“That darkness (Gardiner & Renner #1” Lisa Black

Rated 4 stars **** 2016. Kensington Books. 308 p.

ThatDarknessMaggie Gardiner, forensic expert, has been called to help solve various crimes in the streets of Cleveland. As the cases of dead criminals mount, her forensic work helps her detect certain patterns in how and where they were killed. Soon she concludes that someone, possibly a police officer, is deliberately killing bad guys. As Maggie begins to get closer to the truth she doesn’t know that the killer is ready to make sure her hunches don’t develop into anything more substantial. After all, isn’t he doing a good thing by helping society?

The voices of Maggie and the killer are alternated to help readers learn about the role forensic scientists play in crimes and to view the mind of a vigilante. The question that resounds throughout “is it wrong to kill if the person you kill is a criminal?” will keep readers talking (and thinking) long after the last page is turned.

Recommended for Adults.

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“Amid the shadows” Michael C. Grumley

Rated 2 stars ** Ebook. 2013.

AmidTheShadowsA six-year-old who sees people’s souls is chased by “bad men” after they murder her mother. Churches are blown up across the country. A teen hacker plans the release of a virus so powerful it will bring China to its knees and cause the release of nuclear warheads from the United States and Russia. Police are kidnapped and murdered. Someone plots the demise of the planet through nuclear warfare – but only on the Northern Hemisphere. Through it all, faith in God will pull you through.

Yes, ALL of these play out on the pages of this book. Though filled with too many details about things not relevant to the plot, the book shows some promise and managed to keep my interest for a little while. It was frustrating that Grumley left so many unanswered questions. Some of my questions for him are: If Zahn was Ryan’s guardian, why did he act so menacing towards him and his father? Who was bleeding in the hallway when Sarah’s mother was killed? Will the detectives ever be found? Why did Rand have a black shadow? Why did it consume Zahn? How did Sarah know about Zahn’s history and how God felt about him? I have many more, but these are a start.

Normally I don’t review self-published books, as too many authors don’t use the basics of spell check, and have bad writing skills. However this book had some promise. I suggest Grumley get a good editor who can help him whittle through his ideas and decide on a main theme. This will allow him to focus on fleshing out specific ideas so as not to get caught up in too many plot twists that will cause the main storyline to get lost. Ultimately readers will not be left scratching their heads wondering what just happened.

Not recommended due to many unanswered questions.

“Three truths and a lie” Brent Hartinger

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Published August 2, 2016. Simon Pulse.

ThreeTruthsAndALieRob, his boyfriend Liam, their friend Mia and her boyfriend Galen decide to spend a fun weekend at Mia’s parent’s cabin. Located in the middle of a partly denuded rainforest in Washington State, the four friends expect to have a great time at the cabin’s lake telling truth and lie games and hanging out.

Within just a few short hours of arriving, the satellite phone they need to communicate in case of an emergency winds up missing. It doesn’t take long before a series of other unfortunate events turns the fun they’d anticipated having into terror, as it seems like someone doesn’t want them to leave. As the horror escalates, their reality becomes someone’s lie leaving it up to the reader to distinguish between the two.

I thought “Three truths and a lie” was interesting though some of the events seemed rather far fetched. It reminded me of what always happens to those who don’t pay attention in creepy 1960’s “B” slasher movies, and I will admit that the ending left me very surprised.

It’s because of Hartinger’s ability to deceive that I recommend his book for ages 16 and older.

“The Curse of Crow Hollow” Billy Coffey

Rated 3 stars *** 2015. Thomas Nelson. 406 pp. (Includes “Discussion Questions.”)

TheCurseOfCrowHollowSomething strange is going on in Crow Hollow. People say a witch on the mountain cursed the town many years ago, so have stayed away from her mountain out of fear. The day Cordelia and her friends decided to trespass on the witch’s mountain was the day something caused the girls in town to be stricken with a mysterious illness. As town residents try to find out why the witch has stricken them and how to rid themselves of her reach, they end up turning against each other in ways no one had ever thought could be possible.

