Friday, September 19, 2014

Alice's Review: The Museum of Extraordinary Things


Author: Alice Hoffman
Series: None
Publication Date: February 18, 2014
Publisher: Scribner
Pages: 368
Obtained: Publisher
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating:  4/5
Bottom Line: An alluring story of  mystery and love.
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Summary:  Mesmerizing and illuminating, Alice Hoffman’s The Museum of Extraordinary Things is the story of an electric and impassioned love between two vastly different souls in New York during the volatile first decades of the twentieth century.  Coralie Sardie is the daughter of the sinister impresario behind The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a Coney Island boardwalk freak show that thrills the masses. An exceptional swimmer, Coralie appears as the Mermaid in her father’s “museum,” alongside performers like the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl, and a one-hundred-year-old turtle. One night Coralie stumbles upon a striking young man taking pictures of moonlit trees in the woods off the Hudson River. The dashing photographer is Eddie Cohen, a Russian immigrant who has run away from his father’s Lower East Side Orthodox community and his job as a tailor’s apprentice. When Eddie photographs the devastation on the streets of New York following the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he becomes embroiled in the suspicious mystery behind a young woman’s disappearance and ignites the heart of Coralie. With its colorful crowds of bootleggers, heiresses, thugs, and idealists, New York itself becomes a riveting character as Hoffman weaves her trademark magic, romance, and masterful storytelling to unite Coralie and Eddie in a sizzling, tender, and moving story of young love in tumultuous times. The Museum of Extraordinary Things is Alice Hoffman at her most spellbinding. ~powells.com

Review:  Alice Hoffman...I don’t even know where to begin. She is one of my favorite authors ever. She can write about nearly any subject with authority and heart. I love her books. Love them. This one is no different. I love that it’s set in New York City. I just adore when a city is a character in a novel. Make is New York City in 1911 and it’s even better. I love that she ventures into Brooklyn and writes about the freak shows and oddities on Coney Island. It was such a marvelous, fascinating time in history.

Like most others, I am drawn to a novel that is close to home. I work a few blocks from Eddie’s apartment in the novel. I love knowing we walked down the same streets in much different times. I really appreciated that she encompassed real events into her storytelling. I first learned about the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire on a ghost walk tour last year. My interest in The Museum of Extraordinary Things was immediately piqued when I learned the novel began with that catastrophe. I love that she writes in a way that makes me feel as if I am there, standing on the sidewalk next to Eddie in horror at the burning building in front of me. Or that it is me, and not Coralie who is swimming in the frigid Hudson. She has the ability to transport her readers to a different place and time. See, that’s the thing about Alice Hoffman. She writes in a way that Eddie and Coralie are not characters in a novel. They are people who lived a long time ago, as human as I am.

Eddie was such a great character. With everything he faced, he grew up a lot faster than he should have. There was no boyhood innocence to draw from. He lost is even before he stepped into his life in Manhattan. And Coralie, the opposite of him, sheltered and protected to a fault. First she forced to act like a child when she craved the things of a woman, and then forced into wanton behavior by someone who should have protected her. I enjoyed their love story. I especially enjoyed that their love story wasn’t the focus of the novel. This novel was much more than two people coming together.

There were a few other characters that I enjoyed, especially Maureen. As Coralie’s companion and Dr. Sardie’s housemaid, she had a small but significant role. I loved that she was scarred yet had wisdom and desires. She had a way of centering Coralie and the novel. It was her happy ending I hoped for the most.

