#NGEW2019, Book Reviews, Domestic Noir/Thriller, Fiction, Noir, Crime and Dark Endeavors, Thriller

The Woman in the Park @teresasorkin @tullanh

A married woman meets a handsome stranger – In The Park. When the handsome stranger’s wife turns up dead, the only suspect is the married woman….

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The Woman in the Park is the exciting debut from the writing pair Teresa Sorkin and Tullan Holmqvist. A woman, Sarah Rock, is determined that her husband is having an affair with his young associate. Sarah, who has been under care for depression in the past, has weekly or twice weekly sessions with her psychologist through which we, the reader, learn more about Sarah, her family, her loneliness after her children leave for boarding school and, quite frankly, this appeared to be more of sad tale about mid-life rather than a suspenseful mystery. When Sarah meets Laurence in the park, however, things begin to change. Her life, formerly heartbreaking, appears to be filled with new life and energy – until the police show up at her door. There has been a murder in the park, a woman, and Sarah is their primary suspect. As Sarah’s world unravels, we go on a desperate journey with her to discover the truth, if the truth is capable of being found.

The Woman in the Park is a very short, extremely taut, marvelously written story that had me enthralled from beginning to the end. I literally read it in one afternoon never stopping once! While we know that Sarah is an unreliable narrator, the last section of the book is so surprising, so amazing that I never suspected until the very end. I was speechless!! Yes, The Woman in the Park really is that good!

Have you watched or do you remember The Sixth Sense with Bruce Willis when, at the very end, you sit there with your mouth hanging open and your head shaking in disbelief? That is exactly what I felt like at the end of The Woman in the Park. If you haven’t see that movie – you need to. If you haven’t read The Woman in the Park, you absolutely must! If this is their debut, I cannot wait to see all of the great books that will come from this writing pair!

Thank you #Edelweiss, the authors and @BeaufortBooks for my copy of this amazing book!

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#NGEW2019, Book Reviews, Domestic Noir/Thriller, Dystopian/Near Future Fiction, Fiction, Women's Fiction-Interests, Young Adult

The Grace Year @Kim_Liggett

This summer has been the season of feminist books for me and I have loved each and every one of them! Adding to the latest feminist reads is The Grace Year by Kim Liggett. I have to admit that it was labeled as a “young adult” book but everything about this book is geared toward women of all ages. It is phenomenal!

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In this dystopian novel, the women live very subjugated lives along side men who rule with an iron fist. They are not allowed to gather and talk with one another in public, not allowed to hum or sing believing that they are using their “magic” to seduce or trick men – because we all know that men are easily seduced or tricked. Yes, we do. When they sixteen years old, the girls are sent away to a camp far in the woods to survive on their own for a year in order to rid themselves of their “magic” and come back pure and ready for marriage. The woods surrounding them are filled with “poachers” who are waiting for the girls to make a wrong move so they can skin the women alive, capture their magic and sell it back to the men in the county. There are outcasts and usurpers and these girls know that they do not want to become either of those women. Only a few will survive their “grace year” and those who do never breathe a word about what transpires in the woods. Until now. Tierney is determined to survive this year and prove there is no magic at all. As the girls become more insane and more of them are dying and being killed by the poachers, Tierney is targeted as one who much be cast out. Survival  becomes her only goal – will she succeed?

The Grace Year has been compared to The Handmaid’s Tale and The Power but in all truthfulness I found The Grace Year far more interesting and realistic. We live in a world where women who once were gaining ground, marching on the road to equality, suddenly find themselves at the mercy of very angry, emphasis on very, men. Not just in the US but in so many countries all over the world. We now are marching backward with no say over our own bodies, no say over the world in which we live as we watch strong, intelligent women being mocked by those with half of their intellect. We are, literally, just shy of the ignorance that the males portray in The Grace Year. Sadly, we women are allowing this to happen without whimper.

However, what I found most refreshing was the end of this book. Without giving away what transpires, the women who were raging against one another form a bond. They begin making subtle changes to themselves and toward their group as a whole. They discover that there are men in their county who are willing to stand up for them, who help them and those who have been outcast. While the story itself is extremely dark, horrifically brutal – this really is a story of hope. If only we, as women, could or would bond together as a whole, stop tearing one another down, just imagine the power that we would have and the good that we could do for the world. That is the essence of this book: Hope.

