Always With a Book

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Review: Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter

Title: Pieces of Her
Author: Karin Slaughter
Published: August 2018, William Morrow
Format: ARC Paperback, 480 pages
Source: Publisher

The #1 internationally bestselling author returns with a new novel in the vein of her New York Times bestsellers Pretty Girls and The Good Daughter—a story even more electrifying, provocative, and suspenseful than anything she’s written before. 

What if the person you thought you knew best turns out to be someone you never knew at all . . . ?

Andrea Cooper knows everything about her mother, Laura. She knows she’s spent her whole life in the small beachside town of Belle Isle; she knows she’s never wanted anything more than to live a quiet life as a pillar of the community; she knows she’s never kept a secret in her life. Because we all know our mothers, don’t we?

But all that changes when a trip to the mall explodes into violence and Andrea suddenly sees a completely different side to Laura. Because it turns out that before Laura was Laura, she was someone completely different. For nearly thirty years she’s been hiding from her previous identity, lying low in the hope that no one would ever find her. But now she’s been exposed, and nothing will ever be the same again.

The police want answers and Laura’s innocence is on the line, but she won’t speak to anyone, including her own daughter. Andrea is on a desperate journey following the breadcrumb trail of her mother’s past. And if she can’t uncover the secrets hidden there, there may be no future for either one of them. . . 

My thoughts: While I have only read the last few books of Karin Slaughter - I have become an instant fan! Her books are so addicting and intense and filled with exciting, well-developed characters that you can't help but get attached to.

At the heart of this story are two fundamental questions: Can you really escape your past? and How well do you really know those around you? These two questions come to play when Andrea and her mother Laura are caught in a shooting at a mall. Andrea sees a side of her mother she never saw before and suddenly her whole life shifts...who is this person in front of her? In the aftermath of the shooting, things take on a new light and send Andrea searching for answers that she never knew she needed to know.

I loved the way this story is told. It alternates between Andrea's chapters in the present tense and Laura's chapters in the past tense. But I have to say, this is a book you need to pay attention to and when I first picked it up, I totally was not in the right head-space for it. There wasn't anything wrong with the book - I just could not concentrate on what I was reading, so I had to put it down. Once I was able to give my full attention to the book, I was able to totally immerse myself in it...and I'm so glad I did that. 

This book really kept me guessing all the way through. As the pieces of the puzzle slowly come together, we find out just who Laura is and why things are the way they are. I had some guesses but I never did put it all together. It's a clever, complex, thrilling novel...and I highly recommend it!


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Review: I Know You Know by Gilly Macmillan

Title: I Know You Know
Author: Gilly Macmillan
Published: September 2018, William Morrow Paperbacks
Format: ARC Paperback, 384 pages
Source: Publisher

Twenty years ago, eleven-year-olds Charlie Page and Scott Ashby were murdered in the city of Bristol, their bodies dumped near a dog racing track. A man was convicted of the brutal crime, but decades later, questions still linger.

For his whole life, filmmaker Cody Swift has been haunted by the deaths of his childhood best friends. The loose ends of the police investigation consume him so much that he decides to return to Bristol in search of answers. Hoping to uncover new evidence, and to encourage those who may be keeping long-buried secrets to speak up, Cody starts a podcast to record his findings. But there are many people who don’t want the case—along with old wounds—reopened so many years after the tragedy, especially Charlie’s mother, Jess, who decides to take matters into her own hands.

When a long-dead body is found in the same location the boys were left decades before, the disturbing discovery launches another murder investigation. Now Detective John Fletcher, the investigator on the original case, must reopen his dusty files and decide if the two murders are linked. With his career at risk, the clock is ticking and lives are in jeopardy…

My thoughts: Ever since reading Gilly Macmillan's debut novel, What She Knew, back in 2015, I knew this was an author I was going to follow and read everything she wrote...and so far she has not let me down! I love that she has her books with familiar characters - DI Jim Clemo and then she has her standalones, and each and every one stands out as being twisty and brilliantly crafty, with that one unique piece to make it stand out.

