Thursday, August 22, 2019

Blog Tour & Review: The Lost Vintage by Ann Mah

Title: The Lost Vintage
Author: Ann Mah
Published: August 2019, William Morrow Paperbacks (Reprint - Paperback Release)
Format: Paperback, 400 pages
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours

“If you enjoyed Sarah’s Key and Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale, then this wonderful book by Ann Mah is for you.”   -- Tatiana de Rosnay

Sweetbitter meets The Nightingale in this page-turning novel about a woman who returns to her family’s ancestral vineyard in Burgundy and unexpectedly uncovers a lost diary, an unknown relative, and a secret her family has been keeping since World War II.

To become one of only a few hundred certified wine experts in the world, Kate must pass the notoriously difficult Master of Wine examination. She’s failed twice before; her third attempt will be her last chance. Suddenly finding herself without a job and with the test a few months away, she travels to Burgundy to spend the fall at the vineyard estate that has belonged to her family for generations. There she can bolster her shaky knowledge of Burgundian vintages and reconnect with her cousin Nico and his wife, Heather, who now oversee day-to-day management of the grapes. The one person Kate hopes to avoid is Jean-Luc, a talented young winemaker and her first love.

At the vineyard house, Kate is eager to help her cousin clean out the enormous basement that is filled with generations of discarded and forgotten belongings. Deep inside the cellar, behind a large armoire, she discovers a hidden room containing a cot, some Resistance pamphlets, and an enormous cache of valuable wine. Piqued by the secret space, Kate begins to dig into her family’s history—a search that takes her back to the dark days of World War II and introduces her to a relative she never knew existed, a great–half aunt who was a teenager during the Nazi occupation.

As she learns more about her family, the line between resistance and collaboration blurs, driving Kate to find the answers to two crucial questions: Who, exactly, did her family aid during the difficult years of the war? And what happened to six valuable bottles of wine that seem to be missing from the cellar’s collection?

My thoughts: This is the first book I've read by Ann Mah and I found myself completely captivated by her writing. This historical fiction novel is told in a dual-narrative format and I was drawn to both timelines, which is not always the case. 

Kate returns to her family's home in Burgundy to study for the upcoming Master of Wine exam - an exam she has already failed twice. She needs to spend time learning the Burgundy wines and what better place to do so than in Burgundy? While there, she is helping her cousins clean out the cellar when she discovers a hidden room that is filled with thousands of bottles of wine that were hidden before the Nazi occupation. There are also some pamphlets that seem questionable. Needing to know why this is all there, she begins digging into the past and discovers a journal.

I loved how this story was told in alternating points of view from the present day to the diary entries of the past. This just made the flow between the two stories seem more seamless and allowed the author to really portray the horrors and heartbreak of that devastating time of the war so effectively...I could feel the emotions come out in those words Helene was pouring into her diary. I also felt for Kate who struggled with wanting to know more about this long-lost aunt of hers, but knowing that it went against what her family wanted. 

This book is the perfect blend of historical fiction, the hint of a mystery and the added blossom of a romance. It was written just so that you were enticed to keep wanting more. The historical aspect of the French Resistance during the war was quite compelling and the mystery involving just who Helene was kept me quite intrigued. And then there is the romance between Kate and Jean-Luc - they were lovers once and despite their rocky past, he agrees to step up and help her when she needs it the most. As a reader of romance back in the day, it's easy where that will end up, but it's fun to watch the journey nevertheless!

As a wine lover myself, I found the information about the wine and the wine-making to be quite fascinating. I have yet to visit Napa Valley or France but after reading this book, those places are definitely high on my list of destinations to go.  I cannot recommend this book enough and I certainly will be checking out Ann Mah's other books - I really enjoyed her writing!

About the author:  Ann Mah is a food and travel writer based in Paris and Washington DC. She is the author of the food memoir Mastering the Art of French Eating, and a novel, Kitchen Chinese. She regularly contributes to the New York Times’ Travel section and she has written for Condé Nast Traveler,,, Washingtonian
magazine, and other media outlets.

Authors Links:  Website   |   Twitter   |   Facebook    |   Instagram  |   Pinterest
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 & #thelostvintage).


Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Review: The Whisper Man by Alex North

Title: The Whisper Man
Author: Alex North
Published: August 2019, Celadon Books
Format: ARC Paperback, 368 pages
Source: Publisher

In this dark, suspenseful thriller, Alex North weaves a multi-generational tale of a father and son caught in the crosshairs of an investigation to catch a serial killer preying on a small town.

After the sudden death of his wife, Tom Kennedy believes a fresh start will help him and his young son Jake heal. A new beginning, a new house, a new town. Featherbank.

But the town has a dark past. Twenty years ago, a serial killer abducted and murdered five residents. Until Frank Carter was finally caught, he was nicknamed "The Whisper Man," for he would lure his victims out by whispering at their windows at night.

Just as Tom and Jake settle into their new home, a young boy vanishes. His disappearance bears an unnerving resemblance to Frank Carter's crimes, reigniting old rumors that he preyed with an accomplice. Now, detectives Amanda Beck and Pete Willis must find the boy before it is too late, even if that means Pete has to revisit his great foe in prison: The Whisper Man.

And then Jake begins acting strangely. He hears a whispering at his window...

My thoughts:  It's no surprise that I was drawn to this book. I love dark, creepy books and as soon as I heard about this book, I knew I wanted to read it. I was lucky to snag a copy while I was at BookExpo this past Spring and have been waiting for the perfect opportunity to read it. 

Let me just say...this is probably not the best book to read just before bed. While it's not outright scary, it does having it's chilling, creepy moments and to me, that is almost more intense sometimes - that's what gets more under my skin.

This book is brilliantly plotted and it's really hard to write this review without giving anything away, so forgive me for being vague, but I certainly do not want to ruin anyone's reading experience at all. I loved how this was not only a mystery to solve, but the book takes a hard look at the challenging relationships that occur between fathers and sons, and also at the grieving process and how it is different for everyone. This book is not only creepy and haunting at times, but will play on your emotions! The characters are so richly developed that you will end up having feelings about them - good or bad, you will feel something about them. 

I loved that the book is told from multiple points of view. I love when we get into different characters' heads, especially the killer - these are always the most chilling chapters and this time was no exception. What is exceptional about this book is that there is no indication at the beginning of each chapter to let you know who is going to be narrating it, but you quickly realize who it is...this is just brilliant and it is so mind-boggling how distinctive each of the different voices we are privy to. 

There is a lot of hype about this book and all I can say is that I think it definitely lives up to it. Go into the book with your own expectations, but know that it's a fantastically creepy yet emotional read with just the right amount of suspense and tension to keep you hooked from start to finish.  I can't recommend this book enough and know that I will definitely be pushing this on all my thriller-loving friends!


Monday, August 19, 2019

Review: The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal

Title: The Doll Factory
Author: Elizabeth Macneal
Published: August 2019, Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Format: ARC Paperback, 368 pages
Source: Publisher

Obsession is an art.

In this “sharp, scary, gorgeously evocative tale of love, art, and obsession” (Paula Hawkins, bestselling author of The Girl on the Train), a beautiful young woman aspires to be an artist, while a man’s dark obsession may destroy her world forever.

In 1850s London, the Great Exhibition is being erected in Hyde Park and, among the crowd watching the dazzling spectacle, two people meet by happenstance. For Iris, an arrestingly attractive aspiring artist, it is a brief and forgettable moment but for Silas, a curiosity collector enchanted by all things strange and beautiful, the meeting marks a new beginning.

When Iris is asked to model for Pre-Raphaelite artist Louis Frost, she agrees on the condition that he will also teach her to paint. Suddenly, her world begins to expand beyond her wildest dreams—but she has no idea that evil is waiting in the shadows. Silas has only thought of one thing since that chance meeting, and his obsession is darkening by the day.

“A page-turning psychological thriller” (Essie Fox, author of The Somnambulist) that will haunt you long after you finish it, The Doll Factory is perfect for fans of The Alienist, Drood, and The Historian.

My thoughts:  I was ecstatic to be able to pick up this gem at BookExpo this past Spring. As soon as I saw that this was going to be a galley drop, it was added to my list of must-get books and I couldn't wait to get my hands on it...part historical fiction, part gothic thriller - that sounds right up my alley!

Can we just take a moment to admire this cover? I have to say this is what originally drew me to this book and then I read the synopsis, I knew I had to read it. I love books set in Victorian London and I felt that the author really does a great job with the sense of place and time. Having watched the most recent season of Victoria, I am quite familiar with all the excitement that The Great Exhibition garnered and I could appreciate that in this book. 

