Murderous Mondays – The Dark Bones @Loreth Anne White

Let’s face it, Mondays are Murder! Seriously, I love murder: Crime thrillers, suspense, historical murders, sci-fi murders, cli-fi murders, cosy, paranormal, I’ll take them any way you serve them up. I find that no matter how many other genres I read, I always come back to…. Murder. So each Monday I will share with you my latest Murder read. Of course, I probably will share with you others throughout the week, but if you like a good murder, you know you can find here on #MurderousMondays! 

retro open book isolated on white backgroundI started reading books by Loreth Anne White a few years ago and fell in love with her Angie Pallorino series. Some of you may be familiar with those. The Dark Bones is the second book in a new series, A Dark Lure, and I actually didn’t realize that until after I finished the book. Obviously it didn’t matter that I hadn’t read the first book since I thought it was a stand-alone. It is fantastic! 

41943994amazonWhen Detective Rebecca North left her rural Canadian hometown, she vowed never to return. A call from her drunken father made her nervous, a follow up call notifying her of his apparent suicide brought her home. However, “Becca” is not content with the suicide findings. Her father may have been a drunk, but he was not suicidal. Despite what she believes, the town, including all of the “officials,” seem hell-bent on making sure his death is classified as a murder. Becca is determined to find out what her father was doing before he died, who he was with and why the townspeople are behaving so strangely and to give her father the proper RCMP burial he deserves. 

The Dark Bones swept me up in its saga from the very beginning – the frantic phone call, the alleged suicide, teens accidently setting fire to cabin – there is so much action in the beginning that it was difficult not to get carried away in the drama. But this is more than just a thriller. There are multiple storylines for several families. A few story lines that I know now harken back to the first book which are resolved in this book – don’t worry, you will either appreciate the closure or enjoy the independent story on its own . Becca has unresolved issues from her high school years that led to her fleeing the town. There are underlying issues of drug trading, which sadly afflicts all rural small towns and there are stories of abuse – physical and mental – which were undetected for years. There is a lot going on in this book but it is handled with care, deftly written and marvelously crafted. There are tiers and folds to this story, each waiting for you to pull back their coverings so that they can reveal their mysteries to you. Mystery, romance, murder and more – you cannot ask for a better story than this. 

Have you  read other books by White or this one? Do you have murderous exploits on your reading list – are they something you enjoy? Let me know and, please, join me each Monday as we follow along with our favorite culprits and their captors on Murderous Mondays. 

Thank you to #Netgalley, #LorethAnneWhite and #MontlakeRomance for my copy of #TheDarkBones available May 21,2019. 

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The Mother in Law #SallyHepworth

With two Mother-in-Laws under my belt, which honestly was two too many, and being one myself, I felt I was ready to tackle Sally Hepworth’s latest novel, The Mother-in-Law. I was, after all, an experienced pro. I was not, however, at all prepared for the multi-layered, character driven drama that unfolded before me – not even close!
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When Lucy first met her Mother-in-Law, Diana, she immediately knew she was not going to be the wife that Diana had hoped for her son. Diana was one of those mothers/wives who was perfect in every way: immaculate home, perfect spouse, marvelous and adored mother, a planner, a doer, someone who made things happen in life for those she loved. If she didn’t love you – well, therein was the issue. But Lucy tried and she tried hard. When Diana is discovered dead, Lucy is perhaps the one most shocked, especially when it is indicated that Diana was already dying from cancer. You see, Lucy knows better. Lucy knows a lot of secrets about Diana and this family. As the investigation continues and the secrets are revealed, the layers that covered this perfect family begin to crack and we see that not was not as perfectly pretty as it appeared – but are they ever?

I absolutely adore Hepworth and her dramas. I don’t always like each and every book, some are not always five star hits for me, but each of her books leave me emotionally charged and the characters that she builds stay with me forever. The Mother-in-Law is definitely a winner! There are so many twists and turns and layers to this story that just when you think you have it all figured out – and you probably will figure the “whodunnit – a new discovery is revealed and you find yourself back at square one. While there is the underlying mystery of Diana’s death in the novel, The Mother-in-Law truly is a family drama at its core. It’s about relationships that grow, alter, are amended and die. It’s about family – those that work and those that are dysfunctional. Mother’s relationships with their children are complicated; when they become adults it is even more so. When they marry… well, complicated doesn’t even scratch the surface for many. And yet, The Mother-in-Law does scratch that surface and what it reveals will leave you stunned.

“With jaw-dropping discoveries, and realistic consequences, this novel is not to be missed. ” –Library Journal, starred review

Many thanks to #Netgalley @StMartinsPress and @SallyHepworth for copy of #TheMotherinLaw available April 23 at        amazon

 

The Secret Child #CarolineMitchell

Caroline Mitchell burst onto the detective/suspense scene with her debut thriller, Truth and Lies. Now she is back with the second installment in this gripping series with The Secret Child. While I am nearly always leery of second books, this one is just as good as the first and had me glued to its pages from the very first page!
40678553amazonDI Amy Winter is still reeling from the shocking revelations that she uncovered in the first book, Truth and Lies, all of which are explained fully in this one but I won’t reveal them here. With no time to fully process what is now her explosive, in-the-headlines life, she is thrust into a kidnapping/murder/arson case when four-year-old Ellen is snatched from her bed and the home is set on fire and her mother, subsequently is murdered. The kidnapper claims to be Luka Volkov, a child prodigy of Ellen’s father who came from Russia to participate in a special study for children just like Luka. The problem is that Luka is supposed to be dead, the victim of a tragic fire many years before. When a second child is taken, DI Winter is forced to call upon all of her resources in order to solve this very sordid, convoluted case which will bring more personal harm to herself  with possible repercussions for her entire team.

If you follow my blog, you know how much I love police/detective stories. They are, by far, my favorite genre even above thrillers/suspense. For Mitchell to keep me intrigued, surprised, even gasping out loud at certain points, is a testament to her exceptional writing abilities. There is, quite literally, so much going on with the story. Every single character, every member on Winter’s team, is an important player. Each person who worked at the “school” where Luka lived, every victim and their family, everyone who comes in contact with Winter becomes a fully developed character. In most books, that’s a downfall as too much information has to be processed. Mitchell, however, seamlessly weaves each of these characters together, blends their stories into one just as you might do so in your own life. There is no gap, no hole, just a steady flow in the narrative with one surprise and twist and terrifying turn after another. It is utterly brilliant.

The Secret Child can, absolutely, be read as a stand-alone. There is enough back story so that you never will wonder what is happening or who is who. However, both of Mitchell’s books are outstanding works and I highly encourage you to read Truth and Lies as well as The Secret Child. I will now be waiting anxiously for Mitchell’s next incredible book in this series!

The Secret Child is available via Kindle now or in paperback on April 18th. My gratitude to #Netgalley, #AmazonUK, @AmazonPub and @Caroline_writes for my copy of #TheSecretChild

 

 

The Stillwater Girls by Minka Kent

I find that writing reviews for really awesome books and really horrible books are the easiest. Writing reviews for those that are solidly in the middle are the most difficult of all for me. The Stillwater Girls, my first book by Minka Kent, is a solid 3 star: a good read, interesting, but quite flawed.

51CFdbIbZ9LamazonStillwater is a forest in upstate New York in which two girls, Sage and Wren, have lived with their mother and younger sister, Evie, for their entire lives. They, quite literally, have had no contact with civilization. There are no cell phones, radios, televisions, internet – nothing. They never have seen another human being outside of the women in their cabin. At least, not that they can remember. Their mother occasionally meets up with a “supply man” who sells their homemade soaps and brings them supplies but, for the most part, they are self sufficient and adequately living off of the land around them. Until the night that Evie falls ill and their mother leaves the cabin to take her to find medical help. Wren and Sage wait….and wait…. Wren carefully marking off the days on her homemade calendar, weeks, then a month and then two. Then a man arrives at their cabin and their lives change forever.

Stillwater Girls completely had me hooked for the majority of the book. Kent is an amazing writer and the story of these girls, how they survived, their meager happiness and their fears, were palpable. I absolutely loved them. Until the final stage of the book. It was as though I was watching a ball of yarn unraveling. The storyline itself began to come apart string by string. While I appreciate plot twists and surprises, those in Stillwater Girls, felt so contrived and unbelievable that I wanted to back up and re-read it all again hoping for a different outcome. Surely all of the great writing at the beginning couldn’t fall apart like this at the end, could it? But, sadly, it did. That’s not to say that as whole the book wasn’t good because it was. It could have been terrific, though, and it wasn’t.

I appreciate the advanced copy given to me by #Netgalley, #Thomas&Mercer and #MinkaKent. I have read such great things about Kent’s books and definitely will read one of her other works.

 

Keeping Lucy #TGreenwood

Keeping Lucy is the first T Greenwood novel that I have read and it is one that grabbed me, pulled me in and still will not let me go. It is heart breaking and heartwarming, historical and timely all at once. It’s a book that I highly recommend.

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Keeping Lucy begins with Ginny Richardson giving birth to her daughter, Lucy, who is born with Down Syndrome, known as ” a mongoloid” at that time. Ginny’s husband and father in law make the decision to put Lucy in a state-run facility called Willowridge where she will be cared for until she dies. Those are their words. For several days, Ginny is given “twilight,” the drug most women were given during that time to forget the pains of childbirth and her loss. Remember, natural childbirth was not in vogue at this time. When my own daughter died in-vitro, I was given “twilight” so that I would “forget” everything. Trust me, you don’t forget. Your body remembers everything and your mind desperately tries to fill in the pieces that it was forced to black out. This drug is horrific. I cannot believe and entire generation of women were routinely given this drug. For two years Ginny is forced by her husband and her father in law to pretend her daughter did not exist until her best friend brings her news articles about the horrors that have been uncovered at Willowridge: children lying in their own feces, roaches in the food, children malnourished and far worse. Ginny and her friend, Marsha, decide – finally – to go to Willowridge only to discover that, while she can visit Lucy, her parental rights have been terminated by her husband. Ginny takes matters into her own hands at this point and a battle for Lucy’s survival ensues.

I actually loved Keeping Lucy for multiple reasons and many of those reasons are the very ones for which other readers are disparaging the book. First, Keeping Lucy is based on an actual place called Willowbrook. You can read more about it HERE. It was so horrific that legislation was passed in the late 70s that allegedly altered the way that we in the US care for the “disabled.” I use the word allegedly because I grew up in the south near a facility aptly called the Conway Human Development Center. It was a place of filth and horror where people with mental and physical disabilities were sent just like Lucy was sent in this story. It still exists in one of the poorest states in the US and the residents are not developing anything other than bedsores and diseases. It’s a disgrace. If you doubt that, then you can read this article from today’s news.   Nothing has changed. Nothing. Books like Keeping Lucy are necessary to educate readers about these horrors then as well as now.

Furthermore, every time I read a book set in the late 60s and early 70s and that book is historically accurate regarding the plight of women, I am utterly amazed at the number of female reviewers who write scathing reviews about the passivity of the female protagonist. Here’s a reminder for you strong women of today. My daughter and I purchased a home two years ago, We literally had to jump through hoops in the state of Indiana to get a bank to approve a home loan to two women without a male co-signer! This is the 21st century. Until 1978, it was legal to fire a woman from her job if she got pregnant. An abortion was not legal until 1973 – and in some states in the southern US it still is not regardless of what you might think otherwise. Until 1977, you could be fired for reporting sexual harassment in the work place, a woman could not apply for a credit card on her own without a male co-signer until 1974,  and could not refuse to have sex with her husband under any circumstances until the mid 1970s. Are you beginning to get a picture here ladies!? Ginny was not passive. She was living her life according the law of the land. While most others were guaranteed rights in 1965 and 1966, women were not granted any rights, other than the right to vote, until the mid to late 70s and we still obviously are fighting for the right to decide what is best for our own bodies! In Keeping Lucy, Ginny literally had no rights. Furthermore, everyone smoked!! They smoked in restaurants, they smoked in their cars, they smoked in stores, they smoked when pregnant and they smoked around kids! My doctor, whom I adored, smoked every time I visited – in his doctor’s office! I don’t know where you were in the 50s, 60s and 70s but there were advertisements for cigarettes extolling the benefits of nicotine! You are looking at the behavior of these women through your 21st century glasses and missing some very valuable lessons that we all need see and learn. Primarily this – nothing has changed!! We have politicians and religious leaders who want babies born at all cost. These children are then put in institutions like the Human Development Center and no one ever considers the toll that it places on the women who have given birth. No one EVER thinks about the women – period – much less these poor children!

So, with all of that said, please read Keeping Lucy without blinders, with an open mind and with the idea that there is more here than two women on a joy ride across the south. This book is available for pre-order now.

Thank you very much #Netgalley, @tgwood505 and #StMartinsPress for my advanced copy of #KeepingLucy.

 

 

Nothing to Lose @VictoriaSelman

Blood for Blood was my Amazon First Reads selection for January and I absolutely loved (!) the book and the character, Ziba Mackenzie, a former special ops agent now freelance profiler working for the MET in London. When I found out there was a second book in the series, I was thrilled! Nothing to Lose is the continuation of Ziba’s story and she is back, despite her personal loss and her close encounter with a serial killer in Blood for Blood. 

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When Ziba gets a call in the middle of the night regarding the second murder eerily similar to one a few weeks before, she isn’t thrilled to be called back to work and there are those at the MET who aren’t there with open arms to welcome her either. Ziba has just discovered a hard drive with information pertaining to her murdered husband’s last case and much of that information points directly back to dirty cops somewhere within the MET. However, when Ziba arrives on at the scene of the murder she realizes that the murder victims bear an uncanny resemblance to her. If anyone should profile this case, it is Ziba. With divided attention, Ziba throws herself into both cases but her split attentiveness could lead to danger.

Ziba Mackenzie is a character full of flaws. She brassy, rash, drinks too much, is moody, abrasive and impulsive. These are her good qualities, actually. They are what make her an excellent profiler and an interesting person for a thriller. You know from the beginning that she will end up in trouble; there’s simply no way for her to avoid it. You also know that if you needed someone working on your case, you’d want someone like Ziba.  Victoria Selma does a fantastic job bringing this character to life. I can envision exactly what Ziba would look like, how she sounds, even to the point that I want to tell her to cut out the slang already when it gets to be too “over the top.” When you, as a reader, can feel the character’s persona then you know the writer has done their job. In addition, the plot is ripped from today’s headlines. It’s gripping, suspenseful and not so horrific – although it is quite awful – that I would think it’s unbelievable. Selma even goes to the point of explaining a fugue state involving one of the victims and a nuance of that state of which most people are unaware. It’s attention to detail like this that puts Nothing to Lose in category of top-notch thriller. If you like action as well as old fashion detective work, you will love Nothing to Lose. And yes, you can read this as a stand alone, there is plenty of back story included, but I highly encourage you to read both books.

Thank you to #Thomas&Mercer, #VictoriaSelman and #Netgalley for my advanced reader copy of #NothingtoLose

Aya and Papya Find Happiness

It’s Sunday and believe it not it is a very rainy but very warm day here in the midwestern US. I actually love rainy Sundays because it means day to curl up with a good book and read and that makes me super happy. That sounds simple enough, right? Which is exactly what Aya and Papya Find Happiness is all about – finding what makes you happy!

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Aya and Papya Find Happiness is a darling children’s book written and illustrated especially for the pre-reader otherwise known as pre-school aged child. Aya is a young girl who has woken up to discover that she is unhappy and no matter where she looks, she simply can not find where her happiness has gone. After searching high and low, everywhere possible, she discovers that her happiness was inside herself all along. It’s a simple story but one with a lesson that is very important to teach young ones: others cannot make or influence your emotions, only you can do that. As adults so often we teach children that other people make them happy or sad or angry or mad, then as adults we have to “unlearn” that behavior. This book helps children learn an important life lesson correctly from the beginning. Yes, of course, there are times when a child will feel sad, depressed, lonely or angry and those are legitimate feelings as well. But sometimes, kids are grumpy and books like Aya and Papaya helps them learn to self-comfort, a good tool for life.
6.txtIn addition to teachable moments, I also look for good illustrations in children’s books. There is no point in writing a book for kids if you are not going to illustrate it properly. I recently purchased a book that had amazing line drawings but every picture was in stark black and white. For the ages for which it was intended, that was not acceptable. Children need and want colorful, well expressed illustrations and this book is filled with them from beginning to end. As you might have guessed from the title, there is a multi-cultural theme to the book – also a wonderful reason to include it into your children’s home library. Glowing stars all around for this beautifully told, wonderfully illustrated book.

Thank you to #Netgalley and @Matadorbooks for my copy of #AyaandPapayaFindHappiness on sale now at Amazon.