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.

Don’t Mind Me, I Came with the House

A story about love, forgiveness, and accepting yourself as you are—faults and all. 

Nikki Stone just wanted to be noticed.

Recently divorced and juggling an accounting job with an after-five life as her kids’ maid, Nikki’s luck suddenly changes when a popular golf pro, Blake Andersen, falls in love with her. She’s offered a CFO position at work, her kids release the death-like grip they have on her life, and she spends weekends traveling the glamorous US golf circuit with Blake the Pro.

But when female problems surface in her forty-seven-year-old body, she’s certain illness will dash her future.

Then she gets the news. She’s not dying—she’s pregnant.

Dumbfounded, demoralized, and determined not to force Blake into marriage, she vows to keep her pregnancy secret until he proposes. Her bungling efforts catapult her into online sensationalism.

Careful what you wish for.

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Written with unappreciated mothers in mind, Don’t Mind Me, I Came with the House is my newest ChickLit novel, out, appropriately, on Mother’s Day. If you need a unique gift for a friend or mother in your life, consider purchasing on Amazon for $2.99.

Kindle Unlimited users read free by downloading on Amazon.

As always, if you are a REVIEWER on Goodreads, BookBub, or Amazon, I am able to provide a free ebook copy for an honest review. Email cyndie@cyndiezahner.com with your reviewer name, review site, and I will forward an epub or mobi copy.

Happy reading!

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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 and Don’t Mind Me, I Came with the House, women’s fiction/ChickLit. 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 Instagram, TwitterFacebook, GoodreadsBookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.

Long Bright River by Liz Moore

Rating:                              9.5

General Rating: This author teases readers with clues. A great storyline by a clever writer.

Skip factor:  I skipped a small amount, 3%, in the beginning. Believe me, this book gets better. After halfway, I couldn’t put down.

Who should read:  Crime fiction lovers will enjoy, but so will women in general as this reads more like women’s fiction. 

Summary: Sisters Mickey and Kacey were raised by a strict grandmother, Gee, in a low-income area of Philadelphia. Their mother died of an overdose and their father left when they were young. While Mickey garnered good grades and wanted to go to college, Kacey turned to drugs and is eventually kicked out of her grandmother’s house.

The story is revealed in Then and Now sections. The Then story is, having had little encouragement and no money for college, Mickey entered the police force. Readers are first introduced to her in the Now story as a thirty-year-old single mother and police officer. She keeps an eye on her sister who has turned to prostitution and dealing.

When bodies of young Philly prostitutes begin showing up throughout Philadelphia, Mickey’s worry about her sister escalates. Then Lacey disappears. Readers ride along with Mickey as she juggles searching for her sister, being a mom, and dealing with both good and bad police officers beside her.

Characters:  I loved the slow introduction she gave to the main character. Mick is quiet, sometimes painstakingly so. It takes much for her to open up and this is exactly how Moore presents her—slowly. I grew to love her over time.

Not so with other characters. I adored Thomas, liked Kacey and Truman (even before he showed up in the story), and loved Mrs. Mahon immediately (despite her bluntness). Moore’s character development is clever. She tricks readers into loving characters with snappy, quirky qualities.

And the bad characters? She has you guessing. Are they truly bad?

Storyline: This is a good story made great by a talented writer. Paralleling the main character’s temperament, the storyline unfolds slowly. Moore jumps time periods which may annoy some, but not me. Only once do I remember that urge I often feel with these types of books, where I rush through a back-in-time chapter to get to the now.

Writing:  The writing is excellent without being hefty. It’s different. No dictionary needed. Moore’s simple language creates clever sentences, paragraphs, chapters. She uses dashes in place of quotation marks for conversation, something I grew accustomed to almost immediately. And while I didn’t like a few too-long paragraphs, Moore’s easy writing style whisked me into the story.  

What I loved about her writing and the reason I believe the story was addicting, is Moore teases the reader with just enough information for them to ask, “What’s that all about, and where’s it leading?” You feel like you’ve caught a clue to what will happen, but you’re at Moore’s mercy. You have to hang on until she’s kind enough to divulge more.   

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.

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.

Life and Other Near-Death Experiences by Camille Pagan

Rating:                              9

General Rating: Keeps your attention throughout.

Skip factor:  0% which doesn’t happen too often.

Who should read:  Any woman would like this story. But those who enjoy great writing will love.

Summary: The story starts off with a bang. When Libby Miller arrives home to break the news to her husband that she has terminal cancer, he announces he’s gay. W-w-w-what? (I was as shocked as she was.) So she doesn’t reveal she’s dying to Tom, the hubby, but instead tries to grasp that their marriage has been a lie.

