A Stranger on the Beach #MicheleCampbell

A perfect summer read just hit the shelves today and it is one that you will not want to miss: A Stranger on the Beach by Michele Campbell. 41150430Caroline literally has it all: a marvelous husband, a beautiful daughter and an amazing new beach house that has been transformed for exquisite entertaining, lavish parties and relaxing vacations on the beach. She also has a stranger who is very interested in her house. At first she is intrigued with him, when he shows up at her party as a bartender she is concerned by him, but when her life begins to disintegrate she turns to the stranger for comfort. But what if the stranger wants more?

Admittedly, I love Campbell’s writing and I knew going into this book that I was going to enjoy it – which I thoroughly did. Campbell’s characters also are layered, multi-dimensional versions of who you think they might be which enables her to keep you guessing throughout the story. Her plot, particularly in A Stranger on the Beach, never is quite you suspect it of being and just when you think you have the entire mystery solved, you discover that you were completely wrong. I’m not fan of plot twists for the sake of surprising the readers and that is not what Campbell does. She literally takes the reader into areas which the reader never thought to go and that makes her books very enjoyable and satisfying.

A Stranger on the Beach is not only a good summer read, it is a great mystery, thriller and suspense which I highly recommend.

Thank you to #Netgalley, @StMartinsPress, and @MicheleCampbell for my copy of @AStrangerOnTheBeach

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Two for Thursday? The Vanishing Season by Dot Hutchinson

I know, I know… it’s supposed to be Two for Tuesday but since I’m so behind I have to keep going with these reviews and I definitely didn’t want to forget this one by one of my favorite authors: the final installment in the Collector Series by Dot Hutchison.

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We were first introduced to this series with The Butterfly Garden, a book that horrified and traumatized many readers several years ago. It continued with The Roses of May and last years bestseller, The Summer Children. (You can read my review of that book HERE) Each book has built on the development of the team members who originally found girls in the Butterfly Garden and their work within a special unit of the FBI. Now a child has been abducted, their specialty, but the case is eerily similar to kidnapping of Eddison’s sister years earlier. As the team members deal with their own haunting demons from past cases, they also must search through clues to see how and why this case may be linked to the cold cases from old before it is too late to save the missing child.

Let me state up front that absolutely is not a “stand alone” book. I read The Summer Children last year and only slightly fell through the cracks a few times. After that, I promptly went back and read the first two books in the series. All of these books are top notch, horrifyingly marvelous thrillers. This one, however, is the end of the story. For those of us invested in these characters it is a book that ties up all of the loose ends, answers questions from the past and allows us and the author to move on to new topics. It is a must -read for followers of Hutchison’s work, but I don’t recommend starting here. I do, however, recommend reading every single one of the books in the series. They are absolutely fantastic! Hutchison is a masterful storyteller whose tales you will not want to miss.

I’ll Never Tell – the perfect summer read

I’ve never read a book by Catherine McKenzie but have heard so many great things about her books that I wanted to try one to see what I was missing. Well, apparently I’ve been missing a lot. I’ll Never Tell was the perfect summer read for me: not too serious, super quick, a nice mystery and interestingly quirky characters. What more could a reader ask for in a summer book?40201006._SY475_.jpg

The MacAllister siblings grew up at Camp Macaw, the typical summer camp with cabins that surround a lake, stories re-told over and over, sports, games and art workshops. What wasn’t typical was the summer that Amanda, a popular counselor and friend of the siblings, washed ashore dead in a rowboat. The police never found the killer. When the siblings’ parents die and the will is read, they discover that the only way they will inherit the camp is to solve the mystery of Amanda’s death. However, what once was an unsolvable murder mystery is now shrouded in closely guarded family secrets as well. None of these siblings is who they appear to be.

I’ve come to love domestic noir especially when it is done well and I’ll Never Tell does, in fact, handle this genre very well. There are six points of view – yes six – which could get muddled and confusing but McKenzie deftly moves back and forth between the chapters and personalities so that never once does the reader lose focus on who is who. The book also jumps back in time through Amanda’s point of view but this also adds to the dimension of the story rather than detracts. We are able to put into perspective the tales that the siblings are weaving from the actual facts as they happened. This does not, however, give the reader a clear cut view of the actual killer. There are so many twists and possibilities that I was clueless until the very end.  Literally, it could have been any of them, or all.

