Thursday, April 30, 2015

Review: I Can See You by Karen Rose

Title: I Can See You
Series: Karen Rose's Interconnecting Books
Author: Karen Rose
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: May 1, 2010
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
ISBN: 0446538353
ISBN-13: 9780446538350

WHEREVER YOU GO

Eve Wilson's face was once marred by a vicious assault. Terrified and ashamed, she retreated to the virtual realm where no one could see her. Now, years later, her outer scars faded and inner scars buried, she's fought her way back to the real world, and is determined to help others do the same. Then her test subjects on the addictive powers of the Internet start turning up as "suicides."

WHATEVER YOU DO

Detective Noah Webster is one of the few people who believe the deaths are connected murders. To find the twisted killer, he must rely on Eve. Together, they enter an intoxicating world of alternate identities and secret passions...and find themselves trapped in the fight of their lives.

I CAN SEE YOU


My rating:

A serial killer has started terrorizing the women of the Twin Cities. He stalks them in the virtual world, sets up dates in the real world, follows them home and submits them to their worst fears before killing them. Every murder is staged as a suicide with the woman hanging from a hook in her bedroom, dressed and made-up as a prostitute, her eyes glued open, an overturned stool under her, a pair of red pumps on the carpet.

Detective Noah Webster suspects foul play when a “suicide” looks just like one he’s seen a few weeks back, but the bodies keep on piling. So what is the connection? It all seems to come down to a single woman. Eve Wilson is writing a thesis on therapeutic effects of online gaming onto a subject’s real-life life. Every murdered woman was one of Eve’s test subjects. Still, what is the connection? Does the killer not want for Eve to succeed or is his motive much more sinister?


Hmmm, after a very good book streak, this one came as a slight disappointment for me. The villain was nicely twisted, the pacing good and the suspense wonderful, it was everything else that somehow didn’t work for me.

I disliked Eve from the moment she appeared in the first book, wanted to beat her up in the fourth book, and though she’s come a long way from that whiny, selfish, hateful girl, she still annoyed me. I just couldn’t connect with her, though I couldn’t say the same with her counterpart, Noah.
I actually did miss the romance in this book, what we got were mere glimpses and they were rather cold and generic.

Everything else, apart the villain and “his side” of the suspense arc, seemed put in there in preparation for the next story, and though I love David Hunter and can’t wait to read his book (the “tell her I said hi”-“tell him I said hello” tidbit was so high-school it made me laugh), this aspect of the plot was a little off-putting. I know each and every book in this quasi-series sets the background and characters for the next book, but it was never as obvious as in this case.

It was still a good book, but not as good as I’ve come to expect from Ms. Rose of late.



Sunday, April 26, 2015

Review: Kill For Me by Karen Rose

Title: Kill For Me
Series: Karen Rose's Interconnecting Books, Daniel Vartanian Trilogy
Author: Karen Rose
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: July 1, 2009
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
ISBN: 0446616931
ISBN-13: 9780446616935

HUSH, LITTLE BABY

Six teenage girls have been viciously attacked. One survives. Only she can reveal the secrets of a kidnapping ring that sells teenagers on the black market. But the murderers will do anything to silence her.

DON'T SAY A WORD

Susannah Vartanian and Luke Papadopoulos have their own personal reasons to stop the killers. Their investigation leads them to the shady realm of Internet chat rooms and a chain of deception so intricate they don't know whom to trust. Finding comfort in each other's arms, they begin to make breakthroughs, but their enemies are ruthless and relentless. When Susannah proves to be inexplicably linked to the case, her life is soon in danger—and Luke must risk his to save the woman he loves.


My rating:

The day of reckoning is drawing near...

This book starts in the last few chapters of the previous one (Scream For Me), this time from Susannah and Luke’s point of view.
Susannah is Daniel’s (the hero in Scream For Me) and Simon’s (villain in Die For Me) sister with a dark and painful past of her own, creating multiple issues in the present. She finally grew a pair and decided to “get her life back” by taking a stand and accusing her rapists from thirteen years ago (though only one is still living), and also confessing to another rape, six years ago on the anniversary of the first one. Since her brother is in the hospital (read the end of Scream For Me), it falls on his partner and friend Special Agent Luke Papadopoulos, who’s taken over the case, to keep an eye on her, help her cope in any way, though she doesn’t particularly want his help.

