Beth's Book-Nook Blog

Reviews of What I've Been Reading….

FATAL OPTION by Chris Beakey

My friends at Smith Publicity sent me an e-copy of FATAL OPTION (thank you!) so that I could be part of the blog tour on this title.

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This story follows a father, who has already had a lot of pain and distress, as he deals with a life-changing decision he makes one snowy night. He will do anything to protect his two teens, but will he do the right thing?

Here’s the overview from Amazon:

A tragic accident. A family in crisis. And a killer watching every move.

Five months after the mysterious death of his wife, Stephen Porter is pulled from a dreamless sleep by a midnight phone call. His 17-year-old daughter Sara is stranded in a blizzard near the top of a mountain beyond their suburban home. She’s terrified and unable to stop crying as she begs him to come to her rescue.

Unfortunately Stephen went to bed just an hour before after a night of binge drinking. With his blurred vision and unsteady balance he knows it’s dangerously irresponsible to get behind the wheel. But he heads out into the snowstorm to bring Sara home.

High school teacher Kieran O’Shea is also behind the wheel, searching for his autistic younger brother Aidan, who is wandering aimlessly through the storm on that same mountain. Kieran is terrified—of the voices in his mind, that Aidan will be taken from him, and that he may soon be arrested for murdering three women.

In a matter of minutes Stephen will encounter Kieran and drive headlong into a collision that will force him to unlock the secret of his wife’s death, avoid prosecution, and protect his children from violence that hits all too close to home.

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I read this book quickly as I wanted to see what would happen. I did find it pretty heavy, though. This story had, among other things, rape, murder, suicide, incest, child abuse (sexual, physical, and emotional), and a serial killer. Just mentioning these things as I know they can be triggers for readers. I did read it to the end, and I liked the ending as I felt it was positive.  I felt for the main character as he was just an average joe who was in some bad situations and trying to make the best of it while he was trying to keep his life and his kids’ lives together. I will look for Mr. Beakey’s other titles!

Here’s a bit of info on the novel from Smith and a book trailer:

Fatal Option [February 21, Post Hill Press] is a nail-biting thriller that explores the devastating moral consequences of a dangerous choice. It’s garnered the following praise:
“A sharp, intelligent thriller. Really top-notch.”
– Neely Tucker, Washington Post staff writer & author of Only The Hunted Run
“A wintery tale of violence and redemption, artfully balanced by a touching portrayal of a family in crisis.”
– Peter Swanson, author of The Kind Worth Killing
“Fatal Option grabs you from the first page. Plan to stay up.”
– Kathleen Antrim, former Co-President of International Thriller Writers & author of Capital Offense
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Quick Review: POP GOES THE WEASEL by M. J. Arlidge

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I really enjoyed the first Detective Helen Grace mystery I read – EENY MEENY – so I was excited to find POP GOES THE WEASEL on Net Galley. DI Helen Grace is a multi-layered character with a dark past and a dark side to her personality. In this installment, she is chasing a serial killer — one who mutilates his/her victims and then sends a body part home. But as Helen is seeking a killer, she is also watching over a young man for a very specific reason that relates to her shadowed past.

Apparently there are two more Helen Grace mysteries that escaped my attention (I wish Net Galley had a “notify” feature). This is a gritty series, but I like it. I really like uncovering the layers that make up Helen and figuring out the mystery, too. Thank you for my review e-copy!

If you like crime novels, give this one a try!

 

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Quick Review: EENY MEENY by M. J. Arlidge

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I picked up EENY MEENY through Net Galley as I can’t resist a good British mystery! This is the first book in the DI Helen Grace series.

A bizarre serial killer is on the loose and it’s one that doesn’t fit the typical profile. She is female and abducts two victims, letting them decide who will live and who will die. DI Helen Grace is determined to discover just who this is and how the victims are all connected. However, she begins to realize that the connection they all share is one to her.

I enjoyed this first installment in this series. If you read me you know I have a thing for British mysteries. Helen is a strong character, a loner, a woman with a dark past. The mystery was well-plotted and kept me guessing up to the end.

