THE PERFECT NANNY

FIVE STARS

  • Author: Leila Slimani
  • US Publication date: January 9, 2018
  • UK Title: LULLABY

Goodreads SummaryWhen Myriam, a mother and brilliant French-Moroccan lawyer, decides to return to work, she and her husband are forced to look for a caretaker for their two young children. They are thrilled to find Louise: the perfect nanny right from the start. Louise sings to the children, cleans the family’s beautiful apartment in Paris’s upscale tenth arrondissement, stays late whenever asked, and hosts enviable kiddie parties. But as the couple and the nanny become more dependent on each other, jealousy, resentment, and frustrations mount, shattering the idyllic tableau.

I still have chills days after finishing THE PERFECT NANNY. I’ve skipped over this novel many times thinking it would be the old “hand that rocks the cradle” plot. I could not have been more wrong. This unusual book got under my skin in the quietest, creepiest way possible and it deserves nothing less than 5 stars.

The story opens with a brief graphic scene of violence depicting the death of two young children at the hands of their nanny. I almost put down the book, I was afraid it would continue. But, no, that is only the first two pages. An unsettling and disturbing framework is set and the reader now views the rest of the story from the beginning, all the while knowing how this is going to end.

Since we know WHO, the driving force of this tense character profile is WHY? As in real life, we see glimpses of madness in a person, but rarely is there a definable answer as to why someone would commit such a heinous act. Instead, it is a combination of inexplicable factors in a disturbed mind that may quietly lead to violence.

The terrifying part to me is how the loving parents unknowingly invited a madwoman into their home. She appeared to them to be an angel, an actual Mary Poppins. Until, the unraveling began. And then it was too late.

“She has the keys to their apartment; she knows everything; she has embedded herself so deeply in their lives that it now seems impossible to remove her.”

The writing is smooth, yet spare. Leila Slimani has won many writing awards in her home country of France and it is easy to see why. I love this style of writing with one omniscient narrator telling the story in a simple, almost hypnotic manner. The short book is absolutely riveting and compulsively readable.

This is for readers that loved Unraveling Oliver or We Need to Talk About Kevin. However, this novel feels completely fresh and is a much faster read than either of these. Truly, one of my new favorites.

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

THE LAST MRS. PARRISH

4 / 5 Stars

  • Hardcover, 400 pages
  • Published October 17th 2017 by Harper
  • Author: Liv Constantine

This is a fantastic book with only three characters. Husband, wife, and home-wrecker. It’s no spoiler to tell you that Amber Patterson is the home wrecker and a self-avowed woman on a mission. Motivated mostly by her wish to be tremendously wealthy, Amber is determined to OUTRIGHT steal Jackson Parrish away from his sweet, beautiful wife, Daphne. What ensues is unbelievably fun to read about. Deliciously wicked.Unknown-1

First, what I love about this book:

The story is entertaining and addictive! I couldn’t put it down.
The writing is effortless, easy and flows at a naturally fast pace.
The structure of the book is perfect. The first third is Amber’s POV, the second is Daphne’s and the third part is a bit of a combination conclusion. (I enjoyed Daphne’s section so much more than Amber’s!)

And, the best part, THE LAST MRS. PARRISH has one of the most satisfying endings to a story I’ve read in a long time!

What I don’t like:

This book is too long. Even though it reads fast for a 400 page book, there is too much fat. Where are those editors when you need one? For the first half of the book, we get an up close, continuous description of how the “one percent” lives and that starts to get tiring.

Ok, we get it, Jackson Parrish is super duper rich and buys very expensive clothes, shoes, and jewelry for Mrs. Parrish. If you’re into designer brand names, etc. you will enjoy reading about the trappings and joys of wealth. And that’s not a bad thing! But, if you tire of this part, persevere until the second half where the plot really picks up.

Aside from not really feeling a connection to the characters, there is also not any suspense in this book. There is a mild twist, but you will probably not be that surprised.

All of these negatives are only because my expectations were that this would be a “twisted, psychological thriller”. I mean, it says it right there on the book jacket.