I loved the darkness and creepiness of this book. Obsession can take many forms and we see it go horribly wrong in the way Silas takes to Iris. Their meeting is incredibly brief yet has completely different results for the two of them - Iris will completely forget about the meeting and yet for Silas, it is the beginning of his obsession with her. He is determined to have her and will go to great lengths to make that happen. It was downright creepy just how delusional he becomes in this obsession.

I loved the slow burn of this book. The tension and the suspense gradually build and it is so rich in atmosphere that you can't help but be swept up in the story. Yes, it is dark and disturbing at times, but it is such a deliciously wicked and intriguing story of obsession and art and I felt the streets of Victorian London really come alive. The cast of characters are wonderfully developed and all add to the richness of the story.

I absolutely loved this book - from start to finish I was completely captivated and entranced. This was a remarkable debut novel and I cannot wait to see what Elizabeth Macneal writes next!


Sunday, August 18, 2019

Short & Sweet Review: Haunted by James Patterson

Title: Haunted
Author: James Patterson
Series: Michael Bennett, #10
Published: September 2017, Little, Brown & Company
Format: Hardcover, 317 pages
Source: Personal copy

You can take Michael Bennett out of New York City, but you can't take the cop out of Michael Bennett.

Detective Michael Bennett is ready for a vacation after a series of crises push him, and his family, to the brink. He settles on an idyllic, small town in the beautiful Maine woods, a recommendation from a former colleague. But just when Bennett thinks he can relax, he gets pulled into a case that has shocked the tight-knit community. Kids are disappearing left and right with no explanation-until several bodies turn up in the woods. As Bennett investigates, he discovers that the seemingly perfect town is reeling from a deadly addiction, and the violence is about to reach a fever pitch. Far from the city streets he knows so well, Bennett faces off against a horrific evil next door that threatens a town, the law, and the family that Bennett loves above all else.

***Short & Sweet Reviews are short, quick reviews. These will mainly be used for series books where I have already done full reviews on some of the earlier books or for books that I feel will suffice with a quick review. These will not be used for review requests or blog tours.

My thoughts: I am a big fan of James Patterson's Michael Bennett series and I am happy to say that I enjoyed this one much more than the last one...and I realize that with a series there are bound to be hits and missed with the books and I'm ok with that. Not every single book is going to be my favorite, but I'm glad this one was a hit!

This latest installment finds the Bennett family dealing with the fallout from the older son's dealings with the drug dealer. Needing a break, the family heads out of town, but just because Detective Bennett is out of NYC doesn't mean he is not going to be working...oh no! It just so happens that the house they are renting belongs to his old partner and she runs the local police department and can use his help on a case that is baffling the locals.

I loved that we see much more of the family in this book. As much as I love the police work of this series, I do love the personal relationships that have developed, particularly the one brewing between Detective Bennett and Mary Catherine and I was very happy to see that one take a big step forward. Maybe having his old partner around, who was a former fling, was just the push they needed!

As usual, this was a quick read and the short chapters give you that "just one more chapter" mentality. The pace at times was quite frantic, but then it would slow down a bit only to ratchet up again. All this to build up the suspense as the book comes to quite the thrilling ending. I am eager to pick up the next book and hope to do so soon!

Books in this series:
     1.  Step on a Crack
     2.  Run For Your Life
     3.  Worst Case
     4.  Tick Tock
     5.  I, Michael Bennett
     6.  Gone
     7.  Burn
     8.  Alert 
     9.  Bullseye 
     9.5  Chase 
     10.  Haunted
     10.5  Manhunt
     11.  Ambush  
     12.  Blindside - due out Feb 2020

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Review: Montauk by Nicola Harrison

Title: Montauk
Author: Nicola Harrison
Published: June 2019, St. Martin's Press
Format: ARC E-copy, 394 pages
Source: Netgalley via Publisher

An epic and cinematic novel by debut author Nicola Harrison, Montauk captures the glamour and extravagance of a summer by the sea with the story of a woman torn between the life she chose and the life she desires.

Montauk, Long Island, 1938.

For three months, this humble fishing village will serve as the playground for New York City’s wealthy elite. Beatrice Bordeaux was looking forward to a summer of reigniting the passion between her and her husband, Harry. Instead, tasked with furthering his investment interest in Montauk as a resort destination, she learns she’ll be spending twelve weeks sequestered with the high society wives at The Montauk Manor—a two-hundred room seaside hotel—while Harry pursues other interests in the city.

