Mini-reviews: Naked Heat by “Richard Castle;” A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray; A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd; and Look Again by Lisa Scottoline

Title: Naked Heat
Author: “Richard Castle”
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Hyperion
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library
First line: Nikki Heat pondered red lights and why they seemed to last so much longer when there was no traffic.

Goodreads blurb: Nikki Heat and Jameson Rook are together again in Richard Castle’s thrilling follow-up to his “New York Times” bestseller, “Heat Wave.” When New York’s most vicious gossip columnist, Cassidy Towne, is found dead, Heat uncovers a gallery of high profile suspects, all with compelling motives for killing the most feared muckraker in Manhattan. Heat’s murder investigation is complicated by her surprise reunion with superstar magazine journalist Jameson Rook. In the wake of their recent breakup, Nikki would rather not deal with their raw emotional baggage. But the handsome, wise-cracking Pulitzer Prize-winning writer’s personal involvement in the case forces her to team up with Rook anyway. The residue of their unresolved romantic conflict and crackling sexual tension fills the air as Heat and Rook embark on a search for a killer among celebrities and mobsters, singers and hookers, pro athletes and shamed politicians. This new, explosive case brings on the heat in the glittery world of secrets, cover-ups, and scandals.

Naked Heat is another fun, fast read, and again it feels like reading an episode of Castle, which I love. The humor is just as witty, the romance just as sizzling, and, this time, the mystery had a bit more depth. Of course, as I read, I totally picture Nathan Fillion as Jameson Rook. 😉

Title: A Great and Terrible Beauty
Author: Libba Bray
Genre: YA speculative fiction
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library
First line: “Please tell me that’s not going to be part of my birthday dinner this evening.”

Goodreads blurb: A Victorian boarding school story, a Gothic mansion mystery, a gossipy romp about a clique of girlfriends, and a dark other-worldly fantasy–jumble them all together and you have this complicated and unusual first novel.

Sixteen-year-old Gemma has had an unconventional upbringing in India, until the day she foresees her mother’s death in a black, swirling vision that turns out to be true. Sent back to England, she is enrolled at Spence, a girls’ academy with a mysterious burned-out East Wing. There Gemma is snubbed by powerful Felicity, beautiful Pippa, and even her own dumpy roommate Ann, until she blackmails herself and Ann into the treacherous clique. Gemma is distressed to find that she has been followed from India by Kartik, a beautiful young man who warns her to fight off the visions. Nevertheless, they continue, and one night she is led by a child-spirit to find a diary that reveals the secrets of a mystical Order. The clique soon finds a way to accompany Gemma to the other-world realms of her visions “for a bit of fun” and to taste the power they will never have as Victorian wives, but they discover that the delights of the realms are overwhelmed by a menace they cannot control. Gemma is left with the knowledge that her role as the link between worlds leaves her with a mission to seek out the “others” and rebuild the Order.

I’ve had my eyes on this series by Libba Bray for a long time, but my library only had books two and three. Finally, at the beginning of the year, I bought a copy of A Great and Terrible Beauty, but then it proceeded to sit on my to-read shelf for months and months. I have to admit that it took me a bit to find myself immersed in the story. It wasn’t because of the writing, which I thought was wonderful, but because I found Gemma to be a bit of a spoiled brat, and didn’t like the decisions she was making. But by the second half, I was totally hooked, and couldn’t put it down. Now I can’t wait to read book two; I have a feeling I’m going to like Gemma much more after how book one ended.

Title: A Bitter Truth
Author: Charles Todd
Genre: Mystery, historical fiction
Publisher: William Morrow
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from the public library
First line: A cold rain had followed me from France to England, and an even colder wind greeted me as we pulled into the railway station in London.

Amazon blurb: While attempting to help a woman in distress, World War I battlefield nurse Bess Crawford learns a bitter truth, that no good deed goes unpunished.

Returning to her London flat from the front lines in France for a well-earned Christmas leave, Bess Crawford comes upon a bruised and shivering woman huddled in the doorway. Propelled by pity, Bess takes her in. Yet despite the ill effects of a concussion suffered during a quarrel with her husband that erupted into violence, the woman decides to return home, and asks Bess to travel with her to Sussex.

At Vixen Hill, Bess discovers a family in mourning for an elder son who has died of war wounds, and a husband tormented by jealousy and his own guilty conscience. But when a troubled houseguest meets an untimely death, Bess finds herself the prime suspect, and on the trail of a vicious killer that leads back to war-torn France toward a startling revelation that will place her life in dire jeopardy.

While I didn’t enjoy the mystery in A Bitter Truth as much as I did the stories in the first two books in the series, I did enjoy getting to see Bess at work as a nurse in France. I also liked the increased interaction between Beth and Simon Brandon. I hope their relationship is headed somewhere – I’m getting a bit impatient!

Title: Look Again
Author: Lisa Scottoline
Genre: Thriller
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobook from the public library
Audiobook reader: Mary Stuart Masterson
Audiobook length: 9 hours and 27 minutes
First line: Ellen Gleeson was unlocking her front door when something in the mail caught her attention.

Goodreads blurb: When reporter Ellen Gleeson gets a “Have You Seen This Child?” flyer in the mail, she almost throws it away. But something about it makes her look again, and her heart stops—the child in the photo is identical to her adopted son, Will. Her every instinct tells her to deny the similarity between the boys, because she knows her adoption was lawful. But she’s a journalist and won’t be able to stop thinking about the photo until she figures out the truth. And she can’t shake the question: if Will rightfully belongs to someone else, should she keep him or give him up? She investigates, uncovering clues no one was meant to discover, and when she digs too deep, she risks losing her own life—and that of the son she loves.

This was my first experience with the work of Lisa Scottoline, and I discovered that she knows how to tell a great story! Of course, it helped that Look Away was narrated by Mary Stuart Masterson, who did a brilliant job. In some ways, Scottoline is a better storyteller than writer, and there were some instances of awkward phrasing and poorly written sentences that pulled me out of the plot a bit. But, in the end, I was unable to stop listening until I knew how it ended, and I will definitely be reading or listening to more of her books.

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11 Responses to Mini-reviews: Naked Heat by “Richard Castle;” A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray; A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd; and Look Again by Lisa Scottoline

  1. TV tie-in books can be so much fun, I’m glad to hear the Castle ones are good! 🙂

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Amy – they are! I don’t know who the ghost writer is, but he/she does a terrific job.

  2. Beth Hoffman says:

    I’ve had Lisa Scottoline on my To Read list of authors for eons. I need to pick this one up.

  3. Melissa
    Twitter: myeclecticbooks

    My fiance just finished Naked Heat and though it’s like pulling teeth to ever get an opinion out of him it appears that he liked it too. I’ll have to try to get to this one:)

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Melissa – is that a guy thing? I have a hard time getting my husband to tell me what he thinks of a book or movie, too.

  4. bermudaonion(Kathy)
    Twitter: bermudaonion

    I’m usually leery of books written about TV shows or movies, but it sounds like the Castle books were done right.

  5. Serena
    Twitter: SavvyVerseWit

    We’ve added your review link to the reviews page at War Through the Generations and a small portion of the review will post on Sept. 7

  6. Pingback: The Sunday Salon – September 2, 2012 (plus, wrapping up August’s reading) | BOOKS AND MOVIES