Always With a Book

Monday, March 19, 2018

Review: The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

Title: The Broken Girls
Author: Simone St. James
Published: March 2018, Berkley Books
Format: ARC Paperback, 336 pages
Source: Publisher

A breakout suspense novel from the award-winning author of The Haunting of Maddy Clare.
Vermont, 1950. There's a place for the girls whom no one wants--the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It's called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it's located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their budding friendship blossoming--until one of them mysteriously disappears. . . .

Vermont, 2014. As much as she's tried, journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop revisiting the events surrounding her older sister's death. Twenty years ago, her body was found lying in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And though her sister's boyfriend was tried and convicted of murder, Fiona can't shake the suspicion that something was never right about the case.

When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during the renovations will link the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past--and a voice that won't be silenced. . . .

My thoughts: I first became aware of Simone St. James when I read her previous book, Lost Among the Living, which I really enjoyed. So of course, I knew I had to get my hands on her latest book...and I was so happy to have won a copy from a publisher giveaway!

While it's true that I am not a huge fan of pure ghost stories, I do like them when they are blended with a such a compelling tale as this one was. And what a story this one turned out to be - I mean it is chock full of secrets, there is this amazing thread running through that brings the past to the present, and the ghost story has just enough of a role throughout to give a creep factor without overplaying it's hand - it enhances and adds to the tension without becoming too much.

I am a big fan of dual timelines, but never have I seen it used so effectual as I have here. It was so easy to get caught up in the story lines going on here - both the present day and the past and I was equally engaged in both! I just couldn't get enough of both Fiona's story and the girls at the boarding school, and I loved that each time we were back in the past, we got a different girl's perspective, so we really got to know all four of the girls. 

This is a book that will totally consume you once you start reading it. I was able to think of nothing else once I delved into these pages and even after, I really haven't stopped thinking about it. These characters were so vividly drawn and even the setting was so vivid and atmospheric that it puts a chill in your bones as you frantically flip through the pages to find out what is going on. It is just haunting enough to keep you reading long past your bedtime until all the pieces have come together. I highly recommend this and look forward to reading more of Simone St. James's books...she is certainly an author I enjoy!


Friday, March 16, 2018

Review: Lie in Wait by Eric Rickstad (audio)

Title: Lie in Wait
Author: Eric Rickstad
Series: Canaan Crime series, #1
Narrator: Amy Landon
Published: September 2015, Harper Audio
Length: 11 hours 16 minutes
Source: Library

From the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Silent Girls comes another unforgettable thriller set in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, featuring Detective Sonja Test
Even in a quiet Vermont town, unspeakable acts of the past can destroy the peace of the present.
In the remote, pastoral hamlet of Canaan, Vermont, a high-profile legal case shatters the town's sense of peace and community. Anger simmers. Fear and prejudice awaken. Old friends turn on each other. Violence threatens.

So when a young teenage girl is savagely murdered while babysitting at the house of the lead attorney in the case, Detective Sonja Test believes the girl's murder and the divisive case must be linked.

However, as the young detective digs deeper into her first murder case, she discovers sordid acts hidden for decades, and learns that behind the town's idyllic fa├žade of pristine snow lurks a capacity in some for great darkness and the betrayal of innocents. And Sonja Test, a mother of two, will do anything to protect the innocent.

My thoughts: I finally got around to picking up the first book in Eric Rickstad's Crime in Canaan series. Can I just tell you how much I am loving this series! Fair warning, though - these books are dark and disturbing. They are creepy, psychological thrillers that will stay with you long after you finish reading that last page...and I love them!!!

While I suggest that you read books two and three in order in this series, this book really can be read at any time, as it more or less gives us an introduction to Detective Sonja Test. That's not to say that if you are new to Eric Rickstad's books you shouldn't start with this one - if I had just come across his books, I definitely would have started here - but being that wasn't the case, I was ok coming back to this one. It was actually nice reading this after knowing a little about her, in fact.