I’ll Never Tell is a well written “whodunnit” and a great mystery, perfect for any season but even better for summer because of its setting. I highly recommend it and will be pursuing other McKenzie books for myself.

Thanks to #Netgalley, #CatherineMcKenzie @CEMcKenzie1 and #LakeUnionPublishing for my copy of this great read.

The Poison Thread @laurapurcell

When I was a teenager I read Victorian gothic young adult books from sun up to sun down. I simply could not get enough of that genre. As I entered university, my tastes changed and I switched to more “grown up” British Literature but a part of me always yearned for the thrill of the gothic tale. Mary Shelley and Edgar Allen Poe are two of my favorite writers because of their dark, macabre imagination. It comes as no surprise, then, that I have fallen in love with Laura Purcell’s writing. Last year, The Silent Companions, took readers by a storm and now she has given us a new intriguing gothic noir tale, The Poison Thread.

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At first glance, this appeared to be an ordinary Victorian book about a young socialite, the daughter of a wealthy nobleman, with far too much time on her hands yet no interest in the usual coquetries of society. She was studying phrenology, a popular belief at the time that the skull could predict behavior and be re-shaped to alter such. Although we may sneer at this now, it was the precursor of modern behavioral science. As part of her “studies” and her desire for good works, also a very Victorian endeavor, she visits women in jail, listens to the woes of their crimes and examines their skulls. But one prisoner is unlike the rest: Ruth. This woman weaves a sinister tale about poison, and sewing and garments that can harm their owners. Is she mad? Does she belong is an institution or is she simply playing at being crazy in order to escape hanging? How can one know for sure.

Purcell alternates the chapters between the two women, the present and the past, and as she does so we, the reader, become as entwined into the threads of the story as the victims of Ruth’s garments became ensnared in hers. From the moment I began reading there was no stopping. I had to know how it ended and now, weeks after I finished, I cannot stop thinking about Ruth and her needles, her life and that of those around her. Purcell does an amazing job of bring to life Victorian England – the horrors, the poverty, the wretchedness of the poor, those in debt and, in contrast, those with money and their fineries. She also hints at the problems during this time between those who remained Catholic versus those who, of course, chose the Church of England. It was a strange and misguided time in England’s history – the age of coming knowledge combined with the ignorance of the darkness just left behind and Purcell does an commendable job of conveying all of that in The Poison Thread. This is gothic Victorian at its best and I highly recommend it for those who like this era, horror, magical realism, mystery and British literature. You will find all of that within this fabulous book.

Thank you to #Edelweiss, #LauraPurcell and @PenguinPub for my copy of #ThePoisonThread

Southern Smoke by Matthew Register

One thing Southerners learn from the time they can walk is how to grill. Sunday dinners, birthdays, holidays all revolve around bbq hamburgers, cookouts, ribs, and good ‘ole fashioned pulled pork. Of course that also has to include all of the trimmings – the side and the marvelous desserts. Southern Smoke by Matthew Register, is compilation of some of the very best recipes from all across the south because each region has its own set of flavors and delicacies. As someone who has moved north, this book was a godsend. I thought that creole cooking would always be available to me, or the flavor of Memphis style bar-b-que sauce but sadly I was mistaken. Southern Smoke has helped me re-created some of the flavors I have been missing for the past decade.

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Whether you are new to grilling or bbq or a pro looking for new ideas, I highly recommend Southern Smoke.

The Last List of Judith Kratt @AndreaBobotis

Miss Judith has inherited all that the Kratt family had to offer: a pie safe, a copper clock and a murder no one talks about. 9781492678861_34d7d

Being born and raised in the southern part of the US, I came to love southern literature. It has a flow and charm to it, a rhythm that is unlike any other. When it is done well you can smell the gardenias and magnolias on every page and feel the grit from the dusty Delta roads. The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt is such a novel, one that envelops you and transports you to the hot, humid backroads of the deep south complete with its oppressive heat and family turmoil.

