Book Review: The Book Artist by Mark Pryor @MarkPryorBooks @SeventhStBooks

The Book Artist
A Hugo Marston Novel #8
Mark Pryor
Seventh Street Books, January 2019
ISBN 978-1-63388-488-5
Trade Paperback

The Book Artist is the eighth in Mark Pryor’s series featuring Hugo Marston, ex-FBI profiler and current chief of security for US Ambassador J. Bradford Taylor stationed in Paris.  The book begins with Hugo and the Ambassador attending an art exhibition at which, you may not be surprised to learn, a murder occurs.  Hugo offers the detective in charge the benefit of his expertise in solving such cases but his offer is quickly rebuffed.  Soon after, the detective in charge makes an arrest of a friend of Hugo’s but Hugo, convinced the wrong person has been arrested, sets out to find the real murderer and free his friend.

Unfortunately, Hugo soon learns about the death of someone close to him and also that the killer is likely after Hugo too.  Distressed for his friend, concerned for his own safety, and worried about another friend being in jail for the murder at the art exhibit, Hugo has, as they say, a full plate which is soon made fuller by the death of another friend.  Determined to solve both cases and stay alive, Hugo enlists the help of his boss but is it too late?

I only discovered the Hugo Marston series a few months ago when I came across The Paris Librarian and loved it.  I can’t believe I missed this excellent series!  On the bright side, though, I have six more books in the series to read plus, of course, whatever Mark Pryor writes next.  Lucky me – and you too if you haven’t yet read this series.

Reviewed by Melinda Drew, July 2019.

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Book Review: Mind Games by Shana Silver @shanasilver @SwoonReads /@MacmillanUSA @XpressoTours

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Mind Games
Shana Silver
Published by: Swoon Reads
Publication date: August 27th 2019
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult

A teen programmer at a school for geniuses must join forces with a boy she can’t remember to stop a hacker from deleting their memories in Shana Silver’s action-packed YA debut, Mind Games.

Arden sells memories. Whether it’s becoming homecoming queen or studying for that all important test, Arden can hack into a classmate’s memories and upload the experience for you just as if you’d lived it yourself. Business is great, right up until the day Arden whites out, losing fifteen minutes of her life and all her memories of the boy across the school yard. The boy her friends assure her she’s had a crush on for years.

Arden realizes that her own memories have been hacked, but they haven’t just been stolen and shared… they’ve been removed. And she’s not the only one: her mysterious crush, Sebastian, has lost ALL of his memories. But how can they find someone who has the power to make them forget everything they’ve learned?

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Just imagine if all your memories could be saved so that you could enjoy them time and time again. The fear of Alzheimer’s would be lessened and you could choose which memories you want to relive and when. Is that a great idea or is it perhaps at least a little creepy?

Then take it a step further and the creepiness really comes into play. Arden is an exceedingly bright and talented girl surrounded by other students almost as intelligent and creative as she is—this is, after all, a school that focuses on STEM—and she has figured a way to hack into the HiveMind, which happens to be her father’s brilliant creation. Arden sells memories to people who don’t own them and, while this may often be relatively harmless, at times it leads to some pretty unacceptable results. Let’s say, for instance, that Amy is in competition with Brad on a test and Brad buys Connie’s photographic memories of the book that’s the subject of the test. Not fair, right?

Then Arden gets her comeuppance, you might say, when some of her own memories suddenly disappear and her friend Sebastian is in an even worse way. These memories aren’t just temporarily missing, they’re actually gone and, oddly enough, Arden’s and Sebastian’s collaborative senior project seems to be involved. They can’t actually remember the project but the more they look into what it was about, the more ominous the truth becomes.

There’s a twist resolution that I couldn’t quite buy into but, on the whole, I had a good time with Mind Games and I’m interested to see what Ms. Silver does with The Con Code, coming out next year.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2019.

About the Author

Rachel Shane (writing as Shana Silver) studied creative writing at Syracuse University. She’s been a computer animator, an e-book creator for a major publisher, and now works as a Project Manager in digital and TV advertising where she enjoys telling people what to do. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, young daughter, and the characters she dreams up.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

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Book Reviews: Proof of Life by Sheila Lowe and Simply Dead by Eleanor Kuhns @sheila_lowe @suspensemag @EleanorKuhns @severnhouse

Proof of Life
A Beyond the Veil Mystery #2
Sheila Lowe
Suspense Publishing, May 2019
ISBN 978-0-578-45315-6
Trade Paperback

After the accident in which her abusive husband and their infant son died, Jessica Mack had amnesia and began to experience strange noises and even voices. This enthralling thriller traces her development from confused and upset to more and deeper understanding of non-corporeal experiences. A practicing artist, Jessica Mack creates art that seems to illustrate crime scenes, but she cannot recall making the art, nor where the detailed information came from.

