Saturday, November 30, 2019

Review: Deadly Secrets by Robert Bryndza (audio)


Title: Deadly Secrets
Author: Robert Bryndza
Series: Detective Erika Foster, #6
Narrator: Jan Cramer
Published: April 2018, Bookouture
Length: 8 hours 42 minutes
Source: Personal copy via Audible

Summary:
To commit the perfect murder, you need the perfect cover.

On a cold icy morning, a mother wakes to find her daughter's blood-soaked body frozen to the road. Who would carry out such a horrific killing on the victim's doorstep?

Straight off her last harrowing case, Detective Erika Foster is feeling fragile but determined to lead the investigation. As she sets to work, she finds reports of assaults in the same quiet South London suburb where the woman was killed. One chilling detail links them to the murder victim - they were all attacked by a figure in black wearing a gas mask.

Erika is on the hunt for a killer with a terrifying calling card. The case gets more complicated when she uncovers a tangled web of secrets surrounding the death of the beautiful young woman.

Yet just as Erika begins to piece the clues together, she is forced to confront painful memories of her past. Erika must dig deep, stay focused and find the killer. Only this time, one of her own is in terrible danger ...


My thoughts:  It's no secret that I am a huge fan of Robert Bryndza's Detective Erika Foster series and while I know he has a brand new series coming out - the Kate Marshall series - I realized that I had not read the last book that he had written for the Erika Foster series, so I needed to do so pronto! I don't know if Deadly Secrets is the final book in this series or if he will be writing more, but I'm so glad I got one more hurrah with Erika...I do so love her!!!

This book is quite intense and I loved that we get to see a vulnerable side to not only our beloved Erika Foster but also to Detective Moss. The police work we see is incredible and I loved that we got to see Detective Moss take the lead, though some of those scenes involving her towards the end of the book had my heart in my mouth! I will say this book is probably my favorite of the series so far - we see some incredible character development happening on all fronts and if there is another book, I can't wait to see how it all pans out.

I will say, I was quite shocked with the direction the ending took...not that I didn't like it, but I was absolutely not expecting it at all. It will grab your attention for sure and have you thinking...and that is why I think it works. It's not your usual ending, but when you take a moment and mull it over, you'll understand how it all comes together and works. If you read this book, let me know your thoughts on it.

As I've mentioned, I don't know if this is the end of the road for our beloved Detective Erika Foster or if Robert Bryndza is just taking a break while diving into something new...but I hope it isn't the last we've seen of her.


Audio thoughts: Jan Cramer completely shines in her narration of this series. She just gets these characters and the story lines. I truly believe that having the same narrator narrate this series really helps with the consistency in the voices and nuances of the characters that both Robert Bryndza has created for them and then Jan Cramer has made them to be. This book really comes alive with Jan Cramer's narration!



Books in this series: 

  1. The Girl in the Ice
  2. The Night Stalker
  3. Dark Water 
  4. Last Breath 
  5. Cold Blood 
  6. Deadly Secrets
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Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Review: Woman on the Edge by Samantha M. Bailey


Title: Woman on the Edge
Author: Samantha M. Bailey
Published: E-book: November 2019/Paperback: March 2020, Simon Schuster (these are US Dates)
Format: ARC Paperback, 272 pages
Source: Author

Summary: 
A moment on the subway platform changes two women’s lives forever—a debut thriller that will take your breath away.

A total stranger on the subway platform whispers, “Take my baby.”

She places her child in your arms. She says your name.

Then she jumps...

In a split second, Morgan Kincaid’s life changes forever. She’s on her way home from work when a mother begs her to take her baby, then places the infant in her arms. Before Morgan can stop her, the distraught mother jumps in front of an oncoming train.

Morgan has never seen this woman before, and she can’t understand what would cause a person to give away her child and take her own life. She also can’t understand how this woman knew her name.

The police take Morgan in for questioning. She soon learns that the woman who jumped was Nicole Markham, prominent CEO of the athletic brand Breathe. She also learns that no witness can corroborate her version of events, which means she’s just become a murder suspect.

To prove her innocence, Morgan frantically retraces the last days of Nicole’s life. Was Nicole a new mother struggling with paranoia or was she in danger? When strange things start happening to Morgan, she suddenly realizes she might be in danger, too.

Woman on the Edge is a pulse-pounding, propulsive thriller about the lengths to which a woman will go to protect her baby—even if that means sacrificing her own life.



My thoughts: I love a book that starts off so intense that I feel I am already holding my breath and I'm only a few pages in...then I know I am in for an unforgettable, totally binge-worthy read and that is exactly what I got. I read this in two sittings, and it probably would have been one had I not had to get off a plane in the middle of reading this!

