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5 Perfect Podcasts to Binge this Weekend

  • Up and Vanished
  • S-Town 
  • Sincerely, X
  • My Favorite Murder
  • Sworn
  • Bonus Podcast:  What Should I Read Next?

Sometimes my eyes need a break from reading! But, chores and driving are absolutely too boring without a juicy book or podcast in my ears. These are my favorites!

UP AND VANISHED just finished its first season and oh my gosh! If you are even mildly interested in true crime/mystery and you aren’t familiar with this one, you’re in for a treat! Payne Lindsay, an everyday guy from Georgia, decides to launch an investigation into the disappearance of beauty queen and high school teacher, Tara Grinstead. Tara has been missing over 11 years and the case is freezing cold by the time Payne begins to look into the story in his Grandma’s hometown. TALK ABOUT PLOT TWISTS! Payne is a very RELIABLE narrator and the events unfold almost real time.  Not a spoiler (HUGE NATIONAL NEWS ATTENTION was given) to say Payne and his novice crew end up solving the case with the killer(s) arrested and awaiting trial at this moment. Start at the very beginning with Episode 1 to literally watch (listen to) the growing pains Payne experiences going from small time film maker to national crime solving hero. Fascinating.

S-TOWN The second season of the original SERIAL podcast, this season is completely different. Please tell me you already listened to Serial, the grandaddy of all podcasts? If not, that’s your first assignment. S- Town, I believe, started out to be on a similarly arced season with a murder to solve in S-town, Alabama. But (major plot twist) this story ends up being something completely different! I can’t give away anymore than that, it is a journey that you will not believe, won’t stop thinking about, and can’t stop talking about. I listened to it months ago and I still am blown away by the philosophical implications it raises about our country. Bookish hint: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance.

SINCERELY, X is a new podcast done by TED and Audible. It has quickly become my favorite in only four short (30-ish) minute episodes. The series features talks from speakers whose identities are hidden. Holy smokes, these stories will cut straight through to your heart and brain–so compelling! In Episode 2, entitled Pepper Spray, a woman describes what happened when she snapped one day in a retail store.  If you have ever dealt with anxiety issues, you will feel every ounce of her experience. Each stand-alone episode is presented by a victim or a perpetrator or an entrepreneur or an activist or an empath, or….

MY FAVORITE MURDER the app blurb reads: “Lifelong fans of true crime stories Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark tell each other their favorite tales of murder and hear hometown crime stories from friends and fans.” SO. DRY.  Actually, these two women are both hilarious working Hollywood types (google them). They’re not for everyone, they’re racy, candid and love to curse. They don’t make the murders funny, (no victim shaming ever) but they don’t hesitate to go the extra mile and comment on every aspect of the case they are featuring. I love Karen and Georgia!

SWORN is a spin-off from the UP AND VANISHED series. Listen to Up and Vanished first. Then when you are trying to shake off the withdrawals, turn on SWORN. By this time you’ll love Philip Holloway like he’s your own personal defense attorney and you’ll feel right at home on SWORN. As of right now, there are only three short episodes about The Lake Oconee Murders from Florida. It is going to be another captivating podcast.

WHAT SHOULD I READ NEXT? If you read or blog or blog about reading, you probably know of Anne Bogel. She’s the charming person behind the very popular Modern Mrs. Darcy blog. Each week, Anne interviews a reader and finds out their tastes in books. Then, she makes recommendations about what to read next. I have learned about so many different wonderful books from this show, it’s a no-miss podcast for me. Plus, Anne Bogel has a beautiful voice to die-for!

What podcasts do you love? What am I missing out on? Let me know!

 

 

 

Featured

No Exit

  • Author: Taylor Adams
  • Kindle Edition, 278 pages
  • Published June 25th 2017 by Joffe Books

BE A PART OF THE MASSES WHO ARE READING THIS BOOK NOW! NO EXIT IS CURRENTLY ON THE TOP TEN BESTSELLER LIST as of 8-5-17 ! Just click on the image above to buy your copy today!

