Book Review: Need to Know

A5B73AE4-B856-422A-91DC-D34D777BD440Title: Need to Know
Author: Karen Cleveland
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: January 23, 2018

From Doubleday: Vivian and Matt are a seemingly normal suburban couple, experiencing the same struggles as many North American families: juggling work and children, budgeting for a house in a decent school district. They’re in love and life is good. Though Vivian can’t share much about her CIA assignment with him, Matt has always been supportive, and his job as a software engineer allows him the flexibility needed to raise their four kids. But when she makes a startling discovery researching the CIA’s Russian account, everything about her life and her marriage is cast in a new light–forcing her to make impossible and dangerous choices before she loses her job, her family and her life.

I received a free advanced copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my own review. #partner #penguincanada

My Review: NEED TO KNOW has high ratings and top author accolades so I’m in the minority with my review. This is a super-charged CIA / espionage read with an intense premise. When Vivian uncovers a Russian spy ring on U.S. soil she’s on the precipice of danger and losing her career and family.

The good: I love a good CIA spy novel. This one is plot driven with a female lead who I can relate to as a wife and mom. Cleveland cleverly delivers a major wallop in Chapter 2 and I absolutely needed to know more!

The bad: The characters were thinly developed. Vivian has a kick-ass career. It’s not every day I meet a CIA analyst, especially one uncovering Russian sleeper cells so I think Cleveland missed the mark on the main character and narrator of the story. Also, Vivian is ridiculously naive in her personal life yet incredibly savvy professionally which didn’t add up for me.

It was an entertaining enough read and paced quickly enough with short chapters to keep me engaged. The ending was a cliffhanger and left me wondering if there will be a sequel.

 

 

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Book Review: The Silent Corner

BBCFD661-661A-40FD-BA56-4740AAB4D2BBTitle: The Silent Corner
Author: Dean Koontz
Publisher: Bantam
Publication Date: June 20, 2017
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

From Bantam: “I very much need to be dead.” These are the chilling words left behind by a man who had everything to live for—but took his own life. In the aftermath, his widow, Jane Hawk, does what all her grief, fear, and fury demand: find the truth, no matter what.

People of talent and accomplishment, people admired and happy and sound of mind, have been committing suicide in surprising numbers. When Jane seeks to learn why, she becomes the most-wanted fugitive in America. Her powerful enemies are protecting a secret so important—so terrifying—that they will exterminate anyone in their way.

But all their power and viciousness may not be enough to stop a woman as clever as they are cold-blooded, as relentless as they are ruthless—and who is driven by a righteous rage they can never comprehend. Because it is born of love.

My Review: The first installment of Koontz’s brand new series, Jane Hawk, THE SILENT CORNER is a brilliant cross-genre book, labeled as fiction but ever so gently traverses soft science fiction. This book explores nanotech brain implants and living off the grid. If Dark Matter and The Manchurian Candidate gripped you then this book will consume you – The the storyline is that good!

At 434 pages this book is no small undertaking. It took me a week to read but it never felt arduous with short, insanely intense chapters. This book is a page-turner!

Jane Hawk is an intelligent, bad-ass heroine that dispels any narrowness in thinking women can’t be everything. THE SILENT CORNER is addictive, empowering and belongs on everyone’s reading list!

Book Review: Bellevue Square

A1090981-435B-41DD-8120-DBE40BCD0A75Title: Bellevue Square
Author: Michael Redhill
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Publication Date: September 19, 2017
Rating: ⭐️⭐️💫

From Doubleday: Jean Mason has a doppelganger. She’s never seen her, but others swear they have. Apparently, her identical twin hangs out in Kensington Market, where she sometimes buys churros and drags an empty shopping cart down the streets, like she’s looking for something to put in it. Jean’s a grown woman with a husband and two kids, as well as a thriving bookstore in downtown Toronto, and she doesn’t rattle easily—not like she used to. But after two customers insist they’ve seen her double, Jean decides to investigate.

She begins at the crossroads of Kensington Market: a city park called Bellevue Square. Although she sees no one who looks like her, it only takes a few visits to the park for her to become obsessed with the possibility of encountering her twin in the flesh. With the aid of a small army of locals who hang around in the park, she expands her surveillance, making it known she’ll pay for information or sightings. A peculiar collection of drug addicts, scam artists, philanthropists, philosophers and vagrants—the regulars of Bellevue Square—are eager to contribute to Jean’s investigation. But when some of them start disappearing, she fears her alleged double has a sinister agenda. Unless Jean stops her, she and everyone she cares about will face a fate much stranger than death.

Thank you to PRH Canada for this free arc in exchange for my honest review.

My Review: What would you do if you learned you had a doppelgänger, everyone has seen her but you and she may be on a murderous rampage? In BELLEVUE SQUARE Jean Mason has just seen her twin, Ingrid Fox at a possible murder scene of her friend, Katerina. Katerina was tasked with getting Ingrid to meet Jean at the Bellevue Square park. Jean’s husband is sceptical of all her time spent chasing down Ingrid and thinks she is reverting back to needing mental intervention and medicating again.

