Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Review: A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell (audio)



Title: A Simple Favor 
Author: Darcey Bell 
Narrator: Andi Arndt, Xe Sands, Matthew Waterson 
Published: March 2017, HarperAudio 
Length: 8 hours 55 minutes 
Source: Library


Summary:
She’s your best friend.
She knows all your secrets.
That’s why she’s so dangerous.
A single mother's life is turned upside down when her best friend vanishes in this chilling debut thriller in the vein of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train.

It starts with a simple favor—an ordinary kindness mothers do for one another. When her best friend, Emily, asks Stephanie to pick up her son Nicky after school, she happily says yes. Nicky and her son, Miles, are classmates and best friends, and the five-year-olds love being together—just like she and Emily. A widow and stay-at-home mommy blogger living in woodsy suburban Connecticut, Stephanie was lonely until she met Emily, a sophisticated PR executive whose job in Manhattan demands so much of her time.

But Emily doesn’t come back. She doesn’t answer calls or return texts. Stephanie knows something is terribly wrong—Emily would never leave Nicky, no matter what the police say. Terrified, she reaches out to her blog readers for help. She also reaches out to Emily’s husband, the handsome, reticent Sean, offering emotional support. It’s the least she can do for her best friend. Then, she and Sean receive shocking news. Emily is dead. The nightmare of her disappearance is over.

Or is it? Because soon, Stephanie will begin to see that nothing—not friendship, love, or even an ordinary favor—is as simple as it seems.

A SIMPLE FAVOR is a remarkable tale of psychological suspense—a clever and twisting free-fall of a ride filled with betrayals and reversals, twists and turns, secrets and revelations, love and loyalty, murder and revenge. Darcey Bell masterfully ratchets up the tension in a taut, unsettling, and completely absorbing story that holds you in its grip until the final page.



My thoughts: Sometimes you pick up a book and you aren't quite sure what to think of it...even after sitting on it for a while. That is how I feel about this one - what the heck did I just read? 

Domestic thrillers seem to be picking up steam and I would certainly classify this book as just that. It's intense for sure, it's full of unreliable characters and boy oh boy do these characters have secrets. I think that's what kept me going - I needed to find out what was going on and where it would all end up! I have to admit, I was hooked.  

The story is told from three points of view - Stephanie, Emily and Sean. We start off hearing from Stephanie, both from her and through her blog. Then we hear from Emily and Sean, but believe me when I say - nothing is as it seems. Each of these characters have more secrets than you can possibly imagine. 

I will say that the book starts off a little slow - while I found the use of the blog to tell parts of the story interesting, at times its quite cloying and annoying. Though, I I did think it was quite interesting how the blog posts Stephanie writes were very different than reality...hmmm! But, once it gets into the real life of the characters - then the story picks up. Fair warning though...these characters really have no redeeming qualities...these are the kinds of characters you love to hate! But I think that's what makes this book all the more addictive...you want to see them get what's coming to them. And trust me, you definitely won't see how this all plays out!

All in all, this was a rather uniquely enjoyable thriller that kept me engaged. I would definitely check out what comes next from Darcey Bell, especially if she wrote another book in this genre! 


Audio thoughts: Listening to this book was quite a treat. I am a big fan of Xe Sands, but the other two narrators were new to me. That being said, I thought they all did a great job with this audio production. I really enjoyed it and will certainly be looking to see what else they have narrated. 

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Monday, November 20, 2017

Review: Little Secrets by Anna Snoekstra



Title: Little Secrets 
Author: Anna Snoekstra 
Published: October 2017, MIRA 
Format: ARC E-copy, 336 pages 
Source: Netgalley 

Summary:
What happens when ambition trumps the truth?

A town reeling in the wake of tragedy

An arsonist is on the loose in Colmstock, Australia, most recently burning down the town's courthouse and killing a young boy who was trapped inside..

An aspiring journalist desperate for a story

The clock is ticking for Rose Blakey. With nothing but rejections from newspapers piling up, her job pulling beers for cops at the local tavern isn't nearly enough to cover rent. Rose needs a story-a big one.

Little dolls full of secrets

In the weeks after the courthouse fire, precise porcelain replicas of Colmstock's daughters begin turning up on doorsteps, terrifying parents and testing the limits of the town's already fractured police force.

Rose may have finally found her story. But as her articles gain traction and the boundaries of her investigation blur, Colmstock is seized by a seething paranoia. Soon, no one is safe from suspicion. And when Rose's attention turns to the mysterious stranger living in the rooms behind the tavern, neighbor turns on neighbor and the darkest side of self-preservation is revealed.



