April Mini Reviews: The Good, The (Not So) Bad, and The Ugly

Mini Reviews

So the month of April kicked my butt reviewing-wise, but I did manage to read a few books.  I’m a little late with this Mini Review installment, but here is  a good sampling of the books I read in the month of April!

 

The Good

 

Heartsick by Chelsea Cain
Read by Carolyn McCormick
Book #1 in Archie Sheridan & Gretchen Lowell
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Publication Date: March 4th 2007
Audiobook Borrowed from Local Library

Synopsis from Goodreads: Damaged Portland detective Archie Sheridan spent ten years tracking Gretchen Lowell, a beautiful serial killer, but in the end she was the one who caught him. Two years ago, Gretchen kidnapped Archie and tortured him for ten days, but instead of killing him, she mysteriously decided to let him go. She turned herself in, and now Gretchen has been locked away for the rest of her life, while Archie is in a prison of another kind—addicted to pain pills, unable to return to his old life, powerless to get those ten horrific days off his mind. Archie’s a different person, his estranged wife says, and he knows she’s right. He continues to visit Gretchen in prison once a week, saying that only he can get her to confess as to the whereabouts of more of her victims, but even he knows the truth—he can’t stay away.

When another killer begins snatching teenage girls off the streets of Portland, Archie has to pull himself together enough to lead the new task force investigating the murders. A hungry young newspaper reporter, Susan Ward, begins profiling Archie and the investigation, which sparks a deadly game between Archie, Susan, the new killer, and even Gretchen. They need to catch a killer, and maybe somehow then Archie can free himself from Gretchen, once and for all. Either way, Heartsick makes for one of the most extraordinary suspense debuts in recent memory.

Christal’s Review

Holy carp, you guys… this book was kind of insane.  Heartsick had some very disturbing moments, it was about a serial killer after all, but I think the mental and emotional manipulation was even more twisted than the physical violence.  Gretchen Lowell, the most famous female serial killer, and Archie Sheridan, the police office that discovered her and was then tortured by her, are one fucked-up pair.  Pardon my language, but there is just no other word to describe their relationship.  Though this book was actually about Archie investigating a new serial killer, Gretchen’s presence was felt on every page.  I cannot wait to continue on with this series to see what Gretchen has planned for Archie as he tries to move on with his life.  Susan, the reporter doing a feature on Archie, was a little too dense for me at times, but I have high hopes she will grow as a character in the next book.

The audio for Heartsick was very well done.  I would definitely pick up another book read by Carolyn McCormick in the future.

Rating:4.5 Stars = A-

 

Breach of Crust by Ellery Adams
Book #5 in A Charmed Pie Shoppe Mysteries
Genre: Cozy Mystery, Paranormal
Publication Date: April 7th 2015
ARC Provided by Berkley and Netgalley

Synopsis from Goodreads: Ella Mae LeFaye’s delicious pies are still drawing long lines—as well as the attention of Beatrice Burbank, president of the Camellia Club, a philanthropic organization comprised of high-society Southern ladies from the charming and affluent town of Sweet Briar, Georgia. To ensure the success of their centennial dessert cookbook, Bea hires Ella Mae to teach the tasty tricks of her trade to the club’s members at their annual retreat. Eager to work on new recipes for customers with food allergies and dietary restrictions, Ella Mae readily agrees.

But when Ella Mae finds Bea’s body floating in Lake Havenwood, she wonders what she’s gotten herself mixed up in. Someone certainly wanted Bea to eat humble pie, and the retreat offers no shortage of unsavory characters, including Ella Mae’s longtime nemesis, Loralyn Gaynor. Ella Mae definitely doesn’t need magic to tell her she must find the killer before someone else gets panned.

Christal’s Review

After the events of Lemon Pies and Little White Lies, I was worried that this series would lose some of its magic.  Breach of Crust proved my worries unwarranted though; it was just as wonderful and warm as every other Charmed Pie Shoppe Mystery.  Ella Mae is settling back into her personal life with the return of her boyfriend Hugh.  She’s also balancing a new catering department with the day-to-day running of her pie shop.  Ella Mae weathered quite a storm in the previous book and she’s determined to have a bit of normalcy in her life.  When she’s approached to teach her pie baking secrets to a group of wealthy socialites, Ella Mae accepts as a way to test her new recipes.  What she didn’t expect was to run into her longtime nemesis, Loralyn.

