Always With a Book

Friday, June 15, 2018

Review: The Daughter by Lucy Dawson (audio)

Title: The Daughter
Author: Lucy Dawson
Narrator: Rachel Atkins
Published: April 2018, Bolinda Audio (Brilliance Audio)
Length: 9 hours 10 minutes
Source: Publisher

A heartbreaking and unputdownable psychological thriller that will keep you guessing right until the end.

You lost your daughter. You will never forgive yourself. And now someone is determined to make you pay....

Seventeen years ago, something happened to Jess’s daughter Beth. The memory of it still makes her blood run cold. Jess has tried everything to make peace with that day, and the part she played in what happened. It was only a brief moment of desire...but she’ll pay for it with a lifetime of guilt.

To distance herself from the mistakes of the past, Jess has moved away and started over with her family. But when terrifying things begin happening in her new home, seemingly connected to what happened to Beth, Jess knows that her past has finally caught up with her. Somebody feels Jess hasn’t paid enough, and is determined to make her suffer for the secrets she’s kept all these years.

My thoughts: This is the first time I've read/listened to anything by Lucy Dawson and it definitely won't be the last. I love finding new authors, especially ones who's books translate well on audio and certainly Lucy Dawson's psychological thrillers seem to fit that bill, if this one is anything to go by.

This book definitely kept me guessing all the way through and I loved it all the more for that very reason. I had no idea where it was going to go - I was on edge the entire time, not knowing what was going to happen and not knowing who I could trust. There was this underlying sense of unease I had as the book progressed - this growing tension that you just know something was about to happen but I just couldn't figure it out until it finally did...and boy, did I not see that happening!

I love when a book causes me to keep the characters at bay - not sure if they are completely trustworthy or not. You want to believe in them, but there is just this inkling that perhaps all is not really what it seems or appears to be. That is definitely what is going on here and it really adds to the overall suspense of the story. The twists really throw you for a loop, for sure!

This book will play on your emotions. As much as it is a psychological thriller, the beginning of the book is terribly heart-breaking, but then it moves on until it becomes a bit creepy. The book is a little like a roller-coaster at times, and that's the fun of it - your emotions go on a wild ride, so hold on! This really is quite a thrilling reading experience - intense, emotional and gripping.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will certainly be picking up more of Lucy Dawson's books as soon as I have a chance. Have you read any of her books? If so, what do you suggest I pick up next? 

Audio thoughts: This was such a great book to listen to and Rachel Atkins did a fantastic job narrating the story. She really brought the characters to life, especially Jessica. Her pacing and tone were spot on and she infused just the right amount of emotion and inflection into the voice as needed. And I just loved the voice she gave the little sounded so cute! I really enjoyed listening to this audio book and hope that Rachel narrates more of Lucy's books as I think she really gets the nuances of Lucy's characters and story. 


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Review: Find You In the Dark by Nathan Ripley

Title: Find You In the Dark
Author: Nathan Ripley
Published: June 2018, Atria Books
Format: ARC Paperback, 368 pages
Source: Publisher

Martin Reese is obsessed with murder.

For years, he has been illegally buying police files on serial killers and using them to locate long-lost victims. Then he calls the police anonymously and taunts them with his finds. Martin sees his work as a public service, a righting of all the mistakes cops have made for years.

Detective Sandra Whittal sees it differently. A case-closer and on a meteoric rise in police ranks, Whittal is suspicious of the mysterious source -- the Finder, she names him. Even if the Finder isn’t the one leaving bodies behind, who's to say he won’t start soon?

On his latest dig, Martin searches in a graveyard for the first kill of Jason Shurn, the murderer in the nineties who may have been responsible for the disappearance of Martin's sister-in-law. But at the site, Martin finds a fresh body lying among decades old remains. Someone knows where Jason Shurn buried his victims…and that someone isn’t happy about Martin's finds. Hunted by a murderer and by Whittal, Martin realizes he will have to go deeper into the world of death than he ever thought.

A chilling thriller that glimpses into the mind of a killer in a way that is both fascinating and provocative - and that you will remember long after you've turned that last page.

My thoughts: I love when a thriller keeps me guessing as to how it will all play out from beginning to end and that's how I felt with this book. Add in that you get inside the mind of a killer and you are definitely in for one creepy, disturbing read!

This book is unique in that it is a different take on the usual serial killer thriller we have all come to like. This time around, we have not only our serial killers at work here, but there is also Martin Reese, who gets his hands on police files to find the bodies of those women killed by said serial killers. He then taunts the police, letting them know he was able to do their job. He's known as "The Finder" and does a pretty good job finding these bodies.

