Category Archives: Book Review

The Unnaturalists

When we moved, all my books got boxed up (again). 😦 But recently I’ve dug out some of my more recent snags and remade my reading list.

First up was The Unnaturalists, by Tiffany Trent. I first thought this book was going to be really steam punk, based on the cover. But it wasn’t really that, more dystopian fantasy.

Vespa Nyx has enjoyed her life thus far cataloguing magical creatures (Unnaturals) in the museum overseen by her father. But when she is pressured to start thinking of a future with a husband and family, she finds herself catapulted into more danger and intrigue than she ever expected.

It falls to Vespa to save New London, its people, and the Unnaturals. To do so, she has to understand and embrace who she is, a secret that’s been kept from her for her whole life.

The Unnaturalists was a quick, fun read. A nice break from the thrillers that I love. While not really filled with unforeseeable twists and turns, the story had lots of various subplots that kept the action moving and kept the story engaging.

The story has a little bit of everything–magic, adventure, romance, and heartbreak. It’s definitely a fun read for anyone wanting something that feels reminiscent of fairy tales.

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The Obsession

The last time I picked up a romance book, I was pleasantly surprised to find it was mostly a thriller with a sub-theme of romance. When I picked up Nora Roberts’ The Obsession, I thought I was getting into something similar.

As a young girl, Naomi Bowes followed her father into the woods one night and discovered his dark secret–kidnapping and murdering young women. For the rest of her life, Naomi’s been trying to outrun her past and its horrors.

She settles into a small town, living under the name Naomi Carson, and begins to build a home, the one thing she never thought possible. She finds friendly people who want to know her, and she finds herself getting pulled deeper into a life she believes isn’t possible for her. But her sense of security is shattered with a string of crimes reminiscent of her past. Everything seems about to fall into a million pieces, but Naomi is tired of running and she’s ready to hold on to what she’s got.

I had high hopes for this book, and while it was good, and well written, it wasn’t quite everything I’d been hoping for. It was definitely more 50/50 thriller and romance, which wouldn’t be bad, except that I was not keen, at all, on the love interest. Though he turned out to be OK in the end, I have a hard time liking a character who, when a woman says she won’t sleep with him, responds with “yet.” Eww. It felt a little bit like a hook-up turned love story, which is not what I’m looking for on those occasions when I do want romance a little more front and center.

Having read this book, though, I can understand why people like Nora Roberts (plus, it’s valuable to read lots of different things so I can recommend them to others). Perhaps I would like her mystery books as J.D. Robb a little bit better. And I’m sure all her love interests aren’t the same, so perhaps some of her other books would be a little easier for me to stomach. All in all, not bad if you’re looking for something in between what your grandmother reads and 50 Shades.

Final Appeal

Continuing in the mystery vein, I decided to try out Lisa Scottoline, a well known mystery author I’ve been anxious to read before.

I thought Final Appeal would be a little more of a courtroom drama mystery. When Grace Rossi takes a part-time job with a federal appeals court. But she finds herself in the middle of a death penalty appeal, an affair with her boss, and unexpectedly in the middle of a murder investigation, one she’s heading up herself.

When Grace starts digging and uncovers some suspicious evidence, she starts sketching a picture in her mind, and it’s not pretty. But the hard evidence is hard to come by, and time seems to be running out and things are getting dangerous for Grace.

I almost didn’t keep reading this book, as within the first two chapters it seemed the whole book was going to be focused on the romance. I was pleased that that was a short lived focus. However, it wasn’t quite the rapid-fire courtroom drama I was expecting. Instead, Grace investigated on her own, sneaking into offices and apartments to look for anything that might give answers. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting.

All that to say, I did enjoy Final Appeal. It was an interesting read with some unexpected twists and turns. I’ll admit, I didn’t actually expect the end result, and it was actually a little more realistic, focusing on human ambition instead of something elaborate.

I’m definitely interested in reading more of Lisa Scottoline. Along with about a zillion other authors and books.

Fragments of the Lost

I’ve been meaning to read a Megan Miranda book for a while, as I’ve heard she’s a good thriller writer, so, naturally, an advanced copy of her newest book became available, I snatched it up right away.

Fragments of the Lost is geared toward young adults, and is the story of Jessa Whitworth and her ex-boyfriend Caleb. After they broke up, Caleb’s car washed off the side of the bridge in a flash flood. Everyone’s decided Jessa’s to blame, since it was her track meet he had left on the night of his accident. Caleb’s mother demands Jessa pack up Caleb’s room, and as she boxes everything up, Jessa struggles with her guilt and with the growing realization that their relationship seemed to be built on a foundation of lies. Jessa dives into her own investigation, trying to find out why Caleb was on the road, where he was going, and what she truly knew about Caleb. But she’s quickly finding out that she may not like the answers she uncovers.