Breach of Crust had no shortage of murder or intrigue, but it was the family connection running through the book that really made it a hit for me.  The LeFaye women love each other so much and it is always nice to see characters support each other unconditionally.  Ella and Hugh made some huge strides in this book as well and it finally felt like they really fit together.  I was (pleasantly) surprised by Opal Gaynor and the way she developed in this book.  She has probably changed the most throughout the series and it was nice to see her finally get a way to atone for her past.

There were a lot of bombshells dropped and loose ends tied up in Breach of Crust, but I really hope this isn’t the last book in the series.

Thank you to Berkley via Netgalley for providing an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating:4 Stars = B

 

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Read by Clare Corbett, Louise Brealey, and India Fisher
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Publication Date: January 13 2015
Audiobook Borrowed from Local Library

Synopsis from Goodreads: Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller and an electrifying debut.

Christal’s Review

The Girl on the Train had a lot of hype last year, so I finally decided to request the audio from my library.  It took me a while to finally start it and, when I did, I didn’t notice that my check out was almost over.  My download expired and I couldn’t renew it because 3 other people had it on hold.  So I had to wait, and wait, and wait until it was finally available again.  The one upside to the wait was that I stumbled upon Heartsick while looking for similar thrillers.  Anyway, the wait for this book was definitely worth it because it totally lived up to the hype for me.

I can normally figure out “whodunit” before the end of most mysteries, but I admit The Girl on the Train kept me guessing longer than most.  Maybe it was because all the characters were pretty terrible people… almost any of them could have been the murderer!  I’m joking of course, but almost all of the characters were fairly unsympathetic.  I felt bad for Rachel to a certain extent, but then her excessive drunkenness just bothered me.  I cut Megan some slack because she was obviously suffering from a mental imbalance, but she also had terrible judgment.  Anna, well, Anna was just terrible; there’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

The audio was really the cherry on the top of The Girl on the Train.  The three narrators did such a good job of bringing the female characters to life and the different voices made it immediately clear whose POV it was.  This was especially helpful because the timeline was asynchronous for a majority of the story.  I highly recommend this one for mystery readers, but I think the audiobook is just a great listen in general.

Rating:4 Stars = B

 

 

The Bad

 

Down With the Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publication Date: April 26th 2016
ARC Provided by HarperTeen and Edelweiss

Synopsis from Goodreads: Make a wish…

Lennie always thought her uncles’ “important family legacy” was good old-fashioned bootlegging. Then she takes some of her uncles’ moonshine to Michaela Gordon’s annual house party, and finds out just how wrong she was.

At the party, Lennie has everyone make a wish before drinking the shine—it’s tradition. She toasts to wishes for bat wings, for balls of steel, for the party to go on forever. Lennie even makes a wish of her own: to bring back her best friend, Dylan, who was murdered six months ago.

The next morning gives Lennie a whole new understanding of the phrase be careful what you wish for—or in her case, be careful what wishes you grant. Because all those wishes Lennie raised a jar of shine to last night? They came true. Most of them came out bad. And once granted, a wish can’t be unmade…

Christal’s Review

Though this is only her third book, I am a total Kate Karyus Quinn fangirl.  Her debut novel, Another Little Piece, was one of the creepiest, most compelling YA horrors I’ve ever read.  Her follow-up, Don’t You (Forget About Me), was also a weirdly, wonderful story though a bit lighter on the creep factor.  To say I had high expectations for Down With the Shine is an understatement and, while it somewhat lived up to them, it probably wasn’t very fair to this book.

I enjoyed Down With the Shine and completely inhaled it, but I think Ms. Quinn missed out on a chance to write a super creepy novel.  Instead, the story veered into wacky territory a little too much.  Don’t get me wrong, some of the book was absolutely terrifying.  Give a roomful of drunk teenagers the chance to have one wish granted… truly unpredictable.  The parts of the story that worked the best for me were the ramifications surrounding Lennie’s wish and the slowly revealed menace of her father.  I think if the book had focused on these elements a little more and avoided some of the relationship drama it had going on, it would have been a much tighter, darker read.  All in all though, Kate Karyus Quinn is still on my auto-read list and I look forward to anything she puts out in the future.

Thank you to HarperTeen via Edelweiss for providing an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating:3.5 Stars = B-

 

Where I Lost Her by T. Greenwood
Genre: Mystery
Publication Date: February 23rd 2016
ARC Provided by Kensington and Netgalley

Synopsis from Goodreads: In her page-turning new novel, T. Greenwood follows one woman’s journey through heartbreak and loss to courage and resolve, as she searches for the truth about a missing child.

