WE WERE LIARS

5/5 Stars

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

When I picked this book up to read, I knew nothing about it. I didn’t even realize it was a young adult book. That didn’t matter. I read it in one sitting. It is sophisticated and modern and you will not stop reading until you reach the surprise ending. It is so compelling,  I have to include it in my Twister Hall of Fame. Just don’t let anyone spoil it for you by talking about. SHHHHhhhhhhh.

AMAZON link We Were Liars

GONE GIRL

5/5 Stars

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

Well, this is it. THE book that started the psychological suspense craze in novels over the last 5 years. Gillian Flynn’s third book is a legitimate masterpiece. Even the movie was stunning (which rarely happens).

I’m a big fan as you can tell. (I’m also crazy about SHARP OBJECTS and DARK PLACESher first and second novels).

Exploring the malevolent side of ordinary people and taking a peek into their murderous motivations is an endless fascination for me.  After reading at least a few hundred similar books, I realize more than ever how special this one is. The New York Times called this book “ice-pick sharp”.  I agree.

It is biting and witty; a fast paced perfect story of love and marriage, murder and revenge.

Click here if you need your Gillian Flynn copies from Amazon!

A RELIABLE WIFE

5/5 Stars

Author: Robert Goolrick
Hardcover, 291 pages
Published March 31st 2009 by Algonquin Books

He placed a notice in a Chicago paper, an advertisement for “a reliable wife.” She responded, saying that she was “a simple, honest woman.” She was, of course, anything but honest, and the only simple thing about her was her single-minded determination to marry this man and then kill him, slowly and carefully, leaving her a wealthy widow, able to take care of the one she truly loved.

What Catherine Land did not realize was that the enigmatic and lonely Ralph Truitt had a plan of his own. And what neither anticipated was that they would fall so completely in love.

Filled with unforgettable characters, and shimmering with color and atmosphere, A Reliable Wife is an enthralling tale of love and madness, of longing and murder.

If you’re in the mood for a quick easy read, you might want to skip this one. A Reliable Wife deserves your time to digest, enjoy, study. Filled with symbolism and theme, it is one of my all time favorite books. It is a suspenseful, plot twisted story that takes place in the early American 1900’s. The setting is isolated, cold and creepy and the characters are wholly unpredictable. At the heart of the story is a smoldering power of sexuality. There are three main characters, all motivated by a kind of Victorian sexual lust you don’t see in modern books. It is a uniquely fascinating literary experience.

AMAZON link A Reliable Wife

BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP

5/5 stars

As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I’m still a child, thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me…

Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love–all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story.

Welcome to Christine’s life.

I must have read this gripping book at least 3 times. A true psychological drama with twists, turns and such a sense of urgency that you will not be able to stop reading. You will want to scream at the main character, Christine, GET OUT of that house! DON’T TRUST Ben! The beauty of this suspense is that the answers are so close, but the reader doesn’t see them because Christine cannot see them. She is suffering from a kind of short term amnesia and must keep a diary every day just to remember who she is and what day it is. And so much more. .. It is a brilliant story and I cannot recommend it enough.

BTW: The image ABOVE is from the movie. Although Nicole Kidman stars, it was really disappointing. It comes off as clunky, not nearly as slick and suspenseful at the book reads. Once again, the book wins! Sigh.

Amazon US  Paperback

Amazon US Kindle Before I Go To Sleep: A Novel

Amazon US Audio Before I Go to Sleep: A Novel

EMMA IN THE NIGHT

 3/5 Stars

Author: Wendy Walker
Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Expected publication: August 8th 2017 by St. Martin’s Press

Two girls go missing. Three years later, only one comes home. What happened to Emma?

One night, teenage sisters Cass and Emma disappear from their affluent, suburban home. Three years later, with just the clothes on her back and no evidence of where she’s been, Cass returns – without her sister. She talks of kidnapping and isolation, and a mysterious island where the two were held. But her story has holes – and it’s up to forensic psychologist Dr. Abby Winter to find the missing sister, Emma, and uncover what really happened in their tortured past. The truth will shock even Cass herself – a tale of fear, family and what it will take to survive her own past.