This book focuses on Detective Sonja Test's first big case - a murder case, no less. And there are many characters, which are all well-developed. But this isn't just about a young girl that's been murdered. It also takes a look at morality and there are lots of secrets to be dug into. This book has many twists and turns and really kept me on edge and engaged throughout.

Once again, the author really plays to his strength's in this book in creating such a strong sense of place. He uses the cold weather and snow to add to the story as well as the rural community. This is a strong feature throughout this series - this sense of place and atmosphere - it really adds a nice element to the story.  

I am definitely a fan of Eric Rickstad and am waiting patiently for him to write the next book in his series...I hope it comes out soon!

Audio thoughts: I enjoyed the narration of this book. I've listened to Amy Landon before and have enjoyed her work. The pacing and intonation was spot on and her voices were unique for each character. 

I've listened to the three books in this series, and while I typically like series to be narrated by the same narrator, in this case, I understand the reason for having different ones. There have been different focuses in each book and so having a different narrator has made sense.

Books in this series: 
  1. Lie in Wait
  2. The Silent Girls
  3. The Names of Dead Girls

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Review: Never Let You Go by Chevy Stevens (audio)

Yesterday, Never Let You by Chevy Stevens, was released in paperback - it was first released in hardcover last year. I am a big fan of Chevy's books and tend to listen to them on audio - in fact I had listened to this one a few months back but just hadn't gotten around to writing my review, so here it is. Let me know if you have read this one or any of her other books. 

Title: Never Let You Go
Author: Chevy Stevens
Narrator: Rachel Fulginiti, Caitlin Davies
Published: Audio - March 2017, Blackstone Audio; Paperback - March 2018, St. Martin's Griffin
Length: Audio - 11 hours 56 minutes / Paperback - 416 pages
Source: Audio - Library / Paperback via Publisher

A stunning and thrilling novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Still Missing.Eleven years ago, Lindsey Nash escaped into the night with her young daughter and left an abusive relationship. Her ex-husband, Andrew, was sent to jail and Lindsey started over with a new life.

Now, Lindsey is older and wiser, with her own business and a teenage daughter who needs her more than ever. When Andrew is finally released from prison, Lindsey believes she has cut all ties and left the past behind her. But she gets the sense that someone is watching her, tracking her every move. Her new boyfriend is threatened. Her home is invaded, and her daughter is shadowed. Lindsey is convinced it’s her ex-husband, even though he claims he’s a different person. But has he really changed? Is the one who wants her dead closer to home than she thought?

With Never Let You Go, Chevy Stevens delivers a chilling, twisting thriller that crackles with suspense as it explores the darkest heart of love and obsession.

My thoughts: Chevy Stevens is one of my must-read authors...whenever she has a book coming out, I add it to the list of books I know I am going to be reading at some point. I just love her books and this one was no exception. They are equal blends of emotional and chilling, suspenseful and at times disturbing reads, and keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.

What I love most about Chevy Stevens' books is that she usually takes a social topic to address in her books - this one being about domestic abuse. We find out right away that Lindsay has escaped from her abusive husband, Andrew, and has created a new life for her and her daughter, Sophie. It's ten years later, Andrew has been to prison for vehicular manslaughter and has just been released, and Lindsay finds herself once again being it coincidence?

I loved the way this story is told. Little by little, we get the whole story of what happened in Lindsay's marriage to make her escape with her daughter in the middle of the night. These parts are told in flashback, as most the of story is told in the present day. We see how charming Lindsay's ex-husband, Andrew was initially and then how he eventually exerted control over her until it was too much and she knew she had to get out or she would never survive. 

The story alternates between Lindsay's point of view, who is trying to keep her and her daughter safe, and Sophie's, who is now a teenager and curious about the father she really doesn't know or remember. She wants to believe her father wouldn't hurt her and is really too young to understand anything about obsession or betrayal. This is really where the tension starts to build ever so slowly because you have Lindsay knowing what her husband is capable of doing, whereas Sophie has this burning desire to find the good in her dad. 

