The Silent Girl by Tess Gerritsen

SILENT
The Silent Girl by Tess Gerritsen
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (315 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

Every crime scene tells a story. Some keep you awake at night. Others haunt your dreams. The grisly display homicide cop Jane Rizzoli finds in Boston’s Chinatown will do both.

In the murky shadows of an alley lies a female’s severed hand. On the tenement rooftop above is the corpse belonging to that hand, a red-haired woman dressed all in black, her head nearly severed. Two strands of silver hair—not human—cling to her body. They are Rizzoli’s only clues, but they’re enough for her and medical examiner Maura Isles to make the startling discovery: that this violent death had a chilling prequel.

Nineteen years earlier, a horrifying murder-suicide in a Chinatown restaurant left five people dead. But one woman connected to that massacre is still alive: a mysterious martial arts master who knows a secret she dares not tell, a secret that lives and breathes in the shadows of Chinatown. A secret that may not even be human. Now she’s the target of someone, or something, deeply and relentlessly evil.

Cracking a crime resonating with bone-chilling echoes of an ancient Chinese legend, Rizzoli and Isles must outwit an unseen enemy with centuries of cunning—and a swift, avenging blade.

A grisly murder in Boston’s Chinatown leaves Detective Jane Rizzoli feeling a little out of her element. Unacquainted with the people and their culture, she finds herself relying on a new addition to their team, Detective Johnny Tam. But will the newcomer to homicide be enough to unravel this mystery with roots in ancient China? Jane Rizzoli, with medical examiner Maura Isles by her side, is bound and determined to see this one through to the end.

Jane Rizzoli is a hard character to like sometimes. She’s brusque and bold and puts a lot of people off, mostly other detectives. But I really like her. You knew from book one that she was a darn good detective and would do anything to prove herself. Even now, in book nine, she’s still pushing to do her best and make her name. Pairing her with Barry Frost was the best thing Boston PD could have done.

Detective Barry Frost, on the other hand, is likable from day one. Sweet and possessing more tact than Rizzoli could ever dream of, Frost is the perfect foil to Jane’s abrasive nature. I was happy to see some of the focus turn towards him during this novel because he’s the kind of guy you want to get to know better.

I wasn’t exactly sure why the author introduced Johnny Tam into this novel, but as we got deeper into the mystery, it made more sense. He’s Chinese and knows the people and the history of those living in Chinatown, easing the way for the rest of the Boston Police Department. His knowledge of Chinese folklore and ability to apply it to what was happening around them was fascinating. Folklore and mythology have always been an interest of mine, so being treated to a ton of stories I’d never heard before only engaged me further.

The Silent Girl ups the intensity of the Rizzoli and Isles series, cranking the tension up to eleven. One of the most engrossing novels of the series, I found myself unable to stop reading. If the characters continue to grow and evolve like they have been, this is going to end up being one of the best mystery series ever written. I finish one novel and find myself anxiously waiting for the next. I cannot get enough of Jane Rizzoli and her cohorts at the Boston Police Department.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (and Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

MINDY
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (and Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Contemporary, Non-Fiction, Humor
Length: Full Length (219 pages)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck–impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence “Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I’ll shut up about it?”

Perhaps you want to know what Mindy thinks makes a great best friend (someone who will fill your prescription in the middle of the night), or what makes a great guy (one who is aware of all elderly people in any room at any time and acts accordingly), or what is the perfect amount of fame (so famous you can never get convicted of murder in a court of law), or how to maintain a trim figure (you will not find that information in these pages). If so, you’ve come to the right book, mostly!

In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka.

She might not be the literal girl-next-door, but honestly, does that matter? She’s a riot and I swear, I’d love to have her as my best friend.

Who am I talking about? Mindy Kaling. You might have seen her on The Office or The Mindy Project. I’d never seen either show, but I’d seen her in interviews and thought, this girl is funny as heck. So when I saw this book, I knew I wanted to read it.

A word of caution – she writes the book in a series of essays that she claims are not blog posts. In this day and age of things being written in short burst – like blog posts – it works. The writing is clean and conversational, like I was in the room with her and having the conversation. I laughed, cried and felt for her along the way.

This is a glimpse into Mindy Kaling’s world. The ups, the downs and how she got to where she is in life and it was fun to read. I loved her interpretations of college, getting a job and dealing with kids. She’s frank and unapologetic. My favorite part was her writing the plan for her own funeral.

