Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Review: The Coast-to-Coast Murders by James Patterson & J.D. Barker (audio)


Title: The Coast-to-Coast Murders
Author: James Patterson & J.D. Barker
Narrator: Jason Culp, Tristan Morris, Renata Friedman
Published: September 2020, Hachette Audio / Little, Brown & Company
Length: 14 hours 14 minutes / 560 pages
Source: Audio via Library / Print - personal copy

Summary:

A detective and FBI agent join forces on what seems like an open-and-shut case -- but a new rash of killings sends them on a pulse-pounding race against time in this intense thriller. 
 
Michael and Megan Fitzgerald are siblings who share a terrifying past. Both adopted, and now grown -- Michael is a long-haul truck driver, Megan a college student majoring in psychology -- they trust each other before anyone else. They've had to. Their parents are public intellectuals, an Ivy League clinical psychologist and a renowned psychiatrist, and they brought up their adopted children in a rarefied, experimental environment. It sheltered them from the world's harsh realities, but it also forced secrets upon them, secrets they keep at all costs.
 
In Los Angeles, Detective Garrett Dobbs and FBI Agent Jessica Gimble have joined forces to work a murder that seems like a dead cinch. Their chief suspect is quickly identified and apprehended --but then there's another killing just like the one they've been investigating. And another. And not just in Los Angeles -- the spree spreads across the country. The Fitzgerald family comes to the investigators' attention, but Dobbs and Gimble are at a loss -- if one of the four is involved, which Fitzgerald might it be?
 
From coastal California to upstate New York, Dobbs and Gimble race against time and across state lines to stop an ingenious and deeply deranged killer -- one whose dark and twisted appetites put them outside the range of logic or experience.


My thoughts:  If you have been following me for any amount of time, you know I am a big James Patterson fan. But this is the first time I've read anything by J.D. Barker, an author I have been wanting to read for some time, so I was excited when I saw this duo paired up...and boy did this book live up to my expectations and then some!

This book is one thrilling, crazy ride so be prepared to not do anything once you start reading it. It completely kept me enthralled and engaged from start to finish and with all the twists and turns, I did not know where it was heading. I thought a few times I had things worked out only to be completely thrown off course with the latest twist. This book has one shock after another and really keeps you guessing all the way through!

I don't typically reread these kinds of books but this one is so twisted and crazy that I really think I might need to. There is so much packed into this book and at the length it is, that's saying something. I loved the way it was told, moving forward, but then going back in time to give us the history of these siblings. There is so much there that gives us the clues if only you are paying attention. 

I think this is one of the better of the books I've read of all the James Patterson pairings and I hope he writes with J.D. Barker again. And now I will certainly be adding all of J.D. Barker's books to my list...hopefully I will find the time to read them!


Audio thoughts: I decided to go the audio route with this book and what a thrilling experience that was. All the narrators were new to me but I thought they all did a fantastic job. This one really kept me glued to the story and the length didn't even bother me as I was totally focused on what was going on. This was definitely a case where I found myself walking just a little longer because I didn't want to stop listening and get back to real life!


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Monday, January 18, 2021

Review: Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner (audio)


Title: Before She Disappeared
Author: Lisa Gardner
Narrator: Hillary Huber
Published: January 2020, Brilliance Audio / Dutton
Length: 12 hours 7 minutes / 400 pages
Source: Audio - Brilliance Audio / Print - Dutton Books

Summary:
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Gardner, a propulsive thriller featuring an ordinary woman who will stop at nothing to find the missing people that the rest of the world has forgotten

Frankie Elkin is an average middle-aged woman, a recovering alcoholic with more regrets than belongings. But she spends her life doing what no one else will--searching for missing people the world has stopped looking for. When the police have given up, when the public no longer remembers, when the media has never paid attention, Frankie starts looking.

A new case brings her to Mattapan, a Boston neighborhood with a rough reputation. She is searching for Angelique Badeau, a Haitian teenager who vanished from her high school months earlier. Resistance from the Boston PD and the victim's wary family tells Frankie she's on her own--and she soon learns she's asking questions someone doesn't want answered. But Frankie will stop at nothing to discover the truth, even if it means the next person to go missing could be her.


My thoughts: It's no secret that I am a HUGE Lisa Gardner fan. I've read all her Detective D.D. Warren books and many of the books in her other series. When I saw that the author was writing her first stand-alone novel in 20 years, I knew I had to read it, and I loved it!

One thing about Lisa Gardner's books is that while they can be a bit dark, they are incredibly addicting. I was completely captivated by this story and because I listened to it, I found myself walking just a little bit longer or doing just a little bit more cleaning because I did not want to stop listening. 