What I loved about this book is that it really keeps you on your toes - it will have you questioning everyone and everything. I was glued to the pages once I started reading it - and surprisingly, it's more of a slower-paced book than other thrillers. But the story line is what kept me going...I needed to know what was going to happen next and how everything was going to come together. I also loved the pitting together of Martin and the detective - Sandra Whittal. Both are very strong personalities and you really go back and forth as to who's side you might ultimately be you want Martin to "get away" with what he is doing or should he be held responsible in some way?

This thriller has some crazy twists and the tension is there, slowly building up to the finale...and I think it was well-worth the wait! Add to that the overall feeling of unease that is seamlessly built into the story and it will have you looking over your shoulder a time or two while you are reading it.  I really enjoyed this book and will definitely be keeping Nathan Ripley on my radar.


Book Spotlight & Giveaway: Find You In the Dark by Nathan Ripley

Next week, June 19th, Nathan Ripley's debut novel, Find You In the Dark, comes out, and because I ended up with an extra copy, I'm going to give that copy away - and it's a finished copy! I've just finished reading this book - it's amazing!!! - and will be posting my review later on today. You can see what others have to say below and then be sure to enter the giveaway below!!! 

Title: Find You In the Dark
Author: Nathan Ripley
Published: June 2018, Atria Books
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages

In this chilling and disquieting debut thriller perfect for fans of Caroline Kepnes’s Hidden Bodies and Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter series, a family man with a habit of digging up the past catches the attention of a serial killer who wants anything but his secrets uncovered.

For years, unbeknownst to his wife and teenage daughter, Martin Reese has been illegally buying police files on serial killers and obsessively studying them, using them as guides to find the missing bodies of victims. He doesn’t take any souvenirs, just photos that he stores in an old laptop, and then he turns in the results anonymously. Martin sees his work as a public service, a righting of wrongs.

Detective Sandra Whittal sees the situation differently. On a meteoric rise in police ranks due to her case‑closing efficiency, Whittal is suspicious of the mysterious source she calls the Finder, especially since he keeps leading the police right to the bodies. Even if he isn’t the one leaving bodies behind, how can she be sure he won’t start soon?

On his latest dig, Martin searches for the first kill of Jason Shurn, the early 1990s murderer who may have been responsible for the disappearance of his wife’s sister. But when he arrives at the site, he finds more than just bones. There’s a freshly killed body—a young and missing Seattle woman—lying among remains that were left there decades ago. Someone else knew where Jason Shurn left the corpses of his victims…and that someone isn’t happy that Martin has been going around digging up his work. And when a crooked cop with a tenuous tie to Martin vanishes, Whittal begins to zero in on the Finder.

Hunted by a real killer and by Whittal, Martin realizes that in order to escape, he may have to go deeper into the killer’s dark world than he ever thought…

What readers are saying:

“A fast-paced, morbidly addictive novel of chilling infatuation. Ripley’s impressive debut is a rich and innovative thriller.”Iain Reid, bestselling author of I'm Thinking of Ending Things

 “A wickedly smart thriller that manages to be both chilling and wry. The page-turning plot . . . is thickened by a great cast of characters and Nathan Ripley’s fantastic eye for detail and dialogue. Just when you think you’ve got a grasp on it, the story twists to new and darker places.”Amy Stuart, bestselling author of Still Mine

 “It's not always easy diving into the mind of an obsessive protagonist, but Martin Reese's fixation on finding dead bodies makes for one heck of an addictive thriller. Find You in the Dark by Nathan Ripley is an original, inventive take on what happens when you go looking where you shouldn't. Start reading early in the day, or you'll be up all night like I was! A standout debut novel.”Jennifer Hillier, author of Jar of Hearts and Wonderland

 “Find You in the Dark is an unsettling exploration of obsession you won’t soon forget. Nathan Ripley delivers a first novel that fans of Patricia Highsmith psychological thrills and Thomas Harris cat-and-mouse suspense will devour. I certainly did.”Andrew Pyper, author of The Demonologist and The Only Child

 “Crafty and dark, Nathan Ripley’s novel toys with the lines between predator and prey, his sentences as careful and considered as the crimes he depicts…a truly exciting new voice in the thriller world.”Roz Nay, bestselling author of Our Little Secret

 “A fresh angle to the serial murder game. There's a certain Silence of the Lambs feel to the twisty narrative.”Kirkus Reviews

 “Gripping . . . . Dexter fans will enjoy the creepy vibe.”— Publishers Weekly

 “Ripley’s debut offers a twist on the typical serial-killer story….This offers a unique spin with just enough creepy details to keep suspense readers interested.”Booklist


Giveaway Details -- (US Only) 
Thanks to the publicist, one reader will win a finished copy of Find You In the Dark by Nathan Ripley. To enter the giveaway, please fill out the rafflecopter by June 20th.

