Review: Heart of the City

Heart of the City (Detective Greene, #5)Heart of the City
Author: Robert Rotenberg
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre/Themes: Mystery
Release Date: August 1st, 2017
Format: Ebook

 

 

Synopsis

When Detective Ari Greene was charged with the murder of the woman he loved, he stopped at nothing to clear his name and uncover the real killer. After his acquittal, Greene fled to London to get away from it all, but now he’s back. And he’s not alone—with Greene is his twenty-year-old daughter, Alison. The child he never knew he had.
Determined to leave his life as a cop behind him, Greene gets a job on a construction site for one of Toronto’s many new condos. But when Greene stumbles upon the corpse of hated developer Livingston Fox, he is plunged back into the life he tried so hard to leave behind. As the body count rises, Greene is forced into a reluctant reconciliation with his former protégé, Daniel Kennicott. The pair must delve into the tight-knit world of downtown development, navigating tangled loyalties, unexpected corruption, and family secrets, some of which are closer to home than Greene could have ever imagined.

Review

I absolutely love this mystery series. I was introduced to them a few years ago, and I quickly read them all because I was fascinated with how Canadian centered they were. Not only did we get to see how Canadian homicide detectives handled cases, we also got a healthy dose of courtroom drama centered around the Canadian legal system. The author, Robert Rotenberg, is a criminal lawyer based in Toronto, so I assume that he knows of what he speaks.

I liked this story, but not as much as previous novels. I just didn’t think the plot was as strong, and a lot of my favourite characters weren’t present in this novel. The new character introduced, Ari’s daughter, Alison, was a good character, but I didn’t see the point of introducing a random daughter into his life. It just seemed so out of the blue and highly…unnecessary? Daniel Kennicott was also not as interesting to read about this time around.

The mystery was really well done, and once again, I had no idea who the murderer was until the very end. It was a satisfying plot and a meaty mystery, but it felt a little rushed at times and there were a lot of threads that were left open. I assume they will be further fleshed out in future novels, but it was a little dissatisfying at the end of this book. There were also no courtroom scenes, which are my favourite scenes in the book.

Of course, I will continue to follow this series until the very end, but I hope the next book has the same magic the first four books in the series had.

I received this book from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has affected my review in no way.

 

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Review: Final Girls

Final GirlsFinal Girls
Author: Riley Sager
Publisher: Dutton
Genre/Themes: Thriller, Psychological Thriller
Release Date: July 11th, 2017
Format: Ebook

 

 

Synopsis

Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.

Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.

That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.

Review

The final girl trope in horror movies is one of my favourite tropes. I like the idea of one strong, kickass woman taking down the killer and surviving. In fact, this trope was turned into a movie called The Final GirlsThe thing is, you never see what happens to the final girl after the murderer is dead and she begins her new life.

Enter Riley Sager. Riley Sager is a pseudonym for a (famous?) published author, which I found interesting. This book is an imagining of what happens when the final girls, the lone survivors of serial killers and mass murderers, are forced to come to terms with what happened to them. Obviously, there is a lot of psychological trauma that comes after such experiences and this book is about how different women react to horrific events.

I absolutely loved this novel. Everything about it works so well. The characterization in this novel was absolutely fantastic. The main character, Quincy, is trying so hard to be normal and live her life, but she has this hidden trauma that comes to the surface once one of the Final Girls is killed. She’s forced to examine the life she’s built and see just how much she’s lying to herself and everyone around her. I also really liked the character of Sam because she was so different from Quincy. You got to really delve into the lives of the Final Girls and see what kind of people they had become. You saw how differently tragedy can shape a person.

The plot was so fast-paced and exciting. There are so many twists in this book and it feels like a race to the conclusion. Quincy has blocked out the events of Pine Cottage, and the reader realizes things just as Quincy does. There are snippets of the past juxtaposed with the present, which I thought worked really well. I thought I knew where this book was going and I thought I knew exactly what had happened, but I wasn’t even close to guessing the truth. It was a really dark and complex story, but still quite exciting. I think this book could be turned into a really interesting movie if done correctly.

I was focused on the writing of this novel too because I was trying to guess who the author was. While the writing is good, there’s nothing very distinctive about it. It’s perfectly written for a thriller, but this isn’t a literary novel at all.

