Days of Rock and Roll-Book Review


Days of Rock & RollDays of Rock & Roll by Kelly Holm
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book Synopsis: “Ariana is a very talented photographer who agrees to photograph her ex-boyfriend Zak’s band, Dark Horses, for Sound Trip magazine. Zak is thrilled and plans to use the occasion to win her back. However, when Ariana arrives, she catches Zak in a very compromising situation with Hollywood starlet Josie Winters, who wants Zak for herself.
Before Zak can explain to Ariana that what saw was a complete misunderstanding, Ariana mysteriously disappears in the middle of the night, and Zak is filled with guilt and wonder. When he realizes that she has been kidnapped, he’ll stop at nothing to find her. Will Zak find Ariana before it’s too late?
Days of Rock & Roll is a compelling tale of suspense, intrigue, and humor that will keep you reading until the last page.

This book started out interesting. We have two characters with fascinating lives: a travel photographer and a rock star. They have a lot of history and are now becoming reacquainted after almost a decade. The first half of the book almost worked. There were some annoying style choice (Ya instead of Yeah, and also using ya for you; tuff instead of tough, etc), but overall, I was rolling with the story and wondering how things may work out between these two.

And then, the book went a bit off the rails for me. Rick, the crazy ex-boyfriend, kidnaps both sisters (not at the same time) and suddenly the story becomes a very different experience.

I had some personal problems with the early sections, like, if your brother had a heroin problem, why are you comfortable casually snorting coke? Drug use may be a stereotypical rock star issue, but it was treated somewhat cavalierly throughout this story.

This was an OK book, not necessarily for me and I am not sure I will recommend this without reservation, but it was OK for an afternoon of reading.

Thank you to BookSirens for my review e-copy. This review is my own and has been left voluntarily.

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A New Thriller Series

The River Girls (Mercy Harbor Thriller, #1)The River Girls by Melinda Woodhall
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book Synopis: “When the body of a missing girl washes up on the banks of the Willow River, the killing is linked to two cold case murders, and the investigation must uncover the twisted motive of a serial killer before he kills again.

Still reeling after her sister’s brutal murder, grief-stricken Eden Winthrop has returned to Willow Bay, where she runs the Mercy Harbor Foundation, a safe haven for victims of violence.

When a teenage trafficking victim disappears from a shelter run by her foundation, Eden is drawn into the search for the sadistic killer. The hunt becomes personal when Eden’s niece is abducted just as the body of yet another victim is discovered in a local river.

In a desperate effort to save her niece, Eden must partner with the small-town police force that had failed to save her sister. And to catch the killer, she realizes she must trust the one man she vowed to never forgive and summon the strength to face her deepest fears.”

I appear to be an anomaly on this title. While I thought it was OK, I had more qualms with it than positives. Some of my problems could have been solved with a better editor. Others were more fundamental in the execution and character development throughout the story.

First, I am not an English teacher, but sometimes, I do feel like a grammar snob. Verb tenses should be consistent and need to match their subject. This was a topic I messed up a lot in high school, but mostly corrected in college. I still struggle with this from time to time in my own writing, but would hope for a published novel, an editor would help get it right.

While on the subject of an editor, they also may help make sure you don’t accidently change the name of your main character to the name of her late sister in the middle of the book. Granted, it may have only been in one or two places, but it still takes a reader out of the situation to correct the error.

As for the main character, Eden, she read like a victim. I am good with a flawed hero, but I have to be able to believe they are a hero with flaws. Eden was not a real person to me, her multiple parts didn’t create a truth. She has had some trauma in her life and struggles with panic disorder (as a result of this?), but somehow manages to run a foundation for battered women. When a man on the street gets angry and loud, she hyperventilates and needs a calmer man to help her collect herself. Not very believable to me.

