Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Review: The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware


Goodreads Overview:

In this tightly wound, enthralling story reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s works, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. The sky is clear, the waters calm, and the veneered, select guests jovial as the exclusive cruise ship, the Aurora, begins her voyage in the picturesque North Sea. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a dark and terrifying nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…

With surprising twists, spine-tingling turns, and a setting that proves as uncomfortably claustrophobic as it is eerily beautiful, Ruth Ware offers up another taut and intense read in The Woman in Cabin 10—one that will leave even the most sure-footed reader restlessly uneasy long after the last page is turned.
 

Review:

This book was recommended to me by a former co-worker when I told her I was planning on going on a cruise???  Well, the Aurora isn't a typical cruise ship with hundreds or thousands of passengers. It is a luxury yacht with only ten plush cabins. The ship is getting ready to embark on its maiden voyage with a guest list consisting of media and travel writers, a photographer, potential financial backers, and the yacht's owner and his wife.  

Lo Blacklock has worked for Velocity travel magazine for years, but her boss is the one who usually takes advantage of the more upscale trips that come their way.  When her boss is laid up due to a complicated pregnancy, Lo is offered this once in a lifetime opportunity to sail on the Aurora.  She plans on networking and showing everyone how valuable she really is to the magazine. This may be just the beginning of bigger and better things to come. Unfortunately, she experiences a  rather traumatic event prior to embarking on the trip and isn't in the best frame of mind to schmooze or write.  Sleep deprivation and anxiety get the better of her and she decides to drink a bit too much to help cope.  She witnesses what she believes is a body being thrown overboard and immediately calls the staff to report it.  When all of the passengers are eventually accounted for, her story is dismissed.  Everyone tells her she was either too intoxicated or overly tired and didn't really see what she believes she saw.

Lo is convinced she did not imagine the event and continues to investigate.  The closer she gets to the truth, the more dangerous things become for her.  She refuses to let it go and eventually finds herself in the middle of a very twisted tale.  

The pace of the story was excellent and I was constantly on the edge of my seat anticipating what would happen next.  I never would have guessed what ultimately took place and couldn't believe the lengths someone would go through to orchestrate a murder.  The plan would have worked perfectly if only Lo hadn't been awoken by a scream from the cabin next door.  It wasn't even a scream of terror, but more of a scream of shock or surprise.  It was just enough to get her attention and then she heard the splash.

I love murder mysteries and found this book to be very enjoyable.  It was a fast read and really gave you a sense of what it can feel like being trapped on a boat at sea.  We also had no wifi or contact with the outside world when we were on our cruise.  When Lo felt like she was in danger she couldn't contact anyone and had no way off the boat.  She was trapped and at the mercy of the passengers and crew.  She had no idea who she could trust and really needed to play her cards right if she wanted to walk away from the voyage alive.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Review: The Silver Mask by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare


Goodreads Overview:

A generation ago, Constantine Madden came close to achieving what no magician had ever achieved: the ability to bring back the dead. He didn't succeed . . . but he did find a way to keep himself alive, inside a young child named Callum Hunt. Now Call is one of the most feared and reviled students in the history of the Magisterium, thought to be responsible for a devastating death and an ever-present threat of war. As a result, Call has been imprisoned and interrogated. Everyone wants to know what Constantine was up to-and how he lives on. But Call has no idea. It is only when he's broken out of prison that the full potential of Constantine's plan is suddenly in his hands . . . and he must decide what to do with his power. In this spellbinding fourth book of Magisterium, bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare take us beyond the realm of the living and into the dangers of the dead. 

Review:

It had been a while since I read the previous book in the series, but I did not have any trouble picking up where things left off.  At the start of the book Callum is in a magical prison, not because of something he actually did, but because of the potential he has for wrong doing.  He has never intentionally done anything evil and even keeps a mental checklist of how his actions measure up on the "Evil Overlord" scale. He tries to do what is right, but without his counterweight, Aaron, he doesn't know if he will be able to control his Chaos magic.

