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: 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.

FemmeFatale

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.

Thank you, Cara Hoffman (Be Safe I Love You)

Sometimes, readers get the opportunity to embrace a book so powerful and moving that it literally leaves them speechless. Typically, I can explain my feelings about things quite easily.  That is, until I read Cara Hoffman’s Be Safe I Love You.

First, I should give you the premise. Be Safe I Love You is about Lauren Clay, a young woman who recently returned from serving a tour of duty in Afghanistan.  Before she left, Lauren was a classically trained vocalist with a bright future ahead of her. Unfortunately, situations in her family life forced her to find means of providing for her younger brother, Danny, and their father.  Enlisting in the army provided Lauren with the financial means to provide a life for her brother. She knew it would mean she would have to leave Danny and her life behind. What she didn’t realize is it would leave a permanent and lasting impact on her life.

Going in to my read of Be Safe I Love You, I, like Lauren, had no idea what I was getting myself into. Like Lauren, I didn’t understand how mentally and emotionally altered I would feel after the experience. Though it has been two weeks since my second read of this book, I feel it holds part of my heart, my soul, captive in its embrace.

The first time I read it, I devoured it in a matter of hours. As the publication date approached, I knew I was going to have to read it again so I could formulate some sort of review. After I finished the second reading, however, I was just as speechless and devoid of any ability to write anything about this title that made any sort of sense. I tried, for two straight weeks, to get my brain wrapped around my feelings, to put into words how I felt about this book, about how much it moved me. I felt like such a failure when I couldn’t.

Then last night I had an idea. My problem wasn’t that I couldn’t formulate my thoughts about this book. I most certainly could! The format is what was throwing me off. So, instead. I free wrote this thank you letter to the author, Cara Hoffman:

Dear Cara-

I personally want to thank you for gifting the world with a book as brilliant and moving as Be Safe I Love You. You have succeeded at bringing to light a subject matter that has been ignored for so long. We sent our citizens into fight wars.  We give them the ammunition and physical armor to protect them in the line of fire.  Yet, we don’t give them the mental support and stability to fight such a battle. We run them through drills of all kinds yet never do we warn them, prepare them, for the mental onslaught they are about to face. In your novel, Lauren is a victim of our country’s ignorance. She has no concept of what she has signed up for and is in no way prepared to deal with what she witnesses in the line of battle.  Then, after she is sent home, she’s thrown back into the “real” world without any support. It is by mere coincidence/chance that someone catches something that causes them to worry. What if that paperwork was pushed to the side, ignored like so many other things?

As I read Be Safe I Love You, tears poured down my cheeks. I couldn’t help but think of the hundreds of thousands of troops dealing with what Laura faced. These are real people, not robots that can be expected to reboot and forget everything that has transpired. They can’t shut off their feelings ore erase their memories. They have to face them. And we, as thankful and grateful citizens of the United States of America, need to help them. We need to give them the resources and support they need to get on with their lives, to heal and recover (both physically and mentally) when they return from the battlefields.  We can not afford to keep ignoring something that devastates so many of our troops. This support is the very least we can do, for these people put their lives on hold, leave their families behind, in order to protect our country.

So, Cara, while this isn’t my typical way of showing my opinion about a book, I hope it allows you to see that I get it. I hope others get it, too, and that we, as a country, put an end to the ignorance that surrounds the mental welfare of our troops. Thank you.

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.

 

 

TSS: A Month in Review: March 2014


Books Reviewed

Total books read: 10

Pick of the month: 

I’m actually making it a conscious effort not to pick more than two favorites each month. Let’s see how long I can life up to this challenge!  So, because of the lasting impact these books had, my favorite books of the month are The Bear by Claire Cameron and Above by Isla Morley. Two very different books, both very impactful!

Most popular post of the month (based on comments):

Most visited post of the month: 

Special posts: 

Out in the Blogisphere:

Where else have I been blogging this month? Two different locations in March:

Whew! What a busy month! How was your reading month? What were your favorite books read?

Frightful Friday: Runner by Patrick Lee

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 Runner by Patrick Lee:

  • Listening Length: 8 hours and 39 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Macmillan Audio (February 18, 2014)
  • Source: Personal copy

Sam Dryden is taking a nightly run when he runs into a young girl. The look of terror on her eyes instantly has his undivided attention. When it becomes obvious that the men chasing after her have deadly intentions, Dryden uses his skills as a retired special forces operative to help her evade capture.  After her attackers flee, Dryden learns that this eleven-year-old girl, Rachel, was held captive in a secret prison. She remembers only the last two months of her life, nothing of her existence outside the prison.

