Category: Diane’s Favorites

The Great Pretender
November 11th, 2019 by diane92345

The author was initially misdiagnosed as schizophrenic. Instead, she had autoimmune encephalitis, an organic brain disorder often called The Great Pretender for its ability to mimic the signs of psychiatric disease. Even though she was labeled as a mental patient for only a week, wondering what would have happened if the initial diagnosis wasn’t overturned compels her to investigate the US mental health care system. In fact, she finds someone who spent years in the mental health system before being correctly diagnosed with the author’s disease with unfortunate consequences.

“The brain is a physical organ and physical disease occurs within the brain. Why does that make it a ‘ psychiatric condition’ instead of a physical ‘ disease’?”—from a father of a son diagnosed with psychosis quoted in the book

The Great Pretender makes an excellent case that psychiatry is the study of neurological disease for which we have no cause or cure…yet. Both autoimmune encephalitis and syphilis were originally diagnosed as mental disorders. Once a cause and cure were found, they were moved to neurology.

Originally all mental diseases were thought to be caused by the devil. Next, medical science thought it was a weakness in the person’s character, which could be solved by drastic measures like lobotomy and shock therapy. Now, a person’s history is blamed with talk therapy and strong drugs as cures. Who is to say that that is the final solution to psychiatric disease.

The heart of the book concerns the landmark study in 1973 by Stanford professor David Rosenhan, On Being Sane in Insane Places. He and seven of his students and colleagues self-reported symptoms of psychosis to get placed in one of the facilities. Once there, they acted normally until someone released them. The average time to get out was fifteen days. The study’s conclusion was that psychiatry had no clear way to diagnose or cure mental illness. It was unable to separate the sane from the insane. The author finds additional notes from the study’s now-deceased author. She finds one of the living pseudopatients and interviews him. The author also finds a ninth pseudopatient who is mentioned only in a footnote within the study. His story is told in the book.

Currently, four percent of the US have serious mental illnesses. Many will have their lives shortened by ten to twenty years because of their condition. If you, or someone in your life, have one of these issues, you must read this book for a different perspective. Even if you are just interested in psychology, like me, The Great Pretender is highly recommended. 5 stars!

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

Posted in Diane's Favorites, New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: ,

Galway Girl
November 8th, 2019 by diane92345

Someone is targeting the Irish Guard (police) in the unusual and twisty thriller, Galway Girl.

Jack Taylor, is a former Guard and currently alcoholic private detective who is trying to get over his daughter’s recent murder when he witnesses a Guard shot point-blank in front of his apartment. In addition, he has several concurrent cases. An ambitious priest asks Jack to run off his famous actress sister’s leeching girlfriend. A woman wants Jack to make her daughter’s killer confess to his crime. When the killer is beaten to death, Jack is arrested for the crime.

What seems like a random drunken tumble into Jack’s life does come together in a clever whodunit by the end. The twists and turns of the plot almost gave this reader whiplash so unexpectedly and quickly they were coming by the end.

There is also an extraordinary amount of Irish atmosphere. Hopefully, you have a love for Irish poetry, soccer, Irish literature, and/or 1980s and 1990s rock bands like Snow Patrol and Oasis. It may take a while to get used to the writing style but once you do, it really adds to the immersion in Galway.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Galway Girl. It has a lot of everything: Irish atmosphere, great characters, a twisty plot, and best of all, a slam-bam final act. 5 stars!

Thanks to Mysterious Press, Grove Atlantic and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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

Shamus Dust
October 29th, 2019 by diane92345

Raymond Chandler has been reincarnated in the expressive prose of Shamus Dust.

On Christmas Day, a man is found dead on the porch of a church in post-WWII City of London. By all accounts, the victim, Raymond Jarrett, was up to no good. Pictures of young boys in compromising positions are found in his apartment. The apartment is owned by a government official who hires private eye, Newman, to figure out what happened and hush up any scandal.

While the mystery is good, it is the lush writing style that makes Shamus Dust stand out.

“In this mile-wide hub of empire and enterprise there are operators who rub against other operators with fewer scruples than they own themselves. When that happens and they get taken to the cleaners, it’s not a thing they advertise or mention to police. Not even to a high-class agency, on account of the embarrassment. So far, I don’t see what your embarrassment is. Without it the job wouldn’t be in my line.”

The author appears to have polished each sentence within the book to a high shine. This book needs to be slowly savored like a fine wine. It is also the type of book that will be even better the second time around. I highly recommend this literary noir. 5 stars!