Emma and Cass have a strange relationship with their mother. For starters, they are required to call her Mrs. Martin, not mom. WHAT? That will get your suspicious mind working overtime to get to the bottom of this story.  Mrs. Martin is a narcissistic, self-involved mother and she’s not the only one in this dysfunctional family that has some psychological issues. The two sisters have an overprotective half-brother, a weepy-wimpy father, an out-of-control stepbrother and a stepfather that continually crosses personal boundaries within the family. WHEW! I’d run the hell away from that house too!

When Cass returns home from being missing for three years, she is alone. What happened to Emma? The FBI are all over the case and continue to grill Cass with a forensic psychologist, Abby, leading the interviews. The entire story is told in alternating views: a first person narrative coming from Cass and a third person narrative from Abby. Coincidentally, Abby the expert, grew up with a sister, too, and their own mother was a textbook narcissist. She knows firsthand what Cass and Emma may have been dealing with at home.

This is not as much of a suspense story as it is a overly long definition of the narcissistic personality type. I learned a bit more than I ever thought I would about the disorder. For starters, the disorder has been overlooked by the courts and by society when it is a woman suffering from it. And especially overlooked when that woman is a mother.

Normally I love psychological suspense. But, if I want to study a disorder, I will pick up my old psychology textbook. Please, SHOW me the actions and develop her character into a more layered person.  Showing is so much more exciting to read in a fictional story than telling.  A book that comes to mind for expertly illustrating a maternal narcissist in action is MOTHER, MOTHER by Karen Zalickas. A biting and disturbing character if ever there was one.

This book has all my favorite elements in a mystery. A BEAUTIFUL, INTRIGUING COVER, the semi-surprise ending, unreliable narrators, and a psychological disorder at the heart of the story.  As much as I wanted to love it, the book fell flat for me. The pages did not turn fast. My mind was wandering Unknownduring the long descriptions of the island that Cass gives the FBI upon her return home. She relates her experiences in a straight monotone manner (for a reason, as you will find out) and it just reads that way for most of the book. I was interested to find out what happened to Emma, but my gosh, it was a slow go.

AMAZON link  Emma in the Night: A Novel

IN A DARK, DARK WOOD

4/5 Stars

  • Author: Ruth Ware
  • Published August 4th 2015 by Simon & Schuster Audio
  • Audio book narrated by Imogen Church
  • 9 hrs and 34 mins

There have been many reviews for the regular book version of IN A DARK, DARK WOOD by Ruth Ware, but my review is for the audio version. I have had the actual book for awhile now and for some reason, every time I picked it up I just could not stay with it due to my unfortunately short attention span. As happens so many times, a beautifully made audio version of the same book will quickly suck me in, even if I just read the same words myself and they seemed so uninteresting in my own head. The fabulous Imogen Church is the narrator, she is wonderful and a one-woman show, acting out all the roles with authentically nuanced personality traits. I had previously enjoyed her narrations of Alex Marwood’s THE KILLER NEXT DOOR and all the BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY books by Helen Fielding. Ms. Church is also reading Ruth Ware’s next two books and I will definitely be listening.

I LOVE listening to this book. For me, the audio version is much more entertaining and suspenseful than reading it with my own eyeballs. So, maybe, Reese Witherspoon will take it up the next step and the movie version will be even better!!? (fingers crossed!). The story revolves around six frenemies tucked away for a “hen party” in a cottage in a dark wood far away from civilization. I guarantee that you have never been to a bachelorette party like this. The creepy location, the sarcastic barbs the “friends” hurl on each other, the drug use, the Ouji board playing, and last, but not least, clay pigeon shooting as the main activity, all work together to create plenty of foreshadowing of the murder we know is going to happen. But, which of the friends is the killer? And who gets killed? The book is written in a first person POV by Nora who has unfortunately suffered a terrible head trauma and is, therefore, a most unreliable narrator (yippeeeee, I love unreliable narrators!).

