New York Times Bestselling Author

Posts made in March, 2017

Book Review: Mystery > Crime

Posted by on Mar 28, 2017 |

Last Breath by Robert Bryndza

♥♥♥

Mystery> Crime

I’d give this 3.5 stars if I had the half star option. It was good in that, especially toward the last half, I wanted to find out how Erika and her team found the guy who was kidnapping and torturing women. Obviously, you as a reader don’t want any innocent victims to be tortured and killed. However, I think it would have been more of a page turner if we knew more about the backgrounds of his vics or, even more important, the victims he has in his sights.

We saw things from the bad guy’s point of view, which I liked. But when we finally did get the perspective of a woman he tricked into meeting him by making up a fake profile online, she wasn’t a particularly likeable character. She wasn’t unlikeable, but she seemed like a vain, self-absorbed young woman who wanted fame. She was taking classes to get better at her art, but basically I got the idea she was pretty and wanted fame like so many people who, in my opinion, have no talent but want fame anyway. If I’d heard more about her really working on her art, I would have been even more sympathetic. Or if she helped out other people—a grandmother or the homeless, anything that indicated she gave a hoot about people other than herself—I would have cared even more, although by that point in the book, I just wanted to hear about the murderer’s mistakes enabling the cops to catch him.

Another thing that really bothered me was that some of the characters are referred to by their first name and some by their surnames. It’s OK that the lead cop, Erika, was referred to by her first name and the civilians were referred to by their first names, but some of the cops were mentioned either by their first names or their surnames, and there seemed no rhyme or reason to which was which. Even the love interest is referred to by his last name, whereas Erika’s subordinate was John, and some of the people she reported to went by their first names. I found it confusing keeping people straight because of this.

In terms of the cops tracking down the clues, Bryndza did a good job with describing the detective work. I could definitely see this author writing teleplays for the zillions of cop/crime/detective shows on TV.

Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book.


 

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Book Review: True Crime > Arson

Posted by on Mar 27, 2017 |

Fire Lover: A True Story by Joseph Wambaugh

♥♥♥

True Crime > Arson

I found the first two thirds of this true crime story to be a page turner. I’ve never read a true crime book about a serial arsonist, let alone a serial arsonist who is the lead arson investigator for the Glendale Fire Department in Southern California —possibly the most prolific arsonist of all time. He wrote numerous articles about arson investigation and taught classes and was widely considered an expert. I’ve read news stories about volunteer firefighters starting forest fires in part to create work for themselves during the summer months, but this story was intriguing.

I already knew how difficult it is to prove arson and to link that arson to a specific person, but all the courtroom stuff grew a little tedious. It was interesting that Wambaugh for the most part took an impartial journalistic view of imparting the details that were uncovered and then every now and then he’d inject his opinion on which lawyer did a good job with his or her argument or a bad one.

It was also frustrating that John Orr refuses to accept guilt for any of it. What helped the lawyers for his case was a novel he wrote called Point of Origin, which was later made into a movie starring Ray Liotta. The story is about two firefighters, a good one and one an arsonist. If Orr would accept blame, psychologists and others would be able to study the mind of a serial arsonist and possibly gain insights as to the triggers (and possible treatment).

I was interested in this book because I’m interested in firefighters’ jobs in general, but I felt Wambaugh was only able to guess at what made Orr do the things he did, both with the women in his life and with his career. If you’re interested in this type of true crime, you’d like it; otherwise, I’d find another book to spend your time on.


 

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Book Review: General Fiction

Posted by on Mar 25, 2017 |

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti

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General Fiction

This is a unique book—I can’t think of any novels to compare it to. It begins when Loo is twelve years old. She and her father have been on the run her entire life—sometimes staying someplace for six months, other times moving quickly from hotel to hotel in the dead of night. Now, Loo’s father Hawley buys a home in Loo’s dead mother’s hometown in Massachusetts with the idea that they won’t have to move again and Loo can have something resembling a normal life.

The story covers Loo from the age of twelve to seventeen and went back and forth in time to how Hawley met her mother and how he got his twelve gunshot wounds. Some of the writing was really beautiful, but what kept me turning pages was wanting to find out about Hawley’s criminal past and what was going to happen to the two of them.

Unfortunately, I didn’t identify or like any of the characters, so I didn’t love the book.

Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book.


 

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Book Reviews: Women’s Fiction

Posted by on Mar 20, 2017 |

The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman

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Women’s Fiction

I really enjoyed this hilariously funny book.

When the publishing house 34-year-old Lillian works for wants her to illustrate a book on gardening, they send her to a course on how to garden. Her sister, Rachel, and her two daughters join her. There, they meet a good-looking teacher named Edward and a cast of characters that defy initial stereotypes.

I loved the relationship between Lillian and Rachel. They fight occasionally, but mostly they support each other in a way that’s nice to see. The seven-year-old daughter Annabel and the five-year-old Clare are the most adorable characters I’ve read in fiction in a long time.