ATTENTION MY FELLOW TWISTERS!! Drop everything, run to the bookstore, Amazon, library or your Audible account . NO EXIT by Taylor Adams is your magic carpet ride out of a sweltering summer and into a twisted snowy hell.

A kidnapped little girl locked in a stranger’s van. No help for miles. What would you do?

Darby Thorne is a college student stranded by a blizzard at a highway rest stop in the middle of nowhere. She’s on the way home to see her sick mother. She’ll have to spend the night in the rest stop with four complete strangers. Then she stumbles across a little girl locked inside one of their parked cars. There is no cell phone reception, no telephone, no way out because of the snow, and she doesn’t know which one of the other travelers is the kidnapper.

The entire story takes place in a rest exit stop in the Colorado mountains in the span of just one night. The setting is eerily reminiscent of THE SHINING and the mood is equally as creepy.

The first plot turn left me literally breathless (I was caught off guard I LOVE THAT!!), and trust me, that’s not the only bolt out of the blue. The uneasy suspense builds page after page until all the characters have gone off the deep end and completely off course. Darby Thorne is the reluctant leader of a child rescue attempt. I identified with her from the start, she cares about others – but, she would rather not get involved, you know? She is forced to overcome her hesitancies for the sake of the abducted child and goes full throttle until the shocking climax of the story. Don’t miss the Epilogue! Oh, man, this book is good.

I cannot wait to see the movie version. Hey Hollywood! Here’s the perfect script, we all need more escapist diversions from our boring lives, right? Please please make NO EXIT into a movie, thank you very much.

Hide and Seek

I love the way this book starts! Page one and BOOM! You are right in the middle of a mom fighting a backyard intruder who has scooped up her 4-year old son and is making his way over the fence and….I don’t want to give anymore away, but it’s a race until the end of the book. AND this is one tough mama bear.

Richard Parker is the solid writer of this thriller (and my favorite tiger name from LIFE OF PI). He knows how to keep up the suspense and the pages turning fast. The bulk of the plot takes place in the span of two days as Lana and Todd fight to get their son back.

The two parents have different ideas about who took their son and why. This is where the story divides up and they each go their own way to rescue the kid.

Lana is into a website/app called “Right Where You’re Standing” a type of Murder Wikipedia of kill-sites.  Is there an app like this?  I’m asking for a friend. 

She is convinced the app has something to do with her son’s abduction and a notorious serial child rapist, dubbed Mr. Whisper, is her main suspect.  Todd, her husband, thinks his wife is wrong. Todd has a secret and he believes this secret is the reason for the kidnapping.

For me, the plot would work better without the secondary story of Todd and his secret. I would have enjoyed a more in-depth character analyses of Todd and Lana. But, that’s just me. The story is really an active, plot driven novel. I feel the ending is too much, too implausible and over the top.

There are some really cool settings: a psychiatric prison hospital, an abandoned water park, an old school. The images are memorable and creepy. HIDE AND SEEK is a quick read and a perfect light mystery for a poolside read.

Author: Richard Parker
Kindle Edition, 393 pages
Expected publication: August 31st 2017 by Bookouture
AMAZON KINDLE DEAL click below!

Hide and Seek: An absolutely gripping thriller with heart-pounding suspense

10 INVIGORATING Bookclub Selections

What kinds of books do you like to read and discuss with a group of friends?  Does your bookclub go for the controversial themes or the safe ones, so that no one member feels offended? Nothing wrong with that. Some bookclubs are polite like that.

My bookclub “babes” tend to go….all over the place! We go through the historical fiction period for a few months until we get tired of that and switch it up with something hot and current. We always have more lively discussions with the “controversial” books. One book that was definitely a love it or hate it topic for us was ALL THE UGLY AND WONDERFUL THINGS by Bryn Greenwood.