I think this book is going to be really huge this summer. It has all the markings of a big summer thriller that everyone has rave reviews for. I’m so eager to read anything else this author decides to write. I highly recommend this novel to people who like slasher movies, psychological thrillers, or fast paced thrillers in general.

I received this book from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has affected my review in no way.

Review: Everything You Want Me To Be

Everything You Want Me to Be
Everything You Want Me To Be
Author: Mindy Mejia
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Genre/Themes: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense
Release Date: January 3rd, 2017
Format: Ebook
Everything You Want Me to Be

Synopsis

High school senior Hattie Hoffman has spent her whole life playing many parts: the good student, the good daughter, the good citizen. When she’s found brutally stabbed to death on the opening night of her high school play, the tragedy rips through the fabric of her small town community. Local sheriff Del Goodman, a family friend of the Hoffmans, vows to find her killer, but trying to solve her murder yields more questions than answers. It seems that Hattie’s acting talents ran far beyond the stage. Told from three points of view—Del, Hattie, and the new English teacher whose marriage is crumbling—Everything You Want Me to Be weaves the story of Hattie’s last school year and the events that drew her ever closer to her death.

Review

This book has one of those intriguing premises that hooks me immediately. When I see that a book is a multi-perspective novel about a murder that takes place in a small town, I’m always going to want to read it.

Since this is a mystery, there’s very little I can say without giving the story away, but I will say that I absolutely loved this book. I raced through it because I was so desperate to find out what happened to Hattie. This book alternates between Hattie and two men that are very important in her life, Del, the sheriff who is tasked with solving her murder, and Peter, her English and drama teacher. My favourite part of this novel was the incredible way each character was developed. All three of these characters were interesting to read from and I loved each of them, especially because they were flawed and they felt like real people.

Hattie was the perfect character for this book to be centered around. She was a master manipulator, a fantastic actress, and full of secrets. As a reader, you always want to be drawn in by the protagonist and even though it’s her murder that starts her novel, she was still a fully fleshed-out character and it hurt to know what was going to happen to her. She was intriguing and exciting and you wanted better for her life.

This book takes place over the course of a year, and jumps back and forth in time between the three characters. The past and present timelines come together seamlessly and while the plot of this novel is by no means unique, it’s still fast-paced and entertaining to read. It’s full of twists, but I did see a lot of them coming. However, I don’t think the main point of this novel was the murder-mystery aspect of it, but the fact that it was a really interesting character study.

The writing in this novel is also one of the best things about it. Mindy Mejia is gifted at coming up with beautiful metaphors and sentences that forced me to re-read and really think about what was being said. Using Jane Eyre and Macbeth as important literature in this novel was perfect (and the reader will fully understand why these two were chosen as they understand Hattie better).

Overall, this was a great start to my reading year in 2017. I expect this novel to do really well, and I can guarantee I’ll be reading all of Mindy Mejia’s future works.

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This has affected my review in no way.

Mini Reviews 10

Death Comes to Pemberley

Death Comes to Pemberley Pride and Prejudice is my favourite novel, so when I heard about this book that takes place after Lizzie and Darcy get married and involves a murder, I was intrigued. I like murder mysteries and I love Pride and Prejudice, but I’m always wary about retellings or re-imaginings of classic novels. This book wasn’t great, but it wasn’t terrible either. It involves characters from the original tale as well as newly introduced ones. The language and style are similar to Jane Austen, but it doesn’t have Jane Austen’s wit or spark in the writing. Relationships are stilted and conversations aren’t always true to the characters. I listened to this book on audiobook and I didn’t really enjoy the narration so that could be affecting my opinion of the book. Overall, it’s an interesting take on the Pride and Prejudice universe, but Lizzy was too much of a secondary character and it was far too strange of a concept. I don’t recommend this novel.

I Was Here

I Was Here I absolutely loved this novel. I listened to this book on audiobook and it’s narrated by my favourite narrator, Jorjeana Marie. I first discovered Jorjeana Marie when she narrated another one of my favourite books, Belzhar. This book is beautifully written with main characters that I actually cared about. The main character, Cody, recovers from her best friend Meg’s suicide and the journey she goes on isn’t the most realistic, but it was impeccably done. I thought Meg’s reaction and her emotions were really honest and raw. I didn’t think this book pulled any punches when it came to how suicide wrecks everyone left behind. The only thing I wasn’t a fan of was the romance in this book. While it wasn’t the main thing in this book, it was unnecessary to the plot. However, this is still one of my favourite books I’ve read so far this year. Highly recommended.

