Release Date: August 18th, 2015
Synopsis: A brilliant, deeply dedicated psychologist, Grace Blades has a gift for treating troubled souls and tormented psyches–perhaps because she bears invisible scars from her own childhood. But even as an adult with an accomplished professional life, Grace has a dark, secret side. When her two worlds shockingly converge, Grace’s harrowing past returns with a vengeance.
An evil she thought she’d outrun has reared it’s ugly head again, but Grace fears a police inquiry will expose her double life. Launching her own investigation leads her to a murderously manipulative foe, one whose warped craving for power forces Grace back into the chaos and madness she’d long ago fled.
I’ve been a fan of Jonathan Kellerman’s since he published his first Alex Delaware book When the Bough Breaks (1985). For some reason though I dropped the series, so this is the first book by him I’ve read in several years. And I’m so happy I did, because The Murderer’s Daughter has reminded me why I fell in love with his writing all those years ago.
This is a standalone novel so you need not have read any of the previous books although Alex Delaware does make a brief appearance. Instead it focuses on Dr. Grace Blades, a woman who on the surface looks to have everything, but underneath her cool unflappable exterior lies a murky mess. Being a survivor of a traumatic childhood has made her a renowned psychologist, with clients who fly halfway around the country to see her. Yet her colleages and clients would be shocked at what she does during her off hours. Eschewing close relationships, she enjoys wearing disguises and embarking on numerous one night stands. She’s shocked when her latest encounter shows up in her office as a patient. Shortly after, he’s murdered, and from their brief encounter Grace is convinced that he’s not the victim of a random mugging. As she carries out her own personal investigation she discovers that he’s directly tied to her childhood and an evil she thought she had put behind her. Because of her fear that her double life will be exposed if she’s truthful with the police, she decides to play Nancy Drew and winds up facing a psychopath alone.
Grace is one of the most intriguing and complex characters I’ve read about in a long time although I was initially repulsed by her. She’s cold, calculating, and manipulative. She trusts no one, and as a result is completely alone, not that she minds. I found myself wondering more than once if she’s actually sociopathic. Once I started reading her backstory which is told through alternating chapters with the present day events, I understood her much more thoroughly, and began to emphasize with her, even if I didn’t always agree with her actions.
This all makes for a fascinating story which brings together two mysteries: what created this brilliant, enigmatic woman with such intimacy issues that she only finds pleasure in nameless and faceless sexual encounters with strangers, and who murdered Grace’s latest conquest/patient and why are they now after her? Except for a few unbelievable eyebrow raising moments, this makes for an exciting read. The only real downside for me is that with all the suspenseful build-up, I found the actual confrontation between Grace and her nemesis to be rather anticlimactic. Otherwise, I think that Jonathan Kellerman (who’s a psychologist himself), has once again proven himself to be a master at delving into people’s psyches and exploring their dark sides. I’m hoping this is just the first book about Grace Blades because I’d really enjoy learning even more about her.
Synopsis: “From the moment she first learned the truth about witches…she knew she was born to fight them.”
Now, at sixteen, Iris is the lone girl on the Witch Hunters Special Ops Team. But when Iris meets a boy named Arlo, he might just be the key to prevent an evil uprising in Southern California. Together they’re ready to protect the human race at all costs. Because that’s what witch hunters do.
Welcome to Hollywood.
When I first saw this I thought “Cool! It looks like a combination of Charmed and Supernatural with a little bit of Buffy mixed in.” Well, have you ever read a book or watched a movie that has everyone raving about it, yet leaves you scratching your head and wondering what you’re missing? Hollywood Witch Hunter was that kind of read for me.
The book sets things up with a prologue that gives you a short backstory of a witch named Belinda who lives in Hollywood. She not only takes the lives of young self-absorbed girls to keep herself beautiful, but she then places a curse on all the witches living in Hollywood so they are all forced to do the same. Huh.
Enter the Witch Hunters. They’re the only ones standing between witches and innocent, unsuspecting humans. They’re also for the most part a bunch of male chauvinist pigs. I’m sorry, but there’s just no other way to put it. The men are the only ones who inherit this so-called hunter gene, which allows them to successfully battle their enemies. Because they don’t possess these special abilities, women are kept in the background and basically clueless. Iris is the first female with the Hunter gene and is begrudgingly allowed to become part of the elite special ops team. Her brother Knox and a couple of other hunters are the only ones who treat her as an equal. Personality deficits aside, Hollywood has remained fairly safe thanks to the Witch Hunters, until now. Strange things are happening, and Belinda is suddenly acquiring new powers. Yet she doesn’t seem to be the villain she once was. The only thing that’s clear is that Iris is somehow involved.