“I was lying on the tracks under a train I was in love with.”
― Bryn Greenwood, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

Personally, I find this book absolutely heartbreaking and brilliant. The subject matter is tough and heavy, but honest. And definitely provocative. Talk about a conversation starter!

HILLBILLY ELEGY: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance, is a fascinating book, more about the state of our nation than a memoir. I highly recommend it for a book club, so many topics ranging from Appalachian poverty to the Rust Belt and the coal and steel industry, and though the author does not even mention the word TRUMP, there is a widespread belief that this book, at least partially, explains Trump’s win over Clinton. He writes knowledgeably about education, unemployment and the general “angriness” of the white poor man in the United States.

“We don’t study as children, and we don’t make our kids study when we’re parents. Our kids perform poorly in school. We might get angry with them, but we never give them the tools—like peace and quiet at home—to succeed.”
― J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

No matter how you feel about the state of our country right now,  your bookclub may want to consciously choose books of importance, diversity, and relevance this year. In the last few months we have read HOMEGOING, AMERICANAH, THE BOOK OF UNKNOWN AMERICANS, THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD. We have also enjoyed discussing EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU, THE TORTILLA CURTAIN, THE ROUND HOUSE and THE INVENTION OF WINGS.  I can confidently say that any of these “NEW” classics are perfect for your discussions and observations. They are all immediate classics to add to your bookclub TBR.

Click on any of the images below to get your copy and start reading today!

Sharp Objects

“I just think some women aren’t made to be mothers. And some women aren’t made to be daughters.”
― Gillian Flynn, Sharp Objects

This is one of the darkest, most disturbing books I’ve ever read. And I love it. Well, today I love it. I picked it up years ago, started reading and was like “no way Jose”. I had read Dark Places and Gone Girl and, of course, thought I could handle Sharp Objects, the Gillian Flynn debut. I wasn’t ready at the time for this little monster of a book.

The extremely creepy plot revolves around a serial killer in a Missouri town, and the reporter who has returned from Chicago to cover the event. Just a few of the themes include dysfunctional families, violence and self-harm. But there is so much more.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve read a lot of blasé, boring domestic noir lately. Give me a book with some meat on its bones! Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter got my motor running again and I just couldn’t go back to some of those wimpy NetGalley mysteries quite yet. (No offense, NetGalley, I love you!)

If you’re caught in a summer stagnation, wake yourself up with this book. It’s probably lying on a shelf in your house somewhere. Just prepare yourself. Flynn is an expert “description giver” and some of the things she describes are not pretty. At all. As in sick, sick, sick.

Yes, the characters are seriously f****d up! I don’t need my heroine to be shiny and pristine. Every person in this story has got issues.  Who knows what kind of childhood some people endure? Aren’t you curious as to WHY they are weird? I always am!

I know some readers are all, “but, I don’t really like the characters, I can’t root for anyone…” Ok, then this book isn’t for you. But, I’m telling you, Gillian Flynn is a master at blueprinting the human psyche into a living breathing character that you won’t soon, if ever, forget. You’ll probably even have a nightmare or two, after all, Stephen King is a huge Flynn fan.

  • Author: Gillian Flynn
  • Paperback, 254 pages
  • Published 2006 by Broadway Paperbacks

Sharp Objects click here to purchase this paperback book now!

I Let You Go

A tragic accident. It all happened so quickly. She couldn’t have prevented it. Could she?

Clare Macintosh, the author of I Let You Go, is the real deal. According to her Goodreads profile, she spent twelve years in the police force, including time in the criminal investigations unit (CID). She knows what she is writing about.

I Let You Go, her debut novel, was the fastest-selling title by a new crime writer in 2015 (U.K.). It won all kinds of awards and is still an extremely popular book. For good reason.

Here’s what it’s about: after a tragic accident, Jenna Gray’s only hope is to start afresh—and in a tiny, remote Welsh village it seems possible, just for a moment, that she might be able to find a new life. But her grief isn’t going to stay in the past for long… THAT IS ALL I CAN TELL YOU without spoilers.

