Reading and writing are both rather private experiences and I am good with keep it that way. In the end, this is an uneven novel. It is an entertaining, horrifying novel, but the writing wanders a bit afield and the ending is unsatisfying.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of MIRA Books.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Please Join Us

Please Join Us by Catherine McKenzie
8/23/22; 320 pages
Atria Books

Please Join Us by Catherine McKenzie is a highly recommended psychological thriller.

Nicole Mueller has just learned that her law career is taking a dive and that she and her husband Dan are going to be forced out of their apartment, when she receives an invitation to join Panthera Leo, a networking retreat exclusively for women in Colorado. While Nicole sees this as an opportunity to reclaim her career, Dan thinks it sounds like a cult. Nevertheless, Nicole proceeds to attend the retreat and joins the group. Since it is composed of professional women, she is sure it will benefit her career.

At first Nicole appreciates the four other women who will compose her Pride: a CEO, an actress, a finance whiz, and a congresswoman. Their existence is based on the need for a women’s club in a men’s club world. At first she sees all sorts of benefits and billable hours that result from joining a Panthera Leo Pride. She has an impressive new client, a new apartment, and a new group of supportive friends. But she is soon called in to help with something that is a crime and her involvement means she is involved.

Nicole is an interesting character. As a lawyer, she questions everything and everyone. Her curiosity and willingness to confront and question events is what propels the novel forward to greater levels of excitement and tension. Everything must extract some kind of price, so the question is really what is Nicole willing to pay for her curiosity. As the plot advances, Nicole becomes increasingly suspicious and aware of the problems and aftermath that are looming overhead.

This is a well-written, complex, fast paced legal psychological thriller that will hold your attention to the end. There are plenty of twists, especially in the second half of the novel. Please Join Us ties into the MeToo movement. There is some suspension of disbelief which must be applied while reading, but beyond that the narrative is totally entertaining. I believe that I have encountered a very similar plot before.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Atria Books via NetGalley.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

The Darkness of Others

The Darkness of Others by Cate Holahan
8/23/22; 368 pages
Grand Central Publishing

The Darkness of Others by Cate Holahan is a recommended novel of psychological suspense.

When director Nate Walker is found dead by the cleaning lady and his wife Melissa is missing, Imani Banks is called to pick up their daughter from school and break the news to her. Meanwhile, Tonya Sayre, a waitress at the restaurant that Imani's husband, Chef Phillip  owns, needs a favor. She is being kicked out of her apartment because her daughter's father has withheld support. Imani, however, isn't completely thrilled with Tonya living there and begins to suspect her of other actions.

First, this is set in NYC during the pandemic. I wouldn't have chosen to read this novel knowing this information ahead of time. There is plenty of masking fear, paranoia, and closing businesses, but at the same time the scope is limited. The afterword addresses the purposeful setting during the lock down. Setting that aside, the narrative explores the darkness that can be found in any relationship and it unfolds through the point-of-view of several characters.

While the writing is very good and the character development is also nicely done, the actual mystery isn't really much of a mystery at all as the perpetrator is easily guessed very early on in the novel. The twists aren't really that surprising and there really isn't a truly satisfying motive for any of the nefarious deeds that occurred. 3.5 rounded down

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Grand Central Publishing via NetGalley.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Girl, Forgotten

Girl, Forgotten by Karin Slaughter
8/23/22; 400 pages
Andrea Oliver series #2

Girl, Forgotten by Karin Slaughter is a very highly recommended, exceptional procedural and thriller. THIS is how it's done! Girl, Forgotten may be a sequel to Pieces of Her, but it will certainly work as a stand-alone as the back story is provided. Truly an un-put-down-able novel and one of the best of the year. Slaughter remains at the top of the list for excellent, dependable and reliable go-to authors.

Andrea Oliver is now a US Marshall. She has been assigned a position to join Marshall Leonard (Catfish) Bible in Longbill Beach, Delaware, to protect federal judge Esther Vaughn who has received a series of threatening letters. Since this is also the hometown of Andrea’s psychopathic father, Clayton Morrow who is now up for parole, what she is also doing is looking into the 1982 story of the judge's daughter, 18-year-old Emily Vaughn and her clique of 'friends', Clay, Blake, Nardo and Ricky. Clayton has always been a suspect in the murder of Emily and if she can prove Clayton is guilty, Andrea can keep him in prison. But Marshall Bible has his own private agenda and is looking into a series of suicides that have occurred in the area.