If you want a book that’s a quick read, will pick you up and make you laugh, then this might be the book for you. It was for me.

Chasing the Flames by Cheryl Adnams

FLAMES
Chasing the Flames by Cheryl Adnams
Publisher: Random House Australia
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (191 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Hawthorn

Sometimes the hottest fire burns with an old flame.

Trisha Carne has loved Brian Muller, of Muller’s Field vineyard, for as long as she can remember but the moment has never been right. Then an unexpected kiss on New Year’s Eve has Brian looking at her in a new way. Has she finally caught his attention?

Brian’s been doing it tough since his wife left him, and has retreated into the safety of bachelorhood. So he’s surprised to find this new fling with an old flame is starting to bring him back to life.

Until his ex-wife turns up in McLaren Vale and he’s thrown into a state of confusion.

Will Brian and Trisha let their pasts keep them from finding true happiness? Or will they have the courage to chase the flames that still smoulder between them?

Just like the first book about the Muller boys, Chasing the Flames features a hot romance and hot boys, but this one also has some hot flames that need to be doused – quite literally.

Both main characters are familiar from Bet on It, the first book in the series. Despite that, the book can be easily read as a stand alone since the characters and situations are written detailed enough and enough background is given for the reader to be able to understand the intricate relationships. Because the relationship between Trisha and Brian is indeed intricate!

Trisha is a wonderful character. She’s complex, comes from a sad, abusive background, but she’s fought tooth and nails to succeed. People judge her because of her mother’s mistakes and because in a small town gossip is the main hobby. Few people know her real story and what a wonderful woman she is. One of these people is Brian, with whom she’s been in love for almost three decades. Needless to say, he’s blind to her feelings.

He is also the reason why, for me, this book didn’t quite garner five stars. He was a good character and fun to follow throughout the story. What bothered me was his indecision when it came to his ex-wife. It seemed unconvincing because prior to her showing up at the estate, he was very adamant about how he felt about her.

Brian and his brothers were also members of the local Country Fire Service, and I appreciated the author’s descriptions of the bush fire scenes and the CFS’s efforts to contain the fire. It was wonderfully realistic and very descriptive of Australian landscape and climate.

Seth from Bet On It is still my favorite character in the series, however Chasing the Flames was a wonderful romance that I thoroughly enjoyed. I can’t wait to see what Adnams has in store for the youngest brother, Andrew.

Losing Patients by Virginia Taylor

LOSING
Losing Patients by Virginia Taylor
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (199 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Hawthorn

A scintillating romantic suspense novel with a twist of intrigue and a lot of flirtation. Can true love be found in the hunt for a killer? It’s Bree Branson’s first day at Pemberton Private Hospital and the last thing she needs is a patient dying in suspicious circumstances on her watch. The only person who can help her clear her name is the one person she was hoping to avoid, the devastatingly handsome Sam Vincent . . . the doctor she stood up three years ago. Forced to work together to find a killer, will Bree and Sam be able to leave their past behind to find a future together?

It was amazing to watch how the relationship between Bree and Sam developed. From jilted lovers to friends with a lot of unresolved sexual tension between them, to utterly in love with each other – all written in a way that made it natural, believable and a delight to follow. Their relationship progressed smoothly and at a pace that made it possible to watch them develop deep feelings for each other, without it being too drawn-out.

The same goes for the suspenseful subplot that was intense enough to keep the reader guessing and reading for more clues, but not too exaggerated to drown out the romance aspects of the novel. The two were very nicely connected and worked together perfectly. Even though my knowledge of drugs and medical procedures is very limited, the mystery plot wasn’t hard to follow. It was simple enough to understand without any medical knowledge, but intricate enough to make it spine-tingling suspenseful.

Obviously, Bree and Sam were wonderful characters that I couldn’t help but fall in love with, but the rest of the hospital staff was very well-written, too. The nurses, some of which were at first glance shown as ignorant, lazy or standoffish, were then introduced in such detail that they appeared like real people with real problems and hopes and histories. Sam’s and Bree’s families, too, were an integral part of the story and although they were not the sort of characters I would identify with, their personalities were shown in a way that made them feel like people with authentic motives and a logic behind their actions.

