Category Archives: Thriller

Review: A Vision of Fire by Gillian Anderson & Jeff Rovin

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Simon451 (October 7, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9781476776521
  • Source: Publisher

When Maanik, the daughter of India’s ambassador to the United Nations, starts experiencing fits of screaming and terror, child psychologist Caitlin O’Hara is called in for consultation. Maanik was recently witness to an assassination attempt against her father and Caitlin is certain the stress  of the attack is the root of the problem.  Maanik’s condition tears her father away from sensitive peace talks between India and Pakistan. Each moment he spends with his daughter threatens any hope of resolution between the two countries; a war seems imminent.

When Caitlin receives reports of other teenagers experiencing strange symptoms,she wonders if something else is responsible for these seemingly unrelated incidents.  A Haitian student drowns on dry land. An Iranian boy intentionally sets himself on fire.  The root cause of these strange occurrences doesn’t appear to be medically based, so Caitlin leans more toward to metaphysical in an attempt to obtain answers.

In this first book in a trilogy, Anderson and Rovin have crafted a techno-thriller that is so unique, it is certain to captivate the most pickiest of readers.  A gamut of storylines and subplots are revealed, expected in book one of a trilogy.  Their connections are quite vague, likely intentionally to spread out the pacing deliberately throughout the trilogy.

What is developed well, and with great detail, are the characters. Caitlin is a hardworking, single mom. Her exchanges with her son, partially deaf, round out her passionate and thoughtful character. It’s obvious that she doesn’t expect anything in her life to come easy, a fact that certainly rings through in this, her most recent of cases.

After reading this days ago, in one sitting, I’m still struggling to wrap my thoughts around my feelings. There is quite a bit to wrap my mind around; I’m hoping the second book will iron out the questions that are riddling my brain. This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy this novel, for it’s reactions and experiences like this, those that aren’t necessarily automatic or certain, that quantify an excellent novel.

Note that I have yet to make the connection between one of the authors, Gillian Anderson, and X-Files. I intentionally refused to acknowledge the connection while reading this novel. I’m assuming many will do the opposite, for now that I have read it, I did feel it had the supernatural feel of the show. Like the show, instead of answering my questions, I found I actually had more by the end.  Does Caitlin’s character have any resemblance to Anderson’s character Scully? No, not really.  While both were medical doctors, Caitlin is far more open to atypical explanations than skeptical Scully every would have been.  The only comparison I would draw is that both are strong and capable women, desperate to find the answers to the unexplainable.

For all these reasons, this is a book that I would honestly recommend to anyone and everyone. For one, I need someone else to read it so I have someone to discuss it with. Secondly, since it covers a wide range of themes and topic points, It’s certainly a read that will generate discussion and chatter. Highly recommended.

Review: Eat Him If You Like by Jean Teulé

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Gallic Books (October 14, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9781906040390
  • Source: Publisher

Alain de Monéys is a twenty-nine year old man who, unlike others in his social class, refuses to buy his way out of military service.  Instead, he plans to join the ranks of Napoleon III’s army and fight against the Prussians. Before he departs, he visits a fair held in a neighboring village. This decision has lasting implications for, moments after he arrives in Hautefaye,  Alain is wrongly accused of supporting the enemy. Within moments, an angry mob attacks him, made up of the very same people he held a casual and friendly conversation with just moments before.

The mob grows in both size and intensity. Their actions are reinforced by comments and accusations not at all related to the current situation. The attack is not brief, instead lasting over two hours covering the area of an entire village. By the end of the attack, the mob has lynched, tortured, burned, and, yes, eaten him.

Teulé has taken an actual historical event and reconstructed it, turning it into a brutal account of mass hysteria. One false accusation has a domino effect, turning an innocent young man into a brutal killer, thereby giving the villagers permission to torture him to death.  Throughout the attack, a few people step forward professing Alain’s innocence. At this point, however, the beatings have rendered him unrecognizable. Rather than stopping the attack, it increases to a horrible intensity.

I’m not going to lie; Eat Him If You Like is a pretty brutal read. Yet, Teulé’s styled prose adds a sort of eloquence and beauty to this brutality.  Additionally, the way the author described some of the scenes made me laugh hysterically, despite the obvious intensity and seriousness of the moment. Through all this, however, a message stands out loud and clear: one small action could have devastating consequences.  Adding a group of drunk, unruly villagers and a small misunderstanding backfires. The plausibility of this situation is not impossible; it has happened in modern times repeatedly.

