Source: complimentary review copy

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Mini-Views of the Detective Helen Grace Series

June 3, 2016 Book Review, reviews 6

m. j. arlidge series

 

Eeny Meeny begins with a most horrifying murder – a young couple is kidnapped, left in an abandoned empty diving pool with no way out and given a gun with a single bullet. The instructions left with the couple state that only one will make it out alive, the choice is theirs – to live, one of them must die.

It is quite possibly the creepiest, most terrifying concept for a thriller I’ve ever read.

Detective Helen Grace is on the case, along with her dedicated team. Helen has a tragic history that has left her with numerous scars, both on the inside and the outside. Her job is her life; no real friends and no family to speak of. Not only does Helen have to deal with a horrifying murder investigation, she’s got one reporter breathing down her neck and causing all kinds of trouble. {reminded me of a few news journalists I’ve seen on tv. . .}

The plot is fast paced, never a dull moment, even when there’s alleged down time. DI Helen Grace’s character is slowly revealed through her actions. The red herrings are spot on and reminiscent of Agatha Christie.

Towards the grand finale a couple of issues arose – all of a sudden Helen has a breakthrough but for the reader, it feels rushed, almost contrived. Don’t get me wrong, the denouement totally works, it just happened without warning. While the revelation of the killer is shocking, the confrontation is rushed. ugh! I want to talk to someone about this book!!! If you’ve read it and want to commiserate, please send me a tweet! Would love to discuss!

As a series beginning, Eeny Meeny introduces a writer of immense potential in the thriller genre.

side questions ~ for those familiar with the police in the UK – do the police typically only carry batons? then check out guns as necessary?

AND, if you’ve read this one – what happened to Louise?!?


[Tweet “Must-read new thriller series from U.K. author!”]

Pop Goes the Weasel is #2 in the DI Helen Grace series. {did I mention I read all 4 U.S. versions over Memorial Day weekend?!?} In this one, married men are turning up dead and with missing body parts. Said body part is then delivered to the home or office of the deceased {lovely, right!}.

Once again, Helen Grace and her team are on the case. It’s been a few months since the fall out from the serial killer in Eeny Meeny, and the team is slowly returning to normal. Helen has a new boss that butts heads with her every chance she gets. The dogged reporter from Eeny Meeny is back to once again wreak havoc on the investigation.

It’s fascinating to read a series back-to-back. The progression of writing skill is apparent. Arlidge continues to develop Helen’s character and that of her team through slow revelations and conflicts. While there has been a rash of books published in recent years that focus on psychological suspense, Arlidge’s Helen Grace series takes us back to the true thriller and police procedural. Pop Goes the Weasel is even better than Eeny Meeny and I wasn’t sure that was possible!

One caveat, it is important to read Eeny Meeny first as there are spoilers from the first book in Pop Goes the Weasel.  Reading this series is not for the faint of heart, but there are also no gratuitous gory violent scenes. The violence included is necessary for the development of the plot. If you enjoy a good who-done-it though, then definitely pick this series up!

Stay tuned for reviews of The Doll’s House and Liar Liar {to be released in the U.S. on June 7th}.

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three-stars

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Thoughts on Flight Patterns

May 24, 2016 Book Review, reviews 4

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Thoughts on Flight PatternsFlight Patterns by Karen White
Published by NAL on May 24th 2016
Genres: Contemporary Women, Fiction, Southern
Pages: 416
Source: complimentary review copy
AmazonIndieBound
Goodreads

 

I’ve been a fan of Karen White’s books since Falling Home and After the Rain. She’s one of those authors that it doesn’t matter what the book is about, I’m going to buy it. My absolute favorite book of Karen White’s is On Folly Beach ~ that one was like immersing myself in dream, buying a used bookstore & living at the beach…

So about Flight Patterns. I’m not sure what went wrong with this one, but for me, I simply could not buy into the premise, the characters or even the setting. And setting is typically this author’s strong point!

What I did not love

  • Maisy. She was angry at the world, spiteful and simply not a nice person. It seemed like the author was trying to make a point with Maisy’s character and how our parents can affect us even into adulthood. I did not see any real growth in her character throughout the book. Even in the end she felt flat and one-dimensional to me – an angry, bitter person.
  • The progression of the book seemed stilted. It’s like the author threw every contrived scenario at the characters in order to create emotional drama and impact but instead, it didn’t flow with White’s typical immersive storytelling skill.
  • The novel felt too long and drawn out. We were told many, many times how Birdie was mentally unstable and Maisie was ‘justifiably’ angry and Georgia was responsible for everything.

[Tweet “The good and the bad with #flightpatterns”]

What I did enjoy

  • Becky, Maisy’s daughter. Such a sweetly drawn character who stole the show for me.
  • Many of the bee facts – fascinating!

