THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY

FIVE STARS

  • Author: Ruth Ware
  • US Publication date: May 29, 2018


So, here’s the thing. You can’t really compare Ruth Ware to any contemporary writers. The pure “old-fashioned-ness” of her writing style is so refreshing that it comes across as modern. Weird, huh? You gotta go way back to find Ware’s influences. Yep, that’s Daphne Du Maurier, Agatha Christie and Patricia Highsmith.

These fantastic female authors constructed some of the best psychological suspense novels ever written, but they aren’t quickly devoured like a lot of this genre’s current output. Fine literature like fine wine requires some savoring time.

Sniff, sip and swish this one around your mouth a few times. What’s the hurry? Just sit back with your glass, soak up the formidable atmosphere, and enjoy the leisurely experience.

This is by far the best of Ware’s novels. THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY is the book I have been waiting for Ware to create!! It is an immediate classic and the story of mistaken identity is an absolute perfect fit to Ware’s charming, gothic style.

Loved the book, but I did not enjoy the audiobook version. Imogen Church is so wonderful when she is straight reading the book. However, there are numerous characters in this one and the overacted, squealing voices she portrays are just cringe inducing. Also, Ware uses the old diary device prominently in this story and I was confused so many times while listening (is this now? or reading from the diary again?). Ugh, I hate that I can’t hear italics!😂😂 I went with Kindle in the end and was so glad I switched.

THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY is not in the least “action packed”, but it is thoughtfully creepy and has so many twists in store for you. Wait for a thunderstorm. Break out the Courvoisier. Light some candles and crack open this beautiful, haunting and dark novel…just don’t be in a rush! It’s meant to be enjoyed.

Goodreads Summary: On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person—but also that the cold-reading skills she’s honed as a tarot card reader might help her claim the money.

Soon, Hal finds herself at the funeral of the deceased…where it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the centre of it.

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.

LYING IN WAIT

FIVE PERFECT STARS

Go ahead, add this book to your TBR. Because you do want to read this. You will. You must. I insist.

I’m at a loss here. Positively verklempt. How do I tell you how perfect this book is without gushing? When other books fail to reach my expectations, I can rattle off the reasons I didn’t like it. With great ones, I just stumble all over myself. I apologize.

I knew this book would be good, I just didn’t know how good. The answer is: LYING IN WAIT is the new standard that all psychological suspense and crime fiction novels should strive for. Liz Nugent just wrote the handbook and I fear that very few writers could achieve such perfection in this genre.

The thing is, if you found Nugent’s debut UNRAVELING OLIVER too much of a slow burn –I know a ton of readers did, you will not find that with LYING IN WAIT. I read this book almost in one day. It is utterly addicting and you will be hooked at the very first line. The need to know what is happening becomes almost unbearable as you read.

Once again, Nugent has created an engrossing family drama that spans many years and is set in Dublin. It is simply the story of two families linked inexplicably by a murder. At the heart of the novel is a morbidly unhealthy, but completely fascinating, connection between a mother and son. There are only a few characters in this book and each one is fully dissected for the reader to analyze. Each character has a chance to tell their part in the story side by side with the others. I am in awe of how Nugent was able to superbly structure this story in such a natural flowing way. There is no flipping back and forth between timelines (ugh, I’m so over that).

Nugent is a master at pushing the uncomfortable envelope towards the reader, without going over the top. The story is tense and exciting, full of twists and unexpected turns. It’s dark and dramatic. Gothic feeling and weird! That ending – all I can say is GENIUS. I can’t stop gushing, please forgive me.

Now, mark your calendar for June 12 or just go ahead and pre-order it. Place a hold or get in line at the library. You will not want to miss this one!

Thank you to Netgalley! I was given the galley to read and review, all opinions are my own.

SAVING NOAH

 

4 out 5 Stars

  • Author: Dr. Lucinda Berry
  • Kindle Edition, 188 pages
  • Published September 12th 2017 by Rise Press

“We forgive murderers, not pedophiles.”

Whew! This is a very short, very intense, very sad book.

Still interested?

Okay. This book is about a pedophile who is still technically a child himself.

Are you still there?

If I haven’t scared you away, you will want to read this fictional account of a family in crisis. It is told mostly from Adrianne’s (the mother) POV as she tries to help her 16 year old son who is admittedly attracted to six year old girls. Ick.

