Category Archives: Review

Review: Everything to Lose by Andrew Gross

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow (April 22, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0061656003
  • Source: Publisher

Hilary Blum is a single-monther, struggling to make ends meet after her husband left her and their autistic son.  Losing her job is the last straw and decides to confront her ex-husband. It when she is on her way home from this less-than-productive meeting that she witnesses a horrific accident. Right before her eyes, she watches as an inbound vehicle swerves to miss a deer and goes toppling over the side of the road. Hilary rushes into action and runs to the scene only to find that the man was killed on impact.  Sitting on the seat next to him is a bag stuffed to the rim with money.  The kind of money that would allow Hilary to continue to send her son to the school he needs so desperately.  And so, she makes a decision that will put into motion a series of events that will forever change her life.

With a community still suffering from Hurricane Sandy as a backdrop, Gross has developed a thriller that is intense from the very beginning. Readers won’t help but question what they would do in Hilary’s shoes, in her situation. Three seeming different story lines parallel one another through the novel, coming to a stunning intersection near the end, surprising this reader (who has a talent of tying connections long before a book is over.)

Originally, I thought the backdrop of Hurricane Sandy might be a dud, but was throughly impressed at how well the author blended it all together.  Gross has a talent of creating genuine characters you can’t help but connect and sympathize with, individuals who are so true that you feel as if they are part of your world.  On the completely opposite sides of the spectrum are those characters that are evil to the core. The balancing act Gross plays between the two is wholly captivating.

I’ve been fan of Gross’ from his early thrillers and it excites me that he can continue to churn out thrillers to keep me captivated. I read this one in a matter of hours; I couldn’t bear to tear myself away from it. Perfect for fans of intense thrillers with strong, developed characters. Highly, highly recommended.

Review: The Girl Who Came Home: A Novel of the Titanic by Hazel Gaynor

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; First Edition edition (April 1, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0062316869
  • Source: Publisher

Fourteen individuals from a small Irish village left their loved ones behind as they embarked on a journey to New York City via the RMS Titanic. A new, better life was awaiting each of them upon their arrival.  One of these individuals is Maggie Murphy, a seventeen year old woman who is bittersweet about leaving her home and her beau, Seamus.  When disaster hits, Maggie is one of the two survivors from this small Irish village.

When she awakens in New York City, without any knowledge of how she gets there. Maggie attempts to banish all thoughts and memories of what happened that horrible night  the Titanic  struck an iceberg. Her friends and loved ones were separated from her in the rush to evacuate. She is haunted screams of victims, the vision of those less fortunate than her, frozen in the frigid ocean waters.

Seventy years later: Chicago. Grace Butler has returned home to help care for her mother after her father’s sudden death. In doing so, she’s given up her hopes of a future in journalism, at least temporarily. When she’s given a once in a lifetime opportunity to write for a major paper, Grace must come up with a unique feature story that will impress the editors. Thanks to her great grandmother, Maggie, she gets that story.

Reluctant to discuss her past all these years, Maggie opens up to her niece and shares with her stories and journal articles of what transpired upon the Titanic, both before and after the disaster.  In doing so, both women, reflect upon how few chances we each get in life, and how important to savor each day as if it is your last.

Novels surrounding the horrific events that transpired around the sinking of the Titanic are certainly not unique, especially after the centennial anniversary just a few years ago. Yet with The Girl Who Came Home, Gaynor gives us a unique perspective, a fictionalized account based on actual individuals.

While this title didn’t grab my attention immediately, after a few patient moments of reading I became captivated, unable to tear my attention away from the story of Maggie and others who thought they were embarking upon journey leading to a happy and successful life.

That’s not to say this is a dark and dreary story; it is actually quite the opposite. While the story of what transpired on the Titanic  is devastating, what comes next for the survivors (even decades down the road), is wholly hopeful and heartwarming.

The Girl Who Came Home is a must-read for fans interested in the story of the Titanic, as well as readers seeking a unique spin an event forever etched in history. Highly, highly recommended.


