July 27, 2012

Book Review: LOST GIRLS by Caitlin Rother

BOOK DESCRIPTION:  Chelsea King was a popular high school senior, an outstanding achiever fiercely determined to make a difference. Fourteen-year-old Amber Dubois loved books and poured her heart into the animals she cared for and the poetry she wrote. Loved by their families and treasured by their friends, both girls disappeared in northern San Diego County, just eight miles and one year apart. The region’s desperate search for these lost innocents led authorities to a brutal predator hiding in plain sight: John Albert Gardner, a convicted sex offender who could have been returned to prison several times over. Now New York Times bestselling author Caitlin Rother delivers an incisive, heartbreaking true-life thriller about a case that galvanized the community, first by grief and goodwill, then by anger and injustice, as it came to grips with a flawed system that failed … and adopted a law that will forever change how we keep our children safe.

This chilling book aims to help readers understand how to protect themselves and their children and how to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future by revealing new and exclusive details about the factors that turned Gardner, once a troubled but caring boy, into an angry adult sex offender who was unable to control his violent urges

My Review

Being that these crimes happened only a few years back and in my current backyard, and knowing that Caitlin Rother writes well researched and written books, I anticipated reading Lost Girls.  The book left a sad, bitter and frustrated taste in my mouth.

Author Caitlin Rother supplied stellar investigative writing.  She wrote with so much description that she brought victims Amber and Chelsea to life on the pages.  They came across much more vividly than their killer, which is a wonderful change to many true crime books where the killer is the so-called star of the show.  Perhaps it helps that Gardner’s victim count was thankfully low or perhaps it speaks of Ms. Rother’s desire to not glorify the crimes.  I have found Ms. Rother’s other true crime works to be equally well balanced and I applaud her efforts. 

Even with her desire not to delve into unnecessary detail about the atrocities Amber and Chelsea suffered, the crimes were obviously horrendous.  Horrendous in what was emotionally and physically done to the young girls but also in how the crimes themselves tore away the fabric of safety that permeated the bedroom communities where the girls lived and from where they were abducted.  Once that layer of security has been ripped away it’s hard to replace and Gardner is guilty of murdering the innocence present in the northern San Diego area. 

Ms. Rother did a fantastic job on Gardner’s background and formative years.  I was alternately stunned, saddened and angered by the many abuses and red flags that were present in his childhood and adolescence that were either ignored or glossed over by family members and health professionals.  I hate to use the term “perfect storm” but Gardner’s upbringing and environment seemed to me to be a perfect storm for creating a monster.  Gardner’s mother gave me the most aggravation.  I can understand defending your child but this mother seemed to be in denial and appears to continue to be in denial.  I will stop short of calling her an enabler; after all, she didn’t cause her son to be a killer and no parent deserves the grief of knowing your child has taken the lives of others but I have no tolerance for excuse making and she thoroughly put me off through the course of the book.

I was also shocked at how the healthcare system, particularly the mental healthcare system, appeared to fail Gardner.  Time and again he was proven to have problems.  Time and again it was clear he needed intervention, he needed medication, he needed professional help.  Even when he himself asked for it, it was denied.  Why?  I can’t help but wonder if the proper help was given, would Amber Dubois and Chelsea King be alive today? 

Most enlightening and hair raising is the section at the end of the book, where Ms. Rother had an interview with Gardner.  This may be the truest Gardner seen, other than that monster seen by Amber and Chelsea, his victims who survived and that brief flash of rage in the courtroom. 
I felt for the families of the girls, neither of whom wanted this book published and understandably so but I think it’s an insightful look into a cruel and twisted mind and a real lesson for us as a whole.  I felt extended grief for Amber Dubois’ family, who didn’t learn about her fate for over a year and for whose search for their loved one didn’t garner as much media attention as the search for Chelsea King would a year later. 

I am filled with sadness for both of these young girls who had so much to offer.  Both of them could have, and likely would have, made a difference in this world and Gardner deprived society of them.  Their lives were just beginning and he decided to snuff them out, for his own demented and selfish reasons.  Knowing he is in prison, where he will remain for the rest of his life, is a small comfort. 

For fans of true crime, I would recommend Lost Girls.  It’s not an easy read and while the pages will go quickly, it can easily weigh you down.  With the writing so well done and facts not previously publicly known (due to the lack of a trial) being shared, Lost Girls is a must-read and should be required reading for any criminal justice or psychology student. 

