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Reviews: THE MAID & RECKLESS GIRLS

 

I’m not Sharon and it’s not Thriller Thursday, but today I have two mystery/thriller reviews to share.  One is in the vein of a cozy mystery, while the other is somewhat of a locked door mystery that reminds me a lot of the TV show Lost.  I read both of these while I was on vacation the week after Christmas and quite enjoyed them.

 

Reviews:  THE MAID & RECKLESS GIRLSThe Maid Goodreads

Author:  Nita Prose

Publication Date: January 4, 2022

Publisher:  Ballatine Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

The Maid by Nita Prose follows a lovable, quirky maid named Molly who discovers a dead man in one of the hotel rooms she cleans and then ends up wrongfully accused of the man’s murder.

Molly is such a unique and charming character that I fell in love with her right away.  She may only be 25 but she has somewhat of an old soul, probably because she was raised by her recently-deceased grandmother.  Molly is all about cleanliness and order, and so she loves working as a maid to help bring a sense of order to the lives of others.  It was actually adorable listening to her describe her work with such pride and passion.  She reminded me a bit of Mary Poppins! Although she comes across as this old soul, Molly is also quite naïve and innocent in the ways of the world.  When someone befriends her, she immediately trusts that their motives are sincere.  Her trusting nature, endearing as it is, is unfortunately what lands her in hot water regarding Mr. Black, the murdered hotel guest.

The bulk of the story follows Molly as she sets out to prove her innocence and to figure out what really happened to Mr. Black. I don’t want to give away too many details about the plot itself since it is a murder mystery, but I did want to share that what made this such a special read for me was that the entire story comes to us from Molly’s perspective.  As you can imagine based on what I’ve shared about Molly and the way she views the world, it’s quite an interesting and unique perspective.

Molly stole my heart and had me cheering her on to prove her innocence, but there were also several other fantastic characters in the story, a number of whom come to Molly’s aid because they believe in her and because they know she has no one else in her corner now that her grandmother has passed away.  There’s a definite “found family” vibe with these characters and I loved that for Molly.  It’s not often that I think of a murder mystery as having a heart-warming element, but this one definitely does.

The Maid is an engaging mystery that is filled with twists and turns and features a heroine that you can’t help rooting for.  I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys mysteries, especially cozies. 4.5 STARS

 

Reviews:  THE MAID & RECKLESS GIRLSReckless Girls Goodreads

Author: Rachel Hawkins

Publication Date: January 4, 2022

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

Reckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins is advertised as being perfect for fans of Lucy Foley and Ruth Ware and I agree wholeheartedly as those two authors immediately came to mind once I started reading this book. Reckless Girls is a variation on the locked door mystery in the sense that it takes place on an isolated island in the Pacific Ocean and the characters in the book end up stranded there.  We all know that no good can come from that and as the story unfolds, we get to see firsthand just how bad things can get.

The novel’s main character is Lux, a young woman who has recently been fired from her job and is temporarily crashing at a friend’s place with her boyfriend.  In need of cash and eager for an adventure, Lux and her boyfriend accept an offer to earn a tremendous amount of money by sailing two women, Amma and Britney, out to a remote island in the South Pacific that they keep hearing about.  What they don’t realize is that they’re about to get way more adventure than they had planned on, starting with a treacherous storm that nearly capsizes their boat before they even get to the island.  When they finally make it to the island, they realize they won’t be alone because another man and woman apparently had the same idea they did.  No worries though. The more the merrier, right?  That is, until yet another stranger shows up and things take an ominous turn.  Missing people, disappearing boats, sabotaged radio equipment, the list goes on and on. If they’re alone on the island, who is responsible?

I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I will say that the most fascinating part of the book for me were the backstories we get on each of the other characters who are on the island with Lux.  As their stories unfold, it becomes clear that no one is as they seem and there are definitely some hidden agendas as to why they have all converged on this island at the same time.  I enjoyed watching all of their threads come together to give a complete picture, especially as we follow Lux who is trying to put all of the same pieces together we are.  Hawkins definitely kept me guessing the truth about all of them until the very end.

Aside from the twisty mystery itself, I also really loved how atmospheric the story is. The island itself has an ominous, creepy history that we learn about as the story progresses.  It reminded me a lot of the TV show, Lost.  The story also has a Gothic, almost supernatural vibe to it at times.

One element that surprised me was that I didn’t really like any of the characters in the book. I guess Lux is probably the one I cared about the most, but even then, I wasn’t overly attached to her. Normally I don’t like books where I don’t feel like I’m rooting for anyone, but with this book, I was so curious about what bad things would happen next and whether or not they would all make it off the island alive, that not liking them didn’t really bother me.

 If twisty thrillers, locked door mysteries, and Gothic settings are your jam, be sure to check out Reckless Girls.  3.5 STARS

Review: THE NIGHT SHE DISAPPEARED by Lisa Jewell

Review:  THE NIGHT SHE DISAPPEARED by Lisa JewellThe Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell
Also by this author: Watching You, The Family Upstairs
four-half-stars
Published by Atria Books on September 7, 2021
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 416
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

 

I’m a big fan of Lisa Jewell’s storytelling so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her latest mystery, The Night She Disappeared.  I knew I would be in for a wild ride and I was not disappointed.

It’s 2017, and 19 year old Tallulah and her boyfriend have left their baby with Tallulah’s mom, Kim, while they go out for a much-needed night on the town.  When they don’t return home, Kim becomes frantic because it’s just not like Tallulah to be irresponsible.  After calling all her daughter’s friends and learning only that Tallulah had decided to go to a party at Dark Place, a mysterious house in the nearby woods, Kim decides it’s time to call the police.  The police investigate but there’s just no sign of either of them, dead or alive.

Two years later, Sophie moves to the same town. Sophie’s husband has just taken a job as headmaster at a local boarding school and they’ll be living in a house on campus.  One day while wandering in the woods around the school, Sophie comes across a note affixed to a tree that reads “DIG HERE.”  The note looks pretty new so, intrigued, Sophie does as instructed, unaware that she is about to uncover new evidence in Tallulah’s missing persons case.

My favorite part of this story is how Jewell lets the pieces of this mystery come together through dual timelines.  The 2017 timeline shows us both the lead up to what ultimately happens with Tallulah and her boyfriend, as well as the initial police investigation as witnessed through the eyes of Kim, who is determined to find out what happened to her daughter.  I was so heartbroken for Kim because I just can’t even imagine how she could go on from day to day, raising her grandson alone and wondering everyday what had become of his mother. I was also very sympathetic to Tallulah herself because it becomes clear she had some pretty major issues that she was dealing with up until the time of her disappearance.

The second timeline, which Sophie really kicks into motion with her digging, focuses on what the new evidence brings to light as Sophie decides to do a little sleuthing on her own.  Sophie is an author of cozy mysteries who is currently suffering from writer’s block so she goes into this thinking it might help inspire her to write.  She has no idea what she is getting herself into as she slowly starts to put together the pieces and gets closer to the truth than anyone has gotten thus far.

It’s definitely a slow burn when it comes to learning the fate of Tallulah and her boyfriend, but the journey is filled with plenty of twists and turns, riveting drama, ever increasing suspense and tension, and a wonderfully intricate plot that will keep you guessing until the very end.  I’ve read four of Jewell’s thrillers so far and The Night She Disappeared is my favorite. I read it in a single day and just could not put it down until I had answers, which is what I look for in a great mystery. If you’re looking for a read that will keep you turning pages until the wee hours of the morning, The Night She Disappeared is the book for you.

four-half-stars

About Lisa Jewell

Lisa was born in London in 1968. Her mother was a secretary and her father was a textile agent and she was brought up in the northernmost reaches of London with her two younger sisters. She was educated at a Catholic girls’ Grammar school in Finchley. After leaving school at sixteen she spent two years at Barnet College doing an arts foundation course and then two years at Epsom School of Art & Design studying Fashion Illustration and Communication.

She worked for the fashion chain Warehouse for three years as a PR assistant and then for Thomas Pink, the Jermyn Street shirt company for four years as a receptionist and PA. She started her first novel, Ralph’s Party, for a bet in 1996. She finished it in 1997 and it was published by Penguin books in May 1998. It went on to become the best-selling debut novel of that year.

She has since written a further nine novels, as is currently at work on her eleventh.

She now lives in an innermost part of north London with her husband Jascha, an IT consultant, her daughters, Amelie and Evie and her silver tabbies, Jack and Milly.

Reviews: SUCH A QUIET PLACE & FOR YOUR OWN GOOD

 

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend.  Apologies for my absence around the blogosphere the past few days.  My son is dealing with some health issues so my blogging and blog hopping has slacked a bit while I’ve been caring for him.  I’m also slightly behind on my reviews, so these two books are actually already out in the world even though I had them as ARCs.  I’m still happy to share my thoughts on them with you though as they were both pretty solid mystery/thriller reads.

 

Reviews:  SUCH A QUIET PLACE & FOR YOUR OWN GOODSuch a Quiet Place Goodreads

Author: Megan Miranda

Publication Date: July 13, 2021

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

Hollow’s Edge used to be the perfect neighborhood, a quiet serene little paradise with a tight-knit community and where nothing bad ever happened.  That is, until two of its residents, Brandon and Fiona Truett, were murdered, and a third resident, Ruby Fletcher, was convicted of their murders and sent to prison.  The loss of their neighbors is painful for most of the residents, as is living with the guilt that many of them testified against Ruby and sent her to prison.  With the shadow of those murders and the still-empty Truett house hanging over it, Hollow’s Edge has become a place no one wants to live. Tanking home values, however, have made it nearly impossible to sell their homes, so the residents are trapped.  Being stuck in Hollow’s Edge is bad enough, but it takes an even worse turn when Ruby gets out of jail and returns to the neighborhood after her conviction is overturned.  Why has she come back?  Is she truly just looking to start over or does she have revenge on her mind?

That’s the basic premise of Megan Miranda’s latest thriller, Such a Quiet Place, and it’s a riveting one.  I was glued to the pages from start to finish, trying to figure out what exactly Ruby’s motivation was for returning to the scene of the crime.  She has maintained her innocence throughout so it seems odd for her to return to the place where so many people betrayed her. The story is a bit of a slow burn in terms of the suspense and the mystery, a little too slow for my liking at times, but I really enjoyed watching all of the paranoid neighbors trying to figure out what Ruby was up to and if she was out to get them. Not only that but it starts to become clear that Hollow’s Edge was never really the idyllic setting its residents made it out to be.  Seems like everyone has at least a secret or two that they’re trying desperately to keep buried.

Ruby’s interactions with her former roommate, Harper Nash, were especially fascinating to me.  When she returns to the neighborhood, Ruby shows up on Harper’s doorstep as if she expects to pick up where they left off before the murders.  She tells Harper she has nowhere to go and Harper feels sorry for her and lets her move back in. Ruby practically takes over the place, eating Harper’s food, wearing her clothes, borrowing her car without asking, etc.  It’s almost like she’s trying to push Harper as far as she can push her, even as she professes gratitude to Harper for letting her stay there.  Harper starts to become as paranoid as the rest of the neighbors in thinking that Ruby is just biding her time before she makes someone pay for ruining her life.

I don’t want to give anything away about Ruby’s true motives, but I’ll just say that the story has plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing and it really gets wild starting with the neighborhood’s big Fourth of July bash.  If you enjoy a slow burn mystery, with lots of secrets, lies and drama, you’ll have fun reading Such a Quiet Place.  3.5 STARS.

 

Reviews:  SUCH A QUIET PLACE & FOR YOUR OWN GOODFor Your Own Good Goodreads

Author: Samantha Downing

Publication Date: July 20, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

I was drawn to Samantha Downing’s latest thriller For Your Own Good because it’s set in a private school and because its synopsis promises lots of dark and twisty goodness to keep me on the edge of my seat.  This book really delivers too, especially if you enjoy a little dark comedy mixed in with your murder mysteries.  I was not only entertained from start to finish, but I also couldn’t have begun to predict the wild and unexpected ending even if I had tried.

Belmont Academy is a prestigious private school.  Wealthy parents send their children here in hopes of best preparing them for an Ivy League education.  These parents try to bully teachers into giving their children better grades, and while many teachers cave in, not Teacher of the Year, Teddy Crutcher.  Teddy thinks he knows what’s best for everyone and sometimes he feels the need to teach an entitled student a lesson, bring them down a peg or two.  Sometimes he extends those lessons to fellow teachers who annoy him too.

All Teddy really wants is for everyone to be their best and he wants everyone to just stay out of his way while he works to achieve his goal.  Things start to get especially frustrating for Teddy when a parent unexpectedly dies at a school function and everyone at school is on edge once the death is ruled a homicide.  Teddy is annoyed by this distraction since in his mind, big deal, people die every day, and he’s especially frustrated because a student he actually likes is arrested for the murder.  Teddy decides that since he knows best, he needs to fix things.

It’s actually Teddy’s “fixing” of things that hilariously drive this dark and twisty tale because, even though he clearly thinks he’s a genius, the more Teddy tries to “fix” things, the worse things get.  Then as if things aren’t bad enough for Teddy because of his failed “fixings”, a former student he decided to teach a lesson to has come back to town and is looking to take Teddy down.

What really made this a great read for me was Teddy, not because he was a likeable character by any stretch, but on the contrary, because I loved to hate him.  He’s arrogant and obnoxious, but so delightfully diabolical with the lessons and punishments he doles out.  I found him to be such a fantastic character and I enjoyed his over-the-top antics and all the twists and turns he added to the story.

I don’t want to give anything away with respect to the murder or any of the additional fallout from Teddy’s endless schemes, but if you’re looking for a read that is suspenseful, dark and twisty, yet also quite funny, be sure to check out For Your Own Good.  It’s a wild ride!  4 STARS.

Thriller Review: RAZORBLADE TEARS by S.A. Cosby

Thriller Review:  RAZORBLADE TEARS by S.A. CosbyRazorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby
Also by this author: Blacktop Wasteland
five-stars
Published by Flatiron Books on July 6, 2021
Genres: Fiction, Thriller
Pages: 336
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

 

S.A. Cosby’s high octane crime thriller Blacktop Wasteland was one of my favorite reads of 2020, and as high as my expectations were for his follow up novel, Razorblade Tears, I was pretty sure there was no way he could top Blacktop Wasteland.  I was dead wrong though because Razorblade Tears is one of the most powerful and provocative books I’ve ever read.  It’s a story about loss and grief, revenge and justice, and it’s also a story about regret and about learning from the mistakes of your past.

Set in Virginia, the story follows ex-cons Ike Randolph and Buddy Lee Jenkins.  On the surface it would appear these two men have nothing in common aside from their criminal pasts.  Ike is a Black man who used to run with a gang, while Buddy is, as he refers to himself, redneck, white trash. What these two men do have in common though is their sons, a married gay couple, both of whom were brutally murdered.  What they also have in common is that both men let their homophobia prevent them from having loving relationships with their boys and now they’re filled with regret because they can no longer make things right between them.

Most of the book focuses on Ike and Buddy Lee’s quest to bring their sons’ killers to justice and their road to justice is paved with violence, blood and gore as well as coarse language as Ike and Buddy Lee encounter some pretty rough crowds.  To put it mildly, it’s an intense read that isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s also a fast-paced adrenaline rush that I devoured in a day because I just had to know who was responsible for the murders and whether or not Ike and Buddy Lee would bring them down.

Razorblade Tears, as its name implies, is also a story that is filled with pain, grief and raw emotion and it’s this angle that really took this book to the next level for me. These two fathers know they made terrible mistakes when it came to their sons and how they refused to just love them and accept them for who they were.  Both Ike and Buddy Lee desperately wish they could go back and do things differently.  I enjoyed reading their journey, both as they became unlikely friends bonding over this tragedy and as they both try to learn from their mistakes and become better men. This personal journey of growth made for such an interesting contrast with the gritty violence of their revenge quest.

With Blacktop Wasteland and Razorblade Tears, S.A. Cosby has proven he’s a force to be reckoned with in the crime thriller genre.  I highly recommend both books if you’re looking for a powerful read that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

five-stars

About S.A. Cosby

S. A. Cosby is a writer from Southeastern Virginia. He won the 2019 Anthony Award for Best Short Story for “The Grass Beneath My Feet”, and his previous books include Brotherhood of the Blade and My Darkest Prayer. He resides in Gloucester, Virginia. When not writing, he is an avid hiker and chess player.

Review: THE MAIDENS by Alex Michaelides

Review:  THE MAIDENS by Alex MichaelidesThe Maidens by Alex Michaelides
four-stars
Published by Celadon Books on June 15, 2021
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

 

I was very impressed with Alex Michaelides’ debut psychological thriller The Silent Patient when I read it last year.  It was a shocking and compelling read that I just couldn’t put down, so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of his latest offering, The Maidens.  Set primarily at Cambridge University in England, The Maidens is a twisty, atmospheric psychological thriller that follows Mariana Andros, a group therapist who unexpectedly finds herself at the center of a murder investigation and becomes obsessed with catching the killer.

Mariana is a pretty complex character with a lot of layers, so having the story unfold from her perspective made for a very addicting read.  Mariana is a former Cambridge student herself and she also met her husband there, so her ties to the university run deep, especially since her husband has recently died in a tragic accident.  Mariana is still grieving and just going through the motions from day to day, so when her niece Zoe, currently a Cambridge student, calls to tell Mariana that her roommate is missing and a dead body has been found on campus, Mariana heads to the university right away.  She goes on the premise of offering comfort to Zoe, but when it’s determined that Zoe’s roommate is the victim and that she was a member of a secret all female society called The Maidens, whose members are all hand-picked by the handsome and charismatic Greek Tragedy professor, Edward Fosca, Mariana becomes convinced he must be involved in the girl’s death, especially when it becomes clear that his only alibi are the other girls in his secret society and when another one of them turns up dead.  Mariana’s obsession with proving Fosca’s guilt is what drives the action in the story and makes for such an intense, unputdownable read.

It is of course a wild, twisty, and suspenseful ride as we follow Mariana on her quest. I loved how unpredictable the story is. It took me in directions I never expected to go and kept me guessing to the very end. As intoxicating as the murder mystery itself was though, I was also very much drawn to both Mariana and to Fosca. I love it when a thriller has complex characters to complement its complex plot.  Mariana is such a sympathetic character because she has experienced so much loss and is obviously still trying to cope. Being surrounded by university memories of her dead husband has to be so overwhelming and in some ways, I think she tunnel visions on the murders as a distraction from her own pain.  Fosca, on the other hand, is fascinating in his own right because he’s so charismatic.  Students line up for a chance to sit in on his lectures and the young women he chooses for his special society are clearly willing to do anything for him.  The subject matter he is so passionate about also ties quite closely to the manner in which the girls were murdered. Is it a coincidence or is this guy’s charm all an act to cover up something sinister?

I don’t want to give anything away with respect to the murders, but if you’re looking for an atmospheric psychological thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat and that has an almost Gothic feel to it at times, be sure to check out The Maidens.

four-stars

About Alex Michaelides

Alex Michaelides was born and raised in Cyprus. He has an M.A. in English literature from Trinity College, Cambridge University, and an M.A. in screenwriting from the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. The Silent Patient was his first novel and was the biggest-selling debut in the world in 2019. It spent more than a year on the New York Times bestseller list and sold in a record-breaking forty-nine countries. Alex lives in London.

Review: HIDDEN by Laura Griffin

Review:  HIDDEN by Laura GriffinHidden by Laura Griffin
four-stars
Series: The Texas Murder Files #1
Published by Berkley Books on August 25, 2020
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Romance
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks so much to Brittanie from Berkley for inviting me to take part in Berkley’s 2020 Romance blog tour.  Today I’m excited to share my thoughts with you on Laura Griffin’s latest novel, Hidden.

Hidden is the first installment in Laura Griffin’s new crime thriller series, The Texas Murder Files.  Hidden draws the reader in from the very first page as we follow a jogger on a popular hike-and-bike trail.  As she is jogging, the woman seems nervous and fearful, to the point of paranoia.  When a man with a large knife accosts her, it becomes all too painfully clear that she had a reason to be so nervous.  Investigative journalist Bailey Rhoads is sent to investigate the murder, as is police detective Jacob Merritt.  Bailey approaches Jacob to see if he can give her some details on the case, but instead of being helpful, Jacob is gruff and close-lipped about the case.  When she doesn’t get any assistance from Jacob, Bailey decides to do some digging on her own.

Two things become clear as both Jacob and Bailey begin to investigate:  1) There is frustratingly little evidence to go on with respect to the murder. Even getting an ID on the victim is proving to be nearly impossible, and 2) Whether they want to admit it or not or even act on it, Bailey and Jacob are attracted to one another.

Hidden was a winner for me for several reasons, the main one being that the murder case itself is very compelling.  From that opening scene, I was hooked on finding out who this woman was and why she was killed in such an awful way.  I became all the more invested in the case when both Jacob and Bailey couldn’t find out anything about the victim. It was like she had gone completely off the grid.  As Jacob and Bailey slowly began to unravel the details of the case and the suspense began to build, I flew through the pages eager to get to the truth about what had happened, especially as it became clear the woman’s murder was a hit job and that the killer wasn’t finished.

I also really loved both of the main characters.  Bailey is a talented and tenacious journalist.  She’s determined to get her story and won’t let anyone, not even a sexy police detective, stand in her way.  Jacob is equally likeable, even though he initially comes off as somewhat gruff and standoffish.  He’s actually just very protective when it comes to his cases. He truly cares about finding justice for his victims and in the case of this victim, is downright ticked off when the FBI comes to take jurisdiction over the case.  I loved his passion and I also thought it was cute how hard he tried to fight his growing attraction to Bailey even though her stubbornness made him crazy. His head keeps telling him it’s a bad idea for a cop to get involved with the media, but his heart has other ideas.  The chemistry between Jacob and Bailey was great too. The way their relationship progressed felt very organic, not to mention both cute and sexy.

Hidden is a very satisfying and entertaining read.  If you enjoy romantic suspense and a riveting murder mystery, be sure to add this gem to your reading list.

four-stars

About Laura Griffin

Laura Griffin is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than twenty-five books and novellas. Her books have been translated into fourteen languages. Laura is a two-time RITA® Award winner (for Scorched and Whisper of Warning) as well as the recipient of the Daphne du Maurier Award (for Untraceable). Her book Desperate Girls was named one of the Best Books of 2018 by Publishers Weekly. Laura lives in Austin, Texas, where she is working on her next novel.

Reviews: August Book Releases That Should Be on Your Reading List

I’ve been quiet on the blog for a few days because I found myself lost in some pretty amazing reads.  If these three novels are anything to go by, August is going to be a fabulous month for new releases.  I’m also a big mood reader and my mood was all over the place this week so there’s a little something here for everyone – a heartwarming contemporary, a suspenseful mystery/thriller, and a compelling work of historical fiction.

Reviews:  August Book Releases That Should Be on Your Reading ListVanessa Yu's Magical Paris Tea Shop Goodreads

Author: Roselle Lim

Publication Date: August 4, 2020

Publisher:  Berkley

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

Roselle Lim’s new novel, Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop is a heartwarming story about love, family, second chances, and most importantly, about finding one’s self.  Vanessa Yu, the protagonist, is a fortune teller but wishes she wasn’t.  For most of her life, Vanessa has been unable to control her “gift,” blurting out fortunes at random and driving away friends and potential boyfriends.  Because the gift has been nothing but a curse her entire life, Vanessa longs to just be rid of it so she can live a normal life.  That doesn’t appear to be an option so when her aunt Evelyn, the only other family member who can tell fortunes, offers to train her, Vanessa jumps at the chance, especially once she realizes it means she’ll be traveling with Evelyn to Paris where Evelyn is opening up a new branch of her popular tea shop.

One of my absolute favorite parts about this book were the author’s lush descriptions of the sights, sounds, and especially the FOOD of Paris.  My mouth was watering with each turn of the page as I read about decadent French pastries and the like.  Vanessa is also a very likeable character, so it was easy to root for her.  I felt so much sympathy for her as she began to fear she would live her entire life alone if she didn’t get control over her abilities. I can’t even imagine that kind of pressure.

The story isn’t just about Vanessa though.  There’s also a fabulous subplot involving Aunt Evelyn. She’s actually leaving the Yu family permanently and relocating to Paris. When it becomes clear to Vanessa that Evelyn’s trip to Paris isn’t a temporary one, she is dying to know why, and since Evelyn isn’t talking, she enlists the wonderful Yu Aunties, who are more than willing to go undercover and find out what Evelyn is up to. I adored the closeness of the Yu family overall and those Yu Aunties are a hilarious addition to what is already an entertaining story.

I don’t want to say much more but I will say that I think this is a story that romance fans are going to love.  Love is in the air for several characters as Vanessa discovers that while she may hate fortune telling, she thoroughly enjoys playing matchmaker and bringing lovers together.  If you’re in the mood for a charming and romantic story that will tug at your heartstrings and leave a smile on your face, be sure to pick up a copy of Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop.  4 STARS

 

Reviews:  August Book Releases That Should Be on Your Reading ListThe Night Swim Goodreads

Author: Megan Goldin

Publication Date: August 4, 2020

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

With her latest thriller, The Night Swim, Megan Goldin explores the connections between two criminal cases that took place in the same small town 25 years apart.  Rachel Krall, the protagonist of the novel, is a successful crime podcaster.  For the first two seasons of her podcast, “Guilty or Not Guilty, the Podcast that Puts You in the Jury Box”, Rachel looked back at cold cases with a fresh set of eyes.  Now that her show has become immensely popular, Rachel wants to up her game by going to court and sitting in on a live, ongoing trial to present and interpret the evidence to her listeners as it becomes available.  The trial she has chosen in set in a small town and the accused is the town’s golden boy, a talented swimmer who hopes to make the Olympic team someday.  He is accused of brutally raping a high school student who also happens to be the granddaughter of the sheriff.  Tensions are high and opinions are very divided as to whether or not the young man is guilty.

Things take an odd turn, however, when she starts receiving mysterious handwritten letters imploring her to take a look at an old case from 25 years ago.  The case was ruled a drowning because there were no witnesses aside from the victim’s nine-year-old sister who couldn’t really provide any information.  The incident received little press at the time, but the letter writer, who turns out to be the younger sister of the drowning victim, swears her sister’s death was not an accident.  Rachel is laser focused on the current case but the pleading tone of the letters get to her and so she starts to casually ask some of the townsfolk about what happened 25 years ago.  When it becomes clear that no one wants to talk to her about it, Rachel starts to dig deeper and soon discovers some disturbing connections between the old case and the new case.  Will Rachel discover the truth about both of the crimes and thus justice for the victims or will someone try to stop her from exposing long hidden secrets in this small town?

The Night Swim is a riveting mystery that kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. The podcast aspect of the novel was also very well done. As Rachel produces each episode, we then get to listen to it before returning to the courthouse to hear more.  I was completely invested in both mysteries and dying to learn the truth as the clues were slowly revealed.  Be forewarned that because this story does deal with rape, there are some violent and heartbreaking scenes as we get closer and closer to the truth.  I found myself near tears a couple of times as the truth came to light.

I enjoyed Megan Goldin’s last thriller, The Escape Room, but I have to say that with her latest effort, The Night Swim, she really knocks it out of the park.  4 STARS.

 

Reviews:  August Book Releases That Should Be on Your Reading ListThe Lions of Fifth Avenue Goodreads

Author: Fiona Davis

Publication Date: August 4, 2020

Publisher:  Dutton Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

I love historical fiction and I love New York City, so I’m always drawn to the novels of Fiona Davis because she sets each one in an iconic NYC location.  This time around, Davis has selected the beloved New York Public Library as her setting.

In 1913, Laura Lyons is living in the library with her two young children and her husband, who is the Superintendent of the library.  She aspires to be a journalist and enrolls at Columbia University’s Journalism School.  Her journalism classes take her to the doorstep of an all-women’s club called the Heterodoxy Club. While attending club meetings and listening to “radical” women discuss women’s issues like suffrage and birth control, Laura begins to question her own existence as little more than wife and mother.  There’s a whole world out there she wants to experience.  Her thoughts of taking an alternative path in life are cut short, however, when rare books start disappearing from the library and it’s thought to be an inside job, which places her husband squarely on the suspect list.

In 1993, we meet Sadie Donovan, who also works at the New York Public Library.  Everyone at the library knows Sadie loves her job and is passionate about books, so it’s a given that she’s the best choice to curate the library’s next big exhibit featuring rare books.  What everyone doesn’t know about Sadie is that she’s actually the granddaughter of Laura Lyons.  With her family’s muddled history regarding the library and missing books, Sadie figures the little said about that the better, especially when, to her shock and dismay, rare books she plans to use in her exhibit start to disappear from the library.  As only a small handful of people have keys to the rare books room, it’s considered an inside job and Sadie finds herself on the suspect list.  Sadie becomes determined to find out how the books are being stolen and who is responsible and also hopes deep down that she can somehow redeem the Lyon name and legacy with respect to the library.

What intrigued me the most about this story is that we learn early on in Sadie’s timeline that Laura Lyons, although now deceased, had become a famous feminist essayist at some point in her life. In addition to being eager to find out how the book thefts were being pulled off in each timeline, I was also even more eager to find out what had transpired in Laura’s life to transform her from wife and mother on the verge of tragedy to world renowned author.  I loved how the author wove these two timelines together to gradually reveal the answers to both questions.

It actually surprised me how emotional I found myself getting as I was reading this book. I actually gasped a few times when certain beloved rare books went missing and in one case, where a page was torn out of a beloved treasure.  If you are passionate about books, libraries, New York, and historical fiction, The Lions of Fifth Avenue is the perfect book for you.  4.5 STARS

Review: I KILLED ZOE SPANOS by Kit Frick

Review:  I KILLED ZOE SPANOS by Kit FrickI Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick
Also by this author: All Eyes on Us
four-stars
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on June 30, 2020
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kit Frick’s new novel, I Killed Zoe Spanos, has all of the ingredients that make for a great summer read.  It has a compelling mystery regarding what has happened to Zoe Spanos and who is responsible, and it also features a fantastic podcast run by a teenager who doesn’t think the police are doing enough to solve the mystery.  Top that off with an unreliable narrator and a small town setting in the ultra-elite Hamptons and you’ve got yourself a must-read book for the beach or your next vacation.

The protagonist of I Killed Zoe Spanos is Anna Cicconi.  Anna has come to Herron Mills, a village in the Hamptons, to work as a nanny for a family there.  She is hoping this job will be a fresh start for her.  Anna has gone through a rough patch lately and spent entirely too much time partying and drinking, to the point where she has started experiencing blackouts and memory loss.  Anna’s journey takes an unexpected turn when she arrives in Herron Mills and is immediately told by everyone she meets that she looks just like Zoe Spanos, a young woman who went missing in the village months earlier.  Anna becomes interested in Zoe’s disappearance and starts having little flashes of memories that convince her that she knows Zoe and that she has been to Herron Mills before.  When the story opens and we are faced with a scene in which Anna is confessing to Zoe’s murder, it becomes clear that Anna’s summer in the Hamptons is life changing in all the wrong ways.

We get most of the story from Anna’s perspective, and Anna is a classic unreliable narrator.  From the moment we meet her as she is confessing to Zoe’s murder, it’s clear that we can’t necessarily trust what she’s saying.  The confession is oddly specific yet filled with comments like “I guess,” “I think,” etc. It doesn’t sound at all like a statement made by someone who is sure she committed the crime.  An even bigger cloud of doubt is cast over Anna’s story when we learn from her best friend Kaylee that she was with Anna and they weren’t even at the house where Anna is saying Zoe died.  Even though the story opens with a confession, the mystery of what happened to Zoe and what, if any, role Anna had in it, is truly about as muddled as it gets and I was hooked on wanting to get to the bottom of it.  I also really liked Anna and that she was trying to get her life under control, so I wanted her account to be wrong. I didn’t want her to be a killer.  Sometimes unreliable narrators don’t work well for me, but I loved its use here.

I was also a big fan of the author’s use of a dual timeline.  One timeline follows the events that lead up to the discovery of Zoe’s body, while the other timeline deals with the fallout after the body is discovered.  I always love watching the pieces of a puzzle come together this way, as it allows me lots of opportunities to try to fit those pieces together and come up with my own theories about what has happened, as I did with this story.  In this case, the chapters alternate between the two timelines so that the reader is fed a few crumbs at a time from each end of the mystery, both from Anna’s perspective and from the perspective of Martina Jenkins, who is conducting her own investigation into what happened to Zoe, and broadcasting her findings on a podcast called Missing Zoe.

I don’t want to give away any details about what actually happened to Zoe, but I will say that it’s a wild ride to the final reveal.  I came up with lots of theories along the way and was wrong every time.  In addition to the mystery about Zoe, there are also plenty of little side plots filled with secrets and drama that add extra layers of intrigue and suspense to the overall story.  I devoured I Killed Zoe Spanos in just a couple of sittings and definitely recommend it if you’re in the mood for a good mystery.

four-stars

About Kit Frick

Kit Frick is a novelist, poet, and MacDowell Colony fellow. Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, she studied creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and received her MFA from Syracuse University. When she isn’t putting complicated characters in impossible situations, Kit edits poetry and literary fiction for a small press, edits for private clients, and mentors emerging writers through Pitch Wars. She is the author of the young adult novels See All the Stars, All Eyes on Us (2019), and Windermere (2020), all from Simon & Schuster / Margaret K. McElderry Books, and the poetry collection A Small Rising Up in the Lungs (New American Press). Her fiction is represented by Erin Harris at Folio Literary Management / Folio Jr.

Review: THE GUEST LIST by Lucy Foley

Review:  THE GUEST LIST by Lucy FoleyThe Guest List by Lucy Foley
four-stars
Published by William Morrow on June 2, 2020
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 320
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lucy Foley’s The Guest List is an atmospheric thriller that centers on a high society wedding event gone wrong.  The wedding in question is that of Jules and Will.  Jules is a successful magazine publisher, while Will is an up and coming reality TV star.  With an exotic location, designer gowns, and boutique whiskey, Will and Jules’ wedding is shaping up to be the stuff dreams are made of.  That is, until it turns into a nightmare, complete with a dead body.

I was very intrigued by all the different points of view the author chose to use in this story.  We get alternating chapters from Jules, the bride; Olivia, Jules’ sister and only bridesmaid; Hannah, the wife of Jules’ best friend; Johnno, the best man; and Aoife, the wedding planner.  When I first started reading, I thought this was such an odd assortment of characters to choose and was eager to find out why in the world they had been selected.  As the story started to come together, it became obvious why these characters had been selected and I was eager to learn more about them, particularly what each of them was hiding since it was clear they all had secrets they were holding close to their chests.

In addition to the seemingly random points of view that weren’t so random after all, the author also uses a very effective timeline to pull together all of the threads of this mystery.  The Guest List begins the night of Jules and Will’s wedding. A fierce storm has blown in just after the ceremony and the guests are riding out the storm inside.  The environment quickly turns chaotic as the power starts flickering on and off and then the guests start to hear screams. It’s clear that something has gone terribly wrong and the ushers decide it’s up to them to go out and investigate the source of the screams.  The story then alternates between following the aftermath of discovering the dead body, and following the events that led up to the discovery of the body, with special attention to certain members of the wedding party and guests to see what, if any, role they played in the tragedy.

While I loved watching the different points of view and the two timelines come together, it was the atmospheric remote setting of The Guest List that really took this story to the next level for me.  It’s set on a small island off the coast of Ireland.  The island is practically deserted and is rumored to be haunted, and is composed of a landscape that is rocky, wild, and particularly dangerous if you stray from the designated paths.  All I kept thinking as I was reading was “Who in their right mind would want to have a wedding in such a dangerous and creepy place?”

I don’t want to give away any details since this is a thriller, so I’m going to close now before I say too much.  If you’re a fan of creepy atmospheric, slow burn thrillers reminiscent of Agatha Christie and Ruth Ware, you’re going to love The Guest List.

four-stars

About Lucy Foley

Lucy Foley studied English literature at Durham University and University College London and worked for several years as a fiction editor in the publishing industry. She is the author of The Book of Lost and Found and The Invitation. She lives in London.

Review: FIRST CUT by Judy Melinek & T.J. Mitchell

Review:  FIRST CUT by Judy Melinek & T.J. MitchellFirst Cut by Judy Melinek, T.J. Mitchell
four-stars
Published by Hanover Square Press on January 7, 2020
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 368
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks so much to Justine Sha for inviting me to take part in Harlequin Trade Publishing’s Winter 2020 Mystery/Thriller Blog Tour.  Today I’m sharing my thoughts on FIRST CUT by Judy Melinek & T.J. Mitchell.

First Cut is a gritty, fast-paced medical thriller that follows Dr. Jessie Teska, a scrappy medical examiner who has just taken a new job in San Francisco. Jessie doesn’t want to rock the boat since she’s new and because she desperately needs the job, but when one of her very first cases goes from looking like a woman who died from an accidental drug overdose to a straight up murder, Jessie surprisingly finds herself at odds with her supervisor.  While Jessie wants to dig deeper to find out what really happened to the young woman, especially after she starts to see connections between her case and a couple of others in the morgue, her supervisor is trying to force her to close the case immediately and sign off on it as an accidental death.  Why?

I thought Jessie was such a great character.  She’s incredibly competent in her work and very professional, but she’s also one of those complex, messy types that I love so much.  I was intrigued by the hints of a troubled past that drove her to leave her home and start over in San Francisco, and I especially loved how stubborn she was and how determined she was to find out what happened to the victim in her case, even if it meant butting heads with her superiors.  I loved that when her superiors try to force her to back off, she pushes back even harder because now she wants to know why they want the case closed when there are clearly still more questions than answers. Jessie is the quintessential scrappy little underdog that you can’t help but cheer on in her relentless pursuit of the truth.

In addition to creating such a fantastic protagonist, the authors also craft an utterly gripping plot that takes the reader into the deep underbelly of the drug trafficking world.  The writing is raw and real, drawing from author Judy Melinek’s experience working in forensic pathology. The story was also fast-paced and well written, with lots of intricate and seemingly unrelated threads that gradually get woven together as Jessie gets closer and closer to the truth. Just a small word of warning regarding the writing – First Cut does feature some pretty graphic autopsy scenes. While this isn’t surprising, based on the nature of the book, I still wanted to give a head’s up in case some readers get squeamish about blood and other bodily fluids.

If the world of forensic pathology is of interest to you and you like a good twisty thriller, you should add First Cut to your reading list.

PURCHASE LINKS:

HarlequinAmazonBarnes & NobleIndie BoundKoboTarget – iBooksGoogle – Books-A-Million

 

SUMMARY:

Wife and husband duo Dr. Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell first enthralled the book world with their runaway bestselling memoir Working Stiff—a fearless account of a young forensic pathologist’s “rookie season” as a NYC medical examiner. This winter, Dr. Melinek, now a prominent forensic pathologist in the Bay Area, once again joins forces with writer T.J. Mitchell to take their first stab at fiction.

The result: FIRST CUT (Hanover Square Press; Hardcover; January 7, 2020; $26.99)—a gritty and compelling crime debut about a hard-nosed San Francisco medical examiner who uncovers a dangerous conspiracy connecting the seedy underbelly of the city’s nefarious opioid traffickers and its ever-shifting terrain of tech startups.

Dr. Jessie Teska has made a chilling discovery. A suspected overdose case contains hints of something more sinister: a drug lord’s attempt at a murderous cover up. As more bodies land on her autopsy table, Jessie uncovers a constellation of deaths that point to an elaborate network of powerful criminals—on both sides of the law—that will do anything to keep things buried. But autopsy means “see for yourself,” and Jessie Teska won’t stop until she’s seen it all—even if it means the next corpse on the slab could be her own.

 

four-stars

About Judy Melinek

Judy Melinek was an assistant medical examiner in San Francisco for nine years, and today works as a forensic pathologist in Oakland and as CEO of PathologyExpert Inc. She and T.J. Mitchell met as undergraduates at Harvard, after which she studied medicine and practiced pathology at UCLA. Her training in forensics at the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner is the subject of their first book, the memoir Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner.

About T.J. Mitchell

T.J. Mitchell is a writer with an English degree from Harvard, and worked in the film industry before becoming a full-time stay-at-home dad. He is the New York Times bestselling co-author of Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner with his wife, Judy Melinek.