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.

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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.

Sharp Objects (Review)

6460221Title: Sharp Objects
Author: Gillian Flynn
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: September, 2006
Format:  E-book
Acquired: Amazon Purchase
Pages: 321

Date Finished: September 22, 2014
4 Stars

Goodreads Description

WICKED above her hipbone, GIRL across her heart
Words are like a road map to reporter Camille Preaker’s troubled past. Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, Camille’s first assignment from the second-rate daily paper where she works brings her reluctantly back to her hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls.

NASTY on her kneecap, BABYDOLL on her leg
Since she left town eight years ago, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed again in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille is haunted by the childhood tragedy she has spent her whole life trying to cut from her memory.

HARMFUL on her wrist, WHORE on her ankle
As Camille works to uncover the truth about these violent crimes, she finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Clues keep leading to dead ends, forcing Camille to unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past to get at the story. Dogged by her own demons, Camille will have to confront what happened to her years before if she wants to survive this homecoming.

My Review

Let me start by saying…this book disturbed the crap out of me!  There were so many aspects of it that got under my skin.  It has been over a month since I finished the book and I still think about it occasionally.  I won’t rehash the synopsis, but there are dead kids with their teeth pulled out, a psycho mom, our lead character is a cutter, the little sister is a “mean girl” in every horrible sense of the word, and on and on and on.  Gillian Flynn took as many uncomfortable, taboo subjects she could think of and crammed them into Sharp Objects.  Don’t get me wrong!  From my description, you may think I didn’t like this book, and you’d be wrong.  I really liked the book.  Weird, huh?

As screwed up as these characters were, I enjoyed the writing immensely.  Flynn has a way of sucking you in, even when all the characters are horribly damaged and psychologically unhinged.  She did the same thing in Gone Girl.  I hated all of those characters as well, and I still somehow liked the book.  I’m not sure how she does it.  I think it’s because Flynn’s character development style is so manipulative; you can’t pin her characters down.  They are like ghosts who are ever-changing, much like real people.  That’s it!!  Her characters are so REAL!  That’s what makes Flynn’s books so good and horrifying and gripping and disturbing.

The plot was decent.  Unlike Gone Girl, there were no major “WHAT THE…?” moments.  You can tell it is an earlier book in Flynn’s career.  She hasn’t quite hit her stride in this one.  There were some lulls and bits that seemed unnecessary.  It is a mystery, but the best parts in the book were the character interactions.  It was more about the town and people, and less about the mystery.

Wrap-Up

Warning…This book is not for the faint of heart.  It’s not scary, but it has a way of creeping under your skin and staying there.  If you really liked Gone Girl, you’re probably not going to like Sharp Objects as much.  As I said before, it doesn’t have the same heft, nevertheless it’s pretty good.  I can’t say it was an enjoyable read because of all the gritty subject matter, but it was an interesting read.  I gave it 4 stars and would recommend it to those without sensitive dispositions.

Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant…Really?

I read the entire Divergent trilogy and have been sitting on it for months because I really did not want to write this review.  I have mixed opinions about every single book, so I knew this would not be easy to write.  I have finally decided to dive in and knock them all out in one big review.  So, here goes…

9717320Title: Divergent
Author:  Veronica Roth
Genre:  Fantasy, YA, Dystopian
Publisher:  Katherine Tegan Books
Release Date:  April 25, 2011
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  Kindle Purchase
Pages:  487

Date Finished:  May 2, 2014

Goodreads Description

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

My Review

In my opinion this was the best book in the series.  It was interesting and I really connected with Tris.  She had been raised in Abnegation, but she was kind of a bad-ass, so she switched to Dauntless.  She definitely had a lot of learning to do.  She was not the strongest or fastest in the newbie Dauntless group, but she fought hard and wouldn’t take no for an answer (often to her own detriment).  The relationship between Tris and Four was believable, and I was really pulling for them.

