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.

Little Darlings @MK_Golding

I believe in fairy tales
Hey diddle diddle
the cat and the filddle
and I believe in you….

39893197There are times when you read the synopsis for a book and you just know, just know, that it is going to be one of the best books you’ve read, knock your socks off, surprise you and stay with you long after the last page has ended. Little Darlings was exactly that book for me. It sounded like an adult noir fairy tale meets a Stephen King novel gone awry and I was right – it is all of that and so much more!

Lauren is has just given birth to twin boys whom she adores. It wasn’t an easy birth and she truly is terrified of raising the boys, having feelings of inadequacy and an inexplicable fear of “losing” the twins. These feelings are compounded when she sees what appears to be an old “crone” in her hospital room/ward who threatens to take away her boys and replace them with changelings. Lauren traps herself in the washroom and calls the police but before they arrive, the attendant on duty puts her back in bed and convinces everyone that it is just post-natal depression. Oh yes, the wonderful catch-all for everything that occurs after delivery. Once home, Laurens fears increase and soon she is unable to leave the house, has stopped bathing, does nothing except breastfeed the twins. Her husband, a narcissist useless boy-child, is no help at all and is, apparently having an affair or is he? Perhaps it’s all in everyone’s imagination. It becomes increasingly impossible to tell what is real or not, fantasy or fiction, fairy tale or reality. When the boys go missing for a short time, then found, Lauren is convinced the returned boys are the “changelings” and not her actual twins. Everyone, except the female cop who is investigating, thinks Lauren has gone mad and eventually she is placed in a sanatorium. Was that the goal that her husband had all along or is she really mad – or, maybe, the boys really are changelings.

Yes, Little Darlings is terrifying. It plays on every single, solitary fear that every mother ever has had: inadequacy, failure to care for their baby, post-natal depression, the “system” not believing you when you need them to, cheating spouses… you name it and this book covers it and amplifies it to the point that while I was reading I was doubting my own sanity! Yikes!

The things is, I love the old, really dark, horrifying fairy tales of the old world. They served a purpose and had meaning and were meant to educate people about the dark things lurking – in the forest, in the water, in the dark, wherever the danger was hiding. What was the danger that this Irish folk tale was warning Lauren of and was it valid? Hmmm…. you’ll have to pick up a copy of Little Darlings to see for yourself and, trust me, you will be so very glad that you did.

Watch out now, take care
Beware of the thoughts that linger
Winding up inside your head
The hopelessness around you
In the dead of night
Beware the darkness….
(George Harrison)

Thank you so incredibly much to Melanie Golding and @CrookedLaneBks for my copy of this new favorite book. I had the pleasure of reading it with #TheTravelingSisters book club but, you know me, I’m the red-headed step child who is always a day late and dollar short posting my reviews. Thank you!

 

 

 

The Au Pair #emmarous @BerkleyPub

The Au Pair by Emma Rous is part gothic suspense with a full measure of domestic noir!

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It’s Murder and Mayhem Monday here at Macsbooks and, if I were asked to choose the perfect MMM book, it would The Au Pair! There is absolutely nothing that I love more than dark, domestic tales of suspense and murder. The Au Pair has it all.

Seraphine and Danny are twins who, along with their older brother, Edwin, have been raised in an old Victorian estate in Norfolk (UK.)  Their lives would appear charmed to the outside world, but there is a darkness within the family that pervades their existence. On the day that the twins were born, their mother threw herself off of a cliff. Now the siblings are attempting to cope with their father’s tragic, accidental death. While going through their father’s belongings, Seraphine discovers a photograph of their parents with one of the twins taken on the day they were born. Their mother looks blissfully happy. What possibly could have happened to make her kill herself and why is there only one twin? With stories of changelings, faeries and sprites haunting them all of their lives, Seraphine is determined to find answers. But will those answers be the ones she is hoping to find or will it lead to more heartbreak for this cursed family.

Told from two points of view, Seraphine’s and that of Laura, the au pair at the time of their birth, Rous weaves together a story of a wealthy family with mental instability, far too many secrets and characters who will stop at nothing to keep those secrets hidden. The complex plot twists and turns in very unexpected ways and takes the reader on a journey from the present to the past and back again. Although I am one who does not like surprises in my noir novels, this ending will absolutely blow your mind! The resolution, however, is perfection!

For those who love domestic drama, suspense and fast paced fiction, this is definitely a book you will want to read! Mark it now, order early, it will be published January 8th.

Many thanks to @BerkleyPub and #EmmaRous for my copy of this amazing tale.

