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.

 

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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.

JAR OF HEARTS

FOUR STARS

  • Author: Jennifer Hillier
  • US Publication date: June 12, 2018

After feeling duped into reading a few too many light weight “thrillers” that are promoted as dark and twisted, all I can say is:  Thank God!! this book doesn’t read like chick-lit! It really is dark and twisted, a bit gritty and graphic and best of all, set in the Pacific Northwest!! Hooray! Also, the pacing is extremely fast, I read the entire thing in a matter of hours.

All good things, yes? Ok, to be honest, YES! My minor complaints: a little deeper characterization would have been most welcome. Also, the book felt too short! I wanted so much more to the final reveal. The ending felt rushed and was over too soon.

JAR OF HEARTS refers to a mason jar of cinnamon candy hearts, not a jar of real hearts (whew!)…This isn’t a Jeffrey Dahmer story, but it does sidle right up to the borderline between thriller and too many violent details. I know, I know, I love my dark and disturbed characters! BUT, I don’t really enjoy reading graphic details first hand in a novel. I like to keep my distance and let the the investigator read the autopsy report. Thankfully, this one is brief on the Patricia Cornwell-type ickiness, but it gets a bit close for me.

The mystery feels fresh and original, even if it’s not. It’s written in an engaging, addictive manner and I was immediately pulled into the complicated friendship between Georgina, Angela, and Kaiser. When Calvin enters the story, all their lives are changed forever. The high school flashback parts are brief and essential to the story. I never felt like the story lagged, even between time switchbacks. The parts of the story focused on life in a women’s prison were fascinating to me! Most of the book felt very authentic, realistic and thoroughly researched.

Well done, Jennifer Hillier! Now I just need to dig out my copy of Creep, I LIIIIIIKE YOU AND WANT TO READ MORE!

I definitely would recommend this book if you enjoy a serial killer/crime fiction every once in awhile. This one is fast, engrossing, gritty– but, not too graphic. JUST about perfect!

Thanks to NetGalley and the author for my galley copy. The book is set to be released on Tuesday, June 12, 2018. All opinions are my own

Goodreads Summary: This is the story of three best friends: one who was murdered, one who went to prison, and one who’s been searching for the truth all these years . . .

When she was sixteen years old, Angela Wong—one of the most popular girls in school—disappeared without a trace. Nobody ever suspected that her best friend, Georgina Shaw, now an executive and rising star at her Seattle pharmaceutical company, was involved in any way. Certainly not Kaiser Brody, who was close with both girls back in high school.

But fourteen years later, Angela Wong’s remains are discovered in the woods near Geo’s childhood home. And Kaiser—now a detective with Seattle PD—finally learns the truth: Angela was a victim of Calvin James. The same Calvin James who murdered at least three other women.

To the authorities, Calvin is a serial killer. But to Geo, he’s something else entirely. Back in high school, Calvin was Geo’s first love. Turbulent and often volatile, their relationship bordered on obsession from the moment they met right up until the night Angela was killed.

For fourteen years, Geo knew what happened to Angela and told no one. For fourteen years, she carried the secret of Angela’s death until Geo was arrested and sent to prison.

While everyone thinks they finally know the truth, there are dark secrets buried deep. And what happened that fateful night is more complex and more chilling than anyone really knows. Now the obsessive past catches up with the deadly present when new bodies begin to turn up, killed in the exact same manner as Angela Wong.

How far will someone go to bury her secrets and hide her grief? How long can you get away with a lie? How long can you live with it?

THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT

FIVE STARS

  • Author: Chris Bojhalian
  • By: Doubleday
  • Publication Date: March 13, 2018

YES YES YES!! Last page turned. Cue the slow clap. This is a phenomenal character-driven mystery WITH A TWISTY, SATISFYING ENDING I will not soon forget.

I don’t know who said “the devil is in the details” but if that’s true, then Chris Bohjalian is the devil himself. The plot is intricate and complex with well-researched details and data providing clues for the reader in this story of international suspense.

Yes, much of the story is set in cushy locales and sumptuous hotels, but the pull of the novel lies in our high-flying party girl. Our flight attendant, Cassie, is a psychologically impaired young woman who single-handedly drinks more in an evening than I do in a year. She means well and does worry about her bad habits. She loves her friends and family and volunteers at the animal shelter whenever she is at home in NYC. Awww, a detail that deff pulled at my heartstrings. Cassie, with all her flaws, is a human being as real as any fictional character can possibly become. She is endearing, maddening, and most of all, REAL! I loved her.

I don’t want to give away any of the story line, because it goes in places you will not expect. And you will love that. What I can say is… this is the book I wanted The Woman in Cabin 10 to be. It is a very strong and convincing plot with thoroughly fleshed out characters. Ruth Ware is a swell writer, but (forgive me for saying!) she could stand to learn a thing or two from Bohjalian when it comes to structure and plot.

You think you’ve heard all the gossipy stories about the crazy things passengers do on planes? Wait until you read some of the nuggets Cassie has to share about things she has seen in her career! I also loved reading about the flight schedules, the day-to-day life, THE DETAILS of what it’s like to be a flight attendant. I found it riveting!!

An old-fashioned suspense thriller that reads as fast as an addictive domestic noir, it is simply terrific. All my writerly respect to the brilliant Mr. Bohjalian! You will not want to miss this one. UnknownBlogger’s note: I posted this review originally on GoodReads a few weeks before the book publication date. Chris Bohjalian saw the review and tweeted out my most treasured tweet ever……

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About the author:

Chris Bohjalian is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of 20 books.  His work has been translated into over 30 languages and three times become movies.

Writers-Digest-CoverThe paperback of “The Sleepwalker” was just published.

He has a brand new novel arriving in March 2018, “The Flight Attendant.”

His books have been chosen as Best Books of the Year by the Washington Post, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Hartford Courant, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, Bookpage, and Salon.

His awards include the Walter Cerf Medal for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts; the ANCA Freedom Award for his work educating Americans about the Armenian Genocide; the ANCA Arts and Letters Award for The Sandcastle Girls, as well as the Saint Mesrob Mashdots Medal; the New England Society Book Award for The Night Strangers; the New England Book Award; Russia’s Soglasie (Concord) Award for The Sandcastle Girls; a Boston Public Library Literary Light; a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Trans-Sister Radio; a Best Lifestyle Column for “Idyll Banter” from the Vermont Press Association; and the Anahid Literary Award. His novel, Midwives,was a number one New York Times bestseller, a selection of Oprah’s Book Club, and a New England Booksellers Association Discovery pick. He is a Fellow of the Vermont Academy of Arts and Sciences.

He has written for a wide variety of magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Reader’s Digest, and The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine.  He was a weekly columnist in Vermont for The Burlington Free Press from 1992 through 2015.

Chris graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude from Amherst College. He has been awarded Honorary Degrees as well from Amherst and Champlain College.

He lives in Vermont with his wife, the photographer Victoria Blewer.

Their daughter, Grace Experience, is a young actor in New York City. Among the audiobooks she has narrated are Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands and The Guest Room.

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

 

 

NIGHT FILM

5 / 5 stars!

  • Author: Marisha Pessi
  • Kindle Edition, 640 pages/ Published August 20th 2013 by Random House
  • Audiobook, Unabridged / Published August 20th 2013 by Random House Audio  23 hours 9 min.  Narrated by Jake Weber.

After spending a whole day peeling back the Night Film tentacles from around my head, 51vWflKwGPL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_I can gratefully report that I’m almost back to my normal self after reading this one.

Let me correct the last part of that sentence. One does not simply read Night Film. Before you open this book, take a moment to prepare yourself.

You are about to enter into a multi-media, multi-sensory whole body experience. It is not unlike having a black magic spell cast upon your coconut. You will know nothing but Night Film. Think of nothing but Night Film. If you do sleep, your dreams will be the creepy, dark type. You start to feel you are being watched. You will dig out your long lost pepper spray and start carrying it with you on walks. You will find yourself googling Stanislas Cordova. Was he actually given the 1980 Oscar for Best Director by the lovely Goldie Hawn?

YES! YOU KNOW IT’S FICTIONAL, BUT YOUR MIND WON’T ACCEPT THE FACT. It is presented in such a realistic manner with authentic photos, videos, and articles from Vanity Fair,  The Rolling Stone, Time Magazine and The New York Times. There are police reports, artifacts, and interview transcriptions to help with your investigation. It’s one thing to read about a haunting photo, but to have that photo to study for yourself? Genius.

PLOT SUMMARY: The daughter of a reclusive horror-film director Stanislas Cordova is found dead, and fallen journalist Scott McGrath falls into a maddening wormhole of trying to uncover the truth behind the girl’s murder. Night Film gets darker and more twisted the deeper McGrath ventures into Cordova’s world—the man hasn’t been seen in public in 30 years, and his films are so horrifying that it’s believed the person who created them must be seriously disturbed as well.

The book is bone-chilling scary, but not in an obvious slasher way. The author creates and instills just enough fear to make your imagination run away with a suitcase and never come back. This is a major theme of Night Film: the power of imagination and the human mind which seeks to bridge the gap between the two. When faced with the unknown, we tend to look for answers in religion or just plain old superstitions. Can our fears all be explained in concrete, provable terms? Does evil always have to have a reason to exist? Pessl doesn’t give us all the answers and that’s why every person that reads Night Film will take away something different. I love that.

A genre-bending book, I have no idea how it could be classified justly. I would recommend it first and foremost just for the murder investigation at the heart of the plot. From the prologue until the bitter end, discovering what really happened to Ashley Cordova will keep you turning the pages all night. Now, add in the multi-media presentation because that greatly enhances the story and experience. This technique is unique without being gimmicky, and is truly original. Next, sprinkle in some Stephen King horror elements and just a touch of the supernatural–voila!  You have Night Film.

This is not a perfect book, much as I want all my favorites to be. It is a bit too long and the ending is not as satisfying as it could be. But, these minor points are easily overcome by Pessl’s fabulous writing style. She reminds me of my two spirit animals, Gillian Flynn and Tana French, writing in a fluid, descriptive manner. Her characters are fleshed out, the plot is addictive and the mood she sets? Wow. Dark, haunting, sobering.

I began this book on audio. I quickly realized I needed to see written words, since this is a complex GIANT novel. It was only then that I understood how much I would have missed by sticking only with audio! I hadn’t read a ton of reviews and I didn’t even know about the multi-media part of the book. Trust me! This is where the magic happens! You feel like you are right there on the case with Scott McGrath, studying clues and helping to solve the twisted Cordova mystery.

The Kindle multi-media version is amazing and when coupled with the astonishingly good audio, well, you can understand why I had to recover a day when I finished.  If you are open to a bit of horror in your psychologically twisty mysteries, this is the book for you. I can’t recommend it enough!

PESSL1-RESIZE-206x300If you’re here, perhaps you know the basics. I’m a New York Times bestselling author. My first novel, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, was named one of the ten best books of the year by the New York Times. My second book, Night Film, was named a best book by NPR, Cosmopolitan and Bookpage, and is currently in development with Chernin Entertainment at 20th Century Fox. My books have been published in over twenty-five languages.

I grew up in Asheville, North Carolina and currently live with my family in New York City. I attended Northwestern University, where I majored in Film, then transferred to Barnard College where I majored in English Literature with a minor in Playwriting.

After graduating I was hired by PricewaterhouseCoopers as a financial consultant. In my tiny cubicle on the fifty-second floor of the Fox News Building, when my boss believed I was hard at work on PowerPoint presentations, I was actually searching the company database for cool character names for the new novel I was writing called The Anatomy of Butterflies, later retitled, Memoir of an American Girl. Two years later, after moving to London, I finished the book, which came to be known as Special Topics in Calamity Physics.

My favorite part of this job is the creation—building a universe from scratch, populating the planet with characters, landmarks, and hidden tunnels. I used to plot out my books meticulously but now I start with an evocative premise and see where it leads. I’m often asked to explain what my novels are about, but I find it difficult to answer. Writing is a meditation, a brutal trek through the wilderness, and a magic trick all at once.

I’m in awe of fearless people who build companies and outsiders who design worlds, anyone who isn’t afraid to break the mold or stand alone. People who never stop seeking the truth to the mysteries of their lives with courage, humor, and a healthy respect for murk.

A few artists who influence my work are Agatha Christie, John Hughes, Mark Twain, David Lynch, Shel Silverstein, and Truman Capote.

I love anyone who takes time out of their hectic lives to read, so I look forward to meeting you in bookstores around the world.

taken from her website