If you think you know where this story is going to go...think again. This story is full of surprises, and takes you on quite a ride. It's chock-full of tension, twists and is at times quite chilling. It's an intense read and a very realistic portrayal of domestic abuse with believable characters that just jump off the pages.

I am always in awe with the way Chevy Stevens tells a story...she gets my heart rate up and I am left speechless. This one kept me hooked from start to finish...and that definitely caught me by surprise!

Audio thoughts: I love listening to Chevy Stevens' books - they engage you right from the start and keep you hooked all the way through. The narrators in this book, Rachel Fulginiti and Caitlin Davies were great - I liked that there were different narrators for the mom and daughter. Sometimes it's nice to have different narrators for the different parts - it makes the story really come alive. 

And let me tell you - listening to Chevy Stevens' books on audio is in fact like when you are reading those books with very short this case it becomes an instance of  "I'll just listen for a few more minutes" because you just cannot pull yourself away. I find myself flying through her books in the course of a day because I simply cannot walk away - I just become so absorbed in them and just need to keep listening!


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Review: Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

Title: Sometimes I Lie
Author: Alice Feeney
Published: March 2018, Flatiron Books
Format: ARC Paperback, 258 pages
Source: Publisher

My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:
1. I’m in a coma.
2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore.
3. Sometimes I lie.

Amber wakes up in a hospital. She can’t move. She can’t speak. She can’t open her eyes. She can hear everyone around her, but they have no idea. Amber doesn’t remember what happened, but she has a suspicion her husband had something to do with it. Alternating between her paralyzed present, the week before her accident, and a series of childhood diaries from twenty years ago, this brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something really a lie if you believe it's the truth?

My thoughts: I picked this book up at BookExpo last Spring and had it sitting on my shelf just taunting me...I couldn't wait to pick it up and read it...but me being me, I like to read books closer to their publication date, so I waited and waited. But the wait was so worth it...I devoured this book in one afternoon - it was such a wickedly fun read and so full of crazy twists!

This is another one of those books where the less you know about it, the better so that nothing is spoiled, so I am going to keep this review a bit vague. I will say that this is one book that I am definitely going to be re-reading because holy cow...I finished reading this and was like WHAT!?!? This book will have you questioning everything as you come to the end...and I actually had to reread the last few pages a few times to make sure what I read was correct. And I'm still in shock...this book has totally solidified my love in twisty, crazy psychological thrillers all over again - and this is a debut novel!!!  I'm still in awe on this fact!

The book alternates between the past and the present and contains some fantastically complex, intriguing characters, some of which are unreliable. This all comes together to just pull you in further and further into this wonderfully twisted, brilliantly crafted story that will totally blow your mind once you get to the end. It's an addictive read, that at times is dark and claustrophobic, and you will be hard-pressed to put it down once you start reading it. And the short chapters really ensure that you just keep reading..."oh just one more chapter"...until you find yourself at the end!

I hope I have enticed you enough to pick this one up. It's so worth the read. It's fast-paced  and will totally have you questioning everything you have just read once you get to the end. This is seriously one deliciously fun, binge-worthy read and I cannot wait to see what comes next from Alice Feeney - she is definitely going on my must-read list, for sure!!!


Monday, March 12, 2018

Review: Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh

Title: Let Me Lie
Author: Clare Mackintosh
Published: March 2018, Berkley
Format: ARC E-copy, 384 pages
Source: Netgalley via Publisher

In the newest psychological thriller from the New York Times bestselling author of I Let You Go and I See You, Clare Mackintosh brings us a gripping story about how those who love us never really leave us… 

Two years ago, Tom and Caroline Johnson committed suicide, one seemingly unable to live without the other. Their adult daughter, Anna, is struggling to come to terms with her parents’ deaths, unable to comprehend why they chose to end their lives. Now with a young baby herself, she feels her mother’s presence keenly and is determined to find out what really happened to her parents. But as Anna digs up the past, someone is trying to stop her. She soon learns that nothing is as it seemed.