Ms. Hoffman is still very much on her game, but there was something nagging me while reading this. Something was missing. I can’t quite explain what it is but I can tell you that it simply wasn’t there. The more that I think about it, I realize the novel lacked the usual magic she folds into her stories. It’s that little thing that makes her novels different. Even with that lack of magic, this was quite a tale.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Julie's Review: The Purity of Vengeance


Author: Jussi Adler-Olsen
Series: Department Q #4
Publication Date: December 13, 2013
Publisher: Dutton Adult
Pages: 512
Obtained: purchased
Genre:  Crime
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A bit gruesome but another interesting development with the characters
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Summary: In 1987, Nete Hermansen plans revenge on those who abused her in her youth, including Curt Wad, a charismatic surgeon who was part of a movement to sterilize wayward girls in 1950s Denmark. More than twenty years later, Detective Carl Mørck already has plenty on his mind when he is presented with the case of a brothel owner, a woman named Rita, who went missing in the eighties: New evidence has emerged in the case that destroyed the lives of his two partners—the case that sent Carl to Department Q. But when Carl’s assistants, Assad and Rose, learn that numerous other people disappeared around the same weekend as Rita, Carl takes notice. As they sift through the disappearances, they get closer and closer to Curt Wad, who is more determined than ever to see the vision of his youth take hold and whose brutal treatment of Nete and others like her is only one small part of his capacity for evil. ~amazon.com  


Review: If you haven't read any of the Department Q novels, you really do need to start at the beginning to get the full inner workings of Carl, Rose and Assad. The cases are interesting but that's not what keeps me coming back to this series, it's the relationships.

 The Purity of Vengeance focuses on a cold case of 4 missing people and it leads the team down a difficult path. As a reader, your heart breaks over for Nete's path in life. She really has been dealt a crappy hand in life. Just when she thinks things are going to get better and her life has turned out for the better, it all goes down the rabbit hole. So she decides to get her revenge on the people who she feel cause her life to go wrong. As wrong as it is, I have to say that based on the story we are told these people were scum of the earth. I'm not saying that what Nete did was appropriate but part of me felt vindicated for her.

Mr. Adler-Olsen knows how to weave a story and build the character's stories. In each book we learn something more about the key players and this one focuses on Rose. I'm guessing that Mr. Adler-Olsen gets his novel ideas from the news and then fictionizes it.

For fans of Swedish Crime/Noir novels, you really should pick up the Department Q series. It is everything you want: dark, brutal, engaging and well drawn characters. I can't wait to get my hands on the next one in the series.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Alice's Review: The Book of Someday


Author: Dianne Dixon
Series: None
Publication Date: September 3, 2013
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Pages: 335
Obtained:  Borrowed
Genre:  Women's Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: Wonderful character driven novel with a surprising ending.
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Summary:  Three women. One stranger in a shimmering silver dress. Whatever binds them together has already destroyed one life. It just might consume them all. Someday, Livvi Gray will break free from her past. Someday, she will escape her recurring nightmare about that stranger in a shimmering silver dress. Someday, she will have a family of her own. Now she's found Andrew, and someday seems to be right around the corner. But there's so much Livvi doesn't know. Shortly before her thirtieth birthday, she will come face-to-face with the stranger from her dream-an encounter that will alter Livvi's future and crack open everything she knew about her past. Livvi is swiftly moving toward the ultimate turning point in her life-and she's not the only one. Linked by an unforgettable mystery, photographer Micah and young mother AnnaLee are also being rapidly drawn into a web of devastating secrets about the unexpected ways in which we choose to protect-and betray-the people we love. ~amazon.com

Review:  I am a lover of short stories. This novel reads very much like a short story. In fact, you could probably read each character’s story as a standalone as one is not needed to benefit the others. Yet, as they are told in alternating chapters, they are forever entwined, linked in a way I never expected. The only common factor is a woman wearing a pearl button shoe. I thoroughly enjoyed how this novel came together. I couldn't have guessed it and I was quite surprised.

The Book of Someday is the stories of three women. Livvi is a literary sensation, Micah a world famous photographer, and AnnaLee a young mother trying to hold her family together. Thinking about it now, I believe these women have something else in common besides the woman in the pearl button shoe. Each woman is beautifully damaged, broken in spirit and soul. As we get to know them, they reveal the depths of that damage. It’s difficult to describe them without revealing too much of the novel.

I like Livvi initially. She came from a broken home, had a father who was there but not engaged. She had a stepmother who was a monster to her. She carried her experience deep within her, hiding her truth from all who know her. It is only with the love a man that she begins to acknowledge her past. Towards the end of her arc, I didn’t particularly care for her. The decisions she made tarnished her character and turned her selfish and greedy. At least that is how I saw her.

