Friday, December 26, 2014

review: the widow's daughter by nicholas edlin

Billed as a story of a man haunted by his time as a doctor with the Marines in New Zealand during World War II, The Widow's Daughter takes an excruciatingly long time to get started. The pivotal characters (other than the Marines) are not introduced in the first 100 pages and the murder of Emily's brother occurs just shy of page 300 of a 370 page book. The earlier plot is somewhat interesting for its take on what the war was like for those stationed away from the action, but it grows tiresome as the carousing goes on and on. The Widow's Daughter starts to pick up once Peter learns of Emily's past and who she really is to Oscar, but there are far too few pages left for that story to really develop.
2/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Penguin.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

review: auf wiedersehen by christa holder ocker

Christa Holder Ocker's memoir of growing up in Germany during World War II provided an interesting perspective. Although her mother did not support Hilter, her father fought for Germany. At one point the family must leave home, but there is still some normalcy for the children as they play with each other and attend school. Ocker details some very lean times as the Allied troops came and her family ended up deciding to leave Germany for America. But there is also much missing from the story. What sort of role did her father have in the war? What happened after they arrived in America?
3/5
Review copy provided by the publicist, Stray Dog Media.

Monday, December 22, 2014

review: beyond limits by laura griffin

Beyond Limits brings together Elizabeth and Derek, who first met in Scorched, as they hunt for a terrorist who is plotting an attack in Texas. This latest edition of the Tracers series is light on the involvement of The Delphi Center with the techs there not really assisting in the case. It's a combination of Elizabeth's official work for the FBI and Derek's skills from his SEAL training that allows them to succeed. This shift away from The Delphi Center is a bit of a disappointment, especially since the plot is less suspenseful too. Others in the series had a very real threat to keep the reader on edge, but Beyond Limits doesn't reveal what the terrorist has planned until the final chapters making this installment heavier on the romance than the suspense. I didn't like Elizabeth when she was introduced in Scorched, but she is thankfully improved here. One part I really enjoyed was the depiction of Texas. Having lived in this state for six months (I've a native of the Pacific Northwest), I picked up on things like the Dairy Queen cup being used as a spittoon that I wouldn't have really noticed before. It makes me want to revisit the first three in the series (which are my favorites).
3/5
Review copy provided by the author.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

review: a murder at rosamund's gate by susanna calkins

The first in the Lucy Campion series starts very slowly--so slowly that the first 100 or so pages could be cut without detriment to the story. Although Lucy and the others in A Murder at Rosamund's Gate are aware that some young women have been murdered, they are more worried about the plague until Bessie is also murdered. Bessie and Lucy were maids in the same household and Bessie was romantically involved with Lucy's brother as well. Just as happens today, Lucy's brother is the one who falls under suspicion. Lucy doesn't think her brother would kill Bessie, so she begins her own investigation which causes her to believe all the murders are related. In the end, Lucy does of course solve the mystery, but it is pure luck rather than any skill. The lackluster revelation is representative of the entire book which puts the mystery on the backburner the entire time. Despite many referencing Lucy's intelligence (she taught herself to read), she rarely showed it. Lucy seems an unlikely heroine to build a series around.
2/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Minotaur Books.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

review: so tough to tame by victoria dahl

Victoria Dahl's sexy series set in Wyoming continues with So Tough to Tame. Charlie was Walker's tutor back in high school; now they're both adults and Charlie is back in her hometown after a scandal. As soon as the two reunite, there's a connection which leads to the expected romance of Dahl's novels. And as usual, Dahl's female lead is strong despite some troubles. Overall, it's a terrific romance although this one is a little heavy on that aspect with only a little about the intriguing circumstances surrounding Charlie's job.
5/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

review: the haçienda by peter hook

Although the subtitle is How Not to Run a Club, The Haçienda is primarily Peter Hook bragging about how great his bands were and how great the club was too. Much of the narcissistic musings are cringe-worthy as he hurls insults at other bands and just about everyone else he had contact with in the 1980s. The writing does little to make the memoir better either as Hook rambles in a convoluted way to tell his tale of a club he believes should be celebrated.
1/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, It Books.

Monday, December 15, 2014

review: murder at the book group by maggie king

The first in a cozy mystery series from Maggie King, Murder at the Book Group focuses on an author named Hazel Rose who belongs to a mystery book group along with her ex-husband's new wife, who just happens to die at one of the meetings. Although there's a suicide note, Hazel and many of the others don't believe Carlene would've killed herself. While the police look into the death, Hazel and Carlene's stepsister Kat set about figuring out who killed Carlene.