My thoughts: Last year, I read Anna Snoekstra's debut novel Only Daughter, which I liked and have been looking forward to seeing what she wrote next. So when I saw that her sophomore novel was available on Netgalley, I jumped at the opportunity to read it. 

This is a smart, small-town crime thriller, that focuses on what happens when people act without thought to the consequences. It isn't really fast-paced at all, it has more of a slow-burning aspect to it that will consume you as you read it, desperate to figure out how all the pieces come together. 

What I really enjoyed was the sense of paranoia that develops as the story progresses. The suspense ratchets up and you end up not knowing who is trustworthy. The characters, while not very likeable, are compelling and they get under your skin - you just need to know what is really going on and why.

This atmospheric mystery was full of suspense, yet has a dark underlying tone to it. It a small-town filled with secrets and kept me guessing right up to the very end. I look forward to seeing what comes next from this author.
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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Review: Winter Solstice by Elin Hildebrand (audio)


Title: Winter Solstice
Author: Elin Hilderbrand
Series: Winter, #4
Narrator: Erin Bennett
Published: October 2017, Hachette Audio
Length: 8 hours 41 minutes
Source: Library

Summary:
Raise one last glass with the Quinn Family at the Winter Street Inn.

It's been too long since the entire Quinn family has been able to celebrate the holidays under the same roof, but that's about to change. With Bart back safe and sound from Afghanistan, the Quinns are preparing for a holiday more joyous than any they've experienced in years. And Bart's safe return isn't the family's only good news: Kevin is enjoying married life with Isabelle; Patrick is getting back on his feet after paying his debt to society; Ava thinks she's finally found the love of her life; and Kelly is thrilled to see his family reunited at last. But it just wouldn't be a Quinn family gathering if things went smoothly. A celebration of everything we love--and some of the things we endure--about the holidays, WINTER SOLSTICE is Elin Hilderbrand at her festive best.


My thoughts: This is the fourth and final book in Elin Hilderbrand's Winter series and I am so bummed! I absolutely fell in love with the Quinn family and loved being able to visit Nantucket these past four years during the winter. 

Before I go any further...I will say that to fully appreciate this series, I think you really should read these books in order. The books are quite short - all less than 300 pages - and they are rather quick reads. The character development builds from the first book, with each one adding on a little more, and that really is the heart of this series, and this last one really does tie everything up, for good or bad - all loose ends are wrapped up as we bid the Quinn family one last goodbye. But of course, that's just my opinion.

So, here we are, the fourth book - a bonus book in what was supposed to originally be a trilogy - of an outstanding series...a series about what can only be called a dysfunctional family. Don't get me wrong - I loved the Quinn family...but they were dysfunctional. But that's what made them so endearing because they weren't this picture-perfect family. They had issues - all of them! And in this latest book, we get one last chance to see what they are up to. Most of them are, as usual, in some sort of limbo - about to make a big decision that will affect the rest of their life. But that's not to say the book isn't without it's usual drama - because there is plenty of that, too.

There are also a few cameo's throughout the book of some minor characters who were part of story lines in earlier books. I liked this...I liked seeing them one last time, having them pop in again as a final goodbye. But the best cameo by far was Fast Eddie and his family. If you've read The Rumor, one of Elin's summer books than you know all about him...and if you haven't - you really should (it came out in 2015). I loved seeing him in this book and I believe this was the first time Elin has done a cross-over like that with her characters.

This book has all the feels...it will make you laugh and smile and it will most likely also have you shedding a few tears. It is a fitting ending to a great series and while I am sad to see it end, I am happy to report that Elin Hilderbrand will be writing another series...YAY!!! I absolutely love her books - I have read everything she has written to date and have met her numerous times. She is genuine and charming and her books are the perfect balance of fun with a little substance. 


Audio thoughts: Erin Bennett really does a great job narrating this book. I had listened to the previous book and really enjoyed that narration, so I decided to listen to this one as well. Erin gives each character their own unique voice, her pacing is good and she uses just the right amount of emotion in her voice as needed. 



Books in this series: 
  1. Winter Street
  2. Winter Stroll
  3. Winter Storms 
  4. Winter Solstice

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Friday, November 17, 2017

Review: The Watcher by Ross Armstrong





Title: The Watcher 
Author: Ross Armstrong
Published: April 2017, MIRA Books
Format: Hardcover, 370 pages
Source: Publisher


Summary:  
She’s watching you, but who’s watching her?
 
