Saturday, May 23, 2015

Disclaimer by Renee Knight

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: "Disclaimer,' A Novel of Psychological Suspense by Renee Knight.

Renee Knight’s Disclaimer is a complicated novel, weaving together feeling and fear. Knight has twisted a story of decaying love, and built a psychological suspense tale that raises the hair on the back of your neck. 

Disclaimer takes us into a psychological story of pain and destruction. Catherine and Robert have been together for a very long time; love has gradually turned into affection and friendship. With their son Nick leaving home, Catherine is not sure how she will fill her time, however, but she is motivated to move forward.

There is a dark secret simmering within Catherine’s life, creating tension, bleeding into her relationship with both her son and her husband. Suddenly it appears that someone else may know what happened. Is it finally time to share her dark past with her husband?

When she finds a book on her porch, she is horrified to discover that it is connected to her secret. Sleep becomes elusive as she relives her transgressions. Can she bring herself to tell Robert the terrible secret she has kept for many years?

Before she can decide, a copy of the book is also delivered to her son Nick. Although he’d been too young to remember, he had been there–witness to the worst moment of her life.

At the same time, and unknown to Catherine, an elderly man continues to mourn the death of his only son years earlier. Finding photos that link Catherine with his death the man is determined to ruin her life. His anger is relentless and he vows to bring  Catherine’s secret to light.

As he moves forward with his vendetta, Catherine’s life begins to fall apart. Her husband abandons her, and colleagues question her integrity. What everyone now believes to have been a romance and adultery has become something more deadly and violent. Having held this secret so long can she bring the real truth to light?

Knight delivers a mystery that on the surface seems mundane. Yet, with the gradual unveiling, you find a depth of depravity and guilt. His characters are flawed, and have limited understanding the triggering incident, and as often happens with secrets, in the end, it becomes both more and less than what really occurred.

If you enjoy intense and mysterious work, you will find this a great fit for your library. If psychological suspense is what interests you, look no further; it is all tightly wound with a raw and gritty grief.

This would be a great book for a reading and discussion group.

Rating 5\5

Compulsion, A Novel by Meyer Levin

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Compulsion,' A Historical Drama by Meyer Levin.


Nature or nurture, both arguments are often used in why there are those among us who have that bit of themselves that blocks the way they feel about killing, torture, abuse or pain against others. The question is difficult, for many times killers come from the best of families. 

In Compulsion by Meyer Levin we follow the fictional story of true happenings from the 1920s. Depicting a story of an early example of an infamous crime, we are immersed in the fascination of the minds of two young men. Styled after the true life crime of Leopold and Loeb, we are taken back to a time in history where Psychology was still young in the field of criminology.  

Judd Steiner and Artie Straus have it all; they come from solid families, and are very intelligent. Yet somehow they have committed an unspeakable act. It appears that these two young men feel no remorse. 

As they are caught and the facts begin to come to life, they are in a fight for their very lives. For the prosecution is urging for hanging. Yet their attorneys are pushing for a mental defense. How could two such well known and smart young men do such a deed and then feel they could get away with it. 

As we are led deeper into the psyche of the individuals the twists and turns keep you reeling. There is a strange current that keeps you wondering how such an action could have occurred and with such a lack of remorse. 

Both sides of the law feel they are right. What is the real story and who is the main instigator? That is part of what they are trying to decipher. 

Levin has given us an interesting look at the kidnapping and murder of a student, by two bright and rising stars of the community. One is charming and the other not well liked due to his superior attitude. As police begin putting together the clues, one thing becomes very clear. There is a strange lack of remorse. As Levin begins to reveal the story peeling away the layers, we find a great deal of confusion. 

He takes you back to a period of time where psychology used in investigation was in its infancy and not everyone was buying in. His take on the situation takes you there and you find yourself along with the investigators and lawyers trying to find the true happening and reason for it. Yet does it really matter in a crime like this. 

If you enjoy mystery and historical happenings you will find this quite satisfying and unique. Levin takes us deep into the darkness of the minds of two young men who, to all purposes, had it all. This is a deep and interesting look at the reasoning behind their actions and you will find it both interesting and difficult to put down. 

This would be a great book for a reading group or a book club. 

Rating 5/5

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Love is Red by Sophie Jaff

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Love is Red', A Work of Fantasy and Horror by Sophie Jaff.

As times change and crimes evolve, the dating scene is just a bit more dangerous. Second guessing another person’s interest becomes a necessary ingredient to safety. Hooking up with strangers has a whole new threat, one that we read about the in the news more frequently than in the past.

In Love is Red  by Sophie Jaff, we follow the exploits of Katherine as she moves through the dating scene. Online dating is popular and when she meets David it seems they have much in common. Their bond begins to grow and she is surprised at the ease of their relationship. Feeling this must be love she is all in. There are a few oddities in their relationship but after her initial fear she has realized his sense of humor is somewhat strange.  They are actually very compatible with a great deal in common.