Very well done, Ms. Rother.  Your work is thought provoking and yet very respectful.

Lost Girls is available for purchase at major booksellers, including Amazon.  I am an Amazon affiliate.  If you make a purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission. 

Review copy of this book provided by the publisher/author in exchange for a fair and honest review. In no way did the provision of this book affect the outcome of my review.

With thanks to Pump Up Your Book for including me on this tour!

About Author Caitlin Rother

New York Times bestselling author Caitlin Rother has written or co-authored eight books, including Poisoned Love (Kensington, December 2011), Dead Reckoning (Kensington, February 2011), Twisted Triangle (Wiley, 2009), Body Parts (Kensington, 2008), Deadly Devotion (Simon&Schuster/Pocket, July 2011), NYT bestseller My Life, Deleted (HarperOne, October 2011), and Naked Addiction (Dorchester, 2007). Her latest true crime project, Lost Girls (Kensington, July 2012), chronicles the rape and murder of two innocents, teenagers Chelsea King and Amber Dubois, by sexual predator John Gardner. Rother, a Pulitzer-nominated investigative journalist with more than 310,000 copies of her books in print, has also been published in Cosmopolitan, the Los Angeles Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, and The Daily Beast. She has done dozens of TV and radio appearances as a crime expert on Nancy Grace, the Jay Thomas Show, E!, the Oxygen Network; Greta Van Susteren’s “On the Record,” Investigation Discovery, “America at Night,” American Radio Network, XM and numerous NPR/PBS affiliates. Rother also works as a book doctor/editorial consultant and teaches journalism and creative writing at University of California, San Diego Extension. She has done dozens of TV and radio appearances as a crime expert on shows including Nancy Grace.

To learn more about Caitlin, go to her website: http://caitlinrother.com/
Visit Caitlin Rother on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/CaitlinRother
Like Caitlin Rother on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Caitlin-Rother/190361197708434

July 24, 2012

Book Review: MORGAN HALL by Bo Briar

BOOK DESCRIPTION:  Love never dies, and revenge never sleeps in Morgan Hall…

Morgan Hall, a desolate country estate, has been in Lady Christie Morgan’s family for almost 400 years. A family cursed by eternal tragedy, and now Christie is the last Morgan.

Apparitions appear, sparking a chain of horrifying occurrences involving Christie and the two men who love her: Anthony Longfield-Lothian and Tristan Ely.

A saga of mystery and sordid family history weaves intrigue for the passionate love triangle. Past and present war as the secrets of three aristocratic families unfold - resurfacing in a spine-chilling mystery of passion and lust, ghostly happenings, and blood-curdling murders.

Emotions run high as their world spins wildly out of control. Are they all cursed to repeat the grizzly past? Does sweet revenge claim its prize?  Morgan Hall.
My Review
Since first reading Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier many years ago, I have a fondness for all things gothic. I was particularly gratified to have the opportunity to read Morgan Hall, a modern day gothic tale. It delivers.

Gothic books can be a tricky business, at least in my opinion. You need a slow, measured build up, keeping your audience intent and interested, and desperate for the payoff at the end. Where it gets tricky is not moving too quickly and not moving at a lethargic pace. It needs to be a literary perfect storm, if you will. Not every book gets this. Morgan Hall does. The writing is plotted to perfection, with wonderfully moody descriptions of the estates, - - which are characters in their own rights - - the English countryside, quaint villages, the main heroine and heroes and the supporting characters that the reader will find himself or herself giving the side eye to, particularly those that bring to mind Mrs. Danvers from DuMaurier’s penultimate work.

I loved Morgan Hall, the place. Are ghosts hiding around every corner? Does this ancient estate have its own stories to tell? I desperately wanted to know. Truth be told, I felt a stronger bond to the estates than I did to the three principles of the story, Christie, Anthony and Tristan. I felt that author Bo Briar sketched out the estate so well, so clearly that it’s a greater presence than Christie, Anthony and Tristan.

Morgan Hall is meant to be savored and enjoyed, leisurely, and preferably with a raging storm outside and wrapped in a warm blanket with a mug of your favorite hot beverage beside you. You can read this book in the dog days of summer, as I did, but the general unease and impending sense of doom will make you shiver. This isn’t a cozy mystery and there is a healthy dose of the paranormal and ghosts but you won’t find graphic, titillating violence here and the sexual situations are relatively PG-13. Your imagination will be sent into overdrive with author Bo Briar’s slow buildup and the incredible tension. This is what a well written and well paced gothic novel aspires to be and should be.