Micah was a wonderful character. She was the opposite of Livvi: a horrible woman in search of absolution. I didn’t like her at all, with her black soul and narcissistic ways. As her story is exposed and we learn her truth, we can see why she’s that way. It wasn’t pretty, but it made sense. I didn’t like her any more in the end than I did in the beginning of the novel, but I appreciated her darkness.

I can’t quite figure out how I feel about AnnaLee. Sometimes I really liked her and how caring she was for her daughter and husband. Other times I saw her as this judgemental, bitter woman who was never happy. I covered both extremes on the spectrum.

Overall, I think this is a great novel. I love that it was told in alternating chapters. I love that I didn’t figure out the ending. I love that it truly made me gasp in shock. It was pretty darn awesome. I didn’t feel any connection to the characters but I was still invested in their story. I kept reading because of morbid curiosity. I had to know what was up with the woman in the pearl button shoe. The only flaw I found was the disenchantment I felt towards Livvi in the end. I expected more from her and was a bit disappointed at the outcome. I think I would have been happier with a real resolution.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Jenn's Review: Reborn


Author: C.C. Hunter
Series: Shadow Falls: After Dark #1, (Shadow Falls #6)
Publication Date: May 20, 2014
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 400
Obtained: purchased
Genre:  YA Paranormal
Rating: 4.5
Bottom Line: Fantastic to revisit beloved characters with a new point of view
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Blurb:  Return to the beloved world of Shadow Falls, a camp that teaches supernatural teens to harness their powers—and where a vampire named Della will discover who she’s meant to be.

For Della Tsang, Shadow Falls isn't just a camp: it's home. As a vampire who's never fit in with her human family, it's the one place she can truly be herself. But when a mysterious new guy arrives at camp, Della’s whole world is thrown into turmoil. Chase is a vampire with secrets, who knows more than he’s telling. But the more time she spends with him, the more she begins to trust this attractive stranger—and feel drawn to him. But romance is the last thing she wants—as she keeps telling Steve, the hunky shapeshifter who won’t stop trying to win her heart. And if Della isn't careful, he just might succeed.  When a new case puts everyone she cares about in danger, Della’s determined to do everything she can to save them . . . even if it means teaming up with Steve and Chase, who leave her more confused than ever. With their lives on the line, will Della and her friends survive—with their hearts intact?

Review: I adored C.C. Hunter's Shadow Falls series so I was thrilled to discover she was writing a spinoff series featuring Della. She was always one of my favorite secondary characters in the novel so it's nice to see Della in the spotlight, however reluctant she may be to be there. 

It was wonderful to revisit with the entire Shadow Falls gang. From the outset, I had a pretty good idea of what was going on but that didn't make the story any less enjoyable. Although if Della would learn to share her burdens with her friends, many things would have been resolved faster.  It is nice to see some of Della's barriers break down, however.  I loved visiting familiar characters through Della's eyes.  It is nice to see Kylie is still doing well.  It was also wonderful to revisit Burnett and Holliday.  The newcomer Chase is a bit of an enigma and I had no idea what angle he was playing.  I'm still not sure how I feel about him.  

Although most of the storyline is resolved, there are still enough loose ends to weave into another exciting advenure.  I have no idea where  things are headed, but I'm along for the ride.  Honestly, I'm routing for Della to be happy no matter what path she chooses in life.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Julie's Review: The Lightkeeper's Wife


