Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown (3 out of 5) 

•July 14, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Jonathan and Billie have the enviable relationship that most envy..successful marriage, nice house, wonderful friends, great job, and an intelligent and beautiful daughter, Olive. Until Billie leaves on a solitary hiking trip and disappears. The next year is hell for the grieving husband and daughter. Coming up on the one year anniversary, Jonathan has a court date to have Billie declared legally dead, a move Olive is having a hard time with, given that she is suddenly having visions in which Billie is speaking to her. Olive quietly behind investigating her mom’s past, in an attempt to figure out if her mom faked her death and is in trouble somewhere. Jonathan begins to investigate, but what he finds out makes him angrier and angrier. He’s also in the middle of penning a book about his and Billie’s marriage, a process next near to impossible given that it is being touted as a memoir of a great marriage and he’s finding out that she lied about all of this stuff. Billie’s best friend Harmony is also hanging around a lot, and Jonathan is starting to have feelings for her, something that throws Olive into a tailspin. Grief is a funny business. It can sneak up on you when you least expect it. And there is no time limit on it. These are things that went through my mind while reading this. And some of the things that happen in the book really unsettled me. Billie is the central figure here and her actions really made me dislike her. Jonathan and Olive are both still grappling with grief, but her “best friend” Harmony keeps coming forth with new secrets that she is concealing, as well as being quite obvious in her pursuit of Jonathan. If this was her so-called best friend, why is she trying to jump the husband and sullying her memory at the same time? I didn’t care for Billie, Harmony, and Olive’s so called best friend Natalie leaves a bad taste in my mouth as well, blabbing poor Olive’s secrets all over high school. Because the girl grieving over and yet encountering ghostly visions of her mom is not enough for her to contend with. I hated most of the female characters in this book, except Olive. I feel extreme sympathy for her. So that, my friends, is a lot of the reason I didn’t love this book. When the smoke clears and the dust settles and you find out what happened, well, you’ll either agree with it or you’ll want to beat people. I felt like it was one of literary suspense’s overused devices, so I was not in love with it. And the last scene confirmed some suspicions, so I give it 3 and leave it at that. The book is out now. 

Down A Dark Road (Kate Burkholder #9) by Linda Castillo (4 out of 5)

•July 10, 2017 • Leave a Comment

This latest installment of the Kate Burkholder series finds her childhood friend Joseph King escaping from prison and going on the run. Two years prior, King was convicted of killing his wife with a shotgun blast while his kids were asleep in the house. Kate doesn’t think there’s a chance he will come back to Painters Mill, but since his kids are now there living with the new family, she heads over and sits a shift overnight at the farm. Sure enough, she lets her guard down and gets ambushed by Joseph, then taken hostage with his kids. It’s a peaceful situation, until Joseph tells Kate he isn’t going anywhere until she relooks into his case, because he didn’t kill his wife. His 5 year old daughter bavks him up, and Kate is conflicted, but makes a promise to do so, and he lets her go free, while he continues to be holed up in the home with his kids. Once Kate gets on the outside and tells the hostage respondents, she gets shamed into silence by the boys club. Shortly after, Joseph fires upon a deputy getting to close to the home, and as often happens in hostage situations, he is shot down and killed by a member of the hostage squad.  Now it’s up to Kate to look further into his wife’s murder, while mourning the loss of her friend. I’ll tell you that if you haven’t read the series at all, you need to go back to the beginning and start. Secondly, these are no light and fluffy mysteries. Kate, as well as her lover and colleague Tomasetti, are individuals with dark pasts, secrets that haunt them, and very real in their views of whatever is going on in front of them. I really like that fact! I hate super light and fluffy gardening whodunits. This latest installment was flawless. It’s out now, brought to us by Minotaur Books. Check it out. 

Mr. Mercedes (Bill Hodges #1) by Stephen King (4 out of 5)

•July 10, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I love Stephen King. There, I said it. I also have to be totally honest here. There ARE books of his where the ending is utter BS and those books usually sour me to the point I don’t read him for a long time. Two different customers talked to me about the Bill Hodges series recently, then I found the first book (this very one) on super sale at Half Price Books for $2.00. Even with my employee discount, you can’t beat THAT price. So I took the plunge. This is the first book, and I’m a big fan of Retired Detective Bill Hodges already. Jerome and Holly, his unplanned for support system, are a hoot as well. I hope King doesn’t pull some crap and do away with either of them. I’m also glad he didn’t hurt the animal. You’ll know what I mean when you read it. If he had, I very well may have bailed on this one. But, as I said, a real evil presence in this one, and a great start to his Bill Hodges trilogy.