Gradually over the space of this excellent novel, Jessica begins to understand what may be happening to her. It is unsettling, disrupts her life at times, but instead of resisting or rejecting the forces, she instinctively sets out to learn more.

For many people whose religious or world views reject the idea of other worlds co-existing with that which we inhabit, this may become unsettling. I would urge such people to persist and read this book. Jessica Mack, an identical twin, has already experienced odd experiences with her twin sister. So she is open to learning more about the spirit world. As should we readers.

Unlike many novels that create a spirit world to fit the story, this author has created a character who is not a willing subject, but one who becomes interested in life for those beyond the veil and in a fascinating and consistent way, struggles to learn more and then to use her developing awareness to aid in a race to locate a small child who may have been kidnapped.

The author steadily raises the tension as time inexorably passes. Jessica must deal with her sister, her FBI acquaintance, other skeptics and a burgeoning love interest. The novel is very-well written, extremely carefully plotted, logical and peopled with very interesting, well-drawn characters It will capture the interest of a wide range of crime novel addicts. I strongly recommend this excellent novel.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, July 2019.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

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Simply Dead
A Will Rees Mystery #7
Eleanor Kuhns
Severn House, August 2019
ISBN 978-0-7278-8884-6
Hardcover

Winter in northern climes is difficult in the best of times. In late eighteenth century rural Maine, winter can be deadly. In a small Shaker community located in a snow bound village, a deeply disturbed murderer threatens to tear apart an already uneasy relationship with the World, as it is known among Shakers.

Will Rees is a weaver and hard-scrabble farmer with several children and a bright loving wife in his care. The weaver and farmer is an interesting motivator for the novel, husband and father of a teen girl and some even younger children. His almost insatiable curiosity propels him into conflicts at several levels when a local midwife goes missing in the snowy woods. Naturally he seeks her, exposing himself to storms and cold. He finds the midwife almost dead of exposure in the snow and rescues her while realizing the young woman is distraught and hiding something, something truly horrible.

The novel is a deliberate and accurate portrayal of early life for settlers in Maine during the period and is liberally strewn with a wide range of characters one might expect to find in an isolated settlement like this in early America. His small village has a constable who owns and runs the town bar and restaurant and thus is not reliable to protect locals against the menace of hungry wolves.

Conflicts arise for Rees and his family on all sides, affording the author ample opportunity to make deep dives into a host of personalities and situations and she takes most opportunities to do that, including brief but telling examination of the Shaker community. Consequently, the well-written, finely organized story presents several varied and useful personalities in both ordinary and highly fraught situations in a novel of manners, murder and detection. Readers will finish the novel having a concentrated experience of a particular part of America and its people before there was a United States.

Simply Dead is simply a good story with a lot of excellent characters, very well told.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, August 2019.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: Immunity by Erin Bowman

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Title: Immunity
Series: Contagion #2
Author: Erin Bowman
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: July 2, 2019
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // iTunes // Google Books
Amazon // The Book Depository // Indiebound

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Immunity
Contagion #2
Erin Bowman
HarperTeen, July 2019
ISBN 978-0-06-257417-6
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Survivors of a deadly planetary outbreak take on a new, sinister adversary in the white-knuckle sequel to Contagion, which New York Times bestselling author Amie Kaufman called “gripping, thrilling and terrifying in equal measures.”

They thought their nightmare was over, but Thea, Coen, and Nova’s rescue was only the beginning. After being imprisoned on a ship they thought was their ticket to safety, it’s clear that the threat they left behind isn’t as distant as they’d hoped—and this time the entire galaxy is at risk.

Now that threat is about to be unleashed as an act of political warfare. To prevent an interstellar catastrophe, the survivors must harness the evil they faced on the planet Achlys and learn to wield the only weapon they have left: themselves.

Following the events of Contagion, our favorite survivors would be right to expect things will get better but, alas, they’ve fallen into the hands of the bad guys who want to perform experiments on them and, ultimately, make use of their acquired abilities. Worse yet, interplanetary war is clearly on the near horizon and four teens may be the only ones who can prevent it. That’s a very heavy burden to bear.

Almost anything else I could say would border on spoilers so I’ll leave it at this: Immunity has all the elements of an exciting speculative tale—appealing and well-drawn characters, terrific worldbuilding, a setting that engages the reader’s imagination and pacing that’s so rapid it takes your breath away. I can’t say which drew me in the most but, taken as a whole, this is a story that grabs you by the throat from the opening lines and I had to squirrel myself away till I finished it, then wanted more.