Author: Sarah Anne Johnson
Series: No
Publication Date: September 9, 2014
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Pages: 304
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Bottom Line: Loved the history and setting of this intriguing novel
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Summary: When Hannah Rescues Billy From a Shipwreck, She Will Change Both Their Lives Forever. Hannah Snow shouldn't be in the water, saving shipwrecked sailors. Her husband would be furious—it's his job to tend to the lighthouse at Dangerfield, to warn the ships off the rocks. Sailors know that the Dangerfield coastline is treacherous, but the waves constantly pull them down into the deep anyway. But when the ship Cynthia Rose runs aground, John is away buying supplies, and Hannah rushes out into the storm. She can only fish one sailor out of the icy water—weatherworn, half-drunk Billy. When Hannah gets word that John will not return home to her, she sinks into grief so deep that she feels she may never surface again. With Billy's help, she continues to man the lighthouse, keeping the lamps blazing even during her darkest hours. But Billy is not all that he seems. And Hannah starts to doubt whether anything she knew about this strange man—or herself—is true. ~amazon.com  

Review: The Lightkeeper's Wife is an intriguing story about a young wife who is left alone to attend to the lighthouse while her husband runs their monthly errands to town. While he is out of town she risks her own life to save that of the crew of a shipwreck. Little does Hannah know, this will change her life.

The narrative switches back and forth between Annie/Blue's story of piracy and Hannah's story of lightkeeper's wife. Both Hannah and Annie/Blue are strong women not typically seen in this generation.  I thoroughly enjoyed both story lines but it is Annie/Blue's story that was perhaps the most atypical. How many stories have you read about women pirates? Pirates are a cruel and disruptive bunch. How a woman of a good background ended up pillaging merchants on the seas was intriguing and heartbreaking. The things she had to do to survive were amazing.

Hannah is a force of her own. She has loved the sea since she was a little girl going out on the boat with her dad to set lobster traps. She truly is fearless when it comes to the sea. She knows how to operate a boat in a storm and is determined to save as many sailors as she can.

As a reader I fell in love with the setting. I can only imagine how hard it was to upkeep a lighthouse in the late 1800s and then to do it alone as a woman was even harder. That's why when Billy is someone that Hannah saves, he comes in helpful to her as she waits for news on her husband, John.
Now the summary makes it sound like Hannah falls into a deep depression and while she does mourn her husband, she is resolve to make her life at the lighthouse a go. She throws herself into doing all the normal chores and keeping a watch for shipwrecks.  As time goes on, Hannah begins to rely on Billy to help with the chores. She begins to trust him. Will she trust him when she finds out his story? Will she trust herself?

While I might not have agreed with how Ms. Johnson ended the novel, I definitely think it was an interesting way to choose to end  it. Ms. Johnson chose an interesting setting for the story, not only is it breathtaking, dangerous but it is isolating.

If you enjoy stories about lighthouses and the sea, then The Lightkeeper's Wife is for you.


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Monday, September 8, 2014

Julie's Review: Perfectly Matched


Author: Heather Webber
Series: Lucy Valentine #4
Publication Date: May 14, 2012
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Pages: 308
Obtained: Mine
Genre:  Mystery, Paranormal, Romance
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: I have missed Lucy and if you haven't read Lucy's adventures you must!
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Summary: The heat is on... When Boston psychic Lucy Valentine finds herself involved with a group of eccentric mediums trying to fine tune their abilities, she is convinced a rare spring heat wave has flushed all the local crazies out of hiding. Adding to her theory is her newest client in the Lost Loves division of Valentine, Inc., her family?s lucrative matchmaking firm. He?s an animal whisperer who hires Lucy to locate his soul mate?because his cat told him so. Finding his purrfect match, however, isn't as easy as it seems. But craziest of all is the Beantown Burner, a serial arsonist who is targeting private eye Sam Donahue, brother of Lucy?s boyfriend, Sean. With the help of her kooky psychic group, Lucy must tap into hidden abilities to catch the firebug before the fires turn deadly. She never expected to discover that the motive behind the flames hits a little too close to home...and dangerously close to her heart. ~amazon.com

Review: So Perfectly Matched has been on my shelf for 2 years and I regret that but now I can go ahead and read the next one in the series, Undeniably Yours, before going through Lucy withdrawal. I was so happy to be back with Lucy and the gang. Lucy makes me laugh because while she has a gift, she can find lost things by connecting to the person who lost it, she doesn't take herself too seriously. She's cautious using her gift and only wants to help people.

