Review: Seeing Red by Sandra Brown

31933331

Sandra Brown never disappoints me.  While not all of her stories have been five stars for me, they’re all highly worthy of a mention.  Her newest is no exception.

Kerra Bailey’s career as a TV journalist has never been better.  And to top it off, she’s managed to snag the interview that’s eluded all others.  Major Franklin Trapper has shunned all publicity for the last several years.  Now he’s agreed to meet with her, to tell his story as the reluctant hero of a horrific bombing many years ago.  And the shocker for the audience?  Young Kerra was one of the people the Major saved.

But somebody doesn’t want the story told.  Fear of the case being reopened, maybe?  Regardless, both the Major and Kerra find themselves with their lives on the line.  Kerry escapes relatively unscathed, the Major isn’t quite so lucky.  Joining forces with his estranged son plunges her deeper into the mystery of who’s to blame.  And of course, romance happens.  It wouldn’t be a Sandra Brown without steamy love scenes, after all.

This is what she does best, writing about murder and mystery and love.  Another winner from this author!

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  Seeing Red

 

Review: See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

32508637

Lizzie Borden took an axe, and gave her mother forty whacks.  When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.

Most of us are familiar with that eerie little rhyme, maybe not being completely aware of the meaning.  Some of us even know the story behind it, knowing that it’s based on a true crime occurring in the late 1800s.  But have you ever wondered about the dynamics behind the family tragedy?

When Lizzie discovers first her father and then her stepmother brutally murdered, everyone immediately feels sympathy and concern for her.  To have witnessed the aftermath of such a gruesome scene surely must have been a shock.  As time goes on, however, events come to light casting doubt on her innocence.  And the family itself surely wasn’t a happy little group.  There’s enough suspicion to go around.  Was it Lizzie?  Or was it the mysterious man sent by her uncle?  Or maybe one of her father’s business associates?

The story weaves itself back and forth between the day of the crime, the days leading up to the murders, and the aftermath.  It’s fascinating for the criminal investigation procedures of the time if nothing else.  The author does a great job of creating an entirely believable story that very well could be the true story behind an unsolved crime.  And it absolutely made me want to read more about it!

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  See What I Have Done

 

Review: Guilty by Laura Elliot

35214498

I’m going to preface this review by saying that this one didn’t grab me right away as many psychological thrillers do.  I wasn’t sure how I felt about it at the beginning.  In fact, I almost gave up on it.  I’m glad I didn’t.

Constance is missing.  When the thirteen-year-old suddenly disappears, all efforts are put into finding her.  Her much loved uncle Karl soon finds himself the focus of the investigation.  Through a series of circumstantial pieces of evidence along with a determined journalist, he quickly becomes suspect number one.

Fast forward six years…

And I’m stopping here.  If you read the blurbs on various book-related sites, you’ll find more details leading up to this point.  But I’m not going to give them to you.  Part of the pleasure of this story was the discovery, the itchy inkling feeling I had as I got deeper and deeper into the story.  And I’d like for you to have that same experience.  So go forth and enjoy!

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  Guilty

 

Review: The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda

31443398

A friend…a very good one.  Someone who knows you better than you know yourself.  Someone you can turn to in your darkest hour, to help you pick up the pieces.  What can be better?  Leah considers herself lucky to have such a person in Emmy.  She’s been there for her through it all, even after all the time they were out of touch.

And now, Emmy is willing to give up everything and start over for Leah.  Everything begins to unravel, however, when a local girl turns up beaten and left for dead.  And then Emmy goes missing.  Exactly when did Leah see her last, anyway?  As Leah digs deeper and deeper, she realizes that maybe she didn’t really know Emmy that well after all.

This is the perfect follow-up to Miranda’s last novel, All the Missing Girls.  It has just the right mix of intrigue, mystery, whodunit-ness to keep you guessing.  And even if you put pieces of the story together before the halfway mark, as did I, the last 30% is sure to take you for a ride.  That alone is enough of a reason to grab this one!

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  The Perfect Stranger

Review: Death at the Day Lily Cafe by Wendy Sand Eckel


Here we have Rosalie who has the grand opening of her long-sought-after cafe. And what happens? Friend Doris stumbles in all agog that her sister is being accused of murder! Rosalie is no stranger to crime investigation, so she gets right on that, much to the sheriff’s chagrin. 

While Rosalie tries to find the real murderer, she’s also managing employees, keeping track of her health, being a mom, hanging out with the farmer who leases her land, and keeping a bad guy out of her hair! 

This is a cute cozy mystery that also includes romance and family secrets. It’s second in a series, and I didn’t read the first one… so it was hard to feel engaged with all the characters right off the bat. However, I did love the cafe setting, Rosalie’s daughter, the farmer, and the lovely cook! 