It’s a keeper!

Thank you, Net Galley and Penguin, for my review copy!

See it on Amazon where I am an Associate:

Eeny Meeny (A Detective Helen Grace Thriller)

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Audiobook Review: RIPPER by Isabel Allende

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First let me begin by saying: I love Isabel Allende’s books. THE HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS is one of favorite books ever. EVA LUNA, OF LOVE AND SHADOWS, DAUGHTER OF FORTUNE, PORTRAIT IN SEPIA. You get the idea. So I was thrilled to see she had written a mystery novel – described as “fast-paced” – that takes place in San Francisco (near my old stomping grounds). I got it as an audiobook from my public library.

Wow — what a disappointment. Isabel Allende is an incredible writer. Her attraction for me has always been in the beauty of her language. Her characters are so real and human. Her stories are enthralling.

Not this one. This story had me puzzled right from the beginning. There was WAY TOO MUCH character description and background given. The story is about a serial killer in San Francisco and I felt like I was at about CD 6 before we got a murder (covered in what felt like a few paragraphs). Instead we had this lush, detailed history of our main character (soon to become victim-in-danger-of-being-murdered-by-serial-killer) Indiana Jackson – a woman who was so beautiful, so gifted, so extraordinary, and so not aware of her power over men that she seemed totally unbelievable as she went about her work as a homeopath. Her daughter is the shy and reclusive, but brilliant, Amanda, who spends her time playing an online game called “Ripper” with other teens where they solve murders. Amanda’s father – Indiana’s ex – is luckily a SF homicide cop so that gives everybody access to detailed police information. Amanda’s grandfather is her best friend and plays Ripper, too. When Indiana is finally abducted in about disk 10, Amanda makes it her job to figure out who the killer is and save her mother in time.

THIS PART CONTAINS SPOILERS.

Now, someone who has read this book please tell me: who WAS that killer?? He had like five different names and aliases and he was someone I didn’t even remember from earlier in the novel when we were getting the back story to birth of all those other characters. What??? And all those other people he killed were related to him and his crazy, feral, abused, neglected youth, but why did he want to kill Indiana?? Did she maybe reject him? (I have to say I do struggle with following books while driving sometimes and I can’t really rewind). Also, this was looooong. I just looked it up on Amazon and saw it has over 500 pages. I believe it.

So – in a nutshell – if you want great character descriptions and Allende’s writing, you might like this. If you want a fast-paced thriller, skip this one. My expectations were really high, so that didn’t help.

But Isabel, I still absolutely love your (other) books!

PS – forgot to mention the narrator, Edoardo Ballerini — LOVED his smooth voice!

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Review: The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel

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I’m a huge fan of Nordic crime novels and when I saw this one come up on Net Galley, I was excited to get it.

THE FORGOTTEN GIRLS starts with a young woman being found, dead, in a forest in Denmark. She looks unkempt – almost feral – but she has no identification on her. Investigator Louise Rick gets a tip that the girl is a twin that used to live in a nearby institution, only thing is, that girl is officially deceased. Other murders and attacks on local women get Louise to thinking that the crimes may all be related and go back for years. However, until she can figure out who this first girl is, and what she was doing in the woods, the key to whole mystery will remain hidden.

I really enjoyed this fast-paced, well-plotted novel. This is my first Sara Blaedel book, but apparently the Louise Rick series is quite popular and there are several other books. This story does have passages of graphic violence and the overall premise, once it’s all figured out, is fairly disturbing; however, I did like it and look forward to reading more books by Blaedel. Rick is a multi-layered character – far from perfect – and I rooted for her as the protagonist.

Thank you, Net Galley and Grand Central Publishing, for my review copy!

You can see it on Amazon – where I am an Associate:

The Forgotten Girls

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Audiobook Review: THE SNOWMAN by Jo Nesbo

I knew Jo Nesbo from his well-written and hilarious children’s books featuring Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder. I had heard that he also wrote Scandinavian crime fiction, so I grabbed THE SNOWMAN on audio when I was at the library. All I can say is that this a very different kettle of fish from his children’s books!