Day of the Accident #NualaEllwood

I absolutely loved My Sister’s Bones, the debut psychological thriller by Nuala Ellwood, so when I saw that she had a new book coming out, I jumped at the chance to read and review it. I was not disappointed. Rarely do I come across a second book by an author that is as good as the first – there seems to be a block regarding those second outings – but Ellwood surprised me with Day of the Accident, due to be released in February, 2019.

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Moments after Maggie wakes from a coma, her world is shattered when she is told that her daughter was tragically killed and Maggie may be the one responsible for her death. When she asks to see her husband, she learns that he disappeared the day of the funeral. With no memory of the tragedy, alone and confused and still injured, Maggie attempts to learn the truth of what happened on that fateful day. But, if you are familiar with Ellwood’s writing at all, you know those answers involve deeply held secrets, dark and twisty surprises and an ending you will not see coming!

I don’t always enjoy twists and turns in a book, especially when they are thrown in there just to “surprise” you but have little relevance to the story. Ellwood however, slowly allows you to twist and turn, shading the truth in darkness and lies and leaves you wanting more until you reach the climactic conclusion. Every reveal brings more questions rather than answers and has you, the reader, questioning what you once thought of as real.

There is a reason that Ellwood was awarded so many accolades in 2017 as “the author to watch” and “the new face in suspense,” because she really is that talented! I cannot recommend this book highly enough! It is terrific! And, if you cannot wait until February, you can listen to the book now with audible. 🙂 5 plus more captivating stars for Ellwood and Day of the Accident.

It goes without saying that I hugely thankful to #Netgalley, #NualaEllwood and the folks at @PenguinUK for my copy of this incredible thriller.

 

First The Thunder by Randall Silvis

It’s Publication day for First the Thunder by Randall Silvis!

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I absolutely love Silvis’ Ryan DeMarco series perhaps because I also adore Ryan DeMarco as a character. I was certain that a novel by Silvis, rather than a thriller, would be equally as good especially considering that Silvis is an award winning writer – books, plays and more. Sadly, First the Thunder fell short of my expectations.

Set in mining country Pennsylvania, this is the story of three brothers whose lives have not quite gone according to plan. Harvey drives a truck, Stevie does odd jobs here and there after he was in an accident that made him a bit “slow,” and Will owns a bar that is struggling after a new highway came through on the other side of town. His wife, Laci, is a crime scene photographer who is struggling to keep her life together for the betterment of her daughter. It is, however, the Rust Belt and there is not a lot of hope to be found. The situation worsens when Harvey, believing he has been “slighted” by his brother-in-law, convinces his brothers to help him get revenge. Matters go from bad to worse for this trio and a secret, long buried, threatens them all.

I really do like reading stories set in the new America – the nation with a southern region steeped in poverty and racism, a Rust Belt that is decaying and/or dying and overflowing with too much machismo and running rampant with drugs and a west that is slowly running out of water and heating up too fast for its people to combat the issue. This is America today and the authors who are addressing these issues should be commended for tackling ugly, depressing topics that no one really wants to think about much less read. But they do write about them and, generally, weave tales that are mesmerizing, if not utterly depressing and hopeless.

Silvis captures all of those feelings and more. He nails the characterization of the white male whose pride is gone, whose dreams are shattered and who turn instead to being the testosterone laden bully that many of us have come to know far too well. So why did the book fall short for me? It was, simply put, too dark, too depressing and too full of idiotic men doing incredibly inane things just because they are men. When we, as women, have to live with this type of stupidity day in and day out, when it is the fabric of our country right now, reading more of it is a strain; finding any redeemable quality on which to grasp and resonate was simply asking too much. I’m sick to death of these people in real life and I was sick of them in this book too. I honestly did not care one whit what happened to these three brothers and, when that is the case for any book character, there really is no point reading. I don’t expect happy endings, but I do expect to have some thread, regardless of how tenuous it may be, that will keep me involved. With First the Thunder, I never found that thread. For the record, I just finished Bone on Bone by Julia Keller that also is about the failing rust belt and mining towns gone bust. I highly recommend that book to those looking for books in this genre.

*I received an advanced ebook from the publisher via Netgalley. A review was expected in return.

 

 

 

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.

Virgil Wander – Midwest Saturday

We have waited a decade for more beautiful, heart-wrenching tales from the incredible Leif Enger but the wait was worth it to have the astounding story of Virgil Wander 

“He had a hundred merry crinkles at his eyes and a long-haul sadness in his shoulders.”

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Virgil Wander is a sad tale about a declining rust-belt town; a town that has seen much better days as has it people. Yet the perspective changes when Virgil’s car plunges off a cliff into the icy waters below. His survival, subsequent “spidery” thoughts due to a concussion and the arrival of a mystical Swede named Rune, will offer hope and perhaps a small bit of redemption for all they meet.