Given that it's a cozy, it's understandable that there's not much drama to Murder at the Book Group; however, the amount of time Hazel spends discussing Carlene and analyzing possible suspects grows to excruciating levels. King also inserts a number of strange asides about exercise and politics that didn't contribute to the development of the plot. Carlene's soap opera-esque bed-hopping did provide entertainment as well as create a grand number of suspects for her murder so that it is hard to guess just who suspicion should fall on.
3/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Gallery Books.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

review: pieces of happily ever after by irene zutell

Pieces of Happily Ever After follows Alice as her world comes crashing in. Her husband is cheating with a celebrity and her mother's Alzheimer's is getting worse. Alice was likely intended to be a sympathetic character, but I often wondered why her husband hadn't left earlier given how overbearing and judgmental she was. And of course, in a like mother, like daughter, the young child was a brat too. What redeemed Pieces of Happily Ever After was that her husband's betrayal did cause a change in Alice. She actually made some friends and turned into a slightly better person. Irene Zutell also puts a humorous spin on some tough situations thus lightening the somewhat over-dramatic spin.
3/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, St. Martin's Griffin.

Friday, December 12, 2014

review: chasing before by lenore appelhans

Felicia, you were supposed to be with Julian! At the start of Chasing Before, which continues the story from Level 2, Felicia is all about Neil. Julian doesn’t even make an appearance in the first few chapters which are all about Felicia and Neil reaching the next level and deciding what assignments they want (muse, guardian angel, etc.). They soon discover that the Morati are still causing trouble, so that must be dealt with while they work on qualifying for the positions they’ve chosen and deal with some drama caused by the appearance of Neil’s older half-brother. Unfortunately this drama makes Felicia seem weaker and whinier than she did in the first novel. There really should’ve been more Julian in this book.
3/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

review: ghost trackers by jason hawes and grant wilson

Ghost Trackers should’ve been exciting as high school friends Amber, Drew, and Trevor reunite for their high school reunion 15 years after graduating and learn that the supernatural entity they thought they escaped is killing their former classmates. It wasn’t. Ghost Trackers is written so passively that even the climatic scenes at the end were skim-worthy.
1/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Pocket Books.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

review: ten things i've learnt about love by sarah butler

Alice returns to London just as her father is dying. It is clear that some secret is weighing on him, but Alice’s father dies before he reveals anything. In the alternating chapters, a homeless man is thinking about finally finding his daughter after 30 years. This man is, of course, Alice’s real father and that fact is apparent very early on. With no suspense as to how these two stories will come together, Ten Things I’ve Learnt about Love doesn’t have much going for it. Alice’s story of feeling like an outcast and roaming the planet is typical and boring while Daniel’s story detracted from Alice’s journey of finding out about her mother who died when she was young.
2/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

review: the crown by nancy bilyeau

The Crown is a suspenseful page-turner with some exciting twists. Set in the time of Henry VII, The Crown follows a young nun named Joanna as she learns her cousin is to be burned at stake. When Joanna and her father interfere, they are sent to The Tower. Joanna is semi-fortunate though as she is soon let free in order to find King Athelstan’s long-lost crown for the Bishop of Winchester who will save her father’s life in return. The stakes are high and Joanna’s life may be in peril too when a murder takes place at Dartford Priory. Nancy Bilyeau’s writing beautifully brings to life the various settings with excellent descriptions.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Touchstone.

Monday, December 1, 2014

review: black ice by becca fitzpatrick

They could’ve gone to Hawaii with friends for spring break, but instead Britt and Korbie are backpacking in the Grand Teton National Park where Korbie’s family owns a cabin. The two high school girls are traveling alone though they’ll meet up with Korbie’s boyfriend and her brother who happens to be Britt’s ex. At least that was the plan until the sunny day turns into a snow storm that forces the girls to stop on the road. Thinking that they’ll freeze when the Jeep runs out of gas, they decide to look for a cabin to wait out the storm. It’s a decision they will soon regret.

Black Ice is intense. From the moment the snow starts falling, Becca Fitzpatrick builds an increasingly perilous situation for the wholly unprepared girls. Britt proves to be tenacious though a bit impulsive which causes additional problems. Although some of the twists were easy to guess, with Black Ice being more about how Britt would survive the life-or-death situation she’s in, knowing the killer’s identity doesn’t detract from the drama.
5/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.