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.

View all my reviews

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.

View all my reviews

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.

View all my reviews

Medical Thriller

CODE BLUE: The Other End of the StethoscopeCODE BLUE: The Other End of the Stethoscope by Debra Blaine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Synopsis: “CODE BLUE follows Dr. Tobi Lister, a physician trapped in a wildly dysfunctional system and entangled in deadly intrigue. It is becoming obvious that something strange is happening at her clinic, but she has enough to deal with just trying to practice medicine, now that patients have become “customers” and the medical field is dictated by entrepreneurs whose sole objective is profit. And now suddenly, after nearly two decades, the man who broke her heart has resurfaced, but Tobi is determined to ignore his desperate attempts to communicate. She has no idea he is trying to warn her about a vicious Russian hacking scheme that is making billions of dollars murdering patients. But if he can’t get through to her soon, Tobi will be next.

This medical thriller emphasizes the loss of humanity felt by both physicians and patients now that medicine has become a consumer-driven industry.”

Dr. Blaine has penned a scary medical thriller that captures our current time and attitudes toward the medical profession.

I found Code Blue to be engaging and accessible. The story moved along at a comfortable pace with challenges popping up around every corner. The opportunity for medical jargon was eschewed for more everyday language.

Code Blue follows two distinct story lines: an urgent care doctor and an investigation into a cybercriminal ring. The two pieces merge logically and make a cohesive, engaging thriller.

Dr. Tobi’s scenes can get a little preachy, but it left no doubt that that patients need to be patients and not customers. The scenes in the clinic, between the doctor and her patients, were entertaining and often enlightening. In an era where we believe we are the most important person in any situation and we know everything, doctors have a lot with which to compete.

The cybercrime circle had several POVs which removed much of the mystery from this story, but increased the suspense as we learn more about their motives, operations, and lack of values.

Running between these two stories, is an old flame who draws the two sides together for the explosive climax. While this character was a little too good to be true, he was entertaining and I am ok with a perfect character from time to time in my fiction.

There was a lot going on in this book, besides the medical profession, we touched on some ecological conservation, corruption in Washington, the danger of on-line medical records, and the Jewish religion. Much of this added to characterization for me and I could imagine having a glass of wine and an interesting conversation with Tobi.

I had some minor quibbles with the book: characters named Tobi and Tony can be confusing, the situation with her brother bothered me a bit, and sometimes I was annoyed by the repetitive preaching. But overall, I enjoyed the time I spent with this novel and would read more by this author.

I would recommend this book to people who like thrillers and are interested in America’s current health care situation.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a free e-copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

View all my reviews

A Literary Mystery

Lady in the LakeLady in the Lake by Laura Lippman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Synopsis: “In 1966, Baltimore is a city of secrets that everyone seems to know–everyone, that is, except Madeline “Maddie” Schwartz. Last year, she was a happy, even pampered housewife. This year, she’s bolted from her marriage of almost twenty years, determined to make good on her youthful ambitions to live a passionate, meaningful life.

Maddie wants to matter, to leave her mark on a swiftly changing world. Drawing on her own secrets, she helps Baltimore police find a murdered girl–assistance that leads to a job at the city’s afternoon newspaper, the Star. Working at the newspaper offers Maddie the opportunity to make her name, and she has found just the story to do it: a missing woman whose body was discovered in the fountain of a city park lake.

Cleo Sherwood was a young African-American woman who liked to have a good time. No one seems to know or care why she was killed except Maddie–and the dead woman herself. Maddie’s going to find the truth about Cleo’s life and death. Cleo’s ghost, privy to Maddie’s poking and prying, wants to be left alone.

Maddie’s investigation brings her into contact with people that used to be on the periphery of her life–a jewelery store clerk, a waitress, a rising star on the Baltimore Orioles, a patrol cop, a hardened female reporter, a lonely man in a movie theater. But for all her ambition and drive, Maddie often fails to see the people right in front of her. Her inability to look beyond her own needs will lead to tragedy and turmoil for all sorts of people–including the man who shares her bed, a black police officer who cares for Maddie more than she knows.

I thoroughly enjoyed Lippman’s latest novel. This was not my first novel by this author, nor will it be my last.

I think this would be considered a literary mystery. It is not a whodunnit really, although that is the crux of what keeps the novel moving forward.

This was a story that illuminates a time and place in history. There were discussions about race tensions, religious differences, laws, expectations and class differences. While I found the people in this book to be mostly superficial characters, the 1960s Baltimore setting was fully alive on every page. There were so many POVs including a ghost, a waitress, a nurse, and reporters. Each of these characters showed up for a very short period of time, offered their piece of the story and vanished. But I felt that was by design, people are temporary, the city and the culture last much longer.

