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Thursday, April 18, 2019

#ATBR2019 Review: I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney @flatironbooks @alicewriterland @jessmapreviews

I Know Who You Are 
by Alice Feeney

Thanks so much to Flatiron for these copies! 

Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publish Date: April 23, 2019
304 Pages
Genre: Psychological Thriller

l Know Who You Are is the brilliant tale of two stories. One is about Aimee Sinclair—well-known actress on the verge of being full-on famous. If you saw her, you’d think you knew her. One day towards the near-end of her shoot on her latest film, Aimee comes home from filming to find her husband’s cell phone and wallet on the dining room table. He never goes anywhere without them. But he’s nowhere to be found. She’s not too concerned—they had a huge fight the night before. They both said things they didn’t mean. He might have done things he didn’t mean, things she can’t forget. Even though she has a history of supposedly forgetting. After all, she’s a very good actress.

The next morning she goes for her morning run and then goes to her favorite coffee shop. But her card is denied. When she calls the bank they say her account has been emptied of $10,000. She immediately suspects her husband. But they say no, it was Aimee herself who closed out the account. And thus begins a bizarre rabbit hole into which Aimee finds herself falling where nothing is at it seems.

Alternating with Aimee’s story is that of a little girl who wandered away from home. We always tell our kids not to talk to strangers or bad things will happen. Well, bad things happen.

In I Know Who You Are, Alice Feeney proves that she is a master at brilliantly complicated plots and twists after twists.

My Review:

After I read Sometimes I Lie last year and LOVED it, I was beyond thrilled to get a copy of her sophomore book, I Know Who You Are and guess what... it's JUST AS GOOD! Dang, Feeney.. now I'm dying for the next one and see if we can go three for three!

Aimee Sinclair.. a woman on the verge of becoming a very famous actress as well she should be considering her whole life has been pretending to be someone else.  Acting and lying come more naturally to her than breathing.  But one day her husband disappears and she is the prime suspect (isn't it always the spouse?) and even she is unsure if she's innocent or not.

There are two timelines going on - we get Aimee's past and the perils she went through as a child with Maggie and John.  She's definitely never had a normal childhood and no matter where she landed, it was at some cost.  Then there's the present where she feels she's going insane.  Did she? Didn't she?

This book moves at a break neck speed and zoom zoom zoom y'all - don't blink or you just might miss something.  I certainly wasn't expecting a few of the twisty turns that was going on and I feel a bit whip lashed because of it.  I did have a bit of an issue with ONE big reveal.. HOWEVER, I DO NOT CARE!  This is the type of book that I love when it comes to psychological thrillers.  Fast paced, the most unreliable of all narrators and I'm A-OK with suspending some reality because c'mon now.. it's FICTION after all.  (But you know, I do have my limits sometimes... *wink*).

I highly recommend you put this on your list.  But like her last one, I do think this might be a bit divisive within the thriller community and personally, I think that's a great sign.


Jessica's Review:

I absolutely loved Feeney's debut novel, SOMETIMES I LIE, last year. So needless to say, I was super excited to receive a copy of her sophomore novel. I KNOW WHO YOU ARE did not disappoint! Another thriller that keeps you on your toes and it had me guessing until the twist.

I can't really say too much without giving away spoilers and the twists. Aimee is an actress on the rise and her career comes first. She comes home one day from working on her latest film to find that her husband, Ben, isn't there. Not too out of the ordinary, but his phone, wallet, keys, and even his shoes are still there. She reports him missing and so begins the spiral of events. She becomes suspect number one and she begins to doubt herself - did she do it?

We also bounce back to her childhood in 1988. She had what you would call an unusual childhood. There was nothing normal or routine about her life with Maggie and John. Being diagnosed with a form of amnesia as a child she claims to have not remembered certain events, but that was a lie. But was it? Why can't she remember exactly what happened the night Ben disappeared? Is she losing her mind?

I will always love an unreliable narrator. I know it can be overdone in the genre but when done right it's one of my favorite elements. I wasn't sure what to believe throughout the book and then that twist! I did not see that coming. I read this in two sittings (damn you adult responsibilities!) and would highly recommend this to any thriller fans out there.

5 stars

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Review: Reaper by Jonathan Pongratz #horror

by Jonathan Pongratz 

Thanks to the author for this horror novella.

Publish Date: April 19, 2019
Kindle Edition
Genre: Horror

Gregory and his little sister Imogen love spending Halloween with their parents. But this year is different. If he proves he can take care of Imogen all by himself, he’ll finally have the allowance he’s dreamed of. 

