“The kept” James Scott

Rated 2 stars ** 2014. HarperCollins. 354 p. (Includes “Insights, Interviews & more.”)

The KeptIt’s Elspeth and her twelve-year-old son Caleb against the world of 1897 after three men killed her four children and husband when she was away from home. Only Caleb survived so, bonded by revenge, the two of them struggle through the wilderness seeking the nearest town. There Caleb gets involved with the local gangsters while Elspeth tries to survive the guilt she feels, knowing she was the reason her family was killed. Both she and Caleb have to control their demons if either expects to reach closure.

I was not a fan. The book meandered too much, and many questions weren’t answered. What was Elspeth and Jorah’s relationship in the beginning? Why did her father beat her so terribly if all she said was hello? I especially did NOT like the ending because, after taking readers through a convoluted path to get where Caleb and Elspeth finally arrived, why end the book so openly? These were just a few of my disagreements with “The kept.”

So, though I didn’t like it, I will leave it up to you Adult readers to decide if you want to read it or not.

 

“In a dark, dark wood” Ruth Ware

Rated 3 stars *** Scout Press (Simon & Schuster). 2015. 310 p.

In a dark, dark woodNora got an email that brought forth memories she’d been repressing for 10 years from when she’d been in love with James at the age of 16. Though it had ended badly, she’d never gotten over their relationship. Her ex-best friend Clare was getting married and Flo, her maid of honor, was writing to invite her to Clare’s Hen (bachelorette) party. After debating whether or not to go Nora decided to attend.

Six people showed up to a glass walled house buried deep in the spooky woods, where she finds out Clare is marrying James. With memories overwhelming her, Nora is desperate to leave but stayed to save face though no one has phone reception, the landline goes dead, and Flo is obsessed with pleasing Clare. Getting drunk, playing silly games and passing on snide comments about each other turn to seriousness when a Ouija board spells “murderer”, and the back door opens by itself in the middle of the night.

By this time they are all paranoid so, when someone comes up the stairs and is shot dead, no one remembers who did the actual shooting that killed James. Nora developed amnesia after the shooting but, for James’ sake, is determined to recover her memories and find out what happened that night. Who shot James? Did she do it?

The book started out slow and dragged through a few chapters before it started to pick up steam. I enjoyed the suspense, and whodunit feel. I had my suspicions, but was surprised when the villain was revealed. What I didn’t like were loose ends that weren’t explained, how much Nora reverted to her high school self around Clare, and why she went to the Hen when she wasn’t invited to the wedding.

Though the book had its hiccups I will recommend it to Adult readers who like suspense. It will definitely keep you guessing.

 

“Tigers, not daughters” by Samantha Mabry

Rated 2 stars ** ARC. ebook. Algonquin Young Readers of Chapel Hill. To be published March 24, 2020.

Tigers, not DaughtersThe four Torres sisters became three when Ana, their older sister, was found dead after falling out of her second floor window on her way to meet a boyfriend. Their father had given up on being involved in their lives when his wife died years earlier, so the three remaining sisters are forced to figure out how to go on without Ana.

As the youngest Rosa has always been a dreamer, spending hours listening to animals. She believes a dead bird and a missing zoo hyena are signs on the one-year anniversary of Ana’s death. She’s determined to figure out what they mean. Jessica coped by trying to become Ana. She has her old room and clothes and dates John, Ana’s abusive boyfriend. Iridian buries herself in her notebooks, writing lurid romance stories, and re-reading a favorite, battered book. As if all this drama isn’t enough, Ana’s ghost decides to haunt them.

The book blathers on through their lives, showing Rosa as air headed and fanatical, Iridian as lazy and clueless about the world around her, and Jessica as alternately weak and strong. My favorite character was Peter, a friend of their next-door neighbor and a co-worker of Jessica. I thought he had the strengths neither sister owned, and loved how he put John in his place.

I was not a fan of this book. I thought it was piecemeal, bouncing from one sister’s thoughts to another, and left open endings – why was Ana’s window broken when she died? Why did the father need money so much? It was also hard for me to believe that Iridian could leave school in 10th grade, and not have anyone there (other than her neighbors) notice her absence to report it to authorities.

Also, in my opinion, the sisters didn’t have to be named Torres, other than to sell a “diverse” book. Since it was set in Texas, the author must have assumed the main characters should have a Latino last name. However, they could just as easily been named Smith or Jones, as there was nothing cultural to happen that went along with the name Torres.

I will leave it up to readers, ages 16 and older, to decide if you want to read it or not. I would rather that I had not.

I received an advance copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“Darling Rose Gold” by Stephanie Wrobel

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. To be published March 17, 2020. Berkley (Penguin Random House).

Darling Rose GoldRose Gold had been a sickly child. Patty, her mother, took very, very good care of her. She made sure to get her to all the best doctors, and sacrificed her whole life to make sure Rose Gold had the best care. After almost 18 years of severe illnesses, her online boyfriend helped her realize Patty had been poisoning her over the years. With her mother in prison for 5 years, Rose Gold struggled to find a purpose for her life. Everyone saw her as a victim, but she wanted to be something more in their eyes.

When Patty was released from prison she had nowhere to turn, so Rose Gold made herself available. She needed to make sure her dear mother knows how much she loves and trusts her, because Rose Gold has a plan. It might not seem like anyone understands why she wants to be with the woman who ruined her life, but hadn’t she learned how to lie from the greatest liar in the world?

In alternate voices Patty and Rose Gold tell their complicated stories of revenge, love and hate going from past to present to fill in the missing gaps in the story. The author had me on the edge of my seat as I tried to suss out who was lying, who was telling the truth, and who was planning what to whom. I’ll have to admit she totally blindsided me, as I never saw Rose Gold’s plan coming AT ALL!

Highly recommended for Adults.

“Until proven innocent” by Laura Stewart Schmidt

Rated 3 stars *** ebook. ARC. Published October 18, 2018. Black Rose Writing.

Until proven innocentAlison loves her grandfather, but hates that Grandma put him in a nursing home.  When she visits him there, he mentioned something about a tragedy involving Grandma and a neighbor named Henry Spriggs who disappeared 50 years ago. Alison is intrigued. She loves mysteries, and is sure she can figure out what happened to Mr. Spriggs and clear her grandmother’s name.

The tragedy with the Spriggs family happened around the same time as the great flood of 1965, so Alison turns to old newspapers and residents at the nursing home for clues. With the help of her little brothers, Alison sneaks into the old Spriggs house. It’s soon to be demolished, and she’s looking for clues to help her investigation, so when she finds old letters from Henry to his sister mentioning someone named Cory who was stalking him, she is sure the mystery is almost solved. With time running out Alison starts to piece together information that appears to lead to Henry. What she doesn’t know is that someone else has been doing their own investigations, and they have no intention of having her find Henry.

I enjoyed the mystery and suspense of the story, even though it was pretty far fetched that a fifteen-year-old could solve a 50-year-old mystery, but I definitely did not enjoy the ending. It was like the ending of “It’s a wonderful life,” when Mr. Potter did not get what was coming to him.

I will recommend it for ages 13 and older, but will leave it up to you to decide if you want to read it or not.

“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.

“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.