Category Archives: Harper Books

Review: Eyes on You by Kate White

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (June 24, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9780061576638
  • Source: Publisher

It started with a nasty note on the night of her book launch, followed by her author photo sliced from the jacket of her book. Soon, however, the attacks against television host and, now author, Robin Trainer increased quickly with severity.  After losing her on-air job a few years ago and an emotional divorce, Robin’s life is finally on an upward climb. Someone, however, is obviously jealous of Robin’s increase in popularity and is out to stop her, at any cost.

Robin struggles to find the individual responsible for these atrocious acts, unfortunately not soon enough.  The life and career she so carefully and diligently built up begins to collapse around her. Rather than finding evidence to prove someone close to her is responsible for these wrong-doings, everyone begins to suspect Robin herself. Her past and a torrential relationship with her stepmother comes to light, further evidence to indicate Robin is responsible for these incidents as a plea for attention. Robin watches as everything she’s held important is ripped from her, realizing with fear that this individual won’t stop until Robin’s life is taken as well. She begins to work on her own to develop a case to prove that she is under attack by someone, requiring people from her past to come forth and speak in her defense. As she struggles to prove her case, she’s challenged with keeping information about her personal life and the past from the public’s prying eyes.

Eyes on You is a chilling exploration of the cost of fame. Readers follow Robin as she questions everyone around her, no one completely innocent in her eyes. She’s left with very few people she can trust, everyone a potential adversary in this race to prove her innocence and protect her life.  What starts out as a slow progression of attacks quickly builds into a strong and steady vengeful attack toward Robin’s life itself. The attacks against her are terrifying; readers will be at the each of their seats with every turn of the page. A truly addictive and intense read, it will be difficult for readers to not devour this thriller in one sitting. Highly recommended.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me with an opportunity to review this title. Please be sure to check out the other stops in this tour.

Review: All Day and a Night by Alafair Burke

  • Series: Ellie Hatcher
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (June 10, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9780062208385
  • Source: Publisher

When therapist Helen Brunswick is found murdered in her Park Slope office, blame immediately falls to her estranged husband.  Then the District Attorney’s office receives an anonymous letter detailing aspects of the crime not made available to the public,  behavior eerily similar to a twenty-year-old case. In that case, Anthony Amaro was convicted of murder and for the past two decades has been serving time for his crime. Now, with this new information available, Amaro is requesting release from prison on the grounds that he was wrongly accused.

NYPD Detectives Ellie Hatcher and JJ Rogan are brought in to reevaluate the the investigation that led to Amaro’s arrest. Ellie’s relationship with the lead prosecutor on the case has her questioning her loyalties. They have few allies in this search; everyone is certain Amaro is the guilty party.  In a surprising move, Carrie Blank, the half-sister of one of Amaro’s victims, joins the legal team led by a head strong celebrity lawyer to defend Amaro. Carrie does so more as a means to get answers to questions surrounding her sister’s death, not necessarily because she believes Amaro is innocent. Yet as each side of the investigation digs through past, all evidence takes them back to Carrie’s hometown.  Someone is trying to prevent the past from being revealed, influential people in high positions of power want these secrets to remain buried, no matter the cost.

This is the fifth book in the Ellie Hatcher series, but the tenth book written by former prosecutor Alafair Burke.  While I have read only a few of the previous books, I didn’t feel as though I was missing out on a great deal of content or back story. Burke excels at creating and developing her characters and it was able to reacquaint myself with the characters with great ease.  Her obvious and apparent knowledge and familiarity with criminal law most certainly shines through. The legal aspects of the novel are accurate, explained in layman’s terms rather than technical legal-ease. The intense pacing of the storyline and the gradual reveal instantly reminded me of why I am such a fan of Burke’s writing.  It captures you from the beginning, patiently builds the storyline and characters, and ends with a stunning yet satisfying conclusion.

Bottom line: All Day and a Night is just another piece of evidence to prove the talent of the great Alafair Burke.  A classic detective series at it’s finest, I look forward to going back and reading more of the books in this series. Highly, highly recommended.

Review: A Replacement Life by Boris Fishman

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (June 3, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0062287877
  • Source: Publisher

Slava Gelman is a lapsed Jew working for Century, an esteemed magazine in Manhattan. He’s exiled himself from his family in an attempt to shed the history and past that may tarnish the aristocratic-style writing demanded of him by Century.