This book pulls you in right from the start - that first line haunts you the entire story. And the mini cliff-hangers that happen periodically at the end of some chapters will keep you frantically turning those pages as you desperately try to work out just what is going on. The characters are all well-drawn and I was suspicious of everyone and I loved that...I definitely did not see the ending coming.

I loved the way this story was told, alternating between Nicole and Morgan's point of views and going back and forth between the present (Morgan's POV) and the past (Nicole's POV) so that we could get a better picture of what led to Nicole taking the steps she did. You really feel the pressure that Nicole was under and come to understand some of the motivations behind each of the characters. There is a frenetic energy that comes off the page and as the pace of the story moves fast, this only adds to that energy. The author really plays to the characters' flaws in an effortless way, making you all the more invested in them. 

This book is intense! It is equally heartbreaking and shocking as you dig into the layers that surround the mystery of what is really going on. Because believe me, nothing is as it seems here and that is part of the fun of this book. It's an addictive, binge-worthy read that you will not stop thinking about once you finish reading it...but be warned...it's also one that once you start,  you won't want to put down! I cannot recommend this book enough and I cannot wait to see what comes next from this talented author...Samantha M. Bailey is definitely going on my must-read list!!!


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Monday, November 25, 2019

Review: A Girl Named Anna by Lizzy Barber


Title: A Girl Named Anna
Author: Lizzy Barber
Published: September 2019, Mira Books
Format: ARC Paperback, 329 pages
Source: Publisher

Summary: 
A compulsive suspense debut for fans of Megan Miranda, Wendy Walker and Kimberly Belle, about two teens--one sheltered by her strict and reclusive mamma, one living in the shadow of the missing sister who was snatched from a theme park as a toddler--and their search for the truth about their families and each other.

If your whole life is a lie, who can you trust?

Raised in a quiet rural community, Anna has always been taught that her Mamma's rules are the only path to follow. But, on her eighteenth birthday, she defies her Mamma for the first time in her life, and goes to Astroland. She’s never been allowed to visit Florida’s biggest theme park, so why, when she arrives, does everything about it seem so familiar? And is there a connection to the mysterious letter she receives that same day—a letter addressing her by a different name?

Rosie has grown up in the shadow of the missing sister she barely remembers, her family fractured by years of searching without leads. Now, on the fifteenth anniversary of her sister’s disappearance, the media circus resumes as the funds dedicated to the search dry up, and Rosie vows to uncover the truth herself. But can she find the answer before it tears her family apart?

Winner of the Daily Mail First Novel Competition, A Girl Named Anna is a psychologically riveting read that introduces Lizzy Barber as an outstanding new voice in suspense fiction.



My thoughts: I am always surprised when I come across a debut novel that reads like anything but a debut and that is exactly what we have here. And even more exciting is that it is part psychological suspense and part family drama, which really keeps you engaged. 

I loved the way this story is told, alternating between the two points of view. There are many themes running through this book and while I had some inkling as to where it was heading, I was still surprised as to how it all turned out. I will say that this is definitely a slow-burning type of read that picks up speed as the book moves forward.

I enjoyed getting to know each girl as the book takes its time setting things up. As it involves a missing child, it does get a bit emotional at times, and I think it plays that angle quite well. It's quite a powerful read and will have you wondering how you would deal with that on each side. We see the aftermath of the abduction as the story is picked up fifteen years after the incident.

I am always on the hunt for new authors to read and have definitely added a new one to my list...Lizzy Barber has proven to be an author to keep an eye on for sure and I cannot wait to see what she has in store for us next!


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Sunday, November 24, 2019

Review: The Liar's House by Carla Kovach


Title: The Liar's House
Author: Carla Kovach
Series:  Detective Gina Harte, #4
Published: July 2019, Bookouture
Format: E-copy, 337 pages
Source: Personal copy

Summary: 
Samantha stumbled out of the party and on to a busy street only ten minutes away from her home. But she never made it home…

Seven years after Samantha’s disappearance, on what would have been her thirty-fifth birthday, her best friend Diane is shocked to find a letter addressed to Samantha on her doorstep.

Opening the envelope, Diane pulls out a birthday card and a finger nail painted in dusky pink nail polish. The same shade Samantha always wore. The same shade she was wearing the night she went missing.

When police analyse the nail, they don’t get the result they expected. Instead of linking them to Samantha, the nail belongs to another woman, Jade Ashmore. And Jade was murdered the night before the envelope was delivered….

THE COMPLETELY ADDICTIVE NEW CRIME THRILLER FROM BEST SELLING AUTHOR CARLA KOVACH – if you love Lisa Gardner, Robert Bryndza or Clare Mackintosh, you’ll love The Liar’s House. Gripping from the first page – you won’t be able to put it down.