City Center is the scene for a job fair promising 1,000 jobs to be filled. Quite a crowd has gathered, and as daylight begins, a grey Mercedes suddenly seems to appear out of nowhere. It revs up, its yellow headlights go into power mode, and it speeds into the crowd of people, already squashed like sardines. Eight people are killed, and many more injured. The driver escapes and is never apprehended. Months later, retired Detective Bill Hodges is sitting in his LaZy Boy recliner, eating crap, and enjoying the period of afternoon retirement television, when he receives a letter from the killer (Mercedes Killer, Mercedes Man, Mr. Mercedes, all terms are applicable here) taunting him and referring to the “suicide” of one Olivia Trelawney, whose Mercedes had been stolen and was the killer automobile. He’s told to open an account on a social media sites called “Debbie’s Blue Umbrella” and provided with an account name, to further correspondence with Mr. Mercedes. Bill takes the bait, and realized that the nutso is planning to do something similar AGAIN. He ends up recruiting his landscaper Jerome, as well as a depressed computer genius named Holly, to help him crack the code and try to stop this. Because this IS Stephen King, you have to realize that there are more deaths, a lot of gruesome imagery, some unorthodox technology, dark humor, and yes, some heart bearing behind the story. The trio of unlikely crimestoppers are a lot of fun, considering the clock is ticking madly on another mass homicide, and the story only bogs down a bit in the middle, with a memorial service and family fighting over inheritance money. And although it does have some part in the plot regarding the introduction of Holly to the team, it still brings the action in the book down to a Laverne & Shirley rerun level. No thanks. Happily, the action comes back quickly, and the reader is hooked until the end. Great start to a new series. 

The Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallon (2 out of 5)

•July 9, 2017 • Leave a Comment

This book is out now. It was released on June 27, 2017 from the folks at Putnam Books. I liked her writing style, and she set the circumstances up well, but the only problem I had was …everything else. I’m sure that Oprah will read and recommend this book out the wazoo. It just made me angry and annoyed. This book brought to you by the letter “A”. It is very good at addressing the difficulties of being Americans in a Middle Eastern country, but was that the real point, or the dissonance of trust amid supposed friends? No thanks. The world is a dark enough place as it is. I like books to help me escape, not make me more melancholy. 

Cassie and her husband Dan end up “fostering” Margaret and her husband Crick, who are new to the military life in Jordan, and their son Mather. Cassie and Dan are on tinder hooks around each other all the time, their inability to conceive a child stretching their love for one another into different corners. By comparison, Crick and Margaret have their beautiful son, the newlywed glow, and swanky new digs that Cassie quietly and jealously covets. The men are shipped off to Italy, and Margaret goes hog wild, despite Cassie warning her to be careful with the cultural differences, and how American women are viewed by those native to Jordan. She becomes friends with two gentlemen, not realizing that one thinks all the wrong things and that the other that she is trying to help out as a friend, is a high up government official, who will pay a steep price for her friendship with him. This is ONLY the beginning  of a domino effect going  full tilt. Cassie and Margaret get into an accident with the baby in the car, and Margaret leaves Cassie at her apartment to watch the baby so she can go to the police station and make restitution. The only problem is that Margaret never returns. A frantic Cassie tries getting ahold of her, Crick, and finally her own husband, because she is damn scared something terrible has happened. Where’s Margaret? Why did she have have a restlessness in her soul that led her to not listen to Cassie’s warnings? Did she have undiagnosed bipolar depression? This is a hard book to get through, because multiple corners are painted black. The end result is staggering and makes you shake your head at the entire scenario. So, yes, if you like a deep, bleak fiction encounter, go here. It’s just a little too bleak for my liking. 

The Dying Game by Asa Avdic (2 out of 5) 

•July 7, 2017 • Leave a Comment

This was one little twisty pretzel; this book. It’s a slim little volume and easy to get into. Lots of shockers in this one. The only problem is that it throws one at you that changes the entire book. And that one leads to an ending that makes no sense. It made me very angry to get to the end of this one. I love the concept, cared about the characters, and Then. It. Went. Kerflooey. This will sometimes happen, my friends. But what a bummer. What a bummer. If you want to check it out yourself, this will be out August 1, via Penguin Random House. 