I am not a listener of podcasts, but I loved how it was used in this book to tell part of the story. I know that other authors have used this device in their books but I have not read those books yet, though I plan to soon! This is just one of the many elements used to tell the story. There was also the different points of view and the use of a dual narrative - and all these different elements came together to tell one heck of a good story that kept me captivated from page one. I binge-read this book in one day, unable to tear myself from this book once I started reading it.

Ever so slowly, the suspense builds in this book. It seems that everyone is hiding secrets and no one is as they seem. The true crime podcast series that Cody Swift is producing is in the hopes that he will finally get answers to what really happened the night his two best friends were murdered. Was the wrong man sent to prison for their murder? And was the man that was just unearthed in a spot not far from where the boys were killed linked to their murders?  

I loved that as we get to know the characters, both from their own perspectives and what we learn about them during the investigations, we find that they aren't necessarily what we might have thought of them initially. This book is definitely full of rich character development and as we get deeper into the book, we find that each of the characters aren't quite who they appear to be. You end up questioning them and wondering if they are trustworthy or not...and that is the brilliance of this book. Just when you think you have it all worked out, think again!

This book kept me on my toes and guessing all the way up to the very last page. I thought I was on the right track but boy was I wrong. There were just enough twists to keep me guessing and wondering where it would head next. And the way the story was told definitely added to the intrigue. I really enjoyed this book and definitely recommend it!


Monday, September 17, 2018

Review: The Impossible Girl by Lydia Kang

Title: The Impossible Girl
Author: Lydia Kang
Published: September 2018, Lake Union Publishing
Format: ARC Paperback, 364 pages
Source: Publisher

Two hearts. Twice as vulnerable.
Manhattan, 1850. Born out of wedlock to a wealthy socialite and a nameless immigrant, Cora Lee can mingle with the rich just as easily as she can slip unnoticed into the slums and graveyards of the city. As the only female resurrectionist in New York, she’s carved out a niche procuring bodies afflicted with the strangest of anomalies. Anatomists will pay exorbitant sums for such specimens—dissecting and displaying them for the eager public.

Cora’s specialty is not only profitable, it’s a means to keep a finger on the pulse of those searching for her. She’s the girl born with two hearts—a legend among grave robbers and anatomists—sought after as an endangered prize.

Now, as a series of murders unfolds closer and closer to Cora, she can no longer trust those she holds dear, including the young medical student she’s fallen for. Because someone has no intention of waiting for Cora to die a natural death.

My thoughts: After reading, and loving, A Beautiful Poison last year, I knew I would be reading whatever else Lydia Kang wrote and so I jumped at the opportunity to get my hands on an early copy of her latest book, The Impossible Girl - and I'm so glad I did...I loved it, maybe even more than last year's book.

Once again, we delve into the early years of NYC's history and have an expertly blended story of fact and fiction. I admit to not knowing much about resurrectionists in general, but I was utterly fascinated by this story - once I started reading it I really had a hard time putting it down! 

This book has such a strong main character - Cora Lee - and she is full of intrigue and mystery. She works in a man's field - that as a resurrectionist - and at times must disguise herself as a man. This is not only because it was unseemly for women to be digging up bodies, but also because she had a secret that could potentially get her killed well before her time to die - she was born with two hearts. To some, she would be the perfect specimen to display as a "curiosity" as was popular at the time.

Despite that fact that this book is rather dark in nature, I found myself frantically flipping the pages to see what would happen to Cora. I also loved that every so often there would be a chapter thrown in from the characters that would end up killed. I loved getting to read about their last minutes on earth - as grisly and grim as that seems. It added another dimension and layer to this already clever book.

