The Surrogate by Louise Jensen

The Surrogate
by
Louise Jensen

Rating:

How far would you go to have a family?  After trying for years and two failed adoptions, Kat and Nick wonder if they will ever become parents. Kat is shattered and Nick wants to take a break, until Kat’s friend Lisa shows up.

Did you ever think about surrogacy?” she asks.

It seems like the perfect solution, but in any psychological thriller, reader beware. Nothing is at it seems.

Set in England, The Surrogate is a tale of lies, deception and secret painful pasts. Kat and Lisa were girlhood friends, but now there’s a wall between them because of a deadly car accident in which Kat’s boyfriend Jake died. Kat left town to shake off her misery and meets Nick, a chance for happiness.

Nick has his own secret past, however and something isn’t right about Lisa. What to do? Keep reading this exciting story in which even the most imaginative reader won’t guess how it ends.

As the pregnancy progresses, Lisa’s motives come into question. Why is she so evasive? Why does she keep asking for money? And something isn’t right with Nick. Secret text messages and lies about where he’s going make Kat think the worst. Is she being paranoid? But what about the scary figure lurking outside their house?

The author mixes in plenty of side characters with murky and abusive tendencies and the story proceeds with great momentum, as Kat continues to make foolish decisions that dig her deeper into a dark and complicated character dynamic.

I enjoyed reading this fast-paced and entertaining thriller, loaded with twists and turns and plenty of opportunity to get mad at Kat for her bad decisions. Instead of trying to figure it out, I went along for the ride and was rewarded with a wild finish. I also love the cover, which made me want to dig right into the story.

While I thought the story was excellent, I was frustrated with an assortment of grammar mistakes, particularly involving the use of “me” and “I” as well as misplaced apostrophes. These errors take away from the polish of the story. I received my copy of The Surrogate before its September 25 release, so perhaps these mistakes have been corrected.

I recommend The Surrogate to readers who like modern suspenseful stories about relationships.

I received a copy of The Surrogate from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Advertisements

The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian

The Flight Attendant
by
Chris Bohjalian

Rating:

What’s the best thing to do when you wake up after a night of heavy drinking and discover you are in bed with a man who has been brutally murdered? Flight attendant Cassie Bowden doesn’t remember much about her night in the lavish Royal Phoenician hotel in Dubai, but even in a blackout, she can’t believe she could have slashed Alexander Sokolov’s throat. Head pounding, she has no time to think. In a moment of self-preservation, she follows her instinct to get out fast. Can she get back to New York before the maid service discovers Sokolov’s body? Will the authorities trace his death to Cassie?

In or out of the country, Cassie has big problems, ranging from years of drinking to the present problem of running from a murder scene in a foreign country. She may have believed Sokolov was just another friendly hookup, but there is much beneath the surface. Spies, international intrigue and a mysterious woman named Miranda enrich an already exciting plot. As the authorities zero in on her, Cassie’s reckless and drunken behavior only dig her deeper into trouble. Old friends, coworkers, family and new one-nighters keep the reader guessing who’s really on Cassie’s side and, as the bad characters emerge, one thing becomes clear:  her life is in danger.

I thoroughly enjoyed this exciting and modern story about being in the wrong place at the wrong time and in which bad judgment gets mixed up with dangerous characters. In addition, readers will appreciate the way Bohjalian adds many references to literature, rounding out his characters and enhancing the story’s themes. Relationships gone bad is one of his primary themes, as Cassie tries to reconcile her father’s alcoholism and the mysterious Miranda struggles to understand her own father.

Careful reading at certain points is required for some of the more complicated plot developments, but the reader is always rewarded with helpful summaries.

The story drives through a nail-biting confrontation between its players and concludes with a satisfying wrap-up. I recommend The Flight Attendant to readers who enjoy suspense and studies of human relationships.

I received an ARC of The Flight Attendant from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars
by
E. Lockhart

Rating:

Something bad happens during Cadence Eastman’s fifteenth summer on the family’s private island off Martha’s Vineyard. Cady, her cousins Johnny and Mirren and their friend Gat were inseparable and fearless that summer and they would risk everything to break free from the oppressive, greedy and narrow minded Sinclair family pressures.

