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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BEST DAY EVER

5 out of 5 stars!

  • Author: Kaira Rouda
  • Published on September 19, 2017
  • By Graydon House

From the Jacket:

“I glance at my wife as she climbs into the passenger seat, and I am bursting with confidence. Today will be everything I’ve promised her…and more…”
Paul Strom has the perfect life: a glittering career as an advertising executive, a beautiful wife, two healthy boys, and a big house in a wealthy suburb. And he’s the perfect husband: breadwinner, protector, provider. That’s why he’s planned a romantic weekend for his wife, Mia, at their lake house, just the two of them. It will be the best day ever.
But as Paul and Mia drive out of the city and into the countryside, a spike of tension begins to wedge itself between them. How perfect is any marriage, really? How much do they trust each other? Is Paul the person he seems to be? And what are his secret plans for the cottage weekend?
Forcing us to ask ourselves just how well we know those who are closest to us, this story crackles with dark energy spinning ever tighter towards its shocking conclusion.
In the page-turning vein of THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR and THE DINNER, this is a tautly suspenseful tale of deception and betrayal dark enough to destroy a marriage . . . or a life. 
Named one of POPSUGAR’s 25 Books to Read This Fall!
Named one of Barnes & Noble’s Top Books of the Month!

 

My Thoughts:

Who knew psychological suspense could be such fun? I love this book! It’s campy. Ludicrous. Wicked and delicious.

51aB1EHRF0L._SL250_Just don’t take it too seriously. I’ve seen other reviews that are so somber, stating the psychological storyline is forced and unbelievable. No offense to those negative reviews, but they completely neglect the amusement factor Kaira Rouda has so ingeniously employed in BEST DAY EVER.

Paul Strom has got the biggest ego of any fictional psychopath you’ve ever read. And he’s hilarious that way. Oh my gosh, some of the opinions this guy has! You will have more fun hating this character than should be legally allowed.

Yes, Paul is over the top. He’s a nut. But, he’s a creative nut. Not quite a serial killer, more along the lines of a big mean baby. He’s special and he will be the first to tell you that.

The entire book is told from Paul’s point of view. He’s taking his wife, Mia, to their lakehouse for a romantic weekend. The tongue in cheek writing style is evident in the title. Paul tells Mia many times that this is going to be the “best day ever.” But, from the first page, you just know it’s not.

The pages fly fast as fire and the ending is terrific! It is laugh out loud funny and suspenseful at the same time. I read the hardback and listened to the audiobook. The audio version is fantastic and the actor perfectly captures the ridiculousness that is Paul Strom. I highly recommend it.

Sidenote: I first received my Advance Reading Copy through NetGalley. As happens occasionally, the Kindle version was not formatted correctly and I was unable to read it. Then, I started seeing all the reviews on social media and I whined on someone’s Instagram post about not being able to read my copy. Whaaaaaaah…. the lovely Kaira Rouda saw my comment and contacted me. She said that she wanted me to have a copy so I could read it. Less than a week later I had a beautiful, finished hardbound book of my own. This is in no way influences my opinion of her book, but it does influence my opinion of her as a hardworking author. She has been very kind and approachable to our community of bloggers and influential readers. It is so appreciated, Kaira!

KairaRouda

ABOUT KAIRA

IT’S UP TO YOU TO MAKE YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE
HERE’S MY STORY. MAYBE IT WILL INSPIRE YOU.

I’ve dreamed of being an author since third grade and that dream finally came true when Real You Incorporated: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs was released. I had 20-plus years of marketing experience under my belt, including creating the first female-focused national real estate brand, Real Living.  Throughout these years, I created a personal and business branding process, which I packaged in Real You Incorporated to help women entrepreneurs define their brands.

The experience of writing Real You, and touring the country to speak about it, was an awesome culmination to my marketing and C-level business career. I created Real Living, the first female-focused brand in real estate, and the industry’s first consumer Web 2.0 portal. Building the Real Living brand with my husband I won the Stevie Women in Business Best Entrepreneur Award, Entrepreneur Magazine’s Fifty Fastest Growing Women-Led Businesses and was named one of Forbes’ Top 50 Women in Business to follow on Twitter. (My favorite award, though, was Kiwanis International’s Humanitarian of the Year recognizing me for starting the first homeless shelter for families in Columbus, Ohio.) I have been interviewed on Fox News, NBC and local media outlets across the country. I spoke to organizations across the nation including The Entrepreneurship Institute, NAWBO, the American Marketing Association, eWomanNetwork, Rotary, Kiwanis, YWCA, Austin Balance Expo for Women, Key4Women Program of Key Bank, Women’s Council of Realtors and the National Association of Realtors.

