Little Threats by Emily Schultz

In the summer of 1993, twin sisters Kennedy and Carter Wynn are embracing the grunge era and testing every limit in their privileged Richmond suburb. But Kennedy’s teenage rebellion goes too far when, after a night of partying in the woods, her best friend, Haley, is murdered, and Kennedy is sent away for her murder…

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I read the opening pages of Little Threats during the “lock down” of the virus in April thinking that I would pick it up again later in the summer. Nooooooo, from the very first lines of this book I was hooked! The story is so intriguing – twins, a third girl added to the duo who wants to be one of them so badly, bad boys, sex and drugs and seriously messed up parental units! There was no way I could put down this book!

Carter and Kennedy, twins, were teenagers rebelling against their parents’ wealth and control. In the summer of ’93, they were testing the limits by running free and wild, shoplifting items they clearly didn’t need and hanging with a crowd that introduced them to drugs and an element of society that was far different from their own. On July 4th, after a bad acid trip, Hayley – the friend – is found dead in the woods between the wealthy/poor neighborhoods. Kennedy has no memory of the night but circumstantial evidence points to her – along with a desire to “stick it to the rich kid.” Now, fifteen years later, she is out of prison and along with old memories comes someone seeking revenge and and another who wants the truth.

The story is told from multiple points of view, including writing assignments that were given to Kennedy while in prison. The overlapping, often contradictory perspectives allow the reader to understand how confusing the summer really was for all involved and how incredibly out of control the situation became. As these same stories begin to converge with one another, the red herrings disappear and the shocking truth is revealed. Although I suspected who the murderer might have been, there were so many “what about them” or “could it have been…” thoughts along the way that I still was utterly shocked by the very satisfying conclusion to this riveting and well told story. While I missed Emily Schultz’ debut book, you can bet it is on my shelf now and I highly recommend Little Threats to you for your reading list this autumn!

Cut to the Bone by Ellison Cooper

A cop and a teenage girl are dead, the girl found lying inside a circle of animal figurines below a cryptic message written in blood. She is one of twenty-four missing high school students, all science proteges who are now gone. Agent Sayer Altair is called in to investigate and soon she discovers a dark, twisted tie to her own past. It is now a race against time to save the remaining the students.

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When I was first offered Cut to the Bone, I never had heard of the author, Ellison Cooper. After reading this book, the third in the series, I immediately went back and purchased the first two to read. Yes, the series is that good! Let me first tell you about the author. Ellison Cooper has a Ph.D. in anthropology from UCLA, with a background in archaeology, cultural neuroscience, ancient religion, colonialism, and human rights. She has conducted fieldwork in Central America, West Africa, Micronesia, and Western Europe. She has worked as a murder investigator in Washington DC, and is a certified K9 Search and Rescue Federal Disaster Worker. I tell you this because she brings every bit of that extensive knowledge into her writing. I was fact checking various things she had written left and right and finally quit because it was pointless. She’s brilliant. Her writing is brilliant. While the story line is fiction, the knowledge is real and it is fascinating! However, it isn’t just the intelligent writing that I loved – her characters are fantastic. They are real. They are quirky. They are full-bodied, not ever what you expect and ever evolving, growing and changing with every book, just as you would expect your friends to be in real life. I loved – and hated – them all!

I read this series completely out of order as I could get the books but if you want to fully enjoy them I would suggest reading them order but I truly do encourage you to read this series. It’s fantastic!

Thank you to  @ecooperauthor #MinotaurBooks and #Edelweiss for my copy of this amazing book!

The Familiar Dark #AmyEngel @aengelwrites

Everyone is a suspect.

Everyone has something to hide.

And someone will answer for her daughter’s murder.

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It has been a while since I’ve written about Southern Noir and I’ve missed it especially after reading the perfect book for this collection, The Familiar Dark.

Eve Taggert was raised on the wrong side of the tracks – far, far away from those tracks, in a trailer with a drug using/selling mother. Things didn’t get a lot worse than Eve’s home life. Her family had the reputation of being the worst of the very worst. Now, as adults, Eve has moved into town and has a daughter whom she adores. Her brother is a respectable cop. Eve lives entirely for her daughter, Junie, and is completely devastated when Junie and her best friend is found murdered in the park. In any other town in America, Junie’s death would be considered reprehensible but in this dirty backwoods Ozark town, it’s just another day in America. That is why Eve has vowed to find the killer herself, even if it means reverting to her mother’s brand of vigilante justice.

Let me just write a few WOWs here! WOW! Oh WOW! Seriously WOW!! Because I am stubborn, I didn’t read the first book by Engel, The Roanoke Girls, which was all the buzz a few years ago. That’s because I’m really stupid!! Amy Engel is a southern author to be reckoned with whose flair for noir puts Nordic authors to shame! From the opening lines, which perfectly capture the last horrifying dying moments of the two girls, to the volatile and satisfying ending, there is not one moment of The Familiar Dark that is not brilliantly written. Every.Single.Word. The characters are raw, gritty, dirty, corrupt and corruptible. Even the richest in this town are grimy and you know it, you feel it. Those of us who ever have lived in the Ozarks know towns exactly like this one. We’ve known people like Eve and her family and Engel skillfully brings the town and these people off of the pages and into our reality with a flourish of her pen-stroke.

I’m not going to elaborate on the plot, I’m simply going to say that if you have not read The Familiar Dark yet, I have no idea what you are waiting for. Go. Get it right now and start reading it today and, if you haven’t read The Roanoke Girls, then make sure you get that one as well, because of course I had to go back and read that one too!

The Familiar Dark gets all the stars all the way up to the highest Ozark Mountaintop! WOW!

Sunday Morning for Kids featuring: The Hat Who Was Left Behind, Billie Jean and Marie Montessori

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The Hat Who Left Behind is such a beautiful book for young readers. The prose is brilliant and written in a flowing verse with which children will be enraptured  It is the illustrations, however, that captured my attention.

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Each of these gorgeous watercolours tell a story in themselves. They invite the reader to use their own imagination to describe what is happening within them. The language is simple enough that whoever is reading, adult or child, can elaborate on commentary and that is very important for young readers especially.

The theme is one of purpose: can we or an inanimate object be more than what we think we can be. Can a hat, whose purpose was beauty for a small child, be more than just a hat. Think about that and you will find that the philosophy behind this one can be as deep as you want it to be. Again, this is a skill I highly encouraged my own children to develop and the author and artist have done an exquisite job illustrating this. The Hat Who was Left Behind is a perfectly marvelous book and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Meet the Author and Illustrator:

Céline Lamour-Crochet was born in Brittany, France and is a well known children’s author whose titles are available worldwide. This is her first book for minedition. Feridun Oral was born in 1961 in Kirikkale, Turkey and graduated from Marmara University. He has illustrated his own children’s books as well as those of other authors. He is the recipient of many awards including an award from UNESCO in Japan. His books with minedition include The Message of the Birds, A Red Apple, A Whisper In the Snow, and A Warm Winter.
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On a different note and in the genre of children’s non-fiction, there were two incredible books that I added to our library: Billie Jean and Maria Montessori.
I think there are few women who are not familiar with Billie Jean King and the accomplishments she achieved for all women. A tennis star in the latter part of the 20th century (that looks strange, doesn’t it?) Billie Jean King played tennis against Bobby Riggs in a match entitled “The Battle of the Sexes.” Billie Jean won the match and went on to open new paths for women of all ages.
She didn’t start out as champion, however. At one point she was a little girl who was considered overweight and wore “coke bottle” glasses. To overcome the stigma, she began playing tennis where is steadfastly prevailed. She is a role model for all children on perseverance, overcoming bullying and what we all can achieve when we work hard. Billie Jean, by Mara Rockliff,  is a well told story of an amazing woman whose legacy should be known by children everywhere.
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Oh wow. I probably could write my own book about Maria Montessori who is and has been my own role model and hero. Few have influenced my life and that of my children as much as Maria Montessori!
Maria Montessori, by Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara, is part of the Little People, Big Dreams series for children. The books are basically biographies written on child’s level about people who not born into greatness but, instead, lived to achieve their dreams. Montessori is best known for her unique method of educating children that was and still is practiced in many countries through schools founded on her philosophy and by many homeschool families who appreciate the child centered approach to learning. The book often points out, rightly so, that Maria received her education, in science, medicine and more, at a time when girls were not encouraged to do so. She overcame the odds to become an expert in childhood education.
My one drawback to this book is that the author describes Montessori’s method as education through play. While playing in an important part of learning for us all, that is not the foundation of Montessori’s teachings. Learning is everywhere – play, cooking, building, every day skills that we must achieve. Giving the child access to multiple areas in which to learn – including play – is essential to their growth. My son was cooking Mac and Cheese from scratch when he was five years old because he was never told that he couldn’t. All of my kids stayed well above the “normal” achievements of others because they were never held back from learning new skills. Freedom to learn everywhere, that is the beauty of Montessori’s method.
Maria Montessori is marvelous addition to this incredible series and one that I hope parents and teachers alike will utilize to their fullest extent.
If you read these book, or have already, let me know what you think. If you haven’t, then I encourage you to do so regardless of your age. You will learn something new, guaranteed.

The Helios Disaster by Linda Bostrom Knausgaard

The Helios Disaster, written by Linda Bostrom Knausgaard, is an amazingly beautiful work of prose. Please do not go into it expecting your run of the mill fiction narrative for it is far more than that.

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Told in two parts, this is the story of Anna who bursts from her father’s head in full armor, we quickly discover that the birth scream is from her father who is being rushed off to an asylum for schizophrenia. Anna, first taken in by a neighbor, eventually ends up with social services and asks if it is hell. The story continues with Anna who eventually ends up in an asylum herself. This is both a retelling of the birth of Athena and a sad commentary on those with any mental illness. It is, at once, heartbreaking and achingly beautiful. A mere 128 pages, it is very worth reading.

#MurderousMondays – The Look-Alike and When You See Me

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I’m doing my best at “beating the backlist” which includes some amazing crime fiction that earlier got erased from saved files. Just because I failed to review them in time does not make them less than stellar suspense thrillers. I hope you’ve either read them or will be enticed to do so after today.

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Erica Spindler has become of my favorite suspense authors. While she began her writing career in the romance genre, she has quickly made a name for herself with her crime fiction series and her stand-alones, which are the ones I love most. Now she is back with The Look-Alike, a can’t put down thriller that will have the reader doubting their own sanity. Let me also state, up front, that I admire any author or publisher who remembers to put a hyphen in the wordd look-alike!

Sienna Scott, our primary character, has led a bizarre and rather sad life living with a mother who a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic. She literally lives a life in constant fear and paranoia. Sienna’s father has done everything he can to protect Sienna from her mother including shipping Sienna off to London to keep her from “shattering” after Sienna discovers a fellow college student dead on campus. However, now Sienna is back home, with her mother, where she begins wondering if, in fact, she was the target of the killing so many years ago. The victim could have been Sienna’s exact “look-alike.”

Spindler weaves a tale of suspense that will leave you doubting your own sanity as much as Sienna and her mother doubt theirs. The Look-Alike is filled with twists and turns that will keep you reading until the end – but, never once do the surprises appear staged for shock value, Rather, they are the perfect course for a case like to take. Who is telling the truth? Who is really behind the murder and how much paranoia is real and how much is being exacerbated to make Sienna and her mother off balance. Fabulously written, this is a thriller that I highly recommend to all who enjoy crime fiction, thrillers and suspense.

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I have come to adore Lisa Gardner’s writing and the characters from her various series. Now, in When You See Me, Gardner has brought together the most-loved characters of two of series together: DD Warren, Kimberly Quincy and Flora Dane. Detective series just don’t get much better than this!

Earlier in the series we were introduced to Flora Dane who spent over a year as a captive of a deranged killer. Now bones have been discovered in a remote area of Appalachia that suggest the killings are associated with Flora’s kidnapper. FBI agent Quincy, Det Warren and Flora go to the site in hopes of finally putting to rest Dan’s abductor once and for all. What they find is a crime far larger than they bargained for.

When You See Me is an extremely well written, tense thriller. We’ve come to know these characters through other reads and feel a connection to them, their quirks and their flaws so much so that it is very easy to become fully engrossed in the danger that is lurking in the dark, rural mountains. As mentioned, this is part of a series – two actually – and I do not recommend reading it as a stand-alone. I started the series in the middle with the introduction of Flora Dane and have since gone backward to catch up and to read the Profiler series which includes Agent Quincy. When You See Her feels more like a conclusion to a story-line that should be followed, rather than a place to begin. I know that many of you already follow Gardner, as do I, and if you haven’t read this one yet, it is a must read for her fans. For others, at least go back to Find Her and start the series there. You will be glad you did.

 

Sunday Morning for the Kids! Featuring King of the Tightrope by Donna Janell Bowman, Adam Gustavson (Illustrator)

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Good morning! I love Sunday mornings because I adore reviewing Children’s books. I always manage to learn something new and different when I read this genre. Does that mean I’m still a child? Hopefully, it means you are  never too old to learn!

KING OF THE TIGHTROPE: When the Great Blondin Ruled Niagara by Donna Janell Bowman, Adam Gustavson (Illustrator)

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I love all things related to the circus and being a mom of a circus performer, I have heard a lot about the kings of the tightrope – those daring men, and a few women, who boldly did (do) what others could not or will not do. Blondin is one of the most famous of these dare-devils because he was the first in many areas, particularly the first to actually walk on a rope across Niagara Falls, a feat that many considered his death sentence. They were wrong. Not only did he do it, he went on to even greater stunts. But how does a young boy decide this is what he will do when he is older? That is the story given to us here with Bowman’s wonderfully written, beautifully illustrated book: King of the Tightrope.