After an unexplained accident, Cady struggles to remember the events that sent her to the hospital and left her with debilitating migraines. Cady tells us what she can: “I used to be strong, but now I am weak. I used to be pretty, but now I look sick.” She wants to know, especially about Gat, but her family stays quiet and keeps her away from Beechwood Island. Everything is different when she returns for her seventeenth summer, but who will help her remember why?

Who can resist a book about three generations of a wealthy New England family, inseparable friends (nicknamed the Liars), rivalries and teenage love? E. Lockhart does a great job setting the scene:  money, interesting family drama and good looking people with strong chins spending their summers on an idyllic private island. Keeping appearances and hiding weakness are Sinclair rules and the reader soon sees that this kind of lying runs in the family. That’s enough for me, but The Liars is much bigger and is full of mystery and suspense. Lockhart leads the reader through a series of jumps between present and past, filling in details, but leaving a shocking discovery to the final pages.

This is a terrific Young Adult story about how the mysterious events of one summer force an entire family through painful changes that just may bring them closer. I recommend The Liars to readers who like suspenseful family dramas.

I read We Were Liars as part of my Build a Better World Summer Reading Challenge to read a book suggested by a friend.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Her by Harriet Lane

Her
by
Harriet Lane

Rating:

Nina Bremmer has it all. She’s sleek and sophisticated. Her painting career is successful. Her marriage is solid and all is good with her teenage daughter. Their upscale London home reflects a perfect life. But nothing is at it seems because no one can get away from a painful past.

Strange and dangerous emotions surface when Nina sees Emma Nash in a park. As Nina watches Emma from a distance, she’s sure this is who it is, so many years later. She doubts Emma will remember and that’s good. It’s Nina’s perfect chance to make things right. Right in her own head, that is.

It’s not easy to review a psychological suspense story, because the reading experience of a book like this depends on knowing nothing at the beginning and learning a little bit at a time. Her is a twisted story of one woman who stalks another, messes with her family and plans an unnamed revenge. The reader is along for the ride, unable to stop the process.

Harriet Lane has a clean writing style and is very good at describing people and relationships. She chooses her details carefully and makes it clear what is important to know and remember. Tension builds slowly as she reveals the history, bits at a time, between Nina and Emma. Lane makes the reader equally uneasy with dangerous settings, as Emma is unknowingly manipulated.

Both Nina and Emma tell their story, in alternating chapters that describe the same events. In this style, Lane shows how different, and dangerous perceptions can be. I wanted to corner Emma and tell her to watch out!

Her is a fast read that reaches a dreadful but ambiguous conclusion just as Emma begins to put it all together. While I enjoyed the lead-up, I was a little disappointed with the abrupt finish, as were many Amazon readers. I would have liked more explanation and tie-ups at the end, and that’s coming from a reader who likes open endings. Still, I recommend Her to readers who enjoy psychological thrillers because the characterizations and settings were excellent.

How do you feel about abrupt or open endings?

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

The Seneca Scourge by Carrie Rubin

The Seneca Scourge
by
Carrie Rubin

Rating:

It started with a cough and a sneeze on an airplane, but it became much more. One sick man brought more than luggage home from a long trip that began in Nairobi and ended in the coastal town of Seneca, Massachusetts.

“Did you ever think you’d be caught up in something so big?” That’s what Dr. Sydney McKnight overhears in the hallway of Boston General Hospital. They don’t know the half of it, she thinks. Sydney is an infectious disease fellow when a baffling flu pandemic strikes and threatens catastrophic losses, with no cure in sight. Doomed patients fill hospital beds while doctors and nurses scramble to treat a puzzling strain of Influenza C.

Leading the research team is the renowned Dr. Casper Jones, a new infectious disease attending physician. He may be there to help, but there’s something strange about Casper. His perfect features, impeccable attire and unusual way of speaking raise flags and the more Sydney gets to know him, the more questions she has. For one, she wants to know about the new orderly, Jackson Bryant. She has spotted Jackson talking secretively with Casper more than once. What is their relationship and why has she never seen Jackson on her shifts?

