This year has been so incredibly busy in so many wonderful ways. I’ve made several big life changes, including leaving Idaho where I was a professor of 9 years, moving my entire family across the United States for a new job in Michigan, and focusing more on the things I enjoy and love in life. One of the things I really wanted to bring back into my life was reading for fun and pleasure. I read constantly for work, but most of what I read is academic writing. From the time I was a Kindergartner, I’ve been a voracious reader of fiction. I made a commitment to read 55 books this year, and I’m close to meeting that goal.
I am in awe of Goodreads reviewers and book bloggers who are able to read over 100 books a year or more, and I would love to get to that amount in the coming years. Reading is certainly a skill you refine over time, and I have hope I can make time for more books next year.
I’ve made several friends from afar in reading communities at Goodreads. I’ve followed many book review blogs, enjoying how other bloggers responded to the books I’ve also reviewed and read. I participated in November’s National Novel Writing Month, and while I wasn’t able to get to 50,000 words written, I was able to write over 30,000 words of a suspense novel that month! I have no idea if I will pursue publishing it in the coming year (I need some distance from it after writing so much of it!), but it was a fun exercise in using new parts of my brain.
This year has been a great year, and I am thankful for the interactions I’ve had with my fellow writers and reviewers this year!
“In practice, my mind is fragile. Anything out of my carefully constructed routine could tip me over the edge, and I don’t quite trust myself with this kind of change. I don’t know if I ever will.”
The end of the semester is always crazy for professors and students alike, and this semester is no different for me. So when a book keeps me up at night that means I must really, really like it, which was the case for Shalini Boland’s The Secret Mother. I read it in less than 24 hours because I could not put it down! This is one of those books that will have you reading on your lunch break and during any down time you have. You might just have to take a few extra “bathroom” and “coffee” breaks at work because this book is just that good.
The book starts with a bang. Tessa, the lead character, finds a little boy in her flat after coming home from a long day of work. She has no idea who he is, or who brought him to her place. She calls her husband, Scott, from whom she is separated, looking for support and advice. We learn that Tessa has had a tumultuous past, one that involves the loss of not only one child but two. Tessa lost her job and sanity after their passing, and ended up being found at a local park pushing another woman’s infant in a carriage. The boy’s appearance opens up old wounds, bringing all the emotions of the past to the surface once again. Is she losing her mind? Did she kidnap the child to replace the two children she has already lost?
Word gets out to the media about the little boy and Tessa’s past, and almost immediately the media descends on Tessa’s flat, hounding her with camera flashes and questions about the little boy every time she goes outside. The police also suspect Tessa of foul play, making things worse for her. The only thing keeping Tessa from losing her sanity is her boss, Ben, who is handsome, Italian, successful, and single. Ben offers to help Tessa unravel the mystery of who the little boy is, and how he ended up in her house. Tessa reluctantly accepts his offer, hoping that she’ll still have a job after the mystery is solved.
Tessa believes that the little boy’s appearance is somehow related to the two tragedies (I won’t spoil them here) that took her twins’ lives. She begs her soon to be ex-husband Scott to help her figure out what is going on, but he pushes her away, chalking up everything to Tessa’s past mental instability. Could Scott be hiding something? Is his new love interest, a much younger woman named Carly, responsible for the little boy’s kidnapping?
Tessa’s neighbor, who was nosy when Tessa and Scott lived together, also gets involved. She’s a rogue journalist, and wants a good story to sell in order to pay off debt. She offers to help Tessa solve the mystery of the little boy, but is she really being a good friend, or does she have ulterior motives and plans in mind? Did she, for instance, orchestrate the kidnapping to make money off of Tessa’s tragedy?
I don’t do spoilers in my blog, so you’ll have to read to find out what happens to Tessa in The Secret Mother!
“Plenty of friendships, I am sure, are based on lies.”
Sabine Durrant’s Lie to Me is a seductive, subversive psychological thriller that simmers with tension and heat. The book is narrated from the perspective of Paul, a writer who has couch surfed his way to oblivion, relying upon the generosity of his wealthier friends for a roof over his head since he graduated from college many, many years ago. His first book was a one hit wonder, leaving him downtrodden and broke. His days are spent drinking and skirt-chasing, putting pen to paper if and when he feels inspired.