A bizarre plot twist leaves Jean hospitalized under the care of a psychiatrist. She is diagnosed with autoscopy and undergoes surgery, medicating and observation. The story sort of lost me from this point on and the ending felt strangely unfinished.

Bellevue Square is short listed for the Giller Prize. This is my first Redhill book and while I enjoyed his writing – he has a penchant for literary fiction, unfortunately this book is not for me. I never connected with the plot and characters and struggled to get through it.

Book Review: Most Wanted

9B7895B8-7FC3-47E6-8F39-8A74B86A2727Title: Most Wanted
Author: Lisa Scottoline
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: September 12, 2016
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

From St. Martin’s: Christine Nilsson and her husband, Marcus, are desperate for a baby. Unable to conceive, they find themselves facing a difficult choice they had never anticipated. After many appointments with specialists, endless research, and countless conversations, they make the decision to use a donor.

Two months pass, and Christine is happily pregnant. But one day, she is shocked to see a young blond man on the TV being arrested for a series of brutal murders—and the blond man bears an undeniable and uncanny resemblance to her donor.

Delving deeper to uncover the truth, Christine must confront a terrifying reality and face her worst fears. Riveting and fast-paced, with the depth of emotionality that has garnered Lisa Scottoline legions of fans, Most Wanted poses an ethical and moral dilemma: What would you do if the biological father of your unborn child was a killer?

My Review: This is my first Lisa Scottoline book and it won’t be my last! The premise of MOST WANTED is one of the freakiest I’ve ever read – a loving couple uses a donor to become pregnant and learns he may be a serial killer. The laws protecting donors’ identity prevent Christine and Marcus from learning whether the man in custody is their donor, number 3319, Zachary Jeffcoat.

What would you do if you learned the child you are carrying has a fifty percent chance of harbouring disturbing mental traits? Would you love your child any less or feel differently than if they were born with a physical disability? These are the questions Christine and Marcus ask themselves. And their answers to these questions create a rift between them sending Christine down a dangerous path behind Marcusses back. She decides to go straight to the source and visit Zachary Jeffcoat in maximum security prison.

Jeffcoat doesn’t seem like a serial killer – he’s handsome, charming and smart and professes his innocence. Christine wants to believe this man, the biological father of her baby is innocent but the evidence is stacked against him. When another murder unfolds Christine digs deeper getting mixed up in a multilayer plot with twists and turns. Can she save her marriage and uncover the real serial killer?

This is a fast-paced thriller facing moral and ethical delimmas that will keep you turning the pages, or in my case listening every spare moment.

Book Review: The Lost Ones

D3951E3F-2037-44CF-85ED-B41A9EC200FFTitle: The Lost Ones
Author: Sheena Kamal
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: July 25, 2017
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

From William Morrow: A dark, compulsively readable psychological suspense debut, the first in a new series featuring the brilliant, fearless, chaotic, and deeply flawed Nora Watts—a character as heartbreakingly troubled, emotionally complex, and irresistibly compelling as Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander and Jo Nesbø’s Harry Hole.
It begins with a phone call that Nora Watts has dreaded for fifteen years—since the day she gave her newborn daughter up for adoption. Bonnie has vanished. The police consider her a chronic runaway and aren’t looking, leaving her desperate adoptive parents to reach out to her birth mother as a last hope.
A biracial product of the foster system, transient, homeless, scarred by a past filled with pain and violence, Nora knows intimately what happens to vulnerable girls on the streets. Caring despite herself, she sets out to find Bonnie with her only companion, her mutt Whisper, knowing she risks reopening wounds that have never really healed—and plunging into the darkness with little to protect her but her instincts and a freakish ability to detect truth from lies.
The search uncovers a puzzling conspiracy that leads Nora on a harrowing journey of deception and violence, from the gloomy rain-soaked streets of Vancouver, to the icy white mountains of the Canadian interior, to the beautiful and dangerous island where she will face her most terrifying demon. All to save a girl she wishes had never been born.

My Review: I am fairly certain that I am a bit biased in my review of THE LOST ONES because I live in Vancouver, which is the primary setting for this stellar debut. When you know the references about the city you live in it’s easy to get caught up in the action and fully invest yourself in a book and that’s what happened to me right from the start.

Nora Watts’ has an ugly past. She was brutally attacked and left for dead and pregnant with a child she never wanted. Fifteen years later Bonnie has run away and her adoptive parents reach out to Nora to help find Nora’s biological daughter. The police are little help and Nora sets out on her own to find Bonnie. She discovers the men in sedans watching her are not the cops and what seems like scare tactics upfront quickly lead to a dangerous chase from the rainy streets of Vancouver to its harsh winter counterpart in the interior.

Nora struggles to piece together the ties binding a teenage runaway to a group of thugs and the voice she heard fifteen years ago when she was left for dead resurfaces. The connection is bigger than she ever imagined and filled with conspiracy, betrayal and life and death. The first book in the Nora Watts Series proves it’s weight as a debut suspenseful thriller.