Well, keeping an eye on Susannah proves to be the least of Luke’s problems, since the investigation into the gang-rapes all those years ago opened a whole other can of worms in the form of a human-trafficking/child-porn/prostitution ring with the HQ right in small-town Dutton, Georgia where it all began.
And soon Luke has to step up from just keeping an eye on Susannah to full-time bodyguard, since someone appears to hold a huge grudge against her. There’re also possible leaks both in APD and GBI, bodies piling up here and there etc. Peaceful small town my heinie.


This book concluded the Vartanian sub-trilogy in Rose’s series with more-or-less-connecting characters. And though it was dark, heinous, and gruesome, it somehow left me a little cold and detached. I know detachedness is a blessing with topics like this, but still it was a bit strange finding myself observing this from such a distance. For me, the two previous books packed more of a punch and pulled me in more (and immediately) than this one. I should’ve been more impacted by what happened, the details, the depravity, the darkness, yet I wasn’t.

That’s not to say this wasn’t a good novel. It was vintage Rose, great pacing, wonderful characterization, tasteful romance, multiple twists and turns, dark secrets, half-truths, big and small lies, the gutter that was small-town Dutton (a true Peyton Place), sick villains, chilling details, great suspense…But it was all portrayed…Well, though a thin veil, that prevented the story from “truly touching me”.



Friday, April 24, 2015

Review: Scream For Me by Karen Rose

Title: Scream For Me
Series: Karen Rose's Interconnecting Books, Daniel Vartanian Trilogy
Author: Karen Rose
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: January 1, 2009
Publisher: Vision
ISBN: 0446616923
ISBN-13: 9780446616928

CLOSE YOUR EYES

Special Agent Daniel Vartanian vows to find the serial killer whose crimes mimic a thirteen-year-old case. His only leads are some photographs that belonged to the ruthless murderer who was his brother. But Daniel will delve into a mind even more sinister...

TAKE A BREATH

His search leads to Alex Fallon, a beautiful nurse who bears a striking resemblance to one of the earlier victims and whose troubled past reflects his own. She's soon the target of the inspired killer and a perverse plan stretching to the very pillars of their community. Now Daniel must catch a diabolical criminal and untangle a dangerous conspiracy...if he is to save the woman he has begun to love.

SCREAM FOR ME


My rating:

Daniel Vartanian has been unable to sleep for the past eleven years, ever since he found gruesome pictures in his brother Simon’s possession. Pictures his own father, a judge, burned after Simon’s death so they couldn’t affect his career. Pictures that resurfaces along with a very alive, and seriously bent on revenge, Simon a couple of weeks ago. Pictures now in Daniel’s possession after his brother’s death (yeah, he really is dead this time).

When a killer starts reenacting a thirteen year old murder, Daniel knows those pictures will most certainly end up as part of the investigation, especially when a ghost from the past comes into his office. A woman whose body was found in a ditch, wrapped in a blanket thirteen years ago. Only, the woman in from of him isn’t Alicia Tremaine, but her twin sister, Alex Fallon, a woman determined to find her missing stepsister, yet another link in the long chain of investigations.

Someone is determined to set the record straight, expose a small-town’s secrets, others are equally determined to keep those secrets intact. By all means. Even murder.


Okay, I need to just breathe for a moment, here, because this novel was intense. Ooh, boy. This small trilogy inside a larger (loosely-connected) series is proving to be one heck of a ride. It all started with Simon’s reappearance (and the reappearance of the pictures) in Die For Me, continues with Daniel’s story (and a small resolution regarding those pictures) in Scream For Me, and will apparently come to a grand finale with Susannah’s story (those pictures and Daniel’s investigation sure opened a big can of worms) in Kill For Me.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning, or in this trilogy’s case, in the middle.

This was yet another 5+ star read in this winner-streak by Karen Rose. Chilling suspense, wonderfully dark secrets, great pacing, wonderful characters (leading and supporting cast), intrigue, drama, romance, angst, thrills, chills…You name it, this book has it.
This was yet another example of great “small-town” fiction. I sure am glad to be living in a city, because those dreadful small-towns where everybody knows your name, no one locks their doors and everybody knows everybody else’s secrets are starting to creep me out. Quaint and homey, but hiding such rot underneath the nice veneer. *shiver* Ms. Rose depicted small-town Dutton’s secrets, Georgia with masterful aplomb, gruesome and chilling details, and goose-bumps-raising “honesty”.

And she’s not done, oh no. Because it appears the first two books in this Vartanian trilogy were just an appetizer to what comes next, and I can’t wait to start.