Paul feels that is luck is finally turning when he attends a dinner party with old college friends. There he meets the lovely, lithe Alice, who has been widowed and left to raise her teenager children. The dinner party is hosted by Andrew and his wife Tina, who also have children the same age. Alice’s subtle charm and natural beauty intrigues Paul. Paul’s well-practiced charm does not work on Alice, which makes him even more interested in her. Eventually, Paul worms his way into her life, though her wealth and reserved nature makes him wonder if she is really into someone as shifty as himself.
The relationship is tested when Paul invites himself along on Alice, Tina, and Andrew’s annual vacation to Greece. Paul has been invited in the past, though he has been left out for years due to his financial situation. The group has been going to Greece for many years, and, Alice, in particular, has been drawn back to the place after a teenage girl went missing during one of their vacations. Alice has connected with the missing girl’s parents, who they usually see when they are back in Greece. Paul was on the trip when the girl went missing, leaving the reader to wonder if there’s a ulterior reason Paul is allowed to join the group.
The couples share a striking chateau on the beach for a month, where tension builds and relationships are tested. Alice and Andrew seem particularly tight, causing Paul to question everything he knows about his so-called college “friends” and his budding relationship with Alice. Paul is slighted during the entire vacation, made to feel less than the wealthier Alice, Paul, and Tina. He is constantly trying to find a way to prove his worth to the group, which he does through little white lies. He lies about how he arrived in Greece, choosing to take a cheaper flight and a bus service to get to the chateau. He lies about the success of his recently finished manuscript, leading his friends to believe that it has been green-lighted for publication. It seems as though Paul is a compulsive liar, though he does tell mostly small lies to hide his poverty.
Paul’s character is called into question when a woman goes missing once again during their time in Greece. Paul claims he had nothing to do with her disappearance. Was he involved in both crimes, or is he completely innocent?
I absolutely devoured the lush, detailed descriptions of the setting and people in this novel. Durrant is so talented at creating vivid imagery and characters. I read this book in the middle of a snow storm in Michigan, and could almost feel the steaming heat of a Grecian beach in the summertime. That’s how good she is. This was my first time reading a book by her, and I can’t wait to read more from her. Here is a great example of the thick description she provides:
“The house was sun-baked; the walls trembled in the heat. A black swimsuit hung, bat-like, from a limb of the olive tree…”
This was a really fantastic read, and I went through it very quickly during a busy work week. Thank you to the author, Sabine Durrant, the publisher, Mulholland Books UK, and NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of Lie with Me! The book will be out in January 2018.
“Watching is like nature photography: You don’t interfere with the wildlife.”
“It’s not as though I’ll see his hands rinsed in blood. He won’t knock on my door and confess. But I can watch.”
What if you saw a crime only to be told it didn’t happen? Could you accept others’ renditions of the event? Would you be able to let your memory fade, or would you pursue your version of the truth no matter how dangerous or deadly?
I lucked out with this book BIG time. I read the description of the book, and requested it because it intrigued me. I didn’t know any of the backstory or the hype about the book. If my predictions are correct, A. J. Finn’s The Woman in the Window is going to be the 2018’s next Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train or Ruth Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10, both of which I read and loved (the latter of which I am still smitten with).
I fell in love with Dr. Anna Fox, the female lead in the book, from the first page. Dr. Fox is witty as heck, cunning, and manages to drop all my favorite book and film noir references in smart, subtle ways. Dr. Fox, a former child psychologist, is suffering from agoraphobia. In order to make the days pass by quickly and withstand her debilitating phobia, Dr. Fox downs copious amounts uppers, downers, and alcohol. She has also developed a habit of spying on her neighbors with a fancy DSLR camera, and enjoys investigating them online.
One night Dr. Fox witnesses something unbelievable through her window. She calls 911, only to find herself locked away in a mental hospital for temporary insanity. She gets out, and is told that what she saw wasn’t real, that it was all in her head. Dr. Fox doesn’t believe the police, her neighbors, or her doctor, and continues to search for the truth…which could lead to her demise if she gets too close to the truth.