Yet when he receives a phone call from his mother stating his grandmother has passed away, he throws all that behind him, crossing the East River to visit his grandfather. His grandmother meant the world to him. She was more like a mother than his own and was one of his few family members who understood Slava. When he learns that his grandmother was eligible for Holocaust reparations from the German government,   Slava  does the unbelievable: rewriting his grandmother’s Holocaust experience into his father’s. So desperate to write something of substance, he finds himself forging other restitution claims. While these individuals may not have suffered directly from the concentration camps, they represent those thousands of Jews that did.

Slava’s story himself in an interesting one. His family moved to the states in the 1970s from the Soviet republic and Slava has a huge gap in his knowledge of his family’s Jewish culture. He struggles to understand their need and determination for reparations, but struggles. His grandmother is his tie to his heritage and, with her death, he now lacks that connection. Despite the danger that comes in writing the fraudulent claims, it’s obvious that Slava is doing it to make up for what he was unable to do for his grandmother before she died.

I admit, initially I found it quite difficult to become invested in this novel. Slava is a unique character that I found difficult to connect with. He doesn’t easily or willingly expose his softer side, instead putting up a facade of a selfish and self-absorbed man. Yet, through his “conversations” and reflections on his grandmother, a more sympathetic side comes forth.  It was then that I was finally able to embrace Slava for efforts and attempts to attain justice for so many.

At its very core, A Replacement Life is not only about finding oneself and embracing one’s destiny, but balancing on the fine line between what is right for one’s family  and what is right in the greater sense of the word.  It is a novel about achieving justice when justice is due, despite the consequences. Full of dark humor and witty banter, A Replacement Life isn’t your typical exploration of family love and justice. That said, its unique style is destined to make this a book meant to be discussed. Highly recommended.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to review this title. Please be sure to check out the other stops in this tour.

Review: Closed Doors by Lisa O’Donnell

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  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (May 20, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 006227189X
  • Source: Publisher

Eleven-year-old Michael Murray lives on a small Scottish island, a community so small that there are no secrets. His mother and grandmother are often found sitting at the kitchen table, gossiping about one person or another. Believing Michael too young to listen in, they banish him from the kitchen. Little do they know, he can often be found on the other side of the kitchen door, listening in.

When something devastating happens to his family, they attempt to protect him from knowing the truth.  Yet it isn’t after too many opportunities spent eavesdropping that Michael is able to uncover what really transpired. Questioning why his family has remained silent, even after others are affected, Michael is desperate to uncover the root of the event that has forever transformed his family.

Told by Michael’s point of view, readers experience this harrowing situation through his innocent, yet perceptive, eyes. That’s what makes this novel stand out, for it so honestly captures Michael’s interpretation of the actions that transpire to alter his family.  Intermixed with the main storyline are subplots involving Michael’s trials and tribulations as a prepubescent young man, including discovering and understanding the changes in his own body.

While the premise may lead you to believe this is a thriller, while it has some of the characteristics it is more of a coming of age, for we watch as Michael loses a bit of his own innocence in discovering the truth. At the beginning, he is quite naive but is slowly developed into an aware and cognizant young man. The pacing is slow, yet not drawn out, allowing readers to form a genuine connection with Michael and his family.

While it did take some time for me to become invested in Michael and his family, I ultimately found this book to be wholly rewarding and heartwarming. At its very core, it is an exploration of the value of love and family, despite of (and due to) harrowing and devastating situations. Recommended.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to review this title. Please be sure to check out the other stops along the way!

 

Lisa O’Donnell won the Orange Screenwriting Prize in 2000 for her screenplay The Wedding Gift. Her debut novel, The Death of Bees, was the winner of the 2013 Commonwealth Book Prize. She lives in Scotland.

Visit Lisa at her website, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

Review: The Book of You by Claire Kendal

The Book of You

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (May 6, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0062297600
  • Source: Publisher

He’s everywhere. At the train station. Standing outside her door.  At the University where she works. His name is Rafe, her constant shadow following one regretful evening.  He sends her messages through the post, rifles through her garbage, takes photographs of her while she sleeps.

