Midnight Crossroad (Review)

18689531Title: Midnight Crossroad (Midnight, TX #1)
Author: Charlaine Harris
Genre:  Mystery, Urban Fantasy

Publisher: Ace
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  Amazon purchase
Pages: 320

Date Finished: May 12, 2015
3 Stars

Goodreads Description

Welcome to Midnight, Texas, a town with many boarded-up windows and few full-time inhabitants, located at the crossing of Witch Light Road and Davy Road. It’s a pretty standard dried-up western town.

There’s a pawn shop (someone lives in the basement and is seen only at night). There’s a diner (people who are just passing through tend not to linger). And there’s new resident Manfred Bernardo, who thinks he’s found the perfect place to work in private (and who has secrets of his own).

Stop at the one traffic light in town, and everything looks normal. Stay awhile, and learn the truth…

My Review

I really love Charlaine Harris’ writing style.  I don’t know if it’s because she writes in a small town, southern brogue, or if she’s just a really good writer, but I never stumble over her writing.  I’ve read most of the Sookie Stackhouse series (I’ll admit I lost interest toward the end), but I’ve never read any of her other work because I’m not a big cozy mystery girl.  I was really hoping this series would follow in the footsteps of the Sookie Stackhouse phenomenon.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t look very promising.

The characters were quirky and interesting, but there just wasn’t much going on plot wise.  The big mystery of the book was supposed to be what happened to Bobo’s girlfriend.  (Yes, that’s really his name.)  However, the biggest mystery was what are all of these people hiding because everyone in Midnight, TX has some kind of secret.  The good thing about that plot device is it really makes you want to keep reading.  The bad thing is that you don’t get any answers in this book.  The only mystery solved in this one was about Bobo’s girlfriend.

I really did enjoy the characters.  Charlaine gave me just enough to make me want to know more about them.  Because of that, I’m sure I’ll read the next book.  I hope there’s more action in the next installment.

Wrap-Up

Slow out of the gate!  This book felt like one big introduction to the characters and Midnight, TX.  There wasn’t much action, but maybe Charlaine wanted the book to mimic Midnight’s lifestyle, slow and laid-back.  The characters were engaging and that’s probably what will keep me moving forward with the series, however, if book two doesn’t pick-up, that will probably be the end of my foray into Midnight, TX.

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Pines (Wayward Pines #1) (Review)

15034320Title: Pines (Wayward Pines #1)
Author: Blake Crouch
Genre: Fiction; Mystery; Thriller, Sci-fi

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Release Date: August 2012
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  Netgalley ARC
Pages: 309

Date Finished: May 15, 2015
3 Stars

Goodreads Description

Secret service agent Ethan Burke arrives in Wayward Pines, Idaho, with a clear mission: locate and recover two federal agents who went missing in the bucolic town one month earlier. But within minutes of his arrival, Ethan is involved in a violent accident. He comes to in a hospital, with no ID, no cell phone, and no briefcase. The medical staff seems friendly enough, but something feels off. As the days pass, Ethan’s investigation into the disappearance of his colleagues turns up more questions than answers. Why can’t he get any phone calls through to his wife and son in the outside world? Why doesn’t anyone believe he is who he says he is? And what is the purpose of the electrified fences surrounding the town? Are they meant to keep the residents in? Or something else out? Each step closer to the truth takes Ethan further from the world he thought he knew, from the man he thought he was, until he must face a horrifying fact? He may never get out of Wayward Pines alive.

My Review

In anticipation of the new show, Wayward Pines, Netgalley opened up requests for Pines, the first book in the Wayward Pines series.  I had seen the previews for the show and thought I should read the book before it started.  Well, as usual, life got in the way and I didn’t get the book read before the show started, but I decided to go ahead and watch the first episode.  I was not impressed.  Matt Dillon is not one of my favorite actors.  That goes all the way back to my 1980s teenage years.  In addition to that, the show seemed purposefully confusing.  I hate books and shows that confuse the crap out of you just so they can spring a big, dramatic ending on you.  Anyway, after watching that one episode of the show, I was really torn about whether to read the book, but decided to give it a try.