And then in 2010, with the help of a tweet, we sold Real Living. I found myself in the enviable, but scary position of asking myself: now what?

We’d moved from our Ohio to California and once the kids were settled, it was just me and my computer and a too-quiet house. The answer had been there all along. Finally, I turned to the career I’d always dreamed of and began writing full time.

My first women’s fiction novel Here, Home, Hope about a midlife makeover, ironically, was published in 2011. I was happily writing women’s fiction, and that’s probably the path I would have followed until I went to lunch with Jane Porter, a fabulous bestselling author who had just moved to Southern California. She encouraged me to try writing romance and I did. And I loved it! The Indigo Island Series of contemporary romance novellas launched in 2014 followed by the Laguna Beach series and Kindle World. In the summer of 2015, I spoke at the national Romance Writer’s of America conference in New York. My topic: Putting the Real You in Your Author brand. It’s as if my career has come full circle.

I’m delighted to be able to say I’m a USA Today bestselling author. My books have won several Indie Excellence Awards, USA Book Awards, the Reader’s Choice Awards and honorable mention in the Writer’s Digest International Book Awards. Recently, I signed a two-book deal with Graydon House Books, a new Harlequin imprint. I cannot wait for the launch of Best Day Ever next September. It’s another look behind the closed doors of seemingly perfect lives. A little darker, domestic suspense in the vein of All the Difference. I hope you’ll give it a read. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS

4 out of 5 stars

  • Author: Victoria Namkung
  • Publication date: November 7, 2017
  • By Griffith Moon

Goodreads Summary:

At Windemere School for Girls, one of America’s elite private schools, Dr. Gregory Copeland is the beloved chair of the English Department. A married father with a penchant for romantic poetry—and impressionable teenage girls—he operates in plain sight for years, until one of his former students goes public with allegations of inappropriate conduct. With the help of an investigative journalist, and two additional Windemere alumnae who had relationships with Copeland as students, the unlikely quartet unites to take him down.

Set in modern-day Los Angeles, These Violent Delights is a literary exploration of the unyielding pressures and vulnerabilities that so many women and girls experience, and analyzes the ways in which our institutions and families fail to protect or defend us. A suspenseful and nuanced story told from multiple points of view, the novel examines themes of sexuality, trauma, revenge, and the American myth of liberty and justice for all.

My Thoughts:

At first, I was not sure how to judge this book as a reader. It is well written, packs a Unknownpowerful message and it held my attention, even though it has a distinct non-fiction feel. So, four stars it is!  Plus, that gorgeous cover.

Chosen for its beautiful cover and title, I mistakenly assumed the book was a light mystery or domestic type thriller. It’s not.  Note to self: start reading summaries carefully.  I am really glad I continued reading, it was compelling and informative.

Here comes the dreaded “however”… reading this book feels exactly like watching a one hour episode of Law and Order. Da dum.

With spot-on relevancy to current events (#MeToo), I was expecting a great deal from this book. The story of different women that come forward, years later, to accuse a former high school teacher of horrible things was sadly dry, simply because of the way it was presented. We hear their stories in long rambling paragraphs of newspaper articles, letters, court testimony or social media posts.

We follow this story through all the different stages from initial public accusation, investigations and finally, the trial. Remember my Law and Order reference?
The book makes a strong statement for women and children’s rights and offers solutions to issues schools face when dealing with accusations against teachers. The author is deeply entrenched and knowledgeable with the American culture of rape and makes so many compelling arguments.
“Don’t you find it interesting that these types of crimes against women- whether it’s violence, sexual assault, rape- are the only kinds we force the victim to make a case about their own innocence before even investigating?”

I found it difficult to really connect to the protagonists in this story, much as I admired them for their courage. I was interested and cared about the characters. I just wanted to know them on a different level than as a victim.