That was before the basement door opened on its own. Before the strange door appeared in the basement and Imogen was taken from him by the monster. 

Now everyone in town is blaming him for her disappearance, but no one is listening to his story. Where did the door come from? What was that creature? And most of all, can he find his sister before it’s too late, or will he bury his memories of her along with his parents?

My Review:

Ah... this novella reminded me of the horror books I read as a kid so the nostalgia was a lot of fun. Poor Gregory finally gets to show how grown up he is by being offered the opportunity to babysit his little sister and hand out candy on Halloween while his parents are out.  What can go wrong, does go wrong and he gets blamed for his sister's disappearance and assumed death.  But children have been consistently disappearing and he's determined to try and clear his name. Along the way, he learns things he wish he never had.  

I did have fun with this but like with most novellas and short stories, I need just a little bit more.  I always feel like endings are a bit rushed and it takes a lot to fully make me five star one.  That being said, the hints thrown in were fairly obvious and I was a bit "concerned", like Gregory, on why the people in this town just didn't do "THIS". Hahaha - but hey, that's the fun of horror right? If people did the things they were supposed to, well.... we wouldn't have quite the stories we normally would.

I think maybe this is better suited for middle grade readers rather than me as an audience.  It was definitely entertaining though.


Tuesday, April 16, 2019

#ATBR2019 Review: Confessions of an Innocent Man by David R. Dow @jessmapreviews @duttonbooks @drdow

Confessions of an Innocent Man 
by David R. Dow

Thanks to Dutton Books and NetGalley for these advanced copies.

Publisher: Dutton
Publish Date: April 9, 2019
Kindle Edition
304 Pages
Genres: Thriller, Suspense

A thrillingly suspensful debut novel, and a fierce howl of rage that questions the true meaning of justice.

Rafael Zhettah relishes the simplicity and freedom of his life. He is the owner and head chef of a promising Houston restaurant. A pilot with open access to the boundless Texas horizon. A bachelor, content with having few personal or material attachments that ground him. Then, lightning strikes. When he finds Tieresse—billionaire, philanthropist, sophisticate, bombshell—sitting at one of his tables, he also finds his soul mate and his life starts again. And just as fast, when she is brutally murdered in their home, when he is convicted of the crime, when he is sentenced to die, it is all ripped away. But for Rafael Zhettah, death row is not the end. It is only the beginning. Now, with his recaptured freedom, he will stop at nothing to deliver justice to those who stole everything from him. 

This is a heart-stoppingly suspenseful, devastating, page-turning debut novel. A thriller with a relentless grip that wants you to read it in one sitting. David R. Dow has dedicated his life to the fight against capital punishment—to righting the horrific injustices of the death penalty regime in Texas. He delivers the perfect modern parable for exploring our complex, uneasy relationships with punishment and reparation in a terribly unjust world. 

My Review:

Give me a debut novel where the author takes his own life work and translates this into a work of fiction.  Just give me.  There are SO many loopholes that can be found in the justice system and unfortunately we have seen throughout the decades of the wrongfully accused - some even sent to death. 

This story is about Rafael who is convicted and sentenced to die for the murder of his wife.  Put on death row, six years of his life goes by and when he finally does get his freedom, it's time to make those who put him behind bars pay.

The writing took a little getting used to for me.  At first it felt like when you watch a movie and it's just the narrator speaking and also doing the voice parts - do you know what I mean? I think it felt that way because the dialogue wasn't in quotes and that was starting to drive me bonkers - especially as sometimes these moments were in italics and sometimes they were not.  But that could just be an ARC issue.  I did end up getting used to this because the story line just greatly intrigued me.

The author gives you Raf's life from when he met his wife, their short marriage, his experience through trial and on death row.  I felt like I was right there with him and uff, boy did my heart go out to him. When he gets out and puts a plan in motion - well, DAAAAMMMNNNN. Is this justice? Is there ever such a thing as justice or does it just become a vicious circle of injustice?  I forget exactly what Tieresse (Raf's wife) said in the book regarding this and I wish I had made note but it made sense to me when I read it.  Either way, the subject matter of capital punishment and all the injustices that come about is extremely well done by the author who is experienced in this subject matter.

If you can get past the writing style a little bit, I think you'll absolutely enjoy this journey.  Although it's a work of fiction, the truth behind it certainly gives you something to think about.


Jessica's Review:

Going into this book I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect – was it fiction, was it nonfiction? With so many true crime books out there as well as the documentary series, I wouldn’t have been surprised if that were the case. Well, CONFESSIONS OF AN INNOCENT MAN is fiction but it has the authenticity to it that is feels 100% real.

