Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Shatter Point by Jeff Altabef

Shatter Point

Jacque's Review:

I have been a fan of murder mysteries for a long time.  I'm currently reading the Kay Scarpetta series, The Women's Murder Club, the King and Maxwell series,and a few others.  Shatter Point is very well written and kept me engaged from start to finish.  Very few authors write stand-alone mysteries, so that in and of itself is note worthy.  It is nice to be able to read a book and not feel like I'm on the hook for the next several years.

The book bounces between a few different stories which converge about two thirds of the way through.  I found this to be a little confusing at first.  Once I worked through the first several chapters, I began to connect with the characters and everything fell into place.

The story is set several years into the future in a country that is clearly divided.  There are the extremely wealthy and the poor.  The government is run by the wealthy, so there is very little advancement opportunity for those who are not part of the elite.  Dr. Beck is one of the few exceptions.  He grew up in an orphanage, but his exceptional test scores earned him the opportunity to attend college.  He is on the verge of creating a cure for Alzheimer's, but the government has alternate plans for his research.

Cooper first met Maggie while his family was vacationing at a resort for the summer.  Her parents worked at the resort, but Cooper took an interest in her.  He quickly became obsessed with her, but she could see past his good looks and charming personality.  He had an explosive temper that she couldn't ignore.

When Maggie disappears her two sons, Jack and Tom, turn to the Fourteenth Colony for help.  This is an underground resistance to the over powering government that has taken over the country.  The organization's goal is to restore democracy and the chance for the American dream.  Tom and Jack quickly discover that their great aunt Jackie and mother have been hiding family secrets since well before they were born.  
The link between Dr. Beck, Cooper, Maggie, and the underground resistance was intricately woven throughout the story.  With surprises around every corner, I found this to be a very fast paced story that I simply could not put down.  I would highly recommend this book to any adult who enjoys murder mysteries.  (There is some graphic violence, so this is not for younger readers.)  

I've already added Jeff Altabef's Fourteenth Colony to my to-be-read list.  While Shatter Point is a stand-alone novel, Fourteenth Colony appears to provide the back story.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Kiss Kill Vanish by Jessica Martinez

Book Summary
Valentina Cruz no longer exists.
One moment, she was wrapped in Emilio’s arms, melting into his kiss. The next, she was witnessing the unthinkable: a murder in cold blood, ordered by her father and carried out by her boyfriend. When Emilio pulled the trigger, Valentina disappeared. She made a split-second decision to shed her identity and flee her life of privilege, leaving the glittering parties and sultry nightlife of Miami far behind.
She doesn’t know how to explain to herself what she saw. All she knows now is that nothing she believed about her family, her heart, or Emilio’s love, was real.
She can change her name and deny her past, but Valentina can’t run from the truth. The lines between right and wrong, and trust and betrayal, will be blurred beyond recognition as she untangles the deceptions of the two men she once loved and races to find her own truth.

Flo's Review
This was an interesting one for me, in that it took me literally months to read the first third of the book. I was not connecting with Valentina at all. She didn't seem to have too much of a personality at the beginning...I felt like I was just reading about her poor miserable life and seeing her revisit the past over and over and over in her head. Except, she wasn't even revisiting the past concretely. She was hung up on one event and feeling sorry for herself because she didn't have the money and the easy life she did before. There was really nothing about her that made me think, "Oh poor Valentina -- I wonder how things turn up for her."

Until about halfway through the book. It was almost night and day for me. There comes a point in the story where Valentina decides to stop waiting and to take action. THIS is where the story begins. From there, I flew through the rest of the book. There were several mini twists throughout the story that were quite surprising, and then a BIG twist toward the end that I didn't see coming. And by this part of the story we've gotten to Action Valentina. She is conflicted because of her love for people who have basically lied to her for her whole life. But she makes a decision and goes with it and I admire her for following through. 

It was a hard first half, and I truly feel like that part could have been cut at least in half but probably even more. But I'm glad I pushed on through to the end and got to know who Valentina Cruz is. The last lines in the book are perfect.