The story pays homage to the Agatha Christie “locked room” murder motif, one of many a mystery lover’s favorite plot devices. You will figure out the ending way before the main character does (sadly, no plot twist), but it is still a really well written psychological mystery and an excellent debut for Ruth Ware. THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10 is wildly popular and that’s always a plus for a new author, to be on the upward trajectory. I’m hearing great things about her third book, THE LYING GAME, to be published July 25, 2017.

click here to get your Audio version! In a Dark, Dark Wood

ARE YOU SLEEPING

4/5 Stars

  • Kindle Edition, 320 pages Hardcover 336 pages
  • Author: Kathleen Barber35660402
  • Publication: August 1st 2017 by Gallery Books

Josie’s father was murdered by a teenage neighbor ten years ago, when she was still a girl. The killer was sent to prison and Josie’s family fell apart. Her mother, an emotional wreck, up and left Josie and her twin sister, Lanie, to join a cult in Northern California. She never saw or spoke to her daughters again. Josie and Lanie, the twins, are left to live their teenage years with their Aunt Amelia and cousin Ellen. Lanie was the single eyewitness to the murder, the reason the killer was caught and sentenced to life. She was also the more rebellious of the two girls and she ends up on a dangerous path of truancy, drugs and law-breaking. In a fit of anger, she yells at Josie to just go away and leave her alone.

Josie did go away. She changed her last name. She backpacked the world and met a wonderful guy, Caleb. They settled in Brooklyn and she never explained her horrific family history or even that she had a twin sister. It was all too painful for her and she wanted to keep Caleb free from the drama of her past.

Along comes the 21st century journalistic phenomenon: the true crime podcast. And guess what crime Poppy Parnell, the perky blogger, wants to dig up and examine with a fine tooth comb? Yep, the murder of Josie’s dad. Josie is absolutely terror-stricken to hear people on the subway and in grocery stores discussing the podcast, her personal life horror show openly tweeted about by complete strangers. It seems like everyone is obsessed with “Reconsidered” the podcast. Was the wrong man convicted? There are witnesses that place the teenage killer at a park miles away from the crime. He didn’t have a weapon.

When Josie’s mother hangs herself during the height of the podcast mania, Josie finds herself having to face all the lies she has told Caleb and all the details of her past. She must reconnect with her twin sister, Lanie, and ask her once and for all about the night of the murder. Was Lanie honest about that night?

The story is fast-moving and suspenseful. I love the podcast element to this book (Ask me about UP AND VANISHED, please!). There is a whole sub-theme about public shaming on social media. I wish the plot had been a bit twistier and darker. It’s borderline, dare I say it… Predictable. You will figure out “whodunnit” before the big reveal,  but it is not boring. The characters are very real and fleshed out. I absolutely love Josie’s cousin, Ellen, she is hilarious.

ARE YOU SLEEPING reminds me very much of THE LUCKIEST GIRL ALIVE and RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA. If you liked those books, you will love this one, too.

click on any image above for AMAZON U.S.

THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS

 3/5 Stars

  • Published July 11th 2017 by Scribner
  • Author: Michael Robotham

Let’s just put it out there: this is no Tana French or Paula Hawkins psychological thriller.  Sorry. Keeping’ it real. Waaah waah.

Never mind the claims invariably to head the jacket reviews, there is NOT a Gone Girl ending twist in THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS.  However, this book is one heck of a suspenseful page turner (and how about that book cover? LOVE). I read it so fast, my husband couldn’t believe it when I said I was done.  The chapters are very short and are told from the different characters’ POV. I think just under 4 hours of reading an entire novel is indeed a record for me.

The main characters, Meghan and Agatha, are not necessarily likable, but very interesting. I want to know more about them! Sadly, there isn’t much psychological speculation delved into in the book.  Most of the story is written in first person dialogue and the dialogue is written so realistically, you will find yourself hooked from the first page.

If you, like millions of readers, including myself, adored The Girl on the Train, you will pick up on the same atmospheric feel with THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS.  I love that British vibe! There is a lot of train riding, a little obsessive spying done by Agatha (perfect name), and teapots and biscuits are frequently mentioned throughout the book.

If I could presume to subtitle this book, it would be more aptly called Girl On the Train-Lite. It is the perfect book to carry down to the pool and read quickly even if you are frequently interrupted or distracted by your kids, you will have no trouble jumping right back into the plot.

