Monday, September 1, 2014

THE SECRET PLACE (2014)


The Secret Place (Dublin Murder Squad, #5)The Secret Place by Tana French
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just finished reading a few minutes ago. My review will up in the next day or two.

Bottom Line: RECOMMENDED

Title: The Secret Place (Dublin Murder Squad Series)
Author: Tana French
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Publisher: Viking Adult
No. of Pages: 464 pages
ISBN: 0670026328
Copyright: September 2, 2014
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Amazon

"Tana French grew up in Ireland, Italy, the US and Malawi, and has lived in Dublin since 1990. She trained as a professional actress at Trinity College, Dublin, and has worked in theatre, film and voiceover." (from the author's website)

My Current Net Galley Titles

Initially I found I got a little over eager when I first discovered the wealth of titles available through Net Galley. I requested books and then couldn't find the time to read them.

Recently I have been doing better but September had me stumbling a bit.

Right now I have the following four books on my 'shelf' all with publication dates in September:

1. The Secret Place by Tana French (9/2/14), which 'drops' tomorrow, and which I may actually finish today! FINISHED 9/1/14 10:30 pm
2. Audition Hell by Peter Skagen (9/15/14) promises insider rants and guidance about working as an actor in the film industry.
3. Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes (9/16/14), a gender-bending suspense set in Detroit.
4. The Sweetness by Sande Boritz Berger (9/23/14) is the intertwined story of cousins on different continents and how WWII changed the course of their lives.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

NO SAFE HOUSE (2014)


No Safe HouseNo Safe House by Linwood Barclay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sometimes you read a book you like but aren't inclined to read others by the same author. It was the particular story or setting  or characters that attracted you.

Sometimes you read a book and can't wait to get your hands on the next story that the author writes.

That's how it is for me with Linwood Barclay. I've read or listened to a half dozen of his books and all of them have delivered the goods. His mind works in devious ways that are absolutely delightful in a thriller!

Since I couldn't track down a preview copy of No Safe House, I actually pre-ordered it for my Kindle so I could read it as soon as it was released. Even having read the prequel No Time for Goodbye a while ago, I needn't have worried that I might not be up to speed. Barclay is a master at making sure the reader knows exactly what she/he should be aware of and makes sure the reader doesn't know the rest until the appropriate time.

In No Time for Goodbye, 14 year-old Cynthia awakes to find her entire family gone.  Twenty-five years later, with her husband Terry and young daughter Grace, she agrees to a TV documentary that will reopen the case. The aftermath is terrifying.

It's seven years later in No Safe House and we find the family still coping with issues that are causing problems. Cynthia decides to live apart from Terry and Grace while she struggles with her demons. Grace is hanging out with a young man who convinces her to so something illegal and we are off and running.

Barclay tells his tale in alternating chapters using Terry's voice in the first person followed by third person narrative about what's going on elsewhere. Sometimes the timing overlaps, which is a neat trick to pull off so successfully.

Barclay has been referred to as the 'King of the Suburban' thriller. His characters' lives don't seem much different from ours before unexpected things start happening. The good guys sometimes make questionable decisions and the bad guys sometimes do the right things.

There is  a lot of suspense and threat in his stories but Barclay seems to have a great feel for just how much violent description the reader actually wants or needs.

Some reviewers have found fault with the story for being a stretch. I haven't read a thriller yet that wasn't. A little suspension of disbelief is what makes the story such a roller-coaster ride. It's just plain fun. Can I confess that I actually cried at one point?

Bottom Line: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Title: No Safe House
Author: Linwood Barclay
Genre: Thriller
Publisher: NAL Hardcover
No. of Pages: 464 pages
ISBN: 0451414209
Copyright: August 5, 2014
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Amazon

Bestselling author Linwood Barclay was born in the United States but moved to Canada just before turning four years old when his father's job took the family across the border.

Linwood obtained an Honors B.A. in English at Trent University, in Peterborough, Ontario.

Initially he began working for a number of local newspapers, eventually landing a job at the Toronto Star in 1981. His break came with No Time for Goodbye in 2007. It became a runaway bestseller in the U.K. selling a million copies there and elsewhere.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

SMALL BLESSINGS and Simple Gifts (2014)


Small Blessings: A Novel
Although I love thrillers and mysteries, I seem to be following a course set for me by my father, who in his later years preferred to re-read favorite authors and seek out gentler stories. He did not care for the highly descriptive sex and violence that was coming into vogue, instead preferring a good, well-written story, where much is left to the imagination of the reader and the good guys win in the end.

In her debut novel (August 12, 2014), Martha Woodroof has given readers many small blessings and I, for one, am thankful. Her writing is easy and graceful. Her characters are charming and quirky. Perhaps you've dreamed of living in the small town she describes? It even has an independent bookstore! And there's just enough mystery to make you wonder what is going to happen next.

The story is a simple gift. Tom is an aging, kind, and unexciting professor of Shakespeare at a small Virginia college where the faculty live in close proximity and think they know everything about one another.

Tom's burden is his wife Marjorie, who has suffered with mental illness for many years forcing Tom and his mother-in-law Agnes into roles as caregivers.

Small unexpected changes ripple through the community when the charming and mysterious Rose is hired at the local bookstore. (I have a suspicion that author Martha Woodroof is actually Rose.)

The book jacket reminds me of Shaker art and brings to mind the words of the song Simple Gifts. And so everyone “comes down where they ought to be.”

I hate to reveal more of the story. I hope you will be as delighted and surprised by this book as I was. It is so much more than it seems on first glance.

