Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Month: March 2015

Inspector of the Dead by David Morrell


Many thanks to NetGalley for providing this Advance Readers’ Copy  for review.

The year is 1855. The Crimean War is raging. The incompetence of British commanders causes the fall of the English government. The Empire teeters. Amid this crisis comes opium-eater Thomas De Quincey, one of the most notorious and brilliant personalities of Victorian England. Along with his irrepressible daughter, Emily, and their Scotland Yard companions, Ryan and Becker, De Quincey finds himself confronted by an adversary who threatens the heart of the nation.

This killer targets members of the upper echelons of British society, leaving with each corpse the name of someone who previously attempted to kill Queen Victoria. The evidence indicates that the ultimate victim will be Victoria herself.


Once again author David Morrell has produced a winner. INSPECTOR OF THE DEAD has the wonderfully grim De Quincey as a main character,  wintry Victorian England as a backdrop, and a plot full of double and triple crosses that will delight and confound the reader.

I’ll admit, this book started off slow. Truly slow. Morrell’s writing style took a bit to get used to–but as I progressed I noticed his sly use of sarcasm in the dialogue, the fatalistic attitude of De Quincey (which endeared me to the character quickly; no overly macho man here), and the on-point description of gaslight England, down to the terrors lurking in the Seven Dials district.

More on the style of writing: Morrell uses the third party omniscient narrator for the bulk of the book–but includes a first person narrative under the guise of  De Quincey’s daughter Emily’s journal. There are also flashbacks contributing to the unsettling way the story is told. As you get drawn into the plot, it gets easier to roll with the narration switches and flashbacks.

The plot is taken from true events and embellished. Wherever he goes, De Quincey is simultaneously self deprecating and larger than life, openly drinking from his omnipresent laudanum bottle and quoting Emmanuel Kant. Emily keeps him quietly in check most of the time, but there are instances where the Opium-Eater runs off at the mouth, confounding his audience. Some of the best dialogue came from De Quincey’s talks with Lord Palmerston, the British statesman who becomes Prime Minister. Morrell also captures the class differences quite well, contrasting the stiff upper lips of Mayfair with the street urchins of the London slums.

INSPECTOR OF THE DEAD was such a joy, it made me want to read the first De Quincey book, [easyazon_link asin=”0316216798″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”yes” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]MURDER AS A FINE ART[/easyazon_link]. When I finally get to it, I’m sure I’ll be delighted.

Want your own copy of INSPECTOR? You can pick it up [easyazon_link asin=”0316323934″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”yes” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]here[/easyazon_link].



Angels At The Gate by T.K. Thorne PLUS GIVEAWAY!


Little is known about Lot’s wife, the unnamed biblical figure who was turned into a pillar of salt as she fled the destruction of Sodom. But for writer T.K. Thorne, just one reference was enough to ignite her imagination and form the basis for her dazzling new novel, ANGELS AT THE GATE (Cappuccino Books, March 2015). Like Noah’s Wife, Thorne’s highly praised debut, this book brings the ancient world to life through the eyes of an extraordinary woman.

Based on historical, biblical, and archaeological research, visits to the Middle East, and a large measure of creativity, ANGELS AT THE GATE is the story of Adira, destined to become Lot’s wife. A daughter of Abram’s tribe, Adira is an impetuous young girl whose mother died in childbirth. Secretly raised as a boy in her father’s caravan and schooled in languages and the art of negotiation, Adira rejects the looming changes of womanhood that threaten her nomadic life and independence.

But with the arrival of two mysterious strangers – Northmen rumored to be holy or possibly even “Angels” – Adira’s world unravels. Raiders invade the caravan, and she loses everything she values most – her father, her freedom, and even the “Angels.”

Caught between her oath to her father to return to her tribe and the “proper life for a woman” and tormented by an impossible love, she abandons all she has known in a dangerous quest to seek revenge and find her kidnapped “Angel.” With only her beloved dog, Nami, at her side, Adira must use the skills she learned in the caravan to survive the perils of the desert, Sodom, and her own heart.

ANGELS AT THE GATE is a story of adventure and the power of love, exploring themes about choice – the importance of asking the right questions and walking the fine edge between duty and personal freedom.

Many thanks to Felicia at Jane Wesman Public Relations for offering me this book in exchange for an honest review. Even more thanks for working with us to do this book giveaway! Click the link, or enter at the bottom of the page. Both are fine!
I will admit I was a little hesitant going into this book because I don’t care to  read things with a religious slant. However, I was delightfully surprised to realize though there was a strong undercurrent of religion in the book, it consisted of the character’s beliefs and how those beliefs affect their actions.

There is so much goodness in this book I’m not sure where to start. The character of Adira is wonderfully written: a strong and impetuous girl on the cusp of womanhood, torn between her own yearnings and her devotion to her father and the promises he made when she was born. I felt her passion on every page, and suffered along with her as the cruel desert showed its ugliness.

The amount of research the author did was staggering, and it’s evidenced in the exquisite description of the nomads and their existence. The constant quest for water, the undying Sahara sun, and the beautiful Saluki named Nami come to life as the story unfolds. We learn about honor, promises, the fragility of life, and the unforgiving nature of the desert.