David R. Dow’s background in working against capital punishment shines through in this book. His knowledge on the topic and experience with death row inmates is very apparent in the details of this novel. You feel what Rafael is feeling as he faces the death penalty, you feel his struggles with trying to prove his innocence and as he tries to remove the title of “murderer” from his name. You’ll be brought through all the emotions with this one but it had the pacing of a thriller. I don’t want to say too much about the details because I loved going into this one blind.

Dow’s knowledge and expertise is evident, but the book doesn’t get too fact heavy. The characters are well-developed and he makes the reader think about capital punishment in a different way. You never really get to see through the eyes of a death row inmate that could potentially be innocent. I think he captured this flawlessly. If you’re a fan of true crime but like the flow of fiction better, then this is perfect for you!

5 stars

Monday, April 15, 2019

REVIEW: Before She Was Found by Heather Gudenkauf @parkrowbooks @hgudenkauf @tlcbooktours

Before She Was Found 
by Heather Gudenkauf

Thank you to Park Row Books and TLC Book Tours for this amazing read.  

Publisher: Park Row Books
Publish Date: April 16, 2019
368 Pages
Genres: Psychological Thriller, Suspense

My Review:

I have been a fan of Gudenkauf since I read Not A Sound.  There's just something about her writing style that really resonates with me and keeps me glued to each and every word.  I was actually surprised to find that this was a YA thriller - but it's only YA in terms of the twelve-year old girls that are the main three kids involved in this creepy storyline.  Outside of that, I did not feel that it read like your typical YA at all.  Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of YA books, and also psychological thrillers (as you all well know) - have them marry up and here we are folks! 

There were definite Slender Man undertones that I thoroughly enjoyed along with a bit of sinister Mean Girls vibe.  At the age of twelve, you're going through that awkward stage, and if you're not one of the "popular" people at school, then you are unfortunately a target for bullying and this is largely a big subject throughout this book.  Are they really your friends? Why are they so nice one day and a complete asshole the next? Who can anyone really trust at that age? All of these girls have got something going on. Jordyn, the popular mean girl.  Violet, the new girl that just moved into town and Cora, the townie who is quiet, bullied and just want to know what it feels like to have a friend.  Enter the world of the internet and this can take bullying to a whole new level.  It's scary how much you need to try and monitor your children, but it's impossible to track their every single move.  

The book is written in various formats, text messages, police interviews, journal entries, etc.  Personally, when this is done well (and it is here), I absolutely love this kind of format to read.  And listen, this is a very somber, dark read.  The issues within the book may be triggering for some people, or could be just a little bit too much.  Wasn't for me but I could see how possibly could be.  I actually didn't see that ending coming.  It didn't give me that overall OH SHIT moment, but I was definitely a bit surprised. I also appreciate that Gudenkauf doesn't veer away from some cringe worthy scenes - uff that bathroom scene kinda got to me (yay!).  

I don't know if this is my favorite by Gudenkauf but I'm still giving it 5 stars because I absolutely loved the intricacy in which Gudenkauf pulled everything together.  Unfortunately, this is also an all to realistic read.. and that's pretty damn scary. (And I love it).


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

#ATBR2019 Review: The Better Sister by Alafair Burke @alafairburke @harperbooks @jessmapreviews

The Better Sister 
by Alafair Burke

Thanks to Harper for these advanced copies!

Publisher: Harper
Publish Date: April 16, 2019
336 Pages
Genres: Crime Fiction, Thriller, Mystery

Though Chloe was the younger of the two Taylor sisters, she always seemed to be in charge. She was the honor roll student with big dreams and an even bigger work ethic. Nicky was always restless . . . and more than a little reckless—the opposite of her ambitious little sister. She floated from job to job and man to man, and stayed close to home in Cleveland.

For a while, it seemed like both sisters had found happiness. Chloe earned a scholarship to an Ivy League school and moved to New York City, where she landed a coveted publishing job. Nicky married promising young attorney Adam Macintosh, and gave birth to a baby boy they named Ethan. The Taylor sisters became virtual strangers.

Now, more than fifteen years later, their lives are drastically different—and Chloe is married to Adam. When he’s murdered by an intruder at the couple’s East Hampton beach house, Chloe reluctantly allows her teenaged stepson’s biological mother—her estranged sister, Nicky—back into her life. But when the police begin to treat Ethan as a suspect in his father’s death, the two sisters are forced to unite . . . and to confront the truth behind family secrets they have tried to bury in the past.