Sydney’s part-time boyfriend, Dr. Mitch Price doesn’t trust Casper either, but for different reasons.  Mitch is certain that their cooling romance is because of Casper. Maybe it is or maybe there’s just not enough spark to keep it going. They hardly have time to ponder the reason, as more and more people fall sick. But Sydney knows she can’t put Mitch off forever.

As doctors, nurses and staff rush from room to room, and more patients die, they wonder if this is just the beginning. Strange as he is, could Casper save the day?

The Seneca Scourge is a dramatic medical thriller with a quick-moving plot and an exciting science fiction twist. Author Carrie Rubin hooks the reader with the story of a deadly virus and takes it to new dimensions as she examines the ethics behind developing a cure. Sydney hits many roadblocks as she tries to understand hidden motives, strange dynamics and big secrets. And when she finally discovers the villain, it may be too late. Can the story’s sleeper heroes beat the bad guys?

Rubin tells a very good story. Her style is casual and fluid, filled with subtle humor, interesting characters and a nice dose of young professional angst. Just enough medical jargon and descriptions show how hospitals run and the politics within, an added reader interest. The story’s finish leaves some unknowns, giving the reader a bit to think about.  It’s a well-crafted debut novel.

I recommend The Seneca Scourge to thriller and science fiction readers who like to jump into exciting plots. And click here to check out Rubin’s second medical thriller, Eating Bull.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

The Blackhouse by Peter May


The Blackhouse
by
Peter May

Rating:

Edinburgh detective Fin Macleod tried to escape a troubled life on the Isle of Lewis, but now he’s been pulled back home to investigate a copycat murder.  Set in the small village called Crobost, an isolated point of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, Fin must confront his painful past, broken friendships and loss.  What follows is an excellent crime story, the first in The Lewis Trilogy, and one which is clouded by Fin’s conflicted character and Scotland’s ever-changing landscape.

The Crobost victim is schoolmate Angel Macritchie, the playground bully who preyed on the weak.  No different now, most in town were not sorry to see him gone, but his brutal murder leaves many questions.  Fin’s investigation is intertwined with the people he knew on the island, and he can’t avoid facing his boyhood friend, Artair Maccines and the girl they rivaled over, Marsaili Macdonald.

Clues point to several suspects, whose stories help depict what life is like in this treeless and remote land, where young and restless teenagers face bleak futures as crofters or mariners.  One of these stories is the ritual of the guga harvest, an annual trip to the rock island called An Sgeir, where a selected group of men spend two weeks killing young gannets to bring back to their people.  The trip through rough seas is dangerous, the time on the rock is treacherous and is a rite of passage for those who are chosen.  Reference to an unspoken tragedy leads the reader through an additional investigation of what happened the year Fin was selected to go.

May tells the story, bit by bit, alternating between the present and Fin’s first-person telling of the events that drove him off the island years earlier.  As Fin uncovers motives and truths, they lead to an incomprehensible finish, explained only in the book’s final pages and suggesting future relationships between its characters.

Mystery and crime readers will enjoy this interesting plot and setting.  I recommend The Blackhouse to these readers and anyone who likes conflicted characters and complicated relationships.  Enjoyed and highly rated by everyone in my library Whodunits Book Club, we are looking forward to completing the series!

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Who’s That Indie Author? Nicholas Nash

Who's That Indie Author pic

the-girl-at-the-bar

Author name:  Nicholas Nash

Genre:  Mystery, Thriller, Fiction

Book:  THE GIRL AT THE BAR

Bio:  Nicholas Nash is the exciting new author of The Girl At The Bar, a psychological thriller about the mysterious disappearance of a brilliant cancer researcher and the quest to find what happened to her. Nicholas resides in the concrete jungle of Manhattan in New York City with his wife and three children. An accomplished finance professional, he has a passion for reading fiction and non-fiction books which inspired him to write an intriguing thriller. Nicholas hopes you enjoy his work. He can be reached at thegirlatthebar@gmail.com.

Favorite thing about being a writer:  Working at your own pace and interacting with readers.