College educated, but raised a modest country girl in Pennsylvania, Bea has never felt fully comfortable among these privileged women, whose days are devoted not to their children but to leisure activities and charities that seemingly benefit no one but themselves. She longs to be a mother herself, as well as a loving wife, but after five years of marriage she remains childless while Harry is increasingly remote and distracted. Despite lavish parties at the Manor and the Yacht Club, Bea is lost and lonely and befriends the manor’s laundress whose work ethic and family life stir memories of who she once was.

As she drifts further from the society women and their preoccupations and closer toward Montauk’s natural beauty and community spirit, Bea finds herself drawn to a man nothing like her husband –stoic, plain spoken and enigmatic. Inspiring a strength and courage she had almost forgotten, his presence forces her to face a haunting tragedy of her past and question her future.

Desperate to embrace moments of happiness, no matter how fleeting, she soon discovers that such moments may be all she has, when fates conspire to tear her world apart…

My thoughts: Having grown up on Long Island and recently moved back,  I always love when I find books set in towns here. So of course, I was excited to have been sent this debut novel by Nicola Harrison...and let's just take a moment to admire this beautiful cover...isn't it so striking? I'm such a fan of a good cover and this one is so stunning, yet so simple!

I loved that this whole novel was set in 1938. Yes, I've really come to enjoy dual narratives, but it was so refreshing to have a historical novel all told in one timeframe, from one point of view. It really has such a great sense of time and place - Montauk in the late 1930s really comes alive as a fishing village and you really felt the divide of class between the haves and the have-nots. 

This is such a great character study of a woman who is really struggling to find her place. I loved the main character, Beatrice. She is such a strong woman who is held back by the standards of her time. She is supposed to be a "good wife" and do as she is told, which according to her husband, Harry, is to hang out with the high society women at the manor, while he is spending his time in NYC, drinking and cavorting with other women. As Beatrice feels she doesn't fit in with these women, she ends up making friends with the locals. 

I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed seeing Montauk as it was in 1938 and am desperate to find local history books to see just how it looked back then. And of course, I will definitely be heading out there to visit one day soon - it's been ages since I last took a trip to Montauk! I definitely recommend picking this book up - the writing is beautiful and you will find yourself completely immersed in the story. I will certainly be keeping an eye out for what comes next from this author for sure!


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Review: The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Title: The Kiss Quotient
Author: Helen Hoang
Series: The Kiss Quotient, #1
Published: June 2018, Berkley
Format: Paperback, 336 pages
Source: Library

A heartwarming and refreshing debut novel that proves one thing: there's not enough data in the world to predict what will make your heart tick.

Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases--a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn't help that Stella has Asperger's and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice--with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can't afford to turn down Stella's offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan--from foreplay to more-than-missionary position...

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but crave all of the other things he's making her feel. Their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic...

My thoughts:  It's been a while since I've read a romance book, but let me tell you...I absolutely loved this one and I certainly will be adding this genre to my reading repertoire. With so many books out there and my love for thrillers and psychological suspense novels, it's so easy to fall down the rabbit hole and get caught up in one genre, but then I forget that there are all these other books out there. I realized that with historical fiction earlier this year, and now thanks to #notyomamasbookclub for selecting this as it's August pick, I have found my love of romcoms again!

This book is so sweet and tender, yet it sure has it's steamy parts! I found it contained the most endearing characters, ones that I will not be forgetting anytime soon. But even more than that, this book is filled with substance - it's not just a light, fluffy chick read.

I loved Stella. She is what made this book for me. She is an econometrician and has Autism and so she doesn't do well in social situations. She's gone out with a few guys in the past but the guys have been jerks. She is convinced she needs lessons in order to have a successful relationship, so she hires Michael, an escort to teach her. As soon as these two meet, I could feel the sparks fly and while I knew how things would ultimately is a romance novel after all...I loved watching their journey. To me, that is what these books are all about and this one was one of the best ones I've read in a long time.

One of the most striking themes that came across in this book when it came to relationships and the sex was consent. I loved was so refreshing to see that being taken so seriously, that nothing was taken for granted just because Stella had hired an escort or because of her autism. But a word of caution...this book is plenty steamy when it comes to those sex scenes, so if that is something you aren't a fan of, be forewarned...and let me just say, these scenes come on rather chapter 3!

