Thursday, February 28, 2019

Book Review: Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward @_Annie_Ward ‏ #BeautifulBad

Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward book cover and review
If you are a fan of the psychological thriller genre, of which there seem to be a plethora of options, Beautiful Bad is a worthy candidate for your list.

There has been a killing. We know that because one of the time/perspectives is of the police officer responding to a 911 call. We also get Maddie's perspective starting from several weeks before the killing, and also from the early 2000s, when she lived in Bulgaria and often visited her friend Jo in Macedonia. On one of these trips, she meets Ian, a British bodyguard. Eventually, we get some of Ian's perspective too.

We know that Ian and Maddie end up married. They have a son, Charlie. But the road to how they got together and how "The day of the Killing" turned out, well, that's quite the story. Ward does a masterful job telling it, as we weave through all these time periods.

It becomes very obvious that Ian has issues -- PTSD being one of them. But...Maddie is pretty messed up herself. Along with being married to a man with PTSD, she has also been physically damaged by a couple of earlier accidents that I won't go into.

That's really about all I want to say.  It is interesting that you don't even know who the victim is until the last part of Beautiful Bad. And even after you know that...well, you still don't know everything.

Beautiful Bad is well written, well-paced, and the characters are such that you really don't know who to root for. The ending is sooo twisted, and I really can't imagining anyone realizing what is going on until they read it. If you figure it out...well, you are as twisted as Annie Ward!

I loved Beautiful Bad. Read it.

Published by Park Row, March 5, 2019
eARC obtained from NetGalley and Edelweiss
368 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Monday, February 25, 2019

Book Review: The Vanishing Man by Charles Finch @MinotaurBooks

The Vanishing Man by Charles Finch book cover and review
I haven't read any of The Charles Lenox Series of books, but since The Vanishing Man was a prequel and sounded intriguing, I decided to try it. I was not disappointed.

Lenox is an English aristocrat turned sleuth. It is 1853 and Lenox has been called up by the Duke of Dorset to discretely find a painting that has been stolen from his home. It's more than just the painting, though. You see, right next to the rather ordinary, relatively cheap painting that was stolen is a priceless portrait of William Shakespeare -- one that only a few people know exists.

Lenox is an intelligent and interesting character. What adds to the entertainment is the people he surrounds himself with. His valet, who helps him with his investigations, his housekeeper, his neighbor (Lady Jane), and somewhat of a ruffian who Lenox hires to do some investigating--to name only a few. The investigation goes off kilter when Dorset himself is accused of murder and put in the Tower of London. Lenox is not only trying to solve this complex mystery, but he's in danger of losing all social standing if he doesn't.

One of my favorite parts of The Vanishing Man are the several spots where Finch describes the derivation of certain words in our current vocabulary. Tips, bedlam, cottage -- to name a few. I bookmarked them all. He also includes a rundown of the aristocracy and what all the titles mean. Along with these tidbits, the writing is exceptional. The banter between the characters is sophisticated. And the plot moves swiftly, with twists that I didn't see coming. Nothing is for sure until the very end, and then there are still some things that Lenox is not able to nail down completely.

I do have one question, though. Why that title? What man has vanished? If you have read this and have thoughts, please leave me a comment. What am I missing?

I'm a fan of historical fiction and loved learning more about Victorian England and Shakespeare while delighting in these characters and this story. I'm a fan and look forward to beginning my journey through some more Charles Lenox stories. Highly recommended to fans of Victorian mysteries.

Published by Minotaur, February 19. 2019
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
304 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Monday, February 18, 2019

Book Review: Immoral Code by Lillian Clark

Immoral Code by Lillian Clark book cover and review
For teen fans of Ocean's Eleven, this story, Immoral Code, about a group of smart teens undertaking a daring caper, will surely entertain. I'm not a teen, and it entertained me.

These five teens decide to take on Bellamy's (one of the teens) long-lost father. You see, she's never known him. Her mother gets a monthly check from his lawyers, but that is it. Bellamy is already a brilliant scientist who has been accepted to MIT. However, when her financial aid request is denied, she knows she will never be able to go. You see, her father is rich. Very, very, like Bill Gates rich. So his income was taken into account, even though he hasn't agreed to help Bellamy with college at all.

Her friends are seriously affronted by this. The hacker of the group, Nari, figures out a way to hack into Bellamy's father's accounts and skim enough so that Bellamy will have enough money for college, but her father will never know. The only problem is, they must break into his office to install some software on his computer.