My thoughts: This is the fourth book in the Detective Gina Harte series and somehow I missed it when it first came out and since the fifth book was just released, I knew I had to read this one first.This series just keeps getting better and better! It's so addicting and compelling...I just love when I find these crime fiction/police procedural series with a strong female lead.

While I know that each of these books can be read as a stand-alone, I really do feel that they are so much better read as part of the series and that you get a much richer reading experience reading the books in order. There is so much character development happening in each of the books that I feel you lose out on if you pick up the books willy nilly...but that's just my opinion. Carla Kovach does give you enough back story that you will not be lost should you just pick this one up, not having read any of the other books.

I love that we continue to see just how vulnerable and flawed Detective Gina Harte really is. The case that her team is working on has some close ties to her and it brings up a lot of memories that Gina would rather not think about. Of course, there really isn't many people that know about Gina's past and she wants it to stay that way...all except her boss and while things might have cooled down between them dating-wise, there is still a mutual affection between them. Will he keep her on the case knowing how close to home this is hitting? 

This case takes many twists and turns and really keeps you on the edge of your seat as the team works to figure out who is behind all the murders. I love that we as the reader are pulled right in from the beginning and things never really let up until the very end...the mystery, the characters and the suspense are keep you hooked and keep you flipping those pages until you get to the resolution. 

I absolutely love this crime series and now I cannot wait to read the next book, which is already out.


Books in this series: 
  1. The Next Girl
  2. Her Final Hour
  3. Her Pretty Bones 
  4. The Liar's House
  5. Her Dark Heart
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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Review: Regretting You by Colleen Hoover


Title: Regretting You
Author: Colleen Hoover
Published: December 2019, Montlake Romance
Format: ARC E-copy, 365 pages
Source: Netgalley via Publisher

Summary: 
From #1 New York Times bestselling author of It Ends with Us comes a poignant novel about family, first love, grief, and betrayal that will touch the hearts of both mothers and daughters.

Morgan Grant and her sixteen-year-old daughter, Clara, would like nothing more than to be nothing alike.

Morgan is determined to prevent her daughter from making the same mistakes she did. By getting pregnant and married way too young, Morgan put her own dreams on hold. Clara doesn’t want to follow in her mother’s footsteps. Her predictable mother doesn’t have a spontaneous bone in her body.

With warring personalities and conflicting goals, Morgan and Clara find it increasingly difficult to coexist. The only person who can bring peace to the household is Chris—Morgan’s husband, Clara’s father, and the family anchor. But that peace is shattered when Chris is involved in a tragic and questionable accident. The heartbreaking and long-lasting consequences will reach far beyond just Morgan and Clara.

While struggling to rebuild everything that crashed around them, Morgan finds comfort in the last person she expects to, and Clara turns to the one boy she’s been forbidden to see. With each passing day, new secrets, resentment, and misunderstandings make mother and daughter fall further apart. So far apart, it might be impossible for them to ever fall back together.



My thoughts: I still consider myself to be a newbie to the Colleen Hoover fan club, having only read three of her books, but having absolutely loved those three. I do know that when I pick up one of her books, I am probably going to be gutted, emotionally wrecked and doing some ugly crying at least once or twice...and I am totally fine with that. I think it's great that she has that ability to make you feel so deeply in a book and believe me, this book is no exception!

As soon as I started this book, I was immediately hooked. I love that this author has such a way of creating her characters that you are so attached to them. You feel this connection to them where you almost bond with them and can not stop thinking of them. This is absolutely a binge-worthy type of read where you will not want to do anything but keep reading, despite the fact that you will be utterly devastated a time or two - keep those tissues handy!

The emotions that Colleen Hoover is able to evoke out of a book is nothing short of a miracle. She deals with grief and how we all handle it differently. She deals with the mother-daughter relationship so beautifully and so true. I have a good relationship with my mom and I've always had one, but I could see in Morgan and Clara's relationship the strain and the tension and it felt so real...there wasn't anything about this relationship that felt untrue at any point. And the biggest takeaway from this is that communication is really the key to any good relationship!

This book just might be my new favorite of the ones I've read so far from Colleen Hoover. I do plan at some point to go back read her other books but she is definitely a must read for me as I know I can count on her to deliver a unique, character driven story that will steal your heart. Definitely put this one on your list if it isn't already on it...it's absolutely worth the read!