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

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Owl Be Home for Christmas
October 22nd, 2019 by diane92345

Meg is helping her Grandfather run Owl Fest 2019 at the Caerphilly Inn at Christmas. When its 200 ornithologist guests are stranded by a snowstorm, one of the most cantankerous and least-loved professors is killed. Time for Meg to step in, with help of her extensive family, to solve the mystery in Owl Be Home for Christmas, the twenty-sixth entry in the Meg Langslow cozy mystery series.

I absolutely love this series. While this entry doesn’t involve the nuclear family dynamic as much as earlier entries, I still love returning to visit Meg’s crazy extended family. The new characters from ornithology were interesting. Each had a real personality and fit well into Meg’s humorous world. The mystery was solid and I enjoyed the twist at the end. Overall, Owl Be Home for Christmas is one of my personal favorites. 5 stars!

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

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Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols
October 19th, 2019 by diane92345

The game is afoot in the excellent Sherlock Holmes tale of spies and revolution, the Adventures of the Peculiar Protocols.

Sherlock Holmes’ brother Mycroft enlists Holmes’ help with a mysterious French manuscript. The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion is ostensibly a book recording a conference of Jews describing their plan of world takeover. However, Holmes believes it is a fraud. Confirming the Jewish connection, the Home Office spy who died protecting it was killed with a knife bearing a Jewish star. Does the manuscript’s sudden appearance relate to the nascent Russian revolution? Is it an attempt to blame the entire revolution on the already frequently scapegoated Russian Jews?

The author’s Seven-Percent Solution is my favorite neo-Holmes tale so I snatched this one up as soon as I saw it on NetGalley. And I wasn’t disappointed. This book is equally good and feels like it was written by Doyle himself. The level of detail that matches the original stories is excellent! I most highly recommend the Adventures of the Peculiar Protocols for every Holmes fan. 5 stars!

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

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

Dachshund Through the Snow
October 2nd, 2019 by diane92345

Andy, the perpetually retiring defense lawyer, gets sucked into two cases involving dogs in the fun cozy mystery, Dachshund Through the Snow.

Andy is asked by an old cop frenemy to find a way to get the city to allow the cop’s K-9 partner, Simon, to retire with him in a few weeks. Simon has arthritis and could be hurt if he continues to work. So Andy sues the city alleging that Simon is a city employee who should be able to disability retire. It really is a case of species discrimination!

Laurie, Andy’s wife and an ex-police lieutenant, starts celebrating Christmas in November. So it is no surprise when she selects a wish off a tree in her local pet store. The child requestor, Danny, wants three gifts: a winter coat for his mother, another coat for his dachshund, and his dad to come home.

The coats are no problem. Unfortunately, Danny’s dad is accused killer, Noah. Fourteen years earlier, he met Kristen at a bar. After a few dates on the down-low, they meet in a remote spot. Kristen asks Noah to take her with him when he leaves for college in a few days. When Noah refuses, Kristen becomes distraught and accidentally scratches his face. He leaves. He finds out that she is killed later that night. Fourteen years later, Noah’s brother spits into a genealogy website’s test tube and Noah is caught by his DNA—found under Kristen’s fingernails so long ago.

A Christmas setting has everything I love about cozy mysteries. Family interactions and murder. Okay, I’m not trying to wish up a murder at my next family Christmas party, but it would stop everyone from gossiping—at least for a minute or two. The Andy Carpenter series is always entertaining and this installment is no different. I love the interaction between the characters, who all seem realistic and relatable.  However, the trials are also a smart addition to all the books in this series and that is rare in cozy mysteries. You might even say that Dachshund Through the Snow is a legal thriller set in a cozy mystery world. Plus Andy’s sarcastic asides are hilarious! Overall, I continue to love this series and wait each year for the next to appear. 5 stars!

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

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

Indistractable
September 15th, 2019 by diane92345

“Being Indistractable means striving to do what you say you will do.”

The author presents four steps that fight the major time sucks in your life and how you deal with them. First, there are concrete methods to master internal triggers that distract from the task you should be doing. The author then states how to make time in your busy schedule for tasks that are a better match to your values. Next up are ways to avoid external triggers that lead to distraction. Finally, ways to prevent distraction are analyzed. There are several chapters on how to encourage your children to be indistractable too.

I see a lot of my behaviors in this book. Even though I blame my pesky co-workers for my lack of focus, many of my problems are actually internal. I get bored easily. I can envision using the tips in this book, essentially gamifying my mundane tasks, will help me focus more. I’ve been setting Alexa’s timer for ten minutes to see if I really need to do something different as the book suggests. Often the desire for doing something else vanishes. The book calls this “surfing the wave” and it has worked for me. Reading Indistractable is a great use of your time so you can schedule time for what matters most to you. 5 stars!

