August 4th, 2019 by diane92345

Eve is a freelance professional forensic sculptor. Jill, an investigative journalist, asks her to provide closure for parents of an attack on an African schoolhouse that killed 27 children. Though Eve suggests others and feels slightly manipulated, she agrees to go to the Congo. After she arrives, Eve discovers that the job is just a Smokescreen for Jill’s real motive in inviting her to the work site.

This is the 25th Eve Duncan mystery series that began in 1998 with The Face of Deception. I read the first book but I haven’t read any others in the series until this one. I didn’t have any problem catching up with Eve’s life so this novel can be read as a standalone. Smokescreen has a thrilling plot with lots of heart-breaking details about the mercenary tribes treatment of women and children in Africa. Some of those details are graphic and there is a rape scene. If those are triggers for you, you should avoid this book. Otherwise, it is an interesting look into another world that hopefully none of us will have to face in real life. 4 stars!

Thanks to Grand Central Publishing and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with:

The Russian
August 3rd, 2019 by diane92345

If you like James Bond, you will love The Russian.

Rob Tacoma, ex-SEAL and former CIA operative, is called back to the CIA for a highly confidential and dangerous mission. The Russian mafia has killed Florida Governor Blake and New York senior Senator O’Flaherty within two minutes of each other. President Dellenbaugh is angry. He convenes a Senate panel that allows him to use the CIA on US soil and give the operative, Rob, a full pardon in advance. Basically, it’s a license to kill.

If you like action and don’t mind some graphic gore, you will love The Russian. The descriptions of the weapons, cars and planes are very detailed making you feel part of the action. However, the characters were not well developed. While Rob had some of his motivations explained, most of the other characters did not. They were only briefly described physically as a beautiful brown haired woman with great legs or an ugly and buff Ukrainian man. Great action with minimal characterizations equals 3 stars from me.

Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: ,

An Unsettled Grave
August 3rd, 2019 by diane92345

Monica was stopped by a policeman on a lonely country road late one night. Then she was raped by the policeman. Carrie, the sole female county detective, is dispatched to handle the case. When she ruffles the local police force by asking for “voluntary” DNA swabs, Carrie is reassigned to a new case by her politically motivated Chief in An Unsettled Grave.

Old bones of a child are dug up by a hunting dog in the rural Liston-Patterson, Pennsylvania. Hope was twelve years old in 1981 when she went missing. As the only child that age unaccounted for in the small town, the bones are likely hers. When Carrie finds evidence of the crime overlooked at the time in old case files, she decides to solve the crime. The town’s police chief just wants to provide closure for the parents—not reopen old wounds. Carrie also learns of the deaths of both of the town’s police chiefs within a day of Hope’s disappearance. Is it a coincidence? Carrie thinks not and so also investigates those deaths, labeled at the time as a suicide and a shooting by a motorcycle gang.

An Unsettled Grave is unsettling but it is also an exceptional police procedural. It flashes back to 1981 to show the reader what happened while alternating with how Carrie is using evidence to prove it today almost forty years later. You can tell it was written by a former police officer. Carrie is frustrated by politics and apathy making her job more difficult.

The story has larger themes too. Post-Traumatic Stress from the Vietnam War is almost another character in the novel. It impacts two major characters from 1981 resulting in divergent methods to handle it back in the “real world”. Bullying is described in both the present and 1981.

While the story ties into the previous book in the series, this book can easily be read as a standalone. If you love police procedurals, you must read An Unsettled Grave. It is not only my favorite police procedural this year but of all time! It is a gritty and authentic take on police work and a great mystery to boot. 5 stars!

Thanks to Kensington Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: ,

Someone We Know
August 2nd, 2019 by diane92345

Small town secrets and lies cause trouble for everyone in Someone We Know.