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway is open to US residents only and ends June 20th.

Good Luck!!!


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Review: Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier; Plus extras from Publisher

Title: Jar of Hearts
Author: Jennifer Hillier
Published: June 2018, Minotaur Books
Format: ARC E-copy, 320 pages
Source: Netgalley

This is the story of three best friends: one who was murdered, one who went to prison, and one who's been searching for the truth all these years . . .When she was sixteen years old, Angela Wong—one of the most popular girls in school—disappeared without a trace. Nobody ever suspected that her best friend, Georgina Shaw, now an executive and rising star at her Seattle pharmaceutical company, was involved in any way. Certainly not Kaiser Brody, who was close with both girls back in high school.

But fourteen years later, Angela Wong's remains are discovered in the woods near Geo's childhood home. And Kaiser—now a detective with Seattle PD—finally learns the truth: Angela was a victim of Calvin James. The same Calvin James who murdered at least three other women.

To the authorities, Calvin is a serial killer. But to Geo, he's something else entirely. Back in high school, Calvin was Geo's first love. Turbulent and often volatile, their relationship bordered on obsession from the moment they met right up until the night Angela was killed.

For fourteen years, Geo knew what happened to Angela and told no one. For fourteen years, she carried the secret of Angela's death until Geo was arrested and sent to prison.

While everyone thinks they finally know the truth, there are dark secrets buried deep. And what happened that fateful night is more complex and more chilling than anyone really knows. Now the obsessive past catches up with the deadly present when new bodies begin to turn up, killed in the exact same manner as Angela Wong.

How far will someone go to bury her secrets and hide her grief? How long can you get away with a lie? How long can you live with it?

My thoughts: This is the first time I've read anything by Jennifer Hillier, though I do have her book, The Butcher, sitting on my shelf. Well, I can say with absolute fact that I will certainly be reading more of her books if Jar of Hearts is anything to go by...this book was so good - it was creepy and thrilling and everything I love in a good thriller!

This is most definitely a binge-worthy type of read - I read it in two sittings and was totally immersed in the story from page one. It's broken down into five parts and alternates between Georgina, better known as Geo, and Kaiser's points of view. While most of the story is told in the present day, there are occasional flash backs to when Geo, Kaiser and Angela where in high school - these provided the much-needed background to set up all that was necessary for what was to come. And I loved how these were interspersed throughout the book - they seemed to come up just at the right time.

This book is so full of good twists and surprises that come at you throughout the book - so many that I just did not see coming - and I love that! I read so many thrillers because I enjoy them, but I tend to figure things out or at least have a clue as to where things are heading - but not in this case. And let me tell you - this book is creepy as all get out - somethings that are a bit subtle and some that are in your face creepy! This certainly isn't a book I'm going to be forgetting soon...with the well-developed characters, the strong plot line and the creep factor!

This is definitely a book where nothing is as it seems - in fact I believe that phrase is stated a time or two! It will shock you, it will keep you on your toes and you will be hard-pressed to put this book down once you start reading it. And it will most certainly get under your skin as you try to put all the pieces together - I know it did for me! I absolutely enjoyed this book and will definitely be picking up this author's back list as well as keeping an eye out for what comes next from her!!!

*** Here's a link to the first 3 chapters of Jar of Hearts:

*** Here's a video of Jennifer talking about Jar of Hearts:


Friday, June 08, 2018

Book Spotlight & Giveaway: The Lost Family by Jenna Blum

Earlier this week, Jenna Blums' latest novel, The Lost Family, was published and to celebrate, I am helping the publisher get the word out. I will be reading this book and sharing my review soon.  I also have 1 copy of the book to giveaway - be sure to read all the way to the bottom of the post for details!