When she goes to a friend’s costume party she is sure she has blown it with David. As the party winds down she decides to try and meet him later. As she heads to the bedroom to change and is partly undressed while looking in the mirror she sees a man in the sitting on the chair right behind her. The atmosphere is tense and when he is unapologetic she does something she has never done before. She orders him to get up, and to disrobe. He seems furious, yet does as she asks, and as he completes she walks past him and leaves the room.

Feeling guilty she tries to put the episode behind her, yet she struggles with her shame. They come into contact again for it appears that this man, Sael is also a friend of David’s. Both keeping their prior meeting to themselves it is here that the problem begins. They begin to meet in secrecy, and she cannot stop, although she believes that her David is the one.

As all this is occurring in her life a brutal serial killer is walking the streets of New York killing young women. Because of the way they are sliced up he is called the ‘Sickle Man’. The killer narrates much of the story in this work and Katherine appears to be what drives him. His thoughts and actions are strange and mesmerizing, yet sadistic and brutal. Katherine has no idea that she is the target behind it all. Can she decipher what she is looking for and elude a killer that she does not realize is fixated on her?

Jaff builds a tale of fear and romance, with a strange twist of historical reference that seems to drive her killer. Her interplay between the protagonists keeps you guessing, and they are all just a bit off kilter. The narrative of the killer as he chooses his prey and continues until he releases them in death is both sick and dramatic.

The story within the story of the Maiden of Morwyn Castle is interesting although for me a bit distracting. It seems to have some bearing on the outcome and the background driving the killer, but I found it a bit distracting; interesting, but strange in the setting.  However it does not take away from the story and the connection is there.

If you enjoy horror and mystery as well as romance and love you will find this work a great addition to your library.

It would also be a great book for a reading club with a great deal of discussion about the dangers of dating strangers.

Rating 4/5

Killer, Come HIther by Louis Begley

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Killer, come Hither,' An Action Filled Mystery by Louis Begley.

Crossroads and decisions in life create a portrait of who we become. They help us to develop and grow. The reasons for those decisions are often necessary, yet at times enough thought does not go into the choice. How those resolves shape us is different for everyone.

In Killer, Come Hither by Louis Begley we are introduced to Jack Dana, an avid student from Yale with an amazing future ahead of him. When 9/11 happens, he makes a decision to join the military, to bring safety back to his country.  Injured by a snipers bullet, he begins writing as he heals at the Walter Reed Hospital. His uncle is an attorney and with his connections, Jack's work is published. A surrogate father figure he means a great deal to Jack.  With Jack's work becoming successful, he has much to be grateful for.

During a three month sojourn to South America, Jack learns that his beloved uncle is dead, clearly suicide by hanging. Jack does not believe the verdict and begins digging with the help of his uncle’s associate Kerry black and a college friend Scott Prentice who now works with the CIA. When Jack discovers the truth he knows that honesty may not prevail, for a great deal of money and power is involved. Can he bring the killers to justice as they deserve, or must his rogue tendencies be the executor of their integrity.

Begley develops a great persona for Jack, he is sharp, vulnerable, and bold, an eclectic mix of differences that make him at once flawed, but both honest and courageous.  Kerry is a great addition to bring out the softer side and she also adds a tenseness that grips you.  The knowledge and power of Jack's friend Scott Prentice brings it all together into an intriguing yet painful mystery.

This is a deep look at morality and morals. Can money create that feeling of being above the law. There is a certain incredulity of feeling as you wonder if politics and wealth could really create such a horrifying ending for a man who did so many things right. Begley does a great job of making you feel as though you are looking at true occurrences.

If you enjoy mystery and suspense you will find this the work for your library. Begley takes you to a place that is uncomfortable. Be prepared to spend some time on this work for you will have difficulty putting it down. His characters stay with you in the end.




Rating 4/5

The Blondes by Emily Schultz

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'The Blondes', A Horror Story by Emily Schultz.

To have a strain of disease that rocks the globe is always the stuff of horrors, the possibility of the beginning of the end for civilization. Yet each beginning of such illness seems to create a frenzy of those who search deep and find a solution thereby relegating the apocalypse to the background of thoughts one more time.

In The Blondes by Emily Schultz, we are introduced to a funny ‘tongue in cheek’ type of apocalyptic future where one after another horror and death or deaths are caused by blonde women throughout the world. Trying to stem the tide of killings, the research shows the only connection to be the color of the women’s hair. That the women generally die closely thereafter the episode makes for difficulty in finding the cause. The illness does not seem to differentiate between false blondes or the real thing, it also reaches out to light reds and highlights. Marshal Law is imposed and women rounded up and placed in camps for verification the disease is not just dormant and ready to come to the surface and create more horror. Each is tested and held, as the world turns crazy.

Hazel Hayes becomes the voice of the information, narrating though this crazy psychological conundrum as she tries to decipher if the disease will attack her as well. As the narrative moves further into a strange twisting tale of an epidemic causing women to go to great lengths to conceal their hair, even she is looking at making the change. As stores sell out all the darkest colors, pandemonium erupts, causing even more disaster.