This is an intense and gripping book. I loved the mystery surrounding who was doing the killings that were on Cora's watch-list as much as I loved getting to the bottom of the rumors surrounding Cora herself. There were quite a bit of twists that I did not see coming to really keep you on your toes with this one. I can't recommend this one enough!


Thursday, September 13, 2018

Review: The Kitty Committee by Kathyrn Berla

Title: The Kitty Committee
Author: Kathryn Berla
Published: August 2018, Amberjack Publishing
Format: Paperback, 234 pages
Source: Publisher via Publicist

Every year, it comes. And every year, it reminds Grace that someone knows her deepest secret—the secret whose silence has tormented Grace over the years. That secret began with an innocent gang of teenage friends who called themselves The Kitty Committee.

The Kitty Committee of Grace’s youth was ostensibly a group of friendship and support. But the friends fell victim to the ringleader’s manipulative personality and recklessness, which set the girls on a course of vigilante justice, culminating in an act that will forever change their lives, an act that becomes their shared secret.

Grace’s silence and guilt has led to over twenty years of disappointing relationships, an inability to commit, and a crisis of morality. And no matter how much Grace has suffered and lost, still it comes every year. The reminder that someone out there wants The Kitty Committee to suffer--someone who won’t forget and won’t forgive.

Kathryn Berla’s fifth book, The Kitty Committee is a thrilling story of guilt, relationships, sin and atonement for a decades-old secret shared between a circle of once-inseparable friends.

My thoughts: This is the first book I've read by Kathryn Berla, and when I was pitched this book, I have to say I was unsure about it. But, the idea of a decades-old secret shared between friends totally hooked me and I'm glad I gave it a try - it was a good read.

One of the things that kept me glued to this book was the secret...once it was hinted at, I was desperate to find out what it was. And so, I found myself flipping the pages until it was finally revealed. This book deals with a lot and while it is a little slow to get into, eventually I found my groove with it and settled in.

The story moves back and forth between the present and the past, where we gets hints of the secret, all very slowly unraveling what really happened. Grace was part of The Kitty Committee, and they did everything together, until things went too far. The ring-leader was strong-willed, manipulative and a bully and Grace, who was young and naive, fell victim. Now, 20 years later, Grace is still bearing guilt from what happened, and someone outside their group knows what happened...but who?

This novel has depth. It shows how a decision you make can have such far-reaching consequences in your life and can haunt you for decades. The journey that takes us back into Grace's high school days gives us the necessary background to see just what went on and who was involved, but then it also takes us into the present to show us who is sending the notes, and having the two alternate back and forth provides a much clearer picture for when the time comes to finally give us the much needed answer we are so desperately wanting.  

All in all, this was a good book and I'm glad I gave it a try. The secret is what kept me going and it wasn't one I saw coming.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Review: The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle

Title: The Dinner List
Author: Rebecca Serle
Published: September 2018, Flatiron Books
Format: ARC Paperback, 288 pages
Source: Publisher

We’ve been waiting for an hour. That’s what Audrey says. She states it with a little bit of an edge, her words just bordering on cursive. That’s the thing I think first. Not: Audrey Hepburn is at my birthday dinner, but Audrey Hepburn is annoyed.

At one point or another, we’ve all been asked to name five people, living or dead, with whom we’d like to have dinner. Why do we choose the people we do? And what if that dinner was to actually happen? These are the questions Rebecca Serle contends within her utterly captivating novel, The Dinner List, a story imbued with the same delightful magical realism as One Day,and the life-changing romance of Me Before You.

When Sabrina arrives at her thirtieth birthday dinner she finds at the table not just her best friend, but also three significant people from her past, and well, Audrey Hepburn. As the appetizers are served, wine poured, and dinner table conversation begins, it becomes clear that there’s a reason these six people have been gathered together.

Delicious but never indulgent, sweet with just the right amount of bitter, The Dinner List is a romance for our times. Bon appetit.

My thoughts:  This book was such a charming read, yet it was also a thought-provoking one, too. It's centered around that age-old question - which five people, living or dead, would you invite to dinner? And it certainly had me pondering this question, musing over my choices as I read the book. 

Right from the start, I was captivated by this tale - after all, Audrey Hepburn is a character! She's one of my all-time favorite movie stars and my favorite movie happens to be Sabrina, which our main character is named. I do enjoy her other movies - Breakfast at Tiffany's and Roman Holiday, though I haven't seen her others. But, I will be rectifying that immediately!

What started out as a cheeky project to get her best friend off her back while they were living together back in college ended up coming to fruition and never in her wildest dreams would Sabrina have imagined it coming true. She was tasked with coming up with five people she would invite to dinner one day and while she ended up changing that list as time went on, the people at the table on her 30th birthday are: her father, her ex-fiance Tobias, her college professor, her best-friend, and Audrey Hepburn. 

I loved the way this book was told. It alternates from scenes at Sabrina's 30th birthday dinner and the past, where we learn all about Sabrina and Tobias' relationship. I felt that this was such a great way to tell the story because both parts seemed to lead into each other, if that makes sense. The dinner scenes were poignant and as we got further on into the night, we find out just why each of the guests have been invited - there is significance for each of them being there. The past scenes are told in a certain way and help Sabrina come to terms with some important things that have gone on in her life.

Going into this book, I thought it was going to be light and fun, but it turned out to be so much more than that. It's a bittersweet tale of love, loss and forgiveness yet it's also charming and whimsical and I couldn't have loved it more.

So, who are my five? I'd invite my Nana, my 6th grade teacher, Jackie Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt and Audrey Hepburn. Who would your five be?


Monday, September 10, 2018

Review: Lies by T.M. Logan

Title: Lies
Author: T.M Logan
Published: September 2018, St. Martin's Press
Format: ARC Paperback, 432 pages
Source: Publisher

What if you have the perfect life, the perfect wife and the perfect child—then, in one shattering moment, you discover nothing is as it seems? Now you are in the sights of a ruthless killer determined to destroy everything you treasure.

It’s the evening drive home from work on a route Joe Lynch has taken a hundred times with his young son. But today, Joe sees his wife meet another man—an encounter that will rip two families apart. Raising the question: Can we ever really trust those closest to us?

Joe will do whatever it takes to protect his family, but as the deception unravels, so does his life. A life played out without any rules. And a cunning opponent who’s always one step ahead.

My thoughts: I love books that keep me engaged and guessing the entire time and that is exactly what this book did - it had me glued to the pages, frantically flipping them as I tried desperately to piece together what was going on before the final reveal and not once did I get to where this book ended up...and I think I loved it even more for that!

How well do we really know those around us? This book poses that question and takes you on a ride that you will not soon forget! I loved that right from the start I was hooked - from the very first line in fact, and never once did I lose interest. This book kept the intensity up because there were little cliff-hangers at the end of just about every chapter...and each time you thought you knew where things were headed...think again! This book messes with your head, completely gets under your skin so that you cannot possibly think about anything else.

I loved that this book had just one narrator. It really allows you to get to know Joe and feel his frustration as he tries, desperately at times, to figure out just what the hell is going on. He's already uncovered a few lies, but just how many more is he going to learn before this whole thing is over? I also liked that Joe is a likeable character - in many of the psychological thrillers out there, the main character is unlikeable and it's a nice change of pace to have a good guy to root for here. While Joe is a bit naive and certainly the underdog here, he's still a good guy and you can't fault him for settling with what he has - or thought he had.

The social media/technology aspect of this book certainly makes you think about your own dependence on these items. It's scary to think about these things, but even more scary to think about it happening to you. Is there any way to truly safeguard our privacy on these items?

This book takes you on a roller-coaster of a ride from start to finish and is filled with lots of twists and just enough questions to keep you glued to the pages. It's definitely a binge-worthy type of read and I will certainly be adding T.M Logan to my must-read list...he's a gifted storyteller, for sure!


