Always With a Book

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Review: The Wife and the Widow by Christian White

Title: The Wife and the Widow
Author: Christian White
Published: January 2020, Minotaur Books
Format: ARC Paperback, 352 pages
Source: Publisher

The second standalone thriller from the award-winning author of The Nowhere Child, Christian White.

Set against the backdrop of an eerie island town in the dead of winter, The Wife and The Widow is an unsettling thriller told from two perspectives: Kate, a widow whose grief is compounded by what she learns about her dead husband’s secret life; and Abby, an island local whose world is turned upside when she’s forced to confront the evidence of her husband’s guilt. But nothing on this island is quite as it seems, and only when these women come together can they discover the whole story about the men in their lives.

Brilliant and beguiling, The Wife and The Widow takes you to a cliff edge and asks the question: how well do we really know the people we love?

My thoughts: This is the first novel I've read by Christian White, however it will certainly not be the last. I was completely captivated by this book, reading it in one day, not being able to put it down. This book is the type of mystery that totally consumes you and you cannot do anything but keep reading until you get to the end to see how it all plays out and I absolutely love books like that!

This book is all about the lengths people will go in order to protect those they love as well as asking how well do we even know them. It's also a book that is probably best to go into as blind as possible in order to fully appreciate this book. I will say that it's brilliantly crafted and will totally hook you right from the start. There are quite a few surprises along the way, some that may completely floor you and that is the beauty of this book.

I loved the way the story was told, alternating between Kate, the widow, and Abby, the wife. You immediately become invested in both their stories and are left wondering just how these stories are connected as the layers are slowly peeled back. I'm always amazed at how authors know just the right moment to make certain revelations.

This is a fast-paced, well written, smart mystery that will keep you engaged and thinking all the way through. I cannot wait to read Christian White's debut novel, The Nowhere Child,  and will definitely be recommending The Wife and the Widow to everyone!


Monday, January 20, 2020

Review: Bitter Falls by Rachel Caine (audio)

Title: Bitter Falls
Author: Rachel Caine
Series: Stillhouse Lake, #4
Narrator: Emily Sutton-Smith, Michael Crouch, Dan John Miller, Lauren Ezzo, Will Roup
Published: January 2020, Brilliance Audio
Length: 11 hours 33 minutes
Source: Publisher

An Amazon Charts, #1 Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling series.

She’s investigating a cold case no one else could—by going places no else would dare.

In spite of a harrowing past still haunting her, Gwen Proctor is trying to move forward. Until a new assignment gives her purpose: the cold-case disappearance of a young man in Tennessee. Three years missing, no clues. Just Ruth Landry, a tortured mother in limbo. Gwen understands what it’s like to worry about your children.

Gwen’s investigation unearths new suspects…and victims. As she follows each sinister lead, the implications of the mystery grow more disturbing. Because the closer Gwen gets, the closer she is to a threat that looms back home.

In a town that’s closed its ranks against Gwen; her partner, Sam; and her kids, there’s no bolder enemy than the Belldene family—paramilitary, criminal, powerful, and vengeful. As personal vendettas collide with Gwen’s investigation, she’s prepared to fight both battles. But is she prepared for the toll it could take on everyone she loves?

My thoughts: The Stillhouse Lake series is by far one of my favorite thriller series to listen to...these books are so intense and thrilling and this latest book, the fourth in the series, is exactly why I love this series. I was a little let down with book three, Wolfhunter River, but I feel that Bitter Falls is back up to par with the first two books that had me falling in love with the series in the first place.

I will just start by saying this...I highly recommend reading this series in order. Yes, this book can stand alone. Rachel Caine does give you just enough backstory on the characters that you understand these characters and why they are in the situation they are in, BUT you miss out on so much character development and ALL THE SPOILERS that it just wouldn't be the same reading experience. (See below for full list of books in the series - and bonus, they are excellent on audio, but I've heard they are super fast reads!)