The book is categorized in General or Women’s fiction. This is a difficult subject to serve as a thesis in a work of fiction. I think the author did a fantastic job of researching the facts and giving all the statistics involved in sexual abuse. It is insightful, valuable and educational for parents and older teens to read. I am so grateful for the opportunity to learn more about what we can do to prevent more women from having to remain silent.

Sadly, the problem lies in the fact that this is so relevant and the stories are so real that this short book reads more like non-fiction. And I want more story.

About Victoria Namkung (from her website)

For nearly 20 years, Victoria Namkung has been a Los Angeles-based author,  journalist, essayist, and cultural commentator. Her writing has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, NBC NewsVICE, Washington Post, USA TodayInStyle, and Los Angeles magazine, among other publications. As a speaker and panelist, she’s appeared at the AAAS Conference, Mixed Remixed, and the Asian American Journalists Association.Unknown-1

After receiving a master’s from UCLA, she taught courses on gender, immigration, and writing at UCSB, UCLA, and 826LA, respectively. Her research on Asian American males and import car culture in southern California was published as a chapter in the award-winning collection, Asian American Youth (Routledge), and was taught at esteemed universities such as Cornell University and Oberlin College.

The daughter of a Dublin-born Jewish mother and Korean father, Victoria was raised in Irvine, California and maintains dual citizenship in Ireland. Her debut novel, The Things We Tell Ourselves (Standard Time Press), was published in 2015. Victoria’s second novel, These Violent Delights (Griffith Moon), will be published in November 2017.

Many thanks to the wonderful folks at NetGalley for allowing me to read and honestly review this book.

LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE

4 out of 5 stars

  • Author: Celeste Ng
  • Published Sept. 12, 2017 by Penguin Audio
  • Narrated by Jennifer Lim

The whole time I was listening to this book, I couldn’t shake the feeling of deja vu. It finally dawned on me that Little Fires Everywhere inexplicably reminded me of a childhood favorite book called The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright. It’s a really old book, but let me tell you, when I was ten years old, I was obsessed with it!

Both books feature families of four rambunctious kids and Celeste Ng writes in a confident, animated manner that is reminiscent of Elizabeth Enright’s style. The books each have more of an infectious, rather than addictive quality. It is so fun to be in the middle of these families and root for one character and then feel sympathy for another.

Although this is only Ng’s second book, she has an established formula and successfully works it again. Instead of starting out with a death as she did in Everything I Never Told You, this time Ng starts out with the mystery of who set the house afire and works back telling the story of tangled adult relationships and secret lives of teenagers. Also, as in her first book, there are hints of simmering racism in the comfortable suburban utopia that is Shaker Heights, Ohio.

As I sit here dissecting the various themes of Little Fires Everywhere (and there are many!), the one that stands out the most to me is motherhood. What does it mean to be a mother? How much can we control the direction of our children’s lives? What rights, privileges, assumptions do we make about our kids? Finally, do we actually OWN the child that is borne to us? Ng expertly explores all the complicated angles of mother and child relationships.

I had been anxiously waiting for this book since the day I finished Ng’s first one. I embraced that first book and held onto it, pushing it onto friends, even into hands of complete strangers. It struck me as absolutely insightful and I adore that TWIST ending! Everything I Never Told You is a proud and worthy addition to my Twister Hall of Fame.

However, I just don’t get that overwhelming feeling of LOVE for this book. Ng is a carefully organized, brilliant writer and sometimes as a reader, I start to feel used, taken advantage of by the author. Ng is not exactly preachy, but every minor character, every little event in the story is absolutely overly constructed, placed to maximum effect. And that gets a bit tiresome, it’s like Ng is telling me how to feel and I don’t like that. These are all small grievances, but it does keep me from giving it a five star rating.

The audiobook performance by Jennifer Lim is one of the best I have ever heard and I listen to countless books on audio! I highly recommend the audiobook, I think Ng’s writing is well suited to this mode.

Little Fires Everywhere AMAZON

WHITE BODIES

  • 5/5 stars
  • Author:  Jane Robins
  • U.S. publication day:  9.19.2017

Have you ever googled a question and fallen down a rabbit hole for a couple of hours?  Yes, everyone has!