My thoughts: This is the third book I've read by Clare Mackintosh and I just love her books. She manages to write such emotional, suspenseful books with the best twists - and she gets me every time! Just when I think I have things figured out, when I think I know where she is going to go - BAM, she totally throws such a good twist in the mix that I am gob-smacked and left completely stunned! And I totally love it!!!

I will say, this book starts off a little slower than her previous books, but not in a bad way. It pulls you in, but just takes a little while to really take off. I was still intrigued and never felt like I wanted to abandon the book...I just wondered where it was going to go and never once did I think it would go where it ended up. 

Anna is grieving over the loss of her parents. A new mother herself, she is still dealing with all the emotions that come with that, and finding it very hard to believe her parents would willingly end their lives. She believed they had committed suicide until she receives a note that has her thinking maybe that wasn't quite the case. She brings her suspicions to the police, meeting retired Detective Murray Mackenzie.  While technically not an active Detective any more, he agrees to help Anna.

I loved that while the majority of this book focused on the mystery surrounding Anna's parents, we do get to know a bit about Detective Murray and his wife, Sarah. I don't think this in any way detracted from the main story, in fact by knowing about Murray's home life, you realize why he is the way he is. And this isn't a bad thing at all. He just might be my favorite character in this whole book...and I would so love to see him again in another story!

This is a hard review to write without giving too much away. It's definitely best to go into this book as blind as possible for you to enjoy it fully without any spoilers. But know this...Clare Mackintosh is certainly no one-trick pony. Each of her books are as different and unique as the titles. This one is driven by character relationships, family dynamics and the emotional state of the characters involved. I loved it and cannot wait to see what comes next from her. She is definitely an auto-read for me as I know that I will be entertained and surprised with her books!


Friday, March 09, 2018

Review: Bone Music by Christopher Rice (audio)

Title: Bone Music
Author: Christopher Rice
Series: Burning Girl, #1
Narrator: Lauren Ezzo
Published: March 2018, Brilliance Audio
Length: 14 hours 14 minutes
Source: Publisher

There’s more than one way to stoke the flames of revenge… 
Charlotte Rowe spent the first seven years of her life in the hands of the only parents she knew—a pair of serial killers who murdered her mother and tried to shape Charlotte in their own twisted image. If only the nightmare had ended when she was rescued. Instead, her real father exploited her tabloid-ready story for fame and profit—until Charlotte finally broke free from her ghoulish past and fled. Just when she thinks she has buried her personal hell forever, Charlotte is swept into a frightening new ordeal. Secretly dosed with an experimental drug, she’s endowed with a shocking new power—but pursued by a treacherous corporation desperate to control her.

Except from now on, if anybody is going to control Charlotte, it’s going to be Charlotte herself. She’s determined to use the extraordinary ability she now possesses to fight the kind of evil that shattered her life—by drawing a serial killer out from the shadows to face the righteous fury of a victim turned avenger.

My thoughts: This is the first book I've read by Christopher Rice and while I don't tend to typically read science fiction, this one leans more towards a thriller than straight science fiction. Plus I could deal with the medicine/technology part of the science fiction aspect it delved into, however scary the real-world applications this might have if it ever came to fruition.

This book hooked me from the very beginning and never really let up until the end. I was completely captivated all the way through, which is interesting considering that there were what seemed like almost three differently plot lines going on. You have Charlotte trying to keep her privacy and evade a deranged and twister stalker, a serial killer going after young women, and a drug company creating and administering an experimental drug without federal approval. Of course, as a reader, you know that somehow these will all connect in the end, but at first, it's a bit disjointed and your mind is working overtime trying to figure out how and when. patient - it will be get there and it will probably not get there the way you think!