When Master Joseph tells Call to bring Aaron back from the dead, he believes it is an impossible task.  He uses Constantine's notes and Jericho's journal to look for anything that might help him uncover what Constantine was missing, but will the benefits of bringing Aaron back really outweigh the risks? Master Joseph believes having the ability to bring people back from the dead will put him in a position of power not even the Assembly will be able to counter.  But will Aaron really be the same as he was before he died or will he become another Chaos ridden puppet that simply obeys his creator's commands?

This series is geared towards middle school children, so the books are relatively short....200 pages.  They are long enough to challenge young readers, but not so long they lose their attention or focus. There was plenty of action to hold my interest, but I sometimes found Call's inner dialogue to be a bit much.  As an adult reading the series, I felt like it slowed down the pace and didn't really propel the plot forward.  The ending, however, wasn't at all what I was expecting.  I don't want to give away any spoilers, but I hope Call and his friends will be able to achieve some level of normalcy in the next installment.  They didn't spend any time at the Magisterium, which is their school, and were fighting just about everyone to prove Call's innocence for the majority of this book. They have certainly earned some rest and relaxation, but I am certain that is not what Holly Black and Cassandra Clare have in mind for the conclusion of this series.   

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Review: Biggest Flirts by Jennifer Echols


I picked up a copy of this book at BEA 2014.  Yes...that is correct - 2014.  I thought it looked really cute and even added all of the companion novels to my TBR list as they were announced, but never got around to reading them.  A few weeks ago I was looking for something light and fun to read at the pool and this finally jumped off the shelf at me.

Tia is getting ready to start her senior year of high school. She has a reputation for being a party girl, but she is also extremely smart and a talented drummer in the school's marching band.  Her mother left years ago and she has watched her three older sisters make epic mistakes in the relationship department.  As a result, she vowed to always keep it casual and to never have a boyfriend.  

Will is the new kid at school.  He recently moved from Minnesota to Florida and his entire world is turned upside down.  At his old school he was the drum captain, student council president, and a star hockey player.  Now that he has to start over, he is no longer the star of the show.

Tia and Will meet his first night in town and immediately hit it off.  When Will wants to continue their relationship she shuts him down due to her no dating rule.  As Tia gets to know him and sees everything they have in common, and the great chemistry and friendship they have developed, she begins to question why she is holding onto this rule.  Then she becomes jealous when Will starts dating someone else and she knows she has to do something to get him back.

This series is based upon a school survey taken at the beginning of the year, which places all of the seniors into various categories for the yearbook.  Most likely to succeed, perfect couple, biggest flirts, etc.  After only a couple of weeks of band practice prior to the start of the school year, Will and Tia's actions led them to being voted biggest flirts.  The pressure of the title put a strain on their easy going relationship and led to some entertaining drama.  I loved both of their characters and everyone could see they were perfect together except Tia.  I was happy to see her come around in the end and hope we will see more of them in the companion novels.  

We were introduced to several of Tia's longtime friends throughout the book. I'm pretty sure the companion novels will focus on some of them, which will allow us to continue the series with the same basic group of characters.  


Friday, August 23, 2019

Review: Sweet Peril by Wendy Higgins


Goodreads Overview:

Anna Whitt, the daughter of a guardian angel and a demon, promised herself she’d never do the work of her father—polluting souls. She’d been naive to make such a vow. She’d been naive about a lot of things. 

Haunted by demon whisperers, Anna does whatever she can to survive, even if it means embracing her dark side and earning an unwanted reputation as her school’s party girl. Her life has never looked more bleak. And all the while there’s Kaidan Rowe, son of the Duke of Lust, plaguing her heart and mind.

When an unexpected lost message from the angels surfaces, Anna finds herself traveling the globe with Kopano, son of Wrath, in an attempt to gain support of fellow Nephilim and give them hope for the first time. It soon becomes clear that whatever freedoms Anna and the rest of the Neph are hoping to win will not be gained without a fight. Until then, Anna and Kaidan must put aside the issues between them, overcome the steamiest of temptations yet, and face the ultimate question: is loving someone worth risking their life?

