She Lies in Wait #GythaLodge

Of all of the genres that I love, and I do love a lot, the one I find myself immersed in most often is police procedurals. Police Procedurals are a sub-genre of “Detective/Crime novels” and are told from the police point of view, often involving several, often unrelated cases that seemingly come together in the end. I give you this definition because She Lies in Wait is, honestly, a perfect example of a British police procedural done well.

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Thirty years ago, six teenagers went camping in the woods. Only five of them would awaken the next morning. Now, the body of the sixth friend, Aurora, has been discovered in a “grave” in the woods and it is up to DCI Jonah Sheens and his murder squad to uncover the details of what really happened that horrible night, a night filled with too much booze, drugs, consensual and non-consensual sex. Was one of the campers the killer or was it someone who knew they and the drugs would be at the campsite? They aren’t talking which leaves only the 30-year old, decomposed body of Aurora to tell her tale.

She Lies in Wait is a slow burning, methodical detective story where every clue, every person, every detail is thoroughly looked at and discussed. This is not a “thriller” or a “suspense” novel, it is procedural where you – the reader – are along for the ride with the police as they go through their investigation. If you go into this book expecting “edge of your seat” excitement, then you will be slightly disappointed. If, like me, you love and adore well written, hard core detective books, then this will be a winner! Lodge has crafted a story that has a lot of back-story in these once-teens/now-adult characters who have remained unusually close for thirty years. In addition, DCI Sheens was on the peripheral  edges of the group and appears to have a bit of history with them as well, something he would like to keep hidden from the remainder of his squad. His squad, in turn, are an interesting group. The two men are complete opposite of one another: one quiet and thoughtful, the other gregarious, and the newest member, a female, has a few secrets of her own. The intrigue of all of the characters helps to push the storyline along.

I really do hate for books to be compared to one another, but I often thought that She Lies in Wait was quite similar to Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series. No doubt fans of that series would disagree, but the writing is similar and, of course, the methodology of the squad itself is the same. In addition, the way that both authors sink into the personal lives of the characters and weave it into the main story felt familiar to each and it was something I enjoy in both series.

If you enjoy police procedurals, particularly British ones, then I highly recommend She Lies in Wait. If you like a good mystery, I think you will enjoy it as well.

Thank you to #Netgalley, #RandomHousePublishingGroup and @thegyth for my copy of She Lies in Wait which will be published in the US on January 8, 2019.

 

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The View From Our Window @authorljryan

Every now and again a book sneaks up on me and grabs my attention and my heart. The View From our Window is exactly one of those books! A sweeping family drama that travels from Ireland to France, dips down to Columbia and back again, The View From Our Window is part romance, espionage thriller, and domestic noir all in one book!

SaturdayI love a great fiction story whether it is historical fiction, women’s lit, the classics or a family drama; fiction has so much to offer when it is written well. The View From Our Window, a family drama, revolves around three people, ironically born on the same day at nearly the same time, whose lives continue to intersect with one another. Laurel, our heroine, is a newly widowed mother of two who is trying to escape her family and their treachery, as well as the mounting problems her deceased husband has left behind. Paul, her childhood friend, is a rising star in Irish politics and has just been named Minister of Justice. Unfortunately that means he will be in charge of the investigation into Laurel’s husband. And David, a French movie star – which is not as trite as it sounds – who is recovering from a very nasty divorce that has cost him visitation with his children. Their lives will converge with very dramatic, life threatening results.

cover151262-medium I admit that in the beginning of the book I was lost and confused as the details and backstory, the births, of these three were laid out for us. However, the writing was so expertly done and the story so compelling that I knew if I continued I would be rewarded – and I was! There is, quite literally, not one genre into which this book belongs. There is romance between Laurel and David but it grows out of a very beautiful friendship that she began with his family who befriended her when she moved to the French countryside. There is international politics and intrigue as we follow Paul through the machinations of Irish politics that is fraught with complications within the EU. There is espionage, drug runners and white collar crime that crosses all borders and familial lines. In all, it is a non-stop intense thrill ride from beginning to end! There is something for everyone within this book! I laughed, I cried, I got angry and still was left wanting more! I want a sequel!! All the stars and accolades for The View From Our Window and L J Ryan, I cannot recommend this highly enough!