The main story, the suspense, the drama, and the thriller was so engaging, I wouldn’t have minded if Ms. Rose forgot to throw some romance into the mix. Well, she hasn’t forgotten, and while I always say this in my reviews for Ms. Rose’s novels, in this book, what happened between Alex and Daniel sure did take my mind off the other stuff going on, providing a much needed breather. Because this wasn’t simple entertainment like her previous books were (despite the theme), this was a rather “heavy” book and those lighter pauses sure helped.

5 stars!



Monday, April 20, 2015

Review: Die For Me by Karen Rose

Title: Die For Me
Series: Karen Rose's Interconnecting Books, Daniel Vartanian Trilogy
Author: Karen Rose
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: September 1, 2007
Publisher: Vision
ISBN: 0446616915
ISBN-13: 9780446616911

COME TO ME

The first victim is found in a snow-covered Philadelphia field. Detective Vito Ciccotelli enlists the aid of archaeologist Sophie Johannsen to determine exactly what lies beneath the frozen ground. Despite years of unearthing things long buried, nothing can prepare Sophie for the matrix of graves dug with chilling precision. The victims buried there haunt her. But the empty graves terrify her-the killer isn't done yet.

SCREAM FOR ME

He is cold and calculating, the master of a twisted game. Even with Vito and Sophie hot on his trail, he will not stop. One more empty grave must be filled, and one last scream must be heard-the scream of an archaeologist who is too close for comfort and too near to resist...

DIE FOR ME


My rating:

A grave is uncovered in a snowed field outside of Philadelphia. Police canvass the surrounding area with a metal detector, finding five more possible resting places. Enlisting the help of an archaeologist, they discover a hidden graveyard with sixteen graves and (only) nine bodies.

And the killer already has a new body to fill one of his empty graves. But is he truly simply a sociopath, or are his motives more sinister than the police suspect?


I loved it from the first word. Wonderfully chilling suspense, a few secrets thrown in to keep things interesting, a perfectly (and fascinatingly) twisted killer, a to-die-for detective (I'm not ashamed to admit I fell head over heels for Vito "Chick" Ciccotelli, under his Alpha-ness he was just so über sweet), a feisty archaeologist of Amazonian build and some deep issues of her own, great supporting cast (with two heavy hints about the next two books, which I can't wait to tackle), a heavy dose of "history appreciation" thrown into the mix ("manna" for a history aficionado like me), lovely romantic undertones to provide a breather from the thriller parts...

A wonderfully crafted and delivered story.



Saturday, April 18, 2015

Review: Count to Ten by Karen Rose

Title: Count to Ten
Series: Karen Rose's Interconnecting Books, Chicago, IL
Author: Karen Rose
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: January 1, 2007
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
ISBN: 0446616907
ISBN-13: 9780446616904

In all his years in the Chicago Fire Department, Lieutenant Reed Solliday has never experienced anything like this recent outbreak of house fires - devastating, vicious and in one case, homicidal. He has another problem—his new partner, Detective Mia Mitchell. She's brash, bossy, and taking the case in a direction he never imagined.

Mia's instincts tell her the arsonist is making this personal. And as the infernos become more deadly, one look at the victims' tortured faces convinces her and Reed that they must work closer to catch the killer. With each new blaze, the villain ups the ante, setting firetraps for the people Reed and Mia love. The truth is almost too hot to handle: This monster's desire for death and destruction is unquenchable...and for Mia he's started the countdown to an early grave.


My rating:

An arson investigation soon involves dead bodies and IFO, and Homicide have to work together, forging a temporary partnership between arson investigator Lieutenant Reed Solliday and Detective Mia Mitchell. And as the arsonist/murderer escalates, so does the tension between the two partners…

I loved this book. The pacing was spot-on, the plot well-developed, the characterization was wonderful, the suspense chilling, the villain strangely fascinating, and the little romance sub-plot perfectly balanced the tension-filled suspense.

I absolutely loved Mia, which is a huge exception in my usual I-hate-the-heroine “demeanor”. In fact, the hero was the one frustrating the heck out of me. I just wished someone would’ve smacked him upside the head or something. Because his sticking to the past was bloody annoying. Lucky for Mia and the readers he saw his error in time, before I started ranting about my hero-hate to the world.

There were many sub-plots in this book, some previous characters paid us a visit (“whew” for Abe, and “congratulations” to Dana and Ethan), but the story didn’t seem clogged and crammed with too much of everything. All the little cameos, and even the part with Reed's daughter, provided some much needed respite between the suspense scenes.

Absolutely loved it!



Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Review: You Can't Hide by Karen Rose

Title: You Can't Hide
Series: Karen Rose's Interconnecting Books, Chicago, IL
Author: Karen Rose
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: April 1, 2006
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
ISBN: 0446616893
ISBN-13: 9780446616898

Terror has forever changed the life of psychiatrist Tess Ciccotelli. Someone is tormenting her patients, pushing them to commit suicide, and setting her up to take the blame. But Tess can't break her oath to protect her patients' privacy at all costs. Even when detective Aidan Reagan demands a list of everyone she's treating. Even when the mounting danger threatens Tess herself.

Aidan doesn't like anyone who stalls his cases. Still, he can't help but admire Tess's fierce loyalty to her patients, especially when it becomes clear that a nameless, facelss enemy is set on destroying her career, her family , and finally, Tess herself. As Aidan's heart softens, the killer's will hardens, and one thing becomes clear—the noose is tightening around Tess's neck.


My rating:

This was by far the best book in this "series" so far. Masterfully done suspense, great buildup, and wonderfully twisted villain vied for attention alongside two wonderful lead characters. Neither side of the plot was dominant, they were nicely and masterfully intertwined, complementing each other, pushing the story forward at a nice, steady pace.

I loved both Tess and Aidan, there were so different, yet so similar, both with quite a lot of baggage, both in need of someone to talk to, someone to trust, someone to trust them, someone to love and someone to love them. And they found that perfect person in each other despite the initial animosity (mostly on Aidan’s part). Their romance and its progression was much more realistic than in the previous books, I somehow “felt” them more, empathized with them more, and though some reviewers were a little annoyed with the lack of I-love-yous at the end, I simply felt that was completely in character with both of them, with who they were. They knew the other knew and that was enough. Loved it.

And don’t get me started on the suspense. A voyeuristic killer who hated getting his hands dirty, so they drew Tess’s psych patients to kill themselves, getting a rush from seeing them dead and Tess discredited. Chilling. A killer who hated Tess without apparent reason, wanting to destroy her life at all costs. Thrilling. And the shock of learning said twisted, demented killer’s identity. I sure didn’t see that one coming and it made me think about what we really do know about people we meet. *shudder*

An A+ read and a definite keeper.



Saturday, April 11, 2015

Review: Dirty Secrets by Karen Rose

Title: Dirty Secrets
Series: Karen Rose's Interconnecting Books
Author: Karen Rose
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: January 21, 2014
Publisher: InterMix
ASIN: B00COOFB86


Emma Townsend is astonished when she comes across a love letter tucked away in an old high school year book, written by her once dear friend Chris Walker. Having never seen it until now, the letter has taken seventeen years to touch Emma’s heart. Now she’s determined to find Chris and maybe even get a second chance at romance.

For Chris, now a college professor, seeing Emma again has brought back a flood of memories, rekindling a passion he thought was long gone. But in the shadows, someone is watching Emma and Chris, someone nursing revenge, and plunging Emma into a nightmare where no one can be trusted and every dirty little secret is sealed with a kiss.


My rating:

I "met" Emma and Chris in Watch Your Back and when I discovered they had their own story, albeit a shorter one, I was on board immediately. Well...Hmmm.

Let me start by saying I quite enjoyed it. It was funny when it needed to be, it was intense when it needed to be, it was dramatic when it needed to be, it was suspenseful when it needed to be...It's just that, due to everything that was going on, it appeared even shorter than it was.

Let's start with the two, leads, shall we? Seventeen years ago, they went to highschool together. He wrote her a letter she never read (she never found it), and because she never read it, she broke his heart, and they went on their separate ways. Both got married; he had a daughter and got divorced three years ago, her husband died one year ago...And cleaning the attic in their old house, she finally found that letter, and decided to make amends.

Awwww, right? Cute, sweet, and lovely.

What happened next wasn't so cute, sweet, and lovely. I get it, he was in love with her seventeen years ago, I get it, he lusted after her seventeen years ago...But to be ready to jump her bones the minutes he lays eyes on her after seventeen freaking years as if nothing had happened in between (no marriage, no kid, no heartbreak...nothing), is stretching it. I'm all for romance and reunions of heart, but take a little time, damn it!
I fully comprehended the daughter, a teenager with "the world as we know it is gonna end now that my father is getting laid again" mentality, in her reaction. Well, not her full reaction, but the gist was rather spot on—it was too damn fast!

And then we get to the suspense part of the story. It was good, but too predictable. I knew who the killer was, almost from the start, and I knew how (the suspense part) would help mend things between Emma and Chris' daughter. It was all right there, glaringly obvious.