The narrative moves seamlessly back and forth between the story of what happened to Emily in 1981-1982 and Andrea's present day assignment and complicated multifaceted investigation which include the death threats to the judge, a near-by cult, and what really happened to Emily in the 80's. The investigations are eventually linked and interrelated. This is a novel focused on uncovering and exposing the truth, but it is also about a mother's love for her child.

The writing is absolutely pitch-perfect and extraordinary. The plot is intricate and full of tension. The characters are portrayed as complex, multidimensional, flawed and realistic individuals. Bible adds some humor as well as keen insight in the investigations. The investigation is unpredictable and multi-layered. There is a sharp contrast between societal expectation and norms in 1981 versus 2022. Having lived as an adult in both decades, it rings true, although Slaughter's 1981 feels harsher than it was in reality.

Another excellent novel from Karin Slaughter! 
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.


Friday, August 19, 2022

What She Found

What She Found by Robert Dugoni
8/23/22; 368 pages
Thomas & Mercer
Tracy Crosswhite #9

What She Found by Robert Dugoni is a very highly recommended police procedural involving an investigation into a cold case.

Tracy Crosswhite has agreed to look into the disappearance of investigative reporter Lisa Childress twenty-five-years earlier at the request of her daughter Anita. Anita's father, Larry, who raised her, has always been the main suspect in her mother's disappearance, but Anita hopes that looking into the case again will find out the truth. She hopes it will clear the name of her father, but more importantly wants to find out what happened to Lisa. What Tracy need to do is try to find out what Lisa was investigating when she disappeared, but that may lead to a much more complicated and incendiary case than Tracy realizes.

This is a wonderfully complex and detailed cold case and it is a pleasure to read about he steps Tracy takes to solve it. Opening up the investigation leads to an intricate set of clues that lead to an even more complicated set of clues that create a maze that Tracy must follow. There are a lot of details that readers need to follow, so this novel is a great choice for those who appreciate and enjoy complex clues and leads that send the investigation into many new directions. The focus on investigative detective work is appreciated. the start is a little slow, but soon picks up and takes off.

Characters are strong, interesting, and memorable, including the minor characters. Even though this is #9, you can read it as a stand-alone cold case investigation. All the information is present that you need about Tracy and the real star of the novel is the investigation anyway. Nevertheless, Tracy is a strong, determined character withe the intelligence and persistence to follow the case to the conclusion.

The narrative succinctly details the facts uncovered and logically follows them to the next clue. Tracy puts her reputation as an investigator on the line here and this jeopardizes all that she holds dear. It also shows who has her back and are willing to back that up with action. This is a perfect series for procedural lovers, especially cold case fans. 4.5 rounded up.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Thomas & Mercer via NetGalley.

Thursday, August 18, 2022


Haven by Emma Donoghue
8/23/22; 272 pages
Little, Brown and Company

Haven by Emma Donoghue is a highly recommended literary historical fiction set in seventh-century Ireland.

In the Clanmacnoise Monastery, a scholar and priest called Artt has a dream where he feels that God has called him to set out with two monks to found a monastery isolated from the sinful world. The two monks he feels were chosen to be his companions on this sacred mission are young Trian and old Cormac. The three set out on a small boat with meager supplies down the river Shannon into the Atlantic. In the ocean, they travel until they find a steep, rocky, bare island that is home to tens of thousands of birds. Artt declares it their new home.

What follows is a tale of survival, zealotry, early Christianity, Irish mythology, obedience, and faith. The island it is set on is off the southwest coast of Ireland and is known as "Skellig Michael" (Stars Wars Episode VII where Luke was). This is a beautifully written and descriptive novel that captures the spare, pious lives of the monks as they follow Artt's increasingly extreme demands which he feels are holy instructions. The actual plot is quite simple and the conflict is found in the life Trian and Cormac are living as they follow the extremist pious and stringent leadership of Artt.