This latest installment sees Gwen grappling with work as a new private investigator and trying to keep things calm at home as it seems her family is no longer wanted in Stillhouse Lake. Unfortunately the case she ends up working on brings danger to those around her and no one ends up safe. But if you know anything about Gwen Proctor, you know that she is a force to be reckoned with and when it comes to protecting her family, you better watch out.

I love that this book, like all the previous books, is told from multiple points of view. We hear from Gwen, Sam Cade and Gwen's two children, Lanny and Connor. I think this brings such a strong dynamic to the story as we really get to see how they are dealing with everything. Lanny and Connor have been through a lot and things will never be the same for them. Now that they are dealing with the aftermath of's bound to have its effects. I like being in their head and really getting a glimpse of their thoughts.

This book is full of action and suspense. The cult angle was fascinating and kept me guessing as to how that would play out. It's intense and chilling and I loved being back with Gwen Proctor and her family. I love this series and I'm so glad that this latest installment was back up to par with the earlier books. And I'm so happy to see that there will be a fifth book!!! I cannot wait to see what happens next. These book are addicting, gripping thrillers that I cannot recommend enough!

Audio thoughts: I thought the narrators did a great job with this book and I loved that they were the same ones from the previous book. Each was consistent with the voices they gave their character and the pacing was just right. The narrators added just the right amount of tension to their voices as necessary and made this audio book an enjoyable listening experience.

Books in this series:
  1. Stillhouse Lake
  2. Killman Creek
  3. Wolfhunter River
  4. Bitter Falls
  5. Heartbreak Bay - due out March 2021


Thursday, January 16, 2020

Review: One Small Sacrifice by Hilary Davidson

Title: One Small Sacrifice
Author: Hilary Davidson
Series: Shadows of New York, #1
Published: June 2019, Thomas & Mercer
Format: Paperback, 366 pages
Source: Author

An apparent suicide. A mysterious disappearance. Did one man get away with murder—twice?

NYPD detective Sheryn Sterling has had her eye on Alex Traynor ever since his friend Cori fell to her death under suspicious circumstances a year ago. Cori’s death was ruled a suicide, but Sheryn thinks Alex—a wartime photojournalist suffering from PTSD—got away with murder.

When Alex’s fiancĂ©e, Emily, a talented and beloved local doctor, suddenly goes missing, Sheryn suspects that Alex is again at the center of a sticky case. Sheryn dislikes loose ends, and Cori’s death had way too many of them.

But as Sheryn starts pulling at the threads in this web, her whole theory unravels. Everyone involved remembers the night Cori died differently—and the truth about her death could be the key to solving Emily’s disappearance.

My thoughts:  I had the distinct pleasure of meeting and hanging out with Hilary Davidson at Bouchercon this past Fall and it was so lovely getting to spend some time with her. I had read one of her books prior to this point, Blood Always Tells, which I found to be quite a multi-layered, dark, twisted story, and I've been wanting to read more from this author. I was delighted when she reached out after the convention asking if I wanted to read the books in her latest series...of course I said yes!!!

I'm a big fan of police procedurals, that's no big surprise, but I love that Hilary Davidson blends in a touch of psychological suspense so that you are easily hooked. I immediately became captivated with the way this story was told as we are given little teasers all the way through, compelling us to keep reading - this isn't a book you will want to put down as you might be afraid to miss something.

Our main character, NYPD Detective Sheryn Sterling is a very clever character, but she is not without her flaws and I love that. I like a lead character that is real and relatable and that is Sheryn. I was also quite taken with Alex Traynor. I found his past and the way Hilary handled his PTSD to be quite fascinating. I liked that at times, I wasn't quite sure whether I could trust Alex...was he reliable or not? And at times, I felt that way about Sheryn - she really believes Alex had something to do with a murder and can't seem to let it go. Is she so focused on that that it's clouding her judgement? 

This was a great start to a new series and I cannot wait to read the next one. I had my guesses as to where this one was headed and never ended up getting there, but I'm totally fine with that. I'm excited to see what case Detective Sheryn Sterling finds herself involved in next!