I loved having the book alternate from Stella and Michael's points of view, though I will say I looked forward to Stella's chapters sections more. Her voice was very unique and Helen Hoang did a fantastic job capturing the vulnerability and uniqueness of Stella. I think in part this is because Helen herself was diagnosed with Autism and she used what she knew to write this character. 

This is the first book in this series and I definitely plan on reading this series for however long it lasts. I loved the writing and knowing what I know about Helen Hoang, I can only imagine that these next books will feature smart, endearing characters as well.

Books in this series:
  1. The Kiss Quotient
  2. The Bride Test
  3. The Heart Principle


Short & Sweet Review: 16th Seduction by James Patterson

Title: 16th Seduction
Author: James Patterson
Series: Women's Murder Club, #16
Published: May 2017, Little, Brown & Company
Format: Hardcover, 350 pages
Source: Personal copy

Fifteen months ago, Detective Lindsay Boxer's life was perfect--she had a beautiful child and a doting husband, Joe, who helped her catch a criminal who'd brazenly detonated a bomb in downtown San Francisco, killing twenty-five people. But Joe wasn't everything that Lindsay thought he was, and she's still reeling from his betrayal as a wave of mysterious, and possibly unnatural, heart attacks claims seemingly unrelated victims across San Francisco. As if that weren't enough, the bomber she and Joe captured is about to go on trial, and his defense raises damning questions about Lindsay and Joe's investigation. Not knowing whom to trust, and struggling to accept the truth about the man she thought she knew, Lindsay must connect the dots of a deadly conspiracy before a brilliant criminal puts her on trial.

***Short & Sweet Reviews are short, quick reviews. These will mainly be used for series books where I have already done full reviews on some of the earlier books or for books that I feel will suffice with a quick review. These will not be used for review requests or blog tours.

My thoughts: The Women's Murder Club is one of my favorite series to read because I love the four main characters so much. This series is a fun, thrilling, addicting series to read, one that I've kept up with mainly because of the characters and also because they are mindless reads. I love the fact that we have four independent women from different aspects of the community - a detective, a medical examiner, an attorney, and a reporter - and that they all work together to not only solve cases, but keep each other's lives running smoothly.

I liked that all four women were involved in that cases this time around. Sometimes I feel that the books tend to focus on some of the women more than others, but this time around, all four seemed to have equal page time. The cases they were involved in were equally interesting, but at this point of the game, I have to say, I'm a little more interested in the character development than the actual cases. That is what is keeping me hooked on this series.

I will say, though, that I do feel bad for Lindsay and Joe's daughter...and you can totally see that Lindsay has a hard time juggling work and life. That little girl is left in the hands of the babysitter more times than you can count. Of course, with Lindsay and Joe's marriage on rocky ground and then him getting hurt in the explosion and her always working, it's a good thing they have their neighbor around all the time!

Books in this series:

1.   1st to Die                                    13.   Unlucky 13
     2.   2nd Chance                               14.   14th Deadly Sin
     3.   3rd Degree                                15.    15th Affair
     4.   4th of July                                 15.5   The Trial
     5.   The 5th Horseman                   16.    16th Seduction
     6.   The 6th Target                          16.5   The Medical Examiner
     7.   7th Heaven                                 17.    The 17th Suspect   
     8.   The 8th Confession                  18.   The 18th Abduction
     9.   The 9th Judgment               19.   The 19th Christmas - due out Oct 2019
    10.  10th Anniversary
    11.   11th Hour
    12.   12th of Never       


Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Blog Tour & Review: Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman

Title: Lady in the Lake
Author: Laura Lippman
Published: July 2019, William Morrow
Format: ARC Paperback, 340 pages
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours

The revered New York Times bestselling author returns with a novel set in 1960s Baltimore that combines modern psychological insights with elements of classic noir, about a middle-aged housewife turned aspiring reporter who pursues the murder of a forgotten young woman.

In 1966, Baltimore is a city of secrets that everyone seems to know--everyone, that is, except Madeline "Maddie" Schwartz. Last year, she was a happy, even pampered housewife. This year, she's bolted from her marriage of almost twenty years, determined to make good on her youthful ambitions to live a passionate, meaningful life.

Maddie wants to matter, to leave her mark on a swiftly changing world. Drawing on her own secrets, she helps Baltimore police find a murdered girl--assistance that leads to a job at the city's afternoon newspaper, the Star. Working at the newspaper offers Maddie the opportunity to make her name, and she has found just the story to do it: a missing woman whose body was discovered in the fountain of a city park lake.