-calliope

Buy DEATH AT THE DAY LILY CAFE

Review: The Widow by Fiona Barton

25734248

I love it when an author, especially in a debut novel, is able to write a story that’s so compelling, so suspenseful that you flip page after page to finally get to the ending.  For me, the best thrillers are the ones where it’s drawn out until almost the very end.  You think you know who dunnit but you’re never completely convinced until that last chapter. That’s what you get with this mesmerizing book from Fiona Barton.

We know from the get go that something bad has happened.  When Jean’s husband is killed, the media immediately are at her door.  They want her story.  But they don’t want the sympathetic story of a grieving widow devastated by the loss of her husband.  They want to know exactly what happened years ago.  That’s when Glen was accused of a crime so horrific that surely he’d be locked away forever.

Somehow, though, that didn’t happen.  And for reasons unknown to the reader until deep into the story, he and Jean have half-heartedly attempted to rebuild their lives.  But the past refuses to let them.  When Glen is no longer in the picture, surely Jean will finally get some peace and quiet.  Too many secrets left buried won’t let that happen, though.  Is Jean the one who can finally shed light on the tragedy that changed so many lives?

This was a classic thriller in all the best ways.  There are horrible crimes, secrets buried, and of course death.  Each chapter was rampant with an undertone of something big about to happen.  As I turned each page, I just knew that finally I’d find it all out.  But alas, it was not to be.  Not until almost the very end.  Yes, I guessed correctly on several things.  On others, not so much.  Grab this one and see if you can do better!

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  The Widow

Review: Being Dead by Jim Crace

92559This is one of those books that I found very difficult to choose between a 5 star read and a 3 star read.

I don’t believe you’ll find many other books out there quite like this one, I will give that to Crace. It’s hard to find a really original book out there this day and age, and this is certainly that for me.

The forward in the start of the novel says it all really…

Don’t count on Heaven, or on Hell.
You’re dead. That’s it. Adieu. Farewell.
Eternity awaits? Oh, sure!
It’s Putrefaction and Manure And unrelenting Rot, Rot, Rot,
As you regress, from Zoo. to Bot.
I’ll Grieve, of course,
Departing wife,
Though Grieving’s never
Lengthened Life
Or coaxed a single extra Breath
Out of a Body touched by Death.

‘The Biologist’s Valediction to his Wife’ from Offcuts by Sherwin Stephens

It only gets worse from there. This is a story not about murder, but about death. DEATH. Don’t go into this novel expecting a happy ending. The ending is there, even before the story begins. Hell, even the title gives it away.

Being. Dead.

It depressed me if I am to be honest. Perhaps that is why I can’t decide if I should rate it high or low. Please don’t think the talk of death is what depressed me. For it was not. I actually found that a bit fascinating. But once again, I felt it was forced. Page after page after page after many a page talking about the changes in the body and of nature’s attempts to wipe their image from the face of her good clean Earth…well, it just felt forced. I felt as if Crace was trying to pound it into my brain. I can certainly see where many people would be turned off by that writing (an example to follow at the end of the review). Me? It’s things I’ve often wondered over. I once dreamed of being a forensic scientist. Of course, that was before I realised how much schooling in biology was needed! At any rate, I could deal with that, I just wished that the natural felt…well…more natural…ha!

What depressed me was, what’s the meaning of all of this. Tragically we are led to believe of this great love. Here’s a quote and proof for you!

The plain and unforgiving facts were these. Celice and Joseph were soft fruit. They lived in tender bodies. They were vulnerable. They did not have the power not to die. They were, we are, all flesh, and then we are all meat.

Joseph’s grasp on Celice’s leg had weakened as he’d died. But still his hand was touching her, the grainy pastels of her skin, one fingertip among her baby ankle hairs. Their bodies had expired, but anyone could tell – just look at them – that Joseph and Celice were still devoted. For while his hand was touching her, curved round her shin, the couple seemed to have achieved that peace the world denies, a period of grace, defying even murder. Anyone who found them there, so wickedly disfigured, would nevertheless be bound to see that something of their love had survived the death of cells.

See, there is romance there, is there not?

It made me happy to go on…”devotion defying even murder.” Whoa, Dude! I want some of that….

However, the more I read, the more I got depressed. I have to admit, I’ve struggled with religion that last few years…no….wait….that’s a lie….I’ve struggled with NOT struggling about religion for the last few years…This book….no, it’s not religious…well, not really….I guess, it’s just that here we are, swooning over this image of these two murdered people…projecting our views unto them…romantic views…even death can not end their love….blah blah blah….they died in each other’s arms…blah blah blah….their last instinct was to comfort one another…again, blah Blah BLAH…

The reality is, they are dead. They are crab bait. Further more, as the reader goes deeper into the story, the more they realise that perhaps it wasn’t some great love story…there lives weren’t really even that interesting even to them…

What if it’s true…we only have a short lifetime to be alive…and what if we’re all wasting it on “only” existing and not really LIVING? What happens when we, like every other single person we know, settles in life? We settle on the quiet night at home. We settle on keeping quiet to keep the peace. We settle on no change because it’s just so easy?

