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.

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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

NO EXIT

 5/5 Stars

  • 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.

Amazon link NO EXIT a gripping thriller full of heart-stopping twists

BEHIND HER EYES

1/5 Stars

  • Author: Sarah Pinborough
  • Published January 31st 2017 by HarperCollins
  • UK Trade Paperback, Paperback, 376 pages

I read BEHIND HER EYES a few months ago when I received the paper ARC unexpectedly in my mail. Thank you Flatiron Books! I appreciate the hard work that you do to promote authors and new books.

I love to get books in the mail, but this is not a book I love. 

I’m somewhat of a realist, but I’m open-minded and curious about subjects like lucid dreaming, mainly for the psychological aspects that may pertain to a murder mystery. You are led as a reader to think this book is traveling the byways of memories, dreams, affairs and murders. The pages fly fast and I was so involved in this story – until the abrupt end.

The publishers strongly encouraged all the ARC readers and reviewers to discuss the book with the hypey #WTFthatending. I guess that’s an appropriate hashtag, but it goes either way. I detest the ending. What a gimmick! It’s like having your mouth all set for a T-bone steak and it morphs right on the grill into a shape-shifting slice of frozen pizza. There was no steak on the grill ever. Forget about the steak. You are eating frozen pizza.

There are thousands of reviews out there on this book and my opinion appears to be in the minority. Not gonna lie, the ending of the story was like a sucker punch to the gut and I actually got angry. I tossed the book on the floor and didn’t even bother writing a review for it until now, months later. I felt used and abused as a reader.

I love plot twists. I love when authors write from different points of view. Heck, I want SHE LOVED PLOT TWISTS written on my tombstone. Not only that, but BEHIND HER EYES has a couple of unreliable narrators, my absolute favorite literary device! How could all these elements be in this one book, yet go so wrong? This looked like a book any decent storm hunter (me) would adore.

The ending of this book is more of a deus ex machina than anything else. Deus ex machina is a Latin term meaning “god out of the machine.” It refers to an unexpected, artificial or improbable character, device or event introduced suddenly in a work of fiction to resolve a situation or untangle a plot. IT IS A CHEAP PLOT DEVICE!   IT DOES NOT WORK (for me!). There is barely a hint of where the book is going until the last few pages and then ridiculously, hideously, it is over. This is crazy town, folks. You might love it, I just don’t.

AMAZON link
Behind Her Eyes: A Suspenseful Psychological Thriller

FRIEND REQUEST

4/5 Stars

  • Author: Laura Marshall
  • Published 9.9.2017
  • by Grand Central Publishing
Maria Weston wants to be friends on Facebook. Innocent enough, right? WRONG! Maria Weston has been dead for over 25 years.

Ooooooh, that sounds creepy and believe me FRIEND REQUEST is a psychological roller coaster from start to finish.

Louise Williams is a 40-something single mother of an adorable 4 year old boy. She is a reserved, quiet type that prefers to look at the world from the outside in. Especially from Facebook.

Is she really that shy or is something going on here? My suspicious mind is always questioning the main character.  I can’t help it! As secrets are revealed about Louise, the story’s only point of view, we find she is carrying a huge amount of guilt from her high school days.  Her friend, Maria Weston, went missing that year and was assumed dead. Why does Louise feel so guilty about that? Hmmm.

When Louise receives the friend request from Maria, you can only imagine how freaked out she becomes! Louise is a smart person, computer literate and she goes through all the expected steps to find out who sent the request.  She even overcomes her nerves and reconnects with old friends in order to get to the bottom of the increasingly threatening messages. She becomes convinced this is not a “catfish” or a prank.   During a high school reunion, a woman is murdered and we start learning even more about Louise and her past.

The author, Laura Marshall, expertly carries Louise’s story in alternating chapters entitled 1989 and 2016. In this style, we are given bits and clues and a red herring or two, and all the reader has to do is put this mystery together. Easy enough.

Except this:  Louise may or may not be an unreliable narrator. I can’t say. You will be wondering as I was all through this book and I take my “no spoilers” oath seriously. So I cannot tell you. Sorry/not sorry. 

The ending is an ugly surprise, not my favorite ending of all time, but it definitely is a plausible one. I can highly recommend FRIEND REQUEST. Add it to your TBR.

Amazon US Friend Request