Book review: ‘Fatal Mistake’ by CB Lovejoy

Life in quiet St. Mary’s County isn’t quite what it seems . . .

For suburban newspaper editor Gabby de Sales, life is all about the headline. Devoted to her readers in Maryland and without much more to call her own, Gabby never thought she was restless — until a new job opportunity opens up. She’s excited about the chance to work on a major military base and get out of hard news, but her new position comes with some caveats. And require very different skills than those listed on her resume.

First, full disclosure: CB Lovejoy is a personal friend and coworker. Considering we both work at, ahem, suburban newspapers, let’s just say I related quite well to Lovejoy’s take on local politics, satisfying the masses and finding balance. Working at a community-based newspaper, known in our area as simply “The Paper” (of record, you see), you can’t escape the caveats of being a writer/journalist in the same area you call home. It can be tricky business.

And that’s just what Gabby de Sales discovers. In quick and sure-footed prose, Lovejoy introduces us to a heroine who has enough smarts to take care of herself in most situations — but can’t possibly predict the chain of events that will change her life. When Gabby accepts a public relations post at a large military base, she’s given more than press releases to tackle. Training for a top-secret task requires every bit of strength and savvy she possesses.

Fatal Mistake is a fast thriller of a novel that takes us down a tunnel of deceit and allows us to emerge out the other side. We know Gabby’s life is about to get very complicated — but at points I felt it took too long to get to the action. I was antsy waiting for The Big Moment to happen, you know? I knew things were going to get dicey and felt nervous as we counted down to the chaos. Before we got there, though, the scenes leading up to Gabby’s departure from the paper and arrival on base were some of my favorite ones. Her gentle ribbing of newsroom dynamics and office politics rang true for me.

Thrillers aren’t my usual fare, but there was much more to the story than chasing bad guys and learning to shoot. Readers looking for a quick-paced story with a battle-ready Everywoman for a main character will find plenty to enjoy in Fatal Mistake. I enjoyed getting to know Gabby and rooted for her to come out the other side. At less than 150 pages, it can be easily read in an afternoon — and you probably won’t want to stop once you’ve started. I know I didn’t.

4 out of 5!

ISBN: 1467948055 ♥ LibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by author in exchange for my honest review

Book review: ‘Almost Home’ by Pam Jenoff

Since a tragedy claimed the life of her boyfriend Jared at Cambridge University, U.S. State Department intelligence officer Jordan Weiss has been run, run, running away from the past — fighting always to stay one step ahead of the painful memories. Advancing to her current post in Washington, D.C., Jordan chooses to stay emotionally aloof by burying her feelings and focusing always on her work.

Until a letter arrives, that is, changing everything. Sent from her close friend, now terminally ill, Sarah mentions she’s returned to England. Aware of her friend’s deteoriating health, Jordan barely hesitates before asking for a transfer to London to help care for her — in a place she has steadfastly avoided since her life there was shattered in the wake of Jared’s drowning. Now ten years removed from that terrible night, Jordan returns to the U.K. and immediately begins work with Maureen Martindale, a friend and superior who asks for her assistance in busting up a serious mob ring.

Aware of the danger surrounding her new task, Jordan carefully begins uncovering more than a few secrets floating around England — and one close to her heart. When an old Cambridge classmate reappears and begins asking questions about their shared past, the wounds on Jordan’s heart reopen. And it’s only through searching for the covered truth — with Chris Bannister, Jordan’s old best friend — that they might finally heal.

Atmospheric, cerebral and exciting, Pam Jenoff’s rollicking Almost Home kept me on the edge of my seat from page one. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from a novel filled with so many elements — romance, murder, grief, passion, suspense, family — but Jenoff’s masterful use of description and language dropped me in the middle of each scene and refused to let me out.

As a reader, a novel’s setting — and the way in which it’s described — can make or break a book for me. In the case of Almost Home, the sense of place couldn’t have been more perfect or artfully described. As an Anglophile, I eagerly consumed Jenoff’s descriptions of England and British culture. And as the novel opens in Washington, my hometown, I could easily picture everywhere Jordan was traversing, giving the book added authenticity.