The story had me totally engrossed in it and the hardships they faced. I was invested in the characters and hoped Trian and Cormac would revolt, would understand that their devotion, their calling was to Christ and not a man. Then the big secret was revealed and it totally changed the evolution of the story and the confrontation in the final denouement. The ending was satisfying as it was hoped for, yet disappointing because the secret revealed was the impetus for it.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Little, Brown and Company via NetGalley.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

The Pier

The Pier by Matt Brolly
7/28/22; 352 pages
Thomas & Mercer
Detective Louise Blackwell #5

The Pier by Matt Brolly is a highly recommended procedural and the fifth installment of the Louise Blackwell series.

DI Louise Blackwell of the Weston-super-Mare police force will do anything to keep her niece, Emily, safe, so when a bomber targets her school it is obviously a message to Blackwell, especially as there is a message specifically mentioning her. Then there is an explosion at a nearby caravan that is tied into the school bomb. A suspect is found, but he is not the perpetrator. Tania French, the reporter, is hanging around, ready to write incendiary stories about the threat. And the corrupt DCI Tom Finch, who is in jail awaiting trial, seems intent on taking Blackwell down before she can testify against him, but there is also another relative of a suspect who may want revenge against Blackwell.

In this fifth outing of DI Louise Blackwell, the complicated background information needed to completely comprehend the plot almost makes it a necessity to read the previous novels in the Blackwell series. There are recurring characters and many ties back to events found in previous novels, especially the fourth novel, The Mark. There is background information provided, but it would really behoove readers to know more information and background to fully appreciate the plot.

Blackwell continues to be a compelling character that readers will up hold. She is a determined, intelligent and interesting character. DCI Robertson now heads her section and he has always supported her. Blackwell's flaws are also presented in the plot, which makes her a realistic and sympathetic character who will elicit your support as she handles the current investigation. Along the way there is further character development as the novel progresses. Her relationship with Tom continues to evolve and grow.

This is a great series for those who enjoy police procedurals.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Thomas & Mercer via NetGalley.

Monday, August 15, 2022


Complicit by Winnie M Li
8/16/22; 416 pages
Atria/Emily Bestler Books

Complicit by Winnie M Li is a highly recommended literary fiction novel and an inside examination of the MeToo movement.

Sarah Lai is currently teaching screenplay writing at community college, but she always loved movies and dreamed of a successful job in the movie industry. Ten years earlier, she was thrilled to have a chance to get her foot in the door as an unpaid intern at Firefly Films with the founder Sylvia Zimmerman. Sarah impresses Sylvia with her hard work and dedication so she officially hired by the production company. Up-and-coming writer and director Xander Schulz is working on a script for his first feature film and Sarah will be the assistant producer on it. When the film is shown at Cannes, British billionaire Hugo North is impressed. He backs the company, rebranding Firefly as Conquest. Xander's next movie is going to be filmed in Los Angeles and will be the break-out film for famous actor Holly Randolph.

When Sarah is contacted by New York Times writer Thom Gallagher who wants to interview her, she is reluctant to tell her story from year ago, but agrees to do so, if only to set the record straight about the abuse of power by Hugo that ended her career. She is also questioning if her actions were somehow complicit in perpetuating the exploitation.

The narrative mainly consists of Sarah telling her story to Thom with some excerpts from present day interviews of other people Thom is talking to randomly mixed into the story. Thom is an investigative reporter, so he is talking to several people from Hugo's past. He may ask a few questions, but most of the novel is Sarah telling her story as well as the shorter interviews of others telling their story or trying to hide it. There are other themes beyond the exploitation of woman which include the experiences of immigrant Americans and family dynamics.

The quality of the writing is excellent, which is what pulled me into Sarah's story, elements of which can be found in the story of the lives of many women. The actual idea of complicity is introduce, but not explored deeply at a personal level, although it is clearly described in the atmosphere surrounding the film industry and wealthy and powerful men. Perhaps pointing it out and allowing Sarah to feel guilt over something that was basically beyond her control is enough. The whole industry is culturally skewed toward exploitation and the objectification of women.

Sarah is a complicated woman and an unforgettable character in many ways. The novel is really about Sarah's life. Complicit is Sarah's ode to her passion for movies, as well as a brush with fame before she is forced to face cold hard reality. All the characters are basically filtered through Sarah's point-of-view, with Thom's interviews adding a twist to them. It is also the story of many Chinese-Americans in many of the details her family and life. Admittedly, while I found it interesting, there could have been some paring down of details from Sarah's early love of movies and her initial years with Firefly.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Atria/Emily Bestler Books.