A mysterious narrator takes readers through chaos of their own making in a supposedly religious town. Once actually face-to-face with the “evil” they heard about every Sunday morning from their Reverend, they forget what they’ve been taught. Casting suspicious eyes outward rather than inward serves only to fuel the fires of distrust. While echoing some events from the Salem Witch Trials, “The Curse of Crow Hollow” works to show readers what can happen when religion combines with hysteria rather than common sense.

Recommended for Adult readers.

“Finding Hope” Colleen Nelson

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. To be published April 12, 2016. Dundurn.

FindingHopeFifteen-year-old Hope can’t express herself except through poems she scrawls on her body, the wall, scraps of paper or any handy surface.

Something awful happened to Eric so, from anger, sadness and frustration, he turned to the sweet release of meth. Now an addict, cast out from his family and adrift on the sea of despair, he nurses revenge along with his broken dreams.

By transferring to a boarding school, Hope is sure she can transform herself and forget about Eric and his problems. Instead she gets involved with The Ravens, a popular group of girls who have their own plans for her. Their constant belittling and bullying soon leaves Hope drowning in her own sea of regret and loneliness, ready to throw away everything good in her life.

In alternate voices brother and sister tell their individual stories of loss, loneliness, despair and fear. Nelson’s short, cliffhanger chapters will keep teens reading until its very satisfying conclusion.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

“The Passenger” Lisa Lutz

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. Published March 1, 2016. Simon & Schuster.

ThePassengerWhen Tanya Dubois finds her husband’s body at the foot of the stairs, she is sure no one will believe it was an accident. Even though she didn’t kill him she’s afraid of what prying policemen will find hidden in her own life. Without a second thought she assumes a disguise and flees the scene. With this impetuous decision, Tanya reverts to life on the lam.

As Tanya crisscrosses the country, she manages to assume multiple identities, so many that I lost count and had to look at the table of contents to reorient myself. Her efforts to stay off the grid for 10 years involved ingenious types of survival tactics, several of which had me raising my eyebrows in disbelief. When she meets Blue, a fellow fugitive, their adventures become even more hair raising with some interesting similarities to Thelma & Louise.

As I tried to figure out who were Jo and Ryan and why they were emailing each other throughout the story, I was also trying to figure out Tanya’s identities, her back-story, and Blue’s motives. Though the storyline gets a bit confusing, the fast paced action will keep readers glued to their seats. The ending left me gasping out loud in disbelief, as Lutz was very sneaky. I never saw it coming.

Recommended for Adults.

I received this Advanced Reading Copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

“Cleopatra’s Shadows” Emily Holleman

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Published October 6, 2015. Little, Brown & Company. 358 pp. (Includes “The House of Ptolemy” family tree, “Classical Citations,” “Sources,” Sections with Author information on her research and inspiration for the book, Discussion Questions, and a Q & A with the author).

CleopatrasShadowIn alternating chapters Berenice (King Ptolemy’s daughter from his sister wife Tryphaena) and Arsinoe (her young half-sister by his concubine) tell their stories.

Berenice has harbored an intense hatred and thirst for revenge on her father for turning his back on her mother, siring children with his concubine, and forgetting all about her. With the help of her mother she orchestrates a coup, wresting the Alexandrian throne from the King, forcing him to flee with his favorite daughter Cleopatra.

Arsinoe was a young girl of 8, very close with her older sister Cleopatra and extremely naive. When her deposed father and sister sailed away and left her behind she was forced to grow up, depending on her own strengths for the first time in her life.

Both Berenice and Arsinoe face many difficulties in the changed world in which they find themselves. Both have eunuchs who rule their lives, both dislike their mothers, both feel alone and abandoned, and both find hidden strengths which help them combat the disorder of a changed kingdom while growing up without a parental hand.

“Cleopatra’s Shadows” is supposed to be based on Arsinoe, someone the historical record has largely ignored. However, despite strengths she sometimes showed, most of the book was filled with depictions of her strange dreams, which could easily have been left out of the narrative. I found them to be superfluous, and wish it had focused more on her and Cleopatra as the title intimates. I actually found myself drawn more to Berenice and her lonely search for love, which is pretty much why I gave this book three stars instead of two stars.

Recommended for Adults.