Hello, and welcome to the second half of my book reviews for the month of July. If you missed, part one, you can find it here. Summer heat was nearly unbearable for several days this month, but I did manage to devour a number of novels and novellas poolside. To read the blurbs for each, click the Amazon link. My thoughts on each are below . . .
Death Among Us: An Anthology of Murder Mystery Short Stories
by multiple authors including Stephen Bentley, Greg Alldredge, Robbie Cheadle, and seven others
I’m a mystery/suspense fan so these stories hit all the right notes for me. The collection is varied with several authors contributing multiple tales to the collection. Read one or two at a time or gobble several back to back. The authors are great at transporting you into twisted worlds of murder most foul. You’re bound to find your personal favorites, but there are several that really stood out for me.
I was mesmerized by the historic angle Robbie Cheadle used in her all of her tales that address such unusual characters as chimney sweeps in Victorian England and monks, among others. She did an exceptional job of dropping her readers into the grimy period of the Industrial Revolution and other equally intriguing settings. Red Solo Cup by by Kelly Artieri has two couples undertaking a day boating. A twisty little tale with a cool title and an unexpected ending. She also does a great job with That’s What Best Friends Do which has a kick-butt ending, The slightly horror jive of Monitaur by Michael Spinelli kept me enthralled, and he hit a home run with No Man’s Land involving a dangerous fugitive. The dialogue is spot on.
All the authors are to be commended for such a great collection. Enjoy! 5 Stars.
Genre: Mystery Anthologies > Mashup Fiction
Meg: Hell’s Aquarium
by Steve Alten
Book number four of the Meg saga has left me with mixed feelings. In some aspects, this is my favorite of all the novels. Angel, the albino Megladon shark, has birthed a litter of five pups. Three are “runts”—Angelica, Mary Kate, and Ashley (yes, after the Olsen twins—there was an internet contest to name them). The other two are “juveniles”—Lizzy (after the infamous Countess Elizabeth Bathroy) and Bela (the Dark Queen). Jonas Taylor is now 66. His son, David, is a twenty-year-old college student working toward a marine biology degree and trying to step out of his father’s shadow. To do that, David agrees to train a roster of potential pilots in an extreme depth submersible for an Arabian Prince who is offering mega $$$. Naturally, said prince is not on the up-and-up about what he’s really after—possible prehistoric creatures that live in depths few men have breached.
The first half of this book blew me away. Lizzy and Bela (the “sisters”) have a symbiotic relationship that makes them mesmerizing from the moment they’re introduced. Angel has held her own for several books, but these two deserve the crown. Entrahlling is putting it lightly.
In the past, the Meg books have always had a kick butt last quarter, but that’s where I was disappointed. The focus shifted away from the Megs to the prehistoric fish and David’s time trapped in the submersible. While there were plenty of heart-pumping moments in the deep, those scenes went on way too long, and I disliked the shift from the Megs. Fortunately, Alten brought his three most powerful sharks back for the conclusion—Angel, Lizzy, and Bela—and set up an intriguing opening for the next (final?) book. I can’t wait to see more of the sisters! 4 Stars.
Genre: Thriller and Suspense Action Fiction > Sea Adventure Fiction
by Harmony Kent
Note: I received an ARC of this novel. The scheduled release date is August 25th, but FALLOUT is available for pre-order through the link below.
Fallout by Harmony Kent is a dark, gritty, twisted apocalyptic story guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat. Exxon 1 has been devastated by a virus, the planet an inhospitable environment where no one can be trusted, especially the planet’s president who is responsible for the outbreak. While people succumb to the virus and others struggle to resist, a vial containing a potential cure becomes the focus of ruthless individuals.
Pryia, a young woman who finds out just how savage her devastated planet can be, becomes entangled in getting the vial into the right hands. But who can be trusted? In the world Kent has created, her multi-layered characters are far from black and white. No one is who they seem, each driven by dark histories and darker goals, each a study in duplicity. There are crosses and double crosses, noble characters who sink to corruption and corrupt characters who discover a sliver of conscience when the clock is ticking to zero hour.
The world building is exceptional, the plot complex but fast paced. This isn’t simply a book about rebuilding a decimated planet, but a story that takes a raw look at human nature. Finally, I loved the full circle arc of the opening scenes gelling so perfectly with the close. A wholly satisfying and riveting read. Highly recommended! 5 Big Glittery Stars!
Amazon Pre-Order Link
Genre: Dystopian Fiction > Post Apocalyptic Science Fiction
My Main: Haiku Through the Seasons
by Bette S. Stevens
This collection of seasonal haikus is a treat for the senses. Journey through spring, summer, autumn, and winter in the gorgeous state of Maine. The author’s passion for her home state is evident in every word, as she brings nature alive in resplendent images. These haikus are ones to relish. No matter what season you may be experiencing in the “now,” Stevenson skillfully transports you to her Maine, where she evokes nature’s changing face with ease. Photographs and facts about Maine round out the collection. Although this is a short read, it’s one to draw out again and again to savor the images, escaping into the tranquility of the Pine Tree State. 5 Stars!
Genre: Haiku and Japanese Poetry > American Poetry
by Rachel Caine
Gina Royal, mother of two, living a quiet suburban life, suddenly has to reinvent herself when her husband is revealed to be a sadistic serial killer. Gina creates a new identity for herself and her children in a remote wooded area near Stilhouse Lake. It’s not the first time she’s had to run or change identities because of haters and stalkers. Not long after she moves in, a body turns up in the lake, mutilated in the same horrific manner as her husband’s victims.
Stillhouse Lake starts off with a gut punch—Gina discovering her husband’s secret life as a murderer, but then bogs down for a bit. I wasn’t invested until about the 35% mark. There’s a lot of Gina/Gwen thinking/explaining her life before “the event” (as she refers to the discovery) and how she and her kids have managed since. I’m glad I stuck with the novel. It does take off once it gets going, and Gina/Gwen is a force to be reckoned with.
Good story telling, but for me there were some plot issues—namely Gina not going into her husband’s garage/killing den the entire time she’s married, the kids never curious about what their dad is doing in there. The author would have been far better to set Melvin’s torture chamber somewhere way from the house, not in the attached garage!
The book itself is pretty grim, and although the plot of the novel is resolved, the overall arc doesn’t finish. I will probably skip the next in the series, my stomach for serial killer novels not as strong as it used to be. And although I pegged the killer early on, the ending delivered a nail-biting conclusion with an unexpected twist. All things considered, 3.5 stars.
Genre: Serial Killer Thrillers > Women’s Crime Fiction > Women’s Psychological Fiction
Summer Magic: Poems of Life and Love
by Marica Meara
I loved this collection of poetry that effortlessly transported me back to the magic of childhood summers. Meara divides her collection into two parts. The first is a glimpse of camping out through the eyes of a character from her popular Wake Robin Ridge Series when he is a ten-year-old boy, the second half a view of love, life, seasons and dreams.
The words and scenarios she weaves throughout are spell binding—camping under the stars, soaring through the air from a swing suspended above a creek, splashing through rain puddles, watching a meteor shower, delivering a final wish to a soul mate—all sheer magic. Read this wonderful book any time of year for a journey to summers filled with love, curiosity, and wonder. 5 stars!
Genre: American Poetry > 90 Minute Literature and Short Fiction Reads
As always, I hope you found something to intrigue you among my collection of titles. I’ve already got several titles on my radar for August. Happy reading!