This is the story of how a boy who was born into a performing family – as many are – became bored with the acts he was doing and began challenging himself to do bigger, greater, more daring acts that he and others never had done before. What is so fascinating about this is that he had to use physics and mathematics to figure out how to accomplish these feats without falling. It is both an art and science to all of these types of performances. Kids reading this book are subtly made aware of how important being knowledgeable and well rounded is for success.  In addition, the illustrations are marvelous! Using bold, bright colors, the illustrator creates images that stimulate the child’s imagination, as well as those of an adult. This is a book that opens up new possibilities for kids of all ages. My own son had a such an “aha moment” experience when he was quite young and it led him to be a circus performer for the largest circus in the world – Cirque du Soleil. You never know what being introduced to magical performances will bring.

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My son, Toby, during a recent performance of the “O” show at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

King of the Tightrope is the perfect book for children ages 6-11ish. I hope they will love it as much as I did!

 

 

 

The Turning – a collection by Henry James

Bwahahaha – horror is back and it is back with a vengeance! Welcome to The Turning….
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Growing up in the 70s, I cut my teeth reading Stephen King’s original books, you know, their first publication back in the day and when I couldn’t get more of King, I turned to the classics like Shelley’s Frankenstein, a love story (!), Shirley Jackson and Henry James. My favorite of all was Henry James and his terrifying short stories. Every now and again someone makes a movie about the Turn of the Screw and 2020 is apparently the year for major film producers to go all out trying to outdo one another. The Turning is a compilation of James’ short stories as a movie tie-in for the first 2020 release, The Turning, directed by Stephen Spielberg. It is a great, and horrifying re-grouping of James’ most noteworthy scary tales. If you love classic horror then this should be a must read for you! I loved having them collected all together. Yes, it is written in his original stilted Victorian prose but, for me, that just makes it all the better.

As a side note, the director who brought us The Haunting of Hill House also is creating a sequel based on James’ short stories called “The Haunting of Bly Manor.” You will want to read The Turning to be fully prepared for this spine=tingling, nerve-rattling sequel when it airs in a few months!

Murderous Mondays in the New Year – A Madness of Sunshine @NaliniSingh

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Have you ever been so caught up with the characters of a book that you miss you once you’ve finished? I have been walking around for a week trying to figure out what I’ve misplaced, who I haven’t contacted, what I’ve left undone, only to realize that what I’m missing are the people and places in A Madness of Sunshine! What a marvelous story and even better characters!

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Will is a cop with a past that is dark and tumultuous. Once a rising star in the metro force, he now has been relegated to a very small hamlet by the ocean. There he simply wants to be a ghost, do his job overseeing petty crimes and live out his days in quiet. Ana has come home after fleeing the village and vowing never to return. Her childhood was traumatic and one that she wanted to leave behind her forever. Now, she has returned to forget the new life she has made. She, too, longs to be a ghost, to be left alone in solitude. Neither gets what they want when a beautiful young girl goes missing and rumors begin to tie her disappearance to hikers who vanished 15 years before.

While the premise of the story may seem, on the surface, like one we have read before, what sets this story apart from the rest is the location, the rugged New Zealand West Coast and its beautiful Maori people, and the incredible character development. I’ve read more than my fair share of crime fiction and come across plenty of down and out cops but few have reached out and grabbed me like Will did. There was something about the flaws of all of the characters, the major and minor ones, that made them more real, brought them to life, had them haunting my dreams. Has them in my head even now. A Madness of Sunshine is what all crime fiction should be.

Apparently this is a departure in genres for this author and I can only hope that we see more of this type of writing from her. If you haven’t already read A Madness of Sunshine you will want to add it to your must-read list, I promise.

Thank you to @Edelweiss for my copy of this incredibly book!

 

 

You Are Not Alone #MurderousMondays

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An Anonymous Girl by these authors is one of my books that I’ve recently read so when I saw You are Not Alone, I jumped on it quickly and read it from start to finish even more quickly! You are Not Alone is a slow burning suspense filled thriller that kept me enthralled from the very first chapter to the last.

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Shay, our main character, witnesses a brutal suicide at the subway station. She tried to stop the young woman from jumping in front of the train but was unsuccessful. The only thing left of the crushed young woman is a necklace which Shay absentmindedly puts into her pocket. That necklace will lead Shay into a world of women that is, at best, inexplicable. Have they become her salvation and pathway to a new and beautiful world OR will these women lead her to jump in front of the subway herself? Written with such artful nuance, the reader will remain unsure until the very end.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It doesn’t publish until 2020, but it is one to add to your TBR list now. It’s a fascinating read that you will not want to miss.

#netgalley  #Edelweiss  #YouAreNotAlone  #@greerkh @SarahPekkanen