First Cut by Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell

First Cut is the first book in an exciting new series featuring Dr. Jessie Teska (don’t even ask what her first name really is!) She is brilliant, thorough and very flawed, exactly the type of character I love in books.

First Cut

Dr. Teska has newly arrived in San Francisco where a drug epidemic seems to be washing through the city. A new, highly volatile version of heroin has hit the streets causing overdoses among the most hardened users. Dr. Teska begins to see a pattern, however, in those who are ending up on her slab and the results of her investigation leads a little to close to home – the ME’s office!

The writing in First Cut is taut, precise and it is obvious the author knows her craft – Melinek is, or was, an ME. The computer stuff was a bit over my head but still easy to follow and actually quite fascinating. The characters were interesting and, while I didn’t like them all and some of them made me physically ill to imagine their existence in my world, they were exceptionally well written. I can’t wait for the next in this series!

The Warning by Paul Paul, translated by Simon Bruni #WatchingWhatI’mReading

I DON’T WISH TO FRIGHTEN YOU….

Eight year old Leo, a uniquely “different” boy who has become the center of all bullying at his school, opens a note in his backpack addressed To The Nine Year Old Boy. Scared, shaking in terror, Leo gives the note to his parents who, by the way, should be nominated for the worst parents in all of literature. They assume that Leo has written the note for attention and add to his torment rather than comprehending the danger.

In the same, small Spanish town, a series of robbery/murders have been occurring for nearly a century. The note suggests that little Leo could possibly be the next to die.

The Warning

In the introduction, the author, Paul Pen, apologizes for this, his first book, explaining that while we in the US are just now reading The Warning, it was his first work and therefore flawed. (insert laughing here) If The Warning is his most flawed work then I cannot imagine how incredible his subsequent work has to be! The Warning is classical horror at its finest and by “horror” I am referring to the original genre that brought us Frankenstein, The Yellow Wallpaper, Shirley Jackson’s work and the first writings of Stephen King. It is the genre that will leave you with an uneasy feeling, have you looking over your shoulder for something which you cannot name. Paul Pen has given us a tale in which you hope for a happily after ending knowing that there cannot be one – can there?

Told in alternate timelines nearly a decade apart, The Warning is the story of  Aaron, Andrea and David who are attempting to cope with the senseless shooting of David. Aaron believes he has found a link from David’s shooting to three others in the past. He hopes to stop a fourth one in the future, even if he drives himself insane in the process. Alternately, there is Leo a child who is tormented by bullies and by his own mother relentlessly. Aaron concludes that it is Leo who will be killed. Now he has to convince others and attempt to stop a killing that will happen nine years in the future.

While the book started a tiiiinny bit slow for me, it quickly all came together and rapidly became a book that absolutely floored me, so much so that I read this one in one sitting. It truly is one of the best books of any genre that I have read in ages! Even if you don’t think that you like “horror,” this is a book that you will not want to miss. It isn’t zombie apocalypse horror, it is true, psychological drama at its best.

Paul Pen’s books have been made into Netflix movies, including The Warning, and he currently is working on a Netflix series. Currently you can see The Warning on Netflix – but not until you read the book.

#Netgalley @Netgalley #PaulPen and @AmazonCrossing

#LongBrightRiver by Liz Moore

Let me begin by saying that I have no doubt that Long Bright River will end up in my Top Ten Favorite Books for 2020. It really is that good.

Having said that, you may notice that I’m day late and always a dollar short with this review. I KNEW I had read the book. I thought I had written my review but I couldn’t find either one any where. After reading the review from Two Sisters Lost in a Coulee (review here) I was even more confused! I searched and searched and looked and looked and TA DA!!!!!! I didn’t “download” the book! The publisher was so incredibly kind enough to send me a copy (yes, I know this is the sign of hoarding) But what about my review!?!  After a lot of technical geek talk with WP, I discovered that I have about 20 reviews that got “backlogged” over the holidays and never, ever got published. It happened when I switched themes. So, sadly, now I have to swamp you with reviews BUT I have found the missing ones that were driving me crazy. Okay…. back to this fabulous book!!!!

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Long Bright River is women’s fiction disguised as a thriller or the other way around but really it is just an amazingly well written novel about two sisters who have had one helluva a hard life. Told in alternating time lines, we learn about the difficult lives of Mickey and Kacey whose parents were addicts and who died when the girls were young. Forced to live with a grandmother who made it pointedly clear that she resented having to raise them (and we wonder how the parents turned out bad, right?) the girls soon find themselves in trouble. However, Mickey soon joins an after school program and later becomes a cop while Kacey gets in with the wrong crowd and becomes a sex worker. When these workers begin to go missing and later are found dead, Mickey’s boss at the precinct really doesn’t care. After all, they’re just sex workers. But when Kacey also goes missing, Mickey decides to find out what is going on and what has happened to her sister.