It’s my opinion that this book is mis-categorized. I would call it women’s fiction (I hate “chick-lit”). It is VERY light on the psychological suspense and there is not a thriller vibe or shocking mystery to solve.

Overall, this is a very fun book to read , most people will love it and I’m betting it is going to be very popular.

The strange thing is….it is almost the exact same plot line from THE WIFE BETWEEN US by Greer Hendricks, which is the book I read just before this one. Caaaarazzzzy.

In contrast, THE WIFE BETWEEN US is a much darker, tighter, twisted story and I did give it all the stars.  That book doesn’t come out until January 2018. I will post a review closer to publication.

THE LAST MRS. PARRISH is scheduled for US publication today, October 17. It has a gorgeous cover and I want to thank the lovely Chelsea Humphrey from http://www.thesuspenseisthrillingme.com for gifting it to me as part of a giveaway.

 

Available today on Amazon! The Last Mrs. Parrish: A Novel

THE AUTHORS

Unknown-2Liv Constantine is the pen name of sisters Lynne Constantine and Valerie Constantine. Separated by three states, they spend hours plotting via skype and burning up each other’s emails. They attribute their ability to concoct dark story lines to the hours they spent listening to tales handed down by their Greek grandmother. THE LAST MRS. PARRISH is their debut thriller.

-As shown on  their Goodreads profile.

AND THEN THERE WERE NONE

5/5 Stars

  • Author: Agatha Christie
  • Paperback, 300 pages
  •  Published March 29th 2011 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published November 6th 1939)

I’m a confirmed puzzle lover. Crosswords, sudoko, Scrabble, Clue, card games. I love them all. Puzzle love extends to my go-to lit genre. The way an author crafts a mystery with a surprise yet plausible ending is the best in my book (pun, intended). There is so much fun to be had in gathering clues and solving the puzzle the author has created.

That is all the more reason the confession I have to make is deeply shameful. This is the first Agatha Christie book I have ever read in my life.

I know. I know. Go ahead and scorn me. I’ve scorned myself for years over this glaring omission in my library of loves.

I did try. Given I was about thirteen at the time, it was nothing more than an ambitious plan to read Murder on the Orient Express after seeing the movie. I got no further than the first chapter, struggling with the formal prose.

The distaste stayed in my mind far longer than necessary and despite laboring over classical literature for years in college, I still lingered with my teenage opinion that Agatha Christie is just “too hard to read.”

BULLOCKS! (Excuse my English, but I’m feeling very British now.) As an adult reader, I still found the first 50 pages somewhat disorienting and slow to get started. After the story is set up and you settle into the quaint writing style, the pages fly and the spooky story is completely captivating.

There are ten characters, of course, and they are all summoned by an unknown host to holiday on a small island. As the story unfolds, we see that each of the guests harbor a deep, dark guilty secret. This cast of quirky endearing characters is part of the story’s charm.

The tale is told from an omniscient narrator. We get to know the characters from the outwardly image they present to the world. But, more importantly we are able to examine their deep-seated fears, panicky thoughts, and stubborn egos as their tender souls are laid wide open for the reader to examine.

The Ten Little Soldiers nursery rhyme is prominently displayed both in the novel and in the vacation house the guests are secluded in. The tension ratchets up quickly. We all know what is coming. Murder. One by one. There are no outsiders on the island. Therefore, the murderer must be one of the ten.  A metaphorical time bomb starts ticking with the first murder because you know it is only a matter of time until everyone is dead. The dread and fear is palpable throughout the novel.

The mystery seems absolutely impossible to solve as you read. After some of the crazy mysteries I’ve read over the years, I was all over the place trying to solve it. I had to keep reminding myself, this is not the best selling mystery in the world for nothing! There is no supernatural element here, it is not a dream, not a joke.

It is a brilliantly constructed puzzle with one equally brilliant answer.

Agatha Christie is a master puzzle crafter. The Best. Regarding the writing process for this novel, Dame Christie states, “…the person who was really pleased with it was myself, for I knew better than any critic how difficult it had been.”

She knew she was a genius. Love it.

