Social Media Icons

Friday, August 31, 2018

REVIEW: Collecting the Dead by Spencer Kope @stmartinspress @spencerkope

Collecting the Dead
by Spencer Kope

Thanks so much to my book soul sister, Danielle, for sending this book to me. ❤

Publisher:  St. Martin's Paperbacks
Publish Date:  April 4, 2017
384 Pages
Series:  Special Tracking Unit #1
Genres:  Mystery, Thriller, Supsense

Magnus "Steps" Craig is part of the elite three-man Special Tracking Unit of the FBI. Called in on special cases where his skills are particularly needed, he works as a tracker. The media dubs him "The Human Bloodhound," since Steps is renowned for his incredible ability to find and follow trails over any surface better than anyone else. But there's a secret to his success. Steps has a special ability---a kind of synesthesia---where he can see the 'essence' of a person, something he calls 'shine,' on everything they've touched. His ability is known to only a few people---his father, the director of the FBI, and his partner, Special Agent Jimmy Donovan.

When the remains of a murdered woman are found, Steps recognizes the shine left by the murderer from another crime scene with a physically similar victim. And he uncovers the signature at both scenes---the mark of a sad face. At the same time, another killer, one Steps has dubbed Leonardo and has been trying to track for over ten years, appears again, taunting Steps. But while Steps tries to find a clue that will lead him to Leonardo, the case of the Sad Face Killer heats up. The team uncovers eleven possible victims: missing women who fit the same pattern. Using his skill and the resources of the Bureau, it is a race against time to find the killer before it's too late.

My Review:

One of the best things about the Bookstagram community is meeting people who just get you, the exchanging/gifting of books and having a vast amount of people you can discuss your reading passion with.  For those reading this, if you don't know what this community is, get on Instagram and search #Bookstagram and come on in!!  Thanks so much to Danielle for sending me this copy!  Another good fit - I'm not surprised at all! 😉

Steps is a special character and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know him.  Having to hide his special ability makes for a lonely life... though I'm not sure why he's THAT set on it keeping it such a secret - at least from more of his lovables.  I mean, I get it... but I just don't want him to have this struggle.  He does a good job in covering his tracks (some pun intended) by pretending to see clues other than what he actually sees.  People know he's special - they just don't realize HOW special.

I'll be honest, I enjoyed the dialogue and interactions between the characters more than I did the actual case of the Sad Faced Killer.  The banter is fantastic and I found myself giggling through various scenes.  Not to take away from the case itself.  I felt at times this was a humorous thriller that brushed the line of darkness.  A solid opening and introduction to the Special Tracking Unit series.  Very happy to be introduced to this series.


Friday, August 24, 2018

REVIEW: Under a Dark Sky by Lori Rader-Day @WMMorrowBooks @LoriRaderDay @tlcbooktours #allthebookreviews

Under A Dark Sky
by Lori Rader-Day

Thanks so much to William Morrow Books and TLC Book Tours for this review copy!

Publisher:  William Morrow Paperbacks
Publish Date:  August 7, 2018
405 Pages Standalone
Genres:  Mystery, Thriller

Only in the dark can she find the truth . . . 

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Author Links: WebsiteInstagramFacebook, and Twitter 

Since her husband died, Eden Wallace's life has diminished down to a tiny pinprick, like a far-off star in the night sky. She doesn't work, has given up on her love of photography, and is so plagued by night terrors that she can't sleep without the lights on. Everyone, including her family, has grown weary of her grief. So when she finds paperwork in her husband's effects indicating that he reserved a week at a dark sky park, she goes. She's ready to shed her fear and return to the living, even if it means facing her paralyzing phobia of the dark. 

But when she arrives at the park, the guest suite she thought was a private retreat is teeming with a group of twenty-somethings, all stuck in the orbit of their old college friendships. Horrified that her get-away has been taken over, Eden decides to head home the next day. But then a scream wakes the house in the middle of the night. One of the friends has been murdered. Now everyone—including Eden—is a suspect. 

Everyone is keeping secrets, but only one is a murderer. As mishaps continue to befall the group, Eden must make sense of the chaos and lies to evade a ruthless killer—and she'll have to do it before dark falls… 

Purchase Links
HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Lori Rader-Day is the author of Under a Dark Sky, The Day I Died, Little Pretty Things, and The Black Hour. She is a three-time Mary Higgins Clark Award nominee, winning the award in 2016. Lori lives in Chicago. Find out more about Lori at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

My Review:

Eden has lost her husband in a tragic accident and finds that he has secretly booked a surprise trip to a fairly isolated place they've spoken about in the past.  Maybe this is the trip she needed to find some closure.  Unfortunately, the trip turns into a nightmare - one in which she learns things about her husband that are worse than what she already had found out and becomes a suspect in a murder from the co-guests she also didn't expect.  PHEW.

There are a lot of characters in this and we get a glimpse into every one of them.  When there's a group like this, typically (but not always) you find that there is overlapping of relationships, sordid pasts and an inability to really welcome anyone new into the fold.  When the seemingly most liked person gets murdered... well, pure chaos ensues from there with accusations being thrown left and right.  Seriously, with friends like this you definitely do NOT need enemies.

To me this read somewhat like a game of clue - except you know where and what with - now it's just a matter of who.  I think claiming this to be a "terrifying twist on a locked-room mystery" is the wrong way to market this particular book.  I didn't particularly find anything terrifying about this book.  What I DID find was this to be a moderately paced whodunit type mystery where everyone seems to have a motive.  At times I felt things got a bit repetitive and I just wanted it to move forward.  I also felt that too many characters were introduced which made the book a tad bit crowded.

I did find Eden's nyctophobia to be one of the most interesting things about the book - I wish we knew a bit more about where this came from as while it's a front runner for the book, I felt it also took a bit of a back burner role when it came to the meat of the story. 

This was more a murder mystery dealing with different stages of grief from Eden's past and the murder that occurs, how the characters deal in their own ways and how it slowly unfolds to the why.  Eden's snarky responses during some of the scenarios were my favorites to read.  Be careful who you choose to be your friends and whatever you do, do not go to a remote location with them if there are tough waves in the water... this seems to be where all the red herrings live. 😉


Jessica's Review:

This book was read in the 3.5 hours I was stuck at an auto shop. Yes, you read that right, 3.5 HOURS! At least I had UNDER A DARK SKY to keep me completely occupied. This psychological suspense had a great pacing that kept my attention the entire time and I was able to fly through it. 

Eden is off to spend her 10th wedding anniversary at a secluded cabin out in Michigan. Only, there's something very unique about this trip - her husband Bix has been dead for almost nine months and he was the one that made the reservation. So against her better judgment, Eden ventures out to this resort that is well-known for it's viewing of the stars at night to honor the surprise reservation her husband had made. Upon arriving, there seems to have been a mix up with the reservation because there are already people piling into the guest house she assumed she had alone. 

Turns out, the guest house has two portions. The main house and then a suite with it's own entrance on the back. Eden has to share a night with a group of six twenty-somethings that are having an anniversary celebration of their own. We are quickly introduced to Paris and Dev (engaged), Martha, Sam, and then Malloy and his new girlfriend Hillary. The five of them are connected through college and they have a shared secret that was tearing their friendship apart and creating distance. 
In the middle of the night, Eden hears a scream and paralyzed by her fear of the dark she waits in her suite. Dev comes running to her and brings her downstairs - Malloy has been murdered. This turns into a "whodunit" suspense with everyone being a suspect. Was it the new girlfriend? Was it one of the jealous friends? Was it the stranger that didn't even want to be apart of their group? So many questions and so many red herrings throughout. 

This definitely kept me guessing and there were plenty of twists thrown in to keep me on my toes! Considering I devoured this in 3.5 hours I would say that this can be classified as a binge-worthy read. This is all told from Eden's point of view, which I was happy about because there were so many core characters that it would have gotten confusing if we had the multiple POV style. There are a couple parts where it felt slightly repetitive for me, but nothing major and at first I had some issues keeping the characters straight. Other than those minor things, I really enjoyed Rader-Day's newest release! 

I give this 4/5 stars!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

SPOTLIGHT: Temptation Rag by Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard @smithpublicity

Temptation Rag
by Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard

Just LOOK at this cover - doesn't it just speak of that era??

Scheduled for Release: December 3, 2018
Advance Reading Copy available to qualified reviewers on NetGalley

Seventeen-year-old May Convery, unhappy with her privileged life in turn-of-the-century New York City, dreams of becoming a poet. When she meets the talented young Mike Bernard, an aspiring concert pianist, she immediately falls in love. But after their secret liaison is discovered, neither is prepared for the far-reaching consequences that will haunt them for decades. As Mike abandons serious music to ruthlessly defend his hard-won title, Ragtime King of the World, May struggles to find her voice as an artist and a woman. It is not until years after their youthful romance, when they cross paths again, that they must finally confront the truth about themselves and each other. But is it too late?

The world of ragtime is the backdrop for a remarkable story about the price of freedom, the longing for immortality, and the human need to find forgiveness. From vaudeville’s greatest stars to the geniuses of early African American musical theater, an unforgettable cast of real-life characters populates this richly-fictionalized historical saga.

SPOTLIGHT: When Trouble Sleeps by Leye Adenle @leyeadenle @cassavarepublic

When Trouble Sleeps
by Leye Adenle

Spotlighting what looks to be an exciting thriller - take a look at why you should consider picking this one up!

Amaka Mbadiwe returns in this gripping sequel to the award-winning Easy Motion Tourist, and trouble isn’t far behind her.
The self-appointed saviour of Lagos’ sex workers, Amaka may have bitten off more than she can chew this time as she finds herself embroiled in a political scandal. When a plane crash kills the state gubernatorial candidate, the party picks a replacement who is assured of winning the election: Chief Ojo. But Amaka knows the skeletons that lurk in Chief Ojo’s closet, including what took place at the Harem, the secret sex club on the outskirts of Lagos that he frequents.
Amaka is the only person standing between Chief Ojo and election victory, and he sends hired guns Malik and Shehu after her. Caught in a game of survival, against a backdrop of corruption, violence, sex and sleaze, Amaka must find a way to outwit her bloodthirsty adversaries.
Leye Adenle pulls back the curtain on the seedy underbelly of Lagos once again in this gritty and compelling thriller.
This highly anticipated sequel to Easy Motion Tourist from Cassava Republic Press plunges readers into a thrilling world of sex workers, greed, political intrigue, blackmail and murder. 
The Amaka series by award-winning author Leye Adenle, is the perfect introduction to the world of Naija Noir, trading in the chill of Scandi Noir for the tumultuous heat of the megacity Lagos. This compelling thriller showcases Africa’s most populous country at both its most glamorous and its most sordid. Immersing the reader in a world of corruption, scandal and sleaze, When Trouble Sleeps proves why Naija Noir is the next big thing in crime fiction. 
When Trouble Sleeps moves at a relentless pace full of twists and turns, and with a complex and intriguing female character at its core. This is story telling at its best from an award-winning author fast making a name for himself in the crime fiction world. 

Leye Adenle is the author of the award-winning Easy Motion Tourist, and a contributor to Lagos Noir (Akashic Books, 2018) and Sunshine Noir (White Sun Books, 2016). His short story ‘The Assassin’ was shortlisted for the CWA Short Story Dagger 2017. Leye is from a family of writers, the most famous of whom was his grandfather, Oba Adeleye Adenle I, a former king of Oshogbo in South West Nigeria. Leye lives in London. He has appeared on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Open Book’ and is a regular panelist at literary and crime festivals.

SPOTLIGHT: Revenge by Thomas A. Burns, Jr. @3Mdetective

by Thomas A. Burns, Jr.

You may remember me spotlighting, Stripper by Tom Burns - well Natalie McMasters is BACK and ready for REVENGE.

Natalie McMasters is twenty, short and blonde (OK, it’s bleached), a way cute former stripper and a pre-law student at State. Nattie also works as a private detective at her uncle’s 3M Detective Agency. She’s deeply in love with her girlfriend Lupe, also a former stripper and undocumented immigrant, who’s now a pole-dancing instructor at a local gym. They’ve finally gotten Lupe’s eight-year-old son Eduardo into public school, and it looks like the American Dream may soon become a reality for their little family. 

That is until a steamy video of Nattie and Lupe appears on the campus-wide closed-circuit TV system. The video is only the first of a series of distressing events that affects every aspect of Nattie’s life and threatens the well-being of her family and friends as well. What could Nattie have possibly done in her short life to deserve the callous revenge her unseen tormentor is so brutally exacting? 

Revenge! is ripped from today’s headlines and full of the unexpected plot twists and non-stop action that Nattie’s fans have come to expect. It has a shocking ending that you won’t see coming, even though all the clues are there. 

As a kid, Tom started reading mysteries with the Hardy Boys, Ken Holt and Rick Brant, and graduated to the classic stories by authors such as A. Conan Doyle, John Dickson Carr, Erle Stanley Gardner and Rex Stout, to name a few. Tom has written fiction as a hobby all of his life, starting in marble-backed copybooks in grade school. He built a career as a writer doing technical writing, science writing and editing for nearly thirty years in industry and government. Now that he's truly on his own as a freelance science writer and editor, he's excited to publish his own mystery series as well.


REVIEW: Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter @SlaughterKarin @WmMorrowBooks #allthebookreviews #slaughtersquad

Pieces of Her
by Karin Slaughter

Thanks so much to William Morrow Books for these copies.  Slaughter is one of my favorite authors so I may or may not have squealed when I received this book in the mail!

See what Jessica and I thought of this compulsive thriller and also read a Q&A with author below our reviews!

Publisher:  William Morrow Books
Publish Date:  August 21, 2018
480 Pages
Genres: Thriller, Suspense

What if the person you thought you knew best turns out to be someone you never knew at all . . . ?Andrea Cooper knows everything about her mother, Laura. She knows she’s spent her whole life in the small beachside town of Belle Isle; she knows she’s never wanted anything more than to live a quiet life as a pillar of the community; she knows she’s never kept a secret in her life. Because we all know our mothers, don’t we?

But all that changes when a trip to the mall explodes into violence and Andrea suddenly sees a completely different side to Laura. Because it turns out that before Laura was Laura, she was someone completely different. For nearly thirty years she’s been hiding from her previous identity, lying low in the hope that no one would ever find her. But now she’s been exposed, and nothing will ever be the same again.

The police want answers and Laura’s innocence is on the line, but she won’t speak to anyone, including her own daughter. Andrea is on a desperate journey following the breadcrumb trail of her mother’s past. And if she can’t uncover the secrets hidden there, there may be no future for either one of them. . . .

My Review:

Slaughter is one of my favorite authors.  Why, you ask? Well, let me tell you.  Her writing is utterly addicting!!  In Pretty Girls she really shows her grit and I loved every minute of it - there was even some chatter that she may have gone too far in one of her scenes, but not for me!  In The Good Daughter, she was equally compulsive but I had so many more feelings - the last 150 pages had me in tears.  While those two books are her most popular these days and are some what different, they both had that gritty feel you like to dig your teeth into.  

With Pieces of Her, Slaughter opens up with a BANG! I went through 200+ pages in no time and was glued to this story.  The writing is addicting and she knows just how to get under your skin, wear you like a suit and then give you back after you've turned that last page.  

We follow two timelines - present day in Andy's story as she tries to figure out who her mother really is and back to the 1980s where we get to see into Laura's past.  Now, I'll be honest, the beginning of the second part, when we first went back to 1986 confused me for a moment.  When you read this book you'll know why and then you get that moment where *light bulb* and you start to see the direction the book is going.  I'll be honest, I had more fun with the present day timeline that the past - but that's just my preference.  

I will say that I felt the story slowed down through the last quarter of the book.  I usually like my pacing to ramp up rather than slow down.  However, I will say that the way Slaughter brings everything together is nothing short of genius... and this is why she'll forever be one of my favorites.  

#SlaughterSquad - I suggest going into this one a little open minded and realize it's not going to be quite as gritty as Pretty Girls or as emotional as The Good Daughter.  Still brilliantly written, addicting with a touch of cult and a lot of WHO IS SHE?!  You really don't ever know everything about someone.  But what happens when the mother who raised you turns out to be completely different than anything you ever knew?

Get in.  Get Slaughtered


Jessica's Review:

So last year was my introduction to Karin Slaughter when the #CJSReads trio read THE GOOD DAUGHTER and I fell in love with her writing. She has a way of writing that just immediately sucks you in and you don't even realize you've read 200 pages already (something that Chandra and I had in common with this one!).

We have the dual timelines in this one and we go from present day and then flashback to the 1980's. In the present, we follow Andrea (Andy). She has always been close with her mother but when faced with a desperate situation, she realizes how little she really know about her mother's life. There are secrets galore and Andrea finds herself trying to dig through Laura's past. It's really hard to talk much about the plot without giving anything exciting away!

This one had a different feel to it than THE GOOD DAUGHTER did, I can't quite decide what it specifically is though. I did enjoy the present day perspective and story better than the 1980's flashbacks (to Laura's life). There was more action and suspense with Andrea's story. I think because of this, I connected more with Andrea than with Laura.

This was another page-turner with a great pacing for the first half of the book. I did feel like it slowed down a little bit towards the middle, but otherwise it's real binge-worthy read! If you're a fan of Karin Slaughter, then this is a no-brainer. 

I give this 4/5 stars


What kind of research do you do for a book, and how much do you research before you start writing?

I research all the sex myself. The rest--it depends on what the story needs. For PIECES OF HER, there wasn’t a hell of a lot of questions for the experts. After doing this for a long time, I have a lot of knowledge of things the police do, or how investigations work, or clues or things like that that are in my head just from working on previous novels and talking to cops and forensics folks and that sort of thing. With the GOOD DAUGHTER, that opening—I talked to Georgian Bureau Investigation Agents who were on scene at school shootings. Even though it wasn’t told from a cop’s point of view, I wanted to know what the cops were thinking and how they would respond.  I actually watched a GBI drill with all the agents from the state, where they took over an abandoned school and simulated an active shooter incident. Each agent had to go through and find the bad guy. Having witnessed the drills, I was pretty conversant with what the situation felt like, but there’s always stuff that surprise me that people who are on the other side of law enforcement never think about, like the fact that—I talk about this in the GOOD DAUGHTER—everybody shows up. They could be ATF, they could be training canines for the DEA, they all show up. They’re all there to help. And no one says where’s the jurisdiction, where’s the money coming from, or whatever.  It’s just “tell us what to do” when a large-scale tragedy happens. I love writing about those “inside baseball” sorts of details. With PIECES OF HER, I talk about how even if you’re in Witness Protection, you can still go to prison. And just from a practical standpoint, Andy’s driving was something that I had to be very careful about.  Andy’s navigating of half the country difficult for me because I suck at directions. I’m the kind of person who’s told to get on a train—I was in Rotterdam, told to get on a train to Antwerp, and I ended up in Germany. So, I’m not very good with directions at all. I just had to knuckle down with all that and think about how many days it would take and what it would feel like. Because I’ve been on trips like that (someone else was navigating), and I wanted to describe the sensations in a way that made sense. I was also mindful of my European readers, and how compact some of the countries are as compared to America. Taking a detail, like you could put all of England in Lake Michigan and it wouldn’t touch the sides, that kind of puts it in scale for people. But just the grueling hours and hours of being trapping in a car, and what that would look like on the interstate, I know intimately from long road trips. I wanted to capture that with Andy.

 How do you select the names of your characters?

I like to look at names on my Facebook page. Queller, actually…. I watch Super Girl, and one of the producers on that show, her last name is Queller, and I was like, oh that’s a good name. The thing about names is, I really have to think about them, because if it’s an unusual name, or if it’s a memorable name, that’s generally my way of telling the reader, “Pay attention to this character.” Like, Queller is an interesting name, so I think that goes with the character and the family I’m talking about. Oliver’s not an unusual name. I’m very deliberate with that, and I feel like it’s important visually and mentally to help keep the reader anchored in the story.  If everyone was named Smith or Jones, it would be really hard to follow.  But I just got a query from my Danish translator, because Mike’s fake yard service is Knepper’s Knippers, and Knepper in Danish is a really nasty word (fucker). So we had to change it just for the Danish.

Who do you consider your literary heroes? Why?
Flannery O’Connor, Margaret Mitchell, Harper Lee. I have great respect for some contemporary non-southern writers. Lee Child is pretty amazing. He’s basically writing the same story—Reacher shows up in some strange place, kicks butt, makes things right--but each time it’s interesting. Each time he manages to say something new. There’s a formula, and sometimes people mean that in a negative way, but Lee knows what he’s doing, and to be able to consistently deliver a good story is laudable.

 If you had to name one book that made you who you are today, what would it be?

There’s a book I read when I was a kid, it’s science fiction, called the Forever Formula. It’s about being able to transfer consciousness of older people into younger people. Like, an invasion of the body snatchers sort of thing. This was not a particularly clever or exciting story, but, if you read sci-fi when you’re a kid, it opens you up to all kinds of reading when you’re an adult. And I think every story, whether it’s A Tale of Two Cities or Gone With the Wind or Beowulf, there’s some element of fantasy. You’re making stuff up. Even if you’re writing about something real like Atlanta, my Atlanta is going to be very different than someone else’s. We bring our experiences and our imagination to the work. On the surface I’m writing about the same thing Michael Connelly writes. I’m writing about murder and cops, and ordinary people in horrible situations. But it’s our experience and our attention to what details we point out that make the story uniquely ours. So I think reading something like the Forever Formula—and to my memory that was my first time reading science fiction—I had no idea what genre I was reading but I loved it. I just picked it up because the cover had a brain on it. And I’m sure if I read it now I might think, God I was really stupid to love this book. But it did have a big influence on me, because it opened my mind to possibilities. But also, at an older age, Flannery O’Connor really changed my life. I grew up in a town where I was constantly being told to be more lady-like, to not horse around, to not let guys know if I was smarter than them. You know, to sit with my knees together and my back straight. The stories I was interested in weren’t stories a young lady should be interested in. And then I read Flannery O’Connor, and learned about her life as a writer, and how renowned and celebrated she was around the world for writing about these things, and I thought, “You lying F***rs!” She grew up in a small Southern town, and she’s writing about murderers and crime, and she’s being rewarded for it!

 How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

The biggest stress you have when you’re not published is that you’re not published. By my second book, I knew they were going to publish at least two. So that particular stress was taken off. But also, my first book was very successful—I was really fortunate—and there was a lot of unanticipated stress that came with success. I remember at the time a friend of mine gave me this interview with Dorothy Allison. She said the worst thing that can happen to a writer is to get published. And I think what she meant was, you realize it’s a business, and not many people want to accept that. They want to be zillionaires, but they think that once they write the book, it’s solely the publisher’s job to make the book successful.  It’s never been that way in the history of publishing. I mean, Dickens toured. He performed his work for crowds.  So did Poe.  So did most every author you still read today.  I think that to be successful is a great thing but it presents new challenges. For me, I was very lucky, because my publisher, Morrow, was bought by HarperCollins, and I’d written my first book, but they postponed my publication. So, I started to write my second book before the first book was out there. And that was a great gift, because I didn’t have that added stress. I mean I still had to work on the second book and edit it and all that stuff, but I had more confidence because I still felt like I was in that unpublished cave. Confidence is a tricky and elusive thing, but with writing, the more you write, the more confidence you feel about certain elements.   With PIECES OF HER, there’s a sense of confidence that comes from writing so many books—"I know how to do this, I know how the story and plotting should work, I am confident in the structure so I can take risk in the narrative.” And also unfortunately I’m getting older. A woman in her thirties looks at life differently than a woman who’s not in her thirties anymore. I remember, with my third book, I did an event at the Washington Post with Mary Higgins Clark, and there were three people in my line to get their books sign, and two were there because they thought it was the bathroom, and Mary had 600 people in her line. She was so sweet, she bought one of my books. I was leaving after ten minutes, totally humiliated, and Mary pulled out her Prada bag and her wallet and said, “Let me buy one of your books!” She has always been such a kind, supportive lady.  I remember once I saw all of her books stacked up, and I said, “Wow, one day I hope I can write half as many.” And Mary said, “There’s a down side. You have to get older to do it.” And now I get what she meant, and it sucks.

 What is your writing Kryptonite?

My bladder. But also, I guess it’s good because it makes me get up after sitting for so long. I’m pretty focused when I write. I really need time to think about plot and character or I’m not a very efficient writer. Normally I write very quickly, because I give a lot of thought to what I’m going to write, so by the time I sit down it’s really plotted out, and I feel very sure about where I’m going and what I want to do. And when I don’t have that sense of surety, then I can overwrite or make it boring, or it just doesn’t work, and I have to do it all over again because I’m not going to turn in crap. So not taking time is the kryptonite.

 What does literary success look like to you?

To me, it means I get to write the stories I want to write. I’ve never been censored, my editor Kate Elton has always trusted me and believed in what I was doing. I think sometimes editors might publish a book they’re not actually excited about, and Kate is always excited about all kinds of books, whether it’s rereading Daphne du Maurier, or reading my stuff, or Eleanor Oliphant, or whatever. She loves popular fiction. And I think sometimes people don’t embrace what’s popular because they want people to think they’re smart so they say, “I only read Proust and listen to NPR,” which is bullshit because your brain would shrivel if that’s all you did. So success to me is basically, I get to write exactly what I want to write, and that’s given me the confidence to write things like PIECES OF HER, because it’s a little different, but I’ve always known that my publishers will support my choices.  Not all writers can say that.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

REVIEW: Not Her Daughter by Rea Frey @stmartinspress @ReaFrey_Author

Not Her Daughter
by Rea Frey

Thanks so much to St. Martin's Griffin for this domestic suspense novel.
This one got to me more than I thought it would - continue below to see why!

Publisher:  St. Martin's Griffin
Publish Date:  August 21, 2018
352 Pages
Genres:  Domestic Thriller, Suspense

Emma Grace Townsend. Five years old. Gray eyes. Brown hair. Missing since June.
Emma Townsend is lonely. Living with her cruel mother and clueless father, Emma retreats into her own world of quiet and solitude.

Sarah Walker. Successful entrepreneur. Broken-hearted. Abandoned by her mother. Kidnapper.
Sarah has never seen a girl so precious as the gray-eyed child in a crowded airport terminal--and when a second-chance encounter with Emma presents itself, Sarah takes her, far away from home. But if it's to rescue a little girl from her damaging mother, is kidnapping wrong?

Amy Townsend. Unhappy wife. Unfit mother. Unsure she wants her daughter back.
Amy's life is a string of disappointments, but her biggest issue is her inability to connect with her daughter. And now she's gone without a trace.

As Sarah and Emma avoid the nationwide hunt, they form an unshakeable bond. But her real mother is at home, waiting for her to return--and the longer the search for Emma continues, Amy is forced to question if she really wants her back.

My Review:

The synopsis alone really just pops and draws you in.  A woman abandoned by her mother kidnaps a girl whose mother doesn't know if she wants her back.  WHAT?!  Look, I'm not a mother so I don't know how hard it is to balance children, a husband, work and a house.  I have no doubt that every mother at some point has probably reached a breaking point and this certainly sheds a light on this issue.  

There's so much I want to say - you think you basically have the whole story because you know the girl is kidnapped.  You know the mother has some issues (as clearly the kidnapper does too).   What you don't know is what transpires during this hunt and the emotional ups and downs Sarah and Amy go through in this process.  Is it ok to take a child from a mother that is abusive?  You can't save every child, but what if you could save this one?  As the mother at her wits end, knowing the best thing she can do for her daughter, if she's safe, is to let her go... could you?  UFF - SO MANY QUESTIONS!!

The ending got to me much more than I thought it would.  I have so many feelings about it.  I'm not surprised but I'm also ANGRY and HAPPY and WHY?!  If a book can illicit this much emotion from me then it has certainly done its job.  There are definite moments where some reality needs to be suspended but it never takes away from the book.  The pacing is solid throughout.. I think I was most surprised that it wasn't until the last few chapters that a lot of emotion came to the surface for me.

A new and unique take on domestic drama / child abduction that is emotional and has you thinking about how one drastic action can change the course of many peoples lives.


REVIEW: All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung @nicole_soojung @CatapultStory

All You Can Ever Know
by Nicole Chung

Thanks to Catapult for this review copy!
A memoir about a Korean woman adopted by a white family and her journey to learn about her culture.

Publisher:  Catapult
Publish date: October 2, 2018
240 Pages
Genres:  Memoir, Non-fiction

What does it mean to lose your roots—within your culture, within your family—and what happens when you find them?

Nicole Chung was born severely premature, placed for adoption by her Korean parents, and raised by a white family in a sheltered Oregon town. From early childhood, she heard the story of her adoption as a comforting, prepackaged myth. She believed that her biological parents had made the ultimate sacrifice in the hopes of giving her a better life; that forever feeling slightly out of place was simply her fate as a transracial adoptee. But as she grew up—facing prejudice her adoptive family couldn’t see, finding her identity as an Asian American and a writer, becoming ever more curious about where she came from—she wondered if the story she’d been told was the whole truth.

With warmth, candor, and startling insight, Chung tells of her search for the people who gave her up, which coincided with the birth of her own child. ALL YOU CAN EVER KNOW is a profound, moving chronicle of surprising connections and the repercussions of unearthing painful family secrets—vital reading for anyone who has ever struggled to figure out where they belong.

My Review:

I'm not usually big on memoirs but when presented with this copy to review, I couldn't say no.  A beautifully poignant and emotionally filled memoir of a Korean girl adopted by white parents and facing racism and prejudice no one around her could understand.  This journey of her finding her way and wanting to know about her biological family and the story behind it is moving and oh so real.

I felt so much empathy when reading about Nicole's childhood and, while we all know children can be mean, when you don't understand them pulling their eyes back and telling you that you don't belong... well that I absolutely can understand.  Being half Korean, I remember these kinds of things happening to me and running home and crying to my dad about it.  I was so excited to go to Korea where I would finally belong, only to be made fun of for being half white.  At least I had my parents to speak to.. even if they could never fully understand.   Nicole didn't have a cultural background to help her understand why she was "different".  While Korean on the outside, she felt white because that's the only culture she knew.

I absolutely applaud the courage it took for her to reach out and find her biological family.  I can't imagine what it's like to be adopted and this story truly opens up your eyes as you ride the roller coaster of emotions with her.  

I think we have all had a moment in our lives where we struggled to figure out where we belonged in this world.  And if nothing else resonates with you, this surely will.  Chung's first novel is definitely one to pick up.  There's no if you liked that, you'll like this... because I think memoirs are what they are - individually based and incomparable to anything else around them.  I definitely felt a connection with this book and isn't that one of the things we look for when reading a novel?


Thursday, August 16, 2018

REVIEW: The Forest Queen by Betsy Cornwell

The Forest Queen
by Betsy Cornwell

Thanks so much to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Clarion Books for this review copy!

Publisher:  Clarion Books
Publish Date:  August 7, 2018
304 Pages
Genres:  YA, Retelling, Fantasy

When sixteen-year-old Sylvie’s brother takes over management of their family’s vast estates, Sylvie feels powerless to stop his abuse of the local commoners. Her dearest friend asks her to run away to the woods with him, and soon a host of other villagers join them. Together, they form their own community and fight to right the wrongs perpetrated by the king and his noblemen.

My Review:

Somehow I missed the fact that this was a gender swap retelling of Robin Hood.  I'm always a hit or a miss when it comes to retellings.  This one I did find entertaining as a simplistic read for the young adult crowd.  I did love the gender swaps too and it seemed almost one for one for each swap (almost).

What I found most interesting is that while there wasn't a ton of layers or depth to the storyline or characters, the story did touch on some deep subjects such as rape, suicide and abortion that seemed to contradict the simpler side of the story.  A quick read at 300 pages, this will go over well for those who like the retellings of a class tale with the added twist of a gender swap.  Robin Hood, meet The Forest Queen.

I now want a hooded cape, a pet owl and a big ass tree house.  Can anyone help me with this?
A fantastic idea for a storyline... great descriptions of the forest and I probably most enjoyed the Maypole dancing scene as it reminded me of my childhood.  

Completely different than what I had expected.


Wednesday, August 15, 2018

REVIEW: Killing the Unicorn by Lizella Prescott @LizellaPrescott

Killing the Unicorn
by Lizella Prescott

Thanks so much to the author for this review copy!
See what I thought of this crazy domestic thriller - spoiler, I loved it!

Publisher:  Hungry Lizard Press
Publish Date:  August 20, 2018
Kindle Edition
Genre:  Domestic Thriller

He was the father of my adorable, two-year-old twins, and he still wanted me, with all my lumps and flaws. I should have melted into him. I should have longed to be vulnerable and intimate and seen.

And yet I felt nothing but a bone-deep exhaustion...


Since having twin daughters, Helen has lost her waistline, her libido, and her edge. Mann, her wealthy, high-flying husband, has tried to be patient. But he needs more than she can give. A lot more.

When he asks to open their marriage, Helen agrees. She would rather bend than risk a high-stakes divorce.


When Mann connects with Julia, Helen is relieved. At first. She likes Julia, a gentle woman with a tragic past. But her husband is moving fast. Too fast. And a series of odd events unnerves Helen and makes her wonder if Julia is lying about her past...or worse.

As Mann falls deeper into love, Helen becomes obsessed with Julia even as she questions herself. To protect her children and her sanity, Helen must discover the truth: is Julia a danger to her family, or is she?

My Review:

Polyamorous and open marriages are more common these days.  I've always known I wasn't good at sharing, and after this book... well, yeah, I'm even more certain now!  How far would you go to make your husband happy?  And why is it that the woman always feels the need to compromise herself to do so?

When first approached about this book, I was extremely curious about the open marriage part of it.  Then I thought, how is it going to be a whole lot different than most psychological thrillers except that now the wife knows about the other women?  Well, Lizella brings you the crazy!  Just when I think I know what's going on, she smoothly brings in a part I did not expect and I DO like to be surprised!

Once the crazy came, then it somersaulted into more crazy and I loved it!  I even laughed at certain moments (with the characters, not at them) and barreled through this story in one sitting.  There are moments in here with dealing with children, home life, work life and just the pressure of it all.  How kids change a marriage.  How everyone has an agenda. And omg, I think I needed a glass of wine and a Xanax when it came down to the end of it all!  (You'll know what I mean when you read this, and you should!)

Women, if you're hesitant about a huge life decision such as bringing another person into your marriage, then listen to your gut feeling!  Toward the end I felt it did go a little bit too far and made things a bit convoluted.  However, it didn't take away from the entertainment value of the book.

Absolute surprise of a domestic thriller for me - a different take and perfect for those who need a binge read!