That summary in no way does justice to this magnificent book. It was heartbreaking to read about their lives and it would have been easier if I thought for one minute that it was exaggerated, but I know better. This is the reality of far too many people all across the US. This is a story that, yes, is a thriller and will keep you in suspense until the end. But even more so, it is the story of dysfunctional families, families who need help and simply are not getting it. Children who need help and are falling through the proverbial cracks. This is a powerful story, a gripping wonderful, perfect for today’s society novel that truly is a 2020 must read!

Thank you to @LizMooreBooks and @RiverheadBooks for my copy of this incredible novel!

 

 

Sunday Morning For the Kids #AWarmFriendship #TempleGrandin

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Good Morning! Each Sunday Morning, okay some Sunday mornings, I like to share with you some wonderful kids’ books that I’ve read the previous weeks. These are books that meet my very high standards. Naaahh, I like books with pretty pictures, that teach a lesson or don’t put me to sleep. I share them with a kid or two and if they agree then I share them with you. I don’t get overly picky because kids aren’t – or shouldn’t be – overly picky about what makes them happy.

A WARM FRIENDSHIP – by EllenDeLange, Illustrations by Jacqueline Molnar

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The creatures in the forest have made a friend with Mr. Snowman but he is very cold and shivering. They decide to bring him scarves to keep him warm but, of course, soon he is too warm and begins to melt. The animals are so sad that that they have lost their friend but they are reminded that they always will have the joy and memory of their friend with them forever.

This is a very short story, brilliantly illustrated and beautifully written about friendship, caring, empathy and, ultimately, loss. These are emotions that young children often struggle with understanding and to see it illustrated in this book so basically is just wonderful. I shared it with two children who were 5 years old and it was perfect for them. They easily grasped the concept of losing a loved one but holding on the joy you are left with. I think this book is perfect for a family bookshelf.

TEMPLE GRANDIN by Rachel Castro

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This is part of a new series of STEM Superstars. Hopefully you are aware that the STEM program is one that is in the US public schools to encourage Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics. The fact that they began the series with one of the greatest human minds in recent history is amazing – Temple Grandin. You see, Grandin is profoundly autistic. Her mother never gave up hope that her child could learn, was brilliant and would be able to contribute to society and, wow, was she ever correct! Temple Grandin revolutionized the way in which modern agriculture operated. She now is a THE leading spokesperson on Autism, teaching children with Autism, and an expert on all that we now refer to as “the spectrum.” As a mother of an adult son who is on the spectrum who is a leading performer with Cirque du Soleil, Temple Grandin is my hero!

Yes, as critics have pointed out, there are other books that offer more information about Temple Grandin, including her own. This book is for younger students, most likely Middle School students, who are interested in the STEM program. Hopefully it will interest students who are on the spectrum themselves and GIRLS who will be interested in the STEM program. Sadly my town’s STEM program is all male – not what it was meant to be.

If you have a younger, middle school aged child or are the parent of a child who has been diagnosed on the spectrum, I highly recommend this book. If you are a teacher in these fields or a homeschool teacher, please get this STEM series in the hands of your students.

 

The Turning – a collection by Henry James

Bwahahaha – horror is back and it is back with a vengeance! Welcome to The Turning….
The Turning

Growing up in the 70s, I cut my teeth reading Stephen King’s original books, you know, their first publication back in the day and when I couldn’t get more of King, I turned to the classics like Shelley’s Frankenstein, a love story (!), Shirley Jackson and Henry James. My favorite of all was Henry James and his terrifying short stories. Every now and again someone makes a movie about the Turn of the Screw and 2020 is apparently the year for major film producers to go all out trying to outdo one another. The Turning is a compilation of James’ short stories as a movie tie-in for the first 2020 release, The Turning, directed by Stephen Spielberg. It is a great, and horrifying re-grouping of James’ most noteworthy scary tales. If you love classic horror then this should be a must read for you! I loved having them collected all together. Yes, it is written in his original stilted Victorian prose but, for me, that just makes it all the better.

As a side note, the director who brought us The Haunting of Hill House also is creating a sequel based on James’ short stories called “The Haunting of Bly Manor.” You will want to read The Turning to be fully prepared for this spine=tingling, nerve-rattling sequel when it airs in a few months!

Big Lies in a Small Town #DianeChamberlain

Pendleton, Indiana – population 4,000 on a good day, maybe. I never dreamed I would live in a small town. Actually, I thought my city of 60000 was a small town. How wrong I was. Adapting to the habits of these towns, actions embedded for centuries, can be daunting. Diane Chamberlain has captured these nuances, the whispers and innuendo, perfectly in her newest book Big Lies in a Small Town.

big lies small town

Morgan Christopher is serving time for a crime she didn’t commit, putting her dreams of being an artist into limbo until a mysterious visitor shows up at the prison offering her a chance for freedom and a job she cannot refuse.