Reading the last two paragraphs you might get the impression I didn't really like the story, but I did. It wasn't the best, but it was far from the worst I've ever read, hence the middle-ground rating. But if it were longer and less predictable, I would've enjoyed it more.



Friday, April 10, 2015

Review: Nothing To Fear by Karen Rose

Title: Nothing To Fear
Series: Karen Rose's Interconnecting Books, Chicago, IL
Author: Karen Rose
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: August 1, 2005
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
ISBN: 0446614483
ISBN-13: 9780446614481

As director of an inner-city woman's shelter, Dana Dupinsky safeguards many secrets. Some are new identities; some are new addresses; and some are even hidden truths about herself. Passionately dedicated to Hanover House and the women she protects, Dana has always been reluctant to look for love. But now, just as a case puts her and a child in mortal danger, it seems that love has come looking for her.

Security expert Ethan Buchanan learned to stalk men in the Afghan desert. Now he vows to track down the ruthless woman who kidnapped his godson-and falling for Dana is not in the plan. Yet her very presence seems to chase away the ghosts that haunt him, and her skillful evasion of personal questions raises his hunting instincts. For there's a deadly new secret at Hanover House. A brutal killer is weaving a web of revenge with a stolen boy at its center. And Dana is the next victim on the list...


My rating:

I'm really seeing a pattern when it comes to this series. For me it truly is touch and go—one good book, one not so good, then one good again.

This story fell into the second category, because I simply couldn't concentrate on everything that was going on. The separate investigations, actually separate storylines of Dana's trying to help and Ethan trying to find the same two people clashed too much for me to enjoy the plot, add to that the villain's "arc", and you get too much crammed into one book.

There was no spark between Ethan and Dana—throwing in another guy just to create the tension of a love-triangle was a bit too much, since it didn't actually have the effect of a "real" love-triangle. Dana wasn't actually shoocing between two men, she had no clue what poor David really felt for her (blind much?). The supporting cast seemed inserted into the story more as an afterthought, and only saturated everything further, and alienated me even more from Evie, who's become even more annoying since Don't Tell if that's at all possible. I hated her. I have no idea how I'll feel when I read her book, but this one sure didn't endear her to me.

The only good thing about this book was the suspense, and since it took over more than half of a book, this story received the rating it did. I love me a twisted killer. If only everything else was as good as the villain. Or if this part of the story meshed better with the other storylines. It felt like a separate entity at times.



Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Review: I'm Watching You by Karen Rose

Title: I'm Watching You
Series: Karen Rose's Interconnecting Books, Chicago, IL
Author: Karen Rose
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: October 1, 2004
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
ISBN: 0446614475
ISBN-13: 9780446614474

I KNOW THEIR CRIMES.

Star prosecutor Kristen Mayhew has a dangerous secret admirer. He seems to know her every thought, her every move. He sends her letters. And he kills the criminals she herself is powerless to top.

I HUNG THE GUILTY.

This avenger even knows Kristen's deepest secret—the one that has kept her from surrendering her heart to Abe Reagan, the police detective sworn to protect her. Like Kristen, Reagan is haunted by the loss of something precious that can never be regained. But in the shadow of a calculating serial killer, the two turn to each other and dare to rediscover passion...even as the messages and vicious murders continue. Even as the killer's thirst for retribution makes Kristen a target for murder.


My rating:

Someone is offing sex offenders that walked free despite ASA Kristen Mayhew's efforts in court. The same someone sends Kristen letters after the fact, explaining why he did it, and offering decorating tips as well. But does Kristen know him? Is she the one who hired him? She says no and the police tend to believe her, but the killer's "friendly" behavior toward her has put her in the spotlight...


The third book by Ms. Rose I've read and, after the flop of the previous one, another winner. It was a slow read, but not due to the pace, but "heaviness" of the topic and theme.

Wonderful characters, with issues not as prominent as in Have You Seen Her?, so they didn't take over the story, but helped push it forward. Great suspense, with the villain once more taking center stage along the other characters, and, unlike the previous book, his identity was truly a surprise. Nicely done, Ms. Rose.

I felt Kristen's deepest secret—the one that has kept her from surrendering her heart to Abe Reagan, the police detective sworn to protect her took a bit too long to come out, (almost) everybody knew by then, ending up as anti-climatic as it could get.
Still, I loved the progression of the romance between Kristen and Abe, it was nothing rushed, nothing Romancelandia-like.

Nicely done. 4 ½ stars