Clarissa is ecstatic when she’s called to serve on a jury. It is her only salvation from him. The trial involves the brutal abduction and rape of a prostitute. Her situation mirrors that of Clarissa’s in so many ways.  Ash she watches how the victim is attacked on the stand, Clarissa sees she must build up a strong case against her own stalker. Anything less than absolute evidence will mean her accusations will be shunned, like this victim’s, and Rafe will be released.

Clarissa becomes obsessed with accumulating the evidence to prove a case against Rafe. She notices it herself, how her obsession with him parallels his with her:

I actually catch myself wondering where you are. This scares me even more; it makes me see that there is a danger of my becoming as fixated on you as you are on me. That is what you want, in your constant mission to keep my attention.

The terror Clarissa experiences pours through the pages of this stunning debut novel. You feel her fear, your heart pounds as she searches crowds to see if Rafe is watching. She knows he is…he is everywhere. In the few moments her guard is down, you feel the hairs on your neck raise, knowing that Rafe is somewhere….watching.

Ending with a stunning and terrifying conclusion, The Book of You is a book like none other. It’s impossible to classify it as a thriller, for it is far more terrifying than any thriller I have read. A tale of terror of such magnitude, Clarissa’s terror flowed into me and I found myself constantly checking my surroundings, making certain I locked all doors, closed all the blinds.

In spite of, or perhaps because of, the emotional reaction I had to this novel, I simply could not get enough. I devoured it. Hoped and prayed for Clarissa’s salvation. It is beyond my comprehension that this is the author’s first novel for the power and intensity she puts behinds her words are attributes of a skilled and veteran writer.

While certainly not an easy read, I do recommend this title for fans of strong, psychological thrillers. While there are some graphic scenes, particularly of a graphic nature, none of it is excessive or gratuitous.   Bottom line: If you are looking for a book to get you out of a reading slump, or to keep you up late at night, this is the novel for you. Kendal is an author I will follow, desperate to see what she writes next. Highly, highly recommended.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to review this title.  Please check out the official tour page for other reviews.

Review: Under a Silent Moon by Elizabeth Haynes

  • Series: Detective Chief Inspector Louisa Smith
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (April 15, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0062276026
  • Source: Publisher

One morning, the police are called to a cottage to investigate a murder in a quiet English village. The victim, Polly, is a beautiful young woman, known for having multiple affairs with both men and women.  Her affairs all end the same way: the other party begs for a more stable relationship which Polly quickly denies.

Soon after, a car is found at the bottom of a quarry. Inside they find the body of Barbara Fletcher-Norman, her death an apparent suicide. Barbara was a known drunk and it’s assumed her death is a suicide.

Leading the investigation on both cases Detective Chief Inspector Louisa Smith soon realizes that there is more to both of these incidents.  Louisa must dig into the small village’s secrets to learn more about these two women.  Unfortunately, the evidence is showing multiple potential suspects making Louisa’s job particularly difficult. As can be imagined, the villagers aren’t volunteering information. Instead, she must use phone records and eyewitness accounts to identify the individual(s!?) at fault.

Under a Silent Moon is the first in a new police procedural series from this author.  Haynes, a police intelligence analyst herself, interweaves police reports, phone messages, and interviews, along with the multiple viewpoints,  to create a rich and intense novel of suspense.  The secondary characters play a pretty active role, having the appearance of primary characters due to their involvement in the storyline.  They are each richly developed, truly making this a more dynamic read than a typical police procedural.

Haynes own background in the field certainly adds a level of authenticity to the actions the investigators perform to trace down the killer. The added addition of the police reports, etc., allows the reader to genuinely feel part of the investigation, gaining privileged access to the case information.  This information provides readers with just enough information to form an educated guess about what may have transpired.  The race to the end is intense; the need to know the truth is great.

Be forewarned that there are some graphic scenes of a sexual nature throughout the book. Certainly not gratuitous but necessary to exemplify the…intensity of one of the secondary characters.

Bottom line, like with all of Elizabeth Haynes’ other books, this one comes highly recommended! I can’t wait to read more!

