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review 2017-04-05 17:42
Not a Sound
Not a Sound: A Novel - Heather Gudenkauf

By:  Heather Gudenkauf 

ISBN: 0778339998

Publisher: Park Row

Publication Date:  5/30/2017 

Format: Other 

My Rating: 5 Stars +++

**Top Books of 2017** 

I am utterly speechless! Brilliantly crafted . . . 5 Stars ++++ LOVED. Just finished this incredible and compelling book. It may take some time to get my heart rate back to normal. My nails will never be the same.

Heather Gudenkauf returns following Missing Pieces landing on my Top 50 Books of 2016 with her "Best Yet," NOT A SOUND. Hands down, this is the "best book I have read in 2017!" I have no doubt by year end, it will still be the best of the year.

As the book opens we meet ER nurse Amelia Winn, specialized in domestic abuse. She has a patient, Stacey and she is leaving. Amelia walks with her to the car and another car is barreling at them, full speed ahead, which ends in tragedy. An unsolved hit-and-run. (hopefully another book here . . . )

Flash forward two years later, Amelia has found herself deaf, jobless, and now separated from her doctor husband, David, her home and her seven-year-old stepdaughter, Nora.

Life has not been easy. She is not able to continue her career as a nurse, and suffers from alcoholism, since the accident.

She has moved to a cabin in the woods and spends her time on the river, paddle boarding, kayaking, hiking, and running with her service dog, Stitch. She is trying to rebuild her life.

Amelia delivers all her commands in Czech to Stitch. His former trainer Vilem was originally from Prague and trained all of his police and rescue dogs using Czech commands, including Stitch and Jake’s K-9.

Jake a childhood friend (her brother Andrew's best friend), now Detective and her best friend. He too has experienced tragedy in his life with his wife’s suicide four years earlier off the Five Mines Bridge. He has helped pull her out of the gutter.

Just when Amelia thinks she is getting her life back on track with a job interview at the hospital (a file clerk), not what she was trained to do, but a step back in the direction, she stumbles upon a dead body in the river that same morning. The body turns out to be a fellow nurse, Gwen.

There are only three ways to get to this remote Five Mines River location: by boat, by four-wheeler, or by foot. She cannot believe Gwen Locke is dead and she cannot help but think of her own accident two years ago, which she is not convinced was an accident, after all. They met being sexual assault nurse examiners. Could it be a rapist or an abusive boyfriend for husband looking for revenge?

What if Gwen’s murder and her attempted murder are connected? She and Gwen both treated patients who were abused by very bad people. Would it be a stretch to think they would come after the nurses who were trying to gather forensic evidence to put them in jail for a very long time? Now she is a witness.

Turns out Amelia had pushed everyone away during the two years after the accident while she spiraled down with the devil (alcohol). In looking at some old emails, Gwen had tried to reach out to her. They had been good friends once before she got hit by a car. Before she lost her hearing and abandoned her family and friends for alcohol. They had daughters about the same age.

Presently, Amelia has not had a drink in eighteen months and determined more than ever to get her life back in order to spend time with Nora.

Amelia is one tough cookie (love her) . . . and she soon suspects there is more than meets the eye with the murder. Crazy things begin happening. There are tons of suspects. However, she keeps her suspicions to herself, after Jake tells her to let them handle the case.

She becomes obsessed with finding the killer and begins her own investigation (she is some detective –no slouch here). Her dog Stitch was a gift from her friend Jake and he is always at her side as her loyal companion. Being deaf really sets her back, working with her handicap--especially with a killer on a loose and she may be next.

Without her hearing, she has to rely on her vision to gauge the world around her.

Pretty soon, she begins suspecting things are not as they appear at work, plus she finds herself doing all sorts of illegal things to gather information. She is determined whoever murdered Gwen, is out to get her next. She will not look the other way.

She has two choices when she gets the urge to drink.  The devil is calling her in the back of the cabinet (booze), or she can do what she does to make the urge pass.  Go for a run.  However, when it is dark, remote, and a killer on the loose, the two choices are not so great.  She chooses the darkness and lurking danger outside, over the bottle.

It the meantime, the only person near her is her closest neighbor, Evan who owns the Five Mines Outfitters. She now is dealing with Peter, someone from Gwen's past. An obsessive-compulsive quasi-stalker (used bookstore owner) who lives in his parent’s house and spends his free time in a garage, pasting news articles about his murdered ex-girlfriend into a scrapbook.

She cannot seem to wrap her head around all that has happened. Gwen’s death, her mysterious email, missing records at the hospital, David’s newfound interest in her, not to mention Jake’s; the break-in at her house, the condition of David’s boat, Peter’s strange behavior and his cryptic statement making her suspect her ex-husband.

None of this adds up and she must do more digging. Is she missing something? Something very wrong is going on. Could her doctor ex-husband be involved in a murder? Complex. 

Plus, someone is trying to discredit her by breaking into her house (using her past alcoholism), and setting her up. Someone is trying to cover their tracks, and she may be next on their list. The closer she gets to discovering the truth, she and Stitch find themselves in a complex dangerous web of deceit.

A huge fan of this talented author; have read all her books and enjoyed them immensely; however, this one is particularly powerful, compelling, explosive, intense, and emotional . . . as the author mentions, her most personal; referencing "Amelia is one of her most complicated endearing characters to-date."

If you can only read one (moving and emotional) crime thriller this year— this would be the ONE. There is so much here on a number of different levels. Yes, you need to pre-order ASAP and count yourself fortunate if you land an early reading copy. (I am beyond grateful).

Readers, you will fall in love with Amelia and Stitch (side kick service dog). The most courageous (and intelligent), strong-willed, and witty duo I have ever met between the pages. The duo tackles a powerful sociopath on their own. A whodunit on steroids.

Well-written, to give you an idea: A mix of Jodi Picoult, Diane Chamberlain, Amy Hatvany, Lisa Scottoline, Lisa Unger, Lisa Gardner (my other 2017 favorite), Jennifer Jaynes, and Michael and Daniel Palmer (medical thrillers), and of course the icing on the cake: Heather Gudenkauf's own signature trademark style. Top-Shelf.

Intricately plotted, fast-paced, memorable characters with realistic inner struggles; highly-charged subject matter, more twists than you can imagine . . . and the riveting taut suspense kept my heart beating non-stop (the scene by the riverbank in the snow) full blown, Tachycardia. This is what I call an "emotional thriller." I would not change one word.

As I mentioned in my comments while reading, I give first prize to Heather, for the "most catching" hook me, at first chapter ever. Jaw-dropping. It does not stop there. The same breakneck speed intensity continues to the explosive heart-pounding finale.

I can see why NOT A SOUND has received rave advance editorial praise. Believe every word. Impeccable research, from cancer, the medical profession, health care, whistleblowing, terminal illness, alcoholism, addiction, step-parenting, marriage, murder, domestic abuse, victims of violent crime, hearing impaired, service dogs, to so much more.

The setting, weather, and nature add to the mystery and intrigue. Reminded me of my days living in Big Canoe (North Georgia mountains) in my log cabin in the woods overlooking a lake; heavenly.

In addition, a huge medical thriller fan as well, and cancer is a topic close to my heart. An ideal choice for book clubs and further discussions. A cautionary tale, (more realistic than we know), without saying too much - a timely subject.

I for one, hope we see more of Amelia and Stitch in future books. They are too good to end. If you have not read this author, what are you waiting for? A book to re-read and have also pre-ordered the audiobook (narrated by Julia Whelan).

Publishers Weekly
Kirkus Reviews
Heather Gudenkauf and Lisa Unger in Conversation

A very "special thank you" to Park Row Books and NetGalley for an early reading copy.



Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2017/01/01/Not-a-Sound
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review 2015-11-07 19:40
Extraordinary Means/Robin Schneider
Extraordinary Means - Robyn Schneider

Up until his diagnosis, Lane lived a fairly predictable life. But when he finds himself at a tuberculosis sanatorium called Latham House, he discovers an insular world with paradoxical rules, med sensors, and an eccentric yet utterly compelling confidante named Sadie—and life as Lane knows it will never be the same.

Robyn Schneider's Extraordinary Means is a heart-wrenching yet ultimately hopeful story about the miracles of first love and second chances.


I had a feeling that this book was going to cause me immense emotions, but I still went ahead and read it. That was my mistake.


Throughout this book, there was dread hanging over my head. When the setting's a place for kids with terminal illness, one kind of has to assume that someone's going to die. But it didn't go at all how I expected.


I held out through the end of this book and closed it without shedding a single tear, but then I broke down completely and got really angry at the world. Schneider's writing was beautiful and made me contemplate life in such a gorgeous way.


The premise was at points a little contrived, but this was forgivable. I enjoyed how Lane treated the situation and what this eventually led to, and I enjoyed how it initially felt so close to the books about students at boarding school that I used to read when I was young.


The group of characters Lane eventually fell into was fun and believable. They all felt like real people, and their dynamic was playful and carefree, a complete contrast to the atmosphere that the setting provided.


Schneider knows how to capture the vitality of life and this was an example of gorgeous writing. Anyone who likes John Green will like this one, and Schneider is an author to look out for.

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review 2014-07-14 20:11
The Fault in Our Stars
The Fault in Our Stars - John Green

My Expectations Before Reading


I braved the hype and finally read The Fault in Our Stars. Before I read this book, I knew surprisingly little about it, considering the massive popularity and the release of the movie. For the most part, I managed to skip past all the spoilers, especially on Tumblr. Of course I knew that John Green wrote it and that it was about cancer. Oh and I didn't manage to escape the metaphor of the cigarette. Then again, I couldn't make heads or tails of it, so that doesn't really count.


In terms of expectations, I tried to ignore all the hype surrounding this book. Still, I couldn't ignore that John Green wrote The Fault in Our Stars—not necessarily because of who he is but rather because I've read two of his stories before. The first was A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle in Let It Snow, and the second was An Abundance of Katherines.


A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle amused me greatly, and I thoroughly enjoyed Green's writing style for the story that he had written. As for An Abundance of Katherines, it's one of those books I disliked so much, I still am irked just thinking about that book. After reading The Fault in Our Stars, I've decided that John Green is a hit-and-miss kind of author for me.


My Thoughts on The Fault in Our Stars


Mixed Feelings


What I enjoyed most about The Fault in Our Stars was the prose. Paradoxically, I didn't very much care for Hazel's voice. The writing style itself was clear and concise, with few words wasted. But the voice of Hazel's left me unconvinced.

I hated hurting him. Most of the time, I could forget about it, but the inexorable truth is this: They might be glad to have me around, but I was the alpha and the omega of my parents’ suffering.

Moments like these sucked me right into The Fault in Our Stars. Yet that was more because of the linguistic flair than because of the story or the characters. Like I said, in terms of the prose, it was a pleasure reading this book. However, this also worked against the book. The signature wittiness I found endearing in A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle somehow resurfaced in The Fault in Our Stars. Instead of charming me into loving The Fault in Our Stars, that built a barrier that prevented me from fully immersing myself into the life of Hazel.


Lack of Depth


Either way, the characters themselves were likeable enough to me, even though they lacked the depth I'd expect from people who were on the brinks of their deaths. They lived day-to-day, not knowing if that day would be their last. Somehow that didn't translate. In fact, the frailness and fragility of Hazel didn't even came across, in my opinion. 

I was particularly incredulous when Hazel still had the energy to sleep with Gus for the first time in the Amsterdam hotel, after she had been so breathless climbing the stairs in the Anne Frank House.

(spoiler show)


Sweet Romance


In terms of the romance, the relationship between Hazel and Gus was very sweet and innocent, and I couldn't help but root for Gus. He pursued Hazel with all his heart, was unrelenting, fully treasuring every moment that he had with Hazel. I liked that for all the time that they spent together, they didn't sideline Isaac, who was Gus' best friend.


Witty vs. Solemn Tone


Sadly, even though I got to know Hazel, Gus and Isaac pretty well in terms of their ailments, likes and dislikes, I just didn't connect. At no point during the book did I feel inclined to cry, even though I tend to be very emotionally involved in the books that I read. I wasn't moved much by the story. I think in part that's because I felt the approach to the issues at hand was too light-hearted and a bit too concerned with wittiness.


It's not that I expect a book such as The Fault in Our Stars to be solemn every single moment but glossing over the worst sides of cancer, and indulging so much in the romance between Hazel and Gus left a lot to be desired in terms of the pain that they suffered physically, mentally and emotionally because of their terminal illnesses.


This review first appeared on Word Revel.

Source: wordrevel.com/the-fault-in-our-stars-john-green
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review 2014-01-14 07:46
Genesis - Lara Morgan

Space and Mars aren't usually my thing but when it comes to Genesis, it turns out that doesn't really matter. In fact, that setting, along with Earth is what made this book all the more thrilling. Set 500 years into the future, enough humans have settled down on Mars that children are already born on that planet. Pip is one of them, which makes him stand out among the Ferals on Earth, although not any less menacing to Rosie, a Banker.

Since I don't generally read books set in outer space, Genesis obviously offered something very different for me. I also appreciated that the setting wasn't a gimmick but rather added to the plot as a whole. Written from a third-person omniscient view, I thought the characters needed to all be well-developed. Lara Morgan did not disappoint. Rosie is a believable character who as brave as she is, depends on the guidance of her elders, particularly her Aunt Essie. Pip in a way represents the typical brooding type, yet never fails to be full of surprises. Mr Yuang is a mysterious man who charming as a is, has many secrets to hide. Not to be outdone, Riley has many secrets of his own, making it difficult at first to pick any side, be it as Rosie or as the reader.

Throughout the book, I was completely kept on my toes. Although by the time I was done, I was convinced that Lara Morgan is a fan of Murphy's Law. Anything that could go wrong, just had to go wrong, so that was a bit much for me. I like happy books but sadly they don't build up as much tension. So I do have to concede, this is what builds conflict and that is why I couldn't stop reading. I had to know how they all would work through these obstacles to reach their goals.

I feel like I should say more but I've already jumped right into the next book in the trilogy, so I don't want to accidentally spill any spoilers. All I can say is, do try to pick up this book if you can. It might be difficult to find for those not living in Australia but hunting it down is well worth the extra effort!

This review is also available on dudettereads.com.

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