The Girl With All The Gifts

The Girl With All the Gifts

This was one of the books I was looking forward to the most this year, and I knew I’d like it, but I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did. This book is beautiful, melancholy, and heartbreaking. The main character of Melanie repeatedly broke my heart in the best possible way. The plot is slow, but there’s still a lot of things that happen. However, the most rewarding part about this novel is the characterization. Everyone in the book is so vividly written, and nobody is fully evil or fully good. Their lives are shades of grey and nobody winds up the same at the end as they are at the beginning. I can’t explain how well this book is written and how much it will make you feel. I know it comes across as just another post-apocalytpic novel with horror movie overtones, but the writing is wonderful, and I highly recommend everyone read it.

The Guilty Plea – Robert Rotenberg Review

The Guilty Plea (Detective Greene, #2) On the morning that his headline-grabbing divorce trial is set to begin, Terrance Wyler, youngest son of the Wyler Food dynasty, is found stabbed to death in the kitchen of his million-dollar home. Detective Ari Greene arrives minutes before the press and finds Wyler’s four-year-old son asleep upstairs. When Wyler’s ex-wife, a strange beauty named Samantha, shows up at her lawyer’s office with a bloody knife, it looks as if the case is over. But Greene soon discovers the Wyler family has secrets they’d like to keep hidden, and they’re not the only ones. If there’s one thing Greene knows, it’s that the truth is never simple.

This is the second book in the Detective Greene series. I read the first one, Old City Hall, a little over a year ago. When I read Old City Hall, I fell in love with the characters and I thought the plot was fantastic, so I had really high expectations for this novel, but unfortunately, it fell a little short.

I thought the plot for this book was really typical for a murder mystery/legal thriller novel. There was nothing too unpredictable or unique about it. In fact, I guessed what happened about halfway through the novel. I wasn’t too impressed with the actual story.

In Old City Hall, the part I enjoyed the most was the characterization. While all of the same characters from the first novel were a part of this one, I didn’t think the characterization was as strong as the first book. We didn’t seem to spend as much time learning about them and there was no character progression at all. In fact, I actively started to dislike characters I’d previously liked. One thing I can say is that all of the main characters were all flawed. They all had their issues and there were no white knights or heroes. They’re complex with very genuine emotions and very real problems, which makes you care about them.

The one amazing thing about this series is that Robert Rotenberg is an actual defense lawyer currently working in Toronto. It’s obvious how his background and knowledge of the Canadian legal system are completely accurate. I also like how he mentions differences between the Canadian and American legal systems, since most legal thrillers are American. I feel like I have a very poor grasp of the Canadian legal system even though I’ve lived in Canada for nearly 20 years.

While I was disappointed with this novel, there are still 2 more in the series and I will be reading them. I feel like Robert Rotenberg is a really talented writer, and I want to see if his next couple of books are as strong as his first.

Harvest – Robert Pobi Review

HarvestA stifling heat wave rolls into New York City, amplifying the already critical level of tension in the fragile concrete ecosystem. Recently recovered from a shoot-out that nearly killed her, homicide detective Alexandra “Hemi” Hemingway is already on edge. But then, on the morning Hemi discovers she is pregnant, a twisted serial killer makes his debut. And the heat goes up.

Soon, Hemi is besieged on all fronts as she struggles to catch up to a killer who always seems one step ahead. And as she pieces together the clues along the trail, it isn’t long before tensions boil over and Hemi finds herself a target in the deadly competition.

Not for the faint of heart, Harvest is a relentless ride that takes you through the fractured world of a nascent killer. And you will never feel safe again.

**This book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. **

This is the second book I’ve read by Robert Pobi. The first I read was Bloodman, which I absolutely loved. I started reading Harvest with pretty high expectations, and I’m happy to say I wasn’t disappointed.