While there are some pretty graphic scenes that might be difficult to stomach, the message that comes out of this novella far outweighs any negative (or nauseous) feelings.  Additionally, the wide range of emotions this story evokes is wholly unique, never have I been so fascinated and compelled to read something so devastatingly ghastly.

Give it a read. I guarantee it will be unlike anything you’ve ever read before. Highly, highly recommended.

Review: The Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (October 14, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9780316220750
  • Source: Publisher

Alix is a high school senior who lives a privileged life.  She has the all the right clothes and attends an prominent private school.  Never once has she questioned the source of her family’s affluence, until an activist group known as 2.0 targets her school.  The school isn’t the target, however.  According to 2.0, Alix’s father, head of a public relations firm, is responsible for countless deaths. The firm, nicknamed the Doubt Factory by 2.0, makes money protecting prominent companies from lawsuits by inspiring a feeling of doubt about the claims against them.  The members of 2.0 not much older than Alix herself, all orphans after their parents died after health warnings about various drugs were covered up by the Doubt Factory. It is the hope of Moses, one of the members of 2.0, that Alix can aid the group in their attempts to bring down her father’s company.

Alix is forced to question everything and everyone around her. Initially, she stands behind her father’s prestige but her resolve is weakened as she begins to do some research. Everything about Alix’s life begins to crumble down around her. Only she can put an end to all the senseless deaths, even if it means bringing down her father with her.

The Doubt Factory is a thought-provoking thriller that forces readers to reevaluate our feelings about big business corporations and the power they wield.  While it’s terrifying to contemplate that a situation like this may reside in our nation, it’s not that far from the realm of possibility.

Bacigalupi has crafted a novel rich with dynamic, well-rounded characters.  Alix’s transformation from snotty, privileged teen to a determined, passionate young woman was quite pronounced. Readers, like Alix, will question everything they know as they embark upon this journey of discovery. Initial opinions about certain characters will shift dramatically, with a multitude of questions not answered until the end. A truly exhilarating read, The Doubt Factory is a novel that will be enjoyed by readers of all ages.  Highly, highly recommended.

 

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#Mx3 Review: No Time to Die by Kira Peikoff

  • Mass Market Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Pinnacle (August 26, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9780786034895
  • Source: Meryl L. Moss Media Relations, Inc.

Zoe Kincaid isn’t your typical college student. Despite being in her twenties, Zoe’s body still resembles an early teen; her growth halted at age fourteen.  Though her maturity has grown with time, her parents still treat her like child.

Frustrated with the constraints her parents put on her, Zoe reaches out to doctors to find the cause of her stunted growth. Fearful she is dying of some undiagnosed disease, Zoe racks up thousands of dollars in medical bills without her parents permission. Her only ally is her grandfather. Unlike Zoe he is aging; the thought of losing him terrifies her.

When doctors discover that her stunted growth is due to a genetic disorder, Zoe goes against the wishes of her parents and agrees to work with a group of scientists working on technology to eliminate aging in the human race.  This technology is controversial, for obvious reasons.  Those against it are so determined to put an end, even if that involves murder. Zoe must abandon her friends and family, risking her own life in the process.

No Time to Die is a truly chilling, thought-provoking read. Don’t let the page count sway you; once you start reading this novel you will be swept away in a terrifying, adrenaline-filled reading experience.  What makes this book hit home is that it’s totally plausible.  We read news of breakthroughs in medical science every day; genetically altering a gene to stop aging isn’t that far-fetched.

Additionally, Peikoff successfully accomplished the difficult task of introducing medical information in a way that was easily readable and captivating, rather than overwhelming and dull. This, combined with her expertly crafted prose and dynamically developed characters all add up to a truly intense medical thriller.  I’m anxiously awaiting the sequel, DIE AGAIN TOMORROW, due out next year!

No Time to Die is a must-read for fans of well-crafted medical thrillers.  The impact of this one is lasting, forcing you to rethink your beliefs and what you would do in the characters’ positions.  Highly recommended.

 

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Review: Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Simon Pulse (September 23, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9781481422345
  • Source: Publisher

 

Darcy Patel is a teenage girl won’t be heading off to college like most of her peers. Instead, thanks to the success of a book she wrote in just 30 days, she’s off to New York to pursue her writing career.  She arrives in New York with little knowledge of the city or of the publishing world. She’s quickly taken under the wings of other more seasoned writers. Within a matter of months, she has an apartment, unexpectedly falls in love, and finishes edits on her debut novel, Afterworlds.