Enger has given us a book of imagery, a parable of sorts, with characters that resonate and amuse the reader. They are quirky Midwesterners who have a way of making even the worst of times appear to be humorous. The book personifies goodness and evil, hope and despair in a way that only a extremely gifted writer can accomplish – and Enger is, indeed, that gifted writer.

Rarely have I loved a book as much as I have this one but then rarely does an author create a place as marvelous as Greenstone, MN or with characters who steal your heart the way that Greenstone’s residents have stolen mine. You will laugh with them, cry and hurt and, yes, rejoice with them. This is a book that will stay in your heart and mind for a very long time. My only regret is that I have only FIVE STARS to offer this book – it deserves far greater.

Thank you to the author for this enrapturing tale; to the publisher, #GroveAtlantic, and to #Edelweiss for my advanced copy of #VirgilWander.

 

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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The Exes Revenge by Jo Jakeman

A satisfyingly noir tale of three abused women seeking their revenge against one man. 

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Phillip Rochester is one of the cruelest, most manipulative, abusive men that these three women could imagine but they didn’t have to imagine him. He was their reality. When his current wife, Imogen, is told that she must move out of her house – which they own together – or face consequences, Imogen is well aware of what those consequences might entail. She has a son by this man and he is threatening to take away their child – not because of love, but because he seeks revenge on anyone he perceives as wronging him. Imogen snaps and does something incredibly rash not realizing that her actions ultimately will involve the other women in Phillip’s life.

I will admit that I found The Exes Revenge incredibly satisfying. It begins with Phillip’s funeral so we know from the start that he dies – thankfully. The story, told in present and past revelations, imparts the sequences of events leading to his death. As it unfolds we realize that every person who has had contact with Phillip has, in some way, been abused by him. In the era of the #metoo movement, this book is perfect as each person, from his wives to his lovers, in-laws and his own child, has been abused by him.

This isn’t “just” a story about abuse, however. It has some wickedly humorous moments and these three women most certainly do not start out as anything other than enemies: the ex-wife who is still in love with Phillip, the current wife who has been left for the third, much younger and prettier lover. How they interact with one another is quite rich.

The vengeful ex-wife story has been told repeatedly in literature, however, The Exes Revenge is a fresh, very honest and candid look at the lives of women who are abused. I either have been that woman or knew them. They are your neighbors, sisters, daughters and friends. There simply are too many women who have been verbally, physically, sexually or psychologically battered for the story ever to grow old. The ending, how Phillip actually dies, is priceless. I could read and re-read that chapter over and over again. Perhaps I’m just in a very cynical mood lately, but endings like this one provide immense gratification, as does the entire book. It is a fast paced page-turner that I highly recommend.

Many thanks to the author for an advanced copy of this debut thriller and also to Berkley Publishing Group for my physical copy of the book. Much love!

 

 

 

 

The Roadrunner Cafe

Jamie Zerndt has crafted a solid, domestic noir saga that deals with a family who experienced loss and whose grief touches everyone in the small, intertwined town. The Roadrunner Café is dark, at times overwhelming but, ultimately, a story of hope for us all.

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Carson Long’s father has committed suicide. The grief over his loss and the unanswered questions permeate their home which Carson describes as a “two-story coffin.” His mother, Judith, is both sad and bitter. His sister, Georgie, is depressed and angry often acting out in ways that teens do when they cannot get a handle on their intense emotions. Their neighbors and former customers are affected by their own sense of loss and grief. And then there are the trees planted outside the café to represent each member of the family. They become symbolic of this family’s life, their choices and ultimately their future.

There were times that I felt as though I was chasing a roadrunner as the book weaved and dodged from one member of the large ensemble cast. We are introduced to the family first, the neighbors and then members of the community. To say that I was incredulous that Zerndt could tie all of these characters together in any logical way is an understatement. I finally let go of my expectations for the characters as well my insatiable need to know what their role would be and simply flowed with each ones unique story. And yes, they all do fit together in the end.

Parts of the story are very depressing, others are incredibly graphic. I’m not sure that I would want a young teen to read this story but it is one that needs to be told, has an excellent message and could be read by older young adults. It is perfect for those of us who love noir writing and strong, well formed characters.

This book is not going to be for everyone; it is not a fast paced book but rather a story of love, compassion, forgiveness and, simply, a people’s need to grieve. I highly recommend The Roadrunner Café but with a warning to take the book slowly, get to know the characters and allow them to grow as you read along. You will be glad that you did.

Thank you to Goodreads Giveaways and Amazon Kindle for my copy of this book.