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


Review: The Island of Doves by Kelly O’Connor McNees

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Trade (April 1, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0425264580
  • Source: Publisher

Susannah Fraser was promised a happy life with her husband, living in one of Buffalo’s finest homes. Instead, her home is a prison filled with physical and mental abuse. While all of her material needs are met, the life she is leading is a mere shadow of the life she’d hoped for. Susannah assumed that the abuse went on unnoticed. but when she is approached by a woman with promises of help and escape, Susannah can’t say no.

The journey to safety isn’t an easy one. She must leave everything she owns behind and travel by steamboat to the remote Mackinac Island. There, she meets Magdelaine Fonteneau, a woman who has made quite a life for herself as a fur trader. Magdelaine has offered her services to help women like Susannah escape abusive marriages. She calls each of these women doves; Susannah is the first of three to successfully make the journey. Magdelaine’s past is riddled with pain and loss and the unexpected friendship that forms between the two women allows them both to see the hope that life has to offer.

While the storyline in The Island of Doves is not a unique one, the strong and engaging characters are what make this novel an engaging one. Both Susannah and Magdelaine come from vastly different backgrounds but that doesn’t stop the two women from connecting and forging a strong friendship. Susannah thought herself to be helpless, so used to having others do things for her that she feared she was unable to forge a life alone. In turn, while Magdelaine has formed a strong and caring relationship for the young girls she teaches on the island, she has yet to be able to form such a close bond with her own son. So used to having those she loves taken from her, she pushes him away, afraid to lose yet another loved one. This isn’t intentional; it isn’t until Susannah points out her behavior that Magdelaine reflects upon the choices she’s made in life.

All in all, McNees has created a wonderfully addictive and heartfelt read in The Island of Doves. Her books are of a genre I typically do not read, yet I find myself looking forward to each and every book she publishes. Highly rewarding, highly recommended.

Frightful Friday: Code Zero: A Joe Ledger Novel by Jonathan Maberry (Audiobook)

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week.

This week’s featured title is the audiobook production of Code Zero: A Joe Ledger Novel by Jonathan Maberry:

  • Listening Length: 16 hours and 3 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Macmillan Audio (March 25, 2014)
  • Source: Personal copy

*Note: This is a review of the sixth book in a series. Please proceed with caution if you have not read/listened to the previous books in this series*


Joe Ledger and the other members of the Echo Unit of the Department of Military Science (DMS) have had their share of interesting experiences. From battling the zombie plague to designer viruses, they’ve seen it all. Any remnants of these weapons have been stored in a remote and isolated location known as the Locker. Until now…

After other units of the DMS are decimated in attacks, the DMS is spread thin. Weapons they thought destroyed or locked up are appearing in public locations. Their new nemesis, Mother Night, has managed to break into the DMS’ impenetrable super computer system, Mindreader, gaining access to knowledge that shouldn’t be made available to the public. Even worse, she broadcasts a video of a rescue mission in which a team went in to put an end to a plague of zombies. The same plague the DMS thought they conquered and destroyed. Before doing so,  she dubbed over the sound to make it appear as though the individuals being shot upon are citizens begging for their lives.

This isn’t the first time the DMS has been under fire. The timing, however, couldn’t be worse. The must put an end to Mother Night and her league of rogue “soldiers” before she can unleash something more dark and devastating than before. In doing so, they realize that the individual responsible for their actions isn’t a stranger to the DMS. Her identity shatters the tough exterior of the DMS. Rather than weakening them, however, it makes them stronger, more dedicated and determined to put a stop to Mother Night.

Told in a series of flashbacks to the time Joe Ledger originally joined DMS, Maberry takes readers (or in my case, listeners) on a path through the history of the DMS and Ledger’s existing unit.

Maberry’s Joe Ledger series is one I rush to listen to as soon as it is released. Not only are they truly outstanding novels filled to the brim with action and less than natural enemies, but they contain truly outstanding characters that have grown tremendously since the culmination of the series. Joe Ledger, on the surface, is a mean, brusque, no-nonsense kind of guy.  Yet in the past several novels, Maberry has slowly unveiled a softer, more vulnerable side of Joe.  To me, this has created a more dynamic, more genuine character in Joe Ledger.

Fans of Maberry’s writing will appreciate the return of characters from the past (as well as one from another series). I’ve been a fan of this series from the beginning and have to say, without a doubt, this is the best one yet.