I’ve been enthused about Erin Bowman’s work for quite some time and she certainly didn’t let me down this time. The only caution I would offer is that the first book of the duology really should be read first to get the full effect. Do that and you’ll have a rip-roarin’ good time 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2019.

About the Author

Erin Bowman is the Edgar Award-nominated author of numerous books for teens, including the Taken Trilogy, Vengeance Road, Retribution Rails, and the Contagion duology. A web designer turned author, Erin has always been invested in telling stories—both visually and with words. When not writing, she can often be found hiking, commenting on good typography, and obsessing over all things Harry Potter. Erin lives in New Hampshire with her husband and children. You can visit her online at embowman.com, on twitter @erin_bowman, or on instagram @heyerin.

Erin is represented by Sara Crowe of Pippin Properties.

Author Links: Website // Twitter // Goodreads
Instagram // Tumblr // YouTube // Pinterest

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Book Review: ToxiCity by Libby Fischer Hellmann

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Title: ToxiCity
Series: The Georgia Davis PI Series, Book 3
Author: Libby Fischer Hellmann
Narrator: Beth Richmond and Derek Shetterly
Publication Date: September 20, 2016

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Purchase Links:
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ToxiCity
The Georgia Davis P.I. Series, Book 3
Libby Fischer Hellmann
Narrated by Beth Richmond and Derek Shetterly
The Red Herrings Press, September 2016
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

A prequel to Libby Fischer Hellman’s Georgia Davis PI series.

There’s an inventive killer at large in Chicago in this dark thriller and police procedural from best-selling crime writer Libby Fischer Hellmann.

When three bodies turn up in rapid succession, all in landfills or waste disposal dumpsters, rookie cop Georgia Davis is drawn into the investigation. Teaming up with her detective boyfriend Matt and his friend, Detective Sergeant John Stone, Georgia must work out who’s responsible for the killings, but there’s little evidence to go on. The case also tests the strength of Georgia’s relationship with Matt – complicating the situation is the daughter of a real estate mogul, who also happens to have her eye on Matt.

Who’s behind these gruesome killings in this normally quiet neighborhood? Why are children developing cancer? And will Georgia’s relationship withstand the demands of this particularly complex investigation?

Find out in ToxiCity.

Oftentimes, police procedurals are rather linear, taking the reader down a straightforward path from crime to solution, but that is definitely not the case with ToxiCity. Here, we have a tale full of complexity and a plethora of twists and turns leading to answers that are tinged with a bit of ambiguity. I couldn’t help having some sympathy and certainly a good deal of understanding for the killer even while deploring that person’s actions.

Adding to the ins and outs of the investigations is the look into Georgia Davis’s early days as a cop. Georgia is young but that can’t fully excuse some of the dumb things she does or her overwrought emotional reactions when things don’t go her way. On the other hand, we also get to see the beginnings of her investigative talent, her sharp intellect and keen desire to figure things out.

As narrators, Beth Richmond and Derek Shetterly do fine work and both have good pacing and clear voices with just the right emotional tones when needed. There is not a lot of distinction between characters but I found that didn’t get in the way of my enjoying the story.

Bottomline, this is a good entry in the series but I would encourage readers not to assume “prequel” means this should be read first because you could end up not liking Georgia. Much better to meet her in the two previous books when she’s matured a little 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2019.

About the Author

Libby Fischer Hellmann left a career in broadcast news in Washington, DC and moved to Chicago over 35 years ago, where she, naturally, began to write gritty crime fiction. Fifteen novels and twenty-five short stories later, she claims they’ll take her out of the Windy City feet first.

She has been nominated for many awards in the mystery and crime writing community and has even won a few. She has been a finalist twice for the Anthony and four times for Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year. She has also been nominated for the Agatha, the Shamus, the Daphne, and has won the IPPY and the Readers Choice Award multiple times.

Her novels include the now five-volume Ellie Foreman series, which she describes as a cross between “Desperate Housewives” and “24;” the hard-boiled 5-volume Georgia Davis PI series, and four stand-alone historical thrillers set during Revolutionary Iran, Cuba, the Sixties, and WW2. Her short stories have been published in a dozen anthologies, the Saturday Evening Post, and Ed Gorman’s “25 Criminally Good Short Stories” collection. Her books have been translated into Spanish, German, Italian, and Chinese. All her books are available in print, ebook, and audiobook.

Libby also hosts Second Sunday Crime, a monthly podcast where she interviews bestselling and emerging crime authors. In 2006 she was the National President of Sisters in Crime, a 3500 member organization committed to the advancement of female crime fiction authors.

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads

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About the Narrators

Beth Richmond

Narrator Beth Richmond has recorded more than 100 audiobooks in the last decade from her studio on the Mendocino coast. Among her favorites are those from Georgia Davis series. “It is a privilege and pleasure to return repeatedly to such a vividly drawn character and world. Ms. Hellman’s books live inside me now, as if they were memories from my own life. What fun!”