My Review:

Part domestic thriller and part legal thriller, when you marry your sister's ex husband and raise her son as your own surely nothing can go wrong... right? Chloe may be the younger sister but she was the one who became successful in her career while Nicky found the perfect man to marry and have a child with.  Soon Nicky's ways catch up with her and Chloe comes to assist Adam, Nicky's husband, to get Nicky the help she needs and to get Ethan (their child) out of danger. Turns out the past tends to repeat itself and while Chloe goes on to marry Adam and raise Ethan, like with most things, what you see isn't always what you get.

It seems that domestic thrillers seem to have the same types of issues and formats.  If you've read enough of them, you need something to really wow you or something that's a bit different from the norm.  The Better Sister, while written well and is a page turner, hits all the usual themes.  There's nothing wrong with this whatsoever, I just need something more.  I appreciate the linear time format and the singular point of view.  However, no reveal made me go WHAT?! I was just more in an ahhhhhh... yep, there it is!

Listen, as far a domestic thriller goes, this is definitely in the higher percentage of well written ones. I absolutely flew through the book and enjoyed the partial court room drama that was thrown in for good measure.

I'll certainly take The Wife off my shelves and up it on my TBR backlog list.  As my first by Burke, I think it did well in satiating my thirst for the rich families that seem perfect on paper.


Jessica's Review:

Last year I had my introduction to Alafair Burke when I picked up THE WIFE. I couldn't believe I hadn't picked up anything by her before! So I was very excited to snag a copy of THE BETTER SISTER to see what was in store for us next. Without a doubt, if you're a fan of the domestic thriller genre, then you need to have Burke on your TBR list in some way!

We have two sisters, Chloe and Nicky. A complicated relationship to say the least. They couldn't be more opposite of each other - Chloe is the youngest and had a strong work ethic that got her a scholarship to an Ivy League school and a coveted publishing job. Nicky was less focused but got married to Adam and had a son, Ethan. Well, fast forward over a decade and Chloe and Adam are now married and she is raising Ethan. After Adam is murdered, the estranged sisters must unite once again to protect Ethan and to try and keep their past secrets buried.

Like I mentioned earlier, if you're a fan of the domestic thriller/suspense genre then you'll absolutely love this. This also has some legal/courtroom thriller elements to it, which was a nice addition! What I've come to notice with Burke is that we will get strong characterization, a fluid story line and pacing, enough suspense to keep pulling you along, and great writing. I would highly recommend picking this one up or anything else in her back log!

3.5 stars

#ATBR2019 Review: Into the Jungle by Erica Ferencik @scoutpressbooks @EricaFerencik @jessmapreviews

Into the Jungle 
by Erica Ferencik

Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Publish Date: April 30, 2019
320 Pages
Genre: Thriller

Lily Bushwold thought she’d found the antidote to endless foster care and group homes: a teaching job in Cochabamba, Bolivia. As soon as she could steal enough cash for the plane, she was on it.

When the gig falls through and Lily stays in Bolivia, she finds bonding with other broke, rudderless girls at the local hostel isn’t the life she wants either. Tired of hustling and already world-weary, crazy love finds her in the form she least expected: Omar, a savvy, handsome local man who’d abandoned his life as a hunter in Ayachero—a remote jungle village—to try his hand at city life.

When Omar learns that a jaguar has killed his four-year-old nephew in Ayachero, he gives Lily a choice: Stay alone in the unforgiving city, or travel to the last in a string of ever-more-isolated river towns in the jungles of Bolivia. Thirty-foot anaconda? Puppy-sized spiders? Vengeful shamans with unspeakable powers? Love-struck Lily is oblivious. She follows Omar to this ruthless new world of lawless poachers, bullheaded missionaries, and desperate indigenous tribes driven to the brink of extinction. To survive, Lily must navigate the jungle--its wonders as well as its terrors—using only her wits and resilience.

My Review:

So, this is not the typical thriller you're used to where there's a killer on the rampage, or a person missing, etc.  This one is the journey of Lily... who has no family and is just traveling along, doing enough to get by but (almost) perfectly content with it... as she's known nothing different.  Then she meets Omar and in a very short time, he becomes her family so when he has to go to the Jungle to help his people, she gladly goes along.  She just didn't know what she was getting into.  But her life with the Ayachero and Omar brings more to her than she would have ever imagined... once she can get past the giant spiders, scorpions, eels, snakes, mosquitoes, howler monkeys and more!