Though Lillian lost her husband to a car accident almost four years ago, her sister, her daughter, and the cast of characters from her gardening class help Lillian move forward from the grief. The humor keeps the book from being depressing or maudlin.

Highly recommended.


The Distance Home by Orly Konig-Lopez

♥♥♥♥♥

Women’s Fiction

This is a beautifully written book. The topics it touches on topics that are dark, yet the story itself isn’t depressing but instead its life affirming.

Emma takes a week off from her high-powered job in PR in Chicago to return to Maryland and take care of her father’s things after his death in a car accident. In addition to trying to mend the wounds of dealing with a depressed mother who died when Emma was young—Emma’s father told her that her mother had heart problems and ultimately died of a heart attack—she’s also trying to sort out her feelings for a father who was emotionally absent from her life.

When Emma was eight years old, they moved to this rural area and she discovered Jilli, her neighbor, who was nine at the time, and Jilli’s grandparents, who raised Jilli and ran a horse ranch that gave lessons to kids who wanted to compete and therapeutic services for soldiers with PTSD, kids with behavioral or emotional problems, and folks with a variety of disabilities.

Though for years they were best friends, Emma and Jilli have been estranged since an accident when they were sixteen. After the accident, Emma’s dad shipped her off to boarding school and the lies about that day have haunted her ever since.

Emma finds that though she’d stayed away from horses since the accident, returning to them is good for the soul, even to someone who rode them for ribbons end glory once upon a time. Fixing things with Jilli, Jilli’s grandparents, and her father’s ghost, is not as easy to do as getting back on a horse.

The novel is about finding oneself by looking at the past and reimaging one’s future. I got lost in the story and in the way animals can be great emotional support in difficult times. The characters—including the animals—were well drawn, with complex, believable traits.

Recommended.

Thanks to NetGalley and Forge Books for the opportunity to review this book.  

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Book Reviews: Mystery

Posted by on Mar 17, 2017 |

The Pictures by Guy Bolton

♥♥♥

Mystery

Detective Craine works for the LAPD as a fixer—bailing actors out of jail after a DUI and covering up instances of domestic violence among MGM’s stars. After the death of his wife, who was a minor actress, he wants to get out of the business, but when a producer dies in an apparent suicide, he’s called in to keep the press away as much as possible and spin whatever information does get out: The guy was a junkie and gay and had battled depression is the studio’s go-to story line.

For the first part of the book, it’s difficult to know who to root for. For example, a completely innocent black kid gets blamed for a brutal crime he didn’t commit. He, too, is found dead by apparent suicide.

The wife of the dead producer is Gail Goodwin. Craine realizes that something more is going on that the fact that several folks decided to commit suicide or are gruesomely murdered—he realizes it when he’s shot at a hotel while checking into things. Katherine Hepburn, Mae West, and Groucho have Cameo’s in the book, so if you’re a fine of this period in history of LA, you might like the mystery. For me, it was a little slow.

Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book.


 

The Child by Fiona Barton

♥♥♥♥♥

Mystery

I devoured this book in a single day.

When the bones of a baby are found during an excavation, journalist Kate thinks there is a story there, even if finding who the mother was will be exceedingly difficult. Angela, whose baby was stolen from her years ago, is certain that the baby is hers, and Emma, who battles a mood disorder and has been treated for mental illness, reads everything about the remains obsessively.

Told from multiple points of view, the mystery of who this baby is will keep you turning pages. Kate is the force that keeps digging and unraveling secrets. She’s a tough, likeable protagonist. Jude, Emma’s self-absorbed mother, is well drawn as an odious woman who should never have become a mother.

Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book.


Reservations (A Lola Wicks Mystery) by Gwen Florio

♥♥♥♥♥

Mystery

Florio keeps getting better and better. In the latest installment of the Lola Wicks mystery series, Lola, her husband Charlie, their seven-year-old daughter Margaret, and their three-legged dog Bub head to Arizona to spend time with Charlie’s brother’s family.

Charlie and his brother Edgar have had a strained relationship for years. Charlie still lives in Montana working as a cop outside the Blackfeet reservation. Edgar married a Navajo woman, and his wife Naomi persuaded him to take a job in the mines that employ much of the Navajo people in the area. Naomi repeatedly tells Lola that even though they have Ivy League educations, they returned to work for the Indians. She insinuates that they could be making more money elsewhere, but they seem to be doing pretty well for themselves, particularly compared to the other folks on the reservation.

The mines have rendered the drinking water useless and the air not much better. When the bombings begin, it’s unclear if it’s an environmental group or a member of the Navajo nation or just a rogue environmentalist. Lola’s investigative journalist’s instincts go on high alert, as do Charlie’s cop instincts.

I adore all the members of Lola’s immediate family, but I particularly adore Lola. It’s like Florio is writing about me—Lola has an aversion (and lack of ability) for anything domestic, she wears clothes that are comfortable and functional rather than fashionable, and she is terrified of heights.

The mystery that unfolds is extremely well done. I’m generally not a huge mystery fan, but I love Florio’s work because of the high literary quality.

Highly recommended.

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