Lily Gullick lives with her husband Aiden in a new-build flat opposite an estate which has been marked for demolition. A keen birdwatcher, she can’t help spying on her neighbours.

Until one day Lily sees something suspicious through her binoculars and soon her elderly neighbour Jean is found dead. Lily, intrigued by the social divide in her local area as it becomes increasingly gentrified, knows that she has to act. But her interference is not going unnoticed, and as she starts to get close to the truth, her own life comes under threat.

But can Lily really trust everything she sees?



My thoughts: I love when I get unsolicited books, especially ones that are from debut authors...you just never know what to expect. Luckily, this one ended up being such a crazy, twisted ride with one interesting, compelling narrator that just begged you to keep reading to see what was going on with her!

It's no surprise that I love a really good psychological thriller and this one is just that. I will say I was a little weary of the whole bird-watching thing, but that just adds to a crazy dimension to the story. It's told in journal-like format from the perspective of Lily and she is a bit out there - to the point where you start to wonder if you are dealing with an unreliable narrator - luckily for me, I absolutely cannot get enough of these types of books, so this totally appealed to me. 

I loved that I had no idea where this book was going. I was on edge the entire time, trying to put the pieces together, trying to guess what Lily really saw through her binoculars while she was birdwatching one day. She's convinced a woman was murdered and her mission to find out the truth borders on obsessive. At the same time, the twists and turns that occur in the book are dark and creepy and will keep you frantically flipping the pages until you reach the conclusion.

I enjoyed this atmospheric, haunting novel and will definitely be keeping an eye out for what comes next from Ross Armstrong. 


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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Review: Odd Child Out by Gilly Macmillan

Title: Odd Child Out
Author: Gilly Macmillan
Series: Jim Clemo, #2
Published: October 2017, William Morrow Paperbacks
Format: ARC Paperback, 432 pages
Source: Publisher

How well do you know the people you love…?

Best friends Noah Sandler and Abdi Mahad have always been inseparable.  But when Noah is found floating unconscious in Bristol's Feeder Canal, Abdi can't--or won't--tell anyone what happened.

Just back from a mandatory leave following his last case, Detective Jim Clemo is now assigned to look into this unfortunate accident.  But tragedy strikes and what looked like the simple case of a prank gone wrong soon ignites into a public battle.  Noah is British.  Abdi is a Somali refugee.   And social tensions have been rising rapidly in Bristol.  Against this background of fear and fury two families fight for their sons and for the truth.  Neither of them know how far they will have to go, what demons they will have to face, what pain they will have to suffer.

Because the truth hurts.

My thoughts: This is Gilly Macmillan's third book and the second book in her DI Jim Clemo series. It was one of the books that was high on my list of priorities at BookExpo last Spring...Gilly Macmillan is definitely an auto-read for me!

I loved this book - I loved the set-up and how it drew me in right from the start. It is a slow-burning suspense and the use of multiple narrators, each chapter alternating from narrator to narrator, just helps to ratchet up the tension ever so slightly. I felt that each time something was about to be revealed, each time we were on the cusp of fully having something being completely developed - there would be a switch of narrator and it would leave you hanging until you got back to that narrator again. It was like mini-cliffhangers almost throughout. But at the same time, all these threads are being woven together to develop a full picture of what really happened. It really was a brilliant way to tell this complex, yet heartwrenching story.

And that brings me to the characters - they are absolutely what made this story. I have never felt more attached to the characters in a book as I did in this story. DI Jim Clemo was already a favorite from Gilly's earlier book, What She Knew, so I was excited to see him again. This is his first case back from that book, and what a case to come back to! Then there are the two boys, Noah and Abdi. I had such a sweet spot for both of these boys, for different reasons and loved the way Gilly made each of them so strong, yet so vulnerable. This book is all about relationships, and that is so evident in how Abdi's mother and sister, Maryam and Sofia are portrayed. I loved the chapters that were narrated by Sofia - such a strong young woman she was, yet so conflicted by all that was going on around her. All these characters were so richly and realistically drawn, yet full of flaws. 

This book is so much more than a straightforward mystery. It touches on some heavy topics, including race and immigration, yet it also looks at family and what you consider your "family" to be. Secrets abound in this book and as it typical in must suspense books, this is definitely a case of being more than what first meets the eye. This book will keep you engaged from the very first page and have you begging for more as the pieces start to slowly come together to all make sense. It truly is a brilliantly written, memorable book.