This is a long-ish book and I thought, at first, that perhaps it needed editing to make it more palatable to those who no longer read longish books. However, there is nothing to edit. This book is perfect as it and well worth the time it takes to read it. In fact, I stayed up all night to finish it because I had to know the ending. It was beautiful! If you do not read another book this year, I encourage you to read The Grace Year and then follow it up with Athena’s Choice by Adam Boostrom. We’ll make a good feminist out of you yet.

My thanks goes out to #netgalley, @WednesdayBooks @StMartinsPress and #KimLiggett for allowing me to read and review this incredible book on sale October 8, 2019.

#NGEW2019, Book Reviews, Domestic Noir/Thriller, Horror

Theme Music by T. Marie Vandelly

She didn’t run from her dark past. She moved in with it…

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Theme Music was one of the most hauntingly bizarre tales that I’ve read in a very long time. There is a paranormal element to it that adds to the horror aspect of the story but the story line itself is macabre enough to frighten off those with weak constitutions. Never-the-less, I couldn’t put this book down!

Dixie was the sole survivor of a family massacre that occurred when she was two. The official story is that her father murdered the family with an axe before slitting his own throat, leaving only Dixie alive in her high chair. Dixie, who was raised by her aunt and uncle, has grown up with the stigma that surrounded her family as a result; so when the house – THE house – is put on the market, Dixie decides to buy it and move in. Not only that, but she gathers all of the old furniture and belongings that have been in storage and creates the house as near to the original as possible. Talk about a bit “off,” or perhaps just slightly obsessed. Of course, once inside the house, all hell breaks loose for Dixie. The problem for the reader is that we never are clear if Dixie is as crazy as her father allegedly was or if there is more to the story that Dixie – or us – even suspect.

Admittedly the story was brilliant until the midway point and then I found myself hurriedly reading through to the end to find out what was going on with the characters – all of them. I think there could have been a bit more editing, especially toward the end of the story. However, even with that in mind, Theme Music is a terrific book, frightening, suspenseful and definitely horrifying.

Thanks to #Edelweiss, the author and #PenguinPublishingGroup #Dutton for my copy of this book.

Book Reviews, Domestic Noir/Thriller, Fiction, Women's Fiction-Interests

Alice’s Island #DanielSanchezArévalo

A happily married woman’s perfect life shatters when her husband turns up dead hundreds of miles away from where he should have been. Suddenly she discovers that there was a part of him about which she knew nothing at all.

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I’ve never read anything by this author from Spain before reading this novel but already want to read everything he has to offer!  Alice’s Island was not at all what I was expecting. I thought it would be the run-of-the-mill cheating husband, husband dies, wife finds out, oh no oh no, boring read and instead it is more domestic drama where, yes, the husband had secrets and dies but the wife and her two children are the primary focus as they are searching for answers, putting their lives back together, coming to grips with the reality of their new situation. This is a very character driven novel and Arevalo does a marvelous job creating intriguing, multi-dimensional characters that will fascinate and hold you captive throughout. I highly recommend Alice’s Island for those who like suspense over thrillers, slow burning, character driven novels.

Thank you to #IAWR for my copy of #AlicesIsland

Book Reviews, Domestic Noir/Thriller, Fiction, Women's Fiction-Interests

Cold Waters: Normal Alabama 1 #DebbieHerbert

Wow! To say that I like Southern Noir is an understatement and when it done well, it knocks my socks off. Cold Waters, my Amazon First Reads selection for March knocked it out of the park and into the parking lot beyond. This is one amazing chilling, twisty, dark book!
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amazonWhen Violet was 14 years old, tragedy struck in the town of Normal, Alabama and the town blamed Violet for its loss. A young girl vanished without a trace, the last person to see her was Violet, who was found wandering in the forest where the two often explored and went skinny dipping in the murky lake that ran through town. After being declared psychologically unwell, in a fugue state, Violet was sent to the state mental hospital. Now she has returned to Normal, in more ways than one, to claim her meager inheritance left to her by her mother, and to help her sister care for her father. But the town has not forgotten that fateful day and nothing in Normal is quite normal at all.

