Category Archives: review

Two by Harlan Coben: Missing You, Six Years

Missing You

Given a year membership to a popular singles dating site, New York detective Kat Donovan reluctantly logs-on, hoping to give her love life a jump start. What she finds instead is a profile from the man who broke off their engagement eighteen years before and has mysteriously disappeared (she’s drunk Googled him a couple of times and comes up short).

Kat reaches out to him, using the lyrics of one of their favorite songs to catch his attention. But when he abruptly shuts down their communication and warns her not to contact him or seek him out again, Kat’s suspicions are raised. Could the disappearance of this guy be somehow linked to the death of her father all those years ago and the man who is about to die in prison for confessing to her father’s murder (as well as several others)?

And is her former fiancee connected to a string of rich widows who are disappearing under mysterious circumstances?

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Review: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies

Something happened on trivia night at Piriwee Public — something so tragic that the police had to be called in to investigate and try to separate the truth from the rumors.

Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Liars starts with the tease about trivia night and then sends us back in time to build up to that night for four-hundred pages. It’s the story of three women — Jane, Celeste and Madeline — who each have children enrolled in Miss Barnes’ kindergarten class. At an orientation day, Jane’s son Ziggy is accused of bullying another girl in his class. Despite Ziggy’s denials, the incident polarizes families for and against Ziggy.

Jane secretly fears that Ziggy could have a bullying streak based on the one-night stand she had with his father, whom she hasn’t seen since. As Jane slowly becomes part of the community and friends with Madeline and Celeste, the three begin to discover that each of them is hiding things and that things aren’t as rosy as they would appear on the surface of their lives.

Over the course of Big Little Liars, Moriarty lays the foundation for everything to come to a head at trivia night. There are some fascinating but expertly set up revelations that come from the evening and what happens there. I’ll give Moriarty credit that while I was able to suss out one of the revelations, most of the others were a satisfying surprise.

To say much more is to give away too much and to rob readers of the opportunity to experience this novel for themselves.

Go, read it. I think you’ll like it.

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Review: Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little

Dear Daughter

After ten years in prison, former party girl Janie Jenkins has been released from prison on a technicality. But rather than use this opportunity to put her life back together, Janie has decided it’s time to uncover the truth of who really killed her mother (Janie was doing the time for the crime) and the motive for her mother’s killing.

Janie hasn’t been wasting any of her time in prison — she’s taken advantage of the prison library to study details on the small town her mother escaped as a young girl. Free again, Janie launches a plan to change her identity and head back to the small town — all while eluding various members of the media who want a photo of the former party girl turned convict and one particular blogger who has an ax to grind with Janie.

If you’re worried I’m giving away too much of Elizabeth Little’s engrossing mystery-thriller Dear Daughter, don’t be. All of what I’ve described above is laid out within the novel’s first fifty or so pages (or if you want to be even more nitpicky, on the cover blurb) and most of it’s set-up for what’s to come as Janie peels back the layers of her past to find out who her mother really was and who might have killed her.

Janie is completely unapologetic for her attitude and world-view, both of which are dour, pessimistic and sarcastic. Janie fills us in on details of her present and past on a need to know basis with hints coming first and then later filling in the necessary details. And while you may think you’ve guessed the ultimate ending to the novel by the mid-way point (as I did), Little is able to still pack in a few twists and pull the rug out from under you moments in the finale that are earned and appropriately foreshadowed.

It all adds up to one of the more impressive mystery debuts I’ve had the pleasure to read of late. It also puts Elizabeth Little firmly on my radar as someone to watch for future installments and see where she goes from here.

I was given a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation — The Light Fantastic by Jeffrey Lang

The Light Fantastic (Star Trek: The Next Generation)

Lately I’ve found myself wishing the Pocket Books Star Trek tie-in novels could get a reboot.

I remember the days when you could pick up a Star Trek novel and enjoy a couple of hundred pages with familiar faces and friends from the franchise. There might be a continuity reference to an obscure-to-you episode thrown in or a wink to a previous novel, but it didn’t hinder you from enjoying the story or feeling like you were being left out.

But somewhere along the way, the Star Trek novels have become more insular and dependent on an internal continuity that seems to be growing more complex with each passing novel. With three of the four modern Treks sharing the same publishing universe, it’s becoming more and more difficult for me to pick up and fully enjoy a novel set in them. And it’s a shame because I really enjoy a good Star Trek novel.

The Light Fantastic had the chance to be a really good Star Trek novel. Following up on the success of Mortal Coil, Jeffrey Lang focuses once again on Data and his family. Apparently, Data is back from the dead (because no Trek character killed on-screen can stay dead for long on the printed page) and living on Orion with his daughter Lal and her mysterious “babysitter” Alice. When Lal is kidnapped by Moriarty (seen in two TNG episodes), Data is forced to come out of hiding to try and find his daughter. Seems that Moriarty has figured out that he and his wife are trapped inside a computer bank and not really out among the stars as he thought and he wants to be free with a real body outside the holodeck or computer core.

Lang ties-in a ton of Trek continuity from various television shows, movies and (I assume) books in his story. How Moriarty determines he’s in a computer core and how delicate that life can be is a nice tie-in to events in Star Trek: Generations. And the tie-in of building an android body to a couple of classic Trek installments is also nicely done.