Books in this series:
  1. What She Knew
  2. Odd Child Out 

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Review: Until I Met Her by Natalie Barelli (audio)

Title: Until I Met Her
Author: Natalie Barelli
Series: Emma Fern, #1
Narrator: Kate Rudd
Published: July 2017, Brilliance Audio / Thomas & Mercer
Length: 8 hours 42 minutes / 304 pages
Source: Audio - Personal copy via Audible / Print - ARC E-copy via Netgalley

Beatrice Johnson Greene, a bestselling crime writer, has an unusual favor to ask. When a chance encounter brings Emma Fern into her life, she thinks she’s found just the person for the job. Soon Beatrice will wish they’d never met.

For Emma, desperate to please, it’s an offer she can’t refuse. All she has to do is lend her name to Beatrice’s next novel, her first in a new genre. But when the book becomes a huge triumph, Emma finds herself the toast of the literary world. From nobody to somebody without writing a word.

It’s her first taste of success, and now Emma wants more. This is her masterpiece, after all. It says so on the cover.

Only Beatrice knows the truth. And surely there’s a solution to that.

My thoughts: I think when you read as many psychological suspense novels as I do, you tend to find that they somehow have the same feel to them in some way or another. Yet, this one, this debut novel from Natalie Barelli, totally breaks that mold. It is unique, witty and grabs your attention from the very beginning.

This is the tale of a friendship...until it isn't. It's about how far you are willing to go to protect something that shouldn't even be yours in the first place. I loved the craziness of Emma. But what I loved the most is the way everything played out. You aren't quite sure just what is going on...who is really manipulating who here. There are some really twisted, crazy characters here, not at all likeable, but compelling to say the least. They get under your skin and you just have to keep reading to find out what is going to happen next.

This is the type of book where you are not sure where it is going to go. It's very captivating and takes on some rather intriguing moral and ethical dilemmas. An addictive read, for sure, and I cannot wait to start the next one in this series, which I hope is just as addictive and crazy!

Audio thoughts: I thought Kate Rudd did a great job with this audio production. She was really able to bring these characters to life and use just the right amount of tension and emotion in her voice as needed. 


Books in this series:
  1. Until I Met Her
  2. After He Killed Me
 
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Monday, November 13, 2017

Review: Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner (audio)

Title: Persons Unknown
Author: Susie Steiner
Series: DS Manon, #2
Narrator: Juanita McMahon
Published: July 2017, Random House Audio / Random House
Length: 11 hours 46 minutes / 368 pages
Source: Audio - Personal copy via Audio / Print - ARC Paperback via Publisher

In this brilliant crime novel from the author of Missing, Presumed, a detective investigates her most personal case yet: a high-profile murder in which her own family falls under suspicion.
 
As dusk falls, a young man staggers through a park, far from home, bleeding from a stab wound. He dies where he falls, cradled by a stranger, a woman's name on his lips in his last seconds of life.

Detective Manon Bradshaw handles only cold cases. Five months pregnant, in pursuit of a work-life balance rather than romantic love, she's focused on being a good mother to her two children: her adopted 12-year-old son, Fly Dent, and the new baby. 

But the man died just yards from the police station where she works, so Manon can't help taking an interest. And as she sidles in on the briefing she learns that the victim, a banker from London worth millions, is more closely linked to her than she could have imagined. When the case begins to circle in on Manon's home and her family, she finds herself pitted against the colleagues she once held dear: Davy Walker and Harriet Harper. 

Can Manon separate what she knows about the people she loves from the suspicion hanging over them? Can she investigate the evidence just as she would with any other case? Persons Unknown shows acclaimed author Susie Steiner writing her most intricate, suspenseful novel yet.

My thoughts: This is the second book in Susie Steiner's DS Manon series and I just love this series. I had stumbled onto the first book in the series and was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved it, so I was quite eager for the next one to come out. While I had picked up the galley of this book at BookExpo, I had enjoyed the narration of the first book so much, I decided to listen to this one as well and am so glad I did.

I just love DS Manon Bradshaw...she's quite the contradiction at times. She's tough and inconsiderate and pushy, but then she's also loving and feels all the guilt about being a single, working mother. She's a deeply flawed character and this makes her all the more relatable. Now that she finds herself pregnant, her guilt seems that much more magnified and though she's supposed to be working cold cases to keep her work life a bit more quiet, when the murder of her sister's ex happens, that all goes out the window. Life has just got really complicated...and about to get even more so as the main suspect is none other than her adopted son.