This book checks all my required boxes for a top notch domestic thriller!

  • UK setting (SO MUCH LOVE)
  • Heavy on the psychological aspects (YES)
  • Just enough police procedural
  • Sympathetic protagonist
  • Unreliable narrators (MUST HAVE)
  • Breath taking plot twists
  • Compelling mystery (UNPUTDOWNABLE)
  • Expertly-cleverly-plotted writing (TECHNICAL TERM)

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DING DING DING…..We have a winner! The book takes a minute to set up and you may find it a bit slow, but relax, you’re in good hands. (And wake up! You might want to really pay attention at the beginning since there may or may not be a few clues already sprinkled in. )

I found this book compelling and irresistible. Although the subject matter is heavy, it carries an important message and Clare Macintosh is up to the challenge.

Author: Clare Macintosh
Hardcover, 369 pages
Published May 3rd 2016 by Berkley
If you would like to read this book now, just click here:

The Kind Worth Killing

“I don’t think murder is necessarily as bad as people make it out to be. Everyone dies. What difference does it make if a few bad apples get pushed along a little sooner than God intended? And your wife, for example, seems like the kind worth killing.”
― Peter Swanson, The Kind Worth Killing

This first-rate domestic thriller has never gotten the attention it deserved. It won a couple of awards when it was released in 2015, but The Girl on the Train was published around the same time and that press junket steamrolled over any serious consideration The Kind Worth Killing was gaining as the go-to novel that year.

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A modern take on the Patricia Highsmith classic, Strangers on a Train, the story is told mostly through the voice of Lily. I read this over two years ago, and I still remember Lily! She is a terrifyingly, unreliable narrator due to her psychotic tendencies. Here’s the weird part: I started sympathizing with her and hoping she would get away with murder in the end. This is a talented writer, people! To turn readers into serial killer sympathizers, kudos to the skillful Peter Swanson!

If I summarize this book, it would be filled with spoilers. You’re most likely familiar with the Highsmith book or the Hitchcock movie, so you already know the plot. It is a cat and mouse game played with the highest stakes. But there is so much more in the way of characterization (especially Lily!) and plot twists and shocks and murder and…MAYHEM! Amen to that.

Now is the time to pull THE KIND WORTH KILLING out of your TBR stack. You will be rewarded with lots of creepiness and an unputdownable story.

 

THE KIND WORTH KILLING

  • Author: Peter Swanson
  • Hardcover, 312 pages
  • Published February 3rd 2015 by William Morrow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dinner

“Sometimes things come out of your mouth that you regret later on. Or no, not regret. You say something so razor-sharp that the person you say it to carries it around with them for the rest of their life.”
— Herman Koch (The Dinner)

This is one of my favorite books in the domestic noir genre. It is not a book for everyone. It is biting, raw and the darkest humor you can imagine. Almost the entire story is set at a restaurant table.

There are two unhappy couples having dinner together and acting as if everything is fine. As we go from appetizers to dessert, the reader gets a sense that something is very wrong here. A simmering beneath the surface kind of tension. It continues to build until all the secrets are exposed. I could not put this book down except for minutes at a time and then I was constantly wondering “what in the world is going on here?”

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Each couple has a son. These sons are cousins to each other, because their dads are brothers.  The sons have done something horrible. Really bad. And the parents are here not just to eat dinner at a fancy restaurant, but to work out how this situation their sons are in should be handled. All four members at the table have a different agenda, a different perspective, a different personality flaw.

The narrator, Paul, is sarcastic and funny and relatable. He could be someone you know. But when you find out the true Paul, who he is when no one is watching, you realize you probably don’t know anyone like him and you certainly don’t want to.

To me, this book is a rare find. It is very well written, even though it is translated from Dutch to English. Amazing, the English major in me rejoices! A brilliant and literary, domestic suspense story.

  • Author: Herman Koch, translated by Sam Garrett
  • Hardcover, 292 pages
  • Published February 12th 2013 by Hogarth (first published January 2009)