I also love that we are once again given an incredibly strong main character. Frankie Elkin is not without her own problems, but she is a force to be reckoned with - and I love characters like this. Yes, she is deeply flawed but that's what makes her so interesting. I couldn't wait to get into her backstory as much as I wanted to see what she was going to do about the missing girl. This was an instance where I was as invested in the main character as much as the plot she was involved in, if that makes any sense.

This is such a multilayered story that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Frankie is such a fantastic new character and I loved the way she takes her anger about her past and channels that into solving the missing person cases she takes on, cases that have gone cold and everyone else has given up on. I loved her determination and grit, and her never-give-up attitude. And let's not forget all the interesting and intriguing characters we meet that Frankie either needs on her side for the case or meets at the bar where she works to make some money while staying in the area.

This book kept me guessing all the way through and I had no idea where it was headed. The suspense builds quite nicely and the ending took me by surprise. While this is marked as a stand-alone now, the way it ends leaves the possibly that Lisa Gardner could come back and revisit Frankie Elkin one day and nothing would make me happier! I would definitely love to see this turn into a series!


Audio thoughts: This was a stellar audio book. Hillary Huber brought her A-game to narrate this one and I absolutely loved it! Her pacing and intonation were spot on and she infused just the right amount of tension and emotion into her voice as necessary. There was even the right humor inflected into her voice when needed, particularly anytime Piper the cat was involved! I'm quite familiar with Hillary Huber and know when I see her name listed as the narrator, I'm in good hands!


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Saturday, January 16, 2021

Review: Under a Gilded Moon by Joy Jordan-Lake


Title: Under a Gilded Moon
Author: Joy Jordan-Lake
Narrator: Kathleen Gati
Published: December 2020, Brilliance Audio / Lake Union Publishing
Length: 12 hours 58 minutes / 414 pages
Source: Audio - Personal copy / Print - Hardcover via GetRed PR

Summary:

From the bestselling author of A Tangled Mercy comes an enthralling novel of secrets, a tumultuous war of ideas, and murder as classes collide in the shadow of Biltmore House.

Biltmore House, a palatial mansion being built by the Vanderbilts, American “royalty,” is in its final stages of construction in North Carolina. The country’s grandest example of privilege, it symbolizes the aspirations of its owner and the dreams of a girl, just as driven, who lives in its shadow.
 
Kerry MacGregor’s future is derailed when, after two years in college in New York City, family obligations call her home to the beautiful Appalachians. She is determined to distance herself from the opulence she sees rising in the Blue Ridge Mountains, however close its reach. Her family’s land is among the last pieces required to complete the Biltmore Estate. But something more powerful than an ambitious Vanderbilt heir could change Kerry’s fate as, one by one, more outsiders descend on the changing landscape—a fugitive from Sicily, a reporter chasing a groundbreaking story, a debutante tainted by scandal, and a conservationist prepared to put anyone at risk to stoke the resentment of the locals.
 
As Kerry finds herself caught in a war between wealth and poverty, innocence and corruption, she must navigate not only her own pride and desperation to survive but also the temptations of fortune and the men who control it.


My thoughts: Historical fiction and mysteries are two genres I love, so when I find books that combine the two, I absolutely need to read them and this latest book by Joy Jordan-Lake, an author who I have never read before, was presented to me, I knew I had to give it a chance and I'm so glad I did...I really enjoyed it. Plus...I happened to be a little fascinated by the Vanderbilts, so total win-win!

This book had such an amazing sense of place and really distinguishes between the haves and the have nots. It was so easy to be swept up into the place and time of this book and the writing was so descriptive that I could really picture the building of  the house on this estate - a place that I really do hope to visit at some point.  Add in a murder mystery and I was completely captivated. I found myself glued to the book and even when I had to put it down, I was thinking about everything - the characters, the setting, the lush descriptions that we were given.

I love that this book is based on real people. Reading historical fiction always intrigues me because I learn something new or learn more about something I am interested in. I have read a few books already about the Vanderbilts and have been wanting to read more and this one definitely checked that box. 

I definitely suggest picking this one up...it's such a well-written story that will keep you engaged all the way through. 


Audio thoughts: When I saw that Kathleen Gati was the narrator for this book, I knew I had to listen to it. She is one of my favorite audiobook narrators and she did such a great job bringing this book to life.