Other books by Elizabeth Haynes:

Into the Darkest Corner
Dark Tide
Human Remains

 

FemmeFatale

Review: Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke

Mind-of-Winter-198x300

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (March 25, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0062284398
  • Source: Publisher

Holly Judge awakens on a snowy Christmas morning with remnants of a nightmare racing through her head. Thirteen years ago, she and her husband traveled to Russia to adopt their daughter, Tatiana.  The thought that races through her head – Something followed them from Russia – terrifies her. They were warned to name her something American, to prevent her life in Russia from following her, but they wanted to pay homage to her home country.  Now fifteen, Tatiana is a beautiful, raven-haired young woman.

The craziness of the day prevents Holly from pondering the nightmare any further. Her husband, Eric, has left in a rush to pick up his family from the airport. They are hosting Christmas dinner and the few hours they slept in has Holly rushing frantically to prepare for the day. When the blizzard raging outside prevents their guests from arriving, including her husband and in-laws, Holly and Tatiana are left alone.  As the hours pass, Tatiana’s behavior changes drastically, almost a shell of her original self. It is as if a stranger is in the house with her…

I don’t know about you, but the concept of a raven-haired orphan reminds me of one thing:

 

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I mean, the resemblance to the young girl on the cover of the book is uncanny, right?

Taking a step back, the resemblance in the appearance in the young girls is the only thing these have in common. What Holly learns as the cold, desolate, Christmas morning progresses is far more terrorizing, in my mind.  Holly reflects back on their visits to the orphanage and the experiences they have while visiting the orphanage. The cold starkness of the orphanage is reflected in the blizzard outdoors, now, thirteen years later.

The tension Kasischke is slow but heavy.  The reader knows the reveal will be quick and terrifying. And it was. In just a few pages, everything changes for this mother and child. The emotions readers face while reading this intense thriller will range from joy, to terror, and then sadness. I’m not going to sugar-coat it. The ending hits you like a punch to the gut.

So why read this novel? It’s simultaneously brilliant and terrifying. Like witnessing an accident, you can’t tear your eyes away. You’ll question everything, finding it difficult to separate truth from illusion.  Completely mesmerizing, don’t be shocked if you read this relatively short book in one sitting.

What stands out for me is how Kasischke used Holly’s self-doubt and own mental insecurities to build up and reveal the terror she is about to face. The reader follows as the life she thought was perfect is slowly chipped away and the horrific reality hits her out of nowhere.

While the premise might lead readers to believe this is a horror novel it actually isn’t. Instead, it’s a emotional, gut-wrenching, mind-altering psychological thriller. Kasischke raises the bar high for other novels like this, for it’s going to take a lot to terrify me more than this novel did.  Highly, highly recommended.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to review this title. Be sure to check out the other stops in the tour.

Review: The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (February 11, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 006228553X
  • Source: Publisher

Bartholomew Neil has cared for his mother for the entire thirty-eight years of his life. When she passes away from cancer, he’s left with an emptiness in his life.  He has no concept of living on his own, free of obligation and co-dependence. Prior to her death, he finds a “Free Tibet” letter from Richard Gere in his mother’s underwear drawer. His mother had a long-standing obsession with Gere, going so far as to call Bartholomew “Richard” in the days leading up to her death. Bartholomew feels that he has some sort of cosmic connection to Richard and begins writing a series of very personal, heartfelt letters, to Gere.  Bartholomew’s new lease on life is further hampered by mental and physical restrictions that tend to hold him back, a man who has lived a sheltered life now forced to deal with the world alone.

His only companions in life now are a struggling former priest, a “Girlbrarian” (the object of his crush) and her foul-mouthed brother. Together, the embark upon a journey that reveals to Bartholomew that he isn’t as hindered and dependent as he once thought. An adage his mother used “the good luck of right now” allows him to grasp the concept of embracing and accepting the life that has been dealt to you, and that any misfortune dealt to you may be a benefit to someone else.

Told in a series of letters to Richard Gere, The Good Luck of Right Now is an extremely heartfelt, heartwarming story rich with an equal measure of hope and humor. This is a book you should pick up and devour if you are having a particularly bad day, for its guaranteed that Bartholomew, and his naive yet hopeful outlook on life, will raise your spirits. This is a novel that will surprise you in its simple abundance and you will find yourself pausing as you read so that you may ponder the message relayed by Bartholomew and his quirky companions on his journey to a new life. Highly, highly recommended!

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to review this title. Don’t forget to check out the other stops in this tour!