Yes, it is a taboo topic, but in the knowledgeable hands of Lucinda Berry, that subject is spun into an absolutely riveting tale of love, family and motherhood. How far would you go to help your child?

I wish I could give it a 5 star rating, but there are too many cringe inducing moments in the family dynamic that I felt were milked for effect. Otherwise, the book is truly fascinating and gave me tons of new perspective on a subject I had not explored before. The writing is very fast and sucks you in immediately.

This is a book like These Violent Delights. It reads a bit like non-fiction, it is relevant, and has so much to offer in terms of educating the reader.

There is a twist that I did not see coming and I straight up cried a bit while reading. THAT doesn’t happen very often! Unknown

Reading doesn’t always have to be a guilty pleasure. Sometimes, an interesting take on a most difficult subject is just what the doctor ordered.

Thanks very much to the publisher and author for my copy. It was my pleasure to read and review SAVING NOAH.

Available now on Amazon. Saving Noah

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (From her Goodread’s bio)

Dr. Lucinda Berry’s background is as unique as her stories. She has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, specializing in trauma and children. She is the Assistant Director of Evidence-based Practice at UCLA’s National Center for Child Traumatic Stress. She uses her clinical experience to create compelling tales that blur the lines between fiction and nonfiction. If you want to be notified of upcoming new releases, please visit: 14550035https://about.me/Lucindaberry

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

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

GOOD ME BAD ME

4/5 stars

  • Author: Ali Land
  • Published 1.12.2017
  • by Penguin Books Ltd.

“More disturbing than hurt is love when it’s wrong.”
― Ali Land, Good Me, Bad Me

The very first sentence of the blurb reads: “Milly’s mother is a serial killer.”  WHAAAT? That’s not a phrase you read every day! I knew right then I wanted to read this debut novel by Ali Land.  This book does not disappoint! Start reading on a Saturday afternoon and you might as well cancel any plans you had for going out, ’cause you ain’t going’ nowhere! 

A psychological study, this book is more of a brain-teaser than a chilling cliff-hanger type story. And I’m okay with that. I love to climb inside a head and poke around. I’d much rather read a disturbed person’s musings than read about any horrific killing scene they may have engaged in.

The story is told solely through Milly’s eyes and consists mostly of internal thoughts over dialogue or action. Still, it reads at a fast clip, and the first-person narrative is so very effective here.  You are never sure if Milly is a reliable narrator, especially since she straight up admits she struggles with being good and bad. And like most humans, she presents her good side to the world, so is she showing the reader only her good side??Just when you think you’ve got Milly figured out, NOOOOO. You’re wrong! I love it!!!!

As far as the ick factor of a female child molester/killer, there are a few disturbing flashback moments, but I stress MOMENTS, not full on chapters. The foundation of this story is built on Milly starting her shiny new life at the age of 15, having just turned in her mother for the atrocious crimes.

I was really on track to give GOOD ME BAD ME a five star rating on Goodreads.  But somewhere about 1/2 way through, it felt a bit draggy.  Still worthy of 4.25 stars in my humble opinion! I think the problem lies in the plot structure. There isn’t a classic murder puzzle to solve and some of the situations felt implausible. For instance, I could never figure out how Milly’s mom was able to continue killing without getting caught. For heaven’s sake, the bodies are all in the basement (not a spoiler). Wasn’t anyone investigating these missing children?

I’m also wary of what I call the “coincidence factor”.  Too many coincidences in the story for my liking. Milly’s foster father is also her psychiatrist. He has a daughter the same age as Milly. The daughter just happens to be a mean girl, etc.

There is a major plot twist at the end of the book that you may see coming. Milly also frequently “talks” to her estranged mother and sometimes it is confusing to me as a reader. All minor issues, I still highly recommend the book.

Ali Land is a talented, skillful writer with a background in child mental health. She obviously knows of what she writes! She is a master creator of characters. Absolutely flawless in that department.

I think of myself as preferring character driven novels over plot driven ones. OBSESSION, by Amanda Robson, is one of my favorite new character driven novels. But, after reading GOOD ME BAD ME, I realize I do like a bit more plot and action.

Ali Land’s sentences are concise, no commas needed. (LIFE GOALZ). The pace of the writing is on point and completely effortless. A joy to read. I’m really looking forward to this young writer’s future career!
Good Me Bad Me: A Novel On sale on September 5, 2017.