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Monday, November 18, 2019

Review: Broken Souls by Patricia Gibney


Title: Broken Souls
Author: Patricia Gibney
Series: D.I. Lottie Parker, #7
Published: October 2019, Bookouture
Format: ARC E-copy, 446 pages
Source: Netgalley via Publisher

Summary: 
‘She shivered, though the kitchen was warm. Icicles of foreboding trickled down her spine. With trembling hands she whipped back her hair at the nape of her neck. As she turned away from the window, she missed the shadow passing by.’

One dark winter’s morning, bride-to-be Cara Dunne is found hanging in her home, dressed in her wedding dress, with a lock of hair removed. Detective Lottie Parker is first on the scene. Looking at Cara’s bruised and battered body, she wonders who could have hated her enough to kill her at the happiest time of her life.

The case takes a darker turn that afternoon with another shocking discovery – the broken body of a second young woman, pushed from the roof of the hospital where she worked. Fiona Heffernan was also due to be married, and her body is clad in a wedding dress, a lock of her hair cut off.

The killings seem so personal that Lottie is convinced the girls have been killed by someone they knew. When she goes to break the news to Fiona’s family, she’s on the alert for anything suspicious. But then she makes a discovery that causes her blood to run cold – Fiona’s eight-year-old daughter Lily didn’t return home from her dance recital that afternoon. Terrified that Lily will be the next victim of a twisted and dangerous individual, Lottie takes the case into her own hands, risking her life when she comes face-to-face with the killer…

If you love Karin Slaughter, Robert Dugoni and Rachel Caine, you’ll be hooked by this heart-stopping thriller from Patricia Gibney. Broken Souls will keep you guessing until the very last page!



My thoughts: This is the 7th book in Patricia Gibney's Detective Lottie Parker series and I think it might have been the strongest book in the series yet. As much as I adore this series, I feel the character development has taken a bit of a back seat, but not here...it definitely moves forward in this latest installment and I loved it!

As is usually the case, this book starts fast and furious, which makes it such an addicting read. And one of my favorite aspects is that we hear from the murderer, though we aren't quite privy to their identity until later on...but still, I always love when author's give us this inside look into a killer's mind - it makes the story just the little bit more chilling. There are many suspects to the case that the team is working on and I admit I had no clue who was the guilty party...so many of the characters we meet were despicable and really could have been the "bad" guy that I had a hard time deciding who really did it.

I've always been a fan of DI Lottie Parker - she's strong and has a lot on her plate in her personal life, and I liked that she really kept it together here. A lot of things were thrown at here in this book that would have had the old Lottie running for booze or pills but she kept a clear head for the most part and worked her way through it. I will say that I wasn't happy with one particular development but I am curious to see how it plays out in the next book...



Books in this series:    
  1. The Missing Ones
  2. The Stolen Girls
  3. The Lost Child
  4. No Safe Place 
  5. Tell Nobody 
  6. Final Betrayal 
  7. Broken Souls


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Friday, November 15, 2019

Review: The Other Windsor Girl by Georgie Blalock


Title: The Other Windsor Girl
Author: Georgie Blalock
Published: November 2019, William Morrow Paperbacks
Format: ARC Paperback, 400 pages
Source: Publisher

Summary: 
In a historical debut evoking the style of The Crown, the daughter of an impoverished noble is swept into the fame and notoriety of the royal family and Princess Margaret's fast-living friends when she is appointed as Margaret's second Lady-in-Waiting.

Diana, Catherine, Meghan…glamorous Princess Margaret outdid them all. Springing into post-World War II society, and quite naughty and haughty, she lived in a whirlwind of fame and notoriety. Georgie Blalock captures the fascinating, fast-living princess and her “set” as seen through the eyes of one of her ladies-in-waiting.

In dreary, post-war Britain, Princess Margaret captivates everyone with her cutting edge fashion sense and biting quips. The royal socialite, cigarette holder in one hand, cocktail in the other, sparkles in the company of her glittering entourage of wealthy young aristocrats known as the Margaret Set, but her outrageous lifestyle conflicts with her place as Queen Elizabeth’s younger sister. Can she be a dutiful princess while still dazzling the world on her own terms?

Post-war Britain isn’t glamorous for The Honorable Vera Strathmore. While writing scandalous novels, she dreams of living and working in New York, and regaining the happiness she enjoyed before her fiancĂ© was killed in the war. A chance meeting with the Princess changes her life forever. Vera amuses the princess, and what—or who—Margaret wants, Margaret gets. Soon, Vera gains Margaret’s confidence and the privileged position of second lady-in-waiting to the Princess. Thrust into the center of Margaret’s social and royal life, Vera watches the princess’s love affair with dashing Captain Peter Townsend unfurl.