Despite the setting being confined to Dr. Fox’s mansion, the prose is dripping with lush details of the four story cornerstone. Here’s one of the finer descriptions of Dr. Fox’s house:
“The house towers above me, the black mouth of the front door, the front steps like a tongue unspooled; the cornices form even brows above the window.”
The prose is luscious, and the pacing of the book helps build tension and suspense. Yes, this book is reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 Rear Window, which should be watched before reading and/or after this book. There are also numerous references to other classic thrillers, which Dr. Fox consumes as part of her daily routine.
When I first read this book back in August (2017), the book had an average of 4.25 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. That’s an incredible rating for a new book, especially from a little-known author. I dug a little deeper on the book, and saw that it is going to be made into a film by Fox. What a fantastic accomplishment for a first time author.
The book will be published on January 2nd, 2018, which is extra special since it is also my birthdate!
Thank you to Edelweiss, A.J. Finn, and HarperCollins for the advanced reader copy of The Woman in the Window, and I hope this book becomes the bestseller it deserves to be!
This book is definitely a cerebral thriller that will keep you on your toes! I’m happy to be part of the blog tour for Helen Phifer’s Dying Breath, which was released today! Happy release day, Helen!
Helen Phifer’s Dying Breath follows seasoned detective Lucy Harwin, who is on the case to solve what appears to be a spree of possibly related killings. The killings are horrific and, at first, seemingly unrelated. The initial targets are women who are displayed in a lewd manner to be found by members of the public. The murderer (or murderers? I don’t like giving away spoilers in my blog!) then targets family friend’s of a detective in Lucy’s unit, leaving the detectives to document a horrific crime scene involving a child.
The story is told from multiple points of view: from the killer’s vantage point, Lucy’s point of view, and from Toby’s, a new detective in Lucy’s department. Sometimes I struggle to follow a book when there are multiple points in view at play, especially if I feel a certain closeness to a character and don’t want that character’s point of view to end. However, all of the point of views were well fleshed out, allowing me to develop an interest in all of the characters no matter how repugnant they were.
I am a fan of mystery books with strong female leads, which was certainly the case for Dying Breath. Detective Lucy Harwin is a single mother going through a gnarly divorce, yet is still able to keep things together enough to solve the case of a serial murderer. She’s smart, savvy, and knows how to keep her employees working at a fast pace. She has her weaknesses like any human being, but for the most part they don’t make an appearance in the workplace. She treats every victim as if they were a loved one, and works tirelessly to uncover the individual or individuals responsible for their untimely deaths.
I also really enjoyed how the book took the reader in different directions. Just when you assume you know where the book is going and who is responsible for the murders, a wrench is thrown your way!
Thank you to the author, Helen Phifer, the publisher, Bookouture, and NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of Dying Breath.
Here’s more information on the book, and Helen Phifer!
Just a few months after a terrifying case that nearly took her life, Detective Lucy Harwin is back with her squad in the coastal town of Brooklyn Bay – and this time, she’s faced with a case more horrifying than anything she’s encountered.
Along with her partner, Detective Mattie Jackson, Lucy is investigating what appears to be a vicious but isolated murder; a woman found bludgeoned to death on a lonely patch of wasteland.
But when a second victim is discovered strangled in an alleyway, then a young family shot in their own home, Lucy and the team must face the unthinkable reality – a killer is walking the streets of their quiet coastal town.
While Lucy and the team try to find the link between these seemingly unconnected murders, they uncover a disturbing truth – these murders are replicating those carried out by infamous serial killers.
Lucy must get to the killer before he strikes again. But he’s got his sights on her, and is getting ever closer… Can she save herself, before she becomes the final piece in his twisted game?
Helen Phifer lives in a small town called Barrow-in-Furness with her husband and five children.
Helen has always loved writing and reading. Her love of horror films and novels is legendary. Helen adores reading books which make the hair on the back of her neck stand on end. Unable to find enough scary stories to read she decided to write her own.
Helen’s debut novel ‘The Ghost House’ was published by Carina UK in October 2013 and went on to become a best seller along with the rest of the Annie Graham series. The Secrets of the Shadows, The Forgotten Cottage, The Lake House, The Girls in the Woods and The Face Behind the Mask.