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Thursday, January 14, 2021

Review: Long Bright River by Liz Moore (audio)


Title: Long Bright River
Author: Liz Moore
Narrator: Allyson Ryan
Published: January 2020, Penguin Audio
Length: 13 hours 19 minutes
Source: ALC via Libro.fm

Summary:
Two sisters travel the same streets, though their lives couldn't be more different. Then, one of them goes missing.

In a Philadelphia neighborhood rocked by the opioid crisis, two once-inseparable sisters find themselves at odds. One, Kacey, lives on the streets in the vise of addiction. The other, Mickey, walks those same blocks on her police beat. They don't speak anymore, but Mickey never stops worrying about her sibling.

Then Kacey disappears, suddenly, at the same time that a mysterious string of murders begins in Mickey's district, and Mickey becomes dangerously obsessed with finding the culprit--and her sister--before it's too late.

Alternating its present-day mystery with the story of the sisters' childhood and adolescence, Long Bright River is at once heart-pounding and heart-wrenching: a gripping suspense novel that is also a moving story of sisters, addiction, and the formidable ties that persist between place, family, and fate.


 

My thoughts:  This is one of those books that I cannot believe I put off reading until now. Everyone was raving about it back when it came out and I had it...but I just kept putting it off. Well...believe me - the hype is totally deserved for this book and then some! If you haven't read it, or listened to it, get on it NOW!

I was completely mesmerized by this book. The writing pulled me in right from the start and it never really let up. This book is such a multilayered story that is gritty, emotional, unsettling and completely addicting. Once you start reading this you will be hard-pressed to walk away until you finish it. The characters are so well-developed and real that you can't help but get caught up in what is going on, their struggles and frustrations being completely relatable.

I loved how it is all told by one narrator, moving back and forth in time to tell the story. While at the heart of the story, we have a serial killer on the loose targeting sex workers, we also see first hand how the drug epidemic, especially the opioid crisis, affects a family. Unfortunately, I've seen how this can impact a family and can relate. It's not an easy road to navigate and I think the author clearly shows this struggle. 

I loved how the flashbacks really gave us an insight into the relationship between Mickey and her sister Kacey and why in the present Mickey was so conflicted. There is a strong bond between Mickey and Kacey, yet there is a long history that we slowly unpack with some interesting surprises that are eventually uncovered. 

This is the type of book that stays with you long after you finish it. It absolutely took me by surprise and definitely packed a few emotional punches. I cannot recommend this one enough and I know for sure I will be keeping an eye out for what this author writes next!



Audio thoughts: This audiobook was amazing. Allyson Ryan nails it with her narration and I found myself completely caught up in the story. She does such a great job bringing the story to life that I would walk just a little bit longer or clean just a little bit more, just so I could keep listening. Her pacing and intonation was spot on and she really nailed Mickey's voice. 


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Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Review: A Stranger at the Door by Jason Pinter


Title: A Stranger at the Door
Author: Jason Pinter
Series: Rachel Marin Thriller, #2
Narrator: Angela Dawe
Published: January 2021, Brilliance Audio
Length: 10 hours 36 minutes
Source: Publisher

Summary: 
From the Amazon bestselling author of Hide Away comes the gripping second installment of the Rachel Marin Thriller series.

Rachel Marin is in a good place. After years of struggle, the single mother has found both a stable, loving relationship and a new purpose: putting her investigative skills to work solving crimes for the local PD. But just as the pieces of her life are finally starting to fall into place, her teenaged son’s teacher is gruesomely murdered, starting a domino effect that shatters her peaceful existence.

When Rachel discovers an ominous email the teacher sent to her just before his death, she knows she must help bring his killer to justice. But soon a figure from her past reappears, threatening to expose Rachel’s darkest secrets if she doesn’t tread lightly. And when her son is recruited by a shadowy businessman who may be connected to the murder, Rachel knows this has just gotten very, very personal.

Someone out there is dead set on keeping this grisly cover-up good and buried, which means if Rachel’s not careful, it’s only a matter of time before her dream life becomes her worst nightmare.
 



My thoughts:  This is the second book in Jason Pinter's Rachel Marin Thriller series and I love it. If you love a strong, kick-a** female protagonist who will do anything to protect her children, this is a series for you!

This book starts off with a bang and never lets up. It's a fast-paced and suspenseful read and I love that Rachel doesn't let anything deter her from getting answers. I will say that this is probably a case where you really should read the first book, Hide Away, before picking this one up, so that you have a better idea of Rachel's backstory, though the author does do a good job of giving just enough information without repeating everything verbatim.

Rachel goes all out when she realizes that her own son is being led astray by a sinister scheme that may have some connection to the murder of a beloved teacher at his school. There is nothing more fierce than a protective mama bear and all her instincts are screaming that something is not right.