In Perfectly Matched, there are a couple mysteries going at once: the arsonist and the case of a missing girl. Neither are connected and both are resolved. Sometimes in mystery novels the author forces the two distinct cases to be entertwined but I'm happy that Ms. Webber didn't do that. There are also subplots going on with Lucy's friends and family. Her family and friends constantly make me laugh because they are so fun and get themselves in situations that you just shake your head at.

The arsonist case is messing with someone close to Lucy. Can Lucy solve the mystery? Can she help her new client find love? I figured out one of the subplots early on but was interested to see how it plays out. Plus we are left with a cliffhanger?!! I was left going, WHAT?!

Ms. Webber writes characters that I would want to hang out with and befriend. They are salt of the earth people. Her grandmother, Dovie, continues to be one of my favorite characters. She is contant in her quest to see Lucy pregnant with Sean's baby. Only problem is, Lucy and Sean aren't even there yet.

If you are looking for a book series to curl up with then you must read these and you won't regret it.

Jenn's Review





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Friday, September 5, 2014

Julie's Review: Where'd You Go, Bernadette


Author: Maria Semple
Series: No
Publication Date: August 14, 2012
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Length: 9hrs and 39 minutes
Narrator: Kathleen Wilhoite
Obtained: Mine via Audible
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A clever story with lots of humor and heart.
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Summary: Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom. Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle - and people in general - has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic. To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence - creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world. ~amazon.com

Review: Where'd You Go, Bernadette is a wonderful story about the love between a mother and daughter, when the mother doesn't quite fit in with the rest of the mom's. See Bernadette is pretty much a genius when it comes to architecture but she gave that career up and has been living the life of a stay at home mom since Bee was born. To say that's made her a little off, is to say the least. Bernadette has, in a lot of ways, lost her $%!@. Having said that she is fiercely protective of her daughter, Bee; who in turn is protective of Bernadette.

There is much to chuckle at during the course of the novel. It is funny, it is honest and it is an interesting look at someone who has gone a little over the edge. Bernadette and Elgy have both receded into their own worlds. Except his is more commonplace, the workforce. You see, Elgy is a big wig at Microsoft and spends a lot of time working on his project, Samantha 2, so he's rarely home.

Of course, Bee goes to a private school and with that come the mother politics. Based on the last couple books that I have read dealing with mom's, I'm not so sure women should rule the world, man can we be bitchy and we are all guilty of it. Is it all a bit extreme, of course it is, which makes you able to chuckle through it.

I listened to it via Audible and thought that Ms. Wilhoite did a fantastic job with all the different characters and dialects. You know when she was Bee, Bernadette or any other character. I imagine that reading all the emails and letters might have been a little off putting for some but it was wonderful to listen to. I feel like the emails showed the insight to Bernadette's issue(s) and it connected Bee to her mom in a way that she might not have known.

If you are looking for a sweet story that does address some difficult issues, then I highly recommend Where'd You Go, Bernadette. I can't wait to see what Maria Semple writes next.



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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Julie's Reviews: When We Fall

 photo WhenWeFall_zps5725e166.jpg

Author: Emily Liebert
Series: None
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 313
Obtained: Amazon Vine
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Rating: 3.75/5
Bottom Line: A charming story about starting over with some predictability
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Summary: Ready for a fresh start, Allison Parker moves back to her hometown in the suburbs of New York. While she’d once savored the dynamic pace of city life, sadly, it lost its allure after her husband’s untimely death. Now, ready to focus on her art career accompanied by her ten-year-old son, Logan, Allison doesn’t anticipate that her past will resurface. When the wife of her husband’s best friend from summer camp takes her under her wing, things begin to spin out of control. At one time, Charlotte Crane thought she had it all—a devoted husband, a beautiful little girl, and enough financial security to never have to worry. But behind her “perfect” facade lie a strained marriage and a fractured relationship with her sister. When “new girl” Allison arrives in Wincourt, Charlotte welcomes the chance to build a friendship. Before long, Charlotte begins to see her life through Allison’s eyes, and the cracks in her seemingly flawless existence become impossible to ignore. As Allison heals from the loss of her husband—even wondering if she might be ready to date again—Charlotte feels more distant from her loved ones than ever before. The emerging friendship between the two women appears to be just the antidote both of them so desperately need...until everything falls apart. ~amazon.com