I love that there are multiple narrators in this book. We have Manon; DS Davy, who is working on the murder and was part of Manon's team from the first book; a shop clerk named Birdie and a young woman named Angel who Birdie ends up helping. At first, I was a bit thrown off by the parts told by Birdie and Angel, but I have to say, I became just as consumed by their story lines as I was with the rest of the book. In a way, I found it to add a bit of suspense, as I found myself constantly wondering how this all tied together.

This is such a complex novel, yet it brings about such a level of sympathy among characters - it's so unique in that way. I would almost venture to say that this crime fiction novel leans more to a character-driven plot than an action one. It's tightly woven and highly engaging, and one of my favorite series and I cannot wait for the next book!


Audio thoughts: I was thrilled to see that Juanita McMahon was narrating this book. I thought she had done a great job with the first book and so I jumped at the opportunity to listen to the second book. I felt that she was pretty consistent with the voices in this book and gave each character their own unique voice and personality. Her pacing and tone were spot on and I really hope she continues to narrate this series for as long as it goes on.


Books in this series:
  1. Missing, Presumed
  2. Persons Unknown 

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Friday, November 10, 2017

Review: Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon (audio)

Title: Flight of Dreams
Author: Ariel Lawhon
Narrator: John Lee
Published: February 2016, Random House Audio / Doubleday
Length: 12 hours 45 minutes / 336 pages
Source: Audio - Personal copy via Audible / Print - ARC E-copy via Netgalley
 
On the evening of May 3rd, 1937, ninety-seven people board the Hindenburg for its final, doomed flight to Lakehurst, New Jersey. Among them are a frightened stewardess who is not what she seems; the steadfast navigator determined to win her heart; a naive cabin boy eager to earn a permanent spot on the world’s largest airship; an impetuous journalist who has been blacklisted in her native Germany; and an enigmatic American businessman with a score to settle. Over the course of three hazy, champagne-soaked days their lies, fears, agendas, and hopes for the future are revealed.

Flight of Dreams is a fiercely intimate portrait of the real people on board the last flight of the Hindenburg. Behind them is the gathering storm in Europe and before them is looming disaster. But for the moment they float over the Atlantic, unaware of the inexorable, tragic fate that awaits them.

Brilliantly exploring one of the most enduring mysteries of the twentieth century, Flight of Dreams is that rare novel with spellbinding plotting that keeps you guessing till the last page and breathtaking emotional intensity that stays with you long after.

My thoughts: This is the second book I've read by Ariel Lawhon and I really enjoyed it. I find that her ability to weave fact and fiction into an intelligent and engaging tale is truly remarkable. 

I have to say that I didn't really know much about the Hindenburg before picking up this book...and so I was completely enlightened by what really happened. I know that this is considered historical fiction and that Ariel has taken some liberties here and there, but I also know that she has based her story on fact. She really does her best to stay true to actual events whenever she can and the characters, from what I understand, are all actual people who were on board that fateful journey. 

Knowing this, you would think that this would be a boring, straight-forward stale tale, and yet it is anything but. I found myself immersed in the tale and found that the characters, who again were all based on real life people, really came alive in this book. I found their stories to be so interesting - what their roles where and why they were on this airship. 

What I love most about this type of book is that is makes me want to know more...not that this book is lacking in any way, but I want to delve deeper into the history of the Hinderburg - I want to pick up more books about it, see what else has been written about it, both fiction and nonfiction. As I mentioned, I didn't know much about it and now I have a thirst to know more. That's why I love reading historical fiction - I love when a topic spurs me to want to know more about a particular subject and Ariel Lawhon has done just that!


Audio thoughts:
This was a great book to listen to and John Lee was the perfect narrator for it. I found his voice to be calm and steady throughout and he gave each character their own unique voice. I enjoyed listening to him and to this audio book.
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Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Review: Three Days and a Life by Pierre Lemaitre

Title: Three Days and a Life
Author: Pierre Lemaitre
Published: November 2017, MacLehose Press/Quercus
Format: ARC Paperback, 208 pages
Source: Publisher
 
In 1999, in the small provincial town of Beauval, France, twelve-year-old Antoine Courtin accidentally kills a young neighbor boy in the woods near his home. Panicked, he conceals the body and to his relief--and ongoing shame--he is never suspected of any connection to the child's disappearance. 