As Violet attempts to recall the tragic events surrounding the night that her best friend died, it appears that someone is making sure she is unable to do so even it means she loses what little hold she has on her fragile thread of sanity. The characters that surround Violet, generally, are the most vile characters I’ve run across in literature in a long while; but, they are as realistic as I have encountered as well. I felt as if I knew each and every one of them. They are the people who border on sociopathy, and some who are outright psychopaths, who go out of their way to ensure that others fail, whose only goal is make sure that they come out on top. And then there are those who think they are doing the “right” thing when, in fact, everything they do worsens Violet’s situation more. It is a sad thing to think that the state mental hospital might have been safest place for Violet to spend a decade of her life but with friends and family like hers, it is the truth.

I honestly thought that this was going to be a paranormal book when I selected it. The confusion with any book set in the “deep south,” is that it often is difficult to separate the south’s folk tales, folklore and superstition from magical realism. What they believe in is so culturally engrained into the fabric of their existence that it is who they are without question, without their realization. The superstition in Cold Waters felt like home to me. It created a darker and more believable atmosphere for the book and for me, as a reader, because it is what I know and what I lived for the majority of my life. While this is a book about murder and solving a historic crime, ultimately it is about this poor young woman finally having the opportunity to gain strength and opportunity to stand on her own two feet with the realization that she is not any less normal than the rest of us. Cold Waters is a book I highly recommend for those who enjoy multiple genres from suspense and mystery to women’s literature to noir and southern fiction.

 

 

#NGEW2019, Book Reviews, Crime, Dectective, Domestic Noir/Thriller, Fiction, Murderous Mondays

Murderous Mondays – The Dark Bones @Loreth Anne White

Let’s face it, Mondays are Murder! Seriously, I love murder: Crime thrillers, suspense, historical murders, sci-fi murders, cli-fi murders, cosy, paranormal, I’ll take them any way you serve them up. I find that no matter how many other genres I read, I always come back to…. Murder. So each Monday I will share with you my latest Murder read. Of course, I probably will share with you others throughout the week, but if you like a good murder, you know you can find here on #MurderousMondays! 

retro open book isolated on white backgroundI started reading books by Loreth Anne White a few years ago and fell in love with her Angie Pallorino series. Some of you may be familiar with those. The Dark Bones is the second book in a new series, A Dark Lure, and I actually didn’t realize that until after I finished the book. Obviously it didn’t matter that I hadn’t read the first book since I thought it was a stand-alone. It is fantastic! 

41943994amazonWhen Detective Rebecca North left her rural Canadian hometown, she vowed never to return. A call from her drunken father made her nervous, a follow up call notifying her of his apparent suicide brought her home. However, “Becca” is not content with the suicide findings. Her father may have been a drunk, but he was not suicidal. Despite what she believes, the town, including all of the “officials,” seem hell-bent on making sure his death is classified as a murder. Becca is determined to find out what her father was doing before he died, who he was with and why the townspeople are behaving so strangely and to give her father the proper RCMP burial he deserves. 

The Dark Bones swept me up in its saga from the very beginning – the frantic phone call, the alleged suicide, teens accidently setting fire to cabin – there is so much action in the beginning that it was difficult not to get carried away in the drama. But this is more than just a thriller. There are multiple storylines for several families. A few story lines that I know now harken back to the first book which are resolved in this book – don’t worry, you will either appreciate the closure or enjoy the independent story on its own . Becca has unresolved issues from her high school years that led to her fleeing the town. There are underlying issues of drug trading, which sadly afflicts all rural small towns and there are stories of abuse – physical and mental – which were undetected for years. There is a lot going on in this book but it is handled with care, deftly written and marvelously crafted. There are tiers and folds to this story, each waiting for you to pull back their coverings so that they can reveal their mysteries to you. Mystery, romance, murder and more – you cannot ask for a better story than this. 

Have you  read other books by White or this one? Do you have murderous exploits on your reading list – are they something you enjoy? Let me know and, please, join me each Monday as we follow along with our favorite culprits and their captors on Murderous Mondays. 

Thank you to #Netgalley, #LorethAnneWhite and #MontlakeRomance for my copy of #TheDarkBones available May 21,2019. 

#NGEW2019, Book Reviews, Crime, Dectective, Domestic Noir/Thriller, Southern Saturdays, Tags and Challenges

The Good Detective

I should tell you that once I picked up The Good Detective that it was so gripping and thrilling that I could not put it down until I finished it. I should tell you, but I can’t. The fact is that I started this book twice, two months apart, and each time I read the first chapter, got so incensed that I put the book down and didn’t finish it. But there was something about the blurb that kept pulling at me, reeling me back in; something that kept saying “read it, c’mon, you know you want to.” So, on the third try I vowed to get past the second chapter regardless of how angry I became. You know what happened, right? I didn’t put the book down until I completely finished the book! I stayed up all night long and finished reading it. I cannot believe how stupid I was to think I wouldn’t absolutely love this book – because I absolutely LOVED this book!!