Biggest challenge as an indie author:  Being good at marketing and promotion, in addition to being a good author. Wearing multiple hats basically and doing a good job in multiple roles to be able to get some success.

Favorite bookAtlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and The Prize by Daniel Yergin.

Contact Information:
Website: authornicholasnash.com (under construction)
Facebook: @AuthorNicholasNash
Instagram: NicholasNashAuthor
Goodreads
Amazon


Are you an indie author?  Do you want to build your indie author network? Why not get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author?

Email bvitelli2009@gmail.com for a bio template and other details, and follow along on Book Club Mom to join the indie author community!

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

 

Merging genres – it’s all good!

Source: Pixabay
Source: Pixabay

Is it my imagination or are genres starting to merge?  When is a mystery just a mystery and when is a suspense only a suspense?  And when did historical fiction sneak in?  No matter, the good books keep coming and that’s all we want!

Here’s a list of some quality mystery/suspense/historical fiction that are sharing space on my bookshelf.


blood of the prodigalBlood of the Prodigal by P.L. Gaus – 3 Bookmarks:  Light Amish mystery set in Ohio


Brooklyn on FireBrooklyn on Fire by Lawrence H. Levy – 4 Bookmarks:  Intriguing historical mystery in 1890s Brooklyn


Child 44

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith – 3 ½ Bookmarks:  Someone is murdering children in Joseph Stalin’s Russia.


Anyone else remember this cover?Coma by Robin Cook – 3 Bookmarks:  Creepy throwback medical thriller from the 70s


Death in a Dacron Sail coverDeath in a Dacron Sail by N. A. Granger – 4 Bookmarks:  Amateur sleuth Rhe Brewster solves a murder in Maine


Death in a Red Canvas Chair coverDeath in a Red Canvas Chair by N. A. Granger – 3 Bookmarks:  Rhe Brewster’s first case


defending jacobDefending Jacob by William Landay – 3 Bookmarks: What do you do when your teenage son is a murder suspect?


Eating BullEating Bull by Carrie Rubin – 4 Bookmarks:  Medical/psychological thriller that tackles obesity and the food industry


Elizabeth is Missing picElizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey – 3 ½ Bookmarks:  An old woman with dementia is sure her friend is missing.


frank mary shelleyFrankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley – 4 Bookmarks:  Classic monster story about good and evil


gonegirlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn – 4 Bookmarks:  You can’t believe your spouse in this creepy thriller.


Jane Eyre picJane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë  – 5 Bookmarks:  What are those noises upstairs at Thornfield Hall?


reconstructing ameliaReconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight – 3 Bookmarks:  Teen secrets and cover-ups after a classmate dies


Second Street StationSecond Street Station by Lawrence H. Levy – 4 Bookmarks:  Brooklyn’s first female detective solves a high profile murder.


the girl with the dragon tattoo pic           The Girl who played with fire pic           The girl who kicked the hornet's nest pic           The Girl in the Spider's Web

Stieg Larsson Millennium Series – Lisbeth Salander Novels – 4 Bookmarks:  Suspenseful series about an enigmatic but kick-ass heroine


The Good NeighborThe Good Neighbor by A.J. Banner – 3 Bookmarks:  Questions emerge after a neighbor’s house burns to the ground.


the caged graves picThe Caged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni – 5 Bookmarks:  A mystery about two caged graves outside a cemetery


The DinnerThe Dinner by Herman Koch – 4 Bookmarks:  Twisted murder tale about a family cover-up


the-farm-by-tom-rob-smithThe Farm by Tom Rob Smith – 3 Bookmarks:  Who is telling the truth, Daniel’s mother or father?


The ImmortalsThe Immortals by Jordanna Max Brodsky – 4 Bookmarks:  A modern day Artemis solves a murder in Manhattan


The RackThe Racketeer by John Grisham – 3 Bookmarks:  Clever crime story about a murdered judge


The Silent Wife picThe Silent Wife by A. S. A. Harrison – 4 Bookmarks:  Marital twists and turns in this psychological thriller


What are your favorites in this new literary amalgam?