I love that we continue to get more answers about Rachel and her past. We still do not have the complete story - this will probably take the entire series to flesh out but that is why I love reading series. There is also the continued relationship between Rachel and Detective Serrano. That is a tricky relationship, still in it's early days and they are clearly having growing pains, but I have faith they will learn to work through it as I think they balance each other out.

This is a great series and I cannot wait to see where it goes next!


Audio thoughts: I was so glad to see that Angela Dawe was back to narrate this second installment. She narrated the first book and did such a great job and continued to do an amazing job with this second book. She really brings these characters to life, giving each one their own personality, even Rachel's children. Angela has such a knack for infusing just the right amount of tension and emotion into her voice as needed at just the right time to make this book a great listening experience.




Books in this series:

  1. Hide Away
  2. A Stranger at the Door
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Short & Sweet Review: Deadly Cross by James Patterson


Title: Deadly Cross
Author: James Patterson
Series: Alex Cross, #28
Published: November 2020, Little, Brown & Company
Format: Hardcover, 416 pages
Source: Personal copy

Summary: 

A scandalous double homicide in the nation's capital opens the psychological case files on . . . Detective Alex Cross.  
 
Until Kay Willingham's shocking murder inside a luxury limousine, the Georgetown socialite, philanthropist, and ex-wife of the sitting vice-president led a public life. Yet few -- including her onetime psychologist -- had any inkling of Kay's troubled past in the Deep South.
Murdered alongside her is Randall Christopher, a respected educator whose political ambitions may have endangered both their lives. While John Sampson of DC Metro Police tracks Randall's final movements, Alex Cross and FBI Special Agent Ned Mahoney travel to Alabama to investigate Kay's early years. 
 
They discover that although Kay had many enemies, all of them needed her alive. Alex is left without a viable suspect, and facing a desperate choice between breaking a trust and losing his way -- as a detective, and as the protector of his family.


***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: James Patterson's Alex Cross series will always remain one of my favorites of all his series and I think this one is more in line of his earlier books. It's gritty and very heavily reliant on the police procedural side of things, more so than the previous books have been.

Of course, there are still the usual trademarks that we have come to love - the breakneck speed, the short chapters that lead to that "just one more chapter" mentality, and a twisting, crazy plot that keeps you on your toes. We still see Alex's family, who at this point in the series, at 28 books, have almost become family to us!

This book keeps you engaged and on the edge of your seat all the way until the very end and I love that about these books. They are fast reads that I know I will enjoy and can pick up and breeze through. I'm not sure what's next for Alex and the gang, but I know I am here for the long haul, however long that is!


Books in this series: 
  1. Along Came a Spider                    16.  Cross Country
  2. Kiss the Girls                                   17.  Cross Fire
  3. Jack and Jill                                    18. Kill Alex Cross
  4. Cat and Mouse                               19.  Merry Christmas, Alex Cross
  5. Pop Goes the Weasel                    20.  Alex Cross, Run
  6. Roses are Red                                 21.  Cross My Heart
  7. Violets are Blue                              22.  Hope to Die
  8. Four Blind Mice                             23.  Cross Justice
  9. The Big Bad Wolf                            24.  Cross the Line
  10. London Bridges                              24.4  Cross Kill     
  11. Mary Mary                                       24.5  Detective Cross
  12. Cross                                                 25.  The People vs. Alex Cross
  13. Double Cross                                   26.  Target: Alex Cross
  14. I, Alex Cross                                    27.  Criss Cross
  15. Alex Cross's Trial                      28.  Deadly Cross
       

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Sunday, January 10, 2021

Review: The Butterfly House by Katrine Engberg (audio)


Title: The Butterfly House
Author: Katrine Engberg
Series: Korner & Werner, #2
Narrator: Graeme Malcolm
Published: January 2021, Simon Schuster Audio / Gallery/Scout Press
Length: 10 hours 1 minutes / 352 pages
Source: Audio via Simon Schuster Audio / Print - ARC E-copy via Netgalley

Summary:
Detectives Jeppe Korner and Anette Werner return in this thriller as they race to solve a series of sordid murders linked to some of the most vulnerable patients in a Danish hospital.

Hospitals are supposed to be places of healing. But in the coronary care unit at one of Copenhagen’s leading medical centers, a nurse fills a syringe with an overdose of heart medication and stealthily enters the room of an older male patient.