The book did the exact same thing as the show!  The storyline misled and misdirected and then BAM! big, dramatic ending that brought it all together in the last two or three chapters.  I will begrudgingly admit I liked the ending.  That is the whole reason the book got 3 stars.  But for the most part, I kept thinking, “What the heck is going on?”  The reason I think this book irritated me so much is because I love a good mystery.  I love it when the author has fed you all the clues and you still couldn’t figure it out.  I hate it when the author withholds all the pertinent information and then hits you with a resolution out of left field.  And boy was this one out of left field!

Wrap-Up

3/4 of this book irritated the heck out of me.  The last 1/4 was really good.  If you like to read books that mislead and misdirect in order to surprise you with an ending that you never saw coming, then this is the book for you.  One good thing about the book is even though it’s a series, it really could stand alone.  I was happy where it ended and didn’t feel the need to continue on with the series.  Happy reading!

Special Thanks…

I’d like to give a shout out to Netgalley, Thomas & Mercer, and Blake Crouch for giving me the opportunity to read and review this ARC.

The Forgotten Room (Review)

22889771Title: The Forgotten Room
Author: Lincoln Child
Genre: Fiction; Mystery; Thriller
Publisher: Doubleday
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Format: E-book
Acquired: Edelweiss ARC
Pages: 304

Date Finished: April 24, 2015
4.5 Stars

Goodreads Description

Jeremy Logan is an “enigmalogist”—an investigator who specializes in analyzing phenomena that have no obvious explanation. In this newest novel Logan finds himself on the storied coastline of Newport, Rhode Island, where he has been retained by Symposikon, one of the oldest and most respected think tanks in America. Just days earlier, a series of frightening events took place in the sprawling seaside mansion that houses the organization. One of its most distinguished doctors began acting erratically—violently attacking an assistant in the mansion’s opulent library and, moments later, killing himself in a truly shocking fashion. Terrified by the incident and the bizarre evidence left behind, the group hires Logan to investigate—discreetly—what drove this erudite man to madness.

His work leads him to an unexpected find. In a long-dormant wing of the estate, Logan uncovers an ingeniously hidden secret room, concealed and apparently untouched for decades. The room is a time capsule, filled with eerie and obscure scientific equipment that points to a top secret project long thought destroyed, known only as “Project S.” Ultimately, the truth of what Project S was . . . and what has happened in that room . . . will put Logan in the path of a completely unexpected danger. 

My Review

I love a good thriller and Lincoln Child did not disappoint.  I’ve been reading Child’s books for a long time and his work with Douglas Preston is one of the reasons I love paranormal thrillers.  The wonderful thing about their books is you never know if it is going to be paranormal until the end.  Sometimes the events point to a paranormal cause, but end up being explained by something totally different.  They always keep you guessing.  The Forgotten Room was no different.

The opening chapters had our protagonist, Jeremy Logan, visiting a creepy old manor to investigate a gruesome suicide in order to determine if there were additional factors involved.  The description of the manor, as well as the suicide video, instantly set the mood for a creeptastic romp.  Logan and the cast of characters were odd and intriguing.  The science and architecture bits were very interesting.  There was plenty of meat for the techno-reader as well as the super-sleuths.  The pace was fast, and I don’t remember any lulls in the action.  I’ll admit some of the plot devices were a bit cliché, but there were plenty of surprises along the way as well.

Wrap-Up

Creepy, edge-of-your-seat reading.  If you like thrillers & mysteries, this one should be on your TBR list.  By the way, this is the 4th in the Jeremy Logan series, but you do not need to read the others to enjoy this one.  It completely stands alone.

Special Thanks…

I’d like to give a shout out to Edelweiss, Doubleday, and Lincoln Child for giving me the opportunity to read and review this ARC.

Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship (Review)

23164968Title: Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the
Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship
Author:  Robert Kurson
Genre:  Nonfiction

Publisher: Random House
Expected Release Date: June 16, 2015
Format:  E-book
Acquired: Netgalley ARC
Pages: 304

Date Finished: April 15, 2015
4 Stars

Goodreads Description

Finding and identifying a pirate ship is the hardest thing to do under the sea. But two men—John Chatterton and John Mattera—are willing to risk everything to find the Golden Fleece, the ship of the infamous pirate Joseph Bannister. At large during the Golden Age of Piracy in the seventeenth century, Bannister’s exploits would have been more notorious than Blackbeard’s, more daring than Kidd’s, but his story, and his ship, have been lost to time. If Chatterton and Mattera succeed, they will make history—it will be just the second time ever that a pirate ship has been discovered and positively identified. Soon, however, they realize that cutting-edge technology and a willingness to lose everything aren’t enough to track down Bannister’s ship. They must travel the globe in search of historic documents and accounts of the great pirate’s exploits, face down dangerous rivals, battle the tides of nations and governments and experts. But it’s only when they learn to think and act like pirates—like Bannister—that they become able to go where no pirate hunters have gone before.

My Review

I don’t typically read non-fiction.  It is usually too dry and boring for my tastes, but Robert Kurson writes non-fiction like an action-packed tale of fiction.  This was like reading a really good documentary.  It was full of interesting information, interesting history and interesting characters.  There were no lulls or moments I regretted jumping into this story.

I’ve always been interested in pirates, but Black Sails, a show that just wrapped up its second season on Starz, recently lit a fire under my previously forgotten fascination.  So, I went in search of some good pirate fiction!  I was rather disappointed in my options.  There was a lot of really goofy stuff out there, but Pirate Hunters caught my eye.  I am so glad I decided to step outside of my usual genres!  Joseph Bannister, the pirate captain they are searching for in the book, reminded me a lot of Capt. Flint from Black Sails.  He was audacious, fearless, and seriously cunning.  He pulled off things no one would dream possible.

In addition to interesting character studies, the information about pirate lifestyle and code was amazing.  Pirates introduced democracy long before it was in the U.S.  They voted on just about everything and every vote counted equally.  Black pirates were also accepted and treated as equals almost 150 years before slavery was abolished in America.  However, if a pirate smuggled a woman on board, he was killed.  Apparently, they took that infraction very seriously.  Pirates even had their own version of Workers’ Compensation.  If they lost or injured a body part, they would be compensated according to the body part.  For instance, the loss of your right arm entitled you to 500 pieces of silver.  If you lost your hook or peg leg, it was considered the same as losing the original body part.  Hilarious!

Wrap-up

I totally recommend giving this book a try!  Kurson brilliantly wove together the past and the present while keeping both eras interesting.  If you are like me and non-fiction is not your typical fare, I encourage you to try something new.  You just might enjoy it.

Special Thanks…

I’d like to give a shout out to Netgalley, Random House, and Robert Kurson for giving me the opportunity to read and review this ARC.

The Shadow Revolution (Review)

23460383Title: The Shadow Revolution (Crown & Key #1)
Author: Clay & Susan Griffith
Genre: Fiction; Urban Fantasy; Steampunk
Publisher: Del Rey
Release Date: June 2, 2015 (Estimated)
Format: E-book
Acquired: Netgalley ARC
Pages: 384

Date Finished: April 6, 2015
4.5 Stars

Goodreads Description

They are the realm’s last, best defense against supernatural evil. But they’re going to need a lot more silver.
 
As fog descends, obscuring the gas lamps of Victorian London, werewolves prowl the shadows of back alleys. But they have infiltrated the inner circles of upper-crust society as well. Only a handful of specially gifted practitioners are equipped to battle the beasts. Among them are the roguish Simon Archer, who conceals his powers as a spell-casting scribe behind the smooth veneer of a dashing playboy; his lay about mentor, Nick Barker, who prefers a good pub to thrilling heroics; and the self-possessed alchemist Kate Anstruther, who is equally at home in a ballroom as she is on a battlefield.

After a lycanthrope targets Kate’s vulnerable younger sister, the three join forces with fierce Scottish monster-hunter Malcolm MacFarlane—but quickly discover they’re dealing with a threat far greater than anything they ever imagined.