Title: The Lost Family
Author: Jenna Blum
Published: June 2018, HarperCollins
Format: Hardcover, 432 pages

The New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Save Us creates a vivid portrait of marriage, family, and the haunting grief of World War II in this emotionally charged, beautifully rendered story that spans a generation, from the 1960s to the 1980s

In 1965 Manhattan, patrons flock to Masha’s to savor its brisket bourguignon and impeccable service and to admire its dashing owner and head chef Peter Rashkin. With his movie-star good looks and tragic past, Peter, a survivor of Auschwitz, is the most eligible bachelor in town. But Peter does not care for the parade of eligible women who come to the restaurant hoping to catch his eye. He has resigned himself to a solitary life. Running Masha’s consumes him, as does his terrible guilt over surviving the horrors of the Nazi death camp while his wife, Masha—the restaurant’s namesake—and two young daughters perished.

Then exquisitely beautiful June Bouquet, an up-and-coming young model, appears at the restaurant, piercing Peter’s guard. Though she is twenty years his junior, the two begin a passionate, whirlwind courtship. When June unexpectedly becomes pregnant, Peter proposes, believing that beginning a new family with the woman he loves will allow him to let go of the horror of the past. But over the next twenty years, the indelible sadness of those memories will overshadow Peter, June, and their daughter Elsbeth, transforming them in shocking, heartbreaking, and unexpected ways.

Jenna Blum artfully brings to the page a husband devastated by a grief he cannot name, a frustrated wife struggling to compete with a ghost she cannot banish, and a daughter sensitive to the pain of both her own family and another lost before she was born. Spanning three cinematic decades, The Lost Family is a charming, funny, and elegantly bittersweet study of the repercussions of loss and love.

What readers are saying: 

“An unsentimental, richly detailed study of loss and its legacy.”--Kirkus Reviews

“This exquisitely crafted and compassionate novel offers a lesson in honesty, regardless of how difficult the truth may be. It will offer plenty of discussion for book groups.”--Library Journal

“In…this gripping novel, Blum…displays her keen eye for character…Each unforgettable character in this deeply moving novel brings new meaning to the familiar phrase “never forget.” Elie Wiesel’s A Mad Desire to Dance (2009) and Michael Chabon’s Moonglow (2016) also share.. a sense of hope in the face of tragic loss.”--Booklist

“Jenna Blum shines a powerful light on how the past swings back and how we must face it. The Lost Family is an extraordinary read, the kind of book that makes you sob and smile, the kind that gives you hope….  It is compassionate, masterful and disturbingly contemporary.”--Tatiana de Rosnay, bestselling author of Sarah’s Key

“I was spellbound from the start of The Lost Family. The writing is so smart and empathetic.... This is a dazzling novel of great compassion, honestly reckoning with the time-and-place-spanning ripple effect of great pain as well as love.”--Laura Moriarty, New York Times best-selling author of The Chaperone

“Deftly executed, deeply moving, and full of heart, Jenna Blum’s The Lost Family is an evocative look at the legacy of war and how it impacts one memorable family.”--Jami Attenberg, bestselling author of The Middlesteins 


Giveaway Details -- (US Only) 
Thanks to the publicist, one reader will win a copy of The Lost Family by Jenna Blum. To enter the giveaway, please fill out the rafflecopter by June 15th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway is open to US residents only and ends June 15th.

Good Luck!!!

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Review: The Cactus by Sarah Haywood (audio)

Title: The Cactus
Author: Sarah Haywood
Narrator: Katherine Manners
Published: May 2018, Harlequin Audio / Harlequin
Length: 10 hours 30 minutes / 364 pages
Source: Audio - via Library / Print - Hardcover via Publisher

In this witty and heartfelt debut, one woman’s unconventional journey to motherhood means learning to embrace the unexpected
Even the prickliest cactus has its flower…

For Susan Green, messy emotions don’t fit into the equation of her perfectly ordered life. She has a flat that is ideal for one, a job that suits her passion for logic and an “interpersonal arrangement” that provides cultural and other, more intimate, benefits. But suddenly confronted with the loss of her mother and the news that she is about to become a mother herself, Susan’s greatest fear is realized. She is losing control.

When she learns that her mother’s will inexplicably favors her indolent brother, Edward, Susan’s already dismantled world is sent flying into a tailspin. As Susan’s due date draws near and her family problems become increasingly difficult to ignore, Susan finds help and self-discovery in the most unlikely of places.

Featuring an endearing cast of characters and tremendous heart, The Cactus is a poignant debut and a delightful reminder that some things can’t be explained by logic alone.

My thoughts: This is one of those books that start off a bit slow, with a unique, quirky character that you just aren't sure of, and by the end you know that you will never forget them and not only that, you wish with all your heart for another story featuring them. This book is one to savior, one that will eventually tug at your heartstrings and have you rooting for Susan...I know I was!