51Bg7iOP81L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_amazonThe Good Detective is P.T. Marsh, a “rising star” in a southern Georgia police department, at least he was until his wife and young son drowned in an accident that either was or might not have been a horrible accident. For over a year, P.T. has been a semi-functioning drunk. While in a bar, more like a strip club, he promises a dancer that he will have a talk with her abusive boyfriend. His “talk” actually means that PT beats the crap out of the guy after which he goes home to drink the remainder of his night away. Imagine his surprise when PT is called out the next morning to a murder scene and it is the boyfriend who is murder victim. This is the part that made me so angry. I have no tolerance for police brutality even when the person on the receiving end is a Neo-Nazi scumbag. However, all of this takes place on just a few pages at the very beginning of the book and the remainder of the book is incredibly fascinating! Read on…..

The death of the scumbag leads PT and his partner to the lynching site of a young African American boy. As they begin to search for the boy’s killer – since the best witness and/or suspect is now dead thanks to possibly PT- they begin to uncover something very sinister in their small rural, Georgia town, something that has been happening for centuries and it is dark and conspiratorial, and dangerous and of the very worst sort of nightmare that you can possibly imagine. I wouldn’t even attempt to perceive such atrocities except that I lived in the south and my father was from rural Georgia so I know that this horror does exist and that is what made this book so terrible and fascinating all at the same time. It was like watching a train derailing. I didn’t want to know, didn’t want to see the travesty that was unfolding but I couldn’t stop either.

McMahon has created characters on both sides of the fence that are perfectly conceptualized. They are not pretty, they are not good, they have flaws and some are so awful you won’t want them in your room, not even on your pages. I’m not sure you can create characters like this unless you have encountered them at some point in your lifetime. There were times that this read like something out of the 1930s or 40s, but then I remembered that there are parts of the rural south that still are very much like this. Who am kidding? There are places like this all over the US, not just the south. That’s what is so disturbing. This is happening everywhere, not just in small towns or in a particular region. In the end, there was a small amount of justice and a bit of redemption for PT as well. I can only hope that we will find this type of redemption for America soon. The quote below summed up the ending of book as well as my feelings for my history with the southern US:

There’s no place I’d rather travel than in the South…Even with our history, when I’m at Publix buying groceries, I see interracial couples. Lots of us. So as much as we struggle here with race, in some ways our struggle is closer to the surface and I hold out hope that this means it’s easier to fix. 

I know this was a bit of a rambling review. This was a very emotional book for me. The one thing I can say is that I highly recommend it and hope that you will read it, even it takes you a time or two to get started.

I owe much appreciation to #Edelweiss, @PutnamBooks, #JohnMcMahon and @PenguinPublishingGroup for my advanced copy of #TheGoodDetective

#NGEW2019, Book Reviews, Domestic Noir/Thriller, Tags and Challenges, Thriller

Only Daughter @SarahDenzil

Kat has been repeatedly told that she is a sociopath and incapable of love. She, however, knows beyond a doubt that she loves her only daughter with a passion, regardless of whether that love is natural or has been learned. When she told that her daughter, Grace, is dead Kat refuses to believe the news. When she is told that Grace committed suicide, Kat vows to find her killer!

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amazonWOW! Only Daughter is one heck of a roller coaster ride. From beginning to end, I had absolutely no clue who to suspect or how this book would end and that made for one very thrilling read!

Kat has a very dark history: an abusive mother, a very traumatic event that changed her teenage years and ultimately her life, an “accidental” pregnancy in order to snag a wealthy husband. You name it, and Kat has experienced it. The one constant in her life, the one person for whom she would move heaven and earth, is her daughter. Kat even sees a therapist in order to “obtain human emotions” so that she can be a better mother to Grace. So when she learns of Grace’s death, she knows in her mother’s heart that Grace did not commit suicide. However, the more Kat learns about Grace, the more she wishes she had learned nothing at all. Was Grace the child she knew and loved or the monster that her friends are making her appear to be.