My Review

This was a stunning introduction to the new Crown & Key series by Clay and Susan Griffith!  Set in Victorian London, it had just the right amount of magic and steampunk elements.  They were not overdone and were woven into the story without being pretentious.  The Griffiths also did a fabulous job with their world building.  The reader is introduced to bits and pieces of the backstories throughout the book which gives the characters a mysterious air and leaves the reader wanting more.  That is always the mark of story-telling at its best!

After I finished, I immediately went to see if there was more to be had.  Unfortunately, that is a drawback of ARCs.  You’ve already gotten the blasted book early, so you have to wait even longer to get the follow-ups!

I enjoyed the characters immensely.  Simon Archer is a scribe who can wield a sword in more ways than one.  ((Wiggly Eyebrows))  But, he also has a soft side and seems to be more of a gentleman than a rake.  Nick Barker is the curmudgeonly side-kick who can shoot fire bolts from his hands, but also dabbles in necromancy.  Kate Anstruther, the heroine of the tale, does not wield magic, but she can whip-up some mean recipes in her alchemistic kitchen.  The last, but definitely not least, of the group is Malcolm MacFarlane who is Scottish and a monster-hunter to boot.  I have a lovely picture in my head of what he looks like…a strapping, ginger rogue dressed in a kilt with guns blazing!  The Griffiths don’t give us much to go on as far as physical attributes, and I know he probably wouldn’t have been in a kilt, but he is in my version.  He’s snarky and no non-sense and I love him.

The baddies in this book were the werewolves, and they were really well done.  Again, not over the top.  Everything in this book was done tastefully and had just the right balance.

Wrap-Up

This promises to be a really great series.  I cannot wait for the next book!  In the synopsis it was compared to Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.’s version, not Benedict Cumberbatch’s), as well as Showtime’s Penny Dreadful series, and Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles.  I definitely see the Sherlock connection.  The dirt and grit of the time period really shows through, and it has that same feel.  I have not seen the Penny Dreadful series or read the Iron Druid Chronicles, but if they are anything like this book, I need to get my hands on them.

I hope you will give this book a go.  It was an exceptional read.

Special Thanks…

I’d like to give a shout out to Netgalley, Del Rey, and Clay and Susan Griffith for giving me the opportunity to read and review this ARC.

The Witch of Napoli (Review)

23710526Title: The Witch of Napoli
Author: Michael Schmicker
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Palladino Books
Release Date: January 2, 2015
Format: E-book
Acquired: Netgalley ARC
Pages: 294

Date Finished: March 27, 2015
4 Stars

Goodreads Description

Italy 1899: Fiery-tempered, seductive medium Alessandra Poverelli levitates a table at a Spiritualist séance in Naples. A reporter photographs the miracle, and wealthy, skeptical, Jewish psychiatrist Camillo Lombardi arrives in Naples to investigate. When she materializes the ghost of his dead mother, he risks his reputation and fortune to finance a tour of the Continent, challenging the scientific and academic elite of Europe to test Alessandra’s mysterious powers. She will help him rewrite Science. His fee will help her escape her sadistic husband Pigotti and start a new life in Rome.

Newspapers across Europe trumpet her Cinderella story and baffling successes, and the public demands to know – does the “Queen of Spirits” really have supernatural powers? Nigel Huxley is convinced she’s simply another vulgar, Italian trickster. The icy, aristocratic detective for England’s Society for the Investigation of Mediums launches a plot to trap and expose her. Meanwhile, the Vatican is quietly digging up her childhood secrets, desperate to discredit her supernatural powers; her abusive husband Pigotti is coming to kill her; and the tarot cards predict catastrophe.

Inspired by the true-life story of controversial Italian medium Eusapia Palladino (1854-1918), The Witch of Napoli masterfully resurrects the bitter,19th-century battle between Science and religion over the possibility of an afterlife.

My Review

I was impressed with this book much more than I thought I would be.  I have read a couple of books about this same subject matter set in the same time period.  One of them was really good and the other was horrible!  So, I knew this one could go either way.  Much like the mediums of that time period, I was afraid the book would be a farce.  To my pleasant surprise, it was not.