Susan is so not your typical character - she is set in her ways, likes things to be in order and can come across as a bit uptight. Her life is turned upside down when her mother dies and leaves the family house to her younger brother - this completely stuns her and she decides to fight the will and along the way uncovers a few secrets that totally upend her neatly ordered life. On top of this, she also learns that she is about to be a mother herself. Suddenly the life she thought she had total control over has just spun completely out of control and she is slowly learning how to adjust. 

As the book progresses, we see quite a bit of growth in Susan. Part of this is definitely due to the whole situation that comes up with the will - the uncovered secrets, the family drama, the relationship with her brother - and part of it is definitely her learning that she is due to become a mother herself. I loved the interactions between her and her neighbor, Kate. And we cannot forget Rob - Susan's brother's friend, who Susan actually met years ago. The friendship that Rob and Susan strike up is probably my most favorite in the whole book - he is able to break down her defenses and it is fun to watch!

I really enjoyed this book...I laughed, I teared up, I found it to be full of endearing characters and I thought it was full of insightful little lines throughout. It explores numerous themes, such as family relationships and motherhood, and more importantly it takes a look at one's own vulnerability when change occurs and how we handle it. As a debut novel, this one certainly stands out and I will be anxiously awaiting what comes next from this writer!

Audio thoughts: I decided to listen to this after hearing rave reviews from another blogger/Instagrammer and I'm so glad I did - thank you Kate Olson @theloudlibrarylady! I thought Katherine Manners did a fantastic job - her accent was superb and she really did such a wonderful job bringing Susan to life. Her pacing and intonation were spot on and she infused just the right amount of emotion into her voice as needed. I really enjoyed listening to this book on audio and will definitely be checking out what else Katherine Manners has narrated! 


Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Review: What Happened That Night by Sanda Block

Title: What Happened That Night
Author: Sandra Block
Published: June 2018, Sourcebooks Landmark
Format: ARC E-copy, 352 pages
Source: Netgalley via Author

She doesn't remember that night. But she will never be the same.

One moment, Dahlia is a successful Harvard student; the next, she wakes up from a party, the victim of a brutal assault. Her life veers into a tailspin, and what's worse - her memory of the attack has been ripped away, leaving a cold rage in its wake.

Now, years later, Dahlia is a tattooed paralegal suffering from PTSD and still haunted by that night. Until one day, a video surfaces online, and Dahlia sees her attack for the first time.

Now she knows what happened to her. And she knows who is to blame. Her rage is no longer cold, but burning, red hot.

And she is about to make everyone pay.

My thoughts: I am a big fan of Sandra Block's Zoe Goldman series, so when Sandra herself reached out to me to read and review her latest book, which happens to be a stand-alone, of course I had to say yes! Even though I will forever relate Sandra to Zoe, I had to see how she would do with brand new characters. And I loved it!!!

Before I go any further - I do want to mention there are many trigger warnings in this book. It deals with some rather tough topics that might be off-putting - rape and assault being at the forefront. And it does get a bit graphic at times in certain scenes. It's not the whole book and it certainly doesn't overplay this, but for those who are sensitive to this, you should know this going in.

I loved the way this story was told. There are three points of view - Dahlia in the present, Dahlia five years ago and James, and each of these chapters really give you such perspective as to what is going on. And the chapters are relatively short, which leads to quick reading!

I loved the characters in this book - Dahlia has been profoundly changed by her attack - who wouldn't? - and now that she has started to remember it, wants to do something about it. Having those chapters from five years ago, which was right after her attack, really allow us as readers to see the fragile state she was in and see how far she has come. And then there is James, who has Asperger's and you just have to love him all the more for it. He is what he is, and I love the way Dahlia and James' relationship grew over time. These are such quirky, yet memorable characters - ones that are not your typical main characters in any way, for sure.

This book is full of suspense and tension - now that the video has been leaked from Dahlia's attack, she is determined to figure out who the guys are and do something about it. Did I agree with her idea of revenge, maybe not, but once she and James have decided on this plan, the book takes off! But all along, I loved that there is this secret that James has, and so there are still pieces that need to be worked out. Dahlia is trying to figure out the identity of all four guys and James is working up the courage to reveal something from his past to Dahlia...and all of this is building up the tension in the book.

I truly enjoyed this's such a gripping and addictive read. I really had a hard time putting it down once I started reading it. As much as I love Sandra's Zoe series and hope that there will be more, I think this foray into stand-alones has been quite the success and hope that she continues in this vein as well!

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