The mysteries embedded in the plot — plentiful, complicated — are what kept me up reading until 3 a.m. and up again just four hours later to finish. Jenoff dispenses enough information at each twist for us to feel like we’re “getting somewhere,” only to then flip around and unmask another complication. And I have one gripe about these mysteries: I think the back cover description gave away too much of the plot, and I knew more about the “mystery” going in than I would have wanted. In my own story description above, I’ve left out several key pieces of information you’d get from an Amazon or other description, so beware. It certainly did not ruin the novel for me, but I wish that one secret, in particular, hadn’t already been divulged.

Jordan’s character, while sometimes prickly, was someone I admired, respected and rooted for. I couldn’t completely understand her “any port in a storm” approach to romance, but I could also recognize the deep grief from which she was just beginning to recover and didn’t fault her for that. While some of her fledgling relationships felt a little one-dimensional, I did appreciate Jenoff’s development of one in particular.

Every reader will come to Almost Home with a different expectation — mystery, thriller, women’s fiction, historical fiction, British fiction — and probably find their needs met, as I did. Jenoff’s sequel Hidden Things is due out in July, and yours truly will be running (or, you know, driving) to the bookstore to find out what’s up next.

4.5 out of 5!

ISBN: 1416590706 ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by author

Book review: ‘Only Milo’ by Barry Smith

only_miloIt’s hard to describe a book like Barry Smith’s mysterious Only Milo but, considering I’m sitting here tap-tap-tapping on my keyboard, you know I’m going to give it a shot!

So we have Milo, a retiree whose stacks of novels have stayed buried in his closet for decades. Though he’s a prolific novelist who devotes much of his time to the craft, he has nothing to show for it — beyond the prerequisite stacks of rejection letters from agents and publishers. When authors finally make it big, these rejections are worn like badges of honor — they’re the giant, “HA — see what you missed out on there, buddy boy?!” of the literary world. But until a struggling writer reaches that pinnacle, he or she is just . . . a struggling writer.

And you know? Milo’s tired of it. He’s tired of the struggling, day in and out. So when a chance encounter with Margaret, a dynamic young publisher, brings the literary fame that much closer to his grasp, he pounces on the opportunity. Of course, pairing up with Margaret also means pairing up with Jose Calderon, her “gem in the rough.” Jose, a young man who has been writing mediocre books in Mexico, has been picked up by Margaret’s company for release rights in the U.S. The only issue? Um, the books are all in Spanish. And how convenient that Milo can actually “translate” them for the company . . .

Well, it turns out Jose’s novels are terrible — from what Milo can actually translate, anyway. Just complete drivel. So what’s he to do? He’s gotten Margaret’s attention, publication is just within his reach . . . even if it’s for another author. What could a little switcheroo hurt? How upset could Jose possibly be — especially if fat checks are rolling in to everyone?

And with one little decision, Milo sets off a chain of events that would make a “CSI” or “Dexter” fan flip the pages incessantly. Told in very short, numbered chapters — usually on a page or two apiece — Milo takes us through the ups of subterfuge and sudden literary stardom before catapulting us back down into the lows after he loses everything. It’s impossible to really talk about the plot without giving anything away, and I definitely don’t want to do that!

As I’ve pointed out in the past, I’m a nervous reader. Very nervous. If I have an inkling that something bad is about to befall a character — like, say, an anvil falling from the skies and cracking open their skull — I’m going to flip furiously through the book until I reach that moment of no return. I can’t amble along, oblivious, knowing that a shoe is about to drop. But trying to do that with Only Milo? Impossible. Of course I knew this was a darkly humorous thriller about life in the literary world, but I couldn’t have possibly predicted all the snake-like twists the story would take. Quite simply, it’s impossible to figure out what’s going to happen.

I’m not a fan of crime shows — I’ll take back-to-back episodes of “Ugly Betty” over “CSI” any time — but I still enjoyed the book for its supremely fast-paced, punchy writing style and short chapters. When reading, it all feels fluid — quick, like water running from a tap. While there is a sustained level of violence in the novel, it’s not overly gory or sick. Milo himself is a completely dead-pan, sarcastic and, ultimately, sympathetic narrator — and despite everything, I still found myself hoping he’d eventually find peace and success in his own right.

Only Milo is definitely a one-of-a-kind read; stylistically, I’ve never read another novel like it. Even the book’s typeface is unique — like an antique typewriter (check out an excerpt and you’ll see what I mean!). You can easily polish this one off in a hour or two, and it’s worth the read. Aspiring writers will grin a little at the chaos and injustice of it all, too. I know I did!

4 out of 5!

ISBN: 1592994237 ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor WebsiteRead an excerpt