The most interesting part of this story is truly the character of Agatha. She is somewhat of a deliciously unreliable narrator on her chapters (the chapters go back and forth between Meghan and Agatha), you are never quite sure if she telling us the truth.  I wavered between sympathy, disgust, and sadness for her character.  I do so wish there were more layers to the characters and the plot, that would definitely have earned a four star from me.

This book has a publication date for July 11, 2017.  If you are looking for a light suspenseful story, this is perfect.
Available now Amazon U.S.   >      The Secrets She Keeps: A Novel

 

SEE WHAT I HAVE DONE

Unknown-14/5 Stars

  • Author: Sarah Schmidt
  • Expected publication:  August 1st 2017 by Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Hardcover, 336 pages

Sarah Schmidt is a brilliant, exciting new author hailing from Australia. Her debut novel, SEE WHAT I HAVE DONE, is a clever reimagining of a well-known American murder mystery. (Not only that, but what about that gorgeous cover? I gotta thing for creepy looking bird covers.)

On a sweltering August morning in 1892, Lizzie Borden’s father and stepmother were hacked to death in their Massachusetts home with a hatchet. Lizzie was accused of the murders, locked up for ten months and tried in court. She was acquitted by the jury of twelve men. “The jurymen considered the fact that no one found blood on Lizzie, considered the fact that the house showed no signs of forced entry, considered the fact that Andrew could be a very hard man, considered that there was no murder weapon found.” But, ultimately, they decided Lizzie was innocent because “women just don’t do this type of crime.”

These are the facts. But there are more layers in this horror story than the dust that has built up on the Borden parlor rug. The author lures readers like a witch’s bony finger beckoning, inviting you to a front row seat in this dysfunctional, hateful family psychodrama. The writing is cryptic, creepy, and dreamy. The disturbed childish thoughts endlessly spit out of Lizzie’s mind. It is a suffocating book with no escape.

While the writing is of the highest quality, the content is so gruesome and macabre, I can only recommend SEE WHAT I HAVE DONE with reservations. This is not for the namby-pamby reader. I consider myself somewhat stouthearted, but I turned absolutely green around the gills while reading this book with my morning oatmeal.  I REPEAT: Do not eat and read this book at the same time unless you have a cast iron stomach. I don’t have a total count on how many times the words blood, vomit, hair, congealed or thick fluids is used, but trust me, it is up there.

Oh and by the way, prepare yourself to find unpleasant body odors described in detail and often. You get the idea, now proceed with caution, it’s an excellent story.

AMAZON link See What I Have Done

THE CHILD

 

4/5 Stars

  • Author: Fiona Barton
  • Published June 29th 2017 by Transworld Digital (first published June 27th 2017)

I guess I’m one of the few mystery lovers on the planet that didn’t read Fiona Barton’s debut, The Widow, last year. The Widow won all kinds of awards, including an NPR Best Book of 2016 accolade.

I stumbled onto The Child, the author’s sophomore attempt, and was very pleasantly surprised. It is a snappy, cozy little Brit mystery with interesting characters and a major plot twist ending. No one changes bodies or minds or whatever,  yet Fiona Barton masterfully weaves all the clues together to form a satisfying, realistic and just creepy enough ending.

I really, really like the main character, Kate Waters. She is an old-school reporter still fighting for respect as a newspaper woman in a digital age. Remember newspaper journalists? I kind of miss those hard-hitting-go-after-the-story-characters-despite-police-warnings to back off (sorry for all the hyphens!). Whatever happened to those guys? Nowadays the local news reports are mostly filled with Facebook and Twitter highlights. The character, Kate Waters, is in The Widow, but the books are not part of a series. Read either one first, it won’t matter to the plot, and I’m sure you will enjoy both.

There are a handful of other characters in the book and the author does not bog down in the details of their lives, making for fast and furious page turning. The plot is somewhat complicated, not overly so, and the surprise ending is completely plausible. Yes!

This must be the year of missing baby mysteries, but unlike Michael Robotham’s The Secrets She Keeps, The Child is multi-layered story and much more interesting mainly due to the relatable character of Kate Waters. This is definitely a page-turner for your Summer 2017 TBR stack. Now please excuse me while I go download The Widow.

AMAZON The Child The Child
AMAZON The Widow The Widow

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