Six days earlier, a paperboy on his route in central Copenhagen stumbles upon a macabre find: the naked body of a dead woman, lying in a fountain with arms marked with small incisions. Cause of death? Exsanguination—the draining of all the blood in her body.

Clearly, this is no ordinary murder. Lead Investigator Jeppe Korner, recovering from a painful divorce and in the throes of a new relationship, takes on the investigation. His partner, Anette Werner, now on maternity leave after an unexpected pregnancy, is restless at home with a demanding newborn and an equally demanding husband. While Jeppe pounds the streets looking for answers, Anette decides to do a little freelance sleuthing. But operating on her own exposes her to dangers she can’t even begin to fathom.

As the investigation ventures into dark corners, it uncovers the ambition and greed that festers beneath the surface of caregiving institutions—all the more shocking for their depravity—and what Jeppe and Anette discover will turn their blood as cold as ice….


 

My thoughts:  This is the second book in Katrine Engberg's Korner and Werner series and one of my most anticipated books of January. I was so excited to see that this second book was being translated here in the US as I really liked the first book, The Tenant last year and have been eagerly awaiting this next installment.

This book is an incredibly atmospheric, fast-paced Scandinavian crime thriller. A serial killer is on the loose and the method of killing is quite unusual. But it seems all the victims have a connection...and the suspects seem plentiful the more the detectives dig into the case. 

I have to say I think this book is even better than the first one. There is continued character development on both our beloved detectives, something that I think was a little lacking in the previous book, which seemed to be primarily focused on Korner. In this book, I feel it's a bit more balanced. We have our detectives working independently on the case...with Korner having to take on a new partner for the time being. I loved that even though Werner is supposed to be on maternity leave, she decides she cannot sit around and do nothing, so she does her own sleuthing, off-the-record, because she just happens to still have her police scanner.

This book takes a hard look at the mental health system and how overworked and understaffed some places are. There are many twists and turns throughout the book and it really keeps you engaged and on the edge of your seat as you try to keep track of all the moving parts and figure out how they all come together. I had my guesses as to who was behind the murders but I was completely wrong!

I loved this latest edition and am quite eager to continue on with the series. I am glad to see this book was translated into English...hopefully that means the rest of the series will be as well!



Audio thoughts: I went the audio route this time around and it was super fun...this book really translated well into audio and the narrator, Graeme Malcolm really did a great job bringing the book to life. He did a good job with the voices and his pacing and intonation were spot on. He was a new-to-me narrator and I would love to see him continue narrating the rest of this series as I would definitely consider listening to the rest of it if he did!

 

Books in this series:

  1. The Tenant
  2. The Butterfly House 
 
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Review: The Choice by Alex Lake


 
Title: The Choice
Author: Alex Lake
Published: December 2020, HarperCollins 360
Format: ARC E-copy, 400 pages
Source: Netgalley

Summary: 
A kidnap…
Matt Westbrook only turned his back for a moment. But when he looks around, his car – with his three young children inside – has vanished.

A ransom…
Panicked, Matt assumes a car thief has got more than he bargained for, but then he starts to receive text messages: This is a ransom. If you want to see your children again, you will exchange them for your wife.

A choice…
Matt and his wife Annabelle are horrified. They can’t involve the police, or their children will be killed. Which means they have to choose: Annabelle, or their children. Either option is unthinkable. But one is inevitable. And they have only hours to make their decision…

The gripping new thriller you won’t be able to put down!



My thoughts: Alex Lake is one of my must-read authors and as soon as I saw he had a new book coming out, I immediately requested it. I have loved all his previous books and find that they are completely binge-worthy and thrilling.

I will say that this latest one is good but definitely not my favorite one. It starts off with such a great premise and the tension is absolutely there. I felt that this really had the potential to be a thrilling read all the way through. I loved how the book was set up and how we go back and forth in time learning who all the players are and getting ideas on who the potential kidnapper might be...but then it just becomes a bit unreasonable. Something just didn't seem plausible anymore and fell a bit flat.

There are some really good deranged characters that we are introduced to this book. I thought I had it figured out right away, but then thought that was way too obvious and am I glad that turned out not to be the case. The book still has the author's trademark twists and turns and kept me engaged, just not at the level I am used to.

I will still be reading Alex Lake's books and am excited to see what he writes next as I have loved all his other books. He really comes up with such unique premises.


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Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Review: The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz


Title: The Plot
Author: Jean Hanff Korelitz
Published: May 2021, Celadon Books
Format: ARC Paperback, 336 pages
Source: Publisher

Summary: 
Hailed as "breathtakingly suspenseful," Jean Hanff Korelitz’s The Plot is a propulsive read about a story too good not to steal, and the writer who steals it.