The year 2037 brings with it many changes, including the way the bureaucracy finds recruits for its totalitarian government. Seven people, all different and yet sharing the same trait of their lives being in free fall before this experiment, are sent to the remote island of Isola, to participate in a 48-hour stress test for an intelligence position with The Union of Friendship. Anna is the first person picked, and she is told her assignment..she has to “disappear” within the house after staging her death and then watch the other six react to her death and the realization that there is a murderer among them. Of course, she is to keep it secret, but that’s before the strong a tactics, illegal drugs, hidden guns, and the other doctor on board are all revealed to Anna. She is in way over her head, but can she extract herself from the situation? Making things worse is Mother Nature, when a wild storm rolls in, the lights go down, and when they come back on…well, WOW. And then NO. So many chances for redemption are shot in the foot in those final two chapters. So prepare for a great ride, only to end up in a teacup ride with a costumed princess drinking lukewarm Lipton. Just not my idea of a great ending. 

Black Rock White City by A.S. Patric (4 out of 5)

•July 6, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I picked a bad time to pick this up. Not a happy book, but one that should be picked up regardless. I got a copy sent to keep by Peter at Melville House, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Thanks, Peter. It’s out sometime in September, and I am fairly certain that it will be the darling of all literary awards upon it’s release. As it should! 

Jovan and Suzana have fled Sarajevo. You know Sarajevo from the daily news (Although it has been awhile; shit is still going down over there). They’ve lost their careers, their family, and in a sense, one another as well. They have relocated to Melbourne, Australia, and work as cleaners. Over the summer, Jovan’s work is upended by acts of vandalism. Not just any acts; these feel like they are personal and racially motivated. Are they, or is Jovan having a hard time adjusting to his new life? Will he and Suzana ever be able to relax and just be, or will it be a constant struggle to adjust to this new way of life? Is their new start as bad as their previous life? This is not a happy read but it’s a book that needs to be read! In a country where immigrants are under unnecessary scrutiny by a bulbous Cheeto, this is a book that should be embraced and word spread about the underlying message. Put this on your list to read in September. 

“The Fortune Teller” by Gwendolyn Womack (3 out of 5) 

•July 4, 2017 • Leave a Comment

This was sitting on the new paperback table at the store for the past two weeks. I finally got to it Monday after work. It reads quickly and seamlessly, but be warned- if you have a hard time with novel that employ time jumps, you might have some problems with this. I enjoyed the lead character Semele, and the story itself was a doozy, but all of the back stories got hard to keep track of after awhile. So when that steel-toed shoe dropped in the book, I had to backtrack a few hundred characters to figure out the lineage involved. But it is a very involved book, and if you enjoy Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Russian history, you will dig the tale. I just got tired of all of the back and forth. Also, if the back of the book includes “romance” as a genre, there should be more than an almost incidental coupling and a nod to an actual one. More than two scenes..and not even scenes. A little hunt and peck shouldn’t earn the word “romance” on the back of the book. Just saying. 

Semele gets the chance of a lifetime job- taking over and cataloguing the late Marcel Brossard’s collection. His mysterious son Theo meets Semele and a spark is ignited, but nothing much comes of it. Semele is almost done when she finds a rare manuscript locked away in Marcel’s collection, and way wigged out when she finds a page in it addressed to HER. What the hell, indeed? She heads back to tevesl her find, but things don’t quite go as planned. People start dropping like flies, Semele is being followed, and her job takes her off of the collection and reassigns her to another assignment altogether. Still not enough to deter our doggedly determined heroine, even after her best friend at work is put in danger holding onto a treasure for her. All I can say is this…Semele’s quest is personal in many ways, and sometimes being too close to something is not the right answer. This is obvious several times in the book, and that made me want to shake some sense into the girl. Too many people die in this book. Once the actual story is revealed to the reader, well, I had a hard time buying into it. Some great history is sprinkled throughout the book, as is some truly great family lineage, but the problem is there are so many ancestors telling their story, alternating with Semele in the present day, that it’s not hard to confuse them all. You need to take footnotes, people. Seriously! And yes, it did disrupt the reader’s intense concentration on the plot, and that made me lose interest. And then the great reveal itself….was a little of a head scratcher. I got it, but whoa! Serious suspended belief in many angles. So…overall, a good and thorough traipse through history, but there were some some hiccups here. Enough to make me leave it at 3 stars.