ALL THE BEAUTIFUL LIES

FOUR STARS

  • Author: Peter Swanson
  • Publication date: April 3, 2018

I have a very smart friend that works as a literacy coach for elementary school teachers. Her advice for young students just learning how to tell someone else about a book? Three simple phrases.

SOMEBODY WANTED__________.
BUT____________.
SO_____________.

Is that genius or what? I love it. So short and simple, I’m using it now (thanks Jenny!).  No spoilers here, of course!

SOMEBODY WANTED:  to engage in taboo relationships. Taboo? Yes,  vast age differences and the fact that the characters romantically involved are sometimes related! As in step parent/step child. Ick. Ick. Ick. There is also a clear cut case of a “Mrs. Robinson” carrying on with a teenage boy. As usual, Swanson has come up with some dark characters living blissfully in their own corrupted world.

BUT:   when conforming type people have suspicions about these unusual relationships, they tend to interfere.

SO:   the rational world interferes with the corrupted world, the unbalanced characters become completely unhinged while protecting their own sweet spot and well, WORLDS COLLIDE!!!

There you have it, people. An elementary synopsis of a complicated, layered plot!

And, just a few more words, if I may: This is a compulsive, addictable read. Swanson just keeps getting darker and more forbidden with his plots, next thing you know he’ll turn into Gillian Flynn (Haaaa, just kidding, there is no one else residing at the level of our lovely dark goddess, but Liz Nugent is inching up there).

As usual, Swanson writes in a delicious film noir style. This story is set on the coast of Maine with all the foreshadowing and dangerous mood that accompanies the angry sea. Swanson’s books are clever puzzles with messy edges. At the heart of his novels lies the most basic of human urges: greed. Sometimes the main character is all about the money, money, money.  Here, the main characters are driven by sex, not money. And, if you know Swanson, you know this isn’t going to be everyday lust, he has to pull down that murky shade and create an illicit, creepy scenario.

I wish I could give 5 stars, but I can’t only because the ending was a bit predictable to me. I’m starting to see a plot pattern in his novels. However, I still love this one!!

This is Swanson’s fourth novel and he is extremely consistent in the psychological thriller genre. He is my definite go-to author. This book reminds me of his first hit, The Girl with a Clock for a Heart, mainly due to the slightly clueless, lovable protagonist.

All the women in this novel are strong and richly defined, definitely Swanson’s strength. I highly recommend… with reservations for the sensitive reader.

THE CHALK MAN

FOUR NOSTALGIC STARS

  • Author: CJ Tudor
  • Publication date: January 9, 2018

 

Some basic reasons to love THE CHALK MAN:

the title
the author’s bio
the author’s acknowledgments at end of book
that perfect cover
suspenseful, addictive, spooky story
a combination of STRANGER THINGS (Netflix series) and STAND BY ME (80’s movie)

The only reason I couldn’t give all the stars to this very fun and riveting book is due to too many co-winky dinks towards the big reveal at the end. A bit too implausible for my liking. 

I love the 80’s vibe of little boys riding around on their bikes getting into all kinds of mischief and seeing things they shouldn’t. You’ll be instantly reminded of a Stephen King novel without the 500 extra pages!

HIGHLY RECOMMEND!

Thanks to NetGalley, I was able to read and review this book before publication! CJ Tudor has a new book, THE TAKING OF ANNIE THORNE,  due out Feb. 21, 2019. Read about CJ Tudor’s fascinating career below: 

tudor_c_j

C. J. Tudor was born in Salisbury and grew up in Nottingham, where she still lives with her partner and young daughter.

She left school at sixteen and has had a variety of jobs over the years, including trainee reporter, radio scriptwriter, shop assistant, ad agency copywriter and voiceover.

In the early nineties, she fell into a job as a television presenter for a show on Channel 4 called Moviewatch. Although a terrible presenter, she got to interview acting legends such as Sigourney Weaver, Michael Douglas, Emma Thompson and Robin Williams. She also annoyed Tim Robbins by asking a question about Susan Sarandon’s breasts and was extremely flattered when Robert Downey Junior showed her his chest.

While writing the Chalk Man she ran a dog-walking business, walking over twenty dogs a week as well as looking after her little girl.

She’s been writing since she was a child but only knuckled down to it properly in her thirties. Her English teacher once told her that if she ‘did not become Prime Minister or a best-selling author’ he would be ‘very disappointed.’

The Chalk Man was inspired by a tub of chalks a friend bought for her daughter’s second birthday. One afternoon they drew chalk figures all over the driveway. Later that night she opened the back door to be confronted by weird stick men everywhere. In the dark, they looked incredibly sinister. She called to her partner: ‘These chalk men look really creepy in the dark . . .’

She is never knowingly over-dressed. She has never owned a handbag and the last time she wore heels (twelve years ago) she broke a tooth.

She loves The Killers, Foo Fighters and Frank Turner. Her favourite venue is Rock City.

