Choose Me by Tess Gerritsen

Rating:           9

General Rating: A riveting read! Loved this. If you haven’t selected your FREE June Amazon First Read yet, choose this, Choose Me.

Skip factor:  1%. Nearly nothing.

Who should read: If you like a fast-moving whodunit or a puzzling mystery crime novel, you won’t want to put this book down.

Summary: When Frankie Loomis investigates the apparent suicide death of a beautiful, brilliant college student, Taryn Moore, she knows something is amiss.

Enrolled in Professor Jack Dorian’s English class, Taryn friends an overweight, quiet boy and butts heads with several female students. She argues with them over who is to blame in the star-crossed lover tales class they’re studying. The class examines famous mentors who have had affairs with students and the outcomes of those relationships.

There’s only one direction for this story to go, right? And it does.

Taryn Moore, more than a little over the top, has recently been dumped by her high school sweetheart, and now, fits nicely into the stalking-my-ex category. But when Professor Dorian—who is married to an over-worked doctor, spending too much time on her ailing father in addition to her patients—compliments her, Taryn refocuses her stalking onto Professor Dorian. And like the classic mentors of his class lectures, Dorian makes a fatal mistake.

The story spirals forward. Was it suicide? Murder? And if murder, was the perpetrator her old boyfriend? Her side-kick friend? The professor? Detective Frankie Loomis pulls the reader along in her journey to the truth.

Characters:  This story is totally plot-driven. I made little connection with any of the characters other than the professor’s wife, whom I felt sorry for. Yet, despite not being drawn to the main characters, Gerritsen creates clear pictures of each. I believed Taryn was beautiful and crazy. Jack Dorian could have been anyone’s typical professor (until he wasn’t), and even Taryn’s overweight student friend slithered into the suspect box, Red Sox baseball cap and all.

So character development? Good.

Storyline:  Great storyline. The author doesn’t hide the fact she is copying a story that has been around since the beginning of time, she flaunts it. You know what’s going to happen. It’s one of those books you mumble, don’t do it, don’t do it, don’t do, it….dang, they did it.

BUT, her story-telling skills are superb, so you can’t put it down.  

Writing:  Writing is better than good. Perfect pitch between dialogue, narration, and mystery. Gerritsen keeps you guessing without boring you.

Read this author again?  Absolutely.

Read on!

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CJ Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene, a psychological thriller, Dream Wide Awake, and Project Dream, two thrillers that carry a sixth-sense paranormal element, and two ChickLit novels Friends Who Move Couches and Don’t Mind Me, I Came with the House. Many of her novels were inspired by Zahner’s own experiences. See the video of her own paranormal experience, a premonition of 9/11 here. Download her Beyond Reality Radio podcast here. Follow her on Instagram, TwitterFacebookGoodreadsBookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.

The Shadow Box by Luanne Rice

Rating:                              9

General Rating:  A mystery that captures your attention in the beginning.

Skip factor: I skipped 5%, possibly a bit more, in the last third of the novel.

Who should read:  Anyone who enjoys mystery novels or books about the greed of the wealthy.

Summary:  On the day of artist Claire Beaudry Chase’s art exhibit, someone attacks her and hangs her in the garage of her home, leaving her for dead. But when the board she is strung from breaks, and she wakes up on the floor, the reader slips inside her head and hears her thoughts. Griffin Chase, her husband, is running for governor and has the backing of their entire community—the wealthy, police force, everyone. The man who struck and tied her from the rafter wore a mask. Could it have been her husband?

She crawls out of the garage, meanders through the woods, and falls asleep at a cabin she knows from childhood. There, more of Claire’s thoughts are sporadically revealed to the reader about Griffin and the people who have a hand in backing him for governor. Who can she trust?

Years before, Griffin’s girlfriend, Ellen, died suspiciously. Now Claire has disappeared. Is he a murderer and if so will he get away with it? Or will someone find the clues of Ellen’s death in Claire’s shadow box art exhibit?

Characters:  This author has a true gift for character development—of both those loved and of those a reader loves to hate. Her opening has readers pulling for Claire immediately. I’m not spoiling the story by saying, equally, readers do not like her husband. The main investigator, too, catches a reader by surprise. You want to like him. Can you? And while there are a plethora of other characters, the story will have you guessing who are the good guys and who are the bad.

Storyline:  The representation of the upper class seemed realistic and interesting. Beginning with a murder attempt will keep readers turning pages throughout. The unfolding of the story, a woman who cheats death and hides away to mend and then revenge herself, is grabbing. There are some surprises in the last third of the book and while I usually like surprises, a few twists and turns seemed a bit unrealistic.