Cleo Sherwood was a young African-American woman who liked to have a good time. No one seems to know or care why she was killed except Maddie--and the dead woman herself. Maddie's going to find the truth about Cleo's life and death. Cleo's ghost, privy to Maddie's poking and prying, wants to be left alone.

Maddie's investigation brings her into contact with people that used to be on the periphery of her life--a jewelry store clerk, a waitress, a rising star on the Baltimore Orioles, a patrol cop, a hardened female reporter, a lonely man in a movie theater. But for all her ambition and drive, Maddie often fails to see the people right in front of her. Her inability to look beyond her own needs will lead to tragedy and turmoil for all sorts of people--including the man who shares her bed, a black police officer who cares for Maddie more than she knows.

My thoughts: Laura Lippman is still a rather new-to-me author, having only read a couple of her books, yet she is one that I know I want to read more of, so it was a no-brainer to jump on this blog tour. It's a bit different from the other two books I read of hers but still quite enjoyable.

I loved the different voices used to tell this story, though I will say, it does make it a bit hard to keep track of who is narrating at different times. But they all have something to contribute to the story and I thought it was well done.  Just about everyone Maddie meets ends up narrating a chapter and each character has something to add to the overall story, helping to move it forward. While it might seem superfluous, I assure you it is not. 

This is a slow-burning story and as such, it's the type of book that isn't to be rushed but one that needs to be taken in slowly so that you get all the nuances and details that are offered. It's not about the action but rather more about the characters' perspectives and what they end up discovering. 

Maddie was determined to make her mark and that she did. She was not content to just to a housewife any longer, so she left her husband and started working at the newspaper office. I loved the glimpses into the newspaper industry back in the 1960's - so different than how things work now, with everything being able to be released immediately online.

This is an original, engaging mystery that kept my attention throughout. I definitely recommend this if you are looking for something a little different than the same-old thriller that seems to be out there. Plus, this book has a surprising twist at the end that is sure to throw you for a loop - it definitely shocked me! While I know this book is different than Laura's other books, I am certainly looking forward to reading more of her work...and soon!

About the author: Since Laura Lippman’s debut in 1997, she has been recognized as a distinctive voice in mystery fiction and named one of the “essential” crime writers of the last 100 years. Her books have won most of the major awards in her field and been translated into more than twenty languages. She lives in Baltimore and New Orleans with her family.

Authors Links:  Website   |   Twitter   |   Facebook    |   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 & #ladyinthelake).


Friday, August 09, 2019

Review: The Last Time I Saw You by Liv Constantine

Title: The Last Time I Saw You
Author: Liv Constantine
Published: May 2019, Harper

Format: ARC Paperback, 309 pages
Source: Author

The internationally bestselling author of The Last Mrs. Parrish follows that success with an addictive novel filled with shocking twists about the aftermath of a brutal high-society murder.

Dr. Kate English has it all. Not only is she the heiress to a large fortune; she has a gorgeous husband and daughter, a high-flying career, and a beautiful home anyone would envy.

But all that changes the night Kate’s mother, Lily, is found dead, brutally murdered in her own home. Heartbroken and distraught, Kate reaches out to her estranged best friend, Blaire Barrington, who rushes to her side for the funeral, where the years of distance between them are forgotten in a moment.

That evening, Kate’s grief turns to horror when she receives an anonymous text: You think you’re sad now, just wait. By the time I’m finished with you, you’ll wish you had been buried today. More than ever, Kate needs her old friend’s help.

Once Blaire decides to take the investigation into her own hands, it becomes clear that all is not as it seems in Baltimore high society. As infidelity, lies, and betrayals come to light, and tensions rise to a boiling point, she begins to alienate Kate’s friends and relatives with her relentless, accusatory questions, as she tries to find Lily’s killer. The murderer could be anyone—friend, neighbor, loved one. But whoever it is, it’s clear that Kate is next on their list. . .

In The Last Time I Saw You, Liv Constantine takes the lightning pace of The Last Mrs. Parrish and raises the stakes, creating an exquisitely tension-filled and absorbing tale of psychological suspense in which innocent lives—and one woman’s sanity—hang in the balance.

My thoughts: Last year I read, and absolutely loved, Liv Constantine's debut novel, The Last Mrs. Parrish. So of course I was excited to get my hands on their sophomore novel, The Last Time I Saw You...and while I liked it, it didn't quite live up to the hype that their debut novel did.