Like many of the mysteries and thrillers I have read this year, this book touches on several ills plaguing society: drug abuse, prostitution, mental health, human trafficking, failures in the legal system, domestic abuse, and police corruption. These are all important issues which need to be addressed. While these issues are not entertaining, using novels to highlight the problems allows us a common language to discuss them. In this case, I would have liked to see the book better executed to give us that shared language.

I did appreciate Leo and his backstory. It may have been shared in an overly forced way, but I did think it was interesting and made his character stronger.

I am not sure where the author plans to take the series (if she does continue the Mercy Harbor Thrillers), but I would probably be willing to give the next book a try.

My thanks to BookSirens for my advanced digital copy, this review is entirely mine and is left voluntarily.

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A D.B. Cooper Thriller

Cooper's LootCooper’s Loot by Rick E. George
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Synopsis: “It’s 1972, but the Neanderthal editors of reporter Bev Wikowski’s newspaper don’t have a clue. They’ve assigned her to the Women’s Pages and put her desk near the door so she can greet newsroom visitors. It’s a wonder they haven’t asked her to make coffee. Then Bev meets a buddy of the infamous hijacker DB Cooper. Cooper has sent him to gather a posse to find and dig up the loot he buried in the Cascade Mountains. Would Bev like to join the group? Suddenly, Bev’s looking at the possibility of a front-page story on every newspaper in the nation—and maybe a Pulitzer Prize. A young widow whose husband died in Vietnam, she leaves her four-year-old daughter with her parents, hides her work identity, and joins the group. But it doesn’t take long before an even bigger challenge demands every ounce of her strength: Survival.”

This was a fantastically paced thriller. An interesting idea of what may have happened during and after a famous unsolved mystery in the late 20th century. The author’s use of setting and weather made the story ring true and dangerous. The character development could have been better executed, but overall a captivating read.

I know a little bit about D.B. Cooper’s crime. It happened before I was born, so I was decades removed from the crime before I heard about it. I am surprised I haven’t come across more fictional ideas about what may have happened. This crime and perpetrator feel fraught with options.

I thoroughly enjoyed the 1970s setting in the Pacific Northwest. While my time in the Pacific Northwest was in Seattle, in the 2000s, the attitudes and landscape felt real on every page. I certainly enjoy reading books set before the Internet took over everything. No cell phones, I will enjoy this story. The forests and the mountains of Washington were carefully crafted. I could see the scene. The end of the Vietnam War was also prevalent in the story; it added to the desperation of the characters and a feel for the time.

Unfortunately, I found most of the characters were not well-fleshed out. I had a hard time keeping track of who was who. I read several times Will was the best of the lot, but honestly I couldn’t remember anything distinct about the man. The women were fighting back and forth and other than Bev, I had no idea which woman was which. It took a bit away from the story for me, but Bev gave me enough of an anchor to continue enjoying the ride.

Finally, the author presented a wonderful use of weather. The unpredictability of the snow and the wind added to the overall sense of foreboding. I am pretty sure my toes froze while reading several scenes in this book.

There was a lot of strong points in this novel, and I will look to reading additional titles by this author.

Thank you to BookSirens and the publisher for a free review copy. This review has been posted voluntarily, and the opinion is my own.

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Another Debut Mystery

The LoopThe Loop by Nicholas Holloway
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Synopsis: “In the heart of the Sierra Nevada mountains, a freezing snowdrift blankets the June Lake Loop. For months, aspiring novelist Gallagher Finch has not written a single word. To pass the time awaiting inspiration, Gal satiates his boredom with Adderall, Evan Williams, and one call girl too many. On the eve of his twenty-sixth birthday, he indulges in all three…

And when he awakens, he discovers a bloody secret tangled in his bedsheets.

Still grieving from a tragic murder in the family thirteen years earlier, Gal wonders if old enemies are drawing near once again. He begins to process his nightmares, anxiety, and fear the only way he knows how – he writes. Quickly realizing his own story could be the best-seller he has been dying to publish, Gal weaves together the truth of who killed Daphne Castro, but in the process, he discovers the story that could launch his career may very well be his own deadly ending.