She can be reached at brich@mcn.org

Derek Shetterly

Derek’s love for performance began onstage in the 3rd grade as the star of “Captain Hook”.   Hooked, he was, and stage acting carried him through high school and into college. In 1988 he earned a BA in Radio/Television from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, with a minor in Theater.  For the next 15 years, Derek worked in radio as an on-air talent. But his main interest was in creative production; writing scripts became a forte, and performing the characters, a passion. In 2003, Derek took a leap of faith to devote his career to self-employment in voiceover work.

He has never looked back, and continues as a full-time professional voiceover talent, based in Oregon. In addition to audio books, Derek’s voice is on countless corporate narrations, eLearning modules, radio and television commercials and several documentaries. He has met his calling, is in his element behind the mic,  and so grateful to be doing what he loves every day. When he’s not narrating, or walking his faithful terrier “Max”, he’s probably on a mountain bike or planning his next travel adventure.

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Book Review: Dead Man Running by Steve Hamilton

Dead Man Running
An Alex McKnight Novel #11
Steve Hamilton
Putnam, August 2018
ISBN 978-0-3995-7444-3
Hardcover

Alex McKnight has had a long rest:  five years since he appeared in the last novel in this great series.  And he needed it for this, the 11th novel in the series.  It seems a tourist traveling in Europe remotely checks his home where he recently installed security cameras, and discovers an illegal entry.  Moreover the intruder, Martin T. Livermore, is having sex on the marital bed.  It turns out the female is dead.

Police capture the culprit, who refuses to speak to anyone but Alex McNight, who is thousands of miles away in the upper Michigan peninsula.  He promises to lead McNight to his possible seventh victim, who may be alive.  Alex accedes to the perp’s wishes and, along with all kinds of law enforcement personnel, is led into a trap where only McNight and Livermore, who then escapes, survive.  Thus begins a grueling chase to save the victim as well as capturing Livermore.

Actually Livermore, with his superior intellect, sets up a challenge for Alex, based on an obscure relationship between the two, unknown to McNight.  The author maintains a steady tension throughout the novel, a characteristic for which he is famous. At the same time, the plot develops in countless deviations as Livermore keeps Alex on the run until the novel concludes in an unexpected fashion.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, August 2018.

Book Review: This Story Is A Lie by Tom Pollock—and a Giveaway!

This Story Is A Lie
Tom Pollock
Soho Teen, August 2018
ISBN 978-1-61695-911-1
Hardcover

When a book begins with the protagonist having just dealt with a major panic attack by crushing a porcelain salt shaker with his teeth, you can expect what follows to be a bit strange. And what does ensue exceeds that description in spades. Peter Blankman, age seventeen, is a twin and a mad math genius. He’s also bullied unmercifully by three classmates at his English high school. His only protection is his older, by eight minutes, sister Bel who is no slouch in the brains department herself.

Peter has been dealing with irrational fears and panic attacks for as long as he can remember. His mother is a world famous scientist and his absent father a mystery. All Peter and Bel know is the tidbits their mother drops on occasion, but the overarching message has always been that Dad was utterly evil and the less they know, the better off they’ll be.

A few hours following his attack, he, Bel and Mom are off to the Natural History Museum where Mom’s to receive an award for her work. Peter does his best to hold it together, but as the moment approaches for things to start, he loses it and bolts, running recklessly down one corridor after another. When he runs out of gas, he tries to find his way back, only to stumble on a body leaking copious amounts of blood. It’s his mother and it’s all he can do to stay with her and try to stanch the bleeding.

In short order, Bel vanishes, Peter’s grabbed by Rita, who claims to be a friend of Mom and one of her co-workers. She rushes him out of the museum and into a strange car that follows the ambulance transporting Mom. Peter’s paranoia starts ramping up as the convoy heads away from the two closest hospitals. It spikes even more as he overhears snippets of code-like conversations and senses that something highly suspicious. Little does he know how right he is. He manages to escape, but with Bel missing, where can he go?

What follows is like going in and out of a series of Alice in Wonderland rabbit holes. Every time Peter thinks he has something figured out, reality, or what passes for it, pulls another rug out from him. He’s unsure who to trust, how much of what he’s learned about mathematics can be counted on, he’s unsure who’s real or telling the truth, and as pieces fall into place, he finds himself on ever more fragile ground. Many details are revealed in flashback chapters going back anywhere from five days to seven years prior to the current story line. By the end, Peter, Bel and the reader are all still trying to sort things out. That’s not to say the ending is bad or incomplete, just nicely twisted. If you like industrial strength creepy, this book is for you.

Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS, February 2019.

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