Heaps of thanks to #Netgalley, @BooksGoSocial and #LJRyan for my copy of this amazing book!

The Witch Elm #tanafrench

Love LOVE and more LOVE for #TheWitchElm by the amazing Tana French!!

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Amicable Toby is a happy-go-lucky guy who fancies himself as one the “The Lucky Ones.” He has a great job, although he did create a major mess there  – but he sorted out his mess so it’s all good. He has an amazing girlfriend to whom he is faithful, except for a bit of a roving eye. And he has two terrific mates who love him, at least he thinks they do. But Toby’s luck is about to change when he is brutally beaten and robbed in his own apartment. Left for dead, in and out of consciousness for weeks, Toby is trying to put his life back together again while recuperating at his uncle’s home, The Ivy House, where he and his two cousins summered throughout their childhood and teens. That is, until a human skull is found in the Wych Elm, yes a cute play on words there, isn’t it? Poor Toby – is anything that he thought true and real actually what it had seemed?

Let me be frank with you, I only dabble in Tana French’s series, The Dublin Murder Squad. There are those that I absolutely adore and then there are those that I barely make it through. French does such an incredible, amazing job at developing her characters that if I don’t connect with them, I don’t enjoy the book. The Witch Elm, however, is a stand-alone and I love – have I already used the word love – Toby! My son’s name is Toby and, ironically, my Toby and this Toby are very, VERY similar. It’s not hard to see why I connected with the book, is it?

More importantly, though, French creates a supporting cast of characters that are quirky, irritating, affable, hilarious and oh so very flawed. Through them, as they either look for the killer or attempt to cover up for the killer, we learn about family, forgiveness, love, mistakes, second-chances and, sadly, death. While there is definitely mystery and suspense here, this is not a “thriller.” It is a slow simmering, beautifully written examination of family, particularly a family in crisis.

Interestingly, as I have read other reviews and previews of the book, they seem to be divided into die-hard fans of the DMS and the rest of us and the ratings reflect that division. This is a book that stands on its own as a marvelously written, creative work that is well worth reading by die-hard fans as well as those of us who simply appreciate a well told tale. Well done Ms. French!

FIVE emerald green Irish Stars for The Witch Elm.

I could not be more appreciative to #TanaFrench, #Edelweiss and @Viking for my advanced copy of #TheWitchElm. It will be available at your usual book outlets on October 9, 2018.

The Myth of Perpetual Summer @SusanCrandall

There are times when a book reaches out, grabs your heart and doesn’t let it go. The Myth of Perpetual Summer is that book! 

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Susan Crandall, author of the best-selling novel Whistling Past the Graveyard, captures the very essence of southern literature in her new tale, The Myth of Perpetual Summer.

Tallulah James – how typically southern is that name – was the glue that held her crumbling and decaying family together. Raised primarily by her grandmother, her parents a very dysfunctional pair who couldn’t be bothered with their kids, Tallulah attempts to shield her siblings, and the town, from the very worst of the secrets being kept inside her family’s home. When she has had enough and is at her breaking point, Tallulah flees her small Mississippi town, going as far west as she is able – California -where she desperately tries to re-create herself and bury her past. But the past won’t let her go. Her youngest brother has been charged with murder and Tallulah knows that she has to return “home” to help him.

Although Crandall has lived her entire life in Indiana, she very clearly has a feel for the southern way of life. The heartache and heartbreak that covers the south like a dusty, ever present film, is vividly portrayed in The Myth of Perpetual Summer. Having grown up in a small town in Arkansas, every word on these pages felt like home to me. These were people that I knew, these were my neighbors, my own family, my friends. The south, particularly the “deep south,” has a way of keeping secrets, burying them deep, only to bring them to light when you least expect or want to see them. Crandall understands this and gives words to the feelings of being trapped, judged, and lonely in a room full of people or in small town where all eyes are on you.

The story covers a broad range of topics: the 60s, war, religion, cults and, ultimately, family secrets. The lengths that families will go to in order to protect their “name,” their reputation is the at the very core of this novel. It is those secrets that have torn this family apart. Crandall’s writing examines the question that far too many families must ask themselves – are the secrets and lies more important than being healthy and whole?

This is a beautifully written, woeful tale that will break your heart and leave you shattered but it also is a book about hope, families and the bonds that tie them together.