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

Posted in Diane's Favorites, New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: ,

Imaginary Corpse
September 12th, 2019 by diane92345

I adored Imaginary Corpse! It is an inventive take on a noir private investigator plot using a fantasy setting.

The Stillreal is where ideas that are too real go when their creator abruptly sends them away. Tippy is a stuffed dinosaur who solves crime in the Stillreal. However, even he is perplexed when Spindleman is beaten to “death” by The Man in the Coat. The problem is ideas can’t be killed in Stillreal, they quickly regenerate. When Spindleman doesn’t, Tippy must investigate.

Wow, I love this clever book! I admit I requested this book more for curiosity than for a great plot. I was surprised by the author’s ability to suspend my initial skepticism by chapter two.

All the noir details are here. Tippy has a root beer problem and drinks it out of a flask. He reads Encyclopedia Brown, the real children’s detective series that started my love of mysteries. Despite being a stuffed dinosaur, Tippy is a fully fleshed-out character haunted by his person’s rejection of him and the rain that caused that rejection.

Setting it in an It’s a Small World-level childhood dream is a brilliant counterpoint to the usually depressing noir world. Who doesn’t love the concept that beloved ideas live elsewhere after their creators abandon them?

Don’t worry that the Imaginary Corpse will be too kitschy. It will suck you into its universe quickly. If you have read one too many standard mysteries or noirs and feel like a palate cleanser, please take a chance on this book. You won’t be sorry. 5 stars and one of my favorite books of 2019!

Thanks to Angry Robot and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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

Chestnut Man
September 3rd, 2019 by diane92345

A current Danish murder is entwined with an earlier closed case by a child’s Chestnut Man.

Almost a year ago, a girl named Kristine disappeared. Her mother, Rosa, is high up in Danish politics. Police find a mentally ill man who confesses to the crime and is quickly convicted. However, Kristine’s body is never found.

In the present day, Laura is killed in a graphically violent way on a local playground. Suspicion immediately falls on her live-in boyfriend. Out of town for the day, his alibi is thin. If their relationship was perfect, why had Laura changed all the house’s locks while he was gone without telling him? Her autistic son can’t help explain and he was the only witness inside the family. However, when a Chestnut Man is found at the scene of Laura’s murder with the partial fingerprint of Kristine, the investigating detectives, Thulin and Hess, decide to dig into the earlier case too.

This enthralling police procedural contains a complex and challenging mystery. Despite the rather graphic murder scenes, it is not the typical dark Nordic Noir. I adored this twisty book. It is perfect for armchair detectives who want to challenge themselves.

Even though it is over 500 pages, I was disappointed when it ended. Now I guess I will have to watch The Killing on Netflix by the same author and pray for a sequel. 5 stars!

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

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

Stolen Things
August 22nd, 2019 by diane92345

What is the worst thing that 911 operator Laurie can hear on the job? Her sixteen-year-old daughter calling in saying “Mama? Help me.” Welcome to the adrenaline-fueled ride of Stolen Things. And you are only in chapter two.

The twists never let up in Stolen Things. It is an exhilarating and compelling race to the finish. Don’t start this book in the morning before work unless you are willing to hide out in the bathroom to finish it before the end of the day. It is that good. It is recommended for anyone who enjoys thrillers especially set within a family. 5 stars!

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

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

City of Windows
August 7th, 2019 by diane92345

Watch out Lincoln Rhyme and Amos Decker, there is a new crime-fighter in town! In a City of Windows, how do you determine where a sniper shot from? Ask Lucas Page, a damaged but extraordinarily gifted crime solver in New York City.

When university professor Lucas Page is called on to assist his old employer, the FBI, with finding a sniper, he hesitates to comply. His career there was over years ago when he lost a leg, an arm, and an eye in the line of duty. However, when they say that the victim was his former partner, Lucas agrees. He uses his genius-level math skills to hunt down the sniper. Unfortunately, before he can find him, the killer strikes again. When the sniper threatens his family, Lucas must act quick and decisively to save them from death.

I just loved this (hold on why I pick up my Thesaurus) praiseworthy, spine-tingling thriller. It is everything you want (and need) in a thriller. Compelling plot, surprising twists, well thought-out characters, and an excellent ending are all here. Seriously, you can’t go wrong selecting this book. It’s great! 5 stars!

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

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Perfect Wife
August 5th, 2019 by diane92345

Abbie is beautiful, creative, and smart. But is she the Perfect Wife?

Tim is the intelligent and driven founder of a tech firm designing robots that include state-of-the-art artificial intelligence. First, the robots are used for phone call centers. The next step is shopbots to replace salespeople in high-end clothing stores. Tim is also socially awkward. It surprises his staff when he starts romancing the free-spirited artist-in-residence Abbie. Could Abbie fit into his work-obsessed life?