The concept of the book is gripping from its opening pages and keeps you hooked until the very end. It is a mystery within a mystery with its dual timeline, set in both the present, with Morgan’s and her mysterious benefactor, and the past with the artist and the painting whose work Morgan has been hired to restore. This is very much a story of two women whose lives have been altered by fate and the town in which they are living, by lies, rumors and mental illness. It is a story of redemption for one in the present timeline and redemption of the other through her work.

I’m new to Chamberlain’s work, unsure how I survived for so long without reading it and I’m grateful to whomever pointed out her to writing to me. She is a beautiful story teller who has a gift for bringing words to life. Her characters are extremely authentic, women we know and whom we come to care about deeply. In this instance, I immediately walked down to my historical post office to see if we had one of the commissioned paintings on the wall. And, yes, there it was. How had I never noticed it there before!? Now I look at it every time I go in side and think of the artists who painted these wonderful reflections of nation’s past. Big Lies in a Small Town is a beautiful story and one I highly recommend to readers of cross genres. It’s a work of fiction that defies specific classification.

Thank you to @Netgalley D_Chamberlain and @StMartinsPress for my copy of this amazing book!

 

 

Three for Thursday: Look Back at Christmas #ChristmasInSilverSprings #ComingHomeForChristmas and #AWeddingInDecember

Yes, I know it’s January but, seriously, when I’m sitting by the fire and drinking cafe au lait, my brain still wants to read holiday themed, cozy reads. Since it’s not quite time for Valentine’s Day yet, I’m still reading some great books from Christmas and pretending that they are “Winter” themed books instead. Won’t you join me?

CHRISTMAS IN SILVER SPRINGS – Brenda Novak

Christmas-in-Silver-Springs

Let me begin by pointing out that Christmas in Silver Springs in the 6th book in a series. While it is touted as being able to be read as a “stand alone,” it is not. I spent the majority of the book feeling like the sixth grade girl who got invited to the cool kids party but didn’t know anyone. Was I supposed to like Tobias? Know why he was in jail? Was I supposed to care who Harper was or her snotty sister? I think readers of Novak’s books are familiar with these characters and, most likely, has a relationship with them that allows the reader to overlook certain questionable aspects of a character. I didn’t have that luxury. Therefore, many of things that these characters said or did simply didn’t ring true for me.

With ALL of that stated, the book itself is well written, the characters are interesting and the story is a sweet one, full of angst and longing and hand wringing. If you are a fan of Novak’s then this is a “must read” for you. If you do not already read her books then I suggest that you start at the beginning which is what I intend to do. An added note to any and all publishers – PLEASE let us know when a holiday book is built on characters’ story lines from previous books. Not all authors do this, but many do and it is getting more and more annoying to pick up a book and realize you are starting at a disadvantage.

A WEDDING IN DECEMBER by Sarah Morgan

Wedding inDec

I absolutely adored A Wedding in December. This is exactly the fun, sweet, warm, witty story that I like to read any time of year but especially in the dead of winter. Don’t you just feel all warm and toasty reading a good love story? Okay, yeah,  I maybe stretching it a little but you know what I mean!

Rosie, an ex-pat from the UK, is marrying a yank from Aspen Colorado. Her family has flown in to celebrate the big day but not everyone is in the mood for festivities. Rosie’s parents are on the brink of divorce and her sister, Katie, who always has had a say in everything Rosie has done, is not happy about the groom, a man she has never met. When Katie meets his best friend, she is even less happy. Hi-jinks and shenanigans abound as the White family tries to keep secrets, break up the wedding, put everything back together again AND salvage their familial relationships. The writing is perfect, the characters are so realistic and the fun is abounding in this charming WINTER tale! I highly recommend it any time of the year.

COMING HOME FOR CHRISTMAS – by RaeAnne Thayne

Coming Home for Christmas

I’m extremely conflicted about Coming Home for Christmas. RaeAnne Thayne is a well known, much loved romance author and her writing is wonderful. I cared immensely for all of the characters, Elizabeth and Luke, and their children. Despite the fact that this is part of an ongoing series, there was enough backstory that I never felt lost or needed more information to comprehend what was going on with the main characters or those in the town.My concern with the book is the story line itself and its lack of credibility.

Elizabeth was suffering from post-partum depression, severely, to the point that she became suicidal and thought that she would harm her baby. Fleeing from her home, she eventually gets into an accident in which the driver was killed and Elizabeth was gravely injured, both physically and mentally. After a very long rehabilitation from which she never fully recovered, she made the decision that it would be better for her family if she stayed away from them. Meanwhile, Luke is going to be charged with her murder by the new hot-shot cop in town. The only way he can save himself is find answers about where Elizabeth is and why she stayed away. Okay, so when I write it all out it doesn’t soooo unbelievable. What do you think? I really loved the story and read it in a nanosecond so I’m going to say that I should recommend it with a the warning that parts may be a teeny-tiny bit contrived. That works.

So what about you? Did you get all of your holiday reading finished or are you like me and still carrying over some of those last minute finds? Have you read any of these? What did you think about them?

@Netgalley @HarlequinPress @SarahMorgan