2011 NetGalley ARCs - Reading and Reviewing

I've been very fortunate to be chosen as both a Vine reader for ARCs through Amazon and have had the honor of reading ARCs through NetGalley electronically on my Nook.

Since Amazon Vine review can be posted online on the Amazon web site, this page will be exclusively dedicated to my NetGalley ARC reviews and reviews of books received directly from the publisher. Reviews will also appear on my Amazon review page as soon as allowed by Amazon.

Happy Reading!


Update January 2012:

Please see blog for all books read during 2012. There will not be a page dedicated to books from NetGalley since reviews will appear on the main blog, Goodreads, and the Amazon product page.


ARCs I've read (displayed in order of most recent):

Shattered Dreams: A Midnight Dragonfly Novel by Ellie James

Just finished this book today - go see my review on the home page.

The Demon Lover: A Novel by Juliet Dark

This book is next on tap. Go see my review

The Night Strangers: A Novel by Chris Bohjalian

Wish I never read this book. Go see my review on the home page

Water's Edge by Robert Whitlow

Diverged into heavy duty Christian fiction, with scripture and prayers galore near page 100. I persevered and ended up enjoying the story. See my full review for details.

The Broken Teaglass: A Novel by Emily Arsenault

A well crafted tale - go see my full review

The Shadowing: Hunted by Adam Slater

Wow!  This story is brilliantly rendered with a setting that is just about perfect. See my full review on the home page

Waking Hours (The East Salem Trilogy)Waking Hours (The East Salem Trilogy) by Lis Wiehl with Pete Nelson

This book is a definite keeper! See my full review on the home page.

Beyond the Grave (Harlequin Teen) by Mara Purhagen

This book grabbed me from the first page and didn't let go. Go to my review on the home page to read more.

A Prayer for the DyingA Prayer for the Dying by Jack Higgins

Wow, this was a short, but mighty book!  See my full review on the home page.

Black DiamondBlack Diamond by John F. Dobbyn

A smart Boston lawyer gets pulled into the underworld of crime and horse race fixing in the United States and spanning over the ocean into Ireland.

See my full review on the home page.

UltravioletUltraviolet by R. J. Anderson

Opens with the heroine in a mental institution. A bit unsettling at first, but now I was so glued to this one that I stayed up way past my bedtime again.

See the full review on the home page

Blood of EdenBlood of Eden by Ken Policard
A solid 4.5 of 5 stars

Ken Policard tells us at the beginning of this book that the story is based on a screenplay. It definitely has the feel of a screenplay with the nonstop action. Policard fills in the blanks with a wealth of description that brings this classic story of good and evil to life. And, though it occasionally meanders into a hint of cliche, the story surprises you with some unexpected developments.

Adapting a screenplay into a novel can't be an easy endeavor. It does show in one unexpected way - Policard head hops a bit too easily. He reveals what one character is feeling and thinking within the same scene where he reveals the thought of others, without the benefit of scene changes or breaks that would indicate that we expect to read the internal dialogue of a different character. That was one technical aspect that shook me out of the story and made me all too aware of words instead of being completely absorbed.

All the above said, technical flaws and all, this was an amazingly intense tale that kept me up reading until 3:00 in the morning - I just couldn't stop reading until I hit the end ... a place where unexpected things happen that are vividly brought to life.

Original Sin: A Sally Sin Adventure (Sally Sin Adventures)Original Sin: A Sally Sin Adventure (Sally Sin Adventures) by Beth McMullen

This book had me laughing out loud!  Would definitely read more if this is going to be a series.

See my full review on this blog's home page

Shrouded in SilenceShrouded in Silence by Robert L. Wise

Years ago I made one foray into the "Christian Fiction" genre that had a prayer on every other page, completely squashing the plot under religious preaching. That was a couple years ago and I have avoided anything labelled as "Christian Fiction" for that reason. The plot of this book sounded interesting so I took another chance with the genre. Though this book is labelled as "Christian Fiction," it doesn't ram religion down your throat, doesn't preach, and is far more plot driven.

The Townsends are married biblical scholars living in Rome and on the search for the ending of the gospel of Mark. Enter an evil man bent on thwarting their research for his own gain and a shadowy terrorist group bombing sites in Rome. Everyone is after the Townsends.