Darcy’s novel is about a teen girl, Lizzie, who slips into the Afterworlds after barely surviving a terrorist attack.  The Afterworlds are the spaces between the living and the dead, where recently deceased travel on their way to the afterlife. Since she barely escaped death, Lizzie is now has the ability to see the dead.  Her new ability has bestowed upon her great responsibility to help save the fate of the dead. Unfortunately this new power has little control over the lives of those she cares about in the land of the living.

I’ve been a fan of Westerfeld’s work for some time now. First introduced to his writing by my now teen son, I crave the release of each of his books. I recall a particularly embarrassing moment when I went all fangirl outside a party at Book Expo America a few years ago. I’m certainly not alone in my feelings.  Westerfeld has a talent for crafting unique storylines, taking risks that many others wouldn’t dare.  This is what makes him a truly outstanding writer.

I admit, in reading the premise of this novel I was skeptical. A novel within a novel? How could Westerfeld possibly pull it off?  Well, he did. He surpassed all of my expectations, quickly putting an end to my skepticism.

What makes Afterworlds such a profound read is that Westerfeld succeeds at creating a wholly successful novel within a novel.  Dual storylines are told in alternating chapters.  One would think this would be confusing but it’s not; they each flow quite well together but could easily be read as two stand-alone novels. The protagonist in each are given ample time to develop and grow, each evolving into completely different characters than they started out as.  I quickly became invested in Darcy’s life in the publishing world and her budding love life. The same was true for Lizzie and her understanding of her new powers.  Both were genuine, well-developed teen characters readers are certain to connect with.  They weren’t cookie cutter characters, each richly diverse in their own way.

Westerfeld has given his readers a great gift with Afterworlds.  With a novel at over 600 pages, many writers have the challenge of keeping readers engaged. That certainly wasn’t the case with this one; I devoured most of it in one day.  That is quite an accomplishment! Each story’s pacing is quite different, I think this is what lends to its readability. When one story’s pacing hits a plateau, the other one picks up, never making the reader feel like they are rushing through one just to get back to the other.

The only challenge I had with this novel how to classify the genre. Or perhaps that is one of the selling points; a novel that alludes any one genre, instead encapsulating many!

The ending alludes to a sequel, I certainly hope that is the case. I certainly haven’t had enough of Darcy and Lizzie; I anxiously await the opportunity to reunite with them!  Certain to be enjoyed by readers of all ages, from all different backgrounds, I highly, highly recommend this novel!

Review: The Secret Place by Tana French

  • Series: Dublin Murder Squad
  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult (September 2, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9780670026326
  • Source: Publisher

One year ago, a boy was found murdered on the grounds of St. Kilda’s School, a girl’s boarding school outside of Dublin. Until now, little to no evidence existed regarding the killer.

The Secret Place is a bulletin board created for the girls of St. Kilda. Intended to be a place where the girls can pin up their secrets anonymously, it is now the site of the first piece of evidence in the stalled murder case. A picture of Chris Harper, the murdered boy,  was left anonymously, with the caption “I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM.”

Detective Stephen Moran is eager to get involved in the Dublin Murder Squad. This new evidence gives him the opportunity to do so, alongside Detective Antoinette Conway. Together, they once again interview a group of girls who seem to have a connection to the case, including Holly Mackey, the daughter of Detective Frank Mackey.  This clique of girls – Selena, Becca, Julia and Holly – all have a connection to the murdered Chris Harper, in some cases unbeknownst to one another.  As Moran gets closer and closer to discovering the identity of the killer he is met with increasing resistance. St. Kilda’s wants to protect it’s own, keep any information surrounding the murder hidden from the public and Detective Mackey is ready to rebuke any evidence against his daughter.

Moran quickly learns of the danger surrounding teenage cliques. Willing to do anything to protect their own, even if it involves murder.

Tana French is, by far, one of my favorite authors of dark and gritty thriller. The Secret Place veers a bit from her “traditional” style. As many of the main characters are teenage girls, this latest book in the Dublin Murder Squad series definitely has a younger feel to it. That said, it still contains the dark and twisty murder mystery for which French is known. There’s nothing young and innocent about these young women, characters who honestly sent chills down my spine.

Alternating between past and present, from days before Chris’ death to the days that follow the discovery of his picture in The Secret Place, The Secret Place is rich with complex characters and a truly intriguing plot line.  French is skilled at weaving a dynamic character study in each of her thrillers, this one included. Readers genuinely get inside the minds of each of the characters, understanding their motives and actions with chilling detail. She examines the world of teenage girls, including all the angst, jealousy and rivalry that comes with the age.

What makes French stand above other writers in this genre is her ability to unleash intensity within the first few pages and carry it throughout the entire novel. Also unlike others, she doesn’t traditionally present a perfect ending, instead unleashing a resolution so twisted and dark that it left me speechless.

