February Book Reviews, Part 2

Hey, gang! Thanks for joining me today as I trot out the final half of my book reviews for February. If you missed part one, and would like to check out what other books consumed my reading time during winter’s coldest and snowiest month, you can find it here.

For the books below, click the Amazon link for blurbs and additional details. I’m only sharing my impressions of each to keep the post from becoming too long.


Book cover for The Hunting Party, a novel by Lucy FoleyThe Hunting Party
by Lucy Foley
A snowbound setting, a killing, and multiple suspects—as soon as I read the premises for this book I was all in. A group of old friends, together since college, reunite every year to catch-up with one another—this time over the New Year’s holiday at an isolated resort in the Scottish Highlands.

This is a privileged group of characters, used to fine dining, the best in champagne and party locations. Some are stuck in the mindset of their college days when responsibility only lingered on a distant horizon, while others have moved onto the reality of demanding careers or starting a family. At first glance, most are superficial, pretty on the surface with a darker underbelly. There are stress fractures in the friendships, fissures that have been building over time, only to rupture with the glittery festivity of New Year.

Most of the characters are flawed in one way or another and very few are above reproach, but the complexity of their entanglements makes for riveting reading. There is no black or white in their actions but nuanced layers of manipulation, one-upmanship, old grudges, and petty jealousies. If that sounds like people you don’t want to get to know, it’s worth taking the time with these characters. They’re skillfully painted by the author, brushstroke by brushstroke. It’s only in the closing chapters that the surface gloss of each is stripped away, and we see them for who they truly are.

My only complaint is that it does take a while to settle into the book. There are four female POVs and one male. Multiple POVs do not bother me, but all the female narration is done in first person (the male in present third). As a result, it took several chapters before I was able to get a grasp on who was narrating. I had to keep flipping back to the title headers until I adjusted to the voices and who was who. If not for the so many narrators (in first person), this would be a five star read for me. It requires a bit of work at the beginning to adjust, but if you enjoy a murder mystery with complex suspects and multiple motives, this is a delicious tale in which to lose yourself for a few days. Extra kudos to the author for catching me by surprise with the murderer and motive.

Genre:  Psychological Thriller
Amazon Link


Book cover for Evil Lurks, a Horror Anthology by various authorsEvil Lurks
(Multiple Authors)
This is a hard book to rate, because of the diversity of stories. All are geared toward the paranormal and horror. I’m sure each reader will have stories that resonate with them more than others. There were a few gems that really stood out for me including The Revelation, Spirit of Lonely Places, Life in There, Onryo, and A Break In. I also enjoyed the first story, Cat Food, which may make you look at your felines a bit differently. Collections of stories are nice because you needn’t read them all at once, but can enjoy a tale over a lunch or coffee break—in this case, along with goosebumps and shivers!

Genre:  Horror Anthology
Amazon Link


Book cover for End of Day, mystery/suspense novel by Mae Clair shows old dilapidated church with bell tower and a cemetery in the background overgrown with weedsEnd of Day
by Mae Clair

Yes, I read my own book—cover to cover without an eye for editing. Having just submitted the third and final book of this series to my editor, I wanted to make sure there was good flow from book two to book three. Obviously I’m not going to review End of Day, but if you’d like to see what other readers think of my second venture into the fictional town of Hode’s Hill, follow the link below.

Genre:  Supernatural Mystery/Suspense
Amazon Link

 


I’ve already got my nose in the the first of March’s books, and am making a dent in the BEHEMOTH I call my TBR.

Sometimes I think of it like The Blob. Remember that old movie with Steve McQueen? There was even a remake in the 80s with Kevin Dillion. Of course I watched them both. And, of course I’ll keep reading, because—it’s an addiction, you know? 😉

February Book Reviews, Part 1

Despite having two DNFs on my reading list this month, I still managed to discover some good books. The DNFs were authors I didn’t know and had not read before. Both titles sounded promising, but after six chapters each, neither could get off the ground. Needless to say I was disappointed, but I did enjoy some great books I want to share. Because I read six in February, and one of the later reviews is rather long, I’m splitting this post into two parts.  Look for part two on Wednesday.

Once again, because I don’t want to make the post too long, click on the Amazon link if you’d like to read the blurb and learn more details about the book selections.


book cover for Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia OwensWhere the Crawdads Sing
by Delia Owens
I expected this book to be great, given all the buzz it’s had. The story is engaging and holds the reader’s interest. I was especially taken with the vivid descriptions of the marsh and small-town life in the 1960s. I was halfway through the story thinking how good it was, but kept waiting for that extra something to make it “great.”

And then it happened…

The last third of this book is what elevates it beyond good story-telling to exceptional story-telling. Where the Crawdads Sing deserves all of the accolades it’s received and more. The characters are ones that will linger in my mind for a long time to come, especially the conclusion of their story. As for the marsh—it became a character in itself. This is a book I can easily see myself going back and reading again. A wonderful coming of age tale with added layers of mystery.

Genre:  Literature and Fiction > Coming of Age
Amazon Link


book cover for The Lost Man by Jane HarperThe Lost Man
by Jane Harper
This is the second book I’ve read by Jane Harper, and I have a third on my Kindle. She always spins a good murder mystery plot, along with a compelling Australian setting. This time around, the reader is treated to the remote solitude of the Outback, whose grit, dust and dry heat seem to permeate every scene.

Brothers Nathan and Bub Bright meet up at a legendary gravestone dividing their properties, only to find their third brother, Cameron—in charge of the family homestead—dead. Harper takes her time introducing the reader to an array of characters as well as family background issues that become key later on. I thought the beginning moved a bit slowly, but the mystery eventually took off. At that point, I couldn’t flip pages fast enough.

There was a continued reference to a particular item (no spoilers) that I thought much too heavy-handed (I get it, already!), but other than that this was a good read. I waffled back and forth on the identity of the killer and was proven right at the end, but not for the reasons I suspected. Jane Harper is on my auto buy list, and although I didn’t care for this book as much as The Dry, it delivered a solid tale with an awesome ending.

Genre:  Mystery and Crime
Amazon Link


book cover for Can't Let Go by Alison GreyCan’t Let Go
by Alison Grey
This is a quick easy read, built around old secrets, friendships, betrayals and lies.  The main character, Larkin, marries into one of the most privileged families of Charleston high society. Larkin comes from a poor background and doesn’t fit in–until she’s befriended by Caroline Beaufain, the queen bee of the social scene. Although the book doesn’t really take off until the middle, the beginning is far from draggy. The author has a way of introducing characters and setting scenes that kept me flipping pages, even as I  was waiting for the hammer to fall.

This is a psychological thriller, so don’t expect explosive action. It’s more about figuring out what each character has to gain and what they’re willing to do to achieve their goals. When the impact does hit, the fallout is quick and jaw-dropping. I won’t say I’ve never seen this plot done before, but the way Grey handles it is riveting and fresh. I will definitely be looking for more books by this author and have already pre-ordered her next release!

Genre:  Psychological Thriller > Suspense
Amazon Link


So what do you think? Do any of these appeal to you? Have you read any?  What’s next on your reading list?  Drop me a line below and let’s talk books!