Contemporary Fiction #bookreview: Takes One to Know One by #SusanIsaacs @GroveAtlantic

Takes One to Know One by Susan Isaacs

My review: 4 of 5 Stars

Lots of sleuthing and snark make Takes One to Know One enjoyable reading. I delighted in the characters and the crisp dialogue. The pace was steady, not a gripping page-turner. The mystery of Pete Delaney and the witty chatter of Corrie Geller kept me reading despite the slower pace. Toward the end the drama increased quite a bit, and the suspense and intrigue grew. The only real action came late in the book but made for a tense few chapters where I learned a bit about self-defense and zip-ties. If you don’t mind the strong language and like cozy mysteries, Takes One to Know One should be appealing. 

In accordance with FTC guidelines, please note I received a free copy from the publisher via BookishFirst in exchange for an honest review. 

Young Adult Adventure Book Review: Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser

Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser

My review: 5 of 5 stars

Song of the Current swept me away immediately with adventure and excitement. Tolcser’s careful attention to detail made her created world come alive. With a savvy and plucky heroine to lead the adventure, Song of the Current was often amusing as well. I thoroughly enjoyed this romp down the river. Recommended for older teens due to the sex and violence.


“The god at the bottom of the river speaks to us in the language of small things” (p. 72).

“A heroine is always someone who wants out” (p. 206).

“There is a reckless freedom in leaving behind everything you know” (p. 236).

“Maybe we can leave things behind, yet still hand on the the best parts of them” (p. 350).

The sequel is out as well.

Short Fiction Review: Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman @WmMorrowBooks

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman

My review: 5 of 5 stars

Trigger Warning plays with the readers’ sense of reality. The stories are sometimes creepy, usually quite clever, often mysterious, and occasionally horrifying. Many also contain a bit of whimsy. All are imaginative, surprising and unexpected. Each story plays on the readers’ fears and mess with reality just enough to keep the reader unbalanced and surprised. The majority of the stories can be read in one sitting, making for entertaining escapes. I enjoyed each one for different reasons, but all reflected well the talent and unusual mind that belong to Neil Gaiman. Even if you don’t normally read short fiction, you might want to give Trigger Warning a try. Each story stands on its own, so the book can be read at any pace you choose. If you only have 20 minutes to spare for a good story, this collection has plenty to offer. Highly recommended!


“Writers live in houses other people built” (p. xxxiv).

“The Thames is a filthy beast: it winds through London like a blind worm, or a sea serpent” (p. 33).

“If you walk toward the truth, you will reach it, whatever path you take” (p. 46).

Please note: In accordance with FTC guidelines, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

For more short fiction reviews click here:


Thriller Book Review: Pray for Silence by Linda Castillo

Pray for Silence
By Linda Castillo

My review: 4.5 of 5 stars

Pray for Silence features gruesome, disturbing violence that haunts the reader in much the same way as it haunts the cops in this story. Castillo spares no detail, increasing the horror quotient ten-fold. The characters, the police procedures, and the Amish practices feel authentic, and the author also knows when to throw in a bit of humor to take the edge off. Fast-paced and tense this Kate Burkholder book is (like the others) hard to put down and even harder to forget.


“There is an underground society that runs beneath the Norman Rockwell-facade of most small towns, and Painters Mill is no exception” (p. 25).

“The mind of a killer is a dark, malignant place, viscous with a cancer of black thoughts and secret hungers most people can’t imagine” (p. 91).

“For a reason I can’t readily identify, I’m reluctant to leave. I feel if I walk out, I’ll be closing the door on unfinished business” (p. 216).

If you like gruesome, gritty murder thrillers, you might also try:

Tami Hoag’s Kovac and Liska Books

YA Book Review: Nil by Lynne Matson (Book 1 of 3 Book Series)

Nil by Lynne Matson

My review: 4 of 5 stars

Adventurous and suspenseful from the start, I was instantly hooked. Unfortunately, the pace soon slowed to a crawl, and I had a hard time sticking with it. But the premise of someone mysteriously snatched one minute and waking up alone on an unfamiliar island the next was interesting enough that I really wanted to stick it out. Thankfully, the mystery, suspense and romance picked up pace rapidly toward the middle and continued until the end. Many mysteries are left to be solved, so I’m glad there are two more books in the series. Teens who enjoyed The Hunger Games will likely enjoy the Nil series. The struggle for survival plays a big part in this story.


“Hell was a red rock desert, where you woke up naked and alone” (p. 9).

“We were Nil’s pawns, her playthings. This was her sandbox, and it didn’t matter if we didn’t want to play” (p. 122).

“Time had never felt more fragile” (p. 281).

Book Review: Don’t Ever Look Behind Door 32 by B.C.R. Fegan

Don’t Ever Look Behind Door 32 by B.C.R. Fegan
My Review: 4.5 of 5 stars

Don’t Ever Look Behind Door 32 is a delightful romp through a unique hotel with many unusual guests. The rhyming text maintains a steady rhythm throughout, making this book a good read-aloud. The suspense that builds to door 32 compels the reader forward quite quickly because you really want to know what is behind that door. This is mostly a good thing, but if you only think about door 32, you miss a great deal of fun along the way. The twist at the end is cute and unexpected although with all the build-up, I was expecting something more dramatic. All in all, Don’t Ever Look Behind Door 32 should delight young children who will want to read it again and again in order to “open” all the doors. The adorable, colorful and animated illustrations make the reader want to return and study all the rooms more carefully. The longer you look, the more you see. This book is clever and entertaining. I highly recommend it for children of about 3 to 5 years. Older children learning to read may enjoy it too.

In accordance with FTC guidelines, please note I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

My review: 4 of 5 stars

The Curious Incident… is intelligent, funny and captivating with a fascinating protagonist. Christopher John Francis Boone, aged 15, is an autistic savant. As a reader, I found Boone to be way more intelligent than I am when it comes to math equations. I had to just accept his graphs and equations as fact because they were mostly over my head even when he explained them. The mystery of the dog is secondary to the heartbreaking and revealing story of Boone. It’s the mystery at the center of his family that grips the reader and touches the emotions. I felt Boone’s anxiety, for example, on his train journey. It gave ME anxiety to experience this with him. The parents made serious mistakes with Boone, but I felt empathy for them as well. The story was a little slow at first, but it gained steam as it progressed and ended on a hopeful note. I highly recommend it for a unique read. It’s perfect fodder for book clubs. A short read with much to discuss.

Reading Group Guide

“I also like The Hound of the Baskervilles because I like Sherlock Holmes and I think that if I were a proper detective he is the kind of detective I would be” (p. 73).

“I like it when it rains hard. It sounds like white noise everywhere, which is like silence but not empty” (p. 103).

“…if something is a puzzle there is always a way of solving it” (p. 116).

Book Review: Cursed by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Cursed by Jennifer L. Armentrout

My review: 4 of 5 stars

Armentrout has quickly become one of my favorite YA authors. I particularly enjoyed the Lux series. Armentrout’s books tend to feature older, more mature teens and maybe that is part of what appeals to me. I also enjoy paranormal romances when done well. Cursed is both a mystery and a paranormal romance, so double the pleasure. Cursed grabs the reader immediately and doesn’t let go. It also has a droll sense of humor with an authentic teen voice. Unfortunately, in the version I read there were a lot of mistakes not caught in the editing process that tended to break the spell of the story. Hopefully future editions have cleaned these up. The premise reminded me of X-Men but with exquisite sexual tension. The story was somewhat predictable but still a fun read. I recommend it for older teens and teens at heart.


“You hurting would never make me happy” (p. 75).

“I was unnatural and wrong. I could understand why someone wouldn’t want me here” (p. 127).

Book Review: We Were Liars by e. lockhart

We Were Liars
by e. lockhart

My review: 5 of 5 stars

Like shocking endings? Try We Were Liars. You won’t see the ending coming. We Were Liars reads like a narrative poem with incredibly brilliant prose. Because of its poetic language and widespread use of imagery, the book is at first hard to read and follow. But within a few pages, you’ll be so engrossed in the mystery you’ll fall completely under its spell. As for the ending? It was just – WOW!


“Silence is a protective coating over pain” (p. 29).

“If you want to live where people are not afraid of mice, you must give up living in palaces” (p. 106).

“Be normal, now. Right now. Because you are. Because you can be” (p.115).

Book Review: Universal Harvester by John Darnielle

Universal Harvester by John Darnielle
My review: 4 of 5 stars

Strange and unsettling, but compelling. My first reaction to Universal Harvester was that of nostalgia for the video stores of the 1990’s. My husband worked in one while in college. We used to rent videos by the truckload and gorge over the weekend. The novel soon evolved into a creepy mystery involving the appearance of disconcerting clips in otherwise normal videos. The story was told primarily through flashbacks by a strange narrator and was at times disorienting, but I believe this disorientation was deliberate to keep the reader on edge and off balance. It worked. Even after finishing the novel and having most of the answers to the mystery, I still felt uneasy because I didn’t quite trust the narrator. If you like Stephen King, you may like Universal Harvester. It has that kind of feel although it isn’t quite a horror story. In the end, I’m not sure how to classify it, but it had me under its spell nonetheless. The chapters are short, and the story is fast-paced. What keeps the reader turning the pages is the need to get at some answers. When the answers came, they were provided by the unreliable narrator. So the reader is left wondering still.

Please note: In accordance with FTC guidelines, I received a free advance reading copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.