But where the novel falls down is its over-reliance on previous novels in the franchise that I haven’t had the time or inclination to read. I’m going to assume that Data’s return to life is a central plot point of the last trilogy that I didn’t read. And while I could read and enjoy (most of) The Light Fantastic without knowing every single little detail, I still felt like I was missing something by not having spent 900 or so pages with the past trilogy (which was built on the last trilogy which built on a couple of other novels….well, you get the point). It all adds up to a frustrating experience from a book that I was, quite frankly, looking forward to.

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Reviews: Lies My Girlfriend Told Me by Julie Anne Peters

Lies My Girlfriend Told Me

Perusing reviews of Lies My Girlfriends Told Me, it appears the books is a bit polarizing among readers. There are some who call is “ground breaking” while others are quick to dismiss it as your standard teen angst novel.

My thoughts on the subject are that yes, the novel is full of teen relationship angst and that it’s not necessarily as ground breaking as some reviewers would have you believe.

When Alix’s girlfriend Swanee passes away of cardiac arrest during a run, Alix’s entire world is shattered. But not nearly as much as when Alix sneaks into her girlfriend’s room and discovers her cell phone full of voice-mails and text messages from LM. Seems that Swanee had more than her fair share of secrets, including the fact that she was in a relationship with not only Alix, but also this mysterious LM.

Driven by a need to find answers, Alix quizzes Swanee’s younger sister, Joss for clues and eventually begins to answer back the mysterious LM’s texts. Alix eventually founds out that LM is Liana, a cheerleader at another school who Swanee assured Alix she’d broken up with when they got together. Confused, Alix seeks out Liana, wanting to find answers and possibly get some closure. But things get complicated when Alix and Liana share a connection, becoming friends and possibly more. Continue reading

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Review: Star Trek: No Time Like the Past by Greg Cox

No Time Like the Past (Star Trek: The Original Series)

While he’s not quite in the same pantheon as Peter David, Greg Cox still offers up more this fair share of intriguing, well-told Star Trek tie-in novels. So when I saw the cover of No Time Like the Past promised an “epic crossover event,” I was willing to give this blending of classic Trek and Voyager a chance.

And for the most part, it was a fairly fun read, even if I felt like the book overstayed its welcome by about fifty or so pages.

Thanks to some relic in the Delta Quadrant, Seven of Nine is sent back to the era of Kirk, Spock and McCoy. In order to get back and to prevent damage to the future time-line, Seven enlists the help of Kirk and company to reassemble a time-travel device and return home. Pieces of said artifact are scattered across the galaxy, all on planets that Kirk and company visited during the original seventy-nine episodes. Add in that the Klingons are aware of Seven’s presence and potential value and a commodore is up the usual classic Trek standards of cluelessness and you’ve got all the ingredients for a fun, diverting visit to the Star Trek universe.

As he’s demonstrated in the past, Cox has a firm grasp on history — Star Trek and otherwise. That is fully on display here and I’ll admit the classic Trek fan in me ate up the references and returns to some familiar locations.*

* It was almost enough to make me want to re-visit the three major episodes referenced in the story.

But the novelty and fun begin to wear out long before the novel reaches its final pages. By the mid-point of the novel, I found myself growing a bit weary of the constant reminders that everyone wants Seven for her future knowledge and potential to get a leg-up on the balance of power in the quadrant. And the book has to go to some huge lengths to have Seven regenerate since she’s cut off from her Borg cubicle.

It’s not to say the novel isn’t a fun one. It’s just that it feels a bit longer than it needs to be. There’s a bit too much treading water in the middle section and that drags the story down a bit.

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Review: Skin Game by Jim Butcher

Skin Game (The Dresden Files, #15)

Jim Butcher’s on-going Dresden Files has been one of the best things in the publishing world for a long time now. Each new book is a must read for me and I eagerly look forward to the moment I can crack the cover and spend a few hundred pages with my favorite wizard, Harry Dresden.

So maybe I had my expectations set a bit too high for the fifteenth installment, Skin Game.

It’s not that Skin Game is a terrible book or a jump the shark moment for the series. But it just didn’t quite thrill me as much as some of the other recent installments have.

In many ways, Skin Game is the Dresden Files’ take on Ocean’s 11. Harry’s boss Mab loans him out as part of a team that is looking to pull off a heist from an underworld safe. The stakes are just a bit higher however than just stealing the (literal) holy Grail. Dresden is paying off Mab’s debts and his own and failure is not an option.

Butcher does a nice job of pulling in a wide variety of familiar faces from the series and reminding us just what Harry stands to gain and lose should this particular assignment succeed or fail. The book also examines some of the impact and consequences of Harry’s decision to become the Winter Knight and to wield the powers and responsibilities that come with that mantle. I have a feeling that Butcher is setting the stage for some other shoes to drop in future novels as well as tying up a few plot threads here so we can start building toward the end game of the series.

As I said before, this isn’t a bad book. It’s just not my favorite in the series. There’s still a lot to love about our favorite wizard and his world and I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing what Butcher gives us next for Harry and his friends. The Dresden Files is still one of the best on-going series on the market today.

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