On the flip side, the plot had massive holes in it.  There was no information about how this society came about.  Plus, there is no way a society would split into five factions to create unity.  Ridiculous!  Now, I know this is all addressed in the other books, but if you only read this book, you would be left wondering, “What the heck?!”  I pressed on hoping I would get some answers.

11735983Title: Insurgent
Author: Veronica Roth
Genre: Fantasy, YA, Dystopian
Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books
Release Date: May 1, 2012
Format: E-book
Acquired: Kindle Purchase
Pages: 525

Date Finished: May 12, 2014

Goodreads Description

One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

My Review

Ok, I can sum up this entire book in two words…teenage angst.  Oh my word!  I about rolled my eyes out of their sockets on this one.  I literally wanted to punch Tris in the freaking nose!  She was all bad-ass in Divergent and then she went to pieces in Insurgent.  I did enjoy Tris and Four’s arguments only because they seemed so realistic.  Neither of them could stay focused on what the heck they were arguing about.  It would start off with what had actually made them mad and then they were pulling up every stupid thing that had hurt their feelings since the beginning of time.  Anyone who’s married will totally relate to these types of arguments.  The argument scenes (and there were plenty) made me laugh out loud.

I have to admit there was some decent action in book 2, but Divergent was still better.

I really had hoped I would get more info about how this society came into being in book 2.  Finally, at the very end, they dropped a bomb letting me know it would all be revealed in Allegiant.  So, I headed off to book 3.

17406183Title: Allegiant
Author: Veronica Roth
Genre: Fantasy, YA, Dystopian
Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books
Release Date: October 22, 2013
Format: E-book
Acquired: Kindle Purchase
Pages: 526

Date Finished: May 18, 2014

Goodreads Description

What if your whole world was a lie?
What if a single revelation—like a single choice—changed everything?
What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?

My Review

Really?!?!?  This was the big reveal I had been waiting for?  The reasoning behind the society was such a let down.  The book, as a whole, was a let down.  It really was one of those instances where I wish I had not wasted my time.  That is basically all I have to say about book 3.  It was just disappointing.  There were a lot of people who ranted about the ending.  I actually thought the ending fit the storyline, so that didn’t ruin it for me.  I just really wanted there to be a good reason for the creation of this society and there wasn’t.

Wrap-up

So, as you can tell, I didn’t care that much for the series as a whole.  When I was reading them and even after just finishing them, I thought they were decent.  As I have gotten a few months out, my opinion has gone down hill.  I would describe them as mediocre.  In addition, this was not a dystopian series.  Dystopian lit makes some type of social statement, a warning to today’s society.  This series did none of that.  I feel they labeled it Dystopian to draw readers, but if you want to be specific, this is not dystopian lit.

As I said before, Divergent was the best of the three in my opinion.  I would give it 4 Stars.  Insurgent and Allegiant would get 3 Stars.  If I could go back in time and start all over, I would watch the movie and skip the books.  (By the way, you won’t hear me say that very often.)

Ok, all you Divergent die-hards…tell me why you loved it so much.

Invisible City

Invisible CityTitle: Invisible City
Author:  Julia Dahl
Genre:  Fiction, Mystery
Publisher:  Minotaur Books
Release Date:  May 6, 2014
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  ARC from Netgalley
Pages:  304

Date Finished:  April 22, 2014
4.5 Stars

Goodreads Description

Just months after Rebekah Roberts was born, her mother, a Hasidic Jew from Brooklyn, abandoned her Christian boyfriend and newborn baby to return to her religion. Neither Rebekah nor her father have heard from her since. Now a recent college graduate, Rebekah has moved to New York City to follow her dream of becoming a big-city reporter. But she’s also drawn to the idea of being closer to her mother, who might still be living in the Hasidic community in Brooklyn.