Family becomes foe, dark secrets resurface, and blood can be found on more than one pair of hands.”

Nicholas Holloway’s The Loop is a clever roller coaster of a book. I found this story to have strong characterization, an ideal setting, lots of unexpected twists, and a sense of word play I haven’t seen much of lately. I wasn’t sure I liked this book when I finished it, but upon reflection, I know that I did, and I liked it a lot.

We meet the Finch family in the midst of their newest crisis (and this family has had several). The siblings have survived a troubled history and now each have a collection of secrets themselves. Holloway has done a fantastic job breathing lives into each of this characters, no matter how broken.

The setting of this book is beautiful; almost a character in its own right. Such beauty hiding so much pain and danger. Northern California is a beautiful place, and the author clearly knows the region and loves it. The lakes make a nice contrast to the terrible things that are occurring throughout the area.

There were many twists and turns in this story. I rarely settled into a suspect before there was another plot twist. The layers uncovered on each page remind us all that there are shades of gray and good and bad in everyone. Anyone could be the guilty party. And the motive was always shifting.

There was a playful note throughout this book. Each chapter was given a colorful title. I thought the playful-ness may be too gimmicky, but I found myself appreciating it and at some times, even loving it. The over-arching color theme connected the threads within each chapter.

The penultimate chapter of this book almost lost me, but after having sat with the conclusion of this story for a couple of days, I have found I appreciate it even more. It was a logical twist, necessary for the ultimate conclusion.

This book appears to be a debut, but I have seen rumors of both a sequel to this one and a new stand alone by this author. I look forward to reading both.
I received a free review copy of this book from Book Sirens and am leaving this review voluntarily.

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Something Different

Calm the F*ck Down Journal: Practical Ways to Stop Worrying and Take Control of Your LifeCalm the F*ck Down Journal: Practical Ways to Stop Worrying and Take Control of Your Life by Sarah Knight

The art of not giving a f*ck has been a topic of conversation for several years now. I am not a person who deals with general anxiety and have not read any of the other books in this group. So, why did I choose to read this one? Well, the title made me laugh and I was interested in how a journal would work on my Kindle.

Early in this journal, there is a quiz. The quiz is designed to help you identify what kind of anxiety responses you are experiencing. I ended up with a score of no anxiety, maybe I should gift this book. That was good news, and I read the remaining pages anyhow.

There was a lot of blank space in this journal, not a lot to read. But what was there was humorous and insightful. I can understand why so many people enjoy Knight’s philosophy and writing.

The journal has several prompts to encourage you to think about past stressful experiences and allow you to work through them to help build new responses. I have not bought a focused, guided journal in the past, but I do think they are interesting and helpful. Taking things out of the big picture to explore them individually can certainly be helpful. For the Kindle version, one would certainly need an additional notebook. And maybe it would be nice to use that notebook solely for responding to this journal.

This journal is scheduled to be available at the end of October, just in time to record all our holiday anxieties.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC of this book. I have voluntarily left this review.

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Locked Door Mystery

Ever ToldEver Told by Benjamin Bremasi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Synopsis: “When New Hampshire detective Jill Jennson is called to the scene of a double homicide that took place during a wealthy family’s annual vacation, she immediately realizes that this case will be unlike any other. The victims were brutally killed in their locked bedroom with seemingly no way for the killer to enter or leave undetected. The list of suspects is endless. And the possible motives are even more disturbing.
As the case evolves, the investigation becomes even more complex as secrets are revealed and betrayals come to light. Aided by her partner Caiden and her bedridden father Tony, Jill continues to unearth clue after clue as she desperately tries to solve the mystery and identify the killer. But the more she digs, the more she comes to realize that someone is out to get her as well. Is her unknown assailant connected to the investigation, or does the answer lie much closer to home? Once she discovers that the case may even have personal connections to a horrific event in her own sordid past, Jill will stop at nothing to complete the puzzle and finally put to rest the multiple acts of deception that have all converged into one unforgettable nightmare.”