Review: Allison Parker is an easy character to like. She's down to earth, unassuming, a great friend, mother, and daughter. Moving home to Wincourt, NY wasn't an easy decision for her. Moving from Manhattan meant leaving the memory of her husband Jack behind. Ali has concentrated on raising her son, Logan, for 10 years. Now she seems ready to start letting people into her life in more than a superficial way and she also looks to concentrate on her art.

In walk Charlotte and Charlie Crane. Charlotte is the first mom that she meets at Logan's new school and they have instant chemistry. Then out walks her husband Charlie and it turns out that Allison and Charlie went to the same camp and he was her husband, Jack's best friend. Charlie begins to help Allison around the house and you can see that the seeds of suspicion are being planted in Charlotte's mind by her own insecurities.

There's also the hot guy from high school that wasn't so hot then, Dempsey. I mean even his name is the epitome of cool. It turns out he's quite the businessman as well. His interest in Allison is noticeable from the first time they "meet".

I really enjoyed When We Fall and the characters within. There is definitely some predictability and sometimes are resolved too quickly but I wanted a quick read after getting done with some heavy and long books and this one fit the bill. I still have Ms. Liebert's You Knew Me When on the shelf to read and I'm looking forward to that plus any future books she will write.




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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Julie's Review: The Secret Place


Author: Tana French
Series: Dublin Murder Squad
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
Publisher: Viking
Pages: 464
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Mystery, Crime
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A taut mystery that has other great elements
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Summary: The photo on the card shows a boy who was found murdered, a year ago, in the grounds of a girls boarding school in the leafy suburbs of Dublin. The caption says I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM. Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to get a foot in the door of Dublins Murder Squad—and one morning, sixteen-yearold Holly Mackey brings him this photo. “The Secret Place,” a board where the girls at St Kildas School can pin up their secrets anonymously, is normally a mishmash of gossip and covert cruelty, but today someone has used it to reignite the stalled investigation into the murder of handsome, popular Chris Harper. Stephen joins forces with the abrasive Detective Antoinette Conway to find out who and why. But everything they find leads them back to Hollys group of close-knit friends and their fierce enemies, a rival clique—and to the tangled web of relationships that bound all the girls to Chris Harper. Every step in their direction turns up the pressure. Antoinette Conway is already suspicious of Stephens links to the Mackey family. St Kildas will go a long way to keep murder outside their walls. Hollys father, Detective Frank Mackey, is circling, ready to pounce if any of the new evidence points towards his daughter. And the private underworld of teenage girls can be more mysterious and more dangerous than either of the detectives imagined. The Secret Place is a powerful, haunting exploration of friendship and loyalty, and a gripping addition to the Dublin Murder Squad series. ~powells.com

Review: So I admit, I have 2 Tana French books on my back list to read and I will get to them, but I couldn't wait to read The Secret Place. Ms. French is one of those writers that pulls you in with the mystery but you end up wanting to know more about the characters than "who dunnit".

In this novel, Ms. French explores 2 highly secretive populations: private schools and teenage girls. Teenage girls are vicious. I mean I remember being mean, but girls these days take it to a whole new level..seriously. I have a 9 year old and I'm dreading it. Private schools are no picnic either because of the affluence that usually accompanies these kids and all being under one roof, it makes for a powder keg waiting to explode.  So you put these two together and  BAM!, you have a fantastic setting.

As always, she brings a character from one of her previous novels and focuses the story on them as well. In this case, it's Detective Stephen Moran. He's in the Cold Case division and would love to get a plum spot in Murder. So when Holly Mackey brings him a clue in a year old murder, he jumps at his chance. He knows that Antoinette Conway isn't going to be easy to gain trust but he's willing to try.