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

 

Summer Reading Challenge – The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Art by Ellen Forney

A Book That Has Been Banned

Rating:
5 book marks

Arnold “Junior” Spirit is trapped in a life of poverty on the Spokane Indian reservation and he has to do something about it.  Everyone around him is poor, but Junior has the additional problem of not fitting in on the reservation.  Skinny with a big head, thick black plastic glasses and prone to seizures, he’s been picked on and beat up his whole life.  Drawing cartoons helps him cope, but Junior knows what will happen if he stays.  It’s what has already happened to his mother and alcoholic father.  “They dreamed about being something other than poor,” he writes, “but they never got the chance to be anything because nobody paid attention to their dreams.”

Junior is good in school and knows that’s his ticket.  So when he asks his parents if he can switch to the all-white Reardon High School, one of the best schools in the state, they say okay.  They do that because they love him.

The switch costs Junior his best and only friend, Rowdy.  And it’s very different at Reardon where the kids have everything they want.  Will he be able to live in both worlds?  Junior’s sense of humor carries him through much, but he must reach deeper to survive a series of tragedies at home.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a semi-autobiographical account of Alexie’s life and is a terrific Young Adult coming-of age story.  Ellen Forney’s fantastic cartoon illustrations add an extra dimension to Junior’s character.  I chose it as part of my summer reading challenge to read a book that has been banned.

The Diary has been banned by many schools because of its depiction of sex and violence in the story.  (Click here to read more about Sherman Alexie and his response to this criticism.)  It has also won many awards, including the 2007 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature and has been named to several annual lists including “Best Books of 2007” by the School Library Journal and the 2008 “Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults” by the Young Adult Library Services Association.  I highly recommend it for older young adults, high school and adult readers.

Visit Alexie’s website at fallsapart.com.

Click here to read about a terrific short story by Alexie, “This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona”.


Follow along as I work my way through my 16 in 16 Challenge!

Book 1 – A Book You Can Finish in a Day:  The Good Neighbor by A.J. Banner
Book 2 – A Book in a Genre You Typically Don’t Read:  The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson
Book 3 – A Book with a Blue Cover:  The Vacationers by Emma Straub
Book 4 – A Book Translated to English:  I Refuse by Per Petterson
Book 5 – A Second Book in a Series:  Brooklyn on Fire by Lawrence H. Levy
Book 6 -A Book To Help You Learn Something New: The Beginner’s Photography Guide by Chris Gatcum

Thanks for visiting – come back soon

Summer Reading Challenge – The Good Neighbor by A.J. Banner

The Good Neighbor

The Good Neighbor by A.J. Banner

A Book You Can Finish in a Day

Rating:
3 book marks

When children’s author Sarah Phoenix wakes to see her neighbor’s house engulfed in flames, she dials 911 and makes a quick call to her husband, Johnny McDonald, a prominent dermatologist, who is away on a business trip.  Then she rushes out to help.  Four-year-old Mia Kimball screams from an upstairs bedroom and Sarah scrambles up a ladder to save her.  Flames jump from the burning house to her own and Sarah’s efforts are cut short when she is struck in the head by a piece of burning timber.

In the tragedy’s aftermath, Sarah, her neighbors and the fire marshal in the sleepy town of Shadow Cove, Washington question how the fire could have started.  What had Sarah heard in her sleep, just before the fire broke out?  She remembers seeing Jessie, her teenage neighbor across the street that evening and wonders about Jessie’s suspicious-looking new boyfriend.  Who was in the road just before the fire broke out?  What had her neighbors seen?  And why hadn’t her husband answered her frantic call that night?

Something funny is going on as Sarah and Johnny salvage what they can from their home and move to a nearby cottage, owned by the town’s well-known realtor, Eris Coghlan.  Sarah becomes increasingly suspicious of her husband as she wonders about his past, his connections on their old street and to their new neighbors.

Many twists and turns muddle the mystery, but the truth comes out on the banks of a rushing river when love and obsession collide.

The Good Neighbor is a light romantic suspense story, a quick and enjoyable read.  Its strength is the story’s brisk pace.  Limited character development and some loose and implausible plot connections may frustrate some readers, but I was entertained and pleased with my “a book you can finish in a day” selection.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!