Books in this series: 
  1. One Small Sacrifice
  2. Don't Look Down - due out February 11th


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Review: Smokescreen by Iris Johansen

Title: Smokescreen
Author: Iris Johansen
Series: Eve Duncan, #25
Published: July 2019, Grand Central Publishing
Format: Hardcover, 432 pages
Source: Personal copy

In this pulse-pounding thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling author Iris Johansen, forensic sculptor Eve Duncan journeys to Africa to help families torn apart by a violent attack deep in the jungle--but she may be putting herself in more danger than she knows.

A journalist shows up on Eve Duncan's doorstep with a plea for help. Jill Cassidy has just come from a small African village with a heart wrenching story: half the villagers--many of them children--have been killed in a horrific attack by guerilla soldiers, the bodies burned beyond recognition. Now, the families desperately need Eve's help to get closure and begin to heal.

But when Eve arrives in the remote jungle, she begins to suspect that Jill's plea may have been a cover story for a deeper, more sinister plot. Isolated and unsure who she can trust, Eve finds herself stranded in an unstable country where violence threatens to break out again at any moment and with only her own instincts to rely on if she hopes to get home to her family alive . . .

#1 New York Times bestselling author Iris Johansen is back with one of her most exhilarating and dangerous adventures yet in this "riveting" high-stakes thriller (Publishers Weekly).

My thoughts: It's unbelievable to me that this series is still going strong. Iris Johansen's Eve Duncan series is one of my favorite series - one of the first thriller series that I ever started reading. And what captivated me most in that first book I read, which I later came to find out was actually the second in the series, was what Eve did for a living, and that Eve is back in this book - doing what she does best!

I love seeing Eve in action, it's my favorite part of this series and I love that we get to see her work on some reconstructions. Of course, that's not the entire focus of this book - though I do wish we would see more of that as we did in the earlier books. Once Eve is lured to a remote location in Africa to reconstruct the skulls of children who were the victims of an awful terrorist attack, it becomes clear that she was completely manipulated. There's definitely more going on than she was led to believe and while she's not exactly happy about it, she's not going to walk away from it either.

I love Eve's determination to get things done. She's curious and quite clever, sometimes too clever for her own good. I also love the bond between her and her husband Joe. He might seem over-protective of her, but he has reason to be...she has been known to get herself involved with dangerous people before. 

The action in this book is just about nonstop and really keeps you glued to the pages. It's filled with tension and suspense and more than a few twists that will have your heart beating frantically. I like that Iris Johansen isn't afraid to take chances with her books - she set this one in a completely different setting, this time Africa, and used while she made up the town, used a little history to round out her character. I am always amazed at the depths that she gives all her characters, whether they are main characters or secondary. It really makes everyone stand out.

I enjoyed this latest installment and am already counting down the days until the next book comes out, Persuasion...June cannot get here fast enough!

Books in this series:

     1.   The Face of Deception               16.   Taking Eve
     2.   The Killing Game                       17.   Hunting Eve
     3.   The Search                                   18.   Silencing Eve
     4.   Body of Lies                                 19.   Shadow Play                           
     4.5   Dead Aim                                   20.   Hide Away
     5.   Blind Alley                                   21.   Night & Day
     6.   Countdown                                  22.   Mind Game
     7.   Stalemate                                      23.   Shattered Mirror
     8.   Quicksand                                     24.  Dark Tribute
     9.   Blood Game                              25.   Smokescreen
   10.   Eight Days to Live                  26.  The Persuasion - due out June 2020
    11.   Chasing the Night        
   12.   Eve
   13.   Quinn
   14.   Bonnie
   15.   Sleep No More


Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Blog Tour & Review: Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough

Title: Cross Her Heart
Author: Sarah Pinborough
Published: Janaury 2020, William Morrow Paperbacks (Reprint Edition)
Format: Paperback, 368 pages
Source: Publisher via TLC Booktours

"Sarah Pinborough is about to become your new obsession."—Harlan Coben

Lisa is living a lie and everyone is about to find out.

Lisa lives for her daughter Ava, her job and her best friend Marilyn.

