Tag Archives: book reviews

The Family Upstairs – Lisa Jewell- a Review

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I went to a wedding a week ago in Tallahassee and, on my drive back, stopped at a couple of Goodwill Stores as they always seem to have a good selection of used books. One of the ones I purchased was The Family Upstairs. I hadn’t read any of this author before, but I’m a fan now. The book was intriguing as well as a quick read. A house with dark secrets is at the center of the tale.

The story is told from three points of view and I enjoyed all of them. Each had a distinctive voice and were compelling in different ways. The movement from each voice to the other was smooth and kept me turning pages.

In the author note, she stated her inspiration for the book came from seeing a woman in Nice, France sneaking her children into the public baths near the beach. From that, a tale of family terror, loss, and lives shattered was born. I loved how all the threads of the story came together. I figured out most of it, but a surprise or two in the pages made this reader happy as I usually solve it all before the end.

Each of the three protagonists were dramatically affected by their upbringings and the way the author showed how those experiences carried over into their adult lives was genius. It’s a dark tale, but moments of light and love shine through. I throughly recommend this one for a few hours of entertainment mixed with a little anxiety for the characters.

The Gilded Shroud by Elizabeth Bailey

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This story set in the 1790s was intriguing and a solid read. The heroine (a widow) becomes a companion to a dowager marchioness when her nephews she was helping raise left for school. Her brother wanted her to stay on with him and his wife but the heroine wanted an adventure and the job was temporary as the dowager marchioness’ regular companion was recovering from a broken leg.

Our heroine definitely got her adventure. Pretty soon after she arrived at the home of the dowager, the current marchioness was found dead in her bed—strangled. And the kicker? The lady had been heard to be arguing loudly, in the middle of the night, with her husband, the marquis. The marquis ordered his carriage and horses shortly after the argument was heard and that morning when the body is discovered, he’s nowhere to be found. Maybe he absconded to France where he has a second home? Or did he run elsewhere after killing his wife?

The heroine, a sharp lady with a keen mind, sets herself the task of finding the murderer—she doesn’t know the marquis but with the family in disarray over their fears for his life if he’s found and convicted of his wife’s death—to say nothing of the scandal—she feels she needs to pitch in and assist the marquis’s younger brother in the task of clearing the marquis’s name.

The dowager is a plucky lady too and won’t tolerate anyone treating her as if she’s elderly and incapable of being in on the unmasking of the villain. She plays a big role in the book and I liked that she wasn’t shunted aside.

As the investigation ensues, the reader is caught up in the clues with the three main characters. I confess, I figured out who did it early on, but still enjoyed the story and how the author tied up all the parts and loose ends. A bit of romance thrown in as well made this an enjoyable read.

If She Dies- by Erik Therme – A Review

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The blurb for this story set me up for a certain kind of story and, surprisingly, it wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be. Don’t get me wrong, there were twists and turns and some surprises, and it definitely held my attention despite not leading me where I thought it would. The beginning was not like a traditional thriller. It was a slow start that built through the first almost ¾ of the book. I liked it a lot and being surprised by a few things made it even more enjoyable. It didn’t take me long to read it, because it moved fast and held my interest.

There were a couple of places where I thought the protagonist, Tess, was a little naïve and slow on the uptake, but it served the plot, so I can get past that. She wasn’t one of those heroines that make the reader want to slap some sense into her and the naivety was somewhat understandable.

The minor characters like Tess’s brother and husband were well-drawn with good back stories and motivations for their actions. Her husband, Josh, was a bit OCD, but that showed the author put a lot of thought into how he would act as well as react to Tess. I did get a bit peeved at Josh a few times, but to me, that’s a sign of a good story since it means I am relating to the characters.

I have a friend who lost her child in similar circumstances to how Tess and Josh lost Lily and so much of how these characters dealt with their grief was familiar to me from what my friend and her husband went through, the scenes dealing with the sadness, loss and lack of communication really resonated with me. Well done to the author for being able to realistically write about such horrific loss as well as making the story suspenseful.

This one is a 4.5 star read for me. A hard subject handled skillfully. 

Book Review- Blood Money

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thI love James Grippando and his Jack Swytek series of novels. If you haven’t read any of these, you’re really missing out. The latest installment, Blood Money, is clearly inspired by the Casey Anthony trial. There are too many similarities to miss. This is clearly a fiction tale and it’s cool how he used this trial to build a thrilling story around some of the facts. I love how Mr. Grippando even made a word play on the horrific Nancy Grace by naming his media shark Faith Corso. That cracked me up. First of all, because the character was clearly based on that odious woman and the last name of Corso made me think of coarse which she is. (Remember, all this is my opinion only-if you like this woman, that’s your prerogative. I don’t).

This book is a fast read and very exciting. I don’t want to give any spoilers so I won’t say much about the plot but this one is packed with lots of angles and turns. I was a little disappointed in a couple of things that never seemed to get resolved and I would’ve liked to know the answers to those questions. It was nothing that took away from the final solution to the whodunit but there were threads left hanging that didn’t please me. There was also the matter of something that niggled at me about Swyteck’s client, Sydney. She acted in a way that didn’t make sense to me. After learning what kind of person she was, I had a hard time reconciling her willingness to do a certain thing with what we learn about her on the journey, but all in all, this was a fun read with enough twists and turns to satisfy the toughest critic.

The story has Mr. Grippando’s usual wit with his main protagonist, Jack and his best friend, Theo. These two characters are larger than life and I adore how they play off each other and the way the zingers keep coming even when they are inthe midst of trouble. I recommend this one. Highly.

“Death Threads”- a mystery book review

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I read this one this past weekend and it was an okay read. I liked some of the characters and the setting. It’s the second book in a series and I was disappointed that the author gave away the whole plot (and most importantly, who dun it) of the first book in this second book. I hate when that happens. I know I am not the only person that may have picked up book two first. I like a series and sometimes when I pick them up out of order, I’ll go back and buy the prior ones. That won’t happen this time. I already know who was accused falsely and who actually was the murderer. So, what’s the point? The author could have very well made her references to the prior book a little less overt.

I like to read mysteries to try to match wits against the writer and the protagonist. I had this one figured out by Chapter six.  Even had figured out the red herring. But remember, I could solve an Agatha Christie book as a middle schooler in 28 pages. So, it’s hard to trick me. LOL!

If you read these, read them in order as you’ll be disappointed that you can’t go back and read the first one.

“Stolen Treasures” – a Review

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Last night, I finished reading Stolen Treasures by Laurie Ryan.  It’s a story about modern day piracy on the high seas. The heroine is involved with a yacht club that has organized a festival of ships. After being conked in the head, she accidently ends up out to sea on a ship called the Treasure. The hero is a marine law enforcement officer investigating the theft of a number of boats/yachts in the Pacific Ocean south of San Diego. The boat the heroine is stuck on happens to belong to the hero.

The heroine initially seemed to have a major anger issue. She throws things whenever she gets mad. It made for a pretty volatile first part of the book. She eventually settled down and got hold of herself.  This book deals with sailing, romance, heat, the doldrums, a big storm and betrayal as well as a very satisfying ending where both the hero and heroine find a purpose for their lives. 

There is a sequel to this book called Pirate’s Promise.  I already have it downloaded to my Kindle app on my I-Pod and plan to read it soon. The first one was a quick read and very nicely done.