Review: Ripper by Isabel Allende

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (January 28, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0062291408
  • Source: Publisher

Amanda Jackson has always been interested in the evil side of human nature.  It started at a relatively young age and has progressed so dramatically that she, along with her grandfather, take part in an online mystery group. While originally created to investigate the unsolved Jack the Ripper murders, the group is now investigating a string of murders that have cropped up on San Francisco. Certain to uncover something the police have overlooked, Amanda becomes closer to the case than she imagined when her mother, Indiana, a holistic healer, is kidnapped.  Amanda now has the strongest motivation ever to identify the killer, before her mother becomes the next victim.

When I learned about the premise of this book, my interest was immediately piqued.  My education has a background in both criminal justice and psychology and, like many others, I’ve always been fascinated by the unsolved Ripper killings. When I was pitched this book, I couldn’t resist. And then I got the book. And started reading. And it was nothing like I imagined.

While the serial murder cases certainly have a spot in the plot of this novel, the main focus is actually the characters. While I’m a fan of character-driven novels, I admit this was a huge disappointment. A fan of this author’s previous work, I was bound and determined to keep reading, certain it would pay off in the end. Not so much. I actually stopped reading sixty pages before the conclusion. I couldn’t do it any more. I found the novel to be inundated with so much character focus and development that I think it truly lost its point and focus. Additionally, whether it be to poor editing or a poorly executed novel, I found myself to feel insulted as a reader due to the excessive repetitive statements and facts. Things the reader had been told already would come up, portrayed as new information.

Additionally, the character focus seemed to be all over the place. One minute we were focusing on one character (which would require flashbacks to the past, etc.) and then it would spiral on to the next character, seemingly out of the blue. Decisions made by some of the characters seemed completely out of the norm that would be expected given all that we knew about them up until that point and so, ultimately, I gave up. I couldn’t do it anymore.

If this was this author’s attempt to leap into the world of thriller fiction, I think she failed. Even if she just wanted that as a backdrop and wanted to instead focus on the characters, that too failed. In the end, I feel as there was just so much information that the original intent of the novel was overlooked.

Typically, if I do not finish a book I don’t review it. Yet in this case I feel the need, the duty to report just why I couldn’t finish it, despite being so close to the end. So, take this review as my opinion and choose to read this novel if you like, but personally, I cannot recommend it. At all. To anyone.

 

Review: What I Had Before I Had You by Sarah Cornwell

9780062237842

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (January 7, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0062237845
  • Source: Publisher

Olivia Reed didn’t have the most stable of childhoods. Her older sisters, twins, were stillborns who died a year before Olivia was born and are forever memorialized by her mother, Myla, a bipolar psychic. One of Olivia’s many tasks around their home is to clean the nursery, a morbid constant reminder of loss Myla cannot forget. Myla refuses to admit the girls are gone, going as far as preparing bowls of food to feed them. And then there is Olivia, a girl of fifteen just coming to terms with her own identity, forgotten by her own mother. Myla would have manic sessions and then disappear for weeks, forcing Olivia to fend for herself.  This abandonment led to rebellion and at fifteen, the summer of 1987, Olivia left her home of Ocean Vista.

Fast forward twenty years and Olivia has returned to Ocean Visita, this time with her two children, her teen daughter Carrie  and a nine-year-old son, Daniel, recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Olivia is running from the life she had in Texas, desperate for some solace after her divorce. However, instead of a quiet and calm reunion, she is forced into panic and terror when Daniel son goes missing.

Alternating between past and present, What I Had Before I Had You is a hauntingly poignant examination of bipolar disorder and how it affects not only the individual diagnosed with it, but how it is passed on and forever alters those around them. Myla believed the disorder granted her the gift of her psychic visions and never received treatment for the disease. Olivia learned to handle her symptoms, desperately trying to balance this “gift” passed down to her by her mother with the demands of being a mother.

What moved me the most about this novel is its impact. Not only is Oliva on a desperate search for her missing son, she is also seeking some answers to her own identity, aching to come to terms with who she really is. A powerfully moving novel, What I Had Before I Had You is a heart-wrenching, intensely thought-provoking experience. Days after finishing this novel, I’m still processing the intensity of its message.  Highly, highly recommended.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to review this book. Please be sure to check out the other stops in this tour!