Then Rebekah is called to cover the story of a murdered Hasidic woman. Rebekah’s shocked to learn that, because of the NYPD’s habit of kowtowing to the powerful ultra-Orthodox community, not only will the woman be buried without an autopsy, her killer may get away with murder. Rebekah can’t let the story end there. But getting to the truth won’t be easy—even as she immerses herself in the cloistered world where her mother grew up, it’s clear that she’s not welcome, and everyone she meets has a secret to keep from an outsider.

My Review

I found this book to be absolutely fascinating.  I knew nothing about the Hasidic community, and loved learning about a new culture.  Subjection to new places and cultures is one of the reasons we read, right?  I realize a murder mystery backdrop may not have given the most accurate portrayal of the community, but I think the author tried to be as impartial as possible.  There are definite challenges facing a community that chooses to live apart from the world around it, and I thought that fact was accurately represented.  I did not come away from this book with a negative vibe toward the Hasidic community.  I was actually amazed at some of the information.

I have read a couple of other reviews of this book and there were some complaints about Dahl’s writing style being awful.  I agree that the writing was not very flowery and leaned more toward the “just the facts, ma’am” approach, but considering the narrator was a newspaper reporter, it seemed appropriate.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good turn of phrase as much as the next girl, but it just wasn’t that big of a deal to me.

The mystery aspect of the book was not earth shattering.  There was a little misdirection and sleight of hand, but I didn’t walk away thinking, “Wow! I never saw that coming.”

Wrap-Up

Overall, I thought it was good book.  There was nothing horrible about it that tripped me up.  The information about the Hasidic community and their interaction (or lack thereof) with outside society was fascinating.  I also believe the author was trying to make a social commentary on reporters and media outlets, but I felt that fell a bit short.

If you like learning about new cultures, read this book.  If you are looking for a beautifully written novel with deep emotion and meaning, this isn’t the one for you.

Special Thanks…

I’d like to give a shout out to Netgalley, Invisible City and Julia Dahl for giving me the opportunity to read and review this ARC.

The Revenant of Thraxton Hall ((5 Stars))

The Revenant of Thraxton Hall: The Paranormal Casebooks of Sir Arthur Conan DoyleTitle: The Revenant of Thraxton Hall
Author:  Vaughn Entwistle
Genre:  Fiction; Fantasy; Mystery

Publisher:  Minotaur Books
Release Date:  March 25, 2014
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  ARC from Netgalley
Pages:  336

Date Finished: March 19, 2014
5 Stars

Goodreads Description

Arthur Conan Doyle has just killed off Sherlock Holmes in “The Final Problem,” and he immediately becomes one of the most hated men in London. So when he is contacted by a medium “of some renown” and asked to investigate a murder, he jumps at the chance to get out of the city. The only thing is that the murder hasn’t happened yet—the medium, one Hope Thraxton, has foreseen that her death will occur at the third séance of a meeting of the Society for Psychical Research at her manor house in the English countryside.

Along for the ride is Conan Doyle’s good friend Oscar Wilde, and together they work to narrow down the list of suspects, which includes a mysterious foreign Count, a levitating magician, and an irritable old woman with a “familiar.” Meanwhile, Conan Doyle is enchanted by the plight of the capricious Hope Thraxton, who may or may not have a more complicated back-story than it first appears. As Conan Doyle and Wilde participate in séances and consider the possible motives of the assembled group, the clock ticks ever closer to Hope’s murder.

My Review

I loved this book!!  I don’t know if it was my Sherlock Holmes/Arthur Conan Doyle obsession or just the book itself, but I loved it.  Now don’t get me wrong, this is not a Sherlock Holmes novel (even though he does make a couple of appearances).  The relationship, however, between Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde did remind me of the interactions between Sherlock and Watson.  They played off of each other brilliantly throughout the book.  Arthur played the straight-laced, stodgy Scot, while Oscar played the flamboyant, eccentric Irishman.  They are opposite sides of the same coin and Entwistle breathed life into them.  I wanted to be a part of their party.  I wanted to join in their witty banter.  I wanted to have them as my friends and traveling companions.  I know those are really nerdy things to say, but you just fall in love with some characters.