While it is possible to pick up and read this series at any point, I really do encourage new readers to start at the beginning. While the protagonists are not the same in each of the books, characters do have reoccurring roles.  Reading the early books will add history and dimension to the members of the Dublin Murder Squad.

Bottom line: Tana French is a must-read thriller author. One of my favorites of all time. And, while The Secret Place exhibits some departures from her previous work, it is a truly tremendous and captivating thriller. Highly, highly recommended.

 

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Review: Liv, Forever by Amy Talkington (Audiobook)

  • Listening Length: 7 hours and 17 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc. (March 11, 2014)
  • Source: Publisher, via Audiobook Jukebox

Liv Bloom, a foster child, is thrilled when she obtains a scholarship to attend Wickham Hall, a school known for its arts program.  As a scholarship student, she doesn’t have a lot in common with the other students, all legacies of their rich family lines. So, when Malcolm Astor, another art student from one of the school’s original families, begins to pay her attention, she’s ecstatic. Unfortunately, other students are less than thrilled with this match-up. Gabe, a fellow scholarship student, warns Liv from becoming involved with a “Wicky.” Liv is the happiest she has ever been and ignores Gabe’s warnings. Gabe is a bit of an outsider, beholden with a secret ability that might cause his expulsion from Wickham Hall…and entry into a mental hospital.

Liv’s happiness is cut short when she’s brutally murdered. With Gabe as her only tie to the living, the unlikely trio begin a desperate search to identify Liv’s killer. They soon realize Liv is only the most recent victim to a series of deaths that go back over a century. With the school and the authorities believing her death to be a suicide, Liv, Gabe and Malcom must uncover a dark and deadly history that hangs over Wickham Hall.

Liv, Forever has all the traits of a supernatural fiction that I adore: an elite, private high school; dark, foreboding setting; untimely death; and centuries of unexplained killings. I was a little wary that the love story between Liv and Malcom would overpower the storyline, but I was pleased to discover this was not the case. Rather, Talkington develops an incredibly engaging and addictive plot line that forced me to come up with every opportunity to listen more.

Additionally, through Liv and Malcom’s characters, Talkington weaves the art world into the storyline. Each piece of art mentioned has specific and detailed ties to the storyline. I found myself searching the author’s website for images of the art,  adding a completely new dimension to the story.

The characters Talkington has crafted are unique, well-developed, and rich with dimension. As you read (or listen), it’s hard to be wary of everyone, unsure of who can be trusted. A whole host of people could be responsible for Liv’s death, including those closest to her.  When all is revealed, readers will be handsomely rewarded with a truly heartfelt ending.

A note on the narration:

This is my first experience with narrator Jorjeana Marie.  Looking at the list of other books she’s narrated, they all seem to be in the thriller or mystery genres. Now that I’ve listened to her work, I can understand why. She has a haunting and mysterious tone to her voice that really adds a new dimension to the listening experience. I’m hooked; I definitely plan on seeking out more of her narration projects!

 

Bottom line: if you are looking for an uber creepy supernatural fiction, this is the title for you. Whether you read or listen to it, Liv, Forever is a title destined to be appreciated by readers of all ages. Highly recommended.

 

Review: Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult (July 31, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9780670016389
  • Source: Publisher

Ten years ago, Janie Jenkins was convicted for the death of her murder. Now, released on a technicality, Janie alters her appearance and goes on a rouge mission to discover the identity of her mother’s killer. The challenge: Janie isn’t exactly sure that person isn’t her.

Traveling to an small South Dakota town, Janie uncovers an old photograph, an abandoned home, and a diary that tie her mother back to this small unknown town. As the townspeople become more wary of her identity, Janie struggles to hide from the press and the police as she digs deeper into her mother’s (and ultimately her own) history. She soon discovers that her mother, known for her striking beauty and trail of wealthy husbands, is more like her than she could have ever imagined.

This stunning debut thriller held my attention from beginning to end. For once, I was thrilled to be on a business trip for it afforded me several hours of uninterrupted in-flight reading time.

Little creates a vivid character in Janie Jenkins, one that, despite her many faults, you can’t help but root for. Janie is an unlikely heroine, a truly self-destructive character who, if you met on the street, you’d likely rush to avoid her.  Additionally, Little creates a well-developed cast of secondary characters, rich in their own secrets and faults. This, along with the expertly crafted plot twists all adds up to a truly outstanding read.