While the suspense was high, the plot was quite implausible, requiring the reader to suspend belief and not ask the reasonable questions, like, why would anyone want to kill a pair of biblical scholars? The characters were thoroughly human and flawed - they could have used a little more fleshing out. Ultimately, I didn't care a whole lot about any of them. But, I did find the book interesting enough and the suspense high enough to hold my interest to the end.

Gideon's SwordGideon's Sword

This book was a real hit with me so you can imagine my shock when I went to the book's page on Amazon and found that the book was really slammed by reviewers. I read a wide variety of different types of fiction and found this book was not lacking in the least.

At the beginning of this story we learn that Gideon Crew witnessed his father's death as a young boy. He grows up thinking that his father was a traitor to his country only to learn later that he was no traitor at all. Looking to get revenge, Gideon ends up in the clutches of a super secret government contractor and is sent on an impossible mission. To say much more, would give away too much of the book.

The technical aspects of this book were flawless. Having read a few books that were coauthored, Preston and Child coauthor so seamlessly that you never feel like you are hearing two writer's separate voices - they ring through as one voice. The pacing of this book is fast, as thrillers often are, but there is enough character development that it made me want to read more about Gideon Crew.

Sadly, one might not buy this book due to the poor reviews. If you are dancing on the edge of shelling out hard earned cash, then read the first several pages through the "Look Inside" option on Amazon. If you're still on the fence, then borrow it or wait for the paperback version to come out. My vote is to recommend this book highly as it was good enough to earn keeper status on my shelf.

Lighthouses: A Close Up Look: A Tour of America's Iconic Architecture Through Historic Photos and Detailed Drawings (Built in America)Lighthouses: A Close Up Look: A Tour of America's Iconic Architecture Through Historic Photos and Detailed Drawings (Built in America) by Alan Giagnocavo -- 
My review May 28, 2011

This book is not just a book with pretty lighthouse pictures and little of substance to accompany them - it is a storehouse of interesting lighthouses with detailed sketches of how the lighthouses were constructed, complete with winding staircases and platforms that shoot off to the sides in some structures. There are mostly black and white illustrations with an occasional, beautiful color shot of a lighthouse. Of course some of the black and white shots are historic shots, which the history buff in me particularly enjoyed.

This author also gives the historical background on each lighthouse detailing the time that the lighthouse was constructed and why they were constructed along with what the paint lines and spirals mean on some lighthouses (I always wondered about that). Particularly interesting was the Cape St. George lighthouse that stood in the sand and was tilted like the Leaning Tower of Pisa until it, unfortunately, collapsed into the Gulf of Mexico. Fortunately, though the lighthouse is now gone, this author provides photographs of the original lighthouse along with highly detailed renderings of the original building.

I initially read this as an ebook provided through NetGalley and, unfortunately, it didn't translate well on my small black and white Nook screen. It would probably work well on a larger, color viewing device like a Nook color or one of the larger reading devices out there. I was still captivated enough to want to continue to read the book and enjoy the sketches and instead read it in its ebook format on my computer. I see that this book is currently offered only in print format at this time on Amazon - probably the best format for reading and enjoying a book of this type. This is a very cool book for the history buff and lighthouse lover and would make a great educational tool for kids.

The Sixth Man
The Sixth Man by David Baldacci

My review May 23, 2011. A brilliantly created roller coaster ride

This is a tale involving two characters, who it appears are reoccurring characters in his government conspiracy books. This is the first one I've read and it didn't hurt me a bit not knowing the history of the characters and never having read a Baldacci book before - this one will not be my last!

Sean and Michelle previously worked for the Secret Service (in addition, Sean is was also a practicing attorney) before they began to work for themselves as private detectives. They are called in on a particularly thorny case by an old friend of Sean's to do some deep digging on a case for a man who is in a high security federal prison for the criminally insane, not speaking to or looking at anyone. Did he kill six men and bury them on his farm? The old friend gets shot and Sean and Michelle feel compelled to solve his murder while still investigating the case of the man in the prison.

The cast of characters, some very high level government officials, slowly becomes spun in a web so tight that by the middle of the book you are saying, how on earth are they going to get out of this mess?  You continue to say that until the nail biting end. (Don't worry, not a spoiler since you are told at the beginning of the story about the conspiracy that Sean and Michelle get tangled up into.)

Baldacci weaves this spell that hold you attention until the end, and just when you think it's over it's not - Baldacci has more surprises in store for you. I highly recommend this book and, if possible, when you get to the last 100 pages, go somewhere to read where you can't be interrupted because you will absolutely be so drawn into the story that you won't want any interruption. This is a brilliantly constructed story that keep you on the edge of your seat until the last page.