But while Margaret, as a member of the Royal Family, is not free to act on her desires, Vera soon wants the freedom to pursue her own dreams. As time and Princess Margaret’s scandalous behavior progress, both women will be forced to choose between status, duty, and love…



My thoughts: If you know me, you know I've been counting down the days until the next season of The Crown comes back to Netflix and luckily that time is shortly upon us...Season 3 premieres this Sunday, November 17th and I cannot wait!!! I have loved every episode of this series and as a result, have become infatuated everything I can get my hands on dealing with the Royal Family, so of course when I saw Georgie Blalock's debut novel about Princess Margaret I knew I had to read it.

I admit that other than watching The Crown, I do not know much about Princess Margaret and I do plan on rectifying that. Now of course, this is not a biography of her, but rather a historical fictional account and I fully understand that, but it has only piqued my interest even more. I loved the blend of fact and fiction and I felt that Georgie Blalock does it effortlessly. She chooses to tell the story through the eyes of a fictitious character, The Honorable Vera Strathmore.

I loved Vera's character and was as equally interested in her story as I was in Princess Margaret's. Vera is the epitome of strength. She has much to overcome and does so with poise and grace, which, ironically is quite the opposite of how Princess Margaret tends to behave. I was well aware of some of the controversies that happened during the years that this book covers, but it was interesting to see them again from a different lens. 

As much as Princess Margaret shocked and caused havoc here and there, and as appalling as her behavior sometimes seems, deep down you can't help but feel sympathy for her. As she is pushed further into the background because of her sister the Queen, it appears her behavior becomes more and more outrageous. When you stop and think for a moment about this, you can't help but feel sad.  Who doesn't want to be loved? And who doesn't want to be with the person that they choose? Who wants to have to get approval to be with someone, especially when that approval has to come from your sister and the government? Royalty is a hard life, whether you choose it or not and this story shows that it might not really be as glamorous as it seems.

I flew through this book as I could not get enough of either women's story. I was completely hooked from start to finish and never once felt that any part of the book lagged. At times, it's like watching a train wreck or getting the best gossip, and I loved every minute of it. As with most historical fiction, it has left me wanting to learn more about Princess Margaret. I find her to be so fascinating and I definitely plan to seek out more books about her. Have you read anything about her? 


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Thursday, November 14, 2019

Review: Saint X by Alexis Schaitkin


Title: Saint X
Author: Alexis Schaitkin
Published: February 2020, Celadon Books
Format: ARC Paperback, 352 pages
Source: Publisher

Summary: 
Hailed as a “marvel of a book” and “brilliant and unflinching,” Alexis Schaitkin’s stunning debut Saint X is a haunting portrait of grief, obsession, and the bond between two sisters never truly given the chance to know one another.

Claire is only seven years old when her college-age sister, Alison, disappears on the last night of their family vacation at a resort on the Caribbean island of Saint X. Several days later, Alison’s body is found in a remote spot on a nearby cay, and two local men―employees at the resort―are arrested. But the evidence is slim, the timeline against it, and the men are soon released. The story turns into national tabloid news, a lurid mystery that will go unsolved. For Claire and her parents, there is only the return home to broken lives.

Years later, Claire is living and working in New York City when a brief but fateful encounter brings her together with Clive Richardson, one of the men originally suspected of murdering her sister. It is a moment that sets Claire on an obsessive pursuit of the truth―not only to find out what happened the night of Alison’s death but also to answer the elusive question: Who exactly was her sister? At seven, Claire had been barely old enough to know her: a beautiful, changeable, provocative girl of eighteen at a turbulent moment of identity formation.

As Claire doggedly shadows Clive, hoping to gain his trust, waiting for the slip that will reveal the truth, an unlikely attachment develops between them, two people whose lives were forever marked by the same tragedy.

For readers of Emma Cline’s The Girls and Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies, Saint X is a flawlessly drawn and deeply moving story that culminates in an emotionally powerful ending.



My thoughts: It's not often that I read a book so far ahead of it's publication date but I just couldn't help myself with this one. This is going to be a book everyone will be talking about...it's that good! So mark your calendars for February 18th when this one hits the shelves...you will definitely want to pick up a copy or pre-order this book.

One thing to take note of...while this book might give off vibes of the Natalie Hollaway case, it could not be more different. And I so appreciated that. Yes, there are some similarities in that there is a college girl that goes missing on an island and winds up dead. But this isn't just a whodunit story. The mystery surrounding Alison's death is not central to this book but rather secondary.  The main story is how Alison's family deals with her death, specially her sister Claire. What are the ramifications of such a horrific incident on our lives, and what are the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of the world when something happens that we aren't given a clear cut answer?