You guys... when I was young I used to flip through my uncle's National Geographic magazines and would make up stories by the pictures and weirdly this book felt like these imaginations came to life (ish)... BUT BETTER!  The lush descriptions really made me feel like I was in the jungle.... which may be a nice place to visit but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't survive there.

I laughed, I cried... oh lord, Erica - what did you DO TO ME?!  One scene in particular just pierced my heart and I'm still recovering from it.  Maybe it's because I don't run across this type of book very often but it just really hit home for me and I highly suggest you all pick this one up. Add it to your TBR.  Pre-order it.  I wish I could say one character was my favorite but several, even secondary and tertiary characters, were absolutely delightful in their own ways.

Looks like I'm going to have to take The River at Night off my shelf to read sooner rather than later because I've heard it's just as good, if not better.

Please read this. For God's Sake. Over.


Jessica's Review:

I don't even know where to begin. A couple years ago, I read THE RIVER AT NIGHT, and let me tell you, I absolutely loved it. It was one of those books I read in one sitting. It also has a special place for me because it was the first ever galley copy I received from a publisher to share an early review. So I feel like it was really fun circling back and being able to review this upcoming thriller, INTO THE JUNGLE.

One thing I remember vividly from her previous book is how descriptive it was. The detail was incredible - Ferencik was able to transport us directly into the wilderness. This was no different! I felt like I was in that jungle and experiencing everything the characters were. Another point that she is fantastic at is the characterization. We get the necessary info we need to connect and really get a full picture of everyone.

I honestly don't think I would be able to survive these conditions. The bugs alone would be enough to get me the hell out of there. I'm perfectly content with the frigid temperatures here in Minnesota - nothing like that can survive here! The author's research that went into this novel was perfect and thorough. Following her on Instagram, I've seen so many photos of her experiences in the jungle and I know this is why everything felt so authentic.

Overall, if you're looking for an intense and suspenseful read, then you need to add this to your TBR (and maybe bump it up a few places). This isn't your typical thriller with detectives chasing down a killer, but one that hits you in a way where you feel the survival instincts kicking in. Ferencik remains an auto-buy author for me and now the wait begins for her next novel!

5 stars

Monday, April 8, 2019

SPOTLIGHT: Osgood As Gone by Cooper S. Beckett @coopersbeckett @prudenceosgood

Osgood As Gone 
by Cooper S. Beckett

Once, Osgood and Frost were the up-and-coming stars of the burgeoning paranormal investigation TV show craze before a hoax put an end to their friendship, partnership, and television careers. Now, over a decade later, Prudence Osgood is a barely-functioning alcoholic ghosthunter for hire. Her yearning for mystery and adventure is reignited when she receives a cryptic, untraceable email. She can't resist embarking on an investigation that tugs threads winding through a sinister series of disappearances, her former partner's family, and a night twenty years ago when a semi blew a yellow light and nearly killed her.

The Spectral Inspector, Book I

As a queer non-monogamous writer, Cooper S. Beckett endeavors to create characters that reflect the diverse lifestyles of his friends, his partners, and himself. If he can pit those characters against monsters and cosmic horrors he’s all the happier. From a young age, his obsession with horror movies and books seriously concerned his mother. It probably still does. Given a choice, he would rather winter at the Overlook than the Waldorf. Like Lydia Deetz, he has always thought of himself strange and unusual, and is thrilled to be putting that foot forward in his first horror novel.

He lives in Chicago with his wife, constant, and binary star, Ophilia Tesla, and their black cats Xander and Willow.

SPOTLIGHT: Rubby Jam by Daniel Sadikov

Rubby Jam 
by Daniel Sadikov

Publish Date: March 10, 2019
203 Pages

When the life of his beloved girlfriend is in danger, he will do anything to save her.

Eric, a handsome young man, falls for Estie, a gorgeous, free-spirited stripper who likes living on the edge. Her uninhibited world, so different from his, intrigues him, and he is curious to find out more.

At the beginning their relationship is electrifying, but over time, Eric is drawn deeper into Estie’s edgy world and decides not only to observe but to also take part. He dabbles in drugs, but addiction was not part of his plan.

When they discover that Estie’s health is in danger, Eric takes a huge risk to save her life and gets involved in a crime that might cost them their freedom.

Daniel Sadikov spent his recent years surfing around the world while working odd jobs to support himself and enable those trips.

When he writes, he discovers things about himself, and when he reads, he discovers things about life. He hopes his readers will find their inner truth between the lines of what he has written.

Today, Sadikov lives in Tel Aviv with his wife and their cat, who just loves squatting on the keyboard just as the muses strike Daniel with inspiration.