What if the greatest story of our lives is that some stranger makes up for us at the end? Because they romanticised some dead hand that seemed to reach for another? What if that’s the last story? One that isn’t even true? What happens if that last false impression isn’t even close to who we really were? Who will correct the misconceptions? How soon will all we tried to do in this life be lost after we have died? Especially if we leave no one behind that really gives a shit? What’s the point?

See! Brilliance! 5 HUGE stars…..

But damnit….that’s what I’m feeling in my head after reading the novel! Whilst reading it, after the half way point I just wanted it to hurry up and END!!! 3 FAT stars.

Sigh….

Here’s but one sample of Crace’s writing style. I loved it….and yet, page after page after page after yet page, I hated it as well….

The dead don’t talk – but bodies belch for hours after death. A woman bends to kiss her husband for the final time. Despite the warnings of the morgue attendant – sweet-breathed or not – she puts a little weight upon his chest, and is rewarded with the stench of every meal she’s cooked for him in forty years. The morgue could sound, at times, as if a ghoulish choir was warming up, backed by a wind ensemble of tubas and bassoons. It could smell as scalpy, scorched and pungent as a hairdressing salon. The breath of these cold choristers was far worse than the onion breath of clerks. But no one said that bodies weren’t sincere. There’s nothing more sincere than death. The dead mean what they say.

Until next time…

Urania xx

Buy it now Being Dead by Jim Crace

Review: The Murderer’s Daughter by Jonathan Kellerman

kell__jkt_all_r1.indd

Way back when, I read several of Kellerman’s Alex Delaware stories. And I loved them. Still, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up this one. I was not disappointed.

Grace Blades had about as hard of a childhood as one can have and live to tell the tale. Unwanted from the beginning, and pretty much unloved all along, she was left to fend for herself while her mom and dad partied away. Then the unthinkable happens when her mom and dad die. But in a way, this is her salvation. This is her opportunity to escape the life she’s had and maybe have a shot at a better one.

As she weaves her way through the foster care system, she encounters a different kind of nightmare. She survives, though, and comes out stronger than anyone could ever have predicted. A loner by choice, she’s a highly successful psychologist treating people who’ve experienced traumatic events.

She also harbors a naughty little secret side that nobody would ever guess exists. And it’s this naughty side that brings her in contact with someone from her childhood that she’d rather forget. And then he’s murdered. Being the strong person she is, of course she can’t just sit by and wait for the police to solve the crime.

This is a great thriller. There’s a nice little shoutout to Alex Delaware in the plot that will please fans of his series. Grace is a great leading character, even though she’s far from perfect. My only complaint is that the ending of the story was a bit too wordy and drawn-out. Not enough to to keep me from recommending it, though!

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  The Murderer’s Daughter

Review: Girl Missing by Tess Gerritsen

6000876

Tess Gerritsen doesn’t write a bad story. From her Rizzoli & Isles series to her countless stand alones, she’s a master at her craft. This older thriller is no exception.

When bodies start showing up in Boston, it doesn’t cause too much of a ripple. Boston is a large city, after all. And some of the dead did lead questionable lifestyles. Medical examiner Kat Novak thinks there’s more to it than just random murders, however. She fears that a serial killer is at large. Convincing the higher authorities is difficult. The mayor isn’t interested in hearing her theories, especially ones that cast a bad light on the city.

While this doesn’t rank as one of her best for me, it’s nonetheless very good. The author is able to create characters who take control of the story, pulling you along with it. Her stories all fall into the “just one more chapter I can’t put it down” category, and this one is no exception.

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  Girl Missing

Review: The Secret History by Donna Tart

29044I really liked this story. This is a story of 6 friends. It is the telling of the events that lead up to the death of one of the friends, the death itself, and the aftermath of that death. There are layers and layers of nice, dark, deep, pathological juicy bits to go though. So much to keep you up late at night to think about. You’ll be thinking about this book all the time you read it…but you won’t stop thinking about it during the times you have to set it aside for the *real* world.

But let me be honest here….as much as I loved the story, and no matter how much I enjoyed these very…errr…unusual characters, I just don’t care for Ms. Tartt’s writing style. It’s tough for me. I absolutely loved “The Goldfinch”. Much more than I liked this one. However, I felt the exact same. I love books that go into great detail. I loved longer books. But having said that, the details I think Ms. Tartt goes into just aren’t the ones I need to know. I find bits of her stories very very very VERY repetitive. The bits I want more details to, I think she just skims over them or gives us just the barest of bit of knowledge she can to get on to the boring bits. I find myself just tapping tapping tapping my feet, waiting for her to get all those nonsense words out of her mouth and get back to the really relevant bits.

So many of these characters are so fascinating (or were to me). I can almost forgive the bits I felt dragged on for way long…almost….but not quite…

Until next time…

Urania xx

Buy it now The Secret History by Donna Tartt