FORCE OF NATURE

FIVE STARS

  • Author: Jane Harper
  • Publication date: February 6, 2018

SHE’S DONE IT AGAIN!

Jane Harper wrote THE best book I read in 2017.

THE DRY deservedly won many prestigious awards and Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk won the hearts of readers around the world.

When a debut work of fiction is nothing less than magnificent, the highly anticipated second novel looms large. Will it live up to the first? Is Harper a one trick pony? Do not fear, Dry fans!!! FORCE OF NATURE does not disappoint and will cement Harper as your go-to mystery/psychological suspense author. Bless!

Instead of the drought ridden Australian outback we got to know intimately in THE DRY, this book is set in the wet, cold and windy Giralang mountain range north of Melbourne. Let me tell you, when you turn that last page, you’ll breathe a sigh of relief that you’re snugly wrapped in front of your fireplace and not out in the FORCE OF NATURE battling the elements.

Jane Harper is first and foremost a fabulous, effortless writer. I love her spare detailing, every word packs a punch. Nothing extraneous here. She also k n o w s people. What drives people, their fears, their downfalls. Her psychological skills are put to full use in FORCE OF NATURE.

Five women from the BaileyTennants financial firm are persuaded to take part in a back country team building exercise that will test their limits beyond imagination. The women have complicated relationships with each other, extending beyond their co-working status. When they emerge from the wilderness, one member of this not-so-happy group is missing.

Our beloved Aaron Falk is called in with his new partner, Carmen Cooper, to assist with the investigation. The story is told from two views, one from the running investigation and the other in a slowed down reality of exactly what happened on this hike into hell.

The result is an addictive, page-turning story rich in atmosphere, mood and setting. It is easily a standalone novel, but there is so much back story on Aaron Falk that a new reader would be greatly missing out by reading the two books out of order. There is ample biographical info on Falk’s personality traits and what makes him tick—all to be discovered in THE DRY.

FORCE OF NATURE feels like a natural, organic follow-up to THE DRY. The premise of this book is brilliant, realistic and terrifically suspenseful.

Highly recommend!

ALL THE BEAUTIFUL LIES

FOUR STARS

  • Author: Peter Swanson
  • Publication date: April 3, 2018

I have a very smart friend that works as a literacy coach for elementary school teachers. Her advice for young students just learning how to tell someone else about a book? Three simple phrases.

SOMEBODY WANTED__________.
BUT____________.
SO_____________.

Is that genius or what? I love it. So short and simple, I’m using it now (thanks Jenny!).  No spoilers here, of course!

SOMEBODY WANTED:  to engage in taboo relationships. Taboo? Yes,  vast age differences and the fact that the characters romantically involved are sometimes related! As in step parent/step child. Ick. Ick. Ick. There is also a clear cut case of a “Mrs. Robinson” carrying on with a teenage boy. As usual, Swanson has come up with some dark characters living blissfully in their own corrupted world.

BUT:   when conforming type people have suspicions about these unusual relationships, they tend to interfere.

SO:   the rational world interferes with the corrupted world, the unbalanced characters become completely unhinged while protecting their own sweet spot and well, WORLDS COLLIDE!!!

There you have it, people. An elementary synopsis of a complicated, layered plot!

And, just a few more words, if I may: This is a compulsive, addictable read. Swanson just keeps getting darker and more forbidden with his plots, next thing you know he’ll turn into Gillian Flynn (Haaaa, just kidding, there is no one else residing at the level of our lovely dark goddess, but Liz Nugent is inching up there).

As usual, Swanson writes in a delicious film noir style. This story is set on the coast of Maine with all the foreshadowing and dangerous mood that accompanies the angry sea. Swanson’s books are clever puzzles with messy edges. At the heart of his novels lies the most basic of human urges: greed. Sometimes the main character is all about the money, money, money.  Here, the main characters are driven by sex, not money. And, if you know Swanson, you know this isn’t going to be everyday lust, he has to pull down that murky shade and create an illicit, creepy scenario.

I wish I could give 5 stars, but I can’t only because the ending was a bit predictable to me. I’m starting to see a plot pattern in his novels. However, I still love this one!!

This is Swanson’s fourth novel and he is extremely consistent in the psychological thriller genre. He is my definite go-to author. This book reminds me of his first hit, The Girl with a Clock for a Heart, mainly due to the slightly clueless, lovable protagonist.

All the women in this novel are strong and richly defined, definitely Swanson’s strength. I highly recommend… with reservations for the sensitive reader.

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.

 

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.

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