REVIEW: The Chain by Adrian McKinty @mulhollandbooks @adrianmckinty

The Chain 
by Adrian McKinty

Thank you Mulholland Books and Astoria Bookshop for this advanced copy. 
What a premise!

Publisher: Mulholland Books
Publish Date: July 9, 2019
512 Pages
Genres: Thriller, Suspense

You just dropped off your child at the bus stop.

A panicked stranger calls your phone.
Your child has been kidnapped.
The stranger then explains that their child has also been kidnapped, by a completely different stranger.
The only way to get your child back is to kidnap another child - within 24 hours.
Your child will be released only when the next victim's parents kidnap yet another child.
And most importantly, the stranger explains, if you don't kidnap a child, or if the next parents don't kidnap a child, your child will be murdered.

You are now part of The Chain.

My Review:

Remember those chain letters you used to get as a kid? If you broke them then oh the CONSEQUENCES!  I always hated them and if the consequences were to actually come to fruition, then lord help my soul... but then my dark mind thinks hey, I'm not dead yet (right?) so maybe they'll come later on... after all, there's no time limit... isn't there?

Now take those a step further -- your child has been kidnapped and in order for you to get her back, you have to now kidnap another child and then put that kid's parents through the same thing you're going through.  Could you stomach it? Would there be any other choice?!

This book takes off right at the start and you're in for a high anxiety roller coaster.  While I thoroughly enjoyed this read and got through it quickly, it did lack a little substance in character building.  I never connected with any of them and needed a little bit more.  I also wonder about the realistic portion of Pete's addiction and the epi pen parts of the story line, but hey, this is FICTION, so many things get a pass for me - especially in thrillers.  However, on the side of high entertainment and a page turner, well this one is most definitely that through and through.

The thing about The Chain is that once you've completed your mission, you're still a part of it.... and always will be until the day you die.  Depending on how you act afterwards will directly determine how long until that day comes.  Remember, it's never about the money.. it's about THE CHAIN.


Sunday, April 7, 2019

#ATBR2019 Review: Lovely Little Things by Maureen Joyce Connolly @sbkslandmark @MConnollyAuthor @jessmapreviews

Lovely Little Things 
by Maureen Joyce Connolly

Thanks so much to Sourcebooks Landmark for these copies!

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publish Date: April 2, 2019
304 Pages
Genre: Domestic Thriller

A mother’s chance decision leads to a twist of fate that is every parent’s worst nightmare.

Claire Rawlings, mother of two and medical resident, will not let the troubling signs of an allergic reaction prevent her from making it in for rounds. But when Claire's symptoms overpower her while she's driving into work, her two children in tow, she must pull over. Moments later she wakes up on the floor of a gas station bathroom-her car, and her precious girls have vanished.

The police have no leads and the weight of guilt presses down on Claire as each hour passes with no trace of her girls. All she has to hold on to are her strained marriage, a potentially unreliable witness who emerges days later, and the desperate but unquenchable belief that her daughters are out there somewhere.

Little Lovely Things is the story of a family shattered by an unthinkable tragedy. Played out in multiple narrative voices, the novel explores how the lives of those affected fatefully intersect, and highlights the potential catastrophe of the small decisions we make every day.

My Review:

Oh Claire....  One poor decision leads to so much heartbreak.  Could you imagine your body starting to fail you and you're on the brink of a panic attack with your two little girls in the back seat?  I'm not sure anyone would be in any shape to make any great judgments. Then waking up from this horrible reaction to find them gone? PARENTS WORST NIGHTMARE! 

I have no doubt that tragic circumstances like these take the worst of tolls on marriages, relationships and pretty much everything around you.  The roller coaster of emotions - especially when you want to hold on to the idea that they HAVE to be somewhere out there... uff you guys..

Connolly does a fantastic job giving you most of the feels with this one.  We get several different points of views and I was engaged with each character throughout the entire read.  This tragedy not only tests Claire and her husband as parents but as partners as well. I do wish we had a little bit more from Moira as I felt that wasn't as fleshed out as I would've liked it.

This book moves at a pretty moderate pace.  I'm afraid to make certain mentions so as not to spoil the book.  However, I can say that each character really has their own voice and the story is compelling and can tug at your heart in certain sections.

Debut novels may just be my new favorite thing! 


Jessica's Review:

I've been so impressed with debut authors lately! When picking up LITTLE LOVELY THINGS I wasnt entirely sure what to expect. Oh man, guys. This is an emotional one. A parent's worst nightmare coming to life, a marriage put to the test, and her desperate to find her two daughters. 

Determined to make it in to her shift as a medical resident, Claire ignores the signs of an allergic reaction taking place. She quickly pulls over and wakes up to find herself passed out on the floor of a gas station bathroom. The worst part? Her car is gone, with her two daughters inside it. I don't want to give away much more. 

This has a good pacing to it and we are brought through the gauntlet of emotions with Claire and her husband. I think the author did a great job fleshing out these characters and bringing their emotions to life. The guilt Claire experiences feels so real.

An author I will definitely be keeping an eye out for in the future!

4 stars 

Friday, April 5, 2019

REVIEW: The Editor by Steven Rowley @mrstevenrowley @putnambooks

The Editor 
by Steven Rowley 

Thanks so much to Putnam Books for this free copy.  

Publisher: Putnam
Publish Date: April 2, 2019
320 Pages
Genres: Historical Fiction, Contemporary

After years of struggling as a writer in 1990s New York City, James Smale finally gets his big break when his novel sells to an editor at a major publishing house: Jackie Kennedy. Jackie, or Mrs. Onassis as she's known in the office, has fallen in love with James's candidly autobiographical novel, one that exposes his own dysfunctional family. But when the book's forthcoming publication threatens to unravel already fragile relationships, both within his family and with his partner, James finds that he can't bring himself to finish the manuscript.

With her shrewd drive and intuition, Jackie pushes James to write an authentic ending, encouraging him to head home to confront the truth about his relationship with his mother. But when a long-held family secret is revealed, he realizes his editor may have had a larger plan that goes beyond the page... 

My Review:

I honestly don't know what I expected going into this book, but it certainly wasn't what I got.  This is outside of my normal genre but is a prime example of why I love going outside of my usual reads.  I absolutely know just about nothing about the Kennedys or Jackie O - I was never that person that was obsessed with them but of course I know the "basics" because I don't live under a rock.  And while Jackie is an integral part of this story line, she doesn't steal the show.

I absolutely love the way the author portrayed Jackie.  Elegant, professional, humble, fierce and just human all around.  We forget that famous people are actually REAL people sometimes.  But the story here is James's to tell.  A book about a writer trying to find his ending, in the novel and in his life.  Autobiographical fiction is always a genre that I find interesting as you never know where the truth ends and the "fiction" begins.. and as explained in this book, it's never ending because you continue on although the story in the book may not.

I truly adored James's relationship with Daniel.  Imperfectly perfect.  The yin and the yang and full on support of each other regardless of the dips. With the push of Jackie and Daniel, James has to face some things in his life that he doesn't want to - particularly his strained relationship with his mother and as secrets become revealed, it becomes even harder. 

The journey James takes with his family, his partner and his career was emotional at times.  The ending was tied up nicely and satisfying but for some reason I felt like it almost, ALMOST, had that after school special moment.  I didn't quite feel that connection with the characters that I would've liked for a book of this stature - and you guys, this is GOOD!  I would definitely recommend this for those who love contemporary historical fiction.  Now excuse me while I got fine Lily and the Octopus.


Thursday, April 4, 2019

REVIEW: Pain For Gain by Sea Caummisar @seacaummisar

Pain For Gain 
by Sea Caummisar

Thanks again to the author for the second installment in the Deadly Reality TV Series!
See my 4 Star review for book one HERE.

Publish Date: March 20, 2019
Kindle Edition
171 Pages
Series: Deadly Reality TV Series #2
Genre: Horror

This is the second book in The Deadly Reality TV Series. This book can be read as a standalone, but is much better after reading the first book in the series. 

The story follows the life of Damon Dahmer. After his reality pain game show 'Easy Money' was cancelled, he returns to work and finds out that there's another producer trying to take his job. There's a new reality pain game show called 'Pain for Gain', and Damon must either learn to work with this new producer, or find a way to get rid of him. 

Meanwhile, Damon gets lonely and decides to have his girlfriend move in with him. 
This book is for ages 18+. There is more gore and violence in this book than the first in the series. Not for the faint of heart. Viewer (reading) discretion is advised.

'Pain for Gain' the only show on that television that pays people to get hurt. 

My Review:

Just a couple days ago I devoured book one in this series and loved the gory goodness!  The author was kind enough to gift me the next in the series and I couldn't help myself and devoured this one as well... it's just so easy to do!

Now that Easy Money has been canceled, the network decided to try a safer, less shocking game show called Pain for Gain (and I have to agree with Damon, Easy Money is a MUCH better name!). Of course, it doesn't do as well so heeeeeeere's Damon.. back again with Mary (basically his conscious.. but not really) and a new producer he doesn't quite get along with (shocker). Meanwhile, on the back side, Damon is almost turning human and takes in Destiny... his muse of sorts and we get to learn a little bit more about her.

Now listen, these are novellas so I don't expect deep dives into character builds or a huge "world build"... this is purely entertainment.  I'm not sure if it's because I JUST read the first one that this one didn't quite give me that "shock" value that the first one did or I'm just easily numbed to it now that it didn't hold quit that punch factor.  This time I was paying more attention to the writing and story lines and while at times the writing felt "stiff" or formal (lack of contractions which made some of the dialogue feel off for the situations), it absolutely did not take away from the fun I had in reading about this new game.

What can I say? I'm a sucker for these types of reads.  I'm very intrigued with Caummisar's mind and where she will take us in book three - because you know damn well I'll be reading it.


REVIEW: I'll Be Watching You by Courtney Evan Tate @harlequinbooks @Court_Writes @tlcbooktours @jessmapreviews

I'll Be Watching You 
by Courtney Evan Tate

Thanks so much to MIRA Books and TLC Book Tours for this advanced copy and stop on the review tour! Another buddy read with my girl, Jessica, for our #allthebookreviews #ATBR2019 reads and once again, we agree!

Publisher: MIRA
Publish Date: March 26, 2019

336 Pages
Genre: Domestic Thriller, Mystery, Suspense

Leah, a popular sixteen year old, is uncharacteristically apprehensive the night before her new school year begins. She decides to take a moonlight paddle at her divorced parents’ Florida beachside inn to take the edge off her anxiety. Moments later she vanishes in the water without a trace. The police assume death by drowning since sharks had been sighted nearby earlier in the day. They do a cursory investigation and that's it. The community comes out to give support, but days later her mother Emily is still wondering what happened to her beautiful daughter. And why is there no body?

In the days that follow, Emily accidentally discovers pornographic images of her daughter on her laptop. Some appear to be selfies taken for someone else's pleasure. Others are clearly taken by a voyeur and sent to Leah. Shockingly, they reveal darkly tantalizing clues to an older man’s involvement. Emily's heartbreak turns to deep rage as she sets out to unmask who this monster is who has stolen her daughter's innocence--and perhaps more. As her suspicion falls on various locals who, as unlikely as they may seem, may have lured Leah into risky, even deadly, behavior--the youth pastor, the long time resident in bungalow 3, his son who visits from New York--she trusts no one. Suddenly her once close knit community, itself its own paradise, has been invaded by evil, an evil that is still lurking in the shadows--one that she is determined to expose.

My Review:

As an avid thriller reader, I am always overjoyed when I find a "lighter" thriller that really hits all my buttons.  I'll Be Watching You certainly does that! The author brings us an extremely well written thriller with multiple POVs and I ALWAYS love it when we get the view of the predator.

The creepy thing about books like this is the plausibility.  Creepy older man taking advantage of a young, naive girl.  Here's the thing with this book - if you read a ton of thrillers like I do, this will be nothing new in terms of story line.  HOWEVER, the way the author pulls everything together is intentional and fantastic.  There's no unnecessary scenes or fillers - it's just immediate satisfaction in terms of diving right into the story and never letting up until we get to the ending.

The ending only slightly bothered me in the fact that the perpetrator came a little out of left field.  While I appreciate the red herrings, I would've liked to have seen just a tiny bit more in terms of puzzle pieces. 

What I loved the most was how the author really draws you into this story and I felt myself getting angry, having hope and getting anxious.  It's rare that a lighter thriller will provoke so many feelings from me.  


Jessica's Review:

This was my first book by Courtney Evan Tate and I had heard great things about her previous release, so I was ready to dive in! I’LL BE WATCHING YOU is a solid thriller that kept me engaged the entire time. I loved the writing and the character development. I feel like in some thrillers or suspense novels we can kind of miss out on that.

I’ll always be a fan of the stalker thrillers. It’s so real and a situation many people, unfortunately, find themselves in. You never know if someone is following you or watching your every move. The action begins right away with Leah’s disappearance. Emmy is shaken to her core when she hears that her daughter has disappeared – when her paddleboard washes ashore the missing person’s case turns into a death. Emmy is determined to find out what happened to her daughter and she won’t rest until she finds her body – dead or alive.

You really connect with the characters and I loved how Tate unfolded the events. There was a great pacing and plenty of twists thrown in to keep you on your toes. If you’re a fan of the stalker thriller/disappearance suspense genre, then this will be perfect for you. I will definitely be going back to pick up her other book!

4 stars