When Amanda is found dead in the trunk of her car submerged in a lake, Detectives Webb and Moen immediately suspect Amanda’s husband, Robert. Robert had reported her missing weeks earlier—but was he just covering his tracks? During the autopsy, Amanda is found to be pregnant. While investigating, the detectives find Amanda was cheating on her husband and vice versa. Whose baby was Amanda carrying? Did her husband, one of her lovers, or the lovers’ wives kill her?

In a parallel plotline, sixteen-year-old Raleigh has an unusual hobby. He breaks into his neighbor’s homes to snoop and send prank emails from their computers. Raleigh doesn’t see it as a problem because he doesn’t take anything. However, when his parents learn of his hobby, they take him to an attorney who explains the number of laws he broke. Raleigh vows to never do it again. His mother, Olivia still feels guilty. She sends anonymous apology letters to the two houses she knows he invaded. One of the letter’s recipients takes it upon herself to determine the author and quickly finds Olivia highly suspicious. The other recipient is Robert.

The parallel stories entwine perfectly in Someone We Know. As everyone’s secrets unravel, the suspense is kept high propelling the reader forward until the tense conclusion. I really enjoyed the perfect pacing of this novel. Poor Olivia is tasked with being the whole neighborhood’s conscience. In this town, filled with murderers and adulterers, it is a heavy burden. However, it is fun to be peeping inside by reading their stories. 4 stars!

Thanks to Pamela Dorman Books and Edelweiss+ for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: ,

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
August 1st, 2019 by diane92345

There it was—in the middle of the sidewalk. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing. It was “a ten-foot-tall Transformer wearing a suit of samurai armor, its huge barrel chest lifted up to the sky a good four or five feet above my head.”

April May didn’t know what to do. She’s a Millennial graphic artist so of course she had her friend Andy film her interviewing it while calling it Carl. They posted it on YouTube.

The next morning, April May is a viral sensation. The video of New York Carl is eventually watched by 94% of the humans on the planet. It seems she and Andy have caught the tip of a phenomenon. There are at least sixty Carls in cities all over the world. News programs are paying the two $10,000 each per 20 minute interview.

Just when April May starts liking the attention (and the money, of course), she reads some trolling comments on her video. Someone is also impersonating her in a fake, and rude, Twitter account. Worst of all, she discovers that there is something secret and scary about Carl. To continue her fame, she decides to do something about it.

Instagram fame is fleeting unless you are curating your life for others as hard as the Kardashians. April May is caught by a fame she didn’t seek but also doesn’t want to see wane. That moral is the center of this science fiction thriller. Despite being substantially older, I could totally see myself in many of April’s decisions. Not just the fame but also the need to find out who or what Carl is. I think An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is An Absolutely Remarkable Book! Great for teens through seniors with a story with an immediacy rarely seen in novels targeting New Adults. 4.5 stars!

Thanks to Dutton Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books, Science Fiction Tagged with: ,

Everyday Keto Baking
July 31st, 2019 by diane92345

Marketed for keto fans, Everyday Keto Baking is also perfect for those sensitive to gluten, eggs, nuts, or dairy. Each recipe is clearly labeled with calories and amounts of protein, carbs, and fats. Almost all the recipes include a picture making deciding what to make first the hardest part.

The best thing about Everyday Keto Baking is that it only requires two types of flour: almond and coconut. Everyone knows that if they see a gluten-free label on bread or cakes (even mixes), the price will be at least double of one made with wheat flour. This cookbook has recipes for all those expensive products like waffles, pancakes, muffins, sandwich rolls, and cakes. But it also has items rarely seen in stores like donuts, crepes, popovers, and tiramisu.

Most of the recipes have many ingredients that you will already have in your pantry. Along with the sweets and breads are about twelve main dishes like salmon croquettes and coconut shrimp. Everything looks yummy, easy to make, and inexpensive so 5 stars!

Thanks to Fair Winds Press and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: , , ,

July 31st, 2019 by diane92345

Two seemingly unrelated cases enliven Labyrinth, the 23rd entry in the FBI Thriller series.