Amazon has a great deal! And Then There Were None

THE PASSENGER

4/5 stars

  • Author: Lisa Lutz
  • Published on 3.1.2016
  • Simon & Schuster

Looking for a ride? Take your seat on THE PASSENGER. Clear your schedule for the next two days and settle in for a twisted adventure on the run!

Our feisty girl, Tanya (not her real name), has just walked in on her dead husband. It seems he took an accidental fall down the stairs. Instead of calling 911, she packs a bag, clears out a bank account and takes off. WHAT A PROMISING PREMISE! I was hooked after that first short chapter. This is an extremely addictive story and I’m so happy to tell you guys about it.

I love stories where the protagonist is on the run or they have to disappear a la witness protection program. It gets my adrenaline going and I get to learn all kinds of cool and perhaps useful stuff. Who knows when I will need to pick a lock, buy a car on the fly, or dye my hair in a diner restroom? You never know when this knowledge will come in handy. It is just like I always say…..Books make you smart!

I consider THE PASSENGER to be an especially good “on the run” book because:

a. Our protagonist is FEMALE!
b. She is likable, but not perfect.
c. Plot twists abound! Literally around every corner.
d. Nice psychological study of our girl on the run.
e. Fast-paced, easy to read, clear consice writing.
f. Burning mystery for the reader to solve.
g. A few fun red herrings.
h. Mystery is solved in a believable, realistic (AND SATISFYING!) manner.
i. A handbook on what not to do if you ever just want to disappear!

I found this story really compelling and was immediately captivated with it. I am so glad I picked it up from my adorable used bookstore. I had tried the audio version last year when it first came out and was really turned off by the narrator’s voice.

Man, I hate when the audio turns you off of an otherwise great book. If that happened to you, try reading the book in that old-school paper way that our ancestors invented.

The Passenger   AMAZON Link

ARTEMIS

2/5 stars

  • Author: Andy Weir
  • Publication date: 11.14.2017

Apologies in advance. You’re not gonna like what I have to say.

This is not the review I was expecting to write, but this is not the book I was expecting to read.

Andy Weir has successfully taken the one element I didn’t like in THE MARTIAN and expanded on that until ARTEMIS is almost a chore to read. Major disappointment.

Remember our hero, Mark, in The Martian? His jokey, sarcastic personality started to grate on my nerves towards the end of the book. It’s like he never quit with the relentless joking. Staring death in the face? Make a joke. Starving to death? Play some funny music. Ok, we get it! Mark is all about the comic relief. Why does it have to be so overdone and heavy-handed? I still enjoyed the book for all the old-school science fiction fun.

HOWEVER, after cutting Weir some slack for his forced characterizations in The Martian, I am not so ready to do the same with Artemis.

Guess what? Jazz, our female protagonist in Artemis, has almost the exact same personality as Mark from The Martian. Ugggggghhhhh. And that goofy, insulting character is even more annoying in a grown woman. Is that sexist? I hope not. I don’t mean it to be.

Oh, and by the way, Jazz is the town tramp (with a heart of gold) because of her reputation for sleeping with so many guys. Hysterical.

The book starts out very fun to read. I really enjoyed reading how the city of Artemis came to be established on the moon. I loved reading about the actualities of lunar living with 1/6 of the gravity. I liked learning about the moon’s surface, dust and atmosphere. There just wasn’t enough of the moon facts for me.

Also, I’m beginning to question Andy Weir’s imagination for the future. The moon inhabitants walk around and do all their business transactions on small computers that they carry. They pay for items and surf the internet on these “gizmos” as they are called. FASCINATING STUFF right here.

What there is plenty of:
Welding. Yes, welding. More than I ever want to know about welding.
Stupid middle-school humor that the very smart adults all seem to love.
Forced, unnatural dialogue.
Convoluted, crazy plot that never really makes sense.
Integral characters that are unexplained, because of one-note superficial writing.

After the first third of the book, I had to push through to finish it. Especially the middle part with all the welding. Take my advice and skim skim skim through the welding. The very end ramps up with some excitement, but not enough to make up of for the rest. Sad.

I would have liked more moonwalking, less welding. More thinking, less insulting. More imagination, less joking. More sci-fi, less lame comedy.

Amazon link Artemis: A Novel