I loved the way this story was told, alternating from Claire/Emily's perspective to that of the other character's point of view sprinkled in here and there. We get their view points on how Alison's death has affected their lives which just goes to show how one traumatic event really can have a lasting impact. Characters are vividly drawn, and at times you will empathize with them and at other times, you will want to knock some sense into them. It also takes a look at class - the haves and the have-nots are clearly drawn out here. We are shown the life of luxury on one page and then shown how some are just trying to make ends meet. The juxtaposition throughout this book will knock your socks off.

This is the type of book that will not only haunt you, but play on all your emotions. It will have you thinking of those you lost and how their death has affected you. Alexis Schaitkin has developed a book that went in a direction I could not even have imagined and I loved every second of it. She is definitely an author to keep an eye out for and I am stunned that this is her debut novel...this is one not to be missed!!!


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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Review: The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams


Title: The Golden Hour
Author: Beatriz Williams
Published: July 2019, William Morrow
Format: Hard Cover, 480 pages
Source: Publisher

Summary: 
The New York Times bestselling author of The Summer Wives and A Certain Age creates a dazzling epic of World War II-era Nassau—a hotbed of spies, traitors, and the most infamous couple of the age, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

The Bahamas, 1941. Newly-widowed Leonora “Lulu” Randolph arrives in Nassau to investigate the Governor and his wife for a New York society magazine. After all, American readers have an insatiable appetite for news of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, that glamorous couple whose love affair nearly brought the British monarchy to its knees five years earlier. What more intriguing backdrop for their romance than a wartime Caribbean paradise, a colonial playground for kingpins of ill-gotten empires?

Or so Lulu imagines. But as she infiltrates the Duke and Duchess’s social circle, and the powerful cabal that controls the islands’ political and financial affairs, she uncovers evidence that beneath the glister of Wallis and Edward’s marriage lies an ugly—and even treasonous—reality. In fact, Windsor-era Nassau seethes with spies, financial swindles, and racial tension, and in the middle of it all stands Benedict Thorpe: a scientist of tremendous charm and murky national loyalties. Inevitably, the willful and wounded Lulu falls in love.

Then Nassau’s wealthiest man is murdered in one of the most notorious cases of the century, and the resulting coverup reeks of royal privilege. Benedict Thorpe disappears without a trace, and Lulu embarks on a journey to London and beyond to unpick Thorpe’s complicated family history: a fateful love affair, a wartime tragedy, and a mother from whom all joy is stolen.

The stories of two unforgettable women thread together in this extraordinary epic of espionage, sacrifice, human love, and human courage, set against a shocking true crime . . . and the rise and fall of a legendary royal couple.



My thoughts: It's no big secret that I am a huge fan of Beatriz Williams' books. I love nothing more than getting lost in her stories. There is just something about her books - they are the perfect blend of historical fiction, compelling characters and fantastic writing that bring me back time and again. I just can't get enough of this perfect combination!!!

I was ecstatic to learn that this latest book brought into the fray the Duke and Duchess of Windsor...I am such a fan of the British Royalty and have to admit that I do not know much about this couple other than what I learned from watching The Crown, yet I am so curious about them. I will say, though, that unfortunately, they really only appear peripherally, yet you still get a sense of them, so all was not for nothing.

As with all of Beatriz's books, there is a dual narrative and I was equally invested in both time lines. It follows two women decades apart, ultimately weaving their stories together. I love trying to figure out just how these stories might be tied together - to me that is always such a fun mystery to work out as I am reading. All the characters we meet are so compelling and written in such a way that they are unforgettable, as I find is often the case with Beatriz's books.

This book is about family, war, courage, ruthlessness, hope, and love. It effortlessly blends historical events with fiction to create such a memorable read. Reading books set during the wars are always a draw to me because we get different perspectives, and this one is certainly a unique one. And the setting is exceptional - I don't think I have read a book set in the Bahamas during the war which made this book that much more appealing. And Beatriz certainly has a knack for capturing a sense of place for sure.

This is definitely a book to savior, not one to rush through. Yes, it's a bit of a chunkster, coming in at close to 500 pages, but once you start reading it, you will get caught up in the story and the characters. It's a book that you will be thinking about while you are reading it and one that you will be thinking about long after you finish reading it.

Beatriz Williams is definitely a must-read author for me...I've read just about every book she's written - I still need to read Overseas, which I have sitting on my shelf. I always know I am in for a treat when I pick up her books. Do you have an author like that - that you must-read?
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Monday, November 11, 2019

Review: The Vanishing Season by Joanna Schaffhausen


Title: The Vanishing Season
Author: Joanna Schaffhausen
Series: Ellery Hathaway, #1
Published: December 2017, Minotaur Books
Format: E-copy, 288 pages
Source: Netgalley

Summary: 
Ellery Hathaway knows a thing or two about serial killers, but not through her police training. She's an officer in sleepy Woodbury, MA, where a bicycle theft still makes the newspapers. No one there knows she was once victim number seventeen in the grisly story of serial killer Francis Michael Coben. The only victim who lived.