Writing:  The first half of this book reads like a bestseller. It was tremendous. A 9.5. The second half slowed but not enough to discourage me from reading. This book held my attention. If, like me, you are a fan of white space, you might skip some of those long paragraphs toward the end to get to the meat of the mystery.

Read this author again? Yes. This is my first Rice novel but it won’t be my last.

Read on!

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CJ Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene, a psychological thriller, Dream Wide Awake, and Project Dream, two thrillers that carry a sixth-sense paranormal element, and Friends Who Move Couches, women’s fiction. These last two novels were inspired by Zahner’s own experiences. See the video of her own paranormal experience, a premonition of 9/11 here. Download her Beyond Reality Radio podcast here.

Follow her on InstagramTwitterFacebook, GoodreadsBookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.

Cleo McDougal Regrets Nothing by Allison Winn Scotch

Rating:           8

General Rating: Strong female characters win me over every time. They will you, too, in this insightful yet humorous story of a woman running for president.

Favorite line: “Emily shrugged as if, well, it was what it was so she became the full-time parent. Not because he was better at his job than she was, not because she was dying to pack lunches and fold laundry and run all the soccer carpools, but because in the default of the gender hierarchy, for some reason, the man’s needs came first.”

Skip factor:  2%. Maybe? I skipped little.

Who should read:  Feminists, single mothers, politically-aspired, or career-driven women. (Have I missed any women? If I have, add them, too.)   

Summary: Senator Cleo McDougal’s parents died when she was young, but before her father passed, he inspired her to keep a list of regrets—so she could learn from her mistakes. Now she is a contender for a presidential nomination, and when an estranged high school friend writes a damaging op-ed, Cleo must face some of the regrets on her list.

Cleo’s chief of staff, Gaby, detests Cleo admitting mistakes. But when she realizes Cleo has maintained a list of regrets all her life (thirty-nine years), Gaby decides surviving the op-ed and future revelations a presidential candidacy will evoke might fare better if Cleo makes amends with the high school friend—publicly. Though not completely sincere, Cleo’s public apology receives favorable feedback, and Gaby encourages her to address all of her regrets. Cleo explains she has over 200 on her list so they agree upon fixing ten, and the story cascades into the various situations that any woman, who has even the slightest of ambition, might face.   

Characters:  Scotch developed her characters into true-to-life people.  

Cleo is a single mother who is well-liked, hard-working, and competitive. She worked her way up the political ladder through sheer determination. I didn’t love her. I’m sure the author would not take offense. Cleo had a journey to make. She is the main character and, as in all novels, had a lesson to learn.   

Lucas – Is a typical fourteen-year-old with an atypical life. Through no fault of his own (isn’t everything a mother’s fault?), he is living within the political arena. To make matters worse, his birth father’s identity has been withheld from him. He floats in and out of the story adding to Cleo’s guilt load because, well, don’t all teenagers?

Gaby –  Is an intelligent, mostly loyal, feminist, and long-time friend of Cleo. She makes the hard decisions for her boss. Unlike Cleo, Gaby has a side fling going on which continually reminds Cleo that she does not.

Arianna – Is Cleo’s assistant. She is also a smart, hardworking woman (I love the strong female characters in this novel) but has one major drawback. She apologizes profusely, which adds much to Cleo’s story.

Georgie – Is Cleo’s much older sister whom she is not close to. Georgie comes in at the final hour to help.

The guys – Is it bad that I don’t remember much of them or care that I remember much about them? There is an important politician, Wolf, an ex-boyfriend, Matty, a biological father, Doug, and a newscaster, Bowen. Each is placed in the story to highlight the different standards applied to women in life as opposed to those expected of men.

Storyline:  This is the story of womanhood, the struggles they face today, the mistakes they make, the insecurities they have, and their ultimate strength and resilience. Cleo McDougal needed to learn a lesson. She had to accept her imperfectness. And while she may be a presidential candidate, everyday women, especially working mothers or single moms, can relate to her life. While society is hard on us, we are sometimes our hardest critics.   

Writing:  The writing was easy, interesting, and balanced. Just enough white space for someone like me who loves dialogue but not too much.

Read this author again? Absolutely.  

Read on!

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CJ Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene, a psychological thriller, Dream Wide Awake, and Project Dream, two thrillers that carry a sixth-sense paranormal element, and Friends Who Move Couches, women’s fiction. These last two novels were inspired by Zahner’s own experiences. See the video of her own paranormal experience, a premonition of 9/11 here. Download her Beyond Reality Radio podcast here. Follow her on InstagramTwitterFacebookGoodreadsBookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.