Scorched Grounds by Debbie Herbert

At least one Saturday a month I like to feature southern literature. I may not be a southern gal any longer, but writers from that region have a gift that is quite different from most other authors. Their writing is grittier, darker, have sly wit and so much charm. Southern Literature is definitely in my soul.

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Scorched Grounds is the second book by Debbie Herbert in the Normal, Alabama series. For those wondering, yes there is a Normal Alabama. It’s an…. unusual place and one I don’t care to drive through again. The series is set in the same location but with totally different characters so join us as we get to know the people from Normal.

Della Stallings’ father went to prison for murdering her mother and brother. Della was the sole survivor of this tragedy, one that has left her with a debilitating phobia. She has worked her entire life to cope with this phobia, including working only the night shift. But now, her father is being released from prison on a technicality and murders begin happening almost immediately. Della has no idea if it is her father who is killing people or, worse, he is being framed by someone else – someone very close to Della.

From the cover, alone, you can tell that this story is very dark. The characters are not very likable. The places are dreary and, some, in ruins. Despite that, you get the sense that Della is trying desperately to rise above this, not to be pulled down by the horror that is her life. There is, however, someone who is determined not to allow that to happen. From Della’s father, to her very bizarre psychologist, to her gosh-awful aunt and uncle, there are so many suspects, a myriad of twists and turns and chilling acts of terror to ensure you are captivated from start to finish.

Herbert does an amazing job at creating an atmospheric thriller that is a perfect example of southern noir. I loved it and hope you will too!

Thank you to #Thomas&Mercer and #Netgalley for this intriguing thriller

#Caged #Buried by @ECooperAuthor

Two books. Two mind-bending thrillers. One amazing agent.

Recently I was asked to read the third installment in the SSA Sayer Altair series by Ellison Cooper. The problem was that I hadn’t read the first two. I have had Caged bookmarked to read since it was first published but you know how TBR lists are, more books piled on top of that one. So, I thought before I read the upcoming book due in 2020, I would catch up with the first in the series. Was I ever glad that I did!

Agent Altair is one bad-assed woman. She has been knocked down by the death of her fiance, her job is in jeopardy and she is an orphan whose parents were killed in a tragic accident but none of those tragedies can stop Sayer. As a neuro-scientist she studies the brains of psychopaths for the BAU. She also is one of the best at hunting them down when they take the form of serial killers.

Both books are fascinating, not only for how well they are written but by the science behind psychopathy. Cooper is obviously brilliant and she brings that knowledge into the books that she writes. I, for one, have grown tired of the same old stalker-chases-woman thrillers and, if you are like me, you will find Cooper’s books a refreshing change. Yes, we have serial killers but their methods and reasons for killing are far more than man-murders-woman. Both Caged and Buried taught me more about psychology and the classics than I thought I ever would know. They are fantastic! Ten stars for this new to me author and now I cannot wait to begin her next one!

 

Fabulous Friday Fiction #LostYou #SomeoneWeKnow #Rewind

LOST YOU by Haylen Beck aka @StuartNeville

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Libby, a single mom to Ethan, has worked for and planned for a much needed vacation for so long. Finally she is able to relax just a little but, in a moment of inattention, Ethan wanders into an elevator before Libby can reach him. When the elevator stops and the doors open, Ethan is gone. What follows is one of the twistiest, strangest, maze that I’ve ever read – and I LOVED it! I swear that I kept reading primarily for the fact that I had no idea what was really going throughout the majority of the book. If that’s bad, I assure it was not. The author has meant for you, the reader, to be a bit on the wrong foot and unbalanced while reading this thriller in order for you to feel the anxiety, the confusion that the characters are experiencing. It works! I had no idea how the book would conclude until the very last paragraph of the very last page! I don’t recommend that this become a gimmick because it could get old really quickly, but for Lost You, it works very well! If you like suspenseful, edge-of-your-seat thrillers then you will enjoy Lost You!

SOMEONE WE KNOW @ShariLapena

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I have yet to read a book by Shari Lapena that I didn’t love and Someone We Know is no exception! It’s a fast paced thriller that grabbed me from the start and, WOW, what a read it was!

A woman has gone missing. In the same neighborhood there is a teenage hacker who is breaking into the neighbors’ homes and hacking into their computers – for the thrill of it. Sometimes he shares the secrets he learns, but not all secrets are meant to be shared!

Someone We Know is fabulous domestic noir. Every person, every family, every neighbor has a secret that they’ve kept from one another and their own families. As police investigate the missing woman, possible murder, no one is telling them the truth for fear of incriminating themselves or those they love. Added to the tension is the kid who is breaking into their homes. Some are aware, others are not. When more bodies begin to pile up, the neighbors and families start pointing fingers at one another, ripping the neighborhood – and some families – apart at the seams.  I love how the stories are interwoven with one another, the red herrings, the secrets but, most of all, I really liked the originality of the plot. I’ve not read a book quite like this one which made it all the more intriguing. If you haven’t read Someone We Know, I highly recommend it. I also suggest going back and reading Lapena’s other works. All are very good!

REWIND @CathryanHoward

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Love, LOVE, love and LOVE!! That is what I really think of Rewind by Catherine Ryan Howard. Wait, you want more??  Then Rewind and I’ll start again…..

A woman has left her home and, under an assumed name, rents a cabin in a remote area by the sea. The manager of the holiday rentals is an odd duck with a bit of past. fact that he secretly records the guests should come as no surprise. The surprise is when the woman is brutally murdered and it is recorded on his secret tapes.

But that’s not where this story begins. To get there you will have to hit Rewind. The author has used a writing technique that we’ve seen before, back and forth on a timeline. However, she has done so in such a clever manner that you, the reader, stay captivated as you move forward and back gathering clues to who the killer might be – and why. The answers will shock you! I honestly cannot recommend this book highly enough. If you like intelligent, witty, clever suspense novels, then this one is definitely for you! Now, I will Fast Forward to another of her books because I am hooked!

NOTE – thanks to #Edelweiss, #Netgalley, #CrownPublishing, @PenguinRandomHouse, #BlackstonePublishing and the authors for my copy of these fabulous thrillers!

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!

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.

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.

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