Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Review: Last Exit in New Jersey by C.E. Grundler

Last Exit in New Jersey (Kindle Edition)
by C.E. Grundler
Release Date: October 19, 2010
Size: 615 KB
Language: English
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Source: Review Copy from Author

4 / 5 Stars

Nice young ladies from the Garden State really shouldn't be dumping bodies at sea. Then again, 20 year-old Hazel Moran is anything but your typical Jersey girl. Raised aboard a schooner and riding shotgun beside her father in their old tractor-trailer truck, there's little on the road or water that she can't handle; it's her people skills that need work. But when Hazel and her father become the targets of some unsavory characters hunting for her blue-haired cousin, their stolen tractor-trailer truck and a delivery that never arrived, she knows it's time to heed the lessons learned from her favorite hardboiled paperbacks: playing nice will only end in tears.

It'll take all her ingenuity, not to mention some fishing tackle and high voltage, if Hazel hopes to protect her family and unravel this tangle of greed and betrayal. And anyone who gets too close, no matter their intent, will discover just how vulnerable - or potentially dangerous - shy little Hazel truly is as she sets in motion a twisted plan to uncover the truth, settle some scores, and if possible not wind up dead in the process.

My Thoughts
I have never had a problem reviewing self-published works, but like everyone, have read works that have ranged from the banal to the really good.  I have to say that Last Exit in New Jersey is a great example of how self-publication does not have to be poorly done.  This novel had me hooked right from the beginning and pretty much did not let go until the very end.

Hazel is an amazing character and I loved her.  She is brash, courageous, determined, and deceptively lethal.  I loved her fierce determination to protect her family no matter the cost, and yet, there was a vulnerability to her that I found endearing.  She was like a tornado and whenever she was around, chaos and destruction seemed to follow her everywhere, but it was so much fun to read.  Hazel had no idea whom to trust, and because you are following her story, you had no idea who to trust either, and as the story twisted and turned around the various facts and suppositions, it left you unsure, wondering exactly what was going on.  It wasn't until about halfway through the book that I started getting an idea as to what was really happening and I loved that about this book. 

Basically the story revolved around two main storylines: First of all, you had all of the issues surrounding the disappearance of Hazel's cousin Micah and the attack on Hazel on her boat.  Hazel's concern for her cousin supercedes everything in her life and what has her disobeying everyone around her and creating this constant chaos and destruction; she just doesn't listen to what anyone tells her and constantly gets herself in trouble because of it.  The other question surrounds Hammon and his girlfriend Annabel and how they relate to the story.  Naturally, the two stories are interconnected and you spend the entire novel trying to figure out how.  Trying to decide who is the bad guy and who is the good guy keeps the reader on edge throughout the entire novel.  Ms. Grundler does a fantastic job keeping the reader guessing as to who is the villain, and I spent a large portion of the novel not really knowing who exactly it was, which was a large part of the suspense.   
This story has everything you could want in a thriller;  it has romance, mystery, intrigue, suspense, action, drama, and a lot of dark humour, which I loved.  I can't say the characters were normal, as Hazel was somewhat psychotic, and Hammon was beyond weird, but they grow on you and it's what makes them so much fun to read about.  Furthermore, they are completely believable in their own way.  And Ms. Grundler has a style to her writing that makes you feel a connection to the characters, that allows you to understand them, even if you don't necessarily understand their actions or their drives and desires.  And Hazel is the type of female character, building booby traps, driving during car chases, being skillful with a knife, that I like to see in females, not the squeamish females that we often see in novels who faint when anything goes wrong.  It's nice to see tough, strong female characters who can handle themselves well.

While I truly enjoyed the action in this novel, I felt that maybe there was a little too much and the reader wasn't given enough 'down time' to catch their breath.  I don't think it's always necessary to throw every single type of action in a novel in order to catch a reader's attention.  Ms. Grundler has a deft writing style, which left on its own, can easily catch the reader's attention without having to constantly throw action scenes at the reader.  There is a saying that too much of a good thing is too much.

I really enjoyed this novel and Ms. Grundler had no problem capturing my interest from beginning to end.  There were a lot of twists and turns in this novel, which kept me guessing the true nature of the villain, and some surprises too.  The action scenes were deftly interwoven into the romantic scenes and I truly enjoyed Ms. Grundler's literary voice.  I am looking forward to reading more novels from this author.


  1. Great review, I can't wait to read this one in the new year.