Thank you to Goodreads Giveaway and #SusanCrandall for my copy of this fascinating book. A fun note – Susan Crandall lives in the next town over from mine here in Indiana and I am huge of this fellow Hoosier’s work.

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I Do Not Trust You #Blogtour #LauraJBurns #MelindaMetz

I am beyond excited to be a stop on this blog tour – it is my first! I’m quite sure that I will not do this properly so forgive me in advance if it is not like all of the others. The MAIN THING is that you know about this terrific new book and this fabulous writing team! 

Memphis “M” Engel is stubborn to a fault, graced with an almost absurd knowledge of long lost languages and cultures, and a heck of an opponent in a fight.  Ashwin “Ash” Sood is a little too posh for M’s tastes, a little too good looking, and has way too many secrets. He desperately wants the ancient map M inherited from her archeologist father, believing it will lead him to a relic with the power to destroy the world. Together they criss-cross the globe from the catacombs of Paris, to a sacred forest in Norway, to the ruins of a submerged temple in Egypt in their search for elusive relic. But through it all, M can never be sure: Is she traveling with a friend or enemy?
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I Do Not Trust You is an adventure tale that will conjure up comparisons to Lara Croft and Indiana Jones in their younger days. “M” and Ash are on a mission to find a secret Egyptian relic before a zealous group who believe the relic can bring about power for their cause. Both “M” and Ash have their own reasons for wanting the relic. M’s father, whom she has believed to be dead for over a year, is allegedly being held captive while he translates the ancient text on a hieroglyphic map. Ash, a member of the “Eye.” an Egyptian religious order sworn to protect the relic, must find it before the zealots. While this sounds a bit confusing, all is explained beautifully in I Do Not Trust You, along with some amazing historical, geographical and mythological facts.

The story is simply told and I was never quite sure if this book was meant for younger readers, young adult or adult. It was entertaining regardless of the intended audience. As a history and literature grad, this book was exactly what I enjoy reading. Unfortunately it is being sold as an “adventure” novel and there wasn’t quite enough action for that to ring true. It is, however, a great mystery based on some incredible Egyptian myths. I also felt that the character development is what drove the book, rather than the suspense. I say this because there are those who expect their “thriller” novels to be very tense with a lot of fast paced action. You won’t find that here. Instead, it is a great, steady read with conversational wit and humor. I truly enjoyed reading it. Four Mythological Stars for I Do Not Trust You.

The Two Headed Team:

I had the pleasure of getting to know the authors a little bit and to ask them a few questions. They are amazing women with an impressive combined CV that never ends!

LAURA J. BURNS and MELINDA METZ have written many books for teens and middle-grade readers, including Sanctuary Bay, Crave, and Sacrifice, as well as the Edgar-nominated mystery series Wright and Wong. They have also written for the TV shows ROSWELL, 1-800-MISSING, and THE DEAD ZONE. Laura lives in New York and Melinda lives in North Carolina, but really they mostly live on email, where they do most of their work together.

  1. Writing generally is considered a solitary sport, how did the two of you come together and do you find there are challenges writing as a duo?

We consider ourselves lucky that we can write together, since it’s more fun to play doubles than a solitary sport! We first met when we were both editors at the same company. We each edited a different Fear Street series by R.L. Stine. Melinda worked on the middle grade books, Ghosts of Fear Street, and Laura worked on the YA Fear Street books. One of our jobs was to come up with plot ideas, and that’s a hard thing to do by yourself. Sitting alone in a room and thinking up concepts just doesn’t work as well as bouncing ideas back and forth. We quickly began coming up with all our plots together, even though we weren’t working on the same series. And we just kept doing it! We liked all the same books and movies and TV shows, which meant we had all the same pop-culture reference points, so we could use a sort of shorthand with each other.

In terms of challenges, we aren’t the best writing partners to ask, because we don’t really have any. We began writing together for television and moved on to doing books as a team. A lot of writers talk about how difficult it is to adapt to another writer’s style or to argue over plots. We don’t have that problem. We often joke that we share a brain because it’s so easy for us to write in the same voice.

2. When creating a character for your book, do you already know who they are or do they develop as you are writing the story?