Eight years ago, Tess and Jake were considered a power couple of the New York publishing world–happy, in love, planning a family. Failed fertility treatments and a heartbreaking attempt at adoption have fractured their marriage and left Tess edgy and adrift. A visit to friends in rural Vermont throws Tess’s world into further chaos when she sees a young, half-dressed child in the middle of the road, who then runs into the woods like a frightened deer.

The entire town begins searching for the little girl. But there are no sightings, no other witnesses, no reports of missing children. As local police and Jake point out, Tess’s imagination has played her false before. And yet Tess is compelled to keep looking, not only to save the little girl she can’t forget but to salvage her broken heart as well.

Christal’s Review

T. Greenwood was a new to me author, but I very much enjoyed Where I Lost Her.  Though the plot was heart-wrenching, I thought the most interesting aspect was whether or not Tess was an unreliable narrator.  This book is told in real-time and we are there when Tess sees the little girl, but interactions with different characters and some slow reveals from her past still made me start doubting her.  Did she really see the child?  I mean, I know it was described that way… but could she have seen something else?  Could she have been hallucinating?  Throughout the book, Tess never wavers from her story, but I think it speaks highly of T. Greenwood’s skill as an author that I still began to question her.  I enjoyed this story and was satisfied with the ending so I do plan to pick up more books by this author in the future.

Thank you to Kensington via Netgalley for providing an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating:3.5 Stars = B-

 

 

The Ugly

 

Shattered by Kevin Hearne
Read by Luke Daniels
Book #7 in The Iron Druid Chronicles
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publication Date: June 17th 2014
Audiobook Borrowed from Local Library

Synopsis from Goodreads: For nearly two thousand years, only one Druid has walked the Earth—Atticus O’Sullivan, the Iron Druid, whose sharp wit and sharp sword have kept him alive as he’s been pursued by a pantheon of hostile deities. Now he’s got company.

Atticus’s apprentice Granuaile is at last a full Druid herself. What’s more, Atticus has defrosted an archdruid long ago frozen in time, a father figure (of sorts) who now goes by the modern equivalent of his old Irish name: Owen Kennedy.  And Owen has some catching up to do.

Atticus takes pleasure in the role reversal, as the student is now the teacher. Between busting Atticus’s chops and trying to fathom a cell phone, Owen must also learn English. For Atticus, the jury’s still out on whether the wily old coot will be an asset in the epic battle with Norse god Loki—or merely a pain in the arse.

But Atticus isn’t the only one with daddy issues. Granuaile faces a great challenge: to exorcise a sorcerer’s spirit that is possessing her father in India. Even with the help of the witch Laksha, Granuaile may be facing a crushing defeat.  As the trio of Druids deals with pestilence-spreading demons, bacon-loving yeti, fierce flying foxes, and frenzied Fae, they’re hoping that this time, three’s a charm.

Christal’s Review

This review hurts to write as The Iron Druid was once a favorite series of mine, but this installment was just boring.  Shattered has three POVs; Atticus, Granuaile, and Owen, which was the first major change, but that wouldn’t have been so bad if all their stories were interconnected.  Unfortunately, that is not what we got.  This book read like three different novellas shoved into one anthology, with one last story that finally brought all the characters together.  It felt like most of the book didn’t even matter in the grand scheme of things; only the events at the end really reverberated.  I don’t know, y’all… I think this series has just lost its magic for me.  There are only a couple more books planned so I will probably stick it out, but it is always sad when a once-loved series goes downhill.

D.G. gave a more complete review of Shattered here and we both felt pretty similarly about everything.

The one plus side to Shattered, Luke Daniels was a phenomenal narrator!  Yes, I said it, phenomenal.  He moved from character to character, accent to accent, gender to gender… all of it flawlessly.  Mr. Daniels was so good that I will seek out other books read by him whether or not I know anything about the actual author or the novel itself.

Rating:2 Stars = D

 

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Comments 2

  • I’m so sad about Shattered! I could sense a downfall in the series with Hunted, but figured I’d eventually read Shattered, now I’m wondering if I should just quit!

    • I feel like this series has kind of taken a back seat since Kevin Hearne started writing Star Wars novels. I would recommend listening to it if you do decide to tackle it since the narrator is so so so good, but I would probably give it a pass if you didn’t enjoy Hunted.