Her favourite films are Ghostbusters and The Lost Boys. Her favourite authors are Stephen King, Michael Marshall and Harlan Coben.

She is SO glad she was a teenager in the eighties.

She firmly believes that there are no finer meals than takeaway pizza and champagne, or chips with curry sauce after a night out.

Everyone calls her Caz.

THE LAST TIME I LIED

FIVE ROCKIN’ STARS
  • Author: Riley Sager
  • Publication date: July 3, 2018

I’m trying my best to contain my excitement and review Riley Sager’s new book in a professional manner.

YIPPEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

See that? I only used one exclamation point. I want at least 300 more! It is a spanking good, cracker jack of a novel that I could not stop reading!

THE LAST TIME I LIED is a brilliant and campy (pun intended) mystery for all you grown up fans of Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys.

It will be the 2018 summer-beach-novel-must-read! This is a nostalgic and twisted look back at your own summer camp memories. It’s terrific fun!

I’m crazy about Sager’s deceptively easy writing style. He breezes right through the telling of the story, all the while creating mood, atmosphere and the fun kind of dread you get in the pit of your stomach while watching a horror flick. The pages suck you in and Sager holds your hand as he walks you through the creepy story that began 15 years ago at Camp Nightingale.

Three out of four girls disappeared from the Dogwood cabin and that fourth girl? She suffered a nervous breakdown in the months following the disappearance of her friends. In a way, she is the “sole survivor”, and if you loved FINAL GIRLS you know what that means. Yes, Emma is a Final Girl and she is a sympathetic and very unreliable narrator. Emma has a chance to return to the camp fifteen years later, and of course, in Riley Sager’s world, she goes back to teach art at the camp. Oh, and to solve the old mystery while confronting her many demons.

Please don’t bother to read the overly long and convoluted book jacket synopsis. It almost scared me away. So many names that are meaningless until you read the story. If you liked FINAL GIRLS, you will love THE LAST TIME I LIED. It is also delicious reading for fans of THE CHALK MAN or GOOD ME BAD ME.

THE LAST TIME I LIED is a completely different story from FINAL GIRLS, but the same brilliant author supervising the fun. I’m pushing this book into all my friends’ beach bags!

Many thanks to Dutton Publishers and Edelweiss for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book before publication. All opinions are my own.

 

TANGERINE

4.25 STARS

  • Author: Christine Mangan
  • Publication date: March 27, 2018

 

What is it about obsessive friendships between women?  I’m always drawn to books that feature this type of female-frenemy-relationship. I think there is so much more that can be added to the plot than just the usual he/she torrid love/hate affair that dominate this genre’s selections.

Tangerine is truly my idea of a dreamy, escapist novel. It is first and foremost a character analysis of two women that meet at a high-brow East Coast university as roommates. Lucy and Alice each depict two distinctive and contrasting personalities. One is meek, timid, hand-wringing. The other is brazen, steely, opportunistic. Mixed and stirred like an ice cold martini, the result is pure toxic poison with only one dreaded outcome.

Tangerine takes place mostly in Tangier, Morocco, during a political uprising in the 1950’s. One year after university, the women meet in the exotic desert setting of Tangier. The word “atmospheric” is thrown around to describe a lot of fiction these days, but in this case, atmospheric is more than an accurate label.

Christine Mangan is a lovely, old-fashioned writer. She’s a new author and I’m not exaggerating to say that Tangerine will remind you of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises and Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Mangan doesn’t linger on descriptions, but the reader is always very aware of the setting and mood and it feels authentic.

The book’s cover is sheer perfection for this novel that reads like film noir. A kind of combo of stories, The Talented Mr. Ripley and Single White Female come to mind, but it still feels fresh and original.

It is light on action and I feel I should warn you, some readers will find this style of storytelling a bit repetitive. However, I adore the slow burn and did find it suspenseful with tension growing throughout. It is a book for fans of Unraveling Oliver.

A quiet, fascinating portrayal of the complicated connection between sociopath and victim.

BONUS ALERT! The audiobook is exceptionally well done. Lucy sounds exactly like Scarlett Johansson (but it’s not her, I did check). However, the real ScarJo is already cast to play Lucy in the upcoming film production. Perfect choice!

BELIEVE ME

FOUR STARS
  • Author: J.P. Delaney
  • Publication date: July 24, 2018
I felt the author’s previous book, The Girl Before, was well written; but, for an architectural mystery based on minimalism, it was a big ole mess –structurally speaking, of course.😊

I really like BELIEVE ME. I was absolutely crazy about the first 2/3 of this addictive story. The plot had me second guessing my way through. Sadly, the last 1/3 just went so overboard it got ridiculous. I have a hard time understanding why the author (actual name: Tony Strong) wants to throw in everything he knows about his subject. It’s too much. He overshot that line of believability and my five star rating dropped to a four.

This novel is mostly set in the theater world and our main character, Claire, is a young actress trying to make a living in NYC and eager to do anything to pay her rent. I think Claire is one of my most favorite unreliable narrators in recent memory. She’s not a drunk or a sociopath or is she? We never know because she is ALWAYS acting. How CLEVER is that?