Friday, August 12, 2022

My Lovely Daughter

My Lovely Daughter by R.P. Bolton
10/7/22; 288 pages

My Lovely Daughter by R.P. Bolton is a highly recommended domestic thriller.

Annie, a single mother and veterinary nurse, loves her thirteen-year-old daughter, Izzy. The two have built a life for themselves after Annie's devastating divorce, but now their safety and happiness has been threatened by an outside force. Some anonymous person is threatening to tell Izzy the truth about the secret that Annie holds, unless Annie gives him a huge amount of money. Annie will do anything to protect Izzy and her secret, but she does not have the cash demanded.

This is a suspenseful domestic thriller. Although Annie's big secret is easy to deduce, readers will know that she loves Izzy and wants to protect her from any nefarious person causing Izzy any harm. She wants to keep the secret from Izzy to protect her and a good mother's love is always looking out for what would be the best for her children. Admittedly, the antagonist is also very easy to guess before it is revealed, but the suspense is created in the chapters going back and forth in time, leading up to the present day dilemma and to the current life of Annie and Izzy.

Annie is a well developed character and portrayed as a realistic person, full of strengths and flaws. Because of the past Then chapters alternating with the Now chapters, readers will really see the good qualities of Annie along with her flaws. The writing is good and the pace moves quickly, which helps keep you focused on Annie's dilemma. 3.5 rounded up.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins via NetGalley.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

The Family Remains

The Family Remains by Lisa Jewell
8/9/22; 384 pages
Atria Books

The Family Remains by Lisa Jewell is a very highly recommended psychological thriller and a sequel to The Family Upstairs.

Following multiple storylines in different time periods, the opening of the novel features a cast of characters, which will be very beneficial. In 2019, DCI Samuel Owusu is called out to the shore of the Thames to examine bones that are found washed up on the shore in a trash bag and found by a mudlarker. He calls Rachel Rimmer to inform her that her ex-husband is dead. In 2016, Rachel Gold meets Michael Rimmer and ends up marrying him after a quick courtship which ends with Michael’s murder in the Antibes in 2018. In 2019 Henry Lamb has his sister Lucy and her two children staying with him. Lucy was once married to Michael; and Lucy’s daughter is Libby Jones, whose escape from their childhood “house of horrors” was the centerpiece of the previous book. Henry’s is obsessed with Finn Thomsen, from his traumatic youth and searches for him in Chicago.

On The Family Remains you really need to read The Family Upstairs first. Sometimes it doesn't matter so much but with this sequel it really does, as does the cast of characters at the beginning. Trust me. After that you will realize that this is an amazing sequel full of suspense and mysteries as well as some nail-biting tension. The plot itself is intricate and, again, depends upon you acquaintance with the characters from The Family Upstairs. The story, which jumps around in time and between characters in each chapter, does involve child abuse.

Jewell is an excellent writer and that is evident in The Family Remains. The intricate plot and well developed characters are fully established in the plot through four different narratives. It does take some time to develop connections between the different timelines and stories, but in the end it is worth it. Henry's obsession with Finn is especially intense and chilling.

This is another excellent novel from Jewell, who is quickly becoming a favorite author due to her reliability in writing an exceptional story.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Atria Books via NetGalley.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Long Gone

Long Gone by Joanna Schaffhausen
8/9/22; 304 pages
Minotaur Books
Detective Annalisa Vega #2

Long Gone by Joanna Schaffhausen is a highly recommended police procedural and the second book in the Annalisa Vega series.

Chicago detective Annalisa Vega is still dealing with personal fallout from a previous decision that affected her relationship with her family and other officers have lost trust in her. When she and Nick Carelli, her partner and ex-husband, are called in to investigate the fatal shooting of veteran detective Leo Hammond, she knows her investigation will be questioned. Immediately part of Leo's team, detectives Frankie Vaughn and Paul Monk show up. They worked with Leo and detective Tom Osborne as part of the fantastic four and want to take over the investigation. Then there is Leo's much younger wife who claims an intruder in a black wetsuit and diving mask killed him. Or could Moe Bocks be responsible? He is still the main suspect from a previous murder and he and Leo had a run-in a month earlier. Bocks also has a tie to her best friend.