Long Drive Home: A NovelLong Drive Home: A Novel by Will Allison - my review May 17, 2011
(You can also view this review on my Amazon reviewer page)

Almost perfect

This well thought out tale by Will Allison was spellbinding, nearly impossible to put down. It's a story about how the actions of two people behind the wheel, can alter the destiny of both of their families. We know at the outset that Glen is the cause of a fatal car accident ... but is he really? We all know that the driver who was killed was guilty of reckless driving ... but was he really? You ponder these questions as you read Will Allison's tale and the fact that you are pondering this, and things aren't really so cut and dried, is what shows the skill of the writer weaving this tale.

This story is told in first person point view from the point of view of Glen, our main character. Allison keeps point of view very consistent throughout and he shows real mastery of writing. During the story we are treated to multiple excerpts of a letter that Glen is writing to his daughter that she will not receive and read until she reaches age 18. These letter excerpts were so personal, so touching, so well written that I would have liked to see more of them. When the second excerpt appeared, I was taken by surprise, a pleasant surprise. The problem is, there were also a couple points in the plot that were a little unbelievable. That's why I would say it was almost perfect, but not quite.

This is not so much a thriller or police procedural as a tale about how an action can have long range consequences and about regret that can nearly cripple you. The reader goes on a journey through pain and darkness with Glen as he tries to work his way to the other side of a moral wrong toward the light. It's a very good book, definitely worth reading.

Turn of MindTurn of Mind by Alice LaPlante - my review May 17, 2011

The story of a doctor suffering from Alzheimers told from her point of view. This book was completely heartbreaking.

As an RN, I've dealt with my fair share of patients with dementia (including Alzheimers type - there is more than one type of dementia). Many times I would look at a patient clearly trying to formulate what he or she wanted to say as well as those who clearly were trying to reach back into their minds for some memory that sits right on the edge of the mind, like a term that lays on the tip of the tongue. I've also seen clear recognition on a good day, and abject misery and an inability to relate to others on a bad day. I'm not sure how much research LaPlante did for this book, but it range very true to my experiences from the outside looking in.

As a writer, I'm also attuned to technique, voice, and point of view. For 75% of the book LaPlante wrote in first person point of view (I). During the last 25% of the book LaPlante changed to second person point of view (you). It was a little jarring at first - I went back quite a few pages to make sure my assessment was correct, and it was. While the second person point of view - a difficult one for writers to master - was very well done, LaPlante would have been wise to remain either in first person point of view or write the entire book in second person point of view. A reader should never be jarred out of the story and the change in point of view did just that.

Still, this is a very touching, heartbreaking book that also contains a mystery that you don't know the answer to until the very end of the book. That kept me up reading late at night, a worthy test of a book's writing and content.

MercyMercy by Rebecca Lim - my review May 7, 2011
(You can also view this review on my Amazon reviewer page)

Rebecca Lim had me from the first sentence to the breathtaking last.

Mercy is (we're left to guess) an angel who is thrust from one life to the next, ostensibly to make the life of those around her better in some way. Each trip helps her learn a little more about herself even though she eventually forgets most of what has happened when she is thrust into the body of another person who's life needs help. Mercy needs to figure things out on her own as she goes, with no hint at first of why she is somewhere and in someone's body.

In this story, Mercy is thrust suddenly into the body of a small, shy girl named Carmen - a girl with a stunning soprano voice. She is on a bus with her chorus mates on the way to a small village where she will sing amongst other schools in a concert competition. All that is thrust into the background as she becomes part of her host family, the Daleys - people who have lost a daughter near her age to a kidnapper some two years prior to the opening of the book. I won't spoil the plot further by telling much more, but I can reveal one thing that you know from the very beginning of this book - Mercy can see things (like "a [bus] driver who is consumed by the black fear that his wife is about to leave him for another man") and can feel things when she touches people (like with her first encounter with Mr. Daley where, when they first touch hands, Mercy feels "a sensation like liquid grief, a kind of drowning ... let loose in the car, a wordless horror, screaming for attention."

This literary young adult novel is most definitely a book that adults can also enjoy. It builds suspense as the plot slowly unfolds and pulls you in as each breathtaking stroke is revealed until the shocking end. I was very fortunate to be afforded the opportunity to read this as an ebook through NetGalley.com and enjoyed it so much that I'll be buying a copy as a keeper for my shelf.