I think I may have set my expectations a little too high for this book. It was good, I just felt it was not quite as stellar as their previous book. I liked the way the book was set up and felt it had some really good potential, but then it becomes rather repetitive and drags a bit. Was it still an entertaining read, yes...but did I get a little bored at times, most definitely.

I think for me, this book just became a bit too soap opera-ish. I've watched way too many of them and that was not what I was expecting here, yet that was the feeling I kept getting. I just couldn't get a feel for the characters...and I have nothing wrong with not liking the characters - in fact, I love when I don't. But that wasn't the case here. I'm not exactly sure what it was with them, but it just didn't jive. They just didn't seem to be believable for what was going on. Their actions were a bit over-the-top for the circumstances a bit too often to be realistic.

This was an easy book to read and I would say if you like murder mysteries, give it a shot. Because I loved their first book so much, I will definitely be keeping an eye out for what comes next from Liv Constantine!


Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Review: Girls Like Us by Cristina Alger

Title: Girls Like Us
Author: Cristina Alger
Published: July 2019, G.P. Putnam's Sons
Format: Hardcover, 276 pages
Source: Publisher via GetRed PR

From the celebrated and bestselling author of The Banker's Wife, worlds collide when an FBI agent investigates a string of grisly murders on Long Island that raises the impossible question: What happens when the primary suspect is your father?

FBI Agent Nell Flynn hasn't been home in ten years. Nell and her father, Homicide Detective Martin Flynn, have never had much of a relationship. And Suffolk County will always be awash in memories of her mother, Marisol, who was brutally murdered when Nell was just seven.

When Martin Flynn dies in a motorcycle accident, Nell returns to the house she grew up in so that she can spread her father's ashes and close his estate. At the behest of her father's partner, Detective Lee Davis, Nell becomes involved in an investigation into the murders of two young women in Suffolk County. The further Nell digs, the more likely it seems to her that her father should be the prime suspect--and that his friends on the police force are covering his tracks. Plagued by doubts about her mother's murder--and her own role in exonerating her father in that case--Nell can't help but ask questions about who killed Ria Ruiz and Adriana Marques and why. But she may not like the answers she finds--not just about those she loves, but about herself.

My thoughts: Last year I read The Banker's Wife by Cristina Alger and absolutely loved it. And I knew after finishing that book that I would be reading more of this author. I was ecstatic to learn that not only did she have another book coming out this summer, but that it was set in Suffolk County, Long Island, where I grew up and now live once again. 

I loved this book for so many different reasons. I loved that I was familiar with the setting - to me, I love when I know the locale of the book because it just makes it more identifiable and I can really visualize where things are happening. I also loved that the author clearly shows the disparity between the classes within Suffolk County. She shows the differences between the hard-working, year-round residents of those that live in the Hamptons and the uber rich and wealthy upper-class residents who only come out to the houses in the summer or when they are entertaining. This distinction is not only made between money  for the "haves" and the "have-nots" but also to the way the law operates.

Nell Flynn absolutely made this book. I loved that here we have a strong, complex character - yet, she was NOT unreliable. This is one time when we could completely rely on our main character. Yes, she was flawed, but I loved her all the more for it. She has issues, and I am so bummed that we only get this one book with her. Nell is the type of character you want more of...hint, hint Cristina!!! Nell is willing to do anything to get what she wants. Here, she has to work through her own demons to help solve these cases...and it's not quite as easy as she is hoping.

I also appreciated the fact that these cases that Nell finds herself involved in were based on true cases, both of which I remember from the news. I have just started to dabble into true crime, so knowing that a local author is using her own backyard as the basis for her books is so cool. Of course, that also means I need to now go find more about these cases, too!

I loved this book...I liked how at the beginning it was a little slower, so that you could meet Nell, learn about her and get a good feel for what was happening in her hometown to cause her to stick around for a while. Then after that is all set, the pace picks up and stays pretty steady, keeping you hooked and wanting to keep reading to find out ultimately what is going on. I loved this combination and found myself totally immersed in both the writing and the story this way.

I cannot wait to see what comes next from Cristina Alger - I've loved her last two books! In the meantime, I did just pick up one of her earlier books, The Darlings, and I'm looking forward to reading that one soon. Have you read all her books yet? Have you read this one yet? If not I highly recommend adding it to your summer reading's so good!

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