As Hazel finds herself on the run, we find she is pregnant through one of her professors in college; she has very light red hair and is being hunted even as she updates the information. Her life is a bit like those around her but her pregnancy creates a strong sustainability for her, as most are not as afraid of her and are willing to help. While the pregnancy is unwanted, due to the circumstances she is hiding out herself and unwilling to seek an abortion. Yet when she goes in search of her baby’s father, she finds only his wife. Together through mutual dislike they form a bond over the child, moving away and in together for there is a small amount of safety in numbers.  What will happen to them as the world begins persecuting blondes and blonde derivatives?

If you enjoy horror and mystery this is an interesting look at how beauty kills. If you enjoy humor you will find yourself at times incredulous at the depths the women will go, and all the way through you will find a story of hope and friendship, but also brutality and abuse.

This would be a fun work for a reading and discussion group. There are pockets of horror and humor that compete evenly or possibly not. Only you can decide.

Rating 4/5

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Rock With Wings by Anne Hillerman

 Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Rock With Wings,' A Mystery by Anne Hillerman.

In Rock With Wings by Anne Hillerman, Jim Chee and his wife Bernadette Manuelito are finally able to put work behind them, to get away from their police work and help a relative get his business on its feet.  Part of the Navajo Tribal police they are ready for some down time. But their vacation is slated to be very short as each is called back in on a different case.

Chee follows the case of a missing woman from a movie location, and is still able to help his family friend. Yet once he thinks his case is complete it only becomes more cryptic. He is relieved to find the missing woman in good health until he stumbles across a gravesite very close to where she is taking pictures. Now since she is a part of the group making a zombie movie, he is unsure if it is a prop or the real thing.  His search brings him up against another mystery needing to be solved.

His wife Bernadette has her hands full dealing with a drug bust and trying to decipher the mystery of a fire in the middle of nowhere, as she also begins to look into a solar energy company that is trying to develop on Navajo land. Nothing makes sense as she follows the clues.

Hillerman continues to bring us the goods with her trio of investigators for even as Chee and Manuelito move in differing directions they still call in their mentor Leaphorn for advice. Her characters are intense and captivating. The separation of her heroes seems to create doubt and insecurity about their relationship, although each is certainly sure of their own feelings, just not as sure of that of their partner.  That adds its own sense of feeling in a strained atmosphere of crime that creates a tenseness in the individual situations.

Having two separate crimes being investigated individually with the input of their mentor, you are drawn between the differences of investigation, but also into how family plays a part in the Navajo Nation and in everything thing they do.  The emotions are well written, and with the separation of the crimes and the differing mysteries at play it is difficult to find a good place to stop and put the book down for later.

If you enjoy romance, mystery, Native American lore, and family you will find this book is what you are looking for. Hillerman gives us just enough of each to keep us both intrigued and entertained.

This would be a great book for your library, or for that of a reading and discussion group. The familial ties as well as the lengths people go to follow their dream will create a great deal of fodder for discussion.

Rating 4/5

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

End of Days, Book Three of Penryn and the End of Days by Susan Ee

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'End of Days', Book Three of 'Penryn & the End of Days,' A Dystopic Novel by Susan Ee.

We often hear of or read stories about the end of days. What will occur–is there truly such a possibility. The apocalypse has been the center of controversy for years, and still, will there be such an end.

In End of Days, Book Three of Penryn and the End of Days by Susan Ee, we follow one such conclusion.  Penryn and her sister Paige are right in the middle of the firestorm of change.  Having gone through much pain and turmoil they have battled many of their demons and hope that soon they can help put an end to the death and destruction of their home. Yet for Penryn all is bitter sweet. Her younger sister is now the leader of an insect culture, while Penryn and Raffe, a fallen angel, take their battle directly into the war-zone.

Raffe though needs some help to replace his own real wings, for his borrowed ones are those of a demon. Who will trust such an angel in any battle?

Beliel, a demon who has tried and failed to destroy Raffe has much to answer for, yet he is only a husk of his former self. He shouldn’t even still be alive after the wounds he sustained. But for now he still has many of the answers needed to end the war.  As Penryn rides safely in Raffe’s arms, she is devastated by the death and pain that is revealed below her. Can they pull on all their resources and stop the angel hordes from completing the work they began–the final task of cleansing the earth.

Ee has given us a war and a world in turmoil. There is darkness and adventure, but also an underlying faith that will hold even in the worst of situations. The strength of will and mental toughness in her protagonists are the secret to moving them forward, especially when the answers to their questions begin to come in. There is more than imagined, and some of the answers can only lead to continued darkness.

If you enjoy reading epic adventures, wars, romance and end of earth scenarios you will find this an amazing work of depth and differences.  Where many look to the angels for help, Ee takes you in an entirely different direction, one where the destruction is caused by such beings. The strength of spirit and the epic battles will keep you guessing and entertained.

While this is the final installment of a series, you are easily able to pick up where the other works left off, although you will find yourself more than interested in finding the other books to learn how Penryn and Raffe have come to be together and why the earth is under attack.

This would be a fun book for a reading group as well as a discussion group. There is usually much to discuss in works that create bits of controversy. This is sure to be one of those works, for how do you choose sides.


Rating 4/5