When a hive is invaded by a wasp, the bees cluster around the intruder and fan their wings to make it 117 degrees, knowing that wasps cannot survive temperatures above 116. This is the ultimate act of survival, as the bees will die if the temperature reaches 118 degrees.

  • Nuggets of life truths sprinkled throughout the book:

When you let your hurt from the past control you, you are tied to it forever. You will never change your life until you learn to let go the things that once hurt you.

Because no one can hurt us as much as those we love the most.

Sometimes all we need to do to forgive our parents is to understand their own childhoods.

I”d honestly recommend one of Karen White’s earlier books over this one, especially On Folly Beach…have I mentioned how much I love that book?!?

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Book Review: Flight of Dreams

February 22, 2016 Book Review, reviews 5

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Book Review: Flight of DreamsFlight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon
Published by Doubleday on February 23rd 2016
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Mystery
Pages: 336
Source: complimentary review copy
AmazonBarnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-half-stars

 

In Flight of Dreams, Lawhon takes us on a journey with a re-imagining of the final voyage of the Hindenburg. The Zeppelin flight has always been a source of fascination for me – what really happened? was it a bomb? or the highly flammable hydrogen used as a fuel source? or something entirely different?

The quite plausible scenarios laid out by Lawhon take us on an opulent and mysterious ride through history.

We were first introduced to Ariel Lawhon in her re-imagining of the disappearance of Judge Joseph Crater in The Wife, The Maid, and the Mistress. It’s one of those books I distinctly recall flying through, trying to solve the mystery of how and why this NYC Judge disappeared.  Lawhon created dynamic characters and a plot that encouraged reading straight through the night.

In the beginning of Flight of Dreams we are introduced to a handful of characters. It’s almost like playing a game of Clue – there’s The Stewardess: the first woman to work on board a Zeppelin, a true honor for the time period; The Journalist: forced to join the flight while leaving her 3-month old son behind; The Navigator: a handsome young man in love with The Stewardess; The American: with questionable behavior from his first introduction; and finally, The Cabin Boy: low ‘man’ on the staff desperate for recognition while earning money needed by his impoverished family. Told in the alternating point of view of these 5 characters we get an intimate look behind the scenes of travel aboard the Hindenburg.

Although the introduction of characters, life aboard the airship and multiple story threads takes the first few chapters to build, it is worth the slow progress. We get to see the incredible views from the large windows Taste the whiskey and smoke in the only smoking area on board { can you believe smoking was allowed?!? with hydrogen as fuel??? }. and feel the coolness of the altitude. . . .

But where the author truly shines is in her characterizations of the real lives aboard the Hindenburg. The Cabin Boy, in particular, such a minor character and yet so fully developed. We are allowed into the lives of the characters – their motivations and desires become clearly known to the reader. It’s obvious this author takes her role as author and creator quite seriously.

[Tweet “An intriguing re-imagining of the Hindenburg tragedy as told by @ariellawhon”]

The tragedy becomes all the more real by the final closing of the book because we have journeyed across an ocean with the travelers. We’ve been along as The Navigator attempts to impress The Stewardess with the spectacular view on a mail drop (such a fascinating historical fact!). We are with The Cabin Boy as he is taken under The Navigator’s wing and we are with each person as the fire erupts and envelopes The Hindenburg in 34 seconds.

While I went into Flight of Dreams knowing the tragic end to the Hindenburg, I came away with the sense of each very real person on this airship of dreams. They had hopes, desires, dreams – a full life ahead of them. That the author took a vague historical event and turned it into one of real human drama is a testament to Lawhon’s staying power as a top-notch novelist. Highly recommended. 

Side note ~ isn’t that cover gorgeous?!?

About the Author Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus).

To connect with Ariel Lawhon visit Website | Facebook | Twitter

Flight of Dreams will especially appeal to readers of: The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress; The Aviator’s Wife or The Paris Wife

four-half-stars

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The Ultimate Feel Good Novel for Those Who Love Books About Books

January 23, 2016 Book Review, reviews 5

The Ultimate Feel Good Novel for Those Who Love Books About BooksThe Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark on January 19th 2016
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 400
Source: complimentary review copy
Goodreads
five-stars

People were strange like that. They could be completely uninterested in you, but the moment you picked up a book, you were the one being rude.

Feel good books were ones you could put down with a smile your face, books that made you think the world was a little crazier, stranger, and more beautiful when you looked up from them.

It all starts with Sara arriving in Broken Wheel, Iowa from Sweden. She’s there to visit pen pal Amy Harris who unbeknownst to Sara, has just passed away.

And now I’ve now read this books 3+ times since downloading, and each time it gets better and better.

Why?