Was there anything I didn’t care for with Morgan Hall? It did start a bit slow (again, a slow boil) and it did have a part or two that I felt dragged a bit, but it’s worth overcoming these small bumps in the road in order to arrive at your rewarding destination.

If you prefer your books with substance and aren’t looking for an extremely faced paced read, Morgan Hall is a perfect choice. The book itself isn’t long (clocking in at less than 300 pages) but it’s such an intensive and thought provoking work that it packs quite the punch. Pick up Morgan Hall and get your spooky on.

Morgan Hall is available for purchase now at major booksellers, including Amazon.  I am an Amazon affiliate.  If you make a purchase through my link I will receive a small commission. 

Review copy of this book provided by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. In no way did the provision of this book affect the outcome of my review.

With thanks to Pump Up Your Book for including me on this tour!

About Author Bo Briar

Bo Briar nursed a love of art, music and architecture from childhood as well as all things ghostly. Her years at a British boarding school secluded in an ancient English county of majestic stately homes, historical towns and quaint medieval villages, nestled among mysterious forests and chocolate-box landscapes formed many of her lifelong impressions, beliefs and ideas.
Although having a natural affinity for the countryside Bo lived most of her life between the big cities of London and Hong Kong. Though widely travelled, she will always return to the two cities she calls home.
Her love for writing began at university where she would often diverge from composing dissertations to creating spooky stories. After taking a sabbatical from work in the hope of quality time with her two young children, she has also managed to complete and publish her first novel Morgan Hall. She is currently writing the sequel.
Bo welcomes you to her website at: www.bobriar.com
Feel free to email Bo at: bobriar1@gmail.com

July 12, 2012

Book Excerpt: THE LINE BETWEEN HERE AND GONE by Andrea Kane

Excerpt:   How many more times would she have to do it?

Tears dampening her lashes, she rose, retracing her steps through the reverse isolation unit and out of Sloane Kettering’s Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Unit.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:  The man she loved is gone forever. The child she lives for could be next. Each day is a struggle for Amanda Gleason's newborn son as he battles a rare immune deficiency. Justin's best chance for a cure lies with his father, who was brutally murdered before Amanda even realized she carried his child.

Or was he?

One emailed photo changes everything, planting a seed of doubt that Amanda latches on to for dear life: a recent photo of a man who looks exactly like Paul. Could Justin's father be alive? The mother in her is desperate to find out. But tracking down a ghost when every second counts is not for amateurs.

"Forensic Instincts is the one team up for the challenge."

A behaviorist. A former navy SEAL. A techno-wizard. An intuitive. A retired FBI agent. A human-scent-evidence dog. Together they achieve the impossible, pushing ethical and legal boundaries whenever the ends justify the means.

The manhunt is on for the elusive father. Yet the further FI digs into his past, the more questions are raised about whether the man Amanda fell in love with ever really existed at all.

Dark secrets. Carefully crafted lies. From the congressional halls of Washington, D.C., to exclusive Hamptons manors, there are ruthless people who would stop at nothing to make Forensic Instincts forget about the man Amanda desperately needs to find.
Little do "they" realize that once Forensic Instincts takes the case, nothing will stop them from uncovering the shocking truth that transcends "The Line Between Here and Gone."

The Line Between Here and Gone is available for purchase now at major booksellers, including Amazon.  I am an Amazon affiliate.  If you make a purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission.  

Review of The Line Between Here and Gone and interview with author Andrea Kane coming soon!  

July 8, 2012

Book Giveaway Winner: THE QUEEN'S PLEASURE

And the lucky winner of The Queen's Pleasure by Brandy Purdy is . . .


Colleen informs me she already picked up a copy of this book so congratulations, Deborah!  I will be emailing you directly to get your mailing address for your new book.

A big THANK YOU to all who visited my blog and entered this giveaway. I do appreciate each one of you taking the time to visit and post here. I hope you all will stick around for future giveaways, reviews and interviews.

Thank you to Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for making this giveaway possible.

Compliments to randomizer.org for selecting the lucky winner.

Happy reading!