To take an unnamed character and create a book around her is a daunting undertaking, and Thorne does Adira true justice. I loved that she was a girl who wasn’t afraid to take risks, who defended her caravan, and loved her dog Nami with every bone in her body. For me, the book took on an extra dimension as Nami was an essential character.

Not everything is beauty and pleasure, however. Adira runs afoul of desert marauders and this affects the rest of her existence. My heart broke as this injustice was done, thanks to the author’s skill in showing, not telling. At that point she becomes Lot’s wife and enters the city of Sodom to live, which brings the book towards its conclusion. I so wanted Adira to be happy and loved…and I was hanging on every word at the end when she had a choice to make.

ANGELS AT THE GATE is phenomenally, hauntingly, fantastically written. Adira is a character not soon forgotten, and the images of the nomads and the blistering hot city of Sodom will stay with you long after you close the book. Even if you have no knowledge or interest in the Bible or the characters–pick this up. The story is wonderful all by itself. You can get your own copy [easyazon_link asin=”390619602X” locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”yes” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]here[/easyazon_link].


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Internal Medicine by Terrence Holt


A collection of essays about life as a surgical intern.

Terrence Holt, whose In the Valley of the Kings was hailed as a “work of genius” (New York Times) and made Amazon’s Top Ten Short Story Collections of the year, brings a writer’s eye and a doctor’s touch to this powerful account of residency.

Intense, ironic, heartfelt, and heartbreaking, these nine vivid stories put us at the bedside of a patient dying in a house full of cursing parrots, through a nightmarish struggle to convince a man that he has cancer, at a life-and-death effort to keep an oxygen mask on a claustrophobic patient, and in the lounge of a snowbound hospital where doctors swap yarns through the night.

Out of these “dioramas from the Museum of Human Misery”, Holt draws meaning, beauty, wonder, and truth. Personal, poignant, and meticulously precise, these stories evoke Chekhov, Maugham, and William Carlos Williams, admitting readers to the beating heart of medicine. Internal Medicine is an account of what it means to be a doctor, to be mortal, and to be human.

This book was on my “to-read” list, so I picked it up from the library. Attempts to reach the author for a review/giveaway copy were unsuccessful.

It only took a few pages for INTERNAL MEDICINE to become a great read. Told in the voice of a doctor, explaining how he handled difficult cases during his internship, this book is alternately chilling and poignant. The take away message is this: doctors have self doubt and fatigue just like everyone else, despite the brave front they put on.

Each chapter told the story of one patient, and how Holt learned from their situation. One lesson was patience, one was bravery, one was teamwork, and so on. Brilliant details and situations that everyone can identify with are what makes this such a moving and important read.

As I read about the woman whose oxygen saturation was dipping into the 80’s, yet she kept ripping her O2 mask off due to claustrophobia, I ferverently hoped I would never be ill and lingering in the hospital. The intimate details of how the human body betrays us all is what will stay with you, long after the book is finished. Holt’s writing style is easy to follow, and full of honesty.

Each chapter can be read as a stand alone, and I recommend that–for you will need time to digest the life lessons revealed with each patient’s final outcome. Holt does not hide his fear, his disgust, his anger, and his weariness. He exposes himself –  and the entire medical profession – with stories that cannot help but touch your soul. What makes this book so wonderful is that the stories take place during his internship, where each moment is a learning experience and a doctor’s intuition is “make or break”.  The spin on each chapter would be totally different if it was written under the guise of a man who was completely comfortable with his medical knowledge, with his ability to heal and comfort. Instead, there are questions and internal monologues, which make the doctor not larger than life, but truly human and with foibles.

The book can be graphic at times, so beware. Seasoned readers of the medical genre will enjoy it, as there are some things that I haven’t read about previously. The scenes and maladies are diverse, and there is a chilling story from a mental hospital thrown in for good measure. The only chapter I had a problem with was the last one: a seemingly out of place fable (told  on a regular basis by doctors) about an incident that may or may not have taken place in real life–a rambling and unsatisfying tale told (in this case) by an older doctor in an on call room where others are trying to get some rest.  I’m not sure why the author chose to end with this story, as it took the life out of the other eight chapters that went before.  Other than that, I have nothing but praise for INTERNAL MEDICINE. This should be on the must read shelf for all those about to enter the medical profession.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link asin=”0871408759″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”yes” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]here[/easyazon_link].







Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum


Thanks to Net Galley for providing me with this ARC for review purposes.

Anna was a good wife, mostly.

Anna Benz, an American in her late thirties, lives with her Swiss husband, Bruno—a banker—and their three young children in a postcard-perfect suburb of Zürich. Though she leads a comfortable, well-appointed life, Anna is falling apart inside. Adrift and increasingly unable to connect with the emotionally unavailable Bruno or even with her own thoughts and feelings, Anna tries to rouse herself with new experiences: German language classes, Jungian analysis, and a series of sexual affairs she enters with an ease that surprises even her.

But Anna can’t easily extract herself from these affairs. When she wants to end them, she finds it’s difficult. Tensions escalate, and her lies start to spin out of control. Having crossed a moral threshold, Anna will discover where a woman goes when there is no going back.