Only Daughter is the story of every mother’s nightmare and as readers we live that nightmare through Kat – every emotion, every pain and each and every discovery she makes until the very climactic conclusion. This is a gripping, suspenseful tale full of intriguing twists that will grab you and not let go even after you have finished the book! The writing is tight, the characters are very well developed, from the snotty teens to obnoxious wealthy parents, every character is well drawn. I absolutely loved it and if you like thrillers, I think you will too!

Thank you to #Netgalley, @Bookouture and #SarahADenzil for my advance copy of #Only Daughter which will be available on March 13, 2019.

Book Reviews, Domestic Noir/Thriller

Call Me Evie by JP Pomare

Call Me Evie is a very dark, very twisted psychological suspense novel. It is darker and twistier than most that I have read in the last year – and that says a lot.

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Kate, aka Evie, is a 17 year old girl whose is being raised by widowed father who is a retired rugby star. Her life is very structured, her father fairly strict – except when he isn’t strict at all. Slowly Kate’s life begins to spiral out of control as she begins dating Thom, her best friend seemingly turns against her and she turns to alcohol as a means of coping. After a sex tape appears, her life crashes all around her and ultimately there is a murder – or an accident – that send Kate on the run.

I found every single page of Call Me Evie disturbing. Every.Single.Page. There were times that I quite nearly put it down and didn’t finish it but I will admit that the book is compelling and I absolutely had to know who “Jim” was. The person I suspected was correct but there is absolutely no way for anyone to imagine how this book will end. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around it. I’ve been reading psychological suspense since I was 12 years old and this one has left me flabbergasted, not necessarily in a good way. You know how at the end of the movie Sixth Sense when you discover the “twist” you have this “aha” moment and it flashes back to all of the red clues and you said, “aaaahhhhh.” It made sense at that point. There was no “aaaahhhh” moment for me with Call Me Evie. There was one side, there was another side, there was an alternate side and I still don’t know what was what.

There appears to be a saturation point with authors right now who are trying to outwit, out shock, out “aha” the reader and these gimmicks simply are not working for me. I enjoy reading for what I will learn, for clever plots, for interesting characters, for realistic individuals – not for the shock value. When I look back on this story and its plot, not one page of it is plausible. Not one. This makes incredibly sad. I LOVE Putnam & Sons’ books. They are a publishing house that I almost always can count on for a really good read. Sadly, this fell far short of the mark. Also, one last note. I suspect that this should be noted as a Young Adult read. It is about a group of 17 year old kids and it was far better suited to younger readers.

I was furnished my copy of #CallMeEvie by #Edelweiss.

Domestic Noir/Thriller, Fiction, Magical Realism, Thriller

The Missing Years #LexieElliott

MY FATHER IS….

Missing…  Ailsa Calder’s father is missing and has been for several years. Rumor floating among the little village where he lived is that he ran off with jewels that he stole from his employer. Perhaps he ran away to start a new life or fell to his death into the sea or was murdered and hidden and the jewels stolen. Ailsa has come up with many theories throughout her lifetime but now she has to find out the truth. Her mother is dead and she has inherited one half of a manse. The other half is owned by her missing father. She cannot do anything with it until she either finds her father or proves he is dead.

52681134_642264552856741_4538588784605790208_nI really enjoyed reading Lexie Elliott’s first novel, The French Girl, last year but I will tell you now that The Missing Years eclipses her first and has landed its way onto my favorite’s list! The Missing Years crosses genres from suspense, mystery, a touch of romance to a fair amount of magical realism and she marries these together seamlessly. It has an essence of a ghost story while keeping the reader firmly planted in the here and now and much of what one suspects as supernatural turns out to be ominously too close to reality for comfort.

While both The French Girl and The Missing Years comprise a large ensemble cast of characters, with this one Elliott does a better job of fleshing out her characters so that they are more manageable to distinguish from one another and also easier to relate to, feel compassion for and, ultimately invest in their story. As someone with roots in Scotland, I found the history that was included particularly intriguing and learned more about my own past than I was expecting. Trust me, the history is subtle, never boring for a moment.

The Missing Years is an eclectic, atmospheric and suspenseful tale that I highly recommend. While some readers have questioned the addition of magical realism in this book, I found that it was absolutely marvelous and hope this is a continued direction for Elliott’s future work.

I am very grateful to Elisha @berkleypub and #elliott_lexie for my advanced copy #TheMissingYears.