The plot was reminiscent of the old school mystery writers such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers.  It was British, it was intricate and it didn’t take itself too seriously.  It was a little more predictable than the mystery classics, but I didn’t care.  I won’t say that I had it all figured out, but I had a hunch that turned out to be true.  That didn’t ruin it for me at all.

Wrap-Up

Again…loved, loved, loved this book.  If you have an interest in mysteries or literary characters or great characterizations or wonderful male relationships, read it.  It was a fun and fast read.  I really hope this is the first of a series.  I’d read the next one in a heartbeat!

Special Thanks

A special shout-out to Netgalley, Minotaur Books and Vaughn Entwistle for allowing me the opportunity to read and review this ARC.

Beyond Belief ((3 Stars))

Beyond BeliefTitle: Beyond Belief
Author:  Helen Smith
Genre:  Mystery

Publisher:  Thomas & Mercer
Release Date:  January 28, 2014
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  ARC from Netgalley.com
Pages:  231

Date Finished:  12/30/13
3 stars

Goodreads Description

When famed psychic Perspicacious Peg predicts a murder will occur at England’s Belief and Beyond conference, her science-minded colleagues recruit twenty-six-year-old budding sleuth Emily Castles to attend the event as a “future crimes investigator.” The suspected victim: celebrated magician Edmund Zenon, who plans to perform a daring stunt at the conference—and is offering fifty thousand pounds to any attendee who can prove that the paranormal exists.

In the seaside town of Torquay, Emily meets a colorful cast of characters: dramatic fortune-teller Madame Nova; kindly Bobby Blue Suit and his three psychic dachshunds; Sarah and Tim Taylor, devastated parents mourning their late son; and religious cult members Hilary, Trina, and the Colonel. Tensions rise as believers in science, the supernatural, and the spiritual clash with one another. But once a body count begins, Emily must excuse herself from the séances and positivity circles, and use old-fashioned detective work to find the killer.

Hmmm, I’m not sure what to say about Beyond Belief.  It didn’t elicit any big reactions from me one way or the other.  The writing was fine.  The characters were what you would expect, funny and quirky in the typical British fashion.  Unfortunately, none of them really resonated.  As I have said before, if I don’t connect with at least one character in a book, I tend to struggle with the book as a whole.  This one was no different.

I have not read any of Helen Smith’s other Emily Castles Mystery series, so I felt a bit lost at the beginning of this book.  Usually mysteries are somewhat self-contained and you don’t need to read the others to catch on.  Once I got into the book a bit, it was fine, but there were definitely some references I didn’t get.  For instance, Emily’s colleagues kept referencing her dead dog (supposedly her spirit guide).  Emily would then deny he was her spirit guide.  I just felt like there was a lot more to that story.  I really wanted there to be a dead dog spirit guide, but he never showed.  There were also colleagues and a possible love interest who were obviously in previous books.  I guess this is my fault for jumping into the middle of a series, but like I said, usually mysteries are little more self-contained and I didn’t think it would be a problem.

One of the biggest issues I had with the book was that the description led me to believe there would be some supernatural activity, and there really wasn’t.  The characters talked a lot about supernatural activity, but there was no DOING.  I kept expecting a big earth shattering event that never came.  I was expecting visions of the future, mind reading, psychic dachshunds and palm reading.  What I got was a bunch of people speculating about all these things and then solving a murder mystery the old-fashioned way.

Torquay harbour october 2012.jpgOn the positive side…the setting of Torquay (pronounced Tor-key) was fabulous.  I spent 3 1/2 months in England through a school exchange program and stayed in the little seaside town of Exmouth which is right up the coast from Torquay.  The description of the town, the crazy named businesses, and the talk of clotted cream and scones made me quite nostalgic.

Overall, Beyond Belief left me flat.  The book description sounded wonderful.  I was simply disappointed when it didn’t live up to said description.

Special Thanks…

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