But the boy's death continues to haunt him, shaping his life in unseen ways. More than a decade later, Antoine is living in Paris, now a young doctor with a fiancee and a promising future. On a rare trip home to the town he hates and fears, Antoine thoughtlessly sleeps with a beautiful young woman from his past. She shows up pregnant at his doorstep in Paris a few months later, insisting that they marry, but Antoine refuses. 

Meanwhile, the newly discovered body of Antoine's childhood victim means that the case has been reopened, and all of his old fears rush back. Then the young woman's father threatens Antoine with a paternity test--which would almost certainly match the DNA found on the dead child's body. Will Antoine finally be forced to confront his crime? And what is he prepared to do to keep his secrets buried in the past?

My thoughts: This is my second Pierre Lemaitre book and I have to say, I was once again blown away by the quality of his writing. While the two books of his that I have now read are quite different, I do have to say I am definitely a fan of his works and will certainly be going back to read the rest of his books while I wait to see what comes next!

This book, as compared to the previous book I had read of his, Blood Wedding - which I absolutely loved! - is, in my mind, quite different as it's more of a character study than a psychological thriller. That's not to say that it's not as compelling, but it just has a bit of a different feel. It's still dark, but not quite driven by the crime as much as I feel Blood Wedding is. In a nutshell, Three Days is a very chilling account of what is really a very unfortunate event in the life of a child that is then compounded again and again. 

I think what kept me engaged in this story is that the suspense is not in your face but rather it builds ever so slowly. Most of the story takes place over the course of three days, right after the first unfortunate event...when Antoine is haunted by what he has done, but is not sure what he should do now. We are privy to Antoine's every thought and action...should he turn himself in, should he run away...we know all his plans and fears. And as all this is going on, you find yourself constantly in flux as to how you feel about this character - who after all is a child himself, but one who has committed the worst sin. You find yourself alternating between sympathy for him and then wanting him to turn himself in...that's what I found to be so crazy! How truly remarkable this writer is to make me feel that way.

This book is so unlike anything I've read before. It's so not cut and dry. It's not black and white. There are shades of gray throughout...you will feel sympathy for Antoine, you will rage against him. You will feel many things for him, but most importantly, this book will make you think! And that is what I love...I love a book that makes me think. This is not a twisty, fast-paced crime thriller by any means, but rather an intense, character-driven tale about how guilt over one senseless act can impact the rest of your life. 

Two different books by this author have really made quite an impression on me and now I cannot wait to read more by him. I really need to get my hands on his Camille trilogy - have you read them yet? And I hope to hear that he has another book in the works soon...as I am definitely a fan!!!

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Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Review: The Missing by C.L. Taylor

Title: The Missing
Author: C.L. Taylor
Published: November 2017, William Morrow Paperbacks
Format: ARC Paperback, 496 pages
Source: Publisher

A harrowing psychological thriller about a missing teenage boy whose mother must expose the secrets within their own family if she wants to find her son—perfect for fans of Reconstructing Amelia.

You love your family. They make you feel safe. You trust them. Or do you…?

When fifteen-year-old Billy Wilkinson goes missing in the middle of the night, his mother, Claire Wilkinson, blames herself. She’s not the only one. There isn’t a single member of Billy’s family that doesn’t feel guilty. But the Wilkinsons are so used to keeping secrets from one another that it isn’t until six months later, after an appeal for information goes horribly wrong, that the truth begins to surface.

Claire is sure of two things—that Billy is still alive and that her friends and family had nothing to do with his disappearance.

A mother’s instinct is never wrong. Or is it…?

Combining an unreliable narrator and fast-paced storytelling, The Missing is a chilling novel of psychological suspense that will thoroughly captivate and obsess readers.

My thoughts: This is the first book I've read by C.L. Taylor and I can definitely tell you - it will not be the last! I was captivated from the first page and despite the fact that this book is quite the chunkster, coming in at almost 500 pages, I flew through it...it has you frantically flipping the pages, desperate to get to the bottom of what really happened.

I think what I loved most about this book is that it constantly kept me on my toes. I felt as  though there was always something new being uncovered that would cause me to change the way I was thinking about what really happened to young Billy Wilkinson and that made the book all the more engaging. I didn't know who I could trust and I loved that there were so many secrets that just kept coming out. This book is just chock full of them!

The characters in this book are so vivid and real - they are all flawed and deeply affected by what has happened to Billy and are struggling in their own ways. Their pain and grief is palpable. Claire, Billy's mother, and the main narrator of the story, is at times unreliable and this makes you question her, especially when she starts having amnesiac episodes. They are quite frightening, but is it trauma that is causing it or just the stress of her son being missing? 