Agent Sherlock hits a running man with her car while caroming around after being struck herself by an SUV running a red light. Waking up in the hospital, she can’t remember her name or recognize her family. Blood found on her car is linked to a missing CIA Analyst. Where did the obviously hurt man go after the accident? More importantly, who or what was he running from?

In rural Gaffer’s Ridge, FBI Agent Griffin Hammersmith is taking a vacation trying to forget his recent break-up with his fiancée Anna and a particularly bizarre recent case with Agent Savich. He hears someone’s thoughts, who is in danger. Carson DeSilva is trapped with a man who, she psychically believes, has already brutally killed three missing teenagers. Once free with the killer Rafer Bodine trapped, Griffin calls the police. But will he and Carson get justice when the Sheriff poo-poos their claim and states his nephew, Rafer, is an upstanding citizen—not a serial killer.

Agents Savich and Sherlock continue to bring original plots to their books. The amnesia throws a wrench into their relationship but you feel nothing could bring them down for long.

There is a lot going on here but the author does a good job keeping all the subplots boiling. Usually, one plot is the main one leaving the others as kind of a filler you have to rush through to get back to the interesting story. That didn’t happen in Labyrinth. All the plots were compelling. I read the book in one sitting. It is a great addition to the FBI Thriller series. 4 stars!

Thanks to Gallery Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: , ,

The Arrangement
July 30th, 2019 by diane92345

What happens in the “sordid, shadowy all-too-real world of sugar dating” when there is a one-sided breakup of The Arrangement? Murder!

Waitress Nat is studying art in New York City by day and looking for a sugar daddy by night. She finds Gabe, a rich but, unknown to her, married man. Gabe supports her in a style she wants to become accustomed to. When she starts catching feelings for him, Gabe breaks it off. Nat can’t let Gabe go so she starts stalking him and his family.

I loved The Arrangement. It has several twists you won’t see coming. Picture driving down a highway at 50 mph when your car suddenly shifts into reverse. That type of twist. I also enjoyed the glimpse into the secretive world of sugar daddies. The author signed up at an actual sugar bowl site to talk to some real sugar babies as part of her research for the book! Hopefully, they took the book’s advice and got paid up front.

I also enjoyed the subtle transformation of many of the main characters as the plot moved forward. It was very realistic and made the characters feel genuine.

The mystery at the heart of the book was a real challenge. Even an experienced armchair detective like me basically thought everybody-dunnit at various times. If you like thrillers and to peek into a hidden world, you can’t go wrong picking up this book. So good it’s worth 5 stars!

Thanks to Scout Press Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with:

Escape Room
July 30th, 2019 by diane92345

Co-workers Jules, Sam, Sylvie and their boss Vincent are trapped in an Escape Room puzzle.

The four Wall Street team members are sent a memo from HR insisting they attend a team-building exercise late at night. After boarding the elevator, they discover they are already in the Escape Room. As they attempt to solve the puzzles to escape, their situation becomes increasingly desperate.

In alternating chapers, the story of Sara is told. Several years prior, Sara is hired as the most junior member of the team. Ignored by most of the team, Sara becomes friends with another ostrasized team member, Lucy. Lucy is a brilliant mathematician, who also is on the Asperger’s spectrum.

It is very hard to explain what I liked best about the Escape Room without releasing spoilers. Therefore, you’ll just have to take my word that it is an excellent read. The breadcrumbs to the end of the riddle are artfully interspersed within the plot with only subtle foreshadowing. Every loose end is tried up by the end. The dialogue and writing style are very cinematic making it easy to picture the story in your head (or up on the big screen where I predict it will appear soon).

The Escape Room is a great gift for any recent finance graduates to ensure they steer clear of any Wall Street jobs. It is a cautionary tale about how greed can quickly pummel any remaining ethics into shreds. It is also an amazing thriller that was impossible for me to stop reading once I started. 4.5 stars!

Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

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