Friday, September 07, 2018

Review: Leverage in Death by J.D. Robb

Title: Leverage in Death
Author: J.D. Robb
Series: In Death, #47
Published: September 2018, St. Martin's Press
Format: Hardcover, 400 pages
Source: Publisher

Lieutenant Eve Dallas puzzles over a bizarre suicide bombing in a Wall St. office building in the latest in the #1 New York Times bestselling series…

For the airline executives finalizing a merger that would make news in the business world, the nine a.m. meeting would be a major milestone. But after marketing VP Paul Rogan walked into the plush conference room, strapped with explosives, the headlines told of death and destruction instead. The NYPSD’s Eve Dallas confirms that Rogan was cruelly coerced by two masked men holding his family hostage. His motive was saving his wife and daughter―but what was the motive of the masked men?

Despite the chaos and bad publicity, blowing up one meeting isn’t going to put the brakes on the merger. All it’s accomplished is shattering a lot of innocent lives. Now, with the help of her billionaire husband Roarke, Eve must untangle the reason for an inexplicable act of terror, look at suspects inside and outside both corporations, and determine whether the root of this crime lies in simple sabotage, or something far more complex and twisted.

My thoughts: While this is the 47th book in J.D. Robb's In Death series, this is actually the first time I've read any of the books in this series. I'm actually a huge Nora Roberts (aka J.D. Robb) fan, especially her romantic suspense books, but for some reason, I've never had any inclination to pick up this series. I think it's because I knew it was futuristic and that had turned me off but I didn't realize it was also police procedural, which I happen to love. So this time, when I was sent a copy of the newest book, I decided to give it a try, and I'm glad I did!

As you know, I tend to be a stickler when it comes to reading series - I like to start at the beginning and read a series in order. I feel that's where you get the most out of the character development and any plot threads that are carried over make the most sense. However, that's not always practical, as I've come to realize, and I've lightened up on this "rule" which in this case was a good thing, being that it was book 47! My newest thinking is that if I come across a "new-to-me" series and the book is later in the series, I just jump in. If I really like the book, I can always go back and start at the beginning of the series, and either re-read the book I already read or skim it to refresh my mind as to what happened. If I don't end up loving the book, then no need to go any further.

So, with this book, as I know most books in a series tend to stand on their own, I felt I would be ok jumping in. I know there are probably a ton of things that had I read the whole series up to now, I probably would have understood better, but for the most part, I didn't feel too lost. 

I like Eve and definitely want to know more about her. She certainly makes for an interesting and compelling main character and I loved her drive. She feels for the cases she's working on...she was desperate to figure out what was going on before any more deaths occurred. And I liked that she is able to work with her man, Roarke - she can keep an arm's length when needed, but it was nice to see them work together, too. 

This book is full of action and it is also very detailed. Yes, it is set in the future - though it's not as far into the future as I had thought, and so the futuristic stuff isn't all that out there when you think of how far we have come - home computers were just becoming a thing when I was a kid, and now everyone has their own laptops and such. 

The case that Eve was working on really kept me intrigued. I liked that it wasn't one that I felt was easy to guess at. It delved into areas I wasn't really familiar with, but didn't feel it got too bogged down with all that unnecessary jargon. It had just the right balance as the story warranted. I also liked that the heaviness of the murderers were balanced with the upcoming Oscars and the headache that seemed to present for Eve...that definitely led to some humorous scenes and added some much needed levity!

I enjoyed my first foray into J.D. Robb's world and think that I will certainly be back. This is the type of series that I can see me coming back to as I have time, or just needing a "guilty pleasure" type read now and again. I don't think I could read these books back to back in order to catch up and I have no desire to do so. The books are out there, and I will take my time reading, or maybe even listening to, them as I find the time. I certainly don't want to burn out on them, that's for sure. But I will be back because I want to see how it all started!

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