You’d think that Iris would be a sympathetic character with that kind of set-up, but no matter how much I tried, I just couldn’t connect with her. I understand she’s trying to prove herself to not only her father, who’s in charge of the Witch Hunters, but also the rest of the group. She shows promise in that she’s strong and capable, and trusts her own judgment instead of simply being a follower. However, many times throughout the book these qualities present themselves more like self-centeredness and arrogance.
I’m not generally a fan of love triangles and the one in this book was truly horrendous. On one hand you have earnest boy band material Arlo, who has been recruited by the Witch Hunters and has selected Iris to train him. He’s one of the dullest characters I’ve read in a long time. On the other, there’s the mysterious and attractive Silos, who is Scottish and has magical powers including sharing visions with Iris. He’s also quite interested in her. Throughout the entire book I found myself wondering how Iris could be torn between Arlo who has all the personality of a pet rock, and the more mature and mesmerizing Silos. I wanted to reach in, grab her by her shoulders, and shake some sense into her!
The plot moves along quickly and has plenty of action. Without giving away any spoilers Iris discovers that things aren’t quite as black and white as she’s been taught. As she discovers some pretty dark secrets about her father and the Witch Hunters, she starts getting more involved with some of the witches, including Belinda. I’m all for throwing off the shackles of indocrination and seeing both sides, but I had a major problem with this as her new buddies are still killers. Just because they love to party and have their fun moments doesn’t makes them any less the remorseless murderers that they are.
This is Valerie Tejeda’s first novel, so hopefully she’ll get better with writing more likeable and three-dimensional characters. The plot itself is interesting and full of dry humor which helps keep things moving along. I also like that Iris is Columbian and uses her ability to speak fluent Spanish to obtain information which otherwise would be difficult to gather. Unfortunately for me, the negatives outweigh the positives and I don’t think I’ll be trying the sequel when it comes out.
Synopsis: 22 minutes separate Julia Venn’s before and after.
Before: Julia had a twin brother, a boyfriend, and a best friend.
After: She has a new identity, a new hometown, and memories of those twenty-two minutes that refuse to come into focus. At least, that’s what she tells the police.
Now that she’s Lucy Black, she’s able to begin again. And her fresh start has attracted one of the most popular guys in school, a boy who will do anything to protect her. But when someone much more dangerous also takes notice, Lucy’s forced to confront the dark secrets she thought were safely behind.
One thing is clear: The damage done can never be erased. It’s only just beginning…
To call this debut novel creepy and disturbing doesn’t even begin to cover it. It’s insanely twisted and shoved me completely outside my comfort zone.
The story begins as Julia, now known as Lucy, is trying to fit in at a new school. She and her parents have moved to get away from the negative publicity and harassment following the conviction of her twin brother Ryan who committed a horrific act of school violence, leaving a teacher and several classmates, including her boyfriend and her best friend, dead. Lucy is the sole survivor but has large gaps in her memory regarding the events of that day. While what truly happened is foreshadowed, how the truth is eventually revealed is completely shocking.
Lucy/Julia isn’t a likeable character right from the start. She has no problem lying and manipulating people and events to suit her needs. The terrible crime of her brother follows Lucy no matter where she goes, but you don’t discover her exact role in it until the end of the book. Through her eyes you see the development of a sociopath, which is truly frightening. Because the narrative is mostly told from her perspective, it adds another layer of suspense since she’s not exactly trustworthy.
While Lucy is unforgettable, the secondary characters could have used some more development, particularly the parents. I found myself wanting to know so much more about them, but unfortunately they’re fairly two-dimensional and don’t really add anything to the story. This is a shame, because in a thriller such as this, I would have liked to have seen more of how their parenting effected the twins development.
The pacing never slows down, and while the ending wasn’t a complete surprise, there’s an incredible twist to it that left me shaken and disconcerted which doesn’t happen too often.
Damage Done is not a book I’d recommend to anyone under the age of fourteen due to the mature themes as well as some pretty graphic and disturbing scenes. In a world where school shootings have unfortunately become commonplace, Amanda Panitch tells a fascinating and thrilling tale of one of these senseless tragedies and the repercussions on the shooter’s family.