But when a handsome client shows an interest in her, Lisa starts daydreaming about sharing her life with him, too. Maybe she’s ready now. Maybe she can trust again. Maybe it's time to let her terrifying secret past go.

But when her daughter rescues a boy from drowning and their pictures are all over the news for everyone to see, Lisa's world explodes.

As she finds everything she has built threatened, and not knowing who she can trust, it's up to Lisa to face her past in order to save what she holds dear.

But someone has been pulling all their strings. And that someone is determined that both Lisa and Ava must suffer.

Because long ago Lisa broke a promise. And some promises aren't meant to be broken.

My thoughts: I became an immediate fan of Sarah Pinborough after reading, and loving, her book, Behind Her Eyes, which had one of the craziest, most amazing endings ever! Since then, I knew I would be reading more of this author because she has this uncanny knack for creating twisty psychological thrillers and she absolutely did it again with this book.

I loved that with this book, she doesn't give you one big crazy reveal like she did in the last one, but rather, she gives smaller ones throughout the book that still manage to shock you. It's this that keeps you flipping those pages because you aren't quite sure what to expect. 

I loved that there were multiple points of view here and everyone, and I mean everyone, had their secrets. It made it so hard to know who to trust here. There is definitely the vibe of the unreliable narrator, which I always love, and I feel that it is used so effectively here. 

The pacing of this novel really keeps you engaged and invested in what is going on. It does start off a little slow as you first get introduced to all the players, but then it takes all and never really slows down. It's divided into three parts and there are those revelations I mentioned above that happen at the end of each part that really hook you and beg you to keep reading to see where these reveals will lead you. 

I cannot wait to read more from this talented author. She has a new book coming out, Dead to Her, next month and I am so excited to read it. And I still need to read all of her backlist - don't you love when you know you have more books of a favorite author to look forward to?

About the author:  Sarah Pinborough is the number one Sunday Times and New York Times bestselling author of the psychological thriller Behind Her Eyes, and more than twenty other novels and novellas, including The Death House and a young adult thriller, 13 Minutes. She has also written for the BBC. She lives in England.

Author links:  Website  | Twitter  | Instagram 

Purchase Links:   HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Be sure to check out all the other stops on the blog tour and follow the tour on Twitter (hashtags:  #TLCBookTours & #crossherheart).


Monday, January 13, 2020

Review: The Perfect Mother by Caroline Mitchell (audio)

Title: The Perfect Mother
Author: Caroline Mitchell
Narrator: Alana Kerr Collins, Christina Traister
Published: January 2020, Brilliance Audio
Length: 10 hours 55 minutes
Source: Publisher

She thought they wanted her baby. But they won’t stop there.
Roz is young, penniless and pregnant. All she wants is to be the perfect mother to her child, but the more she thinks about her own chaotic upbringing, the more certain she is that the best life for her baby is as far away as possible from her hometown in Ireland.

Determined to do the right thing, Roz joins an elite adoption service and can’t believe her luck. Within days she is jetting to New York to meet a celebrity power couple desperate for a child of their own. Sheridan and Daniel are wealthy and glamorous—everything Roz isn’t. Her baby will never go hungry, and will have every opportunity for the perfect life. But soon after Roz moves into their plush basement suite, she starts to suspect that something darker lurks beneath the glossy surface of their home.

When Roz discovers she isn’t the first person to move in with the couple, and that the previous woman has never been seen since, alarm bells start ringing. As the clock ticks down to her due date, Roz realizes her unborn baby may be the only thing keeping her alive, and that despite her best intentions, she has walked them both into the perfect nightmare…

My thoughts:  I've been a fan of Caroline Mitchell's police procedurals for a while and I've loved her stand-alones as well so I knew I was in for a treat with this newest stand alone and I was absolutely right. This was as twisted and crazy as I've come to expect from this talented author and I was captivated by the story from start to finish!

One thing I have come to expect from Caroline Mitchell is that she gives you a story you will not be expecting. This is one wild, crazy ride and it was more twisted than even I could have imagined. It's dark and disturbing and you find yourself completely invested in what is happening with Roz. As soon as she arrived in NY and set foot in that apartment, I got this funny feeling and from that point on, I was on pins and needles until the very end.