When three people disappear from her town in three years, all around her birthday—the day she was kidnapped so long ago—Ellery fears someone knows her secret. Someone very dangerous. Her superiors dismiss her concerns, but Ellery knows the vanishing season is coming and anyone could be next. She contacts the one man she knows will believe her: the FBI agent who saved her from a killer’s closet all those years ago.

Agent Reed Markham made his name and fame on the back of the Coben case, but his fortunes have since turned. His marriage is in shambles, his bosses think he's washed up, and worst of all, he blew a major investigation. When Ellery calls him, he can’t help but wonder: sure, he rescued her, but was she ever truly saved? His greatest triumph is Ellery’s waking nightmare, and now both of them are about to be sucked into the past, back to the case that made them...with a killer who can't let go.



My thoughts: Once again I am joining the party late, just starting this series when book 3 is about the be released in just a few short months, but better late than never right? I took advantage of the fact that Netgalley had books 1 and 2 available as "Read Now" and jumped all over that and I am so happy I did...I've been hearing great things about this series and now I can say I get what everyone is talking about!

This is the type of book that pulls you in right from the start. It is an addicting and unique book that is part thriller, part police procedural, and part character study. Yes, there are horrific things that happened to Ellery when she was young and then again that happen to the new victims, but what I loved here is that the author never gets too graphic but rather just alludes to the acts that are done. It's creepy, but all done without being overly graphic which every once is a while is a nice change of pace.

I loved both Ellery and Reed's characters. They are both deeply flawed characters and I loved them working together. Both these characters have their secrets and I love nothing more than characters with buried pasts. I also loved that I questioned everyone in this book, including at times Ellery and Reed. 

There is something compelling about a serial killer story and this one kept me glued to the pages. While I did not guess the killer's identity, I did have my guesses and did not see the ending coming, though if I was to reread the book, I wonder if I might have missed a clue or two. It is a fast read and perhaps I did miss something, but either way I did enjoy this book immensely and am quite eager to start book 2, No Mercy soon as I cannot wait to see Ellery and Reed back in action!


Books in this series:
  1. The Vanishing Season
  2. No Mercy
  3. All the Best Lies - due out February 2020


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Friday, November 08, 2019

Blog Tour & Review: November Road by Lou Berney


Title: November Road
Author: Lou Berney
Published: October 2019, William Morrow Paperbacks
Format: Paperback, 320 pages
Source: Publisher via TLC Booktours
 

Summary:
Set against the assassination of JFK, a poignant and evocative crime novel that centers on a desperate cat-and-mouse chase across 1960s America—a story of unexpected connections, daring possibilities, and the hope of second chances from the Edgar Award-winning author of The Long and Faraway Gone. 

Frank Guidry’s luck has finally run out.

A loyal street lieutenant to New Orleans’ mob boss Carlos Marcello, Guidry has learned that everybody is expendable. But now it’s his turn—he knows too much about the crime of the century: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Within hours of JFK’s murder, everyone with ties to Marcello is turning up dead, and Guidry suspects he’s next: he was in Dallas on an errand for the boss less than two weeks before the president was shot. With few good options, Guidry hits the road to Las Vegas, to see an old associate—a dangerous man who hates Marcello enough to help Guidry vanish.

Guidry knows that the first rule of running is "don’t stop," but when he sees a beautiful housewife on the side of the road with a broken-down car, two little daughters and a dog in the back seat, he sees the perfect disguise to cover his tracks from the hit men on his tail. Posing as an insurance man, Guidry offers to help Charlotte reach her destination, California. If she accompanies him to Vegas, he can help her get a new car.

For her, it’s more than a car— it’s an escape. She’s on the run too, from a stifling existence in small-town Oklahoma and a kindly husband who’s a hopeless drunk.

It’s an American story: two strangers meet to share the open road west, a dream, a hope—and find each other on the way.

Charlotte sees that he’s strong and kind; Guidry discovers that she’s smart and funny. He learns that’s she determined to give herself and her kids a new life; she can’t know that he’s desperate to leave his old one behind.

Another rule—fugitives shouldn’t fall in love, especially with each other. A road isn’t just a road, it’s a trail, and Guidry’s ruthless and relentless hunters are closing in on him. But now Guidry doesn’t want to just survive, he wants to really live, maybe for the first time.