As with the other titles in this series, I listened to the audiobook production of this title. I don’t see myself ever “reading” them.  That’s not to say that the writing doesn’t stand on its own, it genuinely does. Yet Ray Porter’s narration has captivated me. To me, he is the voice of Joe Ledger and the other cast of characters. He completes the package for me, his narration capturing the essence of Joe and the rest of the cast of characters.  I won’t say I wouldn’t enjoy reading the titles, it would just feel different, not complete. If you are new to this series, I highly recommend going with the audio.  Some of the best out there!

I know this goes without saying, but this, and other Ledger novels, come highly, highly recommended.

Other titles in the Joe Ledger series (in order):

Patient Zero
The Dragon Factory
The King of Plagues
Assassin’s Code
Extinction Machine


Review: Blood Always Tells by Hilary Davidson

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Forge Books (April 15, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0765333546
  • Source: Publisher

Dominique Monaghan is involved with a married man. Gary Cowan is a former boxer with a history of sketchy behavior. She knows his marriage to socialite Trin Lytton-Jones is a farce and comes up with an elaborate plan to drug him so she can get him to admit it on tape. Instead she gets mixed up in a kidnapping scheme, trapped in an isolated home with no means of escaping. Out of desperation, she calls upon the only person upon which she can truly depend: her brother Desmond.

Desmond has played the role of father to Dominique since their mother was convicted of killing their father many years ago. Desmond is used to Dominique’s out of control behavior,  yet this time something in her voices raises a red flag and he rushes to her rescue.

Upon arriving, Desmond is met with a completely unexpected scene. In order to find out what happened to his sister, he must wade through the deception surrounding Cowan and his marriage. In doing so, he uncovers a slew of lies and attempted murders, all in the name of family fortune.  This situation also forces Desmond to reflect upon his past and sacrifices made to protect  him and his sister.

Blood Always Tells is Davidson’s first standalone novel. As a fan of her previous novels (The Damage Done, The Next One To Fall, and Evil in all its Disguises) and her short story collection, The Black Widow Club, I can honestly say that this novel is her best ever. It is quite a feat to state this because her work is so tremendous; she excels at taking her readers through a labyrinth of plot twists and turns, all ending in a completely surprising conclusion. 

This is replicated in Blood Always Tells.  At the onset of the novel, the reader assumes Dominique will be the main protagonist. Instead, out of the blue, comes her brother Desmond to take over in this role. I was taken aback initially but was genuinely enraptured by Desmond’s character.

A former army chopper pilot, Desmond has carried the weight of family secrets for many years. He has great feelings of guilt and remorse for what transpired. Instead of allowing it to get him down, he does his best to be the most supportive big brother Dominique can have. Unfortunately, the passage of time does nothing to alleviate these feelings of guilt and they weigh heavily on him, even now, decades later.

Davidson used Desmond’s character as a counter-weight against another family with a less than typically family life. Desmond shines through as a bright light what could have potentially been a dark and chilling storyline.  That’s not to say he doesn’t have his faults; he has plenty. It is the integrity of his character that allows him to rise up and overcome his difficult past. Characters like this are a characteristic of Davidson’s writing; in each she takes you on a wild journey, introducing you to the worst members of society with that one character that serves as a ray of hope amidst all the chaos and depravity.

Honestly, my raves about this novel could go on and on.  There are so many facets of  it that I found outstanding, from the character development to the webs of deceit.  I intentionally strung out my read of this novel for I simply didn’t want it to end.  This is a must read of fans of mystery/thrillers with strongly developed characters, prepared to embark upon a thrill ride of a read. Highly, highly recommended!

Note: I do consider the author to be a good friend of mine. I, among many, many others, are thanked in her acknowledgements. That said, this in no way influenced my review of this book.


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



Review: Until You’re Mine by Samantha Hayes

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (April 15, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • Source: Publisher

Claudia Morgan-Brown finally has the life she’s dreamed of. She’s pregnant with her first child, her incredibly caring and supportive husband, James, by her side.  Unfortunately, James’ career as a naval officer requires him to travel quite a bit, leaving Claudia alone to manage the household and her twin step-sons.  After a long history of miscarriages, Claudia knows it is a miracle that her pregnancy has advanced so far. At eight months, she’s still working full-time as a social worker. In James’ absence, she’s going to need help with the twins and the new baby.