I love that I had such a reaction to this book. It's told in alternating points of view, mainly from Roz and Sheridan's view points, but occasionally from other characters as well. As the story progresses, the tension slowly builds and you can't help but get wrapped up, wondering just how everything is going to end up. This one definitely gets your heart beating fast for sure, as there were times I felt things were headed one way, only for a twist to come along and switch courses. This book will definitely keep you guessing as to where it is heading and I loved that.

This is an emotionally charged book that will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. It's an addictive read that once you start, you will have a hard time putting down and I love the diabolical cleverness that this author brings to the table each and every time. I am such a fan of Caroline Mitchell's writing and this book just confirms that.

Audio thoughts: I listened to this book and what a treat it was. I was totally captivated by the voices and felt that each narrator brought their A-game. Alana Kerr Collins had the perfect Irish accent - it wasn't overdone or hard to understand her and Christina Traister did a great American accent. To me, these ladies were spot on with their pacing and intonation, making the characters come alive and they managed to infuse just the right amount of tension and emotion into their voices as needed. I've listened to quite a few of Caroline Mitchell's books on audio and I always enjoy listening to them - they translate well on audio and to me, that's important because I know they will keep my attention fixated on the story!


Review: Vanishing Girls by Lisa Regan

Title: Vanishing Girls
Author: Lisa Regan
Series: Detective Josie Quinn, #1
Published: November 2019, Grand Central Publishing
Format: Paperback, 336 pages
Source: Publisher

Read the USA Today bestselling thriller that "keeps the dramatic reveals coming" as Detective Josie Quinn desperately chases a killer hidden within her close-knit town before it's too late and they claim another victim (Publishers Weekly).

The little girl curled into a tiny ball as the chamber grew colder around her. "Please," she whispered, rocking back and forth. "I want to go home."

When Isabelle Coleman, a blonde, beautiful young girl goes missing, everyone from the small town of Denton joins the search. They can find no trace of the town's darling, but Detective Josie Quinn finds another girl they didn't even know was missing. 

Mute and unresponsive, it's clear this mysterious girl has been damaged beyond repair. All Josie can get from her is the name of a third girl and a flash of a neon tongue piercing that matches Isabelle's.

The race is on to find Isabelle alive, and Josie fears there may be other girls in terrible danger. When the trail leads her to a cold case labelled a hoax by authorities, Josie begins to wonder is there anyone left she can trust?

Someone in this close-knit town is committing unspeakable crimes. Can Josie catch the killer before another victim loses their life?

My thoughts: This is the first book in Lisa Regan's Detective Josie Quinn series and boy does it start off strong. It's been out in the UK for some time but is just now being published in the US and I am so all know how I love my crime fiction series and this is definitely one I plan on continuing!

I love a good, strong female detective and Josie Quinn is that and a whole lot more. When we first meet her she is out on suspension but that totally doesn't stop her from getting involved in the case of the missing girl nor does it stop her from snooping around when things go from bad to worse for her. I love her determination and grit to see this case solved no matter what. I also love that as this is the introduction to the series, we get a foundation of who she is, but know that this just scratches the surface of her as a character. I can't wait to learn more about her as the series progresses.

This was such a dark, twisted, gritty mystery with a good dose of a police procedural thrown in. It keeps you flipping the pages all the way until the very end - it really holds your attention. And I loved that every once in a while there were sections told from the missing girls' point of view. We don't know who they are until the very end, but it adds that extra element to the story that keeps you glued to those pages, wondering what's going to happen.

I certainly hope the publisher decides to release the rest of this series in the US as I certainly want to keep reading this series...especially after that ending...I need more Josie Quinn!

Books in this series:
  1. Vanishing Girls - available now in the US
  2. The Girl With No Name
  3. Her Mother's Grave
  4. Her Final Confession
  5. The Bones She Buried
  6. Her Silent Cry
  7. Cold Heart Creek
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