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!

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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.

THE WIFE

FIVE STARS

  • Author: Alafair Burke
  • Published Jan. 23, 2018
  • By Harper Books/Harper Audio

SYNOPSIS:

His scandal. Her secret.

When Angela met Jason Powell while catering a dinner party in East Hampton, she assumed their romance would be a short-lived fling, like so many relationships between locals and summer visitors. To her surprise, Jason, a brilliant economics professor at NYU, had other plans, and they married the following summer. For Angela, the marriage turned out to be a chance to reboot her life. She and her son were finally able to move out of her mother’s home to Manhattan, where no one knew about her tragic past.

Six years later, thanks to a bestselling book and a growing media career, Jason has become a cultural lightning rod, placing Angela near the spotlight she worked so carefully to avoid. When a college intern makes an accusation against Jason, and another woman, Kerry Lynch, comes forward with an even more troubling allegation, their perfect life begins to unravel. Jason insists he is innocent, and Angela believes him. But when Kerry disappears, Angela is forced to take a closer look at the man she married. And when she is asked to defend Jason in court, she realizes that her loyalty to her husband could unearth old secrets.

Whew! It feels like forever since I read a 5 star novel in my adored psychological thriller genre. THE WIFE is everything I’m constantly on the lookout for in a book! However, this little gem wasn’t even in my sightline, mainly because of the boring cover and generic title. I know, I can be really shallow like that.  Also, in my defense, the blurb makes it sound a bit too chick-lit for me.  No, I was so wrong! IT IS A DETAILED PORTRAIT OF A SOCIOPATH.  Thanks to my amazing Goodreads friends for bringing THE WIFE to my attention.  It’s a very new book and I was still able to check it out from my local library on my beloved Overdrive App. Both written and audio versions were available, which shows me THE WIFE is still flying under the radar for a lot of readers. Quick, now’s your chance to read it free from your library, before it becomes a hot commodity!

I was starting to question my love for the unreliable narrator after so many alcoholic and agoraphobic narrators. Yawn. Yawn. OBVIOUSLY, they are unreliable! It’s so much more fun for the reader to figure out IF the narrator is trustworthy or not. Are we being lied to? Who can we believe? I love the simple mystery of figuring out which characters we can trust.  I was wrong about all my preconceived notions about THE WIFE.  And I have the highest regards for a book that surprises me.

In THE WIFE, Alafair Burke has created the perfect blend of a character driven suspense novel with some police investigation (just enough) and courtroom drama (again, just enough!). On top of that perfect combo, Burke is a gifted storyteller and creates tension in small ways. The story feels relevant and timely; seriously, this book feels like it was written this month, all the current events are spot-on accurate.

The plot is full of twists, but not huge IN YOUR FACE twists, again, just small enough that you read a sentence a couple of times to make sure you got it right! There are clues all throughout the book, but until those last few pages can you start piecing together your suspicions. Even then, watch out for the last sentence!

If you are into listening to your books, the audio version is OUTSTANDING. The actress is unbelievably talented, I felt like I was listening to my best friend tell me a juicy story.  I was constantly all “and then what happened?”

I don’t know where Alafair Burke has been my whole life, but I’m in love with her writing. (Okay, so I googled Ms. Burke and it appears she spent some time in my hometown of Portland, OR working as an assistant district attorney for Multnomah County. WHAAAT???)  She obviously knows of what she writes and personally, I think she should quit all her attorney/teaching jobs and just write books for me full time.  Just kidding…

I’m crazy about THE WIFE and chances are… you will be too! Check out that lofty GoodReads rating of 4.01!!

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THE WIFE BETWEEN US

5 out of 5 stars!

  • Authors: Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen
  • Publication date: January 9, 2018
  • by St. Martins Press

Summary From Goodreads:

A novel of suspense that explores the complexities of marriage and the dangerous truths we ignore in the name of love.

When you read this book, you will make many assumptions.
You will assume you are reading about a jealous wife and her obsession with her replacement.
You will assume you are reading about a woman about to enter a new marriage with the man she loves.
You will assume the first wife was a disaster and that the husband was well rid of her.
You will assume you know the motives, the history, the anatomy of the relationships.
Assume nothing.

Discover the next blockbuster novel of suspense, and get ready for the read of your life.

My Thoughts (NO SPOILERS):

How ironic that this book is as fun to read and as twisty as Gone Girl, yet the description doesn’t even mention Gone Girl. What? Unheard of!

BY LAW: All domestic thrillers must state they are the next Gone Girl. 

This book is so good, I predict that future twisty books will be touting themselves as the next THE WIFE BETWEEN US.

YES! This book is that good! Clever. Dark. Filled with unreliable narrators, shocking plot twists, need I go on? Oh, you want a little more about the story, right?

The age-old plot is relatively simple: In the beginning, we get to know sweet, naive Nellie and her new relationship with the older and self-assured Richard. Nellie works as a preschool teacher in the city and loves her busy life and friends. But, someone is following Nellie. Making her jumpy, nervous and anxious. She has thoughts alluding to a secret in her past. All we know is she moved abruptly from her college town in Florida straight to NYC to start a new life.

I’m immediately suspicious.

And there is that pesky ex-wife of Richard’s. Nellie doesn’t know much about her, but is she the one calling her cell phone at all hours, spying on her from outside the window?

Nellie loves and feels safe with Richard. She proceeds to plan a wedding with him. Everything is going well and she is so in love with the thoughtful, protective Richard. Soon, she has quit her beloved job in order to move to a beautiful home in the suburbs with Richard.

Unfortunately, things go downhill for Nellie.

The clever construction of the story lies in the way it is told. I’m on tip-toes with this summary and I don’t dare say anything to ruin the fun for you. In fact, my advice is to not read any more reviews about this book.

100% of the fun is knowing there is a major twist, looking for it and then not seeing it until…. it hits you right on the old noodle! Ohhhhhhhhhhh.

THE WIFE BETWEEN US is fast and addictive with all the dark elements I know my twisty-loving tribe lives for.  If you belong to this tribe, you must read this book as soon as possible!

Great deal today on Amazon The Wife Between Us: A Novel

 

 

THE LIFE WE BURY

5 out of 5 stars!

  • Author: Allen Eskens
  • Published Oct. 14, 2014 by Seventh Street Books
  • Audio book 8 hrs, 24 mins

This book has been in my Audible wish list for at least three years. From the summary, it looks like a book I would enjoy: mystery, suspense, rave reviews. The only thing holding me back was the Vietnam War veteran as a character. How ridiculously picky is that? I was secretly afraid it would be too graphic in retelling old war stories. And it was a bit graphic, but thankfully very brief. As it turns out, Carl Iverson the paroled convict and war veteran, is a major reason this book is so lovable!

Amazon summary:

College student Joe Talbert has the modest goal of completing a writing assignment for an English class. His task is to interview a stranger and write a brief biography of the person. With deadlines looming, Joe heads to a nearby nursing home to find a willing subject. There he meets Carl Iverson, and soon nothing in Joe’s life is ever the same.

Carl is a dying Vietnam veteran–and a convicted murderer. With only a few months to live, he has been medically paroled to a nursing home, after spending thirty years in prison for the crimes of rape and murder.

As Joe writes about Carl’s life, especially Carl’s valor in Vietnam, he cannot reconcile the heroism of the soldier with the despicable acts of the convict. Joe, along with his skeptical female neighbor, throws himself into uncovering the truth, but he is hamstrung in his efforts by having to deal with his dangerously dysfunctional mother, the guilt of leaving his autistic brother vulnerable, and a haunting childhood memory. 

Thread by thread, Joe unravels the tapestry of Carl’s conviction. But as he and Lila dig deeper into the circumstances of the crime, the stakes grow higher. Will Joe discover the truth before it’s too late to escape the fallout?

My Read:

The heart tugging, suspenseful book centers around Joe, a street-smart college student. He has had to struggle for everything in his life. He never knew his dad, his mom is a raging alcoholic and his almost grown brother, Jeremy, is a perpetual seven year old due to his autism issues.

Our guy, Joe, literally stumbles onto a mystery while writing a biography essay on a nursing home resident, Carl Iverson.  If solved, the mystery may exonerate Carl of crimes that sent him to prison for 30 years. Carl doesn’t particularly care if he is exonerated or not, which makes the mystery even more compelling. Joe, however, does care. That is the kind of guy he is. Principled, caring, compassionate. And tough as nails.

Allen Eskens is a first rate storyteller and a natural born writer! The story flows effortlessly from Carl’s life story to Joe’s back story. They seem to not have anything in common with each other, but as they talk, their stories become intertwined. The ending is a little bit of a twist and 100% reader satisfying.

I can’t tell you how engrossed and invested I was while listening. I could not stop listening and the book made packing up for a big family move almost bearable! There was just enough of everything I love in a good story: mystery, suspense, likable (lovable) protagonists, real emotions and struggles, and a rewarding ending! I also adored the Minnesota setting, the cold, snowy weather provides the perfect tone to the story.

This book won all kinds of awards as a debut novel for Eskens. Deservedly so. You will not regret listening or reading this one! The audio book is narrated by one of the best actors I’ve heard, his name is Zach Villa. I felt he perfectly captured the voice of Joe and Carl. Not an easy task, considering the age and life differences of the two characters. If you like audio books, I highly recommend this one! If not, you must read it!!

Lucky for all readers, there are three more books in this Eskens series. They are touted as standalone books, but most of my Goodreads friends say the back stories are so interesting that you will want to read all of the books. That’s enough for me, I already borrowed the next audiobook from the handy dandy Overdrive app (free!!!) and started listening to THE GUISE OF ANOTHER.

Sadly, we are still packing and moving, but thank God for writers like Eskens for making it less painful. Available on Amazon. The Life We Bury

Author Biography

Allen Eskens grew up in the wooded hills of Missouri and, after high school, migrated north to pursue his education. He acquired a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Minnesota, and a Juris Doctorate from Hamline University School of Law. 71QbS7Yf0TL._SY200_He honed his creative writing skills in the M.F.A. program at Minnesota State University and took classes at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival and the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis.

THE HEAVENS MAY FALL is Allen’s third novel and it features three characters from his bestselling, book-club favorite THE LIFE WE BURY. THE HEAVENS MAY FALL explores a riveting murder case told from two opposing perspectives. Detective Max Rupert and attorney, Boady Sanden’s friendship is being pushed to the breaking point. Max is convinced that Jennavieve Pruitt was killed by her husband, Ben. Boady is equally convinced that Ben, his client, is innocent. As the case unfolds, the two are forced to confront their own personal demons. The truth about the stunning death of Jennavieve Pruitt remains a mystery until the very end.

THE LIFE WE BURY, Allen’s debut offering, was named the Best Debut Novel of 2014 at the Left Coast Crime Conference, winning the Rosebud Award. The Life We Bury was named a finalist for the Edgar Award, the Thriller Award and the Anthony Award for Best First Novel. It was also named a finalist for the Barry Award for Best Paperback Original novel and the Minnesota Book Award for Best Genre Fiction.

THE GUISE OF ANOTHER, Allen’s follow-up novel, tells the story of Max Rupert (one of the secondary characters from The Life We Bury) and his brother Alexander. Both are detectives with the Minneapolis Police Department and both get pulled into a dangerous cat-and-mouse hunt for the truth about a dead man with a secret past.

 

AWARD RECOGNITION FOR THE LIFE WE BURY:

WINNER! Left Coast Crime Rosebud Award, BEST DEBUT MYSTERY
WINNER! Barry Award, BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL
WINNER! Silver Falchion Award, BEST FIRST NOVEL: traditional
2015 Edgar® Award Finalist, BEST FIRST NOVEL
Minnesota Book Award Finalist, BEST GENRE NOVEL
Anthony Award Finalist, BEST FIRST NOVEL
ITW Thriller Awards Finalist, BEST FIRST NOVEL

MysteryPeople 2014 BEST DEBUT NOVEL
Suspense Magazine BEST BOOKS OF 2014/DEBUT AUTHOR

PRAISE FOR THE LIFE WE BURY:

“Thriller fans should keep their eyes on Eskens; he’s a comer.” —BOOKLIST