Everyone’s expendable, or they should be, but now Guidry just can’t throw away the woman he’s come to love.

And it might get them both killed.


My thoughts: I love reading historical fiction and I love all things to do with JFK, but I have to say I was a little skeptical about this book when I first came across it...I wasn't sure how a thriller plotline was going to work against the JFK assassination, so I didn't rush to pick this one up. Well, that was my bad because this book is amazing! I could not get enough of this book and it just so happens that the weekend prior to me reading this I was in Dallas and happened to visit the exact spot where the assassination took place which just added to the emotional connection of this book, not that it is necessary, but it made it feel a little more heavy in my heart if that makes sense.

This book really took my by surprise in such a good way. I immediately fell in love with the characters, especially the main two, Frank Guidry and Charlotte and her two daughters. If ever there were two characters - Frank and Charlotte - who needed a do-over in life - it is these two, and I was rooting for them the whole way. This book is a character study in the lives of these two characters. Frank isn't really a character you want to like at first, but there is just something about him that makes you want to root for him. 

This book is a multilayered story set against not only the backdrop of Kennedy's assassination but also the civil rights movement happening at the time. It's rich with history and ripe with crime with a little romance is thrown in to lighten it up. It truly is a memorable and fantastic read and I'm so glad I picked it up. This was my first time reading anything by Lou Berney but it certainly will not be the last!





About the author: Lou Berney is the author of three previous novels, Gutshot Straight, Whiplash River, and multiple prize-winning The Long and Faraway Gone. His short fiction has appeared in publications such as The New Yorker, Ploughshares, and the Pushcart Prize anthology. He lives in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
 
Authors Links:  Website   |   Twitter   |   Facebook   
 
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 & #novemberroad).

 

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Thursday, November 07, 2019

Review: Cilka's Journey by Heather Morris (print/audio)


Title: Cilka's Journey
Author: Heather Morris
Series: The Tattooist of Auschwitz, #2
Narrator: Louise Brealey
Published: October 2019, MacMillan Audio / St. Martin's Press
Length: 11 hours 3 minutes / 352 pages
Source: Audio - personal copy / Print - via Publisher

Summary:
From the author of the multi-million copy bestseller, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, comes the new novel based on an incredible true story of love and resilience.

"She was the bravest person I ever met." —Lale Sokolov on Cilka Klein, The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Cilka is just sixteen years old when she is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp, in 1942. The Commandant at Birkenau, Schwarzhuber, notices her long beautiful hair, and forces her separation from the other women prisoners. Cilka learns quickly that power, even unwillingly given, equals survival.


After liberation, Cilka is charged as a collaborator for sleeping with the enemy and sent to Siberia. But what choice did she have? And where did the lines of morality lie for Cilka, who was sent to Auschwitz when still a child? 

In a Siberian prison camp, Cilka faces challenges both new and horribly familiar, including the unwanted attention of the guards. But when she makes an impression on a woman doctor, Cilka is taken under her wing. Cilka begins to tend to the ill in the camp, struggling to care for them under brutal conditions.

Cilka finds endless resources within herself as she daily confronts death and faces terror. And when she nurses a man called Ivan, Cilka finds that despite everything that has happened to her, there is room in her heart for love.


My thoughts: I recently read and loved, as much as you can love, Heather Morris's book, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, and one of the reasons I finally picked that one up was because I knew she had this book coming out. While this latest one can certainly be read as a stand-alone, I am glad that I read the prior book first as it gave me the background I needed to fully  understand where Cilka's story from.

This story gutted me but I'm glad that I read it as it was inspiring as much as it was heartbreaking. Cilka made it out of Auschwitz but was then charged as a collaborator and sent to the Siberian gullag for 15 years for sleeping with the enemy, not that she had any choice in the matter. It's unbelievable to think that some of the survivors of the concentration camps would find themselves imprisoned yet again for such ridiculous charges...they had no say in the matter as in Cilka's case.

This is a story of strength, endurance and survival. Heather Morris does a fantastic job showcasing just how abhorrent the conditions were for women at the work camps in Siberia, including the crimes committed against them. Yet through Cilka's story, there is a sense of hope and inspiration. As tough as the conditions were, she did her best to make the most of it, and constantly tried to help those around her.

This book is emotionally difficult to read at times, and I felt a bit more emotionally connected to it than I did to the previous book. But it is such an important book to read - these stories need to be told so that this never happens again!


Audio thoughts: I went back and forth between the print and audio version of this book. Louise Brealey does an amazing job with this audio - her voice is captivating and never once does she let her emotions get the best of her. I also loved the interview at the end of the audio between the author and the narrator

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