Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Troop: A Novel of Terror by Nick Cutter

Book: The Troop: A Novel of Terror
Author: Nick Cutter
Narrator (if applicable):n/a

Release date (if applicable): Published

Synopsis: From Goodreads:

Boy Scouts live by the motto “Be Prepared.” However, nothing can prepare this group of young boys and their scoutmaster for what they encounter on a small, deserted island, as they settle down for a weekend of campfires, merit badges, and survival lessons.

Everything changes when a haggard stranger in tattered clothing appears out of nowhere and collapses on the campers’ doorstep. Before the night is through, this stranger will end up infecting one of the troop’s own with a bioengineered horror that’s straight out of their worst nightmares. Now stranded on the island with no communication to the outside world, the troop learns to battle much more than the elements, as they are pitted against something nature never intended…and eventually each other.

My rating: I have chosen not to rate this book.
My opinion: I read The Troop as an ARC from the publisher. I am a fan of horror, but couldn't figure out why I didn't like this book.  As hard as I tried, I simply couldn't put my finger on it. It wasn't that the book was poorly written. In fact, this book is very well written. To give it a fair review, I decided to wait until it came out in print. When I was able, I grabbed the book to skim it and it became very clear to me why it didn't tickle my fancy.

This book reminded me of Dean Koontz' Moonlight Bay series. It was along the same lines...a biological/military experiment thriller run amok. While I read both the books in the series, I rated them 2/3 stars. I love thrillers, but more thrillers of killers and things that go bump in the night. The sci-fi thrillers technically don't do anything for me. It dawned on me that I felt the same way after finishing this book.

This book is not for the weak or faint of heart readers. It is pretty graphic, particularly with some pretty gross scenes. Shockingly, that didn't seem to bother me, but I do like to give warning.  
Source: Publisher for review
Would I recommend? : I have to several people, including my husband.
Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Stand Alone

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Secret Rooms: A True Gothic Mystery by Catherine Bailey

Book: The Secret Rooms: A True Gothic Mystery
Author: Catherine Bailey
Narrator (if applicable): n/a

Release date (if applicable): Published

Synopsis: From

A castle filled with intrigue, a plotting duchess and a mysterious death in Catherine Bailey's The Secret Rooms.

At 6 am on 21 April 1940 John the 9th Duke of Rutland, and one of Britain's wealthiest men, ended his days, virtually alone, lying on a makeshift bed in a dank cramped suite of rooms in the servants' quarters of his own home, Belvoir Castle, in Leicestershire.

For weeks, as his health deteriorated, his family, his servants - even the King's doctor - pleaded with him to come out, but he refused.

After his death, his son and heir, Charles, the 10th Duke of Rutland, ordered that the rooms be locked up and they remained untouched for sixty years.

What lay behind this extraordinary set of circumstances?

For the first time, in The Secret Rooms, Catherine Bailey unravels a complex and compelling tale of love, honor and betrayal, played out in the grand salons of Britain's stately homes at the turn of the twentieth century, and on the battlefields of the Western Front. At its core is a secret so dark that it consumed the life of the man who fought to his death to keep it hidden. This extraordinary mystery from the author of Black Diamonds, perfect for lovers of Downton Abbey, Brideshead Revisited and The Suspicions of Mr Whicher.

My rating: 3.5/5 Stars
My opinion: After starting the ebook version of this book, I ended up waiting for this book to come out in print. 

In a historical book, it is critical to capture the reader's attention quickly. Ms. Bailey failed to do this in my case. The book, in the first 100 pages was loaded down with numbers, data and other facts versus introducing the readers to a really screwed up story.

I felt the story did a bit too much jumping around to me through the various generations. I could see some of it, but a chunk of it just threw off the story.

The appendixes in this book are invaluable. I found they worked better and were easier to access for me in the print version vs. the ebook version.

Source: Publisher for review
Would I recommend? : I already have
Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Stand alone

Waiting for the Queen by Joanna Higgins

Book: Waiting for the Queen
Author: Joanna Higgins
Narrator (if applicable):n/a

Release date (if applicable): Published

Synopsis: From Goodreads:

A surprising friendship develops between Eugenie, an escapee from the French Revolution, and Hannah, a Quaker girl, when they unite in the cause against slavery in this adventuresome tale of true nobility set amidst the rugged, eighteenth-century, Pennsylvania wilderness.