Jacob Finch Bonner was once a promising young novelist with a respectably published first book. Today, he’s teaching in a third-rate MFA program and struggling to maintain what’s left of his self-respect; he hasn’t written—let alone published—anything decent in years. When Evan Parker, his most arrogant student, announces he doesn’t need Jake’s help because the plot of his book in progress is a sure thing, Jake is prepared to dismiss the boast as typical amateur narcissism. But then . . . he hears the plot.

Jake returns to the downward trajectory of his own career and braces himself for the supernova publication of Evan Parker’s first novel: but it never comes. When he discovers that his former student has died, presumably without ever completing his book, Jake does what any self-respecting writer would do with a story like that—a story that absolutely needs to be told.

In a few short years, all of Evan Parker’s predictions have come true, but Jake is the author enjoying the wave. He is wealthy, famous, praised and read all over the world. But at the height of his glorious new life, an e-mail arrives, the first salvo in a terrifying, anonymous campaign: You are a thief, it says.

As Jake struggles to understand his antagonist and hide the truth from his readers and his publishers, he begins to learn more about his late student, and what he discovers both amazes and terrifies him. Who was Evan Parker, and how did he get the idea for his “sure thing” of a novel? What is the real story behind the plot, and who stole it from whom?



My thoughts: It's not often that I read a book so far ahead of it's publication date but I just had to with this one. This is going to be a book everyone will be talking about...it's that good! So mark your calendars for May 11th when this one hits the shelves...you will definitely want to pick up a copy or pre-order this book.

I will say, this is a slow-burning psychological thriller but I found myself completely captivated right from the start. I absolutely loved all the commentary about the writer's world - some I was quite familiar with being a book blogger. I also loved the way the story was structured, alternating between what is going on in Jake's life and then the chapters from "the book." I found each equally compelling and both added to the overall enjoyment of the book, propelling it forward.

This premise of this book definitely piqued my interest and then once I started reading it, I found I could not put the book down, but again, it's a rather slower read until that last third of the book when things really take off. This is when Jake is really in the midst of figuring out who is behind the messages and boy do things take on a life of their own. While I did figure out some of the twists, this in no way detracted from my overall enjoyment of this book because I still did not figure out everything. And the ending...just brilliant! I loved it! There are quite a few subtle twists and turns this book takes and it really kept me engaged and flipping the pages. I definitely recommend picking this one up when it comes out in May!


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Review: Lie, Lie Again by Stacy Wise (audio)


Title: Lie, Lie Again
Author: Stacy Wise
Narrator: Emily Ellet
Published: January 2021, Brilliance Audio / Lake Union Publishing
Length: 11 hours 55 minutes / 382 pages
Source: Audio via Brilliance Publishing / Print via GetRed PR

Summary:
For three women with so much to hide, there’s no such thing as a little white lie…

All three women who live at 1054 Mockingbird Lane have secrets…and with a body at the bottom of their apartment building’s staircase, those secrets need to stay buried.

Sylvia Webb has a plan. And a potential Mr. Right. He’s sweet, simple, and dependably clueless about what she’s up to. The only thing unpredictable about him is his needy ex-girlfriend, who is this close to shattering Sylvia’s dreams. But Sylvia’s not going to let that happen.

Riki McFarlan has a good career and an amazing boyfriend who wants to settle down. If only she didn’t have feelings for her neighbor—who happens to be her close friend’s husband. With everything going so right, why is Riki flirting with something so wrong, so…dangerous?

Embry Taylor is as devoted to her children as she is to her husband, who’s a bartender by night, an aspiring actor by day. She is his biggest fan. But with his career not taking off and tensions high, even sweet Embry has something she’s desperate to keep hidden.

Lies, secrets, and revenge. For three neighbors with stakes so high, someone is headed for a downfall.

 

My thoughts: This is the first book I've read by Stacy Wise and it's just a fun, smart domestic drama along the lines of Desperate Housewives and Melrose Place - remember those shows??? - with a murder thrown in. It's totally binge-worthy and full of secrets and lies that you just cannot make up!

While I cannot say I loved all the characters, I can say that I found myself completely pulled into the drama that happens at 1054 Mockingbird Lane. The three women we meet all have their own drama and I did love that each so well-developed. They were all so different from each other and each had their own backstory that really gave them depth. We get to explore just a bit of each as the story progresses so that these characters felt quite dynamic.