The performance aspect of her personality is a refreshingly innovative way to style an unreliable narrator! Hmmmm. Talk about “method actor method actor method actor”.

Some scenes come alive in Claire’s head in the form of an actual written play. At first this can be confusing, but you’ll catch on quickly. When she gets into serious trouble by being accused of murder, the real fun begins! This is a cat and mouse game with lots of twists.

BELIEVE ME is sophisticated, slick, beautifully written. It’s a dark and addictive book, just know an over the top ending is waiting for you!

Thanks to NetGalley for allowing me to read this book before publication on July 24, 2018. All opinions are mine.

SOMETHING IN THE WATER

FIVE STARS

  • Author: Catherine Steadman
  • Publication Date: June 5, 2018

 

For domestic suspense fun, it doesn’t get much better than this! SOMETHING IN THE WATER is Numero Uno on the NYT bestseller list this week, a Reese’s bookclub selection and the movie rights have long been snatched up!

All that buzzy attention heaped on one lil ole debut novel can make some of us (okay…..me😂)a tad skeptical. No need to worry. You are in expert hands with Catherine Steadman. Maybe you live on a deserted island and haven’t heard, but Steadman is a fabulous, gorgeous actress working in the U.K. She, most notably, was a cast member of Britain‘s Downton Abbey. She can also write like the pros, if not better. What the heck? So much talent in one person! Quit your day job or not, Ms. Steadman, you are a superstar either way!

There are tons of summaries out there. Please don’t read them. Listen, I accidentally read the “spoilest spoilers” EVER in the New York Times and Kirkus Reviews. Geez. Don’t look for more about the story. I would have enjoyed it so much more if I didn’t already know what the something in the water was! Take my word for it.

The pacing is brisk, the narrator is unreliable (BUT NOT A DRUNK!) and the story translates quite believably as a realistic situation. You guys know how much I abhor the hand-wringing heroine. But here, our protagonist is VERY pro-action. True, she doesn’t always make the best decisions (omg!), but she tries her best and I, for one, felt a weird kind of kinship with our main character.

It’s my favorite kind of suspense-building story. One bad decision leads to another, leads to one more and so on…..It’s the ultimate “what would you do” situational structure. Steadman writes in a slick, sophisticated manner. I’m completely infatuated with her wit and style.

If you enjoyed The Girl on the Train, The Woman in Cabin 10, or The Flight Attendant you will love Something in the Water.

The audiobook is stellar! Steadman acts as her own icy, sexy narrator and you will quickly understand why she is such a wonderful actress! Highly recommend! I am so excited to discover this new, gifted author. Looking forward to her career in this difficult-to-write genre

YOU WERE MADE FOR THIS

4.5 STARS

  • Author: Michelle Sacks
  • US Publication date: June 19, 2018

When Sam inherits a cottage in the Sweden countryside, he and his wife, Merry, pack up their hectic lives in NYC and begin a brand new life in an cold, isolated country with their infant baby.

In Sweden, they are the very picture of domestic contentment. Merry gardens and bakes with a fervor that would put Martha Stewart to shame. Sam begins working at his dream career as a film documentarian. Their adorable baby is a fat little cherub, at the family’s center of adoration and devotion.

Sounds so beautiful and la-dee-da perfect. However, after this setup, we are in for a shock as Merry and Sam take turns narrating their own short chapters. Buckle up. What you are about to learn becomes more alarming with each page. (This may be a good time to warn you there are definite triggers throughout for a sensitive reader.) Dark, twisted, painfully disturbing.

Just as we are learning about Sam and Merry’s shaky foundation, Merry’s best friend from childhood arrives for a visit with the young family in Sweden. Her name is Frank (Frances) and she knows Merry better than anyone else in the world. She immediately sees right through Merry’s phony happy homemaker act. At this point, Frank joins in the narration with her own chapters and we start to see that Frank has her own ugly secrets. These three characters are positively nasty and the perfect storm is set into motion. AS THE UNRELENTING SUSPENSE BEGINS, YOU CANNOT TURN YOUR EYES AWAY FROM THE PAGE. I LOVE IT!

Michelle Sacks has written an almost perfect psychological thriller. She writes in a fluid, spare manner- the kind of dialogue without quotation marks, yet it is absolutely cloaked in a haunting, dread-filled mood. Sacks is an intelligent writer and I have great appreciation for her sophisticated style. You know how I love to go deep in these sicko character profiles, and Sacks boldly goes to the deepest corruptions possible. And she doesn’t even blink.

If what I’ve told you hasn’t scared you away– then you, my friend, are in for a treat!!! Highly recommended for lovers of books like The Perfect Nanny, Unraveling Oliver, The Visitors and White Bodies.

YOU WERE MADE FOR THIS hits the shelves June 19, 2018. Thanks so much to Little, Brown Publishers for my gorgeous copy! All opinions are my own.