There are five first-person points-of-view. One for each teen. Each teen is distinct, however some of the chapters are so short, I would forget which one was currently narrating.

The best thing about Immoral Code is the relationships between these five. There is an established romance, and a potential one in the group. You can tell they have spent a lot of time together because of the inside joke, games, etc. that are mentioned. And they are brilliant, so they do things like give each other points for great SAT Vocabulary words.  It's all very intelligent, and I loved that.

There is also tension, because one of the group has serious moral questions about what they are doing. And the ending, while turning out happily-ever-after, provides even more tension.

A charming book that took me only a couple of days to get through (which is refreshing in itself), I would recommend Immoral Code to those who enjoy fast-paced stories about high school friendships.

Published by Knopf BFYR, February 19. 2019
Copy obtained from NetGalley
320 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Audiobook Review: The Death of Mrs. Westaway, by Ruth Ware

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware book cover and review
The Death of Mrs. Westaway is a slow, meandering story, but the writing is excellent. I couldn't wait to get back to it as my anticipation of the outcome continued to grow.

After the death of her mother two years ago, Hal is barely able to survive. She has creditors breathing down her neck (literally). When she gets a mysterious letter saying that her grandmother has left her some sort of inheritance, she is understandably intrigued, as well as confused. Hal knows of no grandmother, and given the information in the letter, she is fairly certain that they have got the wrong person.

She's desperate enough to see how things play out, so she attends the funeral, meets her supposed uncles and cousins, and tries to play the part of the long-lost granddaughter. As the situation unfolds, Hal becomes more baffled, but wary. It seems her mother did have a connection to this family. As she begins to feel a sense of belonging, she also feels a profound sense of guilt.

As a reader, I knew Hal didn't have the whole story -- but I didn't know what that story was until the end. You know there is going to be a twist, but it isn't clear what direction things will go. As I said, the plot meanders, but the background information serves to intensify feelings, and I found myself just getting more and more involved in the story.

I loved The Death of Mrs. Westaway, and I'm glad I listened to it. I think if I had read it, I might have been tempted to skim ahead to discover the conclusion. Imogen Church, the narrator, did a wonderful job. The voices were distinctive but not over the top.

The Death of Mrs. Westaway is plenty popular without my recommendation (I waited a loooong time for this one to be available), but I will  still give my enthusiastic thumbs up. If you love those twisted family mysteries, you should try The Death of Mrs. Westaway.

Published by Gallery/Scout, 2018, Simon & Schuster audio
Audiobook obtained from the library
368 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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Monday, February 11, 2019

Book Review: Courting Darkness by Robin LaFevers

Courting Darkness by Robin LaFevers book cover and review
I was very happy to return to the world that LaFevers created in the His Fair Assassin trilogy. Courting Darkness was an interesting continuation.

Courting Darkness is the story of two women, Sybella, whose story we heard in Dark Triumph, and Genevieve, a new character. The stories are entirely separate, narrated alternately, and I waited the entire time for their stories to collide. Let's just say, I'm still waiting!

Sybella accompanies the Duchess to France, where she weds the king. Sybella has discovered that there are two trained assassins from St. Mortain’s convent deep undercover in the French court, and she must find them before the danger to her and the Duchess becomes too great.

It has been so long since Genevieve has heard anything from the convent that she isn't sure they even remember her. She finds a forgotten prisoner in the dungeons and decides to escape with him and use his identity to help her save herself and the convent.

The politics, the world, the religion, and the number of characters are all a bit overwhelming, especially since it had been so long since I had read Mortal Hearts, the last book in the previous series. At over 500 pages, I also found Courting Darkness to drag on a bit, especially the part when Genevieve and her escapee are traveling.

I did enjoy the story but didn't enjoy so much the brutal cliffhanger...

I suppose it isn't necessary to read the His Fair Assassin books, but I think I would recommend it. I don't think you can understand the world and the religion without that background. You won't get enough out of this book if read alone. And, honestly, I enjoyed those initial three books better than this one.

If you've read the previous trilogy, then I highly recommend Courting Darkness, even with the problems mentioned above. You just have to experience this story. This is a duology, and I'll be waiting for the second book.

Published by HMH BFYR, February 5, 2019
eARC obtained from NetGalley
512 pages

Rating: 4/5

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