I did appreciate that while there is a murder and that is where this story is ultimately heading towards, we do see that there is the underlying theme that the grass is not always greener on the other side. As we get to know each of the three women, that theme comes up again and again, and they each come to find out that while they might not be happy with where they are right now, what someone else has might appear to look better but that person might not be happy. It's such a vicious cycle.

I really enjoyed this book. It's a fun, wild ride that totally kept my attention as I wondered where it was heading. It's an addicting, binge-worthy read that is worth picking up!

 

Audio thoughts: This was really a fun audio and I ended up listening to it in one day! It's the first time I've listened to Emily Ellet narrate and I thought she did a great job with the narration of this story, really bringing the book to life. Her pacing was spot on and she infused just the right amount of emotion and tension into her voice as necessary. 


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Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Review: Revolver Road by Christi Daugherty

 


Title: Revolver Road
Author: Christi Daugherty
Series: Harper McClain, #3
Published: March 2020, Minotaur Books
Format: Hardcover, 293 pages
Source: Personal copy

Summary: 
Crime reporter Harper McClain is back on the beat when a troubled musician vanishes in Christi Daugherty’s Revolver Road.

Even in the chill of February, no place touches Harper McClain’s heart like Savannah. She should be walking beneath the historic city’s towering oaks, surrounded by graceful mansions. Instead, she’s hiding miles away on Tybee Island after a mysterious voice on the phone warned her that someone wanted her dead. The call was too specific to ignore. The caller knew everything about her. But that was months ago, and she’s getting tired of being scared.

Her only escape is her work at the newspaper, where the hottest story in town is the disappearance of Xavier Rayne. The singer had a hit album on his hands, and was about to go on tour, but then he walked out of his beachfront home and vanished. The police believe he drowned, but Harper suspects his disappearance may be more ominous than that. Something doesn’t feel right about it.

His bandmates and actress girlfriend say he’s run away before. They expect him to come home. Until a body washes up with two bullet holes in it. Now everyone in Rayne’s life is a suspect. As Harper digs deeper into the case, though, the threats against her own life return. The phone call she received was very real. A killer from her past is coming for her.

Now she must solve two murders, or end up dying on Revolver Road…



My thoughts: This is the third book in Christi Daugherty's Harper McClain series and it is one series that should not be missed. This is such an engaging and atmospheric series that just pulls you right in.

Once again we have a rather fast-paced and addicting book. This one starts off fairly soon after where the previous book ends and I love how there are two threads that we are following. The first is of course the on-going one that has been carried over since the first book, the mystery surrounding the murder of Harper's mother. The second is the case Harper finds herself involved in on Tybee Island - the missing musician, which becomes more complicated the further Harper digs. This is a self-contained case that is solved within this book.

I totally recommend reading this series in order so that you get the full backstory on Harper and see how her character develops over the series. It's only three books to-date and the way the author builds the mystery surrounding the death of Harper's mother really is central to this series. You will also have a better understanding of who all the players are and how they relate to Harper if you read the series in order...but that's just my opinion.

I highly recommend this series. Each book is completely binge-able and Harper is a character you will be both rooting for and wanting more of. I hope this isn't the last we see of her.



Books in this series:

  1. The Echo Killing
  2. A Beautiful Corpse
  3. Revolver Road
 
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Monday, January 04, 2021

Review: The War Widow by Tara Moss

 
Title: The War Widow
Author: Tara Moss
Series: Billie Walker Mystery, #1
Published: December 2020, Dutton Books
Format: ARC E-copy, 351 pages
Source: Netgalley via Publisher

Summary: 
The war may be officially over, but journalist Billie Walker's search for a missing young immigrant man will plunge her right back into the danger and drama she thought she'd left behind in Europe in this thrilling tale of courage and secrets set in glamorous postwar Sydney.

Sydney, 1946. Though war correspondent Billie Walker is happy to finally be home, for her the heady postwar days are tarnished by the loss of her father and the disappearance in Europe of her husband, Jack. To make matters worse, now that the war is over, the newspapers are sidelining her reporting talents to prioritize jobs for returning soldiers. But Billie is a survivor and she's determined to take control of her own future. So she reopens her late father's business, a private investigation agency, and, slowly, the women of Sydney come knocking.

At first, Billie's bread and butter is tailing cheating husbands. Then, a young man, the son of European immigrants, goes missing, and Billie finds herself on a dangerous new trail that will lead up into the highest levels of Sydney society and down into its underworld. What is the young man's connection to an exclusive dance club and a high class auction house? When the people Billie questions about the young man start to turn up dead, Billie is thrown into the path of Detective Inspector Hank Cooper. Will he take her seriously or will he just get in her way? As the danger mounts and Billie realizes that much more than one young man's life is at stake, it becomes clear that though the war was won, it is far from over.