The Good Sisters is a standalone horror story which will scare the pants off you or so her lovely readers have told her. It scared Helen when she was writing it so she pretty much agrees with them.
March 2017 saw the release of psychological thriller Dark House (previously called The Lost Children), book 1 in the Detective Inspector Lucy Harwin series. Book 2 – Dying Breath is due for release in Nov 2017.
“And many sailors who have seen Deep Space return hollowed, overwhelmed by the immensity of the cosmos. The totality of human endeavor is nothing when set against the stars.”
“There is no design. The universe isn’t kind or cruel. The universe is vast and indifferent to our desires.”
This semester has been very busy as I’ve been somewhat behind on a couple big writing projects, which all caught up with me this past month! My reading slowed (sad face!), but hopefully after I clear my slate of another writing project I’ll be able to make my Goodreads Challenge of over 50 books.
Tom Sweterlitsch’s The Gone World has been sustaining throughout the past month. It took me about 16 days to finish it, not because it wasn’t a thrilling read but because of my writing. I’m participating in both Academic Writing Month (#AcWriMo) and National Book Writing Month (#NanoWriMo), which has also been keeping me really busy!
This book had absolutely all the things I love jam-packed into one story: space; time travel; a strong female lead; mystery; suspense; and science fiction! I’ve read several new sci-fi suspense novels with similar themes this year, including Dark Matter and Artemis, but I have to say this book really blew those books out of the water for me.
The book follows Shannon Moss, who works for a mysterious agency within the government known as the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). She has been charged with solving a horrific murder involving an agent’s family, one that may make your stomach turn if you aren’t a fan of reading gritty details. We learn that the agent’s murder is linked to an event known as the Terminus. Terminus refers to a date in the future where humanity is brutally killed by an unknown force, which Moss’ unit (NCIS) is racing to understand. Moss’ unit has mastered the ability to travel through time, also known as Deep Time, in order to investigate how the agent is linked to Terminus, and if the unit can potentially stop Terminus from decimating all of humanity.
Every time Moss travels to the future, she experiences alternate futures. As the author explains, “Which wormhole out of that turbulent foam the Grey Dove penetrated was just a matter of chance, each tunnel to a distinct tine of the future multiverse.” Moss travels on her own ship, also known as Grey Dove. She sees that her lover in one future could be her enemy in another. She discovers that some friends remain true friends in every timeline. Moss’ present is set in the late 1990s, but every time she returns she ages due to the time she spent in the future, confusing the few loved ones around her.
This novel can be a bit complex times, but I never struggled to follow it even when I had been away from it for a few days. I was especially impressed with the author’s character development and world building. Yes, some of the book’s premise and mixture of genres may seem a bit far-fetched (and of course it is, because this is sci-fi!), but the author’s attention to detail and the characters’ motivations helps walk the reader through the nuanced story, and makes the reader care about what happens to the characters. The prose is beautifully composed, with luscious descriptions of the environment and characters. Here’s a snippet of one of my favorite quotes from the book:
“Moss remembered her first dreamlike glimpse of sunlight glaring off the hulls of the NSC fleet in space, like a spill of diamonds on black velvet – a sublimity few other people have witnessed.”
Thank you to the author, Tom Sweterlitsch, the publishing company, Penguin Group (USA), and Edelweiss+ for an advanced reader copy of The Gone World. It was such a pleasure to read this exciting, well written novel!
“She is everything Richard desires. Everything I used to be.”
Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen’s The Wife Between Us tells the story of two women who are madly in love the same man, Richard. Richard is attractive, wealthy, charming, and successful. Nellie is young, beautiful, and impressionable. Nellie meets Richard and is immediately swept away by his generosity and charm. Nellie and Richard become engaged, but there’s just one little problem: Vanessa, Richard’s ex-wife.
I should start by noting that the book contains scenes with domestic violence, so if this is a trigger for you, you might want to avoid it.