Within the first few sentences of this book, I was hooked. It’s chock full of drama and mystery and flows at a fast pace. The story is told in first person, a mixture of present moment and flash backs from when Jessa and Caleb were still together. This makes it easy to get into Jessa’s head and see everything from her perspective, follow her thoughts to the same conclusions she reaches. But the book has several twists and turns to keep readers on edge, and the short chapters make it really easy to promise yourself “just one more.”

Being geared toward young adults, of course there is romance throughout the whole book (not the least of which is obviously the flashbacks from Jessa and Caleb’s relationship). But I was glad to see there was much more to the story than that. If the rest of her books are anywhere near as good as Fragments of the Lost, I’m really going to enjoy catching up on Megan Miranda’s books.

Charlatans

I’ve known for a while that I wanted to try out Robin Cook, who is a fairly popular medical thriller author. So I checked out a copy of his latest novel, Charlatans, and, while good, it wasn’t quite what I was looking for.

Charlatans is, mostly, the story of Noah Rothauser, a surgical resident at a renown hospital in Boston. His career is flourishing until he finds himself tangled up in office drama. After the death of a well-known and loved hospital security guard, Noah develops a relationship with Ava London, the anesthesiologist during the surgery. When two more deaths happen on her watch within as many weeks, Noah finds it harder and harder to dismiss the nagging questions he has regarding Ava’s performance.

Meanwhile, Noah experiences growing paranoia as it seems like everything in his life is falling to pieces. And in his quest to find answers, Noah realizes how easy it is for people to present who they want to be in person, while truly being someone completely different.

Despite the name, I guess I somewhat expected Charlatans to be a little more like what I expect Cook’s other books to be–where the thriller part is due to medicine, and not so much a hospital drama about secrets. In my mind, I guess I was expecting house, but got Grey’s Anatomy instead (though, to be fair, I’m not quite sure I’ve seen a full episode of either show). Charlatans wasn’t bad, in fact, I enjoyed the book, once I got past my expectations.

It was quick paced and easy to read. My one complaint was that Ava London’s character felt very stiff. I’m still trying to decide if I think that was on purpose, because of who she is, but, even if that’s the case, I’m not sure it really worked. I get that she’s supposed to be anti-social, but she came across more like someone who learned English from a finishing school mistress and speaks with no colloquial flavor. In short, not very realistic, to me.

So all in all, it was a good book. Definitely interesting, the main theme revolving around how technology is shaping the newer generations. But, I’m still really interested in getting my hands on one of Cook’s medical thrillers. Maybe after Christmas.

Code Girls

I had just been lamenting that the show Bletchley Circle was so short when Liza Mundy’s Code Girls came out. Code Girls is the untold and largely unknown story of the women who helped break German and Japanese codes during World War II.

Mundy begins by introducing several women whose lives the book will follow, showing how they received secret letters inviting them to secret meetings and were offered positions in code breaking. Many women, bored with teaching and anxious to contribute to the war effort, said yes.

Code breaking was used during World War I, but not to the same extend and to the same success in World War II, though the groundwork was laid for women to be involved, as some of the stars of World War I code breaking we’re female as well.

While not particularly the story of any one woman but a picture of the collective experience, Code Girls was a very interesting read. You really get a feel for the secrecy, for the pressure and importance of the work. Plus you get a little understanding of how code breaking is, and you see how hard it is.

It reminded me a little of Hidden Figures, and I could easily see this as a movie or even tv series.

All in all, it was a good book, and not a challenging read, as far as history books go.

Meddling Kids

The first thing to know about Edgar Cantero’s Meddling Kids is that it isn’t your childhood Scooby Doo story, despite the title.

Meddling Kids is the story of the Blyton Summer Detectives Club, four teens and their dog solving crime and unmasking the villains. Fast forward 13 years and everyone has gone their separate ways, lives wrecked from the last case they solved. Or did they?

Andy Rodriguez reunites what’s left of the gang, convinced there was something more to the Sleepy Lake case, something they missed, and therefore left unfinished. When she finally convinces the others to come along, they find themselves in the thick of the most dangerous case yet, and it’s not just another guy in a mask.

Full of sarcasm, mystical monsters and some substance abuse, the Blyton Summer Detectives Club suffers from some serious PTSD, but they’re resolved to get to the bottom of it, no matter what it takes.

This book immediately caught my attention because of the comparison to Scooby Doo. From the get go, it seemed like it was going to be good.

The writing was fun, easy to read and Cantero kept the pace moving, even while developing his characters and setting the scene. In a unique mix of traditional dialogue and almost script writing, you go from observing everything in the scene to snapping your head back and forth between the characters. While different, the style worked for Cantero.

This book definitely isn’t for anyone who wants to believe in the innocence of their favorite childhood detectives. Let’s just say “jinkies” isn’t the expletive of choice for this club, and Scooby snacks aren’t the drug of choice.

But it’s a fun story, and a fun break from the “real life” detective stories about things that could really happen.

So if you’re looking for something fun to read, and nostalgia as a plus for you, be sure to check out Meddling Kids.