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an ARC of this book for review.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Before You Break by Christina Lee

Book Summary
A college baseball star isn’t supposed to have skeletons in his closet. But Daniel Quinn is hiding a past so dark, he refuses to let anyone get close. Except there’s something about Ella Abrams that goes beyond attraction—something that makes him want to open up.
Ella has suffered enough heartache to fill one of her psychology textbooks, but she keeps that part of herself hidden behind a bubbly exterior. Until she receives an anonymous call while working a suicide help line and the voice on the other end touches something inside of her that she can’t ignore.
Soon Ella and Quinn’s physical connection heats up, even as their revealing hotline talks intensify. But by the time Ella realizes that her seductive jock and her sensitive caller are the same guy, it might be too late to save him—or to stop herself from falling too far….

Flo's Review
Happy book birthday to Before You Break! I feel in love with Christina Lee when I recently read All Of You. So when I discovered that Before You Break was being released in print, I was all over it! 

Once again, I flew through the book in a day. Christina Lee is great like that -- you don't want to put the book down, and then all of a sudden it's several hours later and you're done. I love books like that! I enjoyed this story, but not in the same way I enjoyed All of You. While Bennett could make the list of Fictional Boyfriends, Quinn was just too broken for that. This was a story about his healing. I cannot even fathom carrying around the guilt he did. I felt like Gabby did every time Daniel called the hotline and let a little more go, and really took to heart what she was saying. 

I liked seeing a good amount of Avery in this book, and now I'm completely sucked in! Looking forward to seeing how Rachel comes around in Whisper to Me!

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with this review copy.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Driving with the Top Down by Beth Harbison

Book Summary
Three women, two weeks, one convertible: sometimes life doesn't take you in the direction you expect...
Colleen Bradley is married with a teenage son, a modest business repurposing and reselling antiques, and longtime fear that she was not her husband’s first choice. When she decides to take a road trip down the east coast to check out antique auctions for her business, she also has a secret ulterior motive. Her one-woman mission for peace of mind is thrown slightly off course when sixteen year old Tamara becomes her co-pilot. The daughter of Colleen’s brother-in-law, Tamara is aware that when people see her as a screw-up, but she knows in her heart that she’s so much more. She just wishes her father could see it, too. 
The already bumpy trip takes another unexpected turn when they stop at the diner that served as Colleen’s college hangout and run into her old friend, Bitty Nolan Camalier. Clearly distressed, Bitty gives them a story full of holes: angry with her husband, she took off on her own, only to have her car stolen. Both Colleen and Tamara sense that there’s more that Bitty isn’t sharing, but Colleen offers to give Bitty a ride to Florida.
So one becomes two becomes three as Colleen, Tamara, and Bitty make their way together down the coast. It’s a road trip fraught with tension as Tamara’s poor choices come back to haunt her and Bitty’s secrets reach a boiling point. With no one to turn to but each other, these three women might just discover that you can get lost in life but somehow, true friends provide a roadmap to finding what you’re really looking for.

Flo's Review
I really wanted to like this book. I chose it as the first of several audiobooks I'd received to review because I just loved the concept -- three gals, a road trip. "How fun!" I thought. "They will get into all kinds of fun adventures! It will make me want to grab my besties and hit the open road!"

Unfortunately, it did not. Admittedly, their lives all kinda sucked (except for Colleen, who was just making her own drama for no good reason), but this book to me was basically just them whining about how horrible everything is for 350 pages. There was literally one point in the book where Colleen and Bitty are sitting at a bar engaging in a "who has the crappier life right now??" match. I can't. I cannot. I know you had to show these characters hitting rock bottom so you can see them starting to climb their way up, but I think I would have enjoyed this book more if it was more climbing and less descent and groveling around at the bottom. The happy ending for the gals was pretty much right at the end. The rest of the time they were just driving around and brooding in their own heads. I made myself push through it, though....

...and that is how I shall transition to end on a good note. Usually, if I really don't like a book, I am okay with just stopping it. Ending the road trip, so to say. But for some reason, I had to keep going with this one. I must have felt vested in the characters. And I also liked the "money" quote  -- this is great, and I can see why it inspired the title:

"You are not alone. Don't make the same mistakes I did. Don't keep everything bottled up inside. Open up. It's like" -- she looked around, then gestured at the car -- "it's like driving with the top down. Technically, you're more vulnerable, and everyone can see what would otherwise be hidden inside, but its the only way to fully enjoy the sun and the wind and life. It's so much better than keep it all closed up!"

Thank you to Macmillan Audio for the chance to review this audiobook.