We hear Vanessa’s side of the story, one that, at times, can be murky and questionable. Vanessa does not want Richard’s new fiance to marry him. Vanessa will see to it that the marriage does not happen no matter the consequences. Is Richard really as bad as Vanessa suggests? Is Vanessa’s memory simply muddled due to her drinking and her mother’s history of mental illness and insanity? Has Richard really committed the crimes Vanessa details? Who can we trust?!
There are several unreliable narrators in this book. Just when you think you can trust the narrators the book takes unexpected, thrilling twists that throw the entire story line for a loop. I am a fan of psychological thrillers that upend everything you thought you knew about characters, and The Wife Between Us is one of those books. Reviewing the second half of this book and its ending will reveal too many juicy spoilers, but you won’t be disappointed by this book if you like plots with surprises.
Thank you to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, Greer Hendricks, Sarah Pekkanen, and NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of The Wife Between Us. You can get your own copy on January 9, 2018!
I’m excited to have Caroline Mitchell’s Murder Game featured as my very first book blog tour! This was a great literary precursor to Halloween, as it was a terrifying, heart-pounding mystery that kept me guessing until the very last page!
A murderer is on the loose in London, holding the city hostage in fear of becoming his next prey. At first the murders appear to be the work of Mason Gatley, a serial killer who is now behind bars for his gruesome killing spree years ago. The recent murders share many similarities, which leads Detective Ruby Preston to question Gatley about his possible involvement with them. Is Mason orchestrating killings from behind bars, or is someone else committing the stomach-turning murders for entirely different reasons? Is Ruby’s involvement with a former criminal coming back to haunt her and her police force?
Murder Game is the third book in the Detective Ruby Preston series. Since this was my first book in the series, I was a little nervous to dive into it. Thankfully I had no trouble immediately jumping into the story because of Caroline Mitchell’s writing. She familiarizes her readers with all the characters within the first few chapters of the book so you aren’t missing any backstories.
I absolutely love authors who create living, breathing characters who are human and have faults. Caroline Mitchell’s detective Ruby Preston is that type of character, one you root for but can also be critical of. I liked that Ruby is strong female lead who is opinionated and smart but also makes mistakes like any human being.
I also appreciated the richly written dialogue and Mitchell’s attention to small, but critical details. Things like how a person moves, how they glance at another person, and their mannerisms made the characters come to life for me, and offered the reader clues as to who may be behind the murders. Mitchell is the master of what writers call “show not tell,” meaning that she shows a character’s personality through their actions and behaviors rather than telling the readers a character’s motivations. The book was a seamless read for me due to Mitchell’s command of the written word, and I will definitely be picking up more books in this series in the coming months!
Finally, I enjoyed the plot and did not see the killer coming until it was revealed to the reader. More seasoned murder mystery readers might pick up on it a bit earlier into the book. Mitchell drops hints here and there in the book, so mystery fans may figure it out before they get to the end of the book. I liked how Mitchell took the readers in many directions, all of which could have lead to the unveiling of the killer. The plot had thrilling twists and turns that kept me guessing with each page.
Thank you so very much to Noelle Holten at Bookouture, NetGalley, and Caroline Mitchell for an advanced copy of the thrilling Murder Game. It was a pleasure reading it!
A serial killer is playing a terrifying game of life or death with his victims. After he captures them, a countdown begins. He marks the time by sending clues to the whereabouts of the women he has taken in three disturbing images: alive, tortured, dead.
In a race against the clock, East London Detective Ruby Preston must play the twisted killer’s terrifying murder game and decipher the clues before more women die…
But this isn’t the first time the police have seen such a sickening crime. The notorious Lonely Hearts Killer, Mason Gatley, was put behind bars ten years ago for murdering six women in exactly the same chilling way. Desperate for more information, Ruby persuades her boyfriend, Nathan Crosby, to use his criminal connections to set up a dangerous meeting. Because to catch this killer, she needs to think like one…
But the closer Ruby grows to the dark and charming Mason Gatley, the more worried her team become. Is Mason really helping her catch the killer? Or is he lining Ruby up to be his next victim?
Fans of Angela Marsons, Rachel Abbott and Peter James will be hooked by this dark and utterly disturbing thriller, packed with twists until the final page.