We are planners (as opposed to pantsers) so we don’t write a thing until we know who the characters are and what the plot is. Character is generally our starting point, although sometimes we have a plot-driven idea and work out the characters second. We always figure out their backstories, their personalities and how they’re going to sound, and their goals. We decide on what the main characters need from one another and how their relationships are going to work. Of course, characters do develop a bit as we write. If one of us makes a discovery about them–say, a running conflict they have with one of their parents–we let the other know and it gets worked in as we both write.

3. I Do Not Trust You takes the young readers on a world-wide quest. Do you both travel extensively or did this require a huge amount of research?

We’ve both traveled some, but nothing like what our characters M and Ash do! Sadly, we don’t have M’s ability to speak several languages or Ash’s access to the cash his group has accumulated over centuries. So we researched our locations online and just wished we could be there in person. However, since there really aren’t ancient Egyptian artifacts buried at all of these sites (we assume), many details are imaginary as well!

Thank you to #LauraJBurns and #MelindaMetz for their insight and for this incredible book! My thanks also to Brittani at St. Martin’s Press for this opportunity and to #St.MartinsPress, a publishing company on whom you can trust for great reads.

 

All The Beautiful Lies

Fab Fiction Friday

Peter Swanson is well known in the thriller/suspense field and his latest book, All the Beautiful Lies, only adds to his credibility as a master story-teller. 

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Harry Ackerson has just completed his university studies when he receives a call from his step-mother informing him that his father has died in an apparent suicide. Harry rushes home, not even attending graduation, in grief and disbelief. His step-mother, Alice, appears to be in a state of shock. Harry believes it is his duty to comfort Alice and help sort out the bookstore that his fathered owned. As he is doing so, he sees a young woman who continually appears – at the book store, his father’s funeral, wherever Harry is there she is too. Who is she and what does she have to do with Harry’s father? When the news breaks that Harry’s fathers has been murdered rather than dying from a accident, more questions arise surrounding all those who knew and supposedly loved his father.

While this is told primarily from Harry’s point of view in the present, there are flashbacks to the past from Alice. We learn how she came to marry Harry’s father, her childhood, etc. The more we, as readers, learn about all of the characters, the more we realize there are lies, beautiful lies, but lies never-the-less swirling all around Harry. These lies lead to grave danger for Harry.

I admit that I adore Swanson, especially his writing style. His books never are quite what they seem. You think you are reading Harry’s story, when in fact, this is all about Alice. You think you have the “whodunit” figured out, when it is just the tip of the iceberg. Swanson is clever, toying and, ultimately, masterful in the art of suspense and I loved each and every page of All of the Beautiful Lies.

In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills

“In Rwanda, they have a word ….: Amahoro. It means peace, but so much more.” 

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Jennifer Haupt writes of the word “Amahoro” often when she is writing about Rwanda. It means a quest for peace, the type of peace that comes within your soul, your essence, when you have truly forgiven someone and now are at rest with the past. It is a difficult state to achieve, much more difficult if you have been through trauma, but it is this peace, the quest for it and the journey taken along the way, that is at the heart of In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills. 

This is the tale primarily of Rachel who, after surviving a miscarriage and the death of her mother, feels the need to seek out her estranged father. a photojournalist living in Rwanda. However, it is also about the women of the villages, the aide workers, her father’s new wife who runs an orphanage in Rwanda and about their commonality of grief. Through the story we learn about the horror, the genocide, that occurred in Rwanda in the 1990s, and we learn how difficult it is to put your life back together after such a massive trauma – but also that trauma, no matter how great or small – binds us all together in a very unique way. It is that link that should open our eyes to the horrors we are causing every single day.

10,000 Hills is not meant to be a documentary of the genocide in Rwanda. It is an opportunity for many readers, all over the world, to learn a bit more about this travesty and, through this knowledge, hopefully, to seek out more resources. That is what I adore about world fiction- it whets the appetite to know more. Many who read this never will have heard of Rwanda, nor will they know about the genocide there. Through a beautiful story they will learn. It is the first step.

The tale itself is marvelously written, the prose is beautiful. It is one of those rare books that opens up both another world outside of my “American concepts” as well as nudges me in the direction to seek out my own peace, to be a better person.

Kudos to Haupt for an excellent book that should be read by all. May we and the world seek and experience Amahoro.

Thank you, also, to Jennifer Haupt and Netgalley for the opportunity to read this incredible piece of work.