Immediately, Libby decides to live the remainder of her life on her terms. She refuses to answer the doctor’s calls about treatment. Years ago, her mother died of cancer, and she’s determined to enjoy the time she has left rather than exhaust it with treatment. She quits her job—doesn’t tell her egotistical boss, Jackie, the truth—and leaves her house in the hands of a friend who is a realtor to sell.

Because she has nothing to lose, she sets off on a month-long vacation to an island and—here comes my favorite part—strikes up a relationship with the pilot who flies her in.

Characters:  I am new to Camille Pagan and enjoyed this book, partially because of her great character development. I fell in love with all of the island people, and although I didn’t love Libby at the start, I grew to like her. I also loved Libby’s brother, but my favorite character was, by far, the pilot, Shiloh.

Storyline: The storyline is great. Of course, you can’t stop reading because you want to see if Libby will live or die, but I found myself reading for other reasons, as well. There are enough peaks and valleys in her story to maintain your interest, but what kept me reading, was how Pagan told the story. Simply, her writing is wonderful

Writing:  Pagan is a new favorite author. (Don’t you love when that happens!) Her writing is fabulous. 5-star good. Maybe 5+-star good.

Read this author again? Yes, yes, yes.

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.

Where the Crawdads Sing

Name:                        Where the Crawdads Sing

Author:                      Delia Owens

Rating:                       8

General Rating:

What’s all the fuss about? I liked this book. I did. But, meh, wait until the dust settles to read. I was over 2000 on the waiting list at the Philadelphia Free Library to borrow this book. It’s not that wait worthy. I give this an 8 only because I loved the writing. In comparison, I looked forward to reading it as much as I did Baldacci’s Absolute Power and Moriarity’s The Hypnotist’s Love Story. I liked the plot and story in the other two more, but Crawdads had the best writing, by far.

Skip factor:               

3% I could not take all the marsh information. I tried but TMI.

Who should read:            

Most women and especially any back-to-nature people. (Back-to-nature folks will skip 0%.)

Summary:  This is the story of a ten-year-old girl, Kya, who is deserted in a North Carolina marshland and must learn to survive on her own. Her mother and siblings leave by the time Kya is six. Her father stays, but comes and goes until finally, he leaves for good when she is ten. To prevent a spoiler, I’ll summarize by saying she befriends a kind boy who teaches her to read, a not-so-kind boy who says he loves her but doesn’t, and a few other people in a nearby town who help her survive until she creates a way to sustain herself.

CharactersI did not feel a connection with any of them:

Kya Clark –  Kya is a strong female character with aloof qualities that living in solitude might relay. She does not have a big personality. Yet, you root for this ten-year-old. She must learn survival skills on her own. And while she is somewhat unbelievable to me, the author was so knowledgeable about wildlife and the marshlands she had me wonder if a child could survive out there alone.

Tate – Tate, who loves the marshland, befriends Kya, teaches her to read, and falls in love with her before going away to college. He promises to say goodbye and then—going against every grain of his character—doesn’t. He leaves but much later redeems himself. I won’t say how. No spoilers.

Other characters – I didn’t like Chase, which I’m sure the author intended. I liked the man at the store (although obviously not that much as I can’t remember his name) and his wife Mabel but didn’t feel the connection with them I thought the author was trying to evoke. I liked the police investigators, and although there were times they were funny, I didn’t love them.

Storyline: Is it believable? No, but here’s where I go against my grain. Typically, I pay no mind to where an author went to school or grew up. I’ve read lots of books written by Ivy School grads that I DNF. But because I loved Owens’ writing, I googled her to find out how she learned to mix words so well. Astonishingly, I found she’s a zoologist. So I sat back and reevaluated the storyline. Is it believable?

Still no. To be believable, Kya 1) would have been more aloof and recluse (a duller story) and 2)  would have had much more trouble alone in that marshland (a more depressing story). Additionally, Tate walking away without even a goodbye but continuing to love her for years? Fairy tale fiction.

Writing style:    The writing is flawless and that is why this is worth the read. I loved her dialogue, and while, again, I am not a fan of setting description, the author’s wonderful word mixing led me much deeper into scene description than I would go for any other author. Sometimes, in those marsh descriptions that I typically would have loathed, I found myself saying, “Wow, what a clever way to describe that,” which is the only reason I skipped so little.

There is also clever symbolism between the marsh and life that is worth a ponder.

Read this author again: Because I loved her writing, I’ll try reading another of this author’s books. If there is too much nature-loving description in that one, I’ll give it a miss and return it to the library early. However, I’ll just quietly walk away. Won’t add it to my Books I Almost Read category. Her writing is too good to tarnish with a DNF.

Read on!

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CJ Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene, a psychological thriller, and Dream Wide Awake and Project Dream, two thrillers that carry a paranormal element. 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 Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, BookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.