The closer I got to the end of the novel, the more I wished it would never end. I wanted more of the delicious attraction between Bree and Sam, more scenes that so clearly showed how deeply Sam loved Bree, more of Bree’s heartbreak because she thought she could never have Sam … But unfortunately, the novel ended…and I wanted more!  I’m very glad I had the chance to read it.

The Racketeer by John Grisham

RACKETEER
The Racketeer by John Grisham
Publisher: Dell, Random House
Genre: Contemporary, Action/Adventure, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (382 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Given the importance of what they do, and the controversies that often surround them, and the violent people they sometimes confront, it is remarkable that in the history of this country only four active federal judges have been murdered.

Judge Raymond Fawcett has just become number five.

Who is the Racketeer? And what does he have to do with the judge’s untimely demise? His name, for the moment, is Malcolm Bannister. Job status? Former attorney. Current residence? The Federal Prison Camp near Frostburg, Maryland.

On paper, Malcolm’s situation isn’t looking too good these days, but he’s got an ace up his sleeve. He knows who killed Judge Fawcett, and he knows why. The judge’s body was found in his remote lakeside cabin. There was no forced entry, no struggle, just two dead bodies: Judge Fawcett and his young secretary. And one large, state-of-the-art, extremely secure safe, opened and emptied.

What was in the safe? The FBI would love to know. And Malcolm Bannister would love to tell them. But everything has a price—especially information as explosive as the sequence of events that led to Judge Fawcett’s death. And the Racketeer wasn’t born yesterday . . .

Packs a punch and keeps you guessing!

John Grisham books are my kryptonite. I admit it. When each one comes out, I jump to see what Grisham will spin out next. The Racketeer is a real ride. I enjoyed the book to an extent. There were a few issues, but I’m glad I read the book.

The writing is one of my issues this time out. There were moments when I wasn’t sure whose point of view I was in. Malcolm, the main character, tends to be the main point of view, but here and there I was treated to others. While this might not be bad for some readers, I had to go back and figure out who was talking. For me this was not good because Malcolm is one step ahead of everyone else. One detail out of place and I got lost.

Another thing I didn’t like was the treatment of one of the secondary characters. I really liked the character of Nathan. The way the plot twisted was interesting and had me needing to know what happened next, but it also left me irked about Nathan. Oh and his dog. I won’t give any spoilers, but yeah, I wasn’t happy. I got emotionally involved in the story, so kudos to Grisham for that, but this was an instance I wasn’t pleased.

Now it may seem I didn’t like this book. Wrong. I enjoyed the book and thought about it long after the last page. I discussed it with friends and went back to read it again. Grisham spins a real whale of a tale in this book and while some of it isn’t to be believed, it’s worth the read.

Timekeeper by Alexandra Monir

Timekeeper by Alexandra Monir
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (272 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

When Philip Walker appears as a new student in Michele Windsor’s high school class, she is floored. He is the love she thought she lost forever when they said goodbye during her time travels last century. Overjoyed that they can resume the relationship they had a lifetime ago, Michele eagerly approaches him and discovers the unthinkable: he doesn’t remember her. In fact, he doesn’t seem to remember anything about the Philip Walker of 1910.

Michele then finds her father’s journals, which tell stories of his time-traveling past. As she digs deeper, she learns about his entanglement with a mysterious and powerful organization called the Time Society and his dealings with a vengeful Windsor ancestor. Michele soon finds herself at the center of a rift over 120 years in the making, one whose resolution will have life-or-death consequences.

Ever hear of a cross-century war? This book has one going on. The charming time-travel story continues in this second part. The first was incredibly romantic and left off with a cliffhanger; however, this second book in the series could be read alone.

Things start off with a mystery. Michele is a sixteen-year-old girl from the present who fell in love with a boy from the past; a century past. She met him before her grandparents were born. Then she loses him, being forced back into her present.

One day, to her shock, the new kid shows up at her school. It’s him! He found a way to cross time and be with her. The problem is, he doesn’t seem to know her, and he is hanging out with another girl. Her heart crashes. What’s going on here? Her character is well written as she pursues her answers. What a strong, brave girl.

Mixed in with thismystery is the romantic tale of how Michele’s parents meet and fall in love. It’s a lovely story on its own, but with a tragic ending. Also, Michele is told that children of cross-timed parents are strictly forbidden to exist—her. A woman from the past wants to kill her and does horrible things to get at her. Time is running out for Michele. Will Philip remember her and help her?