I thought I had figured things out a few times, only to be completely gobsmacked when it was finally revealed what had actually happened. I would never in a million years guessed that ending...and I loved that! That to me is why I love and continue to read these types of books - they keep me thinking all the way through...they challenge me and keep me on my toes. And now I definitely have to pick up more of C.L. Taylor's books, especially if they are anything like this one!

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Monday, November 06, 2017

Review: Little Deaths by Emma Flint (audio)

Title: Little Deaths
Author: Emma Flint
Narrator: Lauren Fortgang, Graham Halstead
Published: January 2017, Hachette Audio
Length: 10 hours 17 minutes
Source: Library

Inspired by a true story, Little Deaths, like celebrated novels by Sarah Waters and Megan Abbott, is compelling literary crime fiction that explores the capacity for good and evil in us all.

It's 1965 in a tight-knit working-class neighborhood in Queens, New York, and Ruth Malone - a single mother who works long hours as a cocktail waitress - wakes to discover her two small children, Frankie Jr. and Cindy, have gone missing. Later that day, Cindy's body is found in a derelict lot a half mile from her home, strangled. Ten days later, Frankie Jr.'s decomposing body is found. Immediately, all fingers point to Ruth.

As police investigate the murders, the detritus of Ruth's life is exposed. Seen through the eyes of the cops, the empty bourbon bottles and provocative clothing which litter her apartment, the piles of letters from countless men and Ruth's little black book of phone numbers, make her a drunk, a loose woman - and therefore a bad mother. The lead detective, a strict Catholic who believes women belong in the home, leaps to the obvious conclusion: facing divorce and a custody battle, Malone took her children's lives.

Pete Wonicke is a rookie tabloid reporter who finagles an assignment to cover the murders. Determined to make his name in the paper, he begins digging into the case. Pete's interest in the story develops into an obsession with Ruth, and he comes to believe there's something more to the woman whom prosecutors, the press, and the public have painted as a promiscuous femme fatale. Did Ruth Malone violently kill her own children, is she a victim of circumstance - or is there something more sinister at play?

My thoughts: I had been hearing a lot about this book, so as soon as I saw it was available at my library, I requested it. I was intrigued by the fact that it was based on a real story - I haven't read a lot of true crime and was interested to see how much of this would be fact versus fiction.

I was pulled into this one right from the start. I found Ruth to be quite an interesting character...her children are first found to be missing and then discovered to have been killed. Yet, throughout it all, she really shows quite a lack of emotion and grief. Is that just the way she is in general or because of her profession or is there more to her than meets the eye? I just couldn't get a good read on her and it made me all the more intrigued by her. 

And then there's the other narrator, the young reporter, Pete. He is definitely struggling with this case as he wants this to be the case that finally helps make a name for himself, yet he also feels there's more to this case than meets the eye. He's not quite sure how to play this one. On top of that...he's developed a little bit of an obsession with Ruth. Is it just that he wants to see justice served or that he's developed a little crush?

The way this story is told, I found myself wavering about Ruth's guilt. Is she guilty or not...I kept going back and forth and with each new discovery, I found myself constantly flipping, much like the reporter was, as he diligently kept digging into this case to write his story. He, unlike the cops investigating, really felt that there was more going on than everyone first believed. 

I don't typically read true crime, but I have to say I enjoyed this one. It's not your typical psychological thriller, but rather an interesting look at a case and the people involved. It also takes a good look at social and public judgment, something that is only too prevalent in today's society. I found this to be thought-provoking as well as haunting...and I will definitely be keeping an eye out for what comes next from Emma Flint!


Audio thoughts: Both these narrators are new to me and they really did a good job with this story. I thought their pacing and tone were spot on and I look forward to seeing what else they narrate. 


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Friday, November 03, 2017

Review: Sleep Tight by Caroline Mitchell (audio)

Title: Sleep Tight
Author: Caroline Mitchell
Series: Detective Ruby Preston, #2
Narrator: Emma Newman
Published: July 2017, Audible Studios
Length: 10 hours 10 minutes
Source: Personal copy via Audible

Close your eyes … Just pray you don’t wake up.

A killer stalks the streets of East London. All over the area, murdered young women are discovered, their bodies posed into disturbing recreations of fairytale princesses.