Imagine for a moment that you have a family member that you are worried about. Let’s say you think your sister may be in a dangerous relationship. You stumble onto a site called controllingmen.com. You find an enormous amount of helpful information. You linger on the site and end up chatting online with a couple of other friendly members. Now, what if you are a highly suggestible type personality? Do online strangers start getting you all revved up in a battered woman cause? Wait, is your sis really in trouble?

This is what happens to Callie. Her twin sister, Tilda, has always been worrisome and Callie feels it is her duty to rescue her, especially now that Felix has entered Tilda’s life.

This is the setup to what may be the best domestic suspense novel I have read all year!  I give WHITE BODIES all the stars and possibly even a coveted position in my TWISTER HALL OF FAME! I’m in love.

The entire novel is told from Callie’s POV in a first person narrative. It is a writing style I love when done well.  The style naturally propels the story in a fast, suspenseful manner. I also love the fact there aren’t any flashback chapters. Callie recalls a few memories of younger days, but the narrative is always in the present. The pages fly like fire. We discover clues when Callie does. She is the one investigating a troubling situation and the reader is along for the ride!

All the characters in the book are interesting, eccentric, and masterfully drawn. Jane Robins has created the best mix of odd-ball players I’ve read in a long while. Our protagonist, Callie, is clumsy, awkward and blurts out her thoughts before thinking. She is funny in a Bridget Jones sort of way. Tilda, her twin sister, is self-assured and graceful. An actress, she adores the spotlight and plays every situation as dramatically as possible. We also have Felix, Tilda’s new charming, controlling boyfriend. Tilda and Felix, together, have a toxic connection.

Domestic noir usually involves a husband/wife relationship that’s gone awry. But, WHITE BODIES is a study of the relationship between the twin sisters. What a strange relationship these two have. When certain characters die, you will drive yourself nuts trying to figure out this plot. The end of the book is shocking, plausible and written in such a clever way, it will blow your socks off!

I just can’t say enough how much I loved this book. It is written so well with a plot that is woven into the very structure of the pages. It was a thrill to read!

Amazon link White Bodies: An Addictive Psychological Thriller

FINAL GIRLS

5/5 stars

  • Author: Riley Sager
  • Publication date 7.11.2017
  • Penguin Group Dutton

Go with me for a second. Are you under the impression that FINAL GIRLS is about a horror movie?  Please tell me I’m not the only one that thought that!

That’s a huge misconception….The blurb says something about a “horror-movie scale massacre” and that’s all I remembered reading before thinking, “SKIP”. Not interested in  a horror movie re-make.

Well, I’m proud to announce that FINAL GIRLS is not about a movie. And double proud to announce it is a fun, scary and highly entertaining book!

There has been so much hype surrounding this current book of the month club that I was standoff-ish about rushing to it. I’m weird like that. Plus, like I said, I’m not much of a horror-movie-slasher fan. But then, Penguin Group Dutton publishers sent me an ARC and how could I not read it? I am so happy they did!

Do you know what a Final Girl is? A final girl is the sole survivor of a horrific murder scene. Movies like Halloween and Scream inevitably end with a final girl left standing.  Yet, another movie reference, sorry. Author Riley Sager has written a startling story about three final girls (all survivors of different gruesome scenes) who eventually have their separate lives intersect under troublesome circumstances.

Quincy Carpenter, aside from having a cute name, is a final girl. She lived through a mass murder scene ten years before and has tried her best to get on with a semi-normal life. A tad dependent on Xanax and dealing with a mild kleptomania problem, she has steadfastly stuck to her story that she didn’t remember anything about the night of the killings. She has dealt with her survivor guilt by becoming a successful baking blogger and by refusing to talk about that grisly night.

That’s really all you need to know about the set up of this addictive story. I was hesitant about the degree of slashi-ness, but it’s actually not that bad (nowhere near a Patricia Cornwell book!) and the narrative switches just fast enough between the murders 10 years ago and the new mystery Quincy is currently caught up in. So you never really have time to get tired of the bloody stuff!