There are tender moments, not only for Michele and Philip, but for Michele’s parents. She gets to watch them, see their young love. Another great moment is when Michele goesback in time and meets the father she never knew. She gets answers. Her dad’s background is quite interesting.

This book is filled with suspense. Though it seems to focus more on Michele’s parents than on her and Philip, it’s still a great read from a talented author.

Flutter by Gina Linko

Flutter by Gina Linko
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Mystery/suspense
Length: Full Length (342 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

For as long as 17-year-old Emery Land can remember, she’s suffered from seizures. In recent years they’ve consumed her life. To Emery they’re much more than seizures, she calls them loops—moments when she travels through wormholes back and forth in time to a mysterious town. The loops take their toll on her physically, so she practically lives in the hospital where her scientist father monitors her every move.

Emery decides to escape the hospital and travel to Esperanza, the town from her loops on the upper peninsula of Michigan, where she meets Asher Clarke. Ash’s life is governed by his single-minded pursuit of performing good Samaritan acts to atone for the death of a loved one. Drawn together they must unravel their complicated connection before it’s too late.

The books for young adults seem to be getting better and better and Flutter was no exception. I think this is a title that both adults and teenagers, especially teenage girls, will both really enjoy.

It’s got a little of everything, sweet romance, suspense, and a nice helping of sci-fi thrown in. It’s told in the first person and you immediately connect with Emery whose point of view the story is told from. She has epilepsy and is confined to a hospital room where her father is a doctor. He comes across as a mix of doting father and someone who isn’t all that he seems so you begin to feel uneasy for Emery. Her seizures or loops as she calls them, are getting worse. Each one is given its own chapter which I thought were all perfectly described and pulled you into the story.

There’s a mystery brewing and it seems that Emery is time traveling when she goes into a loop. So strong is her belief that she takes off to the town she’s seen while in a loop. It’s at this point that the story really takes off and has you turning the pages. The last seventy-five pages of the book I couldn’t put down and kept on reading. I won’t give the ending away but will just say it left me with a few tears in my eyes.

I thought the author presented a unique twist of what happens to people and their brains when they experience seizures. This is a fun book to read yourself or even one to think about giving as a holiday gift to the teenage girl on your list.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (269 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

“It still amazes me how little we really knew. . . . Maybe everything that happened to me and my family had nothing at all to do with the slowing. It’s possible, I guess. But I doubt it. I doubt it very much.”

On a seemingly ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, Julia and her family awake to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow. The days and nights grow longer and longer, gravity is affected, the environment is thrown into disarray. Yet as she struggles to navigate an ever-shifting landscape, Julia is also coping with the normal disasters of everyday life—the fissures in her parents’ marriage, the loss of old friends, the hopeful anguish of first love, the bizarre behavior of her grandfather who, convinced of a government conspiracy, spends his days obsessively cataloging his possessions. As Julia adjusts to the new normal, the slowing inexorably continues.

The Age of Miracles is a story that grabs you from chapter one and has you in its hold until the very last word. It’s told in the first person from the viewpoint of Julia, an eleven year old girl who is not only dealing with growing into a young woman and all the problems that come with it, but also the breakdown of her parent’s once idyllic marriage.

These dilemmas in themselves make for a wonderful read, but this story is more than just a coming of age novel because these two problems are interwoven with yet a bigger one. It quickly becomes a sci-fi novel about what happens to us, society, and the world when the earth slows.

Ms. Thompson Walker did a wonderful job showing us what would happen if the days and nights grew longer. Not only its impact on the environment but relationships with one another, neighbors, and society as a whole.

Each character is well crafted and overall this makes for a very compelling read. Although it’s listed as a young adult novel, (and I know lots of young adults will love it), don’t let the listing put you off reading it if you’re an adult, or at least borrowing it from your offspring. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Sky Dragons by Anne MacCaffery and Todd MacCaffery

Sky Dragons by Anne MacCaffrey and Todd MacCaffrey
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 368 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewer: Meadowsweet

From the New York Times bestselling mother-and-son team of Anne McCaffrey and Todd McCaffrey comes the final installment in the riveting Pern saga that began with Todd’s solo novel, Dragonsblood. Now, with all of Pern imperiled by the aftereffects of a plague that killed scores of dragons and left the planet helpless against the fall of deadly Thread, the only hope for the future lies in the past.