First off, the characterization of Hemi was perfect. Hemi is a strong, tough heroine who has no problem keeping up with the boys. Since the NYPD is such a male dominated organization, it was refreshing to read about a female police officer who was smart, capable, and the lead in the investigation. It’s a little bit of a pet peeve for me when a mystery novel has a female sidekick who spends the entire time recapping what’s going on. Hemi is sharp, sarcastic, and a little bit of a ball buster. She’s a quick thinker and very decisive. As characters go, I really enjoyed how tough she was and also appreciated that she had feminine issues to deal with – i.e. her pregnancy. Sometimes it was a little bit apparent that she was a woman written by a man, but overall, I was completely on board with her character.

The plot moved at a fantastic pace. I found myself really eager to continue reading every night and had a really hard time stopping. All the characters are so well developed and there are just enough clues scattered throughout the book to keep the reader trying to figure out who the murderer is. The topic of child murder is a very sensitive subject and while the descriptions of the crime scenes and the death is very graphic, it’s not as graphic as Bloodman. Pobi handles the subject of child murder with tact and restraint, which I appreciated. I can’t say enough great things about this book. Just a note – this novel has really short chapters, which personally, I love.

I really hope this is the first in a series because I want a lot more books with Hemi. Robert Pobi is an autobuy author for me now. He’s an author to watch. Both Harvest and Bloodman are highly recommended.

Old City Hall – Robert Rotenberg

Old City Hall DID CANADA’S FAVOURITE RADIO HOST COMMIT MURDER?

Kevin Brace, Canada’s most famous radio personality, stands in the doorway of his luxury condominium, hands covered in blood, and announces to his newspaper delivery man: “I killed her.” His wife lies dead in the bathtub, fatally stabbed. It would appear to be an open-and-shut case.

The trouble is, Brace refuses to talk to anyone—including his own lawyer—after muttering those incriminating words. With the discovery that the victim was actually a self-destructive alcoholic, the appearance of strange fingerprints at the crime scene, and a revealing courtroom cross-examination, the seemingly simple case takes on all the complexities of a hotly contested murder trial.

In the tradition of defence lawyers turned authors like Scott Turow and John Grisham, Robert Rotenberg delivers a legal thriller rich with his forensic skill and insider knowledge, taking readers on a tour of Toronto from the Don Jail to the towers of Bay Street and into the shadowy corridors of the Old City Hall courthouse.

I really loved this book and it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year. The plot is imaginative, intricate, and there were some amazing characters introduced in this novel.

This book takes place in Toronto, which was an aspect I really enjoyed. Even though I’ve never been to Toronto, I’m still oddly sentimental about books that take place in Canada. The book starts off strong with an introduction to some supporting characters before the murder is mentioned. The plot of this novel is such a surprise and it shocked me on a number of occasions. There was nothing clichéd or predictable about this mystery.

Even though the murder mystery aspect of this book is central, the part I enjoyed the most was the characterization. I’ve read a lot of books this year, but this had the best characters out of any of them. They were well-defined and unique, which is a really big change from the rest of the books I’ve been reading. What I appreciated the most was that not only did we learn about the main characters and get a complete idea about their personalities, but we also get to learn about the secondary characters as well. Everybody who was even slightly important to the plot was fleshed out with a rich back-story.

The only thing I was a little irritated by was the ending. The resolution of this book wasn’t exactly what I was expecting and it could have been less open-ended. However, it makes sense since this is the starting book to a series. I’m such a fan of Robert Rotenberg now that I’ll be checking out all his other books as well. This is an excellent mystery novel and I highly recommend it.

The Bourbon Street Ripper – Leo King Review

The Bourbon Street Ripper (Sins of the Father #1) In 1972, the city of New Orleans was terrorized by a serial killer who came to be known as the Bourbon Street Ripper. Although he was captured, convicted, and executed, his deeds left a scar on the city.

Now, twenty years later, the murders have started again, and the secrets of the past, left buried for so long, must be uncovered in order to stop this new horror.

I will be frank. I didn’t finish this book. There is nothing especially wrong with it, but it just wasn’t as interesting or as exciting as I expected it to be. When I start thrillers or mysteries I need to get drawn in really quickly. Otherwise, I find myself sighing in boredom or trudging through the book without any real interest.

