Category Archives: review

Review: The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

The Couple Next DoorAs a rule, I don’t peak ahead at the ending of novels.

But there are some books for which exceptions have to be made. And Shari Lapena’s The Couple Next Door turned out to be one of those.

When their babysitter cancels at the last minute, Marco convinces his wife Anne that they can leave their infant daughter home alone while they attend a dinner party next door. If they take the baby monitor with them and take turns checking on their daughter every half hour, nothing could possibly go wrong.

Coming back home from the party, they discover the door ajar and their baby kidnapped. The police are called in and things just aren’t adding up on how and who could or would have kidnapped the little girl. As the investigation deepens, secrets about not only Marco and Anne are revealed but also about their neighbors and Anne’s parents. In short, everyone has something to hide when it comes to the kidnapping.

I have to admit that about a tenth of a way into the novel, I had to skip ahead and see how certain events played out. I didn’t want to ruin any of the twists or character revelations (I luckily didn’t) but instead wanted to find make sure the baby didn’t come to any harm. As a new parent, the idea of someone kidnapping an infant daughter gave me the cold sweats and I didn’t want to continue the story if the outcome was extremely negative. Continue reading

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Review: Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale

Everything We KeepEverything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale

On the day she was supposed to marry her best-friend, Aimee Turney attends his funeral instead. Her fiance, James, went on a trip to Mexico before their big day and vanished without a trace. Missing and presumed dead, Aimee must now attempt to pick up the shattered pieces of her life.

Her depression isn’t helped when her parents reveal they’re closing the family restaurant, leaving without the life she knew and counted on building. Continue reading

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Review: Food For Thought by J.L. Baumann

Food for Thought“It was after listening to Maurice tells his stories that I had become a firm believer that if anyone who wanted to know anything at all about humanity, all they needed to do was work a while in a restaurant.”

An intriguing short-story collection, J.L. Baumann’s Food for Thought offers up seven different regulars at Bo’s restaurant from The Deacon who works in construction, hails from Louisiana and thinks that everything is better back home to Pete the car salesman who comes in daily to break up the “droll monotony” of his existence. Bo’s interactions with his clients, staff and other members of the community drive each of these stories. Baumann expertly creates a world of unique, recognizable characters, all of whom are driven not only by their need to feed their physical hunger but find sustenance of another kind in Bo’s booths, tables and counter.

In many ways, Bo’s will remind you of the television show Cheers with a cast of quirky, endearing characters. Baumann finds motivations for each of person we encounter and we, along with Bo, learn a few interesting things about humanity. Whether it’s the determination of Didi to cook for Bo or the health inspector who used world class white gloves to ensure everything is up to code, Baumann has crafted a restaurant that makes you feel at home. There are even a few interesting surprises along the way to help keep things interesting and the characters and stories authentic.

I feel like after spending these seven stories in this world that I’d had a full, complete meal. I wouldn’t be averse to having another meal at Bo’s, though.

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Review: Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Truly Madly GuiltyThree couples got together for a barbecue one sunny afternoon. But instead of a delightful, fun social event, the barbecue ended up a turning point for all six people involved and the fallout still ripples through each person and their various relationships.

I’d read several of Liane Moriarity’s previous novels before diving into Truly Madly Guilty and found them all to be page-turning stories of “small scale” crimes. Like many of her other contemporary mystery writers, Moriarity’s work dwell less on the actual crime itself and more on the impact it has on the characters involved.

And while circling around the crucial event, jumping between before and after the pivotal moment, worked in the other novels I’ve read by Moriarity, the pieces never quite came together here. Instead of being riveted by the hints being dropped about something monumental happening that fateful afternoon, I was left feeling like the story and the characters are all treading water as we wait for some of the revelations to start coming out.

Once we finally get to what happened that afternoon, I had pretty much checked out of the novel and only really staying around to see if my assumptions about what happened were correct. After really enjoying several other novels by Moriarty, I have to admit I came away from this one feeling a bit disappointed. It’s not enough to keep me from reading more of her works or trying her next novel. But it is enough for me to chalk this one up as one of the more disappointing books I’ve read this year.

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Review: The American Girl by Kate Horsley

The American GirlIt seem like a lot of the mystery novels I’m drawn to these days feature an unreliable narrator (or narrators in the case of The American Girl). Whether this is due to the success of novels like Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train has encouraged publishers to jump on the unreliable narrator bandwagon or that it’s just that I’ve become more aware of this particular narrative hook, I’m not sure.

What I do know is that, at this point, it takes a lot to make an unreliable narrator story stand out to me.

Kate Horsley’s The American Girl was able to do that. Well, at least it was able to do that for the first hundred or so pages. Continue reading

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Review: The Big Rewind by Libby Cudmore

The Big RewindLibby Cudmore’s debut novel The Big Rewind features a cover blurb comparing it to Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. And while it’s true the two novels share first-person narrators who love music and sprinkle in more pop culture references than you can shake a stick at, I’m not sure the comparison between the two extends far beyond that.

Taking over her grandmother’s rent controlled New York apartment, Jett Bennett has grand visions of becoming a music journalist in the Big Apple. But the reality of her situation is that she’s scraping by taking temp jobs and spending a lot of time at Trader Joe’s (if this was a movie, the sheer number of mentions of Trader Joe’s would feel like product placement). Living among bohemian artists, Jett is finding her way in the world when a mix-up in the mail has her stumble across the murder of her neighbor. Continue reading

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Audio Review: Doctor Who and the Claws of Axos by Terrance Dicks

Doctor Who and the Claws of Axos: A 3rd Doctor novelisation

While some of my peers were reading the Sweet Valley High or R.L. Stine’s novels, I spent my teenage years reading Stephen King and Target adaptations of classic Doctor Who stories. One of the most prolific authors of the Who range was former script-editor Terrance Dicks. If you take a step back and look at the sheer volume of novels published by Dicks during this era, it’s staggering — to the point that I had an image of poor Terrance chained to a desk, fed only bread and water and forced to hammer out adaptation after adaptation on his typewriter.

Visiting some of Dicks’ output again thanks to BBC Audio has only underlined again just what Dicks was able to do for an entire generation of Doctor Who fans — keep the series alive and fresh in our imaginations when we couldn’t see all the stories we wanted to again, much less collect them to sit our shelves. The fact that these novels are still readable and enjoyable today is a testament to just how good Dicks was.

“The Claws of Axos” comes from an era when Dicks wasn’t given as much time to adapt serials as he had in the bookends of his Doctor Who adapting career. “Claws” is pretty much a straight-forward adaptation of the original script with some nifty descriptions and one or two embellishments thrown in for good measure (for example, at the end when the serial ends with the Doctor’s chagrin at being “a galactic yo-yo,” Dicks allows the action to continue onward with everyone saying their farewells and the Doctor rushing out to ensure the UNIT guys don’t jostle the TARDIS). Continue reading

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