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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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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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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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.

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An Earlier Book by Jeff Bond

The Winner MakerThe Winner Maker by Jeff Bond
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From the Publisher: “Bob Fiske — the 74-year-old dinosaur who’s taught Honors English and coached varsity football for five decades — is missing.

To his Winners, class favorites Fiske designated over the years for their potential to “Live Big,” it’s heartbreaking. Fiske did more than inspire with soaring oratory; he supported their ambitions into adulthood. Four of his brightest former stars reunite to find him, putting high-octane careers on hold, slipping police barricades, racing into the wilds of Northern Michigan for clues about the fate of their legendary mentor.

Others don’t see a legend. They see an elitist whose time has passed.

When a current student — female — disappears just hours into the Winners’ search amid rumors of inappropriate meetings, the Great Man’s reputation is a shambles.

Feints, betrayal, explosive secrets from their own pasts: as facts emerge, each Winner must decide how far they’ll go for Fiske. Can the truth redeem him? Or has this cult of hyper-achievement spawned a thing so vile none of their lives will survive intact?”

I devoured this book in a single afternoon.

This book reminded me of the movie The Breakfast Club, but 10 years later. We have the jock, the Homecoming Queen, the nerd, and the mute one all brought together to search for one man who is missing and may be a criminal.

This group was not linked by detention, but maybe the opposite: an elite group of students tapped to be Winners by the teacher/coach. When he goes missing, they all come back to help find him and hopefully clear his name of wrongdoing.

I enjoyed the story. I did not think it fit neatly into one specific genre box, but chose to read it as it sounded mysterious. It could also be a contemporary story, a thriller, or a comment on society. The characters and their relationships played a strong role in the story, thus allowing it to cross many of the genre lines. There was friendship, marriage and parenting issues, unrequited love, loyalty, elitism, high school drama and much more included in these pages.

Unlike Bond’s other work (Blackquest 40), which I read earlier this year, this one was a slower story. There was time to get to know a little more about the characters and to ferret out what happened in the past and why it was germane to the mystery at hand.

I would not hesitate to recommend this book to others and will watch for future titles by this author.

Thank you to the author for a free copy in exchange for my honest thoughts about this book.

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A Legal Thriller

Law and AddictionLaw and Addiction by Mike Papantonio
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From the publisher: “One week before Jake Rutledge is scheduled to graduate from law school, he receives the devastating news of the death of his fraternal twin, Blake. What makes this death even more terrible for Jake is that his brother died of a drug overdose. Until hearing of his death, Jake had no idea his brother was even using drugs.

When Jake returns home to Oakley, West Virginia, he takes a hard look at the circumstances of his brother’s death. In the five years Jake has been away for his schooling, his hometown has drastically changed. Because of the opioid epidemic, and the blight it has brought, many now call Oakley Zombieland. Jake can see how his town’s demise parallels his brother’s.

Undeterred, the newly minted lawyer takes on the entrenched powers by filing two lawsuits. Jake quickly learns what happens when you upset a hornet’s nest. The young attorney might be wet behind the ears, but is sure there is no lawyer that could help him more than Nick Deke Deketomis and his law firm of Bergman/Deketomis. Deke is a legendary lawyer. When he was Jake’s age he was making his name fighting Big Tobacco. Against all odds, Jake gets Nick and his firm to sign on to his case before it’s too late.”

This is a timely legal thriller. Our country is facing a crisis in the our communities as we deal every day with new opiod overdoses. The cost is more than we should be willing to accept.

I had some complaints about this book, but after closing it, I realized my complaints were perhaps petty, but also a good strategy to sharing the more important message of this story.

We are given a perfect hero. He has had some challenges in his life, but he is a crusader and he’s smart and kind and able to get things done. He interacts with other perfect people who cherish their wives, work upstream, but still have plenty of money to fly around on private jets. Some of this was hard to swallow in the moment. However, what this group of really good people set out to accomplish and the battle they have on their hands may require really good people.

What Papantonio does very well in this novel is to shine a light and humanize the opiod crisis. We go into West Virginia and see all of the different mechanisms at work. As readers, we get to see the desolation and heartache the influx of drugs have caused. We get a taste of addicts, people in recovery, drug mules, and people who take advantage of the situation financially.

There was a lot of sitting around and discussing next steps as our dream team of lawyers plotted their next moves, but this never felt unneccessary or repetitive. During the course of the story there was also love, friendship, humor, grittiness, twists and turns.

The author is clearly well-versed in this type of law and in this growing crisis. This is a book people should read to help understand why the opiod crisis is not going away and why each of us should care.

I want to thank NetGalley, the publisher and the author for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

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