THE SNOWMAN starts with a young boy waiting for his mother as she is visiting her lover. It is cold and wintry and there is a snowman. Flash forward and he is now a serial killer. His calling card is a snowman at the scene. The killings are brutal and bloody and not something I could listen to when the kids were in the car! Harry Hole, Nesbo’s detective protagonist from a number of his novels, needs to get to the bottom of the killing spree. Harry has his own issues and demons, though, but along with a new partner works tirelessly to solve the crimes. Several times they think they have the killer, but they are wrong. Soon Harry finds himself in the killer’s sights.

This was a well crafted book (ably executed by reader Robin Sachs) that kept me guessing and guessing. It was much “rougher” than I was expecting and I couldn’t play it around my kids or at school while waiting for them (explicit sexual content, language, violence, gore). At some points I was even a bit “grossed out” (remember – I’m kind of a cozy mystery gal). I would read more by Nesbo, though, as I think he’s a talented writer. (And my apologies to him that my keyboard won’t allow me the Nordic slash that his last name requires).

You can see it on Amazon where I am an Associate:

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Review: THIS IS THE WATER by Yannick Murphy

I had heard some chatter about this book while I was at BEA this spring, but I couldn’t find an ARC around, thus I pre-ordered it for my kindle. It downloaded last week when it was published and I started it on the plane ride home from California.

Wow! What a read this was!

THIS IS THE WATER focuses on a New England swim team and the parents of the girls on the team. One of the parents is struggling in her lackluster marriage. Another parent is sure her husband is having an affair. A third parent is an annoying and interfering mother. Along with the daily intricacies of life, a serial killer is stalking one of the girls and when he strikes, their whole swim team world is temporarily turned upside down.

This was the type of book that once I started, I could not put it down. Not only was there a lot of information on the main characters and their trials and tribulations, but the focus on the murder and the killers’ motives and actions served as a subplot. I wanted to see if he would be caught. I wanted to see if Annie’s marriage could be saved. Was Paul having an affair? Would the killer strike again? Would annoying Dinah ever stop being annoying?

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how this book is written in a unique and innovative style. The entire book is written in the present tense (hence, “this is the water”). The style is almost that of a children’s book: “This is the water” etc. While some may find this different (or even annoying), I found it almost lulling, similar to a gentle lapping of (wait for it!) water. And while we are onlookers throughout,  at times we are Annie, and the story switches to second person:”You go the pool.” etc. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel written in second person. Somehow, reading it that way made me identify very closely with Annie. It was almost uncomfortably creepy. While I’m sure this style wouldn’t work for some readers, I absolutely loved it and found it quite brilliant.

So – I highly recommend this book (one of fave summer reads so far!) for those who want the suspense and intrigue and the distinct writing style of Ms. Murphy.

You can see this book on Amazon where I am an Associate:

 

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YA Review: MARIE ANTOINETTE, SERIAL KILLER by Katie Alender

I saw MARIE ANTOINETTE, SERIAL KILLER at the YA session at BEA but quite frankly, I walked past it. Marie Antoinette – serial killer?? It sounded rather absurd, plus the cover had a costumed girl with blood on her – ick (just a note here: looks like the blood didn’t make it to the final cover). However, when they were doing the session, they mentioned it as a good example of the “mash up” genre: part mystery, part historical fiction, part horror, part supernatural, part contemporary. The speaker recommended it, so I immediately slipped back to the table and grabbed a (free) copy. I have to say – I really enjoyed reading it!

MARIE ANTOINETTE, SERIAL KILLER starts with high schooler Colette Iselin preparing for a class trip to France. She is struggling with her parents recent break up and the family’s new, strained, financial situation. She can’t wait to get away with her (rather mindless and not very nice) friends, to explore the place where her family has its roots. Colette’s school group has barely gotten their feet on terra firma when they hear about a serial killer running loose – beheading victims, all of whom are from long-standing French/Parisian families. Colette sees a costumed young woman and realizes she is seeing Marie Antoinette’s ghost. As you might guess, Colette realizes she may be the next victim and needs to figure out the how and why of the murders in order to stop them. Along the way she is helped by their friendly teen tour guide (insert romance!), and she comes to realize that perhaps she has been spending too much time focusing on the things that don’t matter and less time on the things that do.