Because there are so many under-lying stories that address true-to-real-life problems. The brilliance is in HOW the problems are approached. The wry humor, understanding and acceptance of all is woven into each storyline and character in such a way that even the most hard-hearted can appreciate.  There’s stories of race, religion, sexuality, immigration, relationships and age, loveless marriages and divorce – if you can think of it then this book probably touched on it.

While several of the characters are based off of stereotypes, the characters themselves are fully fleshed out and wonderful in their own right. There’s Caroline, the town’s moral compass and Christian Upholder; Andy, local boy who left to find himself and returned with gorgeous Carl and together they opened the local bar; ‘Poor George‘ who has had every knock life could dole out and I tend to think he stole the show, next to. . . . .Grace aka/Madeleine – Every town has one – the requisite strong female who proudly brings her shotgun to a wedding ‘to celebrate!’ Oh the characters were so much fun and quirky and real. I felt like I was sitting at the local diner.  Or plopped right down into the middle of an old favorite show Men In Trees. Or maybe “the book equivalent of a Meg Ryan film.”  Or even better, the book and movie-version of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle-Stop Cafe!

I’ve also seen people so completely caught up in their problems that those problems practically creep in beneath their skin and eat them up from within, until it seems as though their reaction to the problem is worse than the problem itself ever was. Those people grow cruel and bitter too, so it’s difficult to remember to feel sorry for them.

How fun is it to read a fantastic book if you can’t tell others about it, talk about it, and quote from it constantly?

There’s always a person for every book. And a book for every person.

Overall, there’s no way I could fully express how much I think you should read this one. It’s got a little bit for everyone.

In trying to capture all of the authors and books mentioned in the book, I highlighted more sections than not!  There’s a passage on Dewey the famous Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World; the back story of how Penguin Books began in 1935 by founder Allen Lane; and oh so many quotes and references to books, all kinds of books!  One thing is clear – Katarina Bivald is a fan of the Brontë Sisters and Jane Austen! That’s got to count for something, right!

 

RBWR-Sweeps-600x150
Anyone can nominate their favorite bookstore at Readers Recommend Favorite Bookstore Sweepstakes. Sourcebooks will award the winning bookstore with a $3,000 prize; two additional bookstores will each receive a $637 prize (the population of Bivald’s fictional Broken Wheel, Iowa). In addition to bookstores receiving prizes, weekly giveaways for those who nominate will be held throughout the campaign. Voting began January 4, and runs until February 19, when the winning bookstores will be announced.

I’ll leave you with a couple of questions asked between the pen-pals Amy and Sara:

Do you think writing books makes you happier or unhappier?

Do you throw books away?

Do you think our dreams are subject to inflation? and does having dreams make us more or less happy?

on Jane Austen’s last unfinished novel, Sandition “Do you think Jane had stopped dreaming by that point?”

Stay warm friends!

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five-stars

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Book Review: The Guest Room

January 15, 2016 Book Review, reviews 5

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Book Review: The Guest RoomThe Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian
Published by Doubleday on January 5th 2016
Genres: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 336
Source: complimentary review copy
AmazonIndieBound
Goodreads
four-stars

 

What happens when every choice you make is wrong?

The latest by powerhouse author Chris Bohjalian has a bachelor party going catastrophically wrong in the suburban home of Richard and Kristen.  Richard reluctantly hosts his younger brother’s bachelor party thinking it will be much cleaner and tamer than going to a club.  He is so wrong.

The Guest Room follows Richard and Kristen as they learn to deal with two violent deaths occurring inside their home; Richard’s purported actions with one of the girls from the bachelor party; And the fallout with Richards’s job, neighbors, life.

[Tweet “Explosive thriller straight from headlines by @chrisbohjalian “]

In reading The Guest Room several thoughts and emotions came to mind. First, of course, the human trafficking aspect was horrific and all too real.  Bohjalian put a human face and back story to what happens to girls inside human trafficking.  He also brings to light how our choices come back to haunt us. The portrayal of a marriage, the mistakes one makes however big or small and how a couple overcomes, or doesn’t, felt very real.

Told from three alternating point of views:

  • Richard Chapman, investment banker, relatively great husband and father that makes the mistake of his life;
  • Kristen Chapman, wife to Richard, high school teacher and dedicated mother;
  • Alexandra, devoted dancer from Armenia, kidnapped into sex trade at age 15, brought to America at age 19 by Russian mobsters to continue working.

The pace is lightning fast. I couldn’t flip through or read fast enough. The ending is explosive and unexpected. And the storyline reads as though pulled from the CNN headlines. Although the ending wrapped up a little too neatly the fast action and storyline told made up for any small issues. One word of warning ~ be ready with tissues!

If you liked The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan or Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter then you’ll enjoy The Guest Room.

Read this free short story of Alexandra’s life shared by the author.

Visit Chris Bohjalian Website | Facebook | Twitter

To learn more or to support an end to human trafficking visit C.A.S.T. – Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking.

 

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four-stars

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