Wow, just wow. The Perfect Wife is the perfect merging of science fiction, science fact, and thriller. The best thing is not to learn anything about the plot before reading this excellent thriller. However, I can guarantee you will enjoy it so much it will be as difficult to stop reading as it is to stop breathing. Don’t start reading it a half-hour before work begins unless you plan to call in sick. It is that good!

Again, I can’t recommend this tale highly enough. I also enjoyed the expert use of tenses to delineate timeline and foreshadow the extremely clever ending. 5 stars!

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

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Mystery & Thrillers, New Books, Science Fiction 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: ,

Other Mrs. Miller
July 19th, 2019 by diane92345

Phoebe Miller is hiding inside of a wine bottle inside her house for a number of reasons at the beginning of the Other Mrs. Miller.

Phoebe’s father has recently died and left her his fortune. Unfortunately, his death has also triggered a very public outpouring of women accusing him of sexism, sexual harassment, and rape during his lifetime. Phoebe feels both embarrassed and somehow guilty at the same time.

Phoebe and her husband, Wyatt, have had difficulties with having a child. When Wyatt brings up adoption, Phoebe brusquely shuts him down. They are now more roommates than spouses.

There is a strange car frequently parked in front of Phoebe’s house. Phoebe begins to get paranoid that the petite driver is one of her father’s victims or a paparazzo.

When a new family moves in across the street, Phoebe is attracted to the eighteen-year-old son, Jake. But when she brings a housewarming gift, she soon becomes best friends with Jake’s mom, Vicki. Vicki has her own slew of baggage to bring to the table.

To say the Other Mrs. Miller is stuffed with plots would be an understatement. But it is hard not to sympathize with passive Phoebe’s problems. Phoebe seems to just let problems wash over her like a wave that she assumes will eventually recede. When Phoebe finally does an affirmative action to improve her life, fate takes another swipe at her.

The twists and turns of the plot are unexpected and fun like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disneyland. Though I love to try and determine a solution before the characters, I was way off for this book. And I love it! If you like extreme and unexpected plot twists in your domestic thrillers, this is the book for you. 5 stars!

Thanks to G.P. Putnam’s Sons and Edelweiss+ for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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

The Sleepwalker
July 17th, 2019 by diane92345

Definitely the best noir I’ve read this year! The Sleepwalker is the third dark thriller in the terrific Aidan Waits series.

Down these dark hospital corridors a man must go… Aidan and his shady partner Sutty are watching a serial killer called The Sleepwalker die. The Manchester Police are hoping that the prisoner will tell Sutty where he left the body of his last victim. Instead, he denies the killing immediately before both he and Sutty are bombed in the hospital room.

While this is only the beginning of the twisty tale, I can’t even begin to tell you more without it being a spoiler. What I can do is highly recommend this gritty British noir for its impeccably nuanced characters and impressive plotting. Every noir fan must read this book! Fans of thrillers and police procedurals (though Aidan is not one to follow many rules) will enjoy it also. 5 stars!

Thanks to Doubleday UK and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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Bookish Life of Nina Hill
July 13th, 2019 by diane92345

In the Bookish Life of Nina Hill, Nina is a book lover, a list manic, a cat owner, an introvert, and a nerdy trivia player. Nina is also me! (if I was a Millennial of course).

Nina loves her quiet, well-ordered life working in a bookstore, serving her cat Phil, playing on a pub trivia team, and above all losing herself in books. When she finds herself with a new large extended family after her unknown father’s death, her world threatens to teeter into disorder (or what OCD’ish Nina calls chaos).

While that is the plot in a nutshell, the heart’s blood of the Bookish Life of Nina Hill is Nina herself. All “bookworms” like myself will feel an immediate kinship to Nina. She’s adorable! While outwardly an introvert, Nina’s thoughts are full of snarky side eyes at the people surrounding her and pop/literary references like a book-reading Bart Simpson. Even with her love of her second favorite 19th century novel, Pride and Prejudice, Nina still is of the current century. She is a member of many clubs that sound like they came straight out of the nerdy section of the Meetup app.

Anyone who is female and likes to read will see themselves in Nina and truly enjoy this book. How can a reader not love a book that starts out with a quote from Sally Brown from Peanuts waxing poetic about library cards! It is highly recommended. I loved it and didn’t want it to end. 5 stars!

While I received an advanced review copy from Berkley Books and Edelweiss+ in exchange for my honest review, I also bought it on audio. The narrator, Emily Rankin, is exceptional and improved this already great book. I wish I could give it an extra star in audible form.

Posted in Audiobooks, Diane's Favorites, Humor, Literary Fiction, New Books, Romance, Women's Fiction Tagged with: