SIX WEEKS TO LIVE, by Catherine McKenzie

Jennifer Barnes has six weeks to live–that part of this new book from Catherine McKenzie is given away in the title–but is it because it’s one of those things that just happens and we need to shake our fists at fate, or has someone close to her decided that they would be better off without her around?

McKenzie has written another terrific family drama-mystery-psychological thriller that will keep some readers guessing the outcome until the very end. What the author does very well in SIX WEEKS TO LIVE (as she does in all of her books) is gather the broken pieces and parts that come from a life of family and friendships and turn them into a well-plotted story that leaves the reader invested in the characters and the outcome–and allows most to see a bit of themselves in at least one of those characters.

SIX WEEKS TO LIVE is told in alternating voices as Jennifer and her three daughters give their perspectives on what happens over the course of Jennifer’s final six weeks. The excellent writing and clear chapter titles helped me stay on track with whose voice I was hearing, and even without the heads-up at the beginning of each chapter, the distinct personalities of the Barnes women shine through and a reader won’t doubt whose version of the story they’re reading.

With its short chapters and constant surprises, SIX WEEKS TO LIVE is a book that is hard to put down. I spent a lot of time saying “just one more chapter” to myself as I breezed through the book on some nights when I should have gone to sleep early. The title releases at the beginning of May, so I suggest you pre-order it and give it to the mystery-loving mom on your shopping list for Mother’s Day. I can guarantee that I’ll be doing that.

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

Past Tense, by Lee Child

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I’ve been a fan of Jack Reacher for years. My parents introduced me to him about when book three came out, and I devoured the books in the series as quickly as Lee Child could write them–as did Mom and Dad. I soon introduced my oldest son to Jack … my son was a high school student who wanted to be a US Marine (and has since become one), and he was immediately enthralled. How many authors can have that impact on teens, parents, and grandparents?!

Then Jack and I lost touch for a while, though I thought of him fondly, and probably more often than one should think about a fictional character. When I saw NetGalley was offering up a copy of Lee Child’s soon-to-be-released book, I had to ask for a copy, and I was rewarded with an ebook of PAST TENSE.

If you read Lee Child’s books, you know what to expect. Jack Reacher is wandering through a town, and something keeps him there. The story lines are built on the details surrounding whatever it is that forces his stay in the town in which he finds himself, and Reacher is always Awesome (with a capital A). PAST TENSE follows the formula, and in this instance, Reacher is investigating something is pretty personal: his father’s past. Of course it’s not as simple as hitting the public library, sitting at a computer, going on Ancestry.com, and finding out that everything is exactly as it seems. Nope. This is Jack Reacher, so there are mysteries. And secrets. And fist fights. And there’s another part of the story in which a couple of nice Canadian twenty-somethings are being kept captive in a motel for nefarious purposes. What there *isn’t* is Jack Reacher ending up in bed with miscellaneous female character; that surprised me, but it was actually a relief.

All in all, PAST TENSE is exactly what one expects from of a Lee Child/Jack Reacher book. Reacher is Reacher through and through. The mysteries surrounding his dad and the Canadian captives are intriguing. The action scenes are written really well, and although the slower paced moments made me roll my eyes a bit, I knew there would be some mayhem with just a turn of the page. PAST TENSE isn’t my favorite of the Jack Reacher books, but it does its job and the last half of the book ended up being as entertaining as I had hoped.

My thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a copy of the ebook in exchange for my honest review.