Intimate, intense, and written with the precision of a Swiss Army knife, Jill Alexander Essbaum’s debut novel is an unforgettable story of marriage, fidelity, sex, morality, and most especially self. Navigating the lines between lust and love, guilt and shame, excuses and reasons, Anna Benz is an electrifying heroine whose passions and choices readers will debate with recognition and fury. Her story reveals, with honesty and great beauty, how we create ourselves and how we lose ourselves and the sometimes disastrous choices we make to find ourselves.

Many of the reviews I’ve seen of HAUSFRAU say that it’s a hard book to review. I agree. As I read it, I wanted to slam it shut and toss it away, multiple times. The only reason I kept going was curiosity–how would things end? Anna Benz is a hard character to like: she’s weak, passive, oversexed, bland, and annoying. For the most part, she spends her time wishing she weren’t in Switzerland with her husband, attending German classes, seeing her psychologist, and having meaningless sex with men. I’m no prude, but her attitude towards these dalliances were repugnant. Anna seems to have no emotions other than depression, ennui, and lust. I know that’s a strange combination, and perhaps that is what disturbed me the most. For all her time spent in bed, it didn’t really seem to help her enjoy life.

The writing is technically correct; and any other plot/ characters in Essbaum’s hands would be wonderful. She has the ability to create wonderful sentences and beautiful mental images; and certainly can get inside the mind of a disturbed person. Some of Anna’s internal dialogue was right on the mark.

I think the more time I’ve spent between finishing this book and recalling it for this review has mellowed my dislike. Perhaps that is too strong, as my loathing of Anna’s character has possibly overshadowed other things about HAUSFRAU that are very good. The plot does have some interesting turns and developments, outside of Anna’s sex addiction and self loathing, and this is what drives the denoument. The last part of the book is the most satisfying, the most shocking, and the most emotionally disturbing part. As I mentioned, I was on the verge of putting HAUSFRAU on my did-not-finish list, but I’ll admit grudgingly that I’m glad I didn’t.

It will be interesting to see if this book is a best seller and will get a lot of hype. You will either love it or hate it–but I guarantee you will spend time thinking about it: Anna’s choices, her mental state, if things really were as tragic as they seemed, and the chilling way the book ended. The last few sentences will be etched in my mind for a while.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link asin=”0812997530″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”yes” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]here[/easyazon_link].

The Clock Strikes Midnight by Joan C. Curtis

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Many thanks to author Joan C. Curtis for gifting me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Janie Knox wants nothing more than to live her life quietly in Savannah, Georgia and never return to her hometown of Atlanta. At age 17, a week after a jury convicted her stepfather of killing her mother,she packed all her worldly possessions in a single duffle bag, hopped on a bus, and vowed never to return. But, when she learns that she’s got three months to live, she journeys back home to finish what she couldn’t do when she left–kill her stepfather.
As the clock ticks away, Janie uses the last days of her life to right the wrongs that have haunted her for 20 years. She faces more than she bargained for when she discovers her sister’s life in shambles. Meanwhile her stepfather, recently released from prison, blackmails the sisters and plots to extract millions from the state in retribution.
The Clock Strikes Midnight is a race against time in a quest for revenge and atonement. This is a story about unleashing the hidden truths that haunt a quiet Southern family.

This book is truly Southern Gothic—family secrets, manipulation, drinking to ease the pain of loss, plus guilt all around.  This is a plot I can sympathize with–trying to right a wrong in your life before you die, knowing that even if you do accomplish murder, you will also be getting away with it because you only have three months to live.

Janie is as strong as Marlene is weak, and the juxtaposition between the two made for an easy read. Stepfather Ralph is a truly odious character, and I cringed every time he was around. The “bad thing” that makes him a target for murder isn’t explained until the end, but I was rooting for him to lose based on how Curtis described him, with his onion breath and mean eyes.

Even though Janie has murderous intentions, she is a sympathetic character and devoted to her sister, as the reader will discover as more of the plot is revealed. Suspense is generated via the reader knowing the clock is ticking both literally and figuratively on Janie’s life. There are a few close calls, and a flashback that will seem a bit out of place at the time, but once you get closer to the end it will all make sense. I’ll admit I was hoping for a different kind of ending (no spoilers here!), but I was satisfied how things turned out.

Almost all of Curtis’ characters have a flaw: weakness, cruelty, denial, self-absorption–you name it, and it’s in here. There is also love, strength, honor, and friendship. Almost all of the female characters are strong ones, trying to remain in control of their lives despite the curves thrown their way. The main thrust here is justice, a departure from the usual fare of girls chasing men under the guise of romance and pillow talk.  Descriptions of Atlanta make you feel as if you are experiencing the town for yourself, and I could easily picture the characters in my head.

THE CLOCK STRIKES MIDNIGHT is a sleeper of a book; you turn the pages until you realized you’ve been hooked, quietly, and then you simply must see how things are going to turn out.  I’m glad I took a chance on this one. Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link asin=”B00NUGACKO” locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”yes” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]here[/easyazon_link].

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