Miss Judith wants to make a list of all that she owns before it is her “time to go.” She doesn’t have much; in fact, she doesn’t have anything of value really except memories and stories and secrets. She would like to keep the worst of those secrets all the way to her grave but she knows that will be impossible when her sister returns home hell-bent on exposing all that she knows regardless of the cost to anyone around her.

The actual story itself is, for many of us, as old as the hills: a family that has grown apart due to a tragedy that had to be kept quiet, in this case a murder that was covered up decades before the story takes place. As Miss Judith tells her story, catalogues her belongings and her life, however, we realize that this is more than an ordinary tale, but rather one that is told beautifully, with eloquence and in a manner not unlike the great story-tellers of the past: Faulkner and Harper Lee, even a touch of Flannery O’Connor’s biting wit comes through in the tapestry that Bobotis has woven together.

Don’t be fooled, however. This is not just a piece of fiction, an historical account of Miss Judith’s life. There is a mystery here, deep and dark, that must be resolved for all those concerned. Regardless of your genre of choice, this is a book for everyone, a classic in the making.

Thank you to #Eidleweiss, @Sourcebooks and #AndreaBobotis for my copy of this amazing book on sale today at your favorite bookseller and Amazon.

Athena’s Choice #AdamBoostrom

The year is 2099 and all of the men are gone…

In a near future world, a Y-virus has killed all of the men and a smattering of women. In the aftermath, women have built what appears to be a utopian society. Through scientific breakthroughs and frozen sperm replication, they are still procreating, have quite nearly eliminated maternal and fetal deaths and have found cures for nearly all diseases. The female population discovered that, when using technology for good rather than for empire building and war, there were amazing discoveries just waiting to be had – and so they did create them. It is a world that is, quite literally, at our fingertips today except, well, you know. Men. And war.

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Athena is a 19 year old young woman who is at the heart of a mystery. There are some women who wish to bring back men – their sons, brothers and husbands – not literally, of course, they just miss the male presence. These women have initiated the Lazarus Project but someone has “stolen” the genome and for a mysterious reason to be explained throughout the book, Athena is at its core.

This is a bit more YA, perhaps because of Athena’s age and narration, but never the less, I found the story completely captivating. The Science Fiction portion of the story was mesmerizing and, upon further research, I discovered that nearly everything mentioned in the book, we are on the cusp of having – if only funds weren’t diverted elsewhere, namely WAR. This is very much (!) a book about feminism. At my age, through my experiences, as an American living with a president who is gunning for yet another needless war, who has humans trapped in a concentration camp in hellish conditions where children are dying, who believes that Twitter rants are more important that dealing with mass flooding in one-third of our country, where newborn and maternal deaths are on the rise for the first time in over 100 years… I’m not so sure that living in a female utopia would be such a bad thing. Every war, every disease, every horrific thing in our world’s history has been the result of male ego. So I found it completely enjoyable to read a book where there was none of this. None.

I loved that the book was enriched with so many different fonts and inserts. Throughout there were advertisements for various products that Athena was seeing or thinking about purchasing. It was a method to introduce the world building without going through the entire world building introduction in the beginning. I appreciated this because I often do not read sci-fi or fantasy because the world building part is quite boring for me. There also were throw-backs to Athena’s school work and, if you paid attention to it, you were being given clues to how the book would end. I suspect that some of the other reviewers skimmed over these and missed key parts of the story. They were hidden gems.

In the end, we are left with Athena’s Choice. Men or No Men or ….. you’ll have to read the book to know the other choices. There is no answer in the book. The choice is one for us all to think about. I know what my choice would be, without any doubt at all!

Winner of the 2019 National Indie Excellence Award for Visionary Fiction.
Winner of the 2019 Maxy Award for Science Fiction.
Finalist for the 2019 NIEA for Science Fiction.

I simply cannot recommend this book highly enough! Thank you to #Netgally and especially to the author, Adam Boostrom, for such a remarkable, thought-provoking, visionary tale!