The Witch of Napoli read like a biography even though it was fiction.  I’m assuming that’s because it is based on the story of Eusapia Palladino, a famous Italian medium of that time.  I’m not sure how much was pulled from her story, but it was highly entertaining.  It reflected well the serious battle that was raging between scientists and mystics at the end of the 19th century.  The Vatican was mentioned in the synopsis, but there was very little mention of it in the book.

I really enjoyed Alessandra Poverelli.  She was a true force to be reckoned with.  She sucked every bit of the life she could out of every experience.  I admired her tenacity and resiliency and found myself rooting for her success.

Wrap-Up

If you like historical studies on science vs. mysticism,  you’ll love this book.  It was really interesting, and I was sucked in from the beginning.  The synopsis made me think this would be a slow read, but it was actually quite the page turner.  I hope you’ll give it a shot.

Special Thanks…

I’d like to give a shout out to Netgalley, Palladino Books, and Michael Schmicker for giving me the opportunity to read and review this ARC.

The Sweetness of Forgetting (Review)

18898374Title: The Sweetness of Forgetting
Author:  Kristin Harmel
Genre:  Fiction

Publisher: Gallery Books
Release Date: August 7, 2012
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  Amazon Purchase
Pages: 368

Date Finished: March 1, 2015
3.5 Starts

Goodreads Description

At thirty-six , Hope McKenna-Smith is no stranger to bad news. She lost her mother to cancer, her husband left her for a twenty-two year old, and her bank account is nearly depleted. Her own dreams of becoming a lawyer long gone, she’s running a failing family bakery on Cape Cod and raising a troubled preteen.

Now, Hope’s beloved French-born grandmother Mamie, who wowed the Cape with her fabulous pastries for more than fifty years, is drifting away into a haze of Alzheimer’s. But in a rare moment of clarity, Mamie realizes that unless she tells Hope about the past, the secrets she has held on to for so many years will soon be lost forever. Tantalizingly, she reveals mysterious snippets of a tragic history in Paris. And then, arming her with a scrawled list of names, she sends Hope to France to uncover a seventy-year-old mystery.

Hope’s emotional journey takes her through the bakeries of Paris and three religious traditions, all guided by Mamie’s fairy tales and the sweet tastes of home. As Hope pieces together her family’s history, she finds horrific Holocaust stories mixed with powerful testimonies of her family’s will to survive in a world gone mad. And to reunite two lovers torn apart by terror, all she’ll need is a dash of courage, and the belief that God exists everywhere, even in cake. . . .

My Review

This was our latest book club read.  There were some things I liked about this book and some things I didn’t.

The Good

  • The premise of the book was good.  A woman who escaped the Holocaust and hid her identity for years now has Alzheimer’s and in a moment of clarity reveals to her granddaughter that there is family she never told her about.
  • The Alzheimer’s bits were horrible, but necessary.  The idea of Alzheimer’s scares the living daylights out of me and really try not to think about it, but this pretty much put it in my face.  Some people would put that in the “bad” category, but I think it’s good to face your fears.
  • The Holocaust parts were also horrible.  They are hard to read, but the history is there regardless of how it makes us feel.
  • The overall history of the book was good.  I enjoyed learning about Muslims who helped hide and smuggle Jews out of France during WWII.  It was a piece of history I’d never read anything about.
  • The recipes were pretty cool.

The Bad

  • Everything fell into place WAY too easy.  I realize the search for Jacob and Mamie’s family in France had to fit in one book, but that is what time hops are for.  Hope tracks everyone down in like 3 weeks and most of it happens by mere happenstance.  It was just ridiculous how easily Hope got all her information.
  • Hope drove me crazy and her daughter, Annie, needed a knot jerked in her tail!  Annie was the most obnoxious pre-teen ever!
  • The title was stupid.  There was nothing sweet about forgetting.  Mamie knew she was forgetting things and it tore her up.  The only memories she was left with were horrible ones.

Wrap-up

So, the good outweighed the bad, which is why this book got 3 1/2 stars.  I don’t think I’d recommend this book for book clubs.  There was not enough meat to chew on for discussion.  If you like Hallmark Channel movies, you’ll love this book.