There, on an unexplored island, a group of dragonriders led by Xhinna, a brave young woman who rides the blue dragon Tazith, must battle lethal Merows and voracious tunnel-snakes to build a safe home for themselves and the dragons, whose offspring will one day—if they survive—replenish Pern’s decimated dragon population. But as the first female rider of a blue dragon, and the first female Weyrleader in the history of Pern, Xhinna faces an uphill battle in winning the respect and loyalty of her peers . . . especially after an unforeseen tragedy leaves the struggling colony reeling from a shattering loss.

Amid the grieving, one girl, Jirana, blessed—or cursed—with the ability to foresee potential futures, will help Xhinna find a way forward. The answer lies in time . . . or, rather, in timing it: the awesome ability of the dragons to travel through time itself. But that power comes with risks, and by venturing further into the past, Xhinna may be jeopardizing the very future she has sworn to save.

Sky Dragons is the latest installment in the Pern Series and the last book which will feel the touch of Anne MacCaffrey herself. It’s thrilling as a reader and lover of the Pern series that this latest and last book by her is as wonderful and thrilling as the first. The Pern series does need to be read in order because there are elements, which are developed and explained in early books and may leave readers confused, if they’re picking up Sky Dragons for the first time.

Sky Dragons revolves around the first female blue dragon rider and a small group of dragon riders and potential dragon riders who travel back in time with the hopes of breeding enough dragons to help repopulate the Weyrs in their own time. They establish Sky Weyr after an attack and some are stuck in a time drama which leaves the young blue rider Xhinna, as the oldest dragon rider in the group and therefore Weyrleader, the first female to ever take the position. She must see to the youngsters both human and dragon as she tries to save them from vicious predators. She becomes the leader of a wing of Queen dragons. Throw in some fancy flying and daring unprecedented ideas and you have a wonderful story that brings adventure, romance, danger, and drama all together in a smooth and delightful mix.

While I enjoyed this story it wasn’t quite as enjoyable as some of her other works. There were a few areas of confusion where even I was wondering what was going on. They were quickly sorted out when it became apparent that as the dragons were moving back and forth through time so was the story and there were time leaps to allow maturing of the characters. Also a heads-up:  a lesbian relationship figures prominently in the story, so if that’s something which offends you, you may choose not to read this book.

Overall, the book was well written, as delightful as the first in the Pern series and made me a bit melancholy because it will be the last of these special books from an amazing author. It’s a book that has joined my collection and I encourage anyone to pick up and read Sky Dragons by Anne and Todd MacCaffrey.

Secrets of the Time Society by Alexandra Monir

Secrets of the Time Society by Alexandra Monir
Publisher: Delacorte Press for Young Readers/Random House
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (26 pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

There exists a secret society where one’s ability to travel through time is “gifted” to members only by blood. Those who try to enter the society quickly come to realize that time is a force not to be reckoned with. Alexandra Monir’s short story exclusive ebook, Secrets of the Time Society, sheds light upon the world created in her novel Timeless and forecasts the fate that lies ahead for its protagonist, Michele Windsor. Now that Michele is gifted, there are some who will do anything to take that power away.

What could such a scary and strange dream mean? Sixteen-year-old Michele wakes up startled in her grandparents’ mansion.

Secrets of the Time Society is a bridge, a short story, interesting on its own. It adds information and tension to the novel Timeless, answering some of the questions presented there. It also prepares readers for the next novel in the series expected to be published later this year.

This tale introduces a villain, Rebecca, an antagonist to match Michele. Readers now worry a bit more for the heroine. Rebecca is devious and selfish. She’s smart and could seriously hurt Michele’s chances of happiness. Her character is clearly drawn, making it easy to visualize her and her nature.

The fantasy setting of the Time Society’s headquarters is done well. It’s remarkable and descriptive. We meet other time travelers. What’s also attention grabbing for those who have read Timeless is the revisitation to a scene from that book, but from the perspective of the new antagonist.

It’s a good little story, and the new developments set things up for the next book in the series. While I would have liked to have had a chance to see a bit more of Michele and Philip, this story was obviously meant to introduce Rebecca. Readers will just have to wait to see if they find each other across time again. Having read the first book, the second novel is greatly anticipated.

For a ten-minute or so read filled with twists, check out Secrets of the Time Society. But I recommended you first read the wonderful novel that comes before it, Timelesss, to get a full appreciation of how this all came about and where it might be going.