Fifteen-year-old Eugenie de La Roque and her family barely escape the French Revolution with their lives. Along with several other noble families, they sail to America, where French Azilium, as the area came to be known, is being carved out of the rugged wilderness of Pennsylvania. Hannah Kimbrell is a young Quaker who has been chosen to help prepare French Azilum for the arrival of the aristocrats. In this wild place away from home and the memories they hold dear, Eugenie and Hannah find more in common than they first realize. With much to learn from each other, the girls unite to help free several slaves from their tyrannical French owner, a dangerous scheme that requires personal sacrifice in exchange for the slaves' freedom.

My rating: 3 Stars

My opinion: I found this story behind the story to be unique and interesting to the middle school reader. I felt there was something that was off about it in its dialog and presentation. I did find this to be a clean read that is appropriate for the age level it is written for. Furthermore, I love books at that age that teach a lesson. Ms. Higgin's book is perfect for this.  

Source: Publisher for review 

Would I recommend? : Yes

Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Stand alone

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Cold Nowhere (Jonathan Stride #6) by Brian Freeman

Book: The Cold Nowhere (Jonathan Stride #6)
Author: Brian Freeman
Narrator (if applicable):n/a

Release date (if applicable): Published

Synopsis: Ten years ago, six year old Cat Mateo hid under her porch as she listened to her abusive,  convict father slaughter her mother and then shoot himself in the head in a murder suicide. After running away from her guardians, she lives her life on the streets as a prostitute. Problem is that someone is determined that she doesn't live another day and has made multiple attempts on her life that she has so far escaped. She remembers something that her mother told her about going to Jonathan Stride if she ever got into trouble.

As Jonathan tries to figure out who wants this teen dead as the bodies keep piling up, is he looking at things as clearly as he should? His team doesn't think so. 
My rating: 5 stars
My opinion: There is a reason why Brian Freeman is on my short list for favorite American authors. The Cold Nowhere is an excellent example. 

I was very nervous about this book. The last full Jonathan Stride novel was released in 2009. Mr. Freeman has had some excellent stand alone novels, but not a Jonathan Stride. When I saw this on Edelweiss, I blinked my eyes a couple of times. I, then, went in like a kid opening Christmas gifts and proceeded to PLEAD with the publisher to let me review. I became giddy as a school girl when I was granted permission to the ARC. Then, noticing the release date, I had to shelve it. That didn't thrill me!

After a much too long absence, Jonathan Stride is back and he is back strong. This book sucked me in IMMEDIATELY and left me guessing until the end. 

What I love about this series is that even after 6 full length novels and a couple of novella releases, Mr. Freeman is able to keep his protagonist and supporting cast strong. His characters remain approachable, flawed yet inviting. This is not an easy feat. The storyline, as usual, was well developed with twists and turns that left me guessing at what was real, what was perceived and where was I having my head played with. After almost 5000 books under my belt, I love when an author can accomplish this, as very few can. Furthermore, I think one needs to look deeper into the storyline as I noticed that there were repetitions made, but had deeper psychological meanings of the characters behind them. 

There was something about this book that reminded me of a great French horror film called High Tension. Again, it was the determining what was real and what was not.

I started this book at 7pm last night and forced myself to put it down at 9pm. I woke up at 4 am with a strong desire to get back to it. I grabbed a cup of coffee and picked up my Nook. I didn't put it down until I finished it.  After devouring THE COLD NOWHERE, I looked at the last page with a sadness. I had to wait 5 years for the next book in the series. Alas, now I feel like a kid who finished a Popsicle way too quickly and is looking at the used stick. The only thing in my case is that I don't know when there will be another Popsicle! 

I will say that I think this is my favorite book in the series. All others received 4 stars from me. So maybe that wait wasn't so bad. Nah! Who am I kidding? It was torturous! 
Source:   Quercus for review
Would I recommend? : I have a list of 5 authors that when I am asked for recommendations for mystery series I offer to readers. Mr. Freeman's Jonathan Stride series is on that list. 

As my standard practice, I scrolled through some of the ratings on this book. One thing that stood out to me on the lower ratings was that most focused on the fact that they had read this book as a freestanding novel versus as part of a series.  I will say that this series is incredibly character driven. There are quirks and histories that can only be picked up on by someone who has read and ingested the entire series. Do yourself a favor and start with book one. It is worth the time and commitment. I PROMISE!!
Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Number 6 in series