Ms. French never rushes the story, so the reader has to be willing to let her slowly unravel the tale at her pace. She is also one of those authors that you need to read every single word or you will definitely miss something. She understands the nuances of her characters and is good at throwing some red herrings in the mix.

While I might not have agreed with Holly and her friends actions, there is no doubt that is was done out of love, protection and loyalty, which was refreshing to read. These girls, while still young, understand what friendship means. They aren't flighty with their loyalty and devotion. They are each others backbone. Like any friendships though, they don't know everything and this is where all the trouble begins.

I definitely liked the play between Conway and Stephen. She's looking to trust him but doesn't know if she can and he needs her to get into Murder Squad. Just as they were gaining trust with each other, in walks Frank Mackey to throw it all out of whack. That Frank Mackey knows exactly how to mess with people's heads. Even when they know it's exactly what he's good at doing.

The Secret Place is much more than a murder mystery, it's a study in human behavior when emotions come into play. If you are fan of Ms. French's then this is one not to be missed. If you like murder mysteries that are well thought out and not necessarily action-packed, then this one is for you too.

I'm fairly certain that I can read at least one of her other books on my shelf before she comes out with her next novel and that's my goal.



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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Jenn's Review: Peter Pan Must Die


Author: John Verdon
Series: Dave Gurney #4
Publication Date: July 1, 2014
Publisher: Crown
Pages: 448
Obtained: purchased
Genre:  Crime/Suspense
Rating: 5.0
Bottom Line: Another Captivating Crime Novel in the Series
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 Blurb:  In John Verdon’s most sensationally twisty novel yet, ingenious puzzle solver Dave Gurney brings his analytical brilliance to a shocking murder that couldn’t have been committed the way the police say it was.

The daunting task that confronts Gurney, once the NYPD’s top homicide cop: determining the guilt or innocence of a woman already convicted of shooting her charismatic politician husband -- who was felled by a rifle bullet to the brain while delivering the eulogy at his own mother’s funeral. 

Peeling back the layers, Gurney quickly finds himself waging a dangerous battle of wits with a thoroughly corrupt investigator, a disturbingly cordial mob boss, a gorgeous young temptress, and a bizarre assassin whose child-like appearance has earned him the nickname Peter Pan.

Startling twists and turns occur in rapid-fire sequence, and soon Gurney is locked inside one of the darkest cases of his career – one in which multiple murders are merely the deceptive surface under which rests a scaffolding of pure evil. Beneath the tangle of poisonous lies, Gurney discovers that the truth is more shocking than anyone had imagined.

And the identity of the villain at the mystery’s center turns out to be the biggest shock of all.


Review:  There are very few mystery writers that keep me in suspense, and John Verdon is one of them.  I discovered John Verdon through a publicist and he has proven himself to be one of my must read authors.  His novels are layers of puzzles and I love that about them.

It is interesting to see Hardwick out of his element, and just a little scary.  He's always been a cynical cowboy, but now he's bitter, vengeful loose cannon.  The addition of Esti Moreno, his girlfriend, is a surprising one, perhaps because I don't view Jack Hardwick as someone who is emotionally or romantically avaible.  She may be a bit of a plot device, giving Harwick and Gurney inside police access, however, Esti acts as a nice buffer between and helps keep the story flowing as well.

Gurney's single-mided determination to catch the uncatchable has become an obsession,  Usually, I find Madeline's desire to push Dave out of his comfort zone and psychoanalyze him to be annoying.  I understand hyperfocus, and introversion, and Madeline is finally starting to accept that about her husband.  But on one point, for once, I agree with Madeline: Gurney has a recklessness in the face of danger that is going to get him killed.  This is honestly the first time I've ever questioned his judgement.

The solution to the cold case is quite simple once you know it, but getting there was an incredible journey.  Honestly, I was surprised that I didn't see it sooner, but the case has been so obscured by tainted investigation and inaccurate assumptions, that it was difficult to see through the murk.  Once again, John Verdon had me completely captivated.

If you appreciate a good crime novel, you must check out the Dave Gurney series!  

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