All in all, this was an enjoyable read and cleverly plotted. I’m a big fan of all things French, so I love reading about people strolling through Paris and seeing the places I love.

Highly entertaining!

You can see this book on Amazon where I am an Associate:

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Review: She Can Run by Melinda Leigh

         For my beach reading, I downloaded (on Amazon Prime’s read-for-free) “She Can Run”. (Just a note- it looks like this book is currently $1.99 on Kindle). This novel is a thriller of romantic suspense, telling the story of Beth Baker and her two young children as she is running and hiding from her pretty much insane congressman husband (another note- she is formerly widowed and the children are from her first happy marriage). Beth comes to work on a friend of her uncle’s horse farm; however, the friend has died unexpectedly and the farm is now the property of his attractive, young nephew, Jack (who is on leave from the police force after an injury). What follows is a lot of suspense and romance as Beth tries to get her life together and stay alive while her estranged husband seeks her out and a serial killer takes an interest in her.

     I enjoyed this light read and found it perfect beach reading in Hawaii! I always like a character that shares my name, though the book’s Beth was far more svelte/attractive/in danger than I am! 🙂

     See this book on Amazon where I am an Associate:

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Review: The Pumpkin Man by John Everson

Looking for something scary/gory/thrilling to read this Halloween? Well, thanks to the folks at Net Galley, I received a free ARC of “The Pumpkin Man” by John Everson. In this 300+ page thriller, Jennica Murphy seeks to solve the mystery of her father’s gruesome death, while coming to know her aunt’s family by marriage and the strange and horrific legacy they left behind. Stories of the “pumpkin man” have left the small, Northern California town where Jennica is staying (at her aunt’s house which she inherited) on edge. Twenty years ago a man known for his incredible pumpkin carvings was accused of killing children and summarily lynched by the townsfolk. He was Jennica’s aunt’s husband. Now the murders are occurring again, each victim horribly dismembered and with pieces of pumpkin left at the scene of each crime. Using her aunt’s substantial library on the occult and magic, will Jenn solve the mystery of who is the killer before the pumpkin man gets her?

Well, I had my highs and lows on this book. For one thing, I kept reading because I wanted to know who was the murderer and why (though I had pretty much figured it out correctly). Also, so many people got whacked in this book that I kept wondering if the heroine was going to make it to the end! Also I of course love books that occur in Northern Cal as that’s where I’m from. And I like a strong female protagonist. It was creepy and scary and I can imagine it making a great made-for-tv movie around Halloween time. Those are all the good points.

That said, I had some things in this book that didn’t work for me. For instance, near the beginning, after her father’s murder (where pumpkin pieces had been found at the scene of the crime), Jennica finds pumpkin pieces in her bedroom left by an intruder. She doesn’t bother to tell not only the police, but her roommate (!) until much later. Also, as people start disappearing or turning up dead (beheaded, gutted, etc.) or bones/skeletons/skulls/jars of eyeballs are found in the basement, Jenn and her roommate and the two new boyfriends they picked up in a bar in San Francisco discuss several times how they shouldn’t call the police because, after all, who would believe them?? Finally, they involve the police, and figure out that the murders all tie into the family’s weird past and a whole series of subterranean passages, tombs, rooms, shrines, etc. located under the aunt’s house, that may just rival the catacombs of Paris. 

Everson’s writing was inconsistent at times in my opinion. At times it was solid. At other times word choice or sentence construction pulled me out of reading or even made me laugh. The murder scenes were graphic and gory, which I personally never enjoy reading. I have to say, though, I kept reading to the end!

See this book on Amazon where I am an Associate:

 

Thanks to Net Galley and the publishers at DP for my free kindle galley copy!

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