While there were aspects of the story that were unbelievable, if readers can suspend disbelief and allow themselves to become immersed in the storyline, they will be taken on a whirlwind read of epic proportions. Highly, highly recommended.

Review: The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (August 12, 2014)
  • ISBN: 978-0385538152
  • Source: Publisher (egalley)

After an unknown cousin commits suicide, twenty-something A. finds himself owner of a beautiful, yet slightly ominous, estate in Point Bless, Virginia.  Questions surround his cousin’s death; he jumped out of the same 3-story bedroom that his father had before.

Joined by his mute companion, Niamh, A. arrives in Virginia to find that Axton House is riddled with mystery. Locals declare that it is haunted, a fact that is soon confirmed. Employing the use of surveillance devices, including voice recorders and video cameras, A. and Niamh attempt to track down the root of the secrets of Axton House.

Told in a series of journal entries, security tape transcripts and newspaper articles, the author quickly reveals all is not as it seems, a characteristic readers will soon realize a well. What appears to be a chilling ghost story is not; while it has some supernatural elements, at its very core The Supernatural Enhancements is more of a thriller or mystery.  The identity of the entity that roams the great home is quickly determined, leaving the focus of the storyline on the other mysteries and secrets that remain.  Mentions of a annual meeting of a secret society at the home send A. and Niamh on an intense hunt to find the answers to the dozens of questions before them.

Despite being set in present day, the setting and overall tone of the story gives this novel a Gothic feel. Had it not been for the technology Niamh and A. use to capture evidence, it would be easy for readers to assume this story to be set at the turn of the century.

Although the format of this novel prevents readers from connecting with the main characters, the captivating storyline is guaranteed to capture the attention of a wide variety of readers. A stunning and surprising ending wraps up this truly fun and remarkable novel. Highly recommended.

 

Review: This Is the Water by Yannick Murphy

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (July 29, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9780062294906
  • Source: Publisher

In a small New England town, preparing for the next swim meet is of utmost importance. Young girls struggle to shave seconds off of their race time, squeezing into too-tight swim suits for an extra advantage. Too busy watching their daughters compete, or their minds straying to issues in their personal lives,  no one is aware of the dark-haired man with a severely wrinkled brow in the audience.  It isn’t until a girl from the swim team is brutally murdered at a rest stop that the parents begin to take notice of the world around them.

Annie is the mother of two girls on the swim team. She is married to Thomas, a man who hasn’t shown her affection in years. Added to her emotional turmoil is her brother’s suicide a few years ago.  Her attention is spent worrying about her marriage, obsessing over her brother’s death, and Paul, the father of another girl on the swim team. Despite her own (albeit strained) marriage and the fact that Paul is married to her friend Chris, Annie becomes obsessed with the attention Paul gives her, despite her graying hair and crow’s feet. After a competition, sharing a dinner alone with Paul, he shares with her a secret from his past with chilling similarities to current events.

In an obvious attempt to shift her attention elsewhere, Paul’s wife, Chris, becomes obsessed with uncovering the killer’s identity.  The serial killer’s actions hit close to home for her family, and Chris goes so far as contacting other families of previous victims in an attempt to get more answers.

As shocking secrets unfold, these callous parents are forced to question their allegiances, forced to make irreparable decisions based on gut instinct in order to prevent any further deaths.

Told in a wholly unique second person narrative, Murphy delves into the chaotic and troubled lives of a small community. The parents (and in many cases, the children) of this swim team are brutal and unrelenting. This is not only an intense and uniquely portrayed thriller, it is a exploration of what happens when obsession takes a dangerous turn.

When I finished reading this novel, I was certain that the formatting ruined it. Initially, I had a hard time concentrating on the storyline, instead focusing on the formatting traits that irritated me. Murphy starts many statements with “This is…” a unique style that had me questioning whether or could, in good conscious, recommend this novel.

As I began to write this review, it suddenly became apparent that the formatting actually added to my experience rather than detracting. It forces the reader to be an outsider, never truly getting inside the minds of the characters. I wouldn’t say we were casual observers, for the detail Murphy uses in her prose, including the personification of everyday objects, forces the reader to become immersed in the setting. The writing style, initially of-putting, soon becomes hypnotic, dialing up the intensity to explosive levels.

Adding to my interest in this unique thriller is the fact that only the reader knows the identity of the killer. The intensity and the tension develops as we follow characters as they get closer and closer to the answer, a finish line of sorts.

Bottom line: While the formatting of this novel may sway readers from truly embracing a genuinely unique thriller, I implore you to embrace it give the novel the patience it is due. It won’t take long before you become transfixed by this truly spectacular thriller.  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 this tour.