SEE WHAT I HAVE DONE

Unknown-14/5 Stars

  • Author: Sarah Schmidt
  • Expected publication:  August 1st 2017 by Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Hardcover, 336 pages

Sarah Schmidt is a brilliant, exciting new author hailing from Australia. Her debut novel, SEE WHAT I HAVE DONE, is a clever reimagining of a well-known American murder mystery. (Not only that, but what about that gorgeous cover? I gotta thing for creepy looking bird covers.)

On a sweltering August morning in 1892, Lizzie Borden’s father and stepmother were hacked to death in their Massachusetts home with a hatchet. Lizzie was accused of the murders, locked up for ten months and tried in court. She was acquitted by the jury of twelve men. “The jurymen considered the fact that no one found blood on Lizzie, considered the fact that the house showed no signs of forced entry, considered the fact that Andrew could be a very hard man, considered that there was no murder weapon found.” But, ultimately, they decided Lizzie was innocent because “women just don’t do this type of crime.”

These are the facts. But there are more layers in this horror story than the dust that has built up on the Borden parlor rug. The author lures readers like a witch’s bony finger beckoning, inviting you to a front row seat in this dysfunctional, hateful family psychodrama. The writing is cryptic, creepy, and dreamy. The disturbed childish thoughts endlessly spit out of Lizzie’s mind. It is a suffocating book with no escape.

While the writing is of the highest quality, the content is so gruesome and macabre, I can only recommend SEE WHAT I HAVE DONE with reservations. This is not for the namby-pamby reader. I consider myself somewhat stouthearted, but I turned absolutely green around the gills while reading this book with my morning oatmeal.  I REPEAT: Do not eat and read this book at the same time unless you have a cast iron stomach. I don’t have a total count on how many times the words blood, vomit, hair, congealed or thick fluids is used, but trust me, it is up there.

Oh and by the way, prepare yourself to find unpleasant body odors described in detail and often. You get the idea, now proceed with caution, it’s an excellent story.

AMAZON link See What I Have Done

THE CHILD

 

4/5 Stars

  • Author: Fiona Barton
  • Published June 29th 2017 by Transworld Digital (first published June 27th 2017)

I guess I’m one of the few mystery lovers on the planet that didn’t read Fiona Barton’s debut, The Widow, last year. The Widow won all kinds of awards, including an NPR Best Book of 2016 accolade.

I stumbled onto The Child, the author’s sophomore attempt, and was very pleasantly surprised. It is a snappy, cozy little Brit mystery with interesting characters and a major plot twist ending. No one changes bodies or minds or whatever,  yet Fiona Barton masterfully weaves all the clues together to form a satisfying, realistic and just creepy enough ending.

I really, really like the main character, Kate Waters. She is an old-school reporter still fighting for respect as a newspaper woman in a digital age. Remember newspaper journalists? I kind of miss those hard-hitting-go-after-the-story-characters-despite-police-warnings to back off (sorry for all the hyphens!). Whatever happened to those guys? Nowadays the local news reports are mostly filled with Facebook and Twitter highlights. The character, Kate Waters, is in The Widow, but the books are not part of a series. Read either one first, it won’t matter to the plot, and I’m sure you will enjoy both.

There are a handful of other characters in the book and the author does not bog down in the details of their lives, making for fast and furious page turning. The plot is somewhat complicated, not overly so, and the surprise ending is completely plausible. Yes!

This must be the year of missing baby mysteries, but unlike Michael Robotham’s The Secrets She Keeps, The Child is multi-layered story and much more interesting mainly due to the relatable character of Kate Waters. This is definitely a page-turner for your Summer 2017 TBR stack. Now please excuse me while I go download The Widow.

AMAZON The Child The Child
AMAZON The Widow The Widow

NO EXIT

 5/5 Stars

  • Author: Taylor Adams
  • Kindle Edition, 278 pages
  • Published June 25th 2017 by Joffe Books

BE A PART OF THE MASSES WHO ARE READING THIS BOOK NOW! NO EXIT IS CURRENTLY ON THE TOP TEN BESTSELLER LIST as of 8-5-17 ! Just click on the image above to buy your copy today!

ATTENTION MY FELLOW TWISTERS!! Drop everything, run to the bookstore, Amazon, library or your Audible account . NO EXIT by Taylor Adams is your magic carpet ride out of a sweltering summer and into a twisted snowy hell.

A kidnapped little girl locked in a stranger’s van. No help for miles. What would you do?