My thoughts: This is the first book in Tara Moss's Billie Walker Mystery series and I am totally here for it. I loved this new historical mystery and will definitely be continuing on with the series.

I think what is most appealing about this book is just what a great character Billie Walker is. She is a little firecracker - she is strong and feisty and is not often willing to take no for an answer. She works in a man's world as a private investigator. And her assistant Sam is just as intriguing in his own right. Together they make quite a team, both having been to the war and come back with their own battle wounds. I think this first book only scratches the surface of their backstories and I am excited to get to know them more as the series continues.

I loved how this book is set just after the war. This is different than a lot of other war books I've read that tend to be set during the war. We still get glimpses of the war, as Billie was a journalist during that time, but now we see her adjusting to life after the war, as a war widow. She came back but her husband did not. The flashbacks serve as reminders that Billie's grief is still close to the surface.

The new case that Billie takes on is different than her usual cases and turns out to be bigger than she originally thought. As she begins digging into this missing person, she uncovers way more than she bargained for but a little danger doesn't seem to stop our Billie Walker. 

This was such a great book and I loved that while it was a little slow to start, it really does become quite an engaging and thrilling read. I found myself unable to put it down, especially once Billie is on the case of the missing boy and with all the little twists and turns, I had no idea where things were heading. I really enjoyed this one and am definitely looking forward to the next book in this series!



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Sunday, January 03, 2021

Review: Bloodline by Jess Lourey (audio)


Title: Bloodline
Author: Jess Lourey
Narrator: Whitney Dykhouse
Published: January 2021, Brilliance Audio
Length: 9 hours 38 minutes
Source: Publisher

Summary: 
Perfect town. Perfect homes. Perfect families. It’s enough to drive some women mad…

In a tale inspired by real events, pregnant journalist Joan Harken is cautiously excited to follow her fiancĂ© back to his Minnesota hometown. After spending a childhood on the move and chasing the screams and swirls of news-rich city life, she’s eager to settle down. Lilydale’s motto, “Come Home Forever,” couldn’t be more inviting.

And yet, something is off in the picture-perfect village.

The friendliness borders on intrusive. Joan can’t shake the feeling that every move she makes is being tracked. An archaic organization still seems to hold the town in thrall. So does the sinister secret of a little boy who vanished decades ago. And unless Joan is imagining things, a frighteningly familiar figure from her past is on watch in the shadows.

Her fiancĂ© tells her she’s being paranoid. He might be right. Then again, she might have moved to the deadliest small town on earth.


My thoughts: This is the first book I've read by Jess Lourey and let me just say it will definitely not be the last if this book is anything to go by! It was one of my most anticipated January reads (see post here) and it absolutely lived up to my expectations in every way.

As soon as I heard that this book was based on real events, I knew I had to read this one. I was hooked from the beginning and ended up finishing the book in a day! Set in the late 1960s, the story has such a great sense of place and time - the descriptions of all those avocado appliances and the wallpapers had me cringing! -  and I really felt that sense of unease almost from the start. I loved how smoothly the story jumps back and forth in time, all setting up the bigger picture, allowing us to grasp what the heck was going on.

This book really gets under your skin. You just know something isn't right in Lilydale, but you can't quite put your finger on it. The people Joan meets are so odd and right off the bat you start to feel on edge - at least I did. What could possibly be going on? Or is Joan just being paranoid and it's rubbing off on you, too? Are the neighbors just being friendly and overly helpful because Joan is new in town and pregnant or is their nosiness something more of a sinister nature?

I loved how twisted and atmospheric this book was. Just as I thought maybe I had things worked out, a new twist would pop up and throw me off. I loved the exploration into family secrets and boy does it get interesting the further Joan digs! The mystery of the missing boy from decades ago hangs over this town and when another one goes missing, Joan realizes things don't add up. She knows she's on to something and the further she digs the more uneasy she becomes.

I cannot recommend this book enough. It's one of those books that will grab you from the get-go and not let up until you reach the end. It's completely captivating and utterly chilling - and remember this is set in the 1960s...well before the internet and cell phones! This book is one that is so creepy and unsettling but so good. I loved it!


Audio thoughts: This was such a great audiobook. Whitney Dykhouse does a great job with the narration, bringing the book to life. Her pacing and intonation are spot on and she really does a great job infusing just the right amount of tension and emotion into her voice as necessary. I found myself unable to put this audio down once I started it and ended up listening to it in one day - that's how engaged and captivated I was!

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