Ever Told is a debut novel that tried to do a lot of things in fewer than 200 pages. Many aspects of this book fell short of ideal for me, but twist at the end and the promising story-telling made me more of a fan than not.

A locked door mystery set in one of my favorite locations. Locked door mysteries seem to be less popular at the moment, but they are classic for a reason. Limiting the number of characters allows the author and the reader to get to know the characters and their secrets better. This book started to do much of this. Each of the characters had a secret, some of which were juicy. But the characterization available for more than half a dozen characters, in 200 pages is not great. While I have never been there, I thoroughly enjoy books set in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. This one is set in New Hampshire and, unfortunately, did not take great advantage of the beautiful setting.

A novel that feels like a cozy mystery, even though the sleuths are professional police officers. A debut novel. A cozy mystery typically has an amateur sleuth, is set in a small community, and has limited violence and sex. This book ticked all of these boxes, except the police were the sleuths. This was not a police procedural and there was little mention of the forensic professionals I would have expected from a more official investigation.

This story is told in back and forth story lines. We see the family before and after the murder in alternating chapters (for the most part). I found this handled very well. The parts that take place immediately before the murders each add a new piece of the puzzle and throw further suspicion on different characters. After the murders, the investigation and the side stories were engaging.

The ending offers a twist that I suspected and discarded early, but upon reflection, makes perfect sense.

While I thought there were some imperfections in this book, I would be interested in reading future titles by this author.

Thank you to BookSirens and the publisher for an e-copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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A New Cyberthriller

FirewallFirewall by Eugenia Lovett West
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Synopsis: “Former opera singer Emma Streat has survived the murder of her husband and the destruction of her beautiful old house. Now a full-time single mother, she struggles to move forward and make a home for her two sons. Because of her detection skills, she has become a go-to person for help–so, when her rich, feisty, socialite godmother is blackmailed, she turns immediately to Emma. Soon, Emma founds herself thrust into the dark world of cybercrime. Mounting challenges take her to exclusive European settings where she mixes with top people in the financial and art collecting worlds and has intriguing and emotion-packed experiences with men–including her dynamic ex-lover, Lord Andrew Rodale. When she is targeted by a cybercrime network using cutting-edge technology, it takes all of Emma’s resilience and wits to survive and bring the wily, ruthless criminal she’s hunting to justice. Action-packed and full of twists and turns, this third book of the Emma Streat Mystery series does not disappoint!”

I did not realize this book was part of a series when I started it. Early in the book, I was worried I may have missed too much information to jump in where I was, but quickly found the author gave plenty of hints and information about what had gone on before to be able to read this one on its own.

Firewall started out reading like a mystery, I certainly suspected several characters as being the original blackmailer, but as the story unraveled, I found it built more like a thriller, each part taking the reader a bit deeper into a larger conspiracy. The novel felt a little more like three linked novellas than one novel, but the links were there and there was some tying up of loose ends at the end of the book.

I liked our heroine, Emma. She was smart and humble. I have not read many books about former opera singers and thought that was an interesting background, I wish there could have been a little more about it in this book. It is nice to see a heroine who has a little bit of life experience, knows who she is and is still able to grow as a person.

The settings were the star of the book for me. France, Italy, Ireland, Boston were all beautifully portrayed. The bits of history and local color were utilized well in this story.

This story was full of twists and turns with bad guys turning up at the most inopportune times. I said earlier this was like three novellas, there were certainly distinct parts to this novel, but maybe it’s more like uncovering an iceberg. We discover the blackmailer quickly, but then we have to figure out who is blackmailing the blackmailer and so on through a litany of crimes. Reading this book was similar to a roller coaster; up and down for awhile, then a couple of straightaways lulling you into safety before plunging you down again at a dizzying speed.

I enjoyed this novel and am hoping to get my hands on the two earlier books in this series. This book will be available November 5.

Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for my free copy in exchange for an honest review of this book.

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