Darby Thorne is a college student stranded by a blizzard at a highway rest stop in the middle of nowhere. She’s on the way home to see her sick mother. She’ll have to spend the night in the rest stop with four complete strangers. Then she stumbles across a little girl locked inside one of their parked cars. There is no cell phone reception, no telephone, no way out because of the snow, and she doesn’t know which one of the other travelers is the kidnapper.

The entire story takes place in a rest exit stop in the Colorado mountains in the span of just one night. The setting is eerily reminiscent of THE SHINING and the mood is equally as creepy.

The first plot turn left me literally breathless (I was caught off guard I LOVE THAT!!), and trust me, that’s not the only bolt out of the blue. The uneasy suspense builds page after page until all the characters have gone off the deep end and completely off course. Darby Thorne is the reluctant leader of a child rescue attempt. I identified with her from the start, she cares about others – but, she would rather not get involved, you know? She is forced to overcome her hesitancies for the sake of the abducted child and goes full throttle until the shocking climax of the story. Don’t miss the Epilogue! Oh, man, this book is good.

I cannot wait to see the movie version. Hey Hollywood! Here’s the perfect script, we all need more escapist diversions from our boring lives, right? Please please make NO EXIT into a movie, thank you very much.

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

BEHIND HER EYES

1/5 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMAZON link
Behind Her Eyes: A Suspenseful Psychological Thriller

FRIEND REQUEST

4/5 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amazon US Friend Request

WATCH ME DISAPPEAR

4/5 Stars

    • Author: Janelle Brown
    • Hardcover, 368 pages
    • Published July 11th 2017 by Spiegel & Grau

Janelle Brown, the author of WATCH ME DISAPPEAR, says in her Goodreads author profile that her books “tend to be page-turners with dysfunctional family relationships at their hearts.” I couldn’t have said that better myself. Throw in a compelling mystery and this book exceeds that description.

WATCH ME DISAPPEAR tugged at my own heart from the beginning with a beautifully described scene of a family of three –lying on their backs watching hundreds of butterflies cling to the eucalyptus trees during the monarch migration through Northern California. We soon find out that things are not always as beautiful as they appear.  Before too long one member of this family has gone missing and the book takes us on a truth finding mission that had me quickly turning the pages until the twisted end.

Janelle Brown is an effortless writer. She is so good, you won’t even notice the writing, and she expertly gives an authentic voice to husband Jonathan and his teenage daughter, Olive. Between these two character’s roles we are left to our own speculation of what happened to missing mom, Billie. Finally, in the Epilogue, the reader hears Billie’s thoughts for the first time. We find out exactly what may or may not have happened to her.

I love the California setting of the book; the mountains, deserts and beaches of the West Coast are colorfully drawn. The story mostly takes place in the small city of Berkeley, with coffee shops and neighborhoods brightly depicted. There are some mean girls and high school angst issues that may appeal to the YA crowd, but the marital secrets and lies are the subjects that create the uneasy suspense in the book.

The book is quick to read but there is one slow wordy area, the Epilogue itself. This last chapter was a bit too tedious for me. I would have liked a few of the thoughts in the epilogue to have been scattered as bread crumb clues throughout the book instead of all at once.

Many thanks to NetGalley,  Random House, and Janelle Brown for allowing me to read and review this book.

AMAZON link Watch Me Disappear: A Novel

LIES SHE TOLD

5/5 Stars

  • Author: Cate Holahan
  • Crooked Lane Books

Completely captivating, LIES SHE TOLD receives a 5 star rating on the old Twister Richter Scale!

A book within a book that is actually believable (no shape-shifting or body-snatching!), twisty and mind-bending.

Our main character, Liza Cole, is a romance/suspense writer. She has been in a writing slump for several months due to fertility issues and her husband’s distraction about his missing business partner. Liza’s protagonist in her current book, a similarly aged woman, Beth, could be described as Liza’s alter ego, she is a completely fictional character. But, real in the sense that she is in Liza’s book and in her constant thoughts. Got all that? The lines start getting a little blurry, then they get a lot blurry.

Don’t worry, Cate Holahan (the REAL author of this book) has expertly written a parallel story universe that exists between Liza and Beth. You have to stay on your tippy toes to keep up with this story, don’t miss any details, everything is a clue!

Unreliable narrator? Check. We have not one, but two extremely untrustworthy narrators! Hooray! And those narrators have unreliable characters in their own lives. AAAAAH, who to believe? What’s real, what’s not? This book had me questioning my own sanity until the end when all the clues come together in a believable way.

I have never read Cate Holahan before. She is a young author and based on this newest novel of hers, she is going to have a long successful career. She’s brilliant and I want to be in her head again soon! Highly recommended!

AMAZON link Lies She Told: A Novel