August Book Wrap-Up

IMG_0843Hi, Book Friends! It’s the end of August and the end of summer. I read 10 books the month of August and don’t know if it’s because I had that much more free time or neglected some responsibilities, or both! And, all of these books with the exception of one were 4 or 5-star reviews – woohoo!

MRS. FLETCHER – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I adored Mrs. Fletcher. It’s a literary, coming-of-age story journeying thru personal growth, respect and acceptance.
P.S. I STILL LOVE YOU – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Han’s narrative is adorable and upbeat making this an engaging and enjoyable story.
THE GODDESSES – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I was sucked in from the get go because I can relate to Nancy’s need to find her purpose in a new place as a stay at home mom, which isn’t always easy.
YOUNG JANE YOUNG – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
My connection to Rachel, Aviva and Ruby was palpable and I felt it in my heart and my gut. This is a story about three generations of Jewish women you will fall in love with.
MIDNIGHT AT THE BRIGHT IDEAS BOOKSTORE – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
A bookstore mystery flanked by eccentric characters and a twisty plot – readers rejoice!
DEAD WOMAN WALKING – ⭐️⭐️⭐️
A story about a hot air balloon ride gone dangerously wrong when the passengers witness a cold blooded murder in the act on the ground below them.
LAB GIRL – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
A scientific, biographical memoir depicting the author’s personal journey becoming a woman in science filled to the brim with passion, drive, emotion and rawness.
MY ABSOLUTE DARLING – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
My first reaction to Turtle is to hug her and tell her everything will be okay and to let her be a kid.
THE FUTURES – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Brilliantly weaves together a story about first careers, young love and the financial crisis of 2008.
THINGS THAT HAPPENED BEFORE THE EARTHQUAKE – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
A story about an Italian immigrant family moving to LA to strike it rich in commercials in the early 1990’s. The themes are funny, disturbing, moving but most of all spot on. (Book Review coming soon)

Book Review: Midnight At The Bright Ideas Bookstore

MIDNIGHT AT THE BRIGHT IDEAS BOOKSTORE BY MATTHEW SULLIVAN BOOK REVIEWTitle: Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore
Author: Matthew Sullivan
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: June 13, 2017
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

From Simon & Schuster: When a bookshop patron commits suicide, his favorite store clerk must unravel the puzzle he left behind in this fiendishly clever debut novel from an award-winning short story writer.

Lydia Smith lives her life hiding in plain sight. A clerk at the Bright Ideas bookstore, she keeps a meticulously crafted existence among her beloved books, eccentric colleagues, and the BookFrogs—the lost and lonely regulars who spend every day marauding the store’s overwhelmed shelves.

But when Joey Molina, a young, beguiling BookFrog, kills himself in the bookstore’s upper room, Lydia’s life comes unglued. Always Joey’s favorite bookseller, Lydia has been bequeathed his meager worldly possessions. Trinkets and books; the detritus of a lonely, uncared for man. But when Lydia flips through his books she finds them defaced in ways both disturbing and inexplicable. They reveal the psyche of a young man on the verge of an emotional reckoning. And they seem to contain a hidden message. What did Joey know? And what does it have to do with Lydia?

As Lydia untangles the mystery of Joey’s suicide, she unearths a long buried memory from her own violent childhood. Details from that one bloody night begin to circle back. Her distant father returns to the fold, along with an obsessive local cop, and the Hammerman, a murderer who came into Lydia’s life long ago and, as she soon discovers, never completely left.

My Review: When I saw the cover of MIDNIGHT AT THE BRIGHT IDEAS BOOKSTORE I knew I had to read this book.  I seldom select a book solely on the merits of its cover but this one suggests a certain quality of writing and Sullivan delivers a bright idea! A bookstore mystery flanked by eccentric characters and a twisty plot – readers rejoice!

I adore books that are a genre mish-mash because they elicit a wide range of feelings and emotions and BRIGHT IDEAS is the perfect blend of fiction sub genres – literary, psychological and suspense.  Sullivan’s characters are descriptive, moving and engaging.  Lydia is a bibliophile at heart and works at the Bright Ideas bookstore in Denver.  She forges relationships with the BookFrogs (lonely & disadvantaged) and is a special kind of person whose compassion and humanity shine thru. Her world is turned upside down when her beloved BookFrog, Joey commits suicide after hours at Bright Ideas.  He bequeaths his meager possessions to Lydia amongst which include several books containing cryptic messages.  These messages give Lydia insight not only to Joey’s suicide but take her back to her best childhood friends, Carol and Raj and the horrific Hammerman crime she narrowly escaped when she was ten years old.  Sullivan brilliantly crafts a multilayered plot weaving together a present day suicide with a gruesome murder from the past that ties an entire cast of characters together.

As a former Denver resident Sullivan’s homage to Denver is spot on!  I was taken on a journey down memory lane visiting The Tattered Cover Bookstore in LoDo, driving on Speer Blvd., and riding the 15 on Colfax to name a few.  These details made me love BRIGHT IDEAS that much more!