Despite the subject matter, I wouldn’t call FINAL GIRLS a dark or disturbing horror novel. Big surprise to me! For one thing, author Riley Sager, is no Gillian Flynn. Sager’s writing is lighter, an almost superficial style, never diving below the surface of words. No need to read between the lines, just read.

There are a couple of plot twists, the pages turn fast, it is a very quick, compelling mystery. I love the character of Quincy. She is an imperfect, somewhat unreliable narrator and an interesting protagonist.

I have no doubt, FINAL GIRLS, has all the elements in place to be THE beach read book of 2017. And deservedly so.

THANK you to Penguin Group Dutton for the ARC. I appreciate the opportunity to give my honest opinion.
Final Girls: A Novel  Amazon

5 Perfect Podcasts to Binge this Weekend

  • Up and Vanished
  • S-Town 
  • Sincerely, X
  • My Favorite Murder
  • Sworn
  • Bonus Podcast:  What Should I Read Next?

Sometimes my eyes need a break from reading! But, chores and driving are absolutely too boring without a juicy book or podcast in my ears. These are my favorites!

UP AND VANISHED just finished its first season and oh my gosh! If you are even mildly interested in true crime/mystery and you aren’t familiar with this one, you’re in for a treat! Payne Lindsay, an everyday guy from Georgia, decides to launch an investigation into the disappearance of beauty queen and high school teacher, Tara Grinstead. Tara has been missing over 11 years and the case is freezing cold by the time Payne begins to look into the story in his Grandma’s hometown. TALK ABOUT PLOT TWISTS! Payne is a very RELIABLE narrator and the events unfold almost real time.  Not a spoiler (HUGE NATIONAL NEWS ATTENTION was given) to say Payne and his novice crew end up solving the case with the killer(s) arrested and awaiting trial at this moment. Start at the very beginning with Episode 1 to literally watch (listen to) the growing pains Payne experiences going from small time film maker to national crime solving hero. Fascinating.

S-TOWN The second season of the original SERIAL podcast, this season is completely different. Please tell me you already listened to Serial, the grandaddy of all podcasts? If not, that’s your first assignment. S- Town, I believe, started out to be on a similarly arced season with a murder to solve in S-town, Alabama. But (major plot twist) this story ends up being something completely different! I can’t give away anymore than that, it is a journey that you will not believe, won’t stop thinking about, and can’t stop talking about. I listened to it months ago and I still am blown away by the philosophical implications it raises about our country. Bookish hint: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance.

SINCERELY, X is a new podcast done by TED and Audible. It has quickly become my favorite in only four short (30-ish) minute episodes. The series features talks from speakers whose identities are hidden. Holy smokes, these stories will cut straight through to your heart and brain–so compelling! In Episode 2, entitled Pepper Spray, a woman describes what happened when she snapped one day in a retail store.  If you have ever dealt with anxiety issues, you will feel every ounce of her experience. Each stand-alone episode is presented by a victim or a perpetrator or an entrepreneur or an activist or an empath, or….

MY FAVORITE MURDER the app blurb reads: “Lifelong fans of true crime stories Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark tell each other their favorite tales of murder and hear hometown crime stories from friends and fans.” SO. DRY.  Actually, these two women are both hilarious working Hollywood types (google them). They’re not for everyone, they’re racy, candid and love to curse. They don’t make the murders funny, (no victim shaming ever) but they don’t hesitate to go the extra mile and comment on every aspect of the case they are featuring. I love Karen and Georgia!

SWORN is a spin-off from the UP AND VANISHED series. Listen to Up and Vanished first. Then when you are trying to shake off the withdrawals, turn on SWORN. By this time you’ll love Philip Holloway like he’s your own personal defense attorney and you’ll feel right at home on SWORN. As of right now, there are only three short episodes about The Lake Oconee Murders from Florida. It is going to be another captivating podcast.

WHAT SHOULD I READ NEXT? If you read or blog or blog about reading, you probably know of Anne Bogel. She’s the charming person behind the very popular Modern Mrs. Darcy blog. Each week, Anne interviews a reader and finds out their tastes in books. Then, she makes recommendations about what to read next. I have learned about so many different wonderful books from this show, it’s a no-miss podcast for me. Plus, Anne Bogel has a beautiful voice to die-for!

What podcasts do you love? What am I missing out on? Let me know!