Ravenous: A Food Lover's Journey from Obsession to Freedom
Ravenous: A Food Lover's Journey from Obsession to Freedom by Dayna Macy

My Review April 24, 2011

This book is not just about hunger and longing for food, it far more a spiritual journey through where food comes from (from small yet bountiful gardens and farms, the diary farms, straight through to cattle ranching and slaughtering) and how one should have a reverence for that food. Macy leaves no stone unturned in this story of her study of all forms of food and where it all comes from and the creation of fresh food from the ingredients she explores. Near the end she discusses making her own peace with food, what a normal serving is as opposed to what she was used to eating, and coming out on the other side having learned far more about herself and the world around her.

The thing that makes this far less of a simple memoir is the lyrical prose that Macy uses to tell her story. Even though she has written extensively for magazines, this is her first book. She uses first person, present tense prose - a difficult framework to use and hold so well in a full length book. It brings a sense of immediacy and far more intimacy to the story. Macy makes you feel like you are there experiencing everything right there beside her. This is not just a book for those obsessed with food, but also for anyone who enjoys a well told, literary story.

The Restorer (Graveyard Queen)The Restorer (Graveyard Queen) by Amanda Stevens
My review March 15, 2011

I was initially interested in this book because, as an amateur genealogist, I am interested in cemeteries. I index for Family Search, a free site loaded with free searches for ancestors. Indexing for that site has given me a higher sense of the importance of information and history of documents, and has heightened my interest in history, including old cemeteries. So when I was offered this book about an old cemetery restorer for review, I was thrilled.

Amelia is a cemetery restoration professional and she can see ghosts. These aren't the warm fuzzy ghosts of some stories where a door is magically opened for them and they step inside after solving the problems they left behind when they died. These are, something goes bump, terrifying ghosts that Amelia, whose father also sees ghosts, has learned that she must ignore or they will draw energy from her. Enter John Devlin, a haunted man that Amelia has chemistry with, but must avoid, and you have the elements of a possible love story. The love story, however, is not central to the story - a murder mystery is central. Someone is leaving dead bodies in the cemetery that Amelia is working to restore.

All of the aforementioned elements make for a highly suspenseful story that sweeps you away from where you are into another world. This isn't one of those amateur sleuth, cozy mysteries - it's a nail-biting, edge of your seat read that kept me up way past my bedtime.

Sometimes we read a story and hate to turn the last page because you don't want to see it come to an end. This was one of those stories. Though this is the first book in a series, it can stand well on its own. For those of us who want to see more of Amelia and the mysteries of her personal life as well as her relationship with John Devlin, there are more books to come and Stevens leaves just enough room at the end of the story to anxiously await book two. This was such a good book that I'll be snapping up book two as soon as it comes out.

The Paradise ProphecyThe Paradise Prophecy by Robert Browne
My review March 5, 2011

This book rendered me completely speechless as I turned the last page. Browne manages to weave a spell that brings you out of your own world and into his well crafted pre-apocalyptic world.

Sebastian "Batty" LaLaurie is scholar who is an expert on antiquities, religion, and Milton's Paradise Lost. He is also a wounded soul who has been enduring the death of his wife by drowning his sorrows in alcohol. He has nothing left to live for. Meanwhile, there is a death in Brazil of a famous Christian singer by what appears to be spontaneous human combustion. Enter Agent Bernadette Callahan, an investigator from a shadowy government unit called Section who sends her to Brazil to investigate the death. She isn't sure why the United States government would be interested in her investigating the case, but follows orders. Soon Batty LaLaurie is sent, by questionable means, to assist Callahan with the investigation. This book is full of angels and demons and the danger of an approaching apocalypse where Milton's war between heaven and hell rage and only a work of bravery can save the world from impending doom. Batty and Callahan race around the globe chasing clues that will bring them closer and closer to the final, heart-stopping conclusion.

Browne illustrates his fictional world so beautifully that you can completely immerse yourself in the story and later suspend belief without hesitation. He also, quite brilliantly, brings his characters to life, faults and all, so that you may feel some pity for even the most evil characters. These people are not caricatures of good and evil, but instead are multidimensional characters with goodness, faults, and even sadness on the side of evil, that bring the story completely to life.

I was fortunate to be given an advance reading copy by the publisher for this book due for release in July 2011. I'll be waiting in line for a copy as this book has earned keeper status on my shelf.