The investigation into a murdered black woman was in the background throughout the book, but life continued and there were other things that needed doing. The life of a reporter at the time, especially an almost 40-year old cub reporter, could be difficult and degrading. The mystery had several twists and turns and intrigued me to the end.

The glimpse of a time I have never seen was more engaging then anything else. This may not be the perfect place for a new Lippman reader, but I enjoyed it enough to recommend it to others.

Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher and the author for providing me with an advanced e-copy of the book.

View all my reviews

A Debut Mystery from Charleston

The Holy City Murders (Duke Dempsey Mystery)The Holy City Murders by Ron Plante Jr.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Synopsis: “Duke Dempsey is a private investigator in 1938 Charleston, SC. Thrust into the case of a lifetime when the Vatican comes calling and hires Duke to find an invaluable relic. Charleston is also hit with the mysterious murders of a prominent priest of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and a local cop. Duke is forced into a partnership with the presiding detective, Johnny Stampkin, to find the relic and solve the murders. The case takes a multitude of twists and turns as they navigate through Roman Catholic puzzles, Civil War secrets, and a Nazi Assassin.”

I have been a bit surprised by how much I enjoy historical mysteries. It is not something I actively avoided or sought out before declaring 2019 the year of mystery for myself, but I have certainly had a soft spot for historical mysteries; especially post World War I novels in both the UK and the New England region in the U.S. This one is set a little later (the 1930s) and in the U.S. South and I did not enjoy it as much as I have the others.

I thought this was a very interesting premise: two groups of people trying to find a religious relic in order to protect their own way of thinking. The bad guy kills several good guys, including the one who knows where the relic currently is. A police detective, private detective and a nun now need to find said relic (and yes, they may walk into a bar, too).

The author is clearly knowledgeable about Charleston and its history. There were some great nuggets of information strewn throughout this novel, wish there would have been a little more.

The narrative of this book was difficult for me. I like reading books with snippets of information from the antagonists’ point of view, but they need to be clearly distinguished from other points of view. Often, a chapter would begin with what the Nazi is doing or thinking and switch a paragraph or two later to the private detective’s story line. It was a bit muddled for me.

I think there was a lot of information pointing at this being a new author. He has some interesting ideas and a decent story here. With a little more practice and some character work, I think this may be a fun author to read in the future.

Thank you to Book Sirens and the publisher for giving me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews

A Hospital Mystery

Not Quite DeadNot Quite Dead by Dawn Harris Sherling
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Synopsis: “Doctor Autumn Johnson is convinced that someone wants the promising young researcher, Jay Abrams, dead.

And as a newly minted medical intern, Autumn tries to outsmart death on behalf of her patients every day. But she just can’t seem to get it right. Not knowing the answers her residents expect her to, prescribing the wrong meds, and nearly passing out as a patient is wheeled into the ICU—is not how she had pictured herself as a physician.

Determined to do better, Autumn decides to prove someone tried to kill Jay. When the trail leads her to Jay’s mysterious notes, Autumn has little time to discover who wants Jay, and now her, dead. With the help of the only other intern she can call a friend and a self-destructive perfectionist for a supervising resident, Autumn will have to solve a mystery that reaches deep inside the medical establishment, threatening us all.”

In my year of mystery, I was certainly excited about reading a few medical mysteries. The medical field is great for mystery. Doctors must make decisions based on any number of clues and red herrings and that alone can make for interesting reading. A victim could just as easily be felled by a fellow human as he (or she) could be felled by a strange disease/bacteria/infection. While this looked like medical mystery, it was more of a murder mystery set in a hospital.

The focus of this book did not feel like the solving of a potential murder; rather it was the life of an intern and a resident and how hard their work is. There were many references to 30-hour on call shifts, little time for rest, no time to eat, and demands on new doctors’s time. I get that it’s hard to be a doctor (thank goodness), but I felt like these ladies may have been too focused on what they were missing (i.e. sleep, food, social life). Much of this information became repetitve throughout the book.

One of the other things I struggled with in this book was the medical jargon. I don’t have a lot of medical experience (like none?), but I do recognize some medical names and some diagnoses from life experience. Early in the book there was talk of patients who could not survive without pressors, I did not know what those were and it took me out of the story. That was an example that stuck with me, but there were several others littered around in this book.

I did not think the multiple POVs were necessary, not particularly distinct. It was a way to give the reader as much information as was available, but without chapter headings, I would not have easily recognized whose story I was reading.

I may be at a point where I have read and paid close enough attention to a variety of mysteries this year, the guilty party was not a surprise to me. I did not question it for a moment.

This was not my favorite book of the year, and it could use a little more editing, but it was a fine read for a couple hours of entertainment.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a free digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews