Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Won’t catch me showing any hurt: THE LATE SHOW.

The Late Show (Renée Ballard, #1)The Late Show by Michael Connelly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

THE LATE SHOW introduces us to a new character in the Connelly canon: Renee Ballard, a young female detective in the LAPD striving to prove herself. Ballard works the night shift, where she picks up evening cases. But Ballard hates that she never gets to see an investigation to fruition--always turning her cases over to the daytime detectives. So when she is assigned two late shift cases, the shooting of a young female in a nightclub and the horrible beating of a transsexual prostitute, she finagles a way to stay involved with both. This means still working the night shift while--mostly secretly--tracking down leads on her cases during the day. In doing so, Ballard gets caught up in department politics and a case that could lead her to immense danger.

Connelly is just an excellent writer; I love all his books, and I was excited and interested to hear he was creating a new character. I've been in love with his Detective Bosch for years. This novel is basically vintage Connelly with a modern twist, with Ballard being extremely knowledgeable about the night shift and police procedure. Connelly is still clearly up-to-date on the current workings of a police department. At times, you almost forget you're not reading about Bosch and his shenanigans.

But, in saying that, I feel as if I don't give Renee Ballard true justice. She's a wonderful character--a strong, yet damaged female, who is smart and fascinating. It's a pleasure to read about such a complicated individual. Ballard is on the late shift (aka the late show) because she accused a former supervisor of sexual harassment and was subsequently blackballed. Yet she's dedicated to her job, almost to the point of obsession. At times, I was amazed she could get away with some of the stuff she pulled. (Sound like any other Connelly characters we know?)

Nonetheless, Ballard pulls us into an incredibly compelling mystery. It started a tad slow for me, but quickly picks up and remains quite mesmerizing. The cases are well-plotted and exciting, and Connelly gives us peeks into Ballard's personal life, without revealing everything. The novel spends a lot of time focusing on her thoughts and feelings, but is still quite compelling.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one. I'm excited to see Connelly with a new character and look forward to more of Renee Ballard in the future.

You can read my review of Connelly's THE WRONG SIDE OF GOODBYE here and my review of THE CROSSING here - both feature Connelly's Detective Harry Bosch.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Maybe love is waiting at the end of every room: EMMA IN THE NIGHT.

Emma in the NightEmma in the Night by Wendy Walker

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cassandra Tanner and her sister, Emma, disappeared on the same night three years ago. Cass was fifteen and her lovely, enigmatic older sister seventeen. Suddenly, Cass shows up on her mother's doorstep, desperately begging her family to find Emma, whom she claims is being against her will on a remote island in Maine. Immediately, the FBI is called back to the case, including forensic psychiatrist Abby Winter, who has been haunted by the investigation since Emma and Cass went missing. Abby had a lot of theories about Emma and Cass' case--and saw similarities in their mother to her own--but kept most of these thoughts to herself. But now that Cass is back, with a story that doesn't completely add up, Abby realizes she might not be so off track after all. And that there might be a lot more to Emma and Cass' disappearance then everyone thinks.

This book is a tough one for me. It started off in great fashion--completely sucking me in. It's an interesting novel, as in some ways it seems like a rather straightforward tale of two missing girls, but it's also incredibly puzzling and keeps you guessing from the start. I think my brow was probably actually furrowed as I was reading. It's hard to trust anyone in this novel, or know who to believe, and that has you frantically turning pages, trying to figure out what on earth is the actual truth.

The story flips between Cass' point of view and that of Abby's. I was intrigued by Cass' story, though not particularly attached to her and while I sympathized with Abby, wasn't really drawn to her as a character, either. I actually sort of wanted to rush through her sections so I could get back to Cass and what was actually happening (or had happened) to her, and by proxy, Emma.

Make no mistake--the Tanner/Martin family saga is a twisted one. This book will shock and bewilder you--this is not a nice set of characters. Emma and Cass' mother is hateful and downright despicable, as are many of the supporting characters. Even Emma--via stories--is tough to care for at times. The premise is that Ms. Martin, the mother, has narcissistic personality disorder--the same disorder that affected Abby's mother as well. At first, this works, as you're shocked by the treatment of Emma and Cass and what it's done to each girl.

But, admittedly, after a while, I grew a little weary of this plot device. The disorder and its effects are explained repeatedly. If Walker could have explained it and moved on, I would have enjoyed the novel a lot more. I found myself skimming over some of the repetitive psychological descriptions, so I could get on with the story. As the story continues, the family almost seems too fractured and horrible; I was shocked at the continuing tale of horror regarding her mother, stepfather, stepbrother, and sister that Cass kept weaving. Goodness--they come across as diabolical, but not real.

I actually really enjoyed Walker's previous novel, ALL IS NOT FORGOTTEN - particularly because the ending lived up to the earlier parts of the novel and shocked me. Here, I am pretty sure the intent was the same, but it didn't quite pan out. By the time we reached the end, I was tired of the psychological drama and ramblings. I hadn't exactly figured out what had happened--I'll definitely give Walker that--but I knew something was up. I also felt so much of all of this could have been avoided from the start by Cass, but I won't go into that for spoilers sake.

So, alas. As I started this one, I really thought it was going to be a novel that I was going to recommend to everyone. By the end, I was a bit let down. I'll go with 3 stars overall, since it certainly did keep me flipping the pages.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Netgalley (thank you!); it is available everywhere as of 08/08/2017.

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Wednesday, August 02, 2017

She don't need nobody to be her man: MRS. FLETCHER.

Mrs. FletcherMrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As a divorcee in her mid-40s, Eve Fletcher is struggling with the fact that her only son, Brendan, is heading off to college. Suddenly, Eve is truly alone for the first time. Shortly after she takes Brendan to college, Eve receives a strange text message reading, "U r my MILF!" Baffled, the message takes Eve down a strange path that includes an obsession with MILF-related porn. Suddenly, her regular life--work as the Executive Director at the local senior center, taking classes at the community college, and her various friendships--seems somewhat tinged by her porn habit. Meanwhile, Brendan isn't finding college all he thought it would be. His fellow chauvinistic/jock roommate is suddenly shunning him and his partying habits are catching up with him. Before they know it, Eve and Brendan are on a collision course for some crazy and interesting situations.

First of all, don't bother with this novel if you can't handle sexual or porn references in your reading: let's just get that out there. There are all sorts of said references in Perrotta's latest and while you could argue that they are plot driven, it certainly gets to be a bit much at times.

For me, this one was a tad odd. Parts of it I really enjoyed; others, I just found bizarre and strange (and I've read other Perrotta works, so I know somewhat what to expect with him). The early parts of the novel were almost tender and hit a bit close to home, as I'm the only child of a single (also divorced) mother. The relationship between Eve and Brendan is interesting and well-explored, and you certainly have sympathy for Eve. In fact, many of the adults in this novel are so incredibly sad and lonely--and they have some extremely realistic moments and situations.

Alas, Brendan is really just insufferable, and you can't help but like Eve a little less as the result. I rarely enjoyed any of the sections told from his point of view. As the novel progresses, it increases its perspectives--bringing in the secondary characters--and you really do get drawn into their lives. Perrotta is an engaging writer and while not all his characters in this one are likeable, nor do they always act rationally, they are dynamic. Indeed, this is often just a plain old weird and bizarre novel. Some places I found myself thinking Is this really happening?? (Oh it was.)

So, in the end this is an amusing tale--with a surprising depth--that offers a fairly accurate portrayal about society and sexuality/gender. The characters are certainly interesting, even if pieces can be ridiculous and preposterous. The ending left me feeling a little let down, which was a tad disappointing, and kept it from being higher than a 3-star review for me.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Netgalley (thank you!) in return for an unbiased review; it is available everywhere as of 08/01/2017.

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