This is a complicated, detail oriented procedural that combines the complex investigation with personal challenges. Pay attention to the various characters involved because this novel has plenty of them and they all play a role in the intricate narrative. This is my first Annalisa Vega novel and I didn't feel like much backstory was lost by not reading the first, Gone For Good. Knowing more of her backstory might have helped with the complicated family relationships, but enough is explained that readers should be able to grasp the essentials.

Annalisa is portrayed as a realistic but flawed character. She is tenacious, intelligent, introspective, and determined which all works together to create an interesting character who will likely have some longevity in a series. The other supporting characters are also developed as interesting individuals in this character driven procedural.

The writing is excellent. The suspense and tension starts immediately and continues throughout the complicated plot. Trying to guess the outcome is not going to be easy for sleuths reading Long Gone. There is so much going on that the real question is how can all these plot and subplots actually be wrapped up by the end in a satisfying conclusion. 

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Minotaur Books via NetGalley.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

The Dark Circle

The Dark Circle by Robert J. Mrazek
8/9/22; 336 pages
Crooked Lane Books
Jake Cantrell #2

The Dark Circle by Robert J. Mrazek is a highly recommended thriller and the second installment of the Jake Cantrell series.

Jake Cantrell, ex-army officer, loses his job as a campus security guard when a campus event leads to Jake having to defend himself against two football players high on an opioid distributed at the event. He is fired for using excessive force, but quickly finds another job. Lauren Kennsiton, editor of the Groton Journal, hires him to find missing college student Deborah Chapman. Deborah is a gifted young jazz vocalist who suddenly disappeared. Jake's investigation turns into a whole lot more than finding a missing person.

This is a very dark and disturbing thriller. There is one scene very early in the novel that almost had me decline to finish reading it for a review. I hope it was removed from the final version. There was no reason for it to be included and it needs to be noted that women read thrillers too, not just men. What kept me reading was Bug, the eighteen-year-old wolf hound Jake saved in Afghanistan. Jake is very loving to Bug and so I decided to continue. It did get better.

While the tone of the narrative continued to be very dark, Jake's actions and investigation are seriously dedicated to discovering what is going on. The plot becomes increasingly complicated as Jake uncovers more information and clues leading to more and more disturbing facts. Jake's determination to uncover everything is commendable, which sort of made up for the earlier scene. This can be read as a stand-alone novel. I have not read Dead Man's Bridge, the first in the series, and didn't feel as if I missed anything. Events in Jake's past are shared as needed in the plot.

The Dark Circle is a novel that requires you to suspend disbelief as Jake is almost super-human in his ability to handle all sorts of abuse and violence and keep going while trying to track down perpetrators and clues. It is well-written and readers will end up hoping Jake succeeds in all the very risky missions he undertakes to find the answers and uncover the nefarious deeds and actions going on. The final denouement is satisfying, but there are some questions/plot points left unanswered.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Crooked Lane Books via NetGalley.

Friday, August 5, 2022

Never Go Home

Never Go Home by Christopher Swann
8/9/22; 288 pages
Crooked Lane Books
Faulkner Family #2

Never Go Home by Christopher Swann is a highly recommended thriller and the second book in the Faulkner Family series.

Susannah Faulkner, orphaned at ten, grew up learning how to take care of herself and her family. She usually uses her abilities against the bad guys for pay and to right wrongs. When she is contacted during her current job to go home because her brother Ethan needs help, she immediately ties up the loose ends and goes home to Atlanta. At the airport she discovers her Uncle Gavin has had a heart attack. He whispers one word to her, Peaches, and Suzie must figure out who or what that is and why her uncle would say this.

Ethan also needs help. An ex-soldier and ex-con named Finn has shown up and claims that their father stole millions of dollars fifteen years earlier while serving in Iraq. Finn wants to know where the money is and he wants his share of the missing millions. But right now, with Uncle Gavin hospitalized, a gang war threatens to explode as people fight to take over control in Atlanta.

After a heart-stopping opening, this is an excellent thriller that will hold your attention throughout. The action does come and go in explosive bursts of energy as Suzie has to deal with the denizens of Atlanta's underworld. Although Never Go Home is the second book in the series, following Never Turn Back, it can be read as a stand-alone, especially because this novel follows Susannah and the first follows her brother, Ethan.

The narrative follows two different story lines, which helps create tension but also allows for more exciting action scenes and clashes. There is also plenty of intimidation and posturing from characters. Readers will have to suspend disbelief for many of the action scenes, which is easily done because the action unfurls at a frantic pace and everyone, but especially Suzie, is using all these intense fighting skills.