USA Today Bestselling Thriller Author.
Originally from Ireland, Caroline lives with her family, parrot and two dogs in a pretty village on the coast of Essex. A former police detective, Caroline has worked in CID and specialised in roles dealing with vulnerable victims, high-risk victims of domestic abuse, and serious sexual offences. Published by Bookouture and Thomas & Mercer, she now writes full time and all her books have become number 1 best sellers in their categories.
Her fast-paced DC Jennifer Knight thrillers carry a hint of the supernatural and are weaved from Caroline’s personal experiences in the police and paranormal.
Set in Shoreditch, London, her DS Ruby Preston series is described as “terrifying, addictive serial killer thrillers”.
Caroline also writes psychological thrillers, the most recent, Witness, has been described as “thrilling, tense, exciting, dark and twisted in the best possible way”.
How far would a woman seeking power, prestige, and fortune go to secure a man who would provide all of those things and more? This is the question that Liv Constantine’s The Last Mrs. Parrish initially asks, but as the book progresses, we find appearances are deceiving.
The first half of the book follows the plight of the conniving, self-absorbed Amber, a young woman in her 20s who is running from her sordid past. Seeking money and power, Amber has moved far from her Nebraskan hometown to the high brow community of Bishops Harbor, Connecticut. She’s done investigate research to find a wealthy, attractive man to fulfill her life goals, selecting the wealthy, seemingly successful family of Jackson and Daphne as her prey.
Amber is calculated and cold; she knows exactly how to worm her way into the family without arousing too much suspicion. Or, at least it seems that way. Amber befriends Daphne at the local upscale gym. Having done extensive research on Jackson and Daphne, Amber reveals that her sister passed away of Cystic Fibrosis. Daphne runs a charity for families suffering from Cystic Fibrosis as her sister passed away from it many years ago. Daphne immediately takes a liking to Amber, as she has yet to meet many women who know what it is like to lose a beloved sister to Cystic Fibrosis. This seemed to be a bit of a plot hole to me; isn’t it somewhat odd that Daphne has yet to make good friends with other families who have suffered a loss given she runs a huge charity for Cystic Fibrosis? We later learn that Daphne has ulterior motives for befriending Amber, which resolved this plot hole.
Amber manages to not only become a permanent fixture in Daphne’s life, but also in Jackson’s. Jackson hires Amber as his assistant to his assistant (yes, he’s rich) after Amber tearfully tells Daphne she is being sexually harassed by her boss. Slowly, Amber transforms from a woman lacking fashion sensibilities to a woman who men desire; she changes her hairstyle, her makeup, and clothing to appeal to Jackson. Jackson starts to take note of Amber, and soon they are arranging secretive trips around the world, nights out on the town, and wild evenings in hotels and at Jackson’s other properties. Amber thinks she has secured Jackson’s affections and the future she envisioned, only to find out that she has simply scratched the surface of Jackson and Daphne’s family dynamics and secrets.
If it weren’t for the thrilling twist in this book that happens midway through it, Amber’s story would seem like another Lifetime movie plot. There is certainly no lack of novels involving scorned lovers and cunning mistresses. But this book takes it to another level, illustrating that what we thought about Daphne and Jackson’s marriage is superficial at best. I suppose this should have been a red flag for me as a reader, especially considering we initially learn about Daphne and Jackson through Amber’s jaded eyes.
It’s hard to write this review without revealing some major spoilers. Let’s just say that besides being a cheater, Jackson is not the person he seems to be, nor is Daphne the meek, submissive, and money hungry woman Amber makes her out to be. Once I got through Amber’s narrative (at about the 40% mark of the book), I could not put this book down. The ending was satisfyingly delicious.
Please note that there are scenes of domestic violence in this book, so if that is a trigger for you, you probably should not read this book.
Thank you to the authors, the publisher, HarperFiction, and NetGalley for the opportunity to review the The Last Mrs. Parrish. Note that Liv Constantine is the pen name of the sister writing team, Lynne and Valerie Constantine, who wrote the book over Skype (how neat is that?!). The Last Mrs. Parrish was recently published by HarperFiction on October 17th, and is available at your local bookseller for purchase.