Review:

Sweet Peril is the second book in the series and was just as good as the first.  After the discovery of  a prophecy that could free the Nephilim from the control of their fathers, they begin recruiting allies from around the world.  This is a very delicate task and has only succeeded to this point with the help of Anna's father.  Unfortunately, the other Dukes are beginning to questions some of the unusual activity taking place amongst the Neph, and Anna's father is under suspicion. I was happy to see there is a possibility the Nephilim may gain their freedom and could possibly live their lives without the controlling influence of their fathers.  They are; however, putting themselves in an extreme amount of danger.  The outcome is far from guaranteed, but they believe the reward exceeds the risks they are taking.

Anna and Kaidan have finally agreed to give in to their feelings for each other, but understand they must be extremely careful.  As a son and daughter of the Dukes of various sins, they are expected to spread their father's evil while forsaking their own feelings and desires.  Personal relationships between Neph are not allowed.  Things were definitely heating up between the two of them, but they can still only see each other when her father tells them the coast is clear. Obviously this isn't an ideal situation, but it is a drastic improvement from their previous circumstance.

Another character that I really enjoyed was Blake, the son of envy. who really seemed to have it all.  An amazing house with a pool, ocean view, and all the toys imaginable.  He excelled at just about everything and was always the center of attention.  He was able to share some of his energy with Anna and take her mind off of things when she needed it the most.

I am really enjoying this series and would definitely recommend it to any YA fan.  It has some fantasy/paranormal elements, but reads more like a contemporary.  Without the umbrella of fear the Neph are constantly under, the characters wouldn't be much different from any other teenager.  I can't wait to see how everything unfolds for them in the final installment, Sweet Reckoning.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Review: To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han


Review:

I have seen this book around for years, but for some reason it never even made it to my TBR list.  One day I was scrolling through Netflix and noticed it was a Netflix original movie.  All of a sudden my interest was piqued and I added it to my TBR list, because you certainly can't watch the movie before reading the book.

Lara Jean is the middle of three sisters.  Her mother died when she was younger and her father is a very busy doctor.  Lara Jean's older sister, Margot, leaves to attend St. Andrews in Scotland and she is left to manage the house and her younger sister.  She is starting her junior year of high school when the unthinkable happens.  Someone mailed the letters she had written to five boys she had crushes on at various points in time since middle school.  The letters were never intended to be read by anyone except Lara Jean.  They were her way of expressing her feelings and putting an end to crushes she never acted upon.

As the boys begin approaching her about the letters, she decides to kiss Peter Kavinsky in front of Josh.  Both of the boys received letters, but Josh is the one she thinks she still has feelings for. Peter recently broke up with his girlfriend and wants to get her back, so the two devise a plan to act like they are dating  to make their true love interests jealous.  As the months pass by...they begin to realize they aren't pretending anymore.

This was an excellent story with very lovable characters.  I flew through the book and can't wait to read the rest of the series.  The ending was a bit abrupt and would have resulted in an agonizing wait for those who read this when it was first released.  That is definitely one of the pluses of stumbling upon a series after all of the books are already available.

I did watch the movie and was a bit disappointed.  They changed quite a few details compared to the book, which I didn't really think was necessary.  Perhaps if someone hasn't read the book and watches the movie without any expectations, they will find it more enjoyable.  I thought it was average at best and would have been happy with just the book in this case.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Review: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie


Goodreads Overview:

First, there were ten—a curious assortment of strangers summoned as weekend guests to a private island off the coast of Devon. Their host, an eccentric millionaire unknown to all of them, is nowhere to be found. All that the guests have in common is a wicked past they're unwilling to reveal—and a secret that will seal their fate. For each has been marked for murder. One by one they fall prey. Before the weekend is out, there will be none. And only the dead are above suspicion.

Review:

I added this book to my TBR list when I was watching the PBS Great American Read series.  I enjoy murder mysteries and felt this was a classic I should probably read.  Then it was on my son's freshman year summer reading list, so we decided to read it together.

The book starts out with each of the guests receiving an invitation for an unforgettable week on an exclusive island.  Some are enticed through a needed vacation, while others are offered various forms of employment.  For example, a doctor is summoned to evaluate Mr. Owen's wife who supposedly refuses to seek medical care.  A police officer is asked to investigate/uncover some suspicious activity.   A married couple is offered employment as the cook/housekeeper and butler/handyman.  

