Tag Archives: 2017

The Girl Who Was Taken, by Charlie Donlea

25 May
the girl who was taken charlie donlea

FIVE of Five Stars

Charlie Donlea has done it again, and now deserves to have his name out as one of the top thriller/suspense/mystery writers out there.

In only his second thriller, Donlea again drops us immediately into the middle of the action, and takes us through a roller coaster ride of likely suspects and red herrings. We go back and forth in time from before the “taking” and then to the present as Megan struggles to understand what happened to her, and Livia searches for her sister… or her sister’s body.

I loved Donlea’s first book, Summit Lake, because it gave a plethora of suspects but I was never able to clearly know Who-Done-It. In that book there were several people who had a clear motive to kill, and though I had guessed the correct person, I also guessed several other people, and we are never sure until the last moment who the real killer is.

That’s the fun of mystery/thrillers, right? You get a good scare, and then you see if you’re smarter than everyone else in the book. It’s always a letdown if you guess the killer right off, or (worse) if the killer is someone it would have been impossible to figure out at all. In Summit Lake Donlea presented person after person who could have done it, and he was masterful at drawing us in and giving red herrings that made sense. The mystery was intricate and it was enjoyable trying to solve.

In this book Donlea does it again. But now we have an even creepier story because we’re not necessarily looking for people with motives, but possibly a madman who could be anyone at all. Once again I did guess the real bad guy (along with many others), and even though this time the person was actually in my top 3 suspects, there was no way in the world to be sure until the very end. We are also treated to several strong female characters, and for the few who are unlikable we are given a psychological basis and history for the actions, along with some redemption. I did not see any simple stereotypes in this book.

At the end we do have some wrap up, and we do get answers, but do we get a happy ending? This may be one of the most realistic thrillers I’ve read, as finding a killer doesn’t really end the suffering of the victims and their friends and families. Donlea is starkly realistic and DARK about the survivors and the likelihood of being a survivor. There may be some closure for a few people, but there will still be a lot of difficult darkness ahead for most.

Many thanks to Kensington Publishing for asking me to be a part of their book blog tour, and thanks to Charlie Donlea for the wonderful book. He is an amazing author and has upped his game with this second book. I cannot wait for the third to arrive.

Buy The Girl Who was Taken.

Buy Summit Lake

Visit Kensington Publishing.

Woman No. 17, by Edan Lepucki

20 May
woman no 17 edan lepucki

Five of Five Stars

I wouldn’t be surprised if this book gets some negative reviews because of the unlikable characters – and make no mistake, there’s not much to like about any of them. But generally I find unlikable characters more interesting and more realistic. I mean, I feel like I’m pretty well liked in my life but I also related to some of the selfishness these women exhibit. Maybe we don’t like the mirror held up to our own souls, but I love to see how other (characters) deal with the stupid situations I sometimes get myself into.

The book switches between Lady, recently separated and living in the Los Angeles hills with her two sons, and “S” (for Esther), a Berkeley transplant recently graduated and trying to find herself. S gets a job as nanny to Lady’s youngest son while also getting a little too close to the teenage, mute son. Both women have mommy issues, both likely also have daddy issues, both are thoughtless, selfish, narcissistic and neurotic, and did I mention they have issues?

Seriously, these people are not very likable, but I was fascinated anyway. I think the fantastic writing is what keeps the reader hooked. The author is just a couple steps away from a great piece of contemporary literature, and I’m very excited to see where her future writing goes.

Not everything about the book was perfect. Lady and S live such parallel lives that I sometimes got confused with who was telling the story when they went back in time. S’s “artistic plan” feels like a bit of bullshit, but having known several artistic people I can’t quite say its unrealistic or implausible. I wish we got some real answers about the mute son. And in what I consider a better way to end books, nothing is really tied up with a nice bow.

Yeah, I know, this is a bit all over the place and I seem to be giving five stars to several unlikable characters and a problematic story. But the writing brings this book to another level. It’s also kind of a fascinating look into mother/daughter relationships, and how complicated they can be. I don’t want to say anything else about the story, just go into it blind and enjoy it.

Many thanks to NetGalley for allowing me an advance copy in exchange for a fair review.

Passing Strange, by Emily Klages

19 Apr
passing strange ellen klages

Four of Five Stars

This book was not my favorite, but there were several things I really enjoyed and I think others might like it even more than I did.

THE PLUSES: Let’s be honest – THAT COVER. I rarely actually purchase books, but I saw this cover and had to get it. Even before I got to reading it I had pulled the book out several times just to look at its cover. Who wouldn’t want this framed in their own home? When I finally started the book – Surprise! – it turns out the picture is actually a chalk drawing that plays an important role in the book.
The characters. There is a group of women who are friends who help each other out in any way needed. Each of them were very interesting and I could have read a book about any specific character’s life.
The End. I was only going to give 3 stars (which, to be fair, is “I like it”) until the end. And the end had just enough excitement and drama and love to pull my little heartstrings and add another star.

THE MINUSES: All the characters. These women were so interesting, but the book rarely focuses on any one character long enough to get to know them, and there was confusion on my part as to who the story was about. I wouldn’t mind more books about these characters with maybe a more concentrated focus on one character. I mean, Helen??? That woman led a fascinating life and we only saw a bit of it!
The Magic. This is a fairly realistic story about lesbian life in San Francisco 80 years or so ago. That should have been enough of a story. But then suddenly magic is thrown in, in sort of a major way, and then it’s just dropped. Like “Oh here’s a serious story, here we go, oh and by the way this woman can do major magic but ANYWAY….”
The End. And then of course magic comes along and saves the day…

Now some readers may love that there is magic involved, and if it had figured more into the story as a whole perhaps I would have bought into it as well. But it seemed just sort of tossed in the middle of the story as an unimportant detail, only to be dragged out at the end to save the day. That is what bothered me.

But all in all, should you read it? I say Yes. They are fascinating characters and I hope I can eventually read more about them, and if anything, you need this cover in your life.