However, just because this book didn’t manage to draw me in doesn’t mean it’s a bad book. It’s quite well written, the characters are interesting, and the plot has potential. The difficulty for me was caring about any of them. Another problem for me was the dialog. Sometimes, when the characters talked, I thought the author was purposely making them sound ridiculous. Unfortunately, that was not the case.  Also, there was a lot of vivid description that wasn’t always necessary. Sometimes, describing everything slows down the pace of the book and that was the case in this novel.

I know that it’s very difficult to write a book and since this is a first novel, I’m sure King will get better as he gains more experience. I know lots of people enjoyed this book, it’s just unfortunate that I wasn’t one of them.

#37: A Picker Mystery – Scott Soloff Review

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#37
Scott Soloff

Antique dealer Picker finds himself stranded in New York City after being knocked unconscious ninety miles away from home. He spends his day buying and selling valuable antiques until he discovers that his old friend Anthony ‘Doo Wop’ DeAngelo is dead.

Doo Wop is a world class forger well known for his copies of famous artists. After completing his masterpiece, Anthony is found murdered in his studio. His latest creation is missing.

An accomplished antiques dealer, Picker is drawn into the world of duplicity, deceit and murder while being pursued by multiple sets of bad guys and various levels of law enforcement. Uncle Moe, girlfriend Penny Lane, his trusty German Shepherd, the long lost half brother and his boyhood friends assist Picker in unraveling an international conspiracy while trying to stay alive.

Simultaneously you’ll discover the forces that occurred in the previous generation that impact Picker’s life in the present. Find out how his parents met and fell in love; the discovery of his half-brother and the mysterious Frenchman that may be Picker’s greatest foe or possibly his most powerful ally.

Every once in a while, I come across a protagonist that makes me wish I knew them in real life. Picker is definitely one such character.  Picker is such an interesting, astute, and unpredictable antihero, but he’s very likeable. He’s sarcastic and irreverent, but I still wanted to be best friends with him.

I absolutely loved this book.  All of the characters were so colourful and unique and they really made this novel as great as it was.  It was also enjoyable to learn about antiques throughout the novel.  Antiquing is something I’ve never been interested in before, but the plot revolving around art and history in combination with antiques was a genius idea.

The plot was entertaining and involving and draws the reader into Picker’s world effortlessly. Even though there are some elements of the unbelievable in it and the plot does get a little convoluted at times, the book comes together nicely in the final act and I was really satisfied with its resolution. However, it did take a little time to adjust to the format of the chapters with one chapter taking place in the present and one in the past. Luckily, it does not detract from the book at all.

I give this book four and a half stars. It could be a five star book except for the minor spelling and grammar mistakes. One pass with an editor would make this novel incredible, but even as it is, it’s highly recommended.  Scott Soloff has written a gem of a novel with an extraordinary protagonist, intriguing characters and an engaging plot. I can’t wait to read the next Picker mystery!

Contrition – Robert E. Hirsch Review

In a tiny community on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Brother Placidus finds little Amanda LeFleur sacrificed below a crucifix, in the attic of The Brothers of the Holy Cross. It is not the first body he’s found there.

Assigned to the investigation is detective Peter Toche whose last case was that of a murdered child, a child that has been haunting his dreams, forcing him to face his worst fears and the evil that has targeted his town.

As additional victims are discovered, Tristan St. Germain, a mysterious man who was rescued by a parish priest from the waters near his home, may hold the key to the safety of all mankind.

Little Amanda was only the beginning…

I have to admit I wasn’t able to finish this book.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with it.  I just found it too wordy, too descriptive, and too religious.  I made it about halfway before I had to stop.

I think the biggest problem for me was that this book was advertised as a murder mystery/thriller when it was actually an overly religious novel.  The murder was in the background and only as a plot device to consider the major point of the book…the battle between good and evil.  I just found myself frustrated with the religious themes and all of the unnecessary Latin phrases thrown in just for kicks.

The characters were all such characters.  There wasn’t a regular one among them.  Almost every character introduced had their own completely farfetched backstory.  The police officer has psychic tendencies…come on!  It wasn’t even introduced in an organic way…it was just told to the reader.

Honestly, I don’t mind theological elements in the books I read, but I can’t read novels that are centered around it.  Perhaps it’s my fault for not understanding what this book was going to be about, but I felt cheated.  I tried to give it a fair shot, but unfortunately it didn’t hold my attention.