All of the guests appear to have nothing in common, but they soon discover a link between them.  A recording accuses each of them of committing a murder the legal system can not hold them accountable for.  As the guests begin to die one after the other they realize these are not suicides as they originally thought.  They are being targeted and nobody will leave this island alive unless they are "very careful."  They search the island and can't find anyone else, so they conclude it must be one of them that is committing the murders.  Then they search everyone's possessions.  There aren't enough clues to point at anyone, yet the guests are falling faster than dominoes.  

This was an interesting tale, but it wasn't your typical murder mystery.  The author didn't leave a number of clues that in retrospect should have enabled the reader to solve the mystery on his or her own.  There is a very lengthy epilogue that spells out everything that took place on the island.  Without this additional information, I don't think anyone could have uncovered the truth.  That isn't exactly my idea of a murder mystery.  I realize this book was written in the 1930's and times and expectations may have changed.  This may have been the norm in that time period, but it wasn't nearly as engaging as trying to solve the mystery yourself.  As my son and I were reading we would discuss who we thought was the leading suspect, who was going to get picked off next, etc.  Without credible clues and evidence this soon became a fruitless process and my son began to lose interest.  

Overall, I enjoyed the story and could piece things together in the end with the help of the epilogue.  I do not think Preston was too impressed with the story and was just happy when it was over.  If it weren't for the help of an audio book when we had a weekend car trip, I don't think he would have ever finished it. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Review: 7th Heaven by James Patterson and MaxinePaetro


Goodreads Overview:

A terrible fire in a wealthy suburban home leaves a married couple dead and Detective Lindsay Boxer and her partner Rich Conklin searching for clues. And after California's golden boy, Michael Campion has been missing for a month, there finally seems to be a lead in his case--a very devastating lead.

As fire after fire consume couples in wealthy, comfortable homes, Lindsay and the Murder Club must race to find the arsonists responsible and get to the bottom of Michael Campion's disappearance. But suddenly the fires are raging too close to home.

Frightened for her life and torn between two men, Lindsay must find a way to solve the most daunting dilemmas she's ever faced--at work and at home.

Review:

This is the 7th book in the Women's Murder Club series.  In this installment the ladies are working to catch a serial killer or killers who are targeting wealthy couples.  Robbery doesn't appear to be the primary motive.  Lindsay and her partner, Rich Conklin, are baffled by the fact that there are next to no clues at any of the scenes and there aren't any signs of forced entry.  The only clues that they can find to connect all of the crimes, besides the consistent MO of fire, are the books left at the scenes of the crimes with quotes written in Latin with the same handwriting.  

In addition, Yuki Castellano is the prosecuting attorney in the case of the missing Michael Campion. He is the son of a very wealthy politician who was born with a genetic heart condition. His parents have always guarded him and he has basically lived in a bubble his entire life.  He disappeared out of the blue with no trace.  After a month, the San Francisco PD receive a credible anonymous tip.  Lindsay and Rich follow up on it and a young prostitute, Junie Moon, is charged for his murder.  She confessed to the crime, but now she is claiming Lindsay and Rich pressured her into a confession and it isn't true.  She originally told a remarkable story, but there are no clues to back up what she claimed.  

The entire Michael Campion situation panned out exactly the way I thought it might in the end.  I don't want to give anything away, but it was a bit predictable given the lack of evidence.  The cases involving the fires and murders was far more difficult to crack and that is what really propelled this story forward.  The entire Women's Murder club came together to solve a devastating string of high profile murders.  The team caught a major break when the killers slipped up on what was supposed to be their grand finale.  The clues quickly piled up and Lindsay and Rich were hot on the trail.  

Overall, this was a highly entertaining murder mystery.  I am enjoying the series and will definitely continue.  The author is hinting at a possible love triangle between Lindsay, Joe, and Rich, which I don't think is really necessary in this series.  I thought Lindsay was finally going to be happy now that Joe moved to San Francisco.  He proposed in the previous book, but she still hasn't accepted because she doesn't think she is ready.  They are now living together, but her work is definitely the priority in her life at the moment.  Throughout this book some events start to put things into perspective.  I hope she makes the right decisions moving forward in this series.