Dryden lost his wife and daughter in an accident five years ago. Seeing the genuine terror and fear in Rachel’s eyes, he vows to help her get answers.  Little does he realize how much his experience in a black-ops will help them in their attempt to elude her captures.

What they learn in the next few days is life altering, for both Dryden and Rachel.  It’s quite possible that the memories Rachel is desperately trying to recover are of a danger so unimaginable that millions of lives are at stake.

I’m intentionally being quite vague in my summary of this title for it is best to be experienced first hand, without any preconceived notions of what may transpire. The best way to put it would be a combination of the thrill of a Jack Reacher novel meeting the science-fiction-esque aspect of a Joe Ledger novel. What results is a novel jam-packed with a unique thrill and intensity.  Each time I paused in my listen of this audiobook, my heart would be pounding.  I made every excuse I could to listen to more, including taking the longer route home or sitting in front of my  house listening to just a few minutes more.

Raul Esparza’s narration of this book just added to the intensity. His tone captured the feel of the moment so expertly, demanding the listener’s undivided attention.

Runner is truly one of the best thrillers I have listened to in some time. I’m new to his work and it is now a personal mission of mine to read it all. I’m ecstatic to see that this is the first in a new series. Dryden’s character is the best of both worlds: a character that is both sensitive and flawed but also intense and unrelenting. I honestly cannot wait for more. Highly, highly recommended!

 

Thank you to Bob at The Guilded Earlobe for the recommendation. Once again, my zombie-loving friend, you are spot on!

Review: Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke

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  • 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 Deepest Secret by Carla Buckley

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (February 4, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0345535243
  • Source: Publisher

Eve Lattimore and her family live on a quiet, suburban street. From the outside, it seems as though they live a relatively normal life. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.  Her fourteen-year-old son, Tyler, lives with a rare disease that prevents him from going outside during the day. One stray ray of sun can cause his skin to breakout into painful blisters. Eve has spent Tyler’s entire live worrying about and caring for him. During the day, he’s held captive his disease, forced to live like a prisoner in his second-floor bedroom. He can’t attend school, for that would mean he would have to go outside during daylight hours.  Instead, he Skypes into his classrooms and participates remotely. The twilight hours are his salvation; it is the only time he is able to leave the confines of his home and venture outdoors.

Taking care of a child in this condition is far from easy. Her teen daughter, Melissa, is struggling. A teen herself, she is struggling with many of the things typical girls her age face. Unfortunately, as most of her parents’ attention is focused on her brother, she feels lost and alone in the world, often wishing that she had Tyler’s disease. Eve’s husband, David, works hundreds of miles away in DC, returning home only for the weekend.   It is on one rainy night, as Eve is driving to the airport to pick up her husband, that the unthinkable happens.  Eve looks down at a text and she hits something. She assumes it is a deer but when she ventures out into the rain she discovers the unthinkable.

Fearful of what will happen to her family if something happens to her, Eve keeps the incident a secret. What she has done hits close to home; her best friend Charlotte is the most affected.  Eve is so worried about protecting her family that she doesn’t seem to realize it is crumbling before her.

You know those perfect suburban neighborhoods that seem to perfect to be true? This is most definitely one of them.  During Tyler’s nighttime adventures, he is able to see the real, hidden side of his neighbors.  It is as if his neighbors think the darkness of night shadows their true behavior. As Tyler sees his world crumbling around him, he too takes actions to protect his family, actions that are only a temporary fix to the real damage that lies beneath.

I was in a bit of a reading funk before I starting reading The Deepest Secret. I began reading it on Sunday morning and the next thing I know, two hours had passed.  From page one, I was captivated by the storyline, completely mesmerized by the characters.  While this novel is over 400 pages, it certainly didn’t feel like it. I was transfixed; unable to tear myself away for even the briefest of moments.

The characters that Buckley creates are so real, so genuine, that readers will instantly connect with them. Those of us with children, with or without disabilities, will cling to Eve as she faces the unthinkable.  That’s not to say that I didn’t have some issues with Eve; she did make quite a few decisions that made me question her motives. Things would have gone a completely different direction had she been honest up front, but as a mother myself, I constantly found myself questioning if I would have done any different in Eve’s place.

The only issue I had with this novel is that it seemed to wrap up too quickly for me. It isn’t until the very end that the truth is revealed; the rest of the novel is spent following Eve as she evades the truth.  I would have preferred that more attention be given to the “after,” and I think many others would agree. I’d grown so close to the characters that the ending just wasn’t enough for me. I wanted more; I needed closure and to know what happened to the family.

All this said, I still do highly recommend this novel. It would be perfect for a book club discussion as it attacks quite a few themes that would generate a great deal of discussion.

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!

Visit Carla’s website or Facebook for more information.