Every time the reader thinks the story is settling into a familiar track, it isn't. Not only does the story surprise, the “characters never stop surprising themselves, and each other.”

Small Blessings put me in mind of the world author JanKaron has created in her Mitford tales, although with an absurdist twist, where foibles and human failings are recognized and tolerated with love. I hope that Martha Woodroof's characters will appear again. I missed them as soon as I read the last page.

Bottom Line: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Title: Small Blessings
Author: Martha Woodroof
Genre: Literature
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
No. of Pages: 320 pages
ISBN: 1250040523
Copyright: August 12, 2014
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Amazon

Disclaimer: A copy of Small Blessings was provided to me by St. Martin's Press/Netgalley for review purposes.

MARTHA WOODROOF was born in the South, went to boarding school and college in New England, ran away to Texas for a while, then fetched up in Virginia. She has written for NPR, npr.org, Marketplace and Weekend America, and for the Virginia Foundation for Humanities Radio Feature Bureau. Her print essays have appeared in such newspapers as the New York Times, The Washington Post, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Small Blessings is her debut novel. She lives with her husband in the Shenandoah Valley. Their closest neighbors are cows. (Source: Amazon)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

SILENT SISTER (2014)


The Silent SisterThe Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although she has written quite a few books, this is the first time I have read Diane Chamberlain. Scanning the descriptions of her stories, it seems to me that they all feature young women who have secrets complicating their lives.

More suspense than thriller, Chamberlain's work has been referred to as chic-lit. In The Silent Sister, Riley MacPherson has come home to New Bern, North Carolina to handle her beloved father's affairs after his sudden and unexpected death. Although her troubled brother Danny lives off-the-grid in the community, he won't help. Having lost her mother years earlier and a sister who committed suicide in the past, Riley feels very much alone and overwhelmed.

As she goes about trying to make sense of all the bit and pieces of her father's life, she begins to discover facts that are at odds with the life and family she thought she knew.

The reader is drawn in and it's hard to put the book down until the truth is exposed. Suspension of disbelief is helpful in stories such as this and not every question is answered at the end, but Diane Chamberlain writes a darn good story. I can't wait to read another!

Bottom Line: The book caught and captured my interest immediately and I finished it in just a couple of days. It's definitely a worthy beach read (for next year since it doesn't come out until October 4, 2014) or perfect for a cold winter night in front of the fire.

Title: Silent Sister
Author: Diane Chamberlain
Genre: Suspense, Mystery
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 1250010713
No. of Pages: 352 pages
Copyright: October 7, 2014
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: NetGalley

DISCLOSURE: Invited by NetGalley to request and receive this title for an honest review.

DIANE CHAMBERLAIN is the international bestselling author of twenty-two novels. She lives in North Carolina with her partner, photographer John Pagliuca, and her shelties, Keeper and Cole. (Source: Amazon)

Friday, July 18, 2014

PHANTOM LIMB (2014)


Phantom Limb: A Daniel Rinaldi MysteryPhantom Limb: A Daniel Rinaldi Mystery by Dennis Palumbo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dennis Palumbo now has four thrillers (as of September 1, 2014) in the Daniel Rinaldi mysteries set in Pittsburgh, where he grew up. That is one of the features that drew me to the series since I lived there happily for a number of years. It isn't necessary to be familiar with Pittsburgh; but if you are, it's fun to recognize the locations the author describes.

Daniel Rinaldi is a psychologist who reluctantly gets called in by the police from time to time, to help with difficult cases needing his skills. His specialty is traumatized victims of crime including sexual assault. But never fear. Since author Dennis Palumbo is also a psychologist in real life, he never goes too far with the violence or the sex. The focus is on one heck of a good story.

In Phantom Limb, things start off with a bang. Set in Pittsburgh, this roller coaster ride of a thriller is a worthy fourth entry into the series. Hollywood Starlet Lisa Harland now married to a very wealthy older man is kidnapped as she leaves her session with Rinaldi, who of course gets knocked out. Why does the kidnapper insist on Dr. Rinaldi being the one to make the ransom drop?

I tend not to tell too much of the story since part of the fun of thrillers is the surprise and unexpected plot twists. And Palumbo precisely lays out the various story lines, carefully pulling them together at the end. Except, of course, those things that MIGHT be part of the next book.

If you start with the first book in the series, you will feel like the reoccurring secondary characters are old friends. Palumbo has filled his stories with people that are memorable, quirky, cranky, and fun.

I read lots of thrillers and have to say that Dennis Palumbo is one of the best writers in the genre and he gets better with every new entry in this series.

Bottom Line: If you read and enjoy thrillers, add Dennis Palumbo to your list of authors to follow. You won't be disappointed! It's not necessary, but I would still suggest reading the other three books first. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Disclaimer: A copy of Phantom Limb was provided to me by Poisoned Pen Press/Netgalley for review purposes. Dennis and I were in a community theater production together in Pittsburgh many years ago.

Title: Phantom Limb: A Daniel Rinaldi Mystery #4
Genre: Thriller, Mystery
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
No. of Pages: 250 pages
Copyright: September 1, 2014
ISBN: 1464202540
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: NetGalley

Dennis Palumbo is a writer and licensed psychotherapist. His first Daniel Rinaldi mystery, Mirror Image was published in 2010, followed by Fever Dream in 2011, and Night Terrors in 2013. He was formerly a Hollywood screenwriter and his credits include the feature film My Favorite Year. He also wrote for Welcome Back, Kotter.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Scholastic Parents Summer Reading List



Use this list or create your own to find new and exciting worlds to explore.