Detective Ruby Preston is determined to hunt down the murderer who is using the women to realise his dark fantasies. But when body parts are found at the home of her lover, Nathan Crosby, Ruby is torn between her job and her heart.

Convinced that he is being framed, Ruby must catch the killer before Nathan becomes the number one suspect. But as more victims are found, it becomes harder to prove his innocence.

As Ruby starts to close in on the twisted individual, can she stop him before he strikes again? And how well does she really know the man she loves?

My thoughts: This is the second book in Caroline Mitchell's Detective Ruby Preston series and I am really enjoying it, despite the fact that it is quite a dark, twisted series! I will say before getting into my thoughts on this particular installment, I highly recommend reading the first book, Death Note (which was originally called Love You to Death) to get the full character development and some back story...but that's just my opinion!

I loved the twist on the fairy tales that is the basis of the crimes that Ruby and her team are focusing on here. We all know that those Disney fairy tales we know so well are really based on much darker, violent tales and Caroline Mitchell uses those originals here to base her killer on. It's gruesome, yet somehow it pulls you in and you are as desperate as Ruby is to figure it all out before another girl is murdered.

I love the way there are always so many threads going on at once in these books. In addition to the murders, Nathan Crosby, Ruby's boyfriend, is being framed and she is put in the precarious position of needing to not only solve the case but prove that he is innocent. But what makes things even trickier is that no one knows about her relationship with Nathan...especially since he isn't always on the right side of the law. 

This book is jam-packed with action and twists and turns. Once again we do find out who the killer is pretty early on and the cat and mouse game he plays with the cops is intense. It will keep you on the edge of your seat as you try to figure out why he is doing all this and how it will come to a conclusion. This is another stellar installment in this series and I am looking forward to the next one!


Audio thoughts: Emma Newman did a great job with this audio - she was consistent with the voices from the previous book...something I really look at as I am a big listener of series on audio. I thought that her pacing was good and her voice had just the right amount of tension and suspense when needed. I'm hoping that she will continue to narrate this series for as long as it continues - I'm a big fan of continuity with narrators!


Books in this series:
  1. Death Note (Formerly called Love You to Death)
  2. Sleep Tight
  3. Murder Game 

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Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Month in Review: October 2017





Goodbye October ... Hello November!!! I can't believe it's November already ... 2 months left in 2017! This year is flying by!!! It was another good month of reading and I did a pretty good job of balancing it between review books and library books/audio books I've been wanting to read. Now I just just to add in some of my own physical books into the mix and I'll be good to go!


Here are my reading stats for October!
  • Books read: 19
 
Books I read:

  1. The Blind -- A.F. Brady
  2. Last Christmas in Paris -- Hazel Gaynor & Heather Webb
  3. Friend Request -- Laura Marshall (audio book)
  4. Snowblind -- Ragnar Jonasson
  5. The Secrets She Keeps --Michael Robotham (audio book)
  6. Murder on the Orient Express -- Agatha Christie
  7. Without Merit -- Colleen Hoover (e-book)
  8. The Last Mrs. Parrish -- Liv Constantine
  9. My Absolute Darling -- Gabriel Tallent
  10. Never Let You Go -- Chevy Stevens (audio book)
  11. Winter Solstice -- Elin Hilderbrand (audio book)
  12. The Stolen Girls -- Patricia Gibney (e-book)
  13. Little Fires Everywhere -- Celeste Ng
  14. The Stolen Marriage -- Diane Chamberlain (audio book)
  15. The Dark Lake -- Sarah Bailey
  16. Little Secrets -- Anna Snoekstra (e-book)
  17. The Lost Child -- Patricia Gibney (e-book)
  18. Dead Souls -- Angela Marsons (audio book)
  19. Even If It Kills Her -- Kate White
  
Favorite Books of October:
 
  • Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor & Heather Webb
  • The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine

2017 Reading Challenge Update:
 
  • You Read How Many Books? Reading Challenge -- Books Read: 172/150 - Completed
  • Library Reading Challenge -- Books Borrowed: 19/24
  • #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks Reading Challenge -- Books Read: 9/15
  • New Authors Reading Challenge -- New Authors Read: 72/45 - Completed
  • E-books Reading Challenge -- E-books Read: 32/25 - Completed
  • Audio Books Reading Challenge -- Books Listened to: 73/50 - Completed

*Kathyrn over at The Book Date has created a Month in Review meme for those who put together these monthly posts. From now on, I'll be linking my post up each month...Thanks Kathryn for putting this meme together!!!


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