One of the most appealing parts of this book are the characters. Charlotte - Charley - Rowe, in particular - is fascinating. We are given parts of her backstory, which is utterly tragic, and so you understand why she is the way she is. She's strong and smart, but she's also anxious and paranoid. She is a force to be reckoned with, but also not afraid to ask for help when she needs it. The other characters we meet - Marty, Luke, Kayla, Dylan, Cole, Dale and Lonnie, just to name a few - are fleshed out and vivid. We get just enough information about them to form a good picture in our heads.

This book is fast-paced, intense and keeps you guessing as to what's going to happen next. There is a lot going on at all times, and because it's the first in a new series, there is a lot of setting up to do. I am definitely looking forward to the next book in this series and seeing where Christopher Rice takes this series as a whole. I just hope we don't have too long a wait! 

Audio thoughts: This was a great book to listen to on audio and Lauren Ezzo did a fantastic job with the narration. She was able to infuse just the right amount of tension and suspense into her voice as needed and kept me on my toes throughout the book - especially the last few chapters, which were pretty intense. I hope she continues to narrate the rest of this series!


Thursday, March 08, 2018

Review: Mrs. by Caitlin Macy (audio)

Title: Mrs.
Author: Caitlin Macy
Narrator: Vanessa Johansson
Published: February 2018, Hachette Audio
Length: 10 hours 8 minutes
Source: Publisher

In the well-heeled milieu of New York's Upper East Side, coolly elegant Philippa Lye is the woman no one can stop talking about. Despite a shadowy past, Philippa has somehow married the scion of the last family-held investment bank in the city. And although her wealth and connections put her in the center of this world, she refuses to conform to its gossip-fueled culture.

Then, into her precariously balanced life, come two women: Gwen Hogan, a childhood acquaintance who uncovers an explosive secret about Philippa's single days, and Minnie Curtis, a newcomer whose vast fortune and frank revelations about a penurious upbringing in Spanish Harlem put everyone on alert.

When Gwen's husband, a heavy-drinking, obsessive prosecutor in the US Attorney's Office, stumbles over the connection between Philippa's past and the criminal investigation he is pursuing at all costs, this insulated society is forced to confront the rot at its core and the price it has paid to survive into the new millennium.

Macy has written a modern-day HOUSE OF MIRTH, not for the age of railroads and steel but of hedge funds and overnight fortunes, of scorched-earth successes and abiding moral failures. A brilliant portrait of love, betrayal, fate and chance, MRS marries razor-sharp social critique and page-turning propulsion into an unforgettable tapestry of the way we live in the 21st Century.

My thoughts: Not having ever read House of Mirth, which this book is supposed to be a modern-day version of, I really went into this book with little expectations...and I have to say...I enjoyed it. And let me tell you...every once in a while, it's nice to do just that - go into a book expecting nothing and seeing where it takes you.

This is most definitely a character-driven story - and I was in heaven! I am definitely a people watcher...there is nothing I love more than just observing people, and this book gives you plenty of opportunities to do just that. Yes, there is some plot, but it really doesn't take off until the second half of the book. The majority of this book is just character study after character study of these deliciously vivid characters that Caitlin Macy has presented us with, characters that I might add are quite well-to-do. 

There is plenty of drama in this book - most of it happening at the drop-off and pick-up at the preschool. But there is one mom, a new mom to the school, who is shrouded in mystery - Philippa Lye - and all the other moms want to befriend her. More so because she keeps to herself and they know nothing about her than because they really want a new friend - I'm telling you catty housewives to the extreme, here! This is what is so addicting about this book - it just pulls you in because you want to know more about these women. But it's a little more than just this fluff...there is something deeper going on - there is a connection between one of the mom's and Philippa. 

The story stays in the present, goes back to college days and links it all together. It can be a bit confusing at first, figuring out who is the subject at times, but if you persevere, it is quite worth it in the end. And when the secrets are finally exposed, it definitely goes where you are not expecting it to go.

Audio thoughts: This was a great book to listen to - though it is a bit confusing in the beginning. Vanessa Johansson does a great job with the voices and really brings the story to life. Her pacing and intonation were spot on and I enjoyed the way she told the story. 

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