When they interview Zoe, she seems like she’s a perfect match. She bonds quickly with the boys and takes a considerable amount of strain off of Claudia. With Zoe as a live-in nanny, she can dedicate more time to taking care of herself and her unborn baby. Yet something seems off about Zoe and Claudia begins questioning her decision to bring this woman into her home.

Meanwhile, Detective Inspector Lorraine Fisher is investigating a horrifying murder: a pregnant woman was attacked, her baby forcibly removed from her body. Unfortunately, neither mother nor child survived the attack. When another woman is victimized becomes obvious that someone is targeting pregnant women. Lorraine must bring the perpetrator to justice before anyone else is hurt.

The reader is granted a fairly open look at each of the three women, each dealing with motherhood (or lack thereof) in a unique manner. The author reveals enough about each of them for the reader to form a conclusion about each of them as characters, yet holding back just enough to leave one questioning what to believe.

That inkling that not is all as it seems pays off, for near the end there is a complete and total “WTAF” moment that will certainly stun and throw readers for a complete loop. Personally, I had to go back and reread this section of the novel several times before I actually believed it happened. I was certain I’d uncovered an error in editing…but I didn’t. I don’t want to reveal too much, but it’s a scene that will definitely leave you questioning everything you read up to that point. And the epilogue!! I stated that I didn’t want to reveal too much, but be forewarned. The epilogue gave me chills that raced to my very core, definitely the strongest case of the heebie-jeebies I’ve experienced in some time (and I read a lot of dark and twisty stuff)!

At it’s core, Until You’re Mine is a twisty, terrifying, and captivating read. I devoured this book in one sitting. Although the subject matter is quite disturbing in some scenes, the author does so to inform the reader of the magnitude of the attacks and the sheer evil behind the attacker, not to shock and awe the readers. The tension she creates is astounding; I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough! If you are looking for a twisty, psychological thriller, this is, without a doubt, the book for you. Highly, highly recommended.


Review: Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Random House UK (April 1, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 1846557283
  • Source: Publisher

Six friends, students at Oxford University, create a game. The game is made up of a series of actions, a truth or dare of sorts.  The consequences of failing to complete the actions start off quiet simple and gradually become more arduous. Buy-in to participate in the Game are quite high, so as the stakes are raised higher, friendships that were once strong are shattered.  Now, fourteen years later, the reader knows something went horribly wrong. Just what it was is unknown, the reader must follow a very unreliable narrator to discover the terrible outcome of this seemingly innocent game. Years later, the remaining players are coming back together to play the final round.

Perhaps because I recently read Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, but I couldn’t help but drawn comparisons between the two.  They both involved a group of students at an illustrious university performing actions that test an individual, both involving the need to fit in and be part of the group. That said, Black Chalk does stand on its own, with a unique storyline and twists and turns in the plot.

The reader goes in quite blind; the narrator isn’t revealed until well into the novel. Many other details are revealed in parts and pieces, the novel itself an elaborate mind game that the reader must discover in their own.  To do so, the reader must have patience. Perhaps too much.

Honestly, it took me over 100 pages to become invested in this novel. The narrator was just too unreliable for me.  Not knowing the identity, or the heavy consequences of the game from the beginning, I felt that this information should have been relayed in a more timely manner. Instead, I felt as though my time and patience were strung out, waiting so desperately for a pay off at the end. While there were a few big twists and turns revealed throughout the novel, I didn’t feel the pay off was great enough to warrant the patience it demanded.

I read other reviews of this title before writing mine, a practice I usually avoid. I was stunned to see that my feelings about this book are so different than the experience of others. I don’t regret or feel bad about my feelings; reading a book is a deeply personal experience, each reader getting something else out of the book.  In these other reviews,  I see that others adored the very aspects of the novel that I found lacking. Could it be the timing of my read of the book? Or perhaps this just isn’t the title for me.