Character development portrays both the positive and negative parts of the character's personalities as is clearly showcased in the plot. These characters have a proficiency and capacity for violence beyond the ordinary. Suzie is a damaged person, but the appeal is found in her fighting skills and intelligence. There was some incorrect information presented as facts in Suzie's comments which was a bit off-putting.

This is a good choice for escapism, especially for those who appreciate action packed thrillers.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Crooked Lane Books via NetGalley.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Stay Awake

Stay Awake by Megan Goldin
8/9/22; 352 pages
St. Martin's Press

Stay Awake by Megan Goldin is a highly recommended thriller/mystery involving memory loss.

Liv Reese wakes up in a taxi and doesn't know where she is. She gets back to her apartment only to discover strangers living there. All she knows are the messages written on her hands, with STAY AWAKE featured prominently. She has lost her phone and her bag and has a bloody knife in her pocket. She is lost and disoriented in NYC. Meanwhile the police have discovered a murdered man and are looking for who did it.

The narrative alternates between Liv in the present day, Liv two years earlier, and NYPD detective Darcy Halliday’s current homicide investigation, slowly leading up to answer what is happening to Liv. Liv thinks it is two years earlier, but clearly it isn't. She is disoriented and trying to run from something or someone but she can't remember. What she does know is that she must stay awake and avoid sleep at all costs.

Liv's character is developed, but more so in the chapters that deal with her three years before the present day memory loss. She has a stalker and feels very threatening. Her present day chapters are much more repetitious and a little off-putting. I did wonder immediately, before there was much information revealed, why she hadn't written more detailed notes to herself. She can't trust anyone. Her confusion and memory loss put her at a great disadvantage. She is a bit annoying as a character, but much of this is due, in my opinion, to her not writing more detailed notes to herself.

The final denouement is satisfying and wraps up the novel quickly. I predicted the perpetrator ahead of time, but the journey there was interesting, and full of tension and suspense. Liv is an unreliable narrator, but her search for the truth will have you supporting her and wishing for the best.

In order to enjoy this novel about memory loss you have to suspend disbelief while reading it. Trust me on this one. Next, you have to skip over all the repetitious phrases and whole paragraphs that are used in association with Liv's memory loss. If you can do both of these steps, you are going to enjoy the novel and figuring out the mystery of what really happened and what is going on with Liv. Honestly, there have been better memory loss novel and this one has an uneven start until Liv's history of memory loss was revealed. 3.5 rounded up.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of St. Martin's Press via NetGalley

Monday, August 1, 2022

The Rabbit Hutch

The Rabbit Hutch by Tess Gunty
8/2/22; 352 pages
Knopf Doubleday

The Rabbit Hutch by Tess Gunty is a recommended story about the residents left in an apartment building on the edge of town.

Vacca Vale, Indiana, has had all industry abandon it and it is a dying town. In an apartment building known as the Rabbit Hutch, there are still residents living there, looking for a way to get by in a dying city. Apartment C2, Joan Kowalski, is lonely and detached; C6 is aging and stuck; C8 are new parents where a sleep-deprived young mother is terrified of her newborn’s eyes; and C4 is holds four teenagers recently aged out of the foster-care system, three boys, Jack, Malik, and Todd, and one girl, Blandine. The story centers around the four teenagers. In the opening Blandine is stabbed in her apartment.

What follows is the story of the residents, but especially Blandine, who desires an escape like the mystics describe in the books she reads. It is also a story of feeling lonely and entrapped when you have no where else to go in a dying city. Blandine and the teenage boys are the story. Distracting from them are the other detailed characterization of the supporting cast, as it were.

The writing is incredible and that is the saving feature of this original debut novel. However there are extended potions of the plot that deal with characters who aren't dependent upon other characters and whose parts of the narrative are isolated as unique unto themselves, the new parents being an excellent example. It seems that more editing should have been done. Yes, they new parents can be mentioned but they are obviously not the focus of the plot and don't need so much time spent with them.

This is an original debut novel and certainly portends for future work to take note of, but hopefully there will be better editing in the future. I had to force myself to finish The Rabbit Hutch, which is never a good sign. There are certainly pluses to the novel, but in the end it felt uneven.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Knopf Doubleday.