All this said, I will leave it up to you to decide whether or not you will pick up this title. It is full of twists and turns, games played on the characters as well as a reader. Give it a chance, perhaps you will have a wholly different experience than I did.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to review this book. Please check out the other stops in this tour to see other opinions/reviews of this title.

Review: The Remedy by Thomas Goetz

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham (April 3, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 159240751X
  • Source: Publisher

In the late 19th century, tuberculosis was the leading cause of death in Europe in the United States. Not only did doctors not know how to treat it, they didn’t even know how it originated. When Robert Koch, a young German doctor,  surmises that it is bacteria that causes the deadly disease, he launches upon a relentless mission to find a cure. As he announces to the world that a cure has been found, a doctor in by the name of Arthur Conan Doyle is sent to Berlin by a London newspaper to cover the presentation.  Although the two never meet,  Doyle employed many of the scientific methods as Koch,  not in the medical field but in his writing, eventually creating the character of Sherlock Holmes.

The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis goes far behind the relationships between these two men. As a matter of fact, a large majority of this book focuses on Koch, and rightly so. He brought to light medical practices that would be instrumental in the evolution of the field of medicine.  Goetz takes the reader on a journey through the evolution of medical practice, beginning with what seems like archaic lack of hand-washing and reusing of medical tools from one patient to another to more modern, more “sanitary” medical practices.  While the connections between Koch and Doyle are minimal,  it was fascinating to learn the impetus of Doyle’s fascination with the concept of deduction (taken directly from the scientific method) that he carried on into his literary escapades.

Filled to the brim with historical fact and detail The Remedy is the dream book for any fan of medical history, like myself. I was fascinated with just how far that we, as a society, have come in the medical field.  I’m quite obsessed with facts like this; after reading just a few chapters I’d gone through two packages of Post-it flags, the desire to highlight everything I read was out of control.   I began sharing far too much information about our society’s medical history with friends and loved ones (sorry boys!). While nonfiction, The Remedy has characteristics of a thriller, the reader following Koch and others as they try to get to the root of this horrific disease.

For these reasons, I would recommend this title to a wide range of readers. It is  a riveting history of not only a terrifying and deadly disease, but one of our society, and the truths we are able to embrace.  Highly, highly recommended.

Review: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books (April 1, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 1616203218
  • Source: Publisher

A.J. Fikry is…to put it gently, a curmudgeon.  After his wife passes away, he discovers his life isn’t as he planned. The small independent bookstore the couple owned on the small island of Alice is suffering. It’s peak season is summer when vacationers visit the store to stock up on their beach reads. A.J. isn’t your typical bookseller, to say the least. He’s quite particular in the books he stocks, not taking risks by only shelving what he knows will sell.  His wife’s death has left him a bitter, angry man.

When his prized book, a rare collection of Poe stories, is stolen, A.J. doesn’t think his life could get any worse. Everything changes when an item of the most unusual sorts is left behind at his store.  This delivery changes A.J., giving him the inspiration and guidance to seek a more fulfilling, happy life.  Although the life he is now living is certainly not what he expected, it is more than he could have ever dreamed.

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is a story meant to be read and cherished by lovers of books. Never could I have imagined the vast beauty contained within one book. It had me laughing one minute, crying the next. By the time I finished reading it, my heart was full with emotion and the satisfaction of reading a book so poignant and brilliant.

The characters Zevin creates are so genuine it’s hard to believe they aren’t real people. At the onset, I despised A.J.’s character. He was mean  and callous, uncaring about who he offended. At the end, however, he was transformed into such a tremendous character, one of my favorite fictional characters I have ever come across. As I finished reading, I wanted to plan a trip to Fikry’s bookstore and to meet the people who played such a big part in his life. While that’s an impossible notion for obvious reasons, I am comforted to know that I can reunite with them at will, simply by opening up the pages of this tremendous book.

I don’t know if I can think of an audience that would not appreciate The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry. It is a book readers will devour and fall in love with, a book you will want to talk about with everyone around you. The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is a book about second chances, love, redemption and the love